Quo Vadis, Redux
I sometimes imagine myself in the role of a latter day Roman contrarian, living in a time of my country’s certain dissolution on the eve of an invasion by barbarian hordes bent on loot and conquest. On one hand, will granting twelve million illegal, mostly Mexican aliens the right to vote and so skew the November election returns, secure for Democrats their continued occupation of Congress and President Barack Obama the freedom to “transform” the country? The Democrats have been put on notice by the electorate that they will be bounced, so will they resort to underhanded immigration reform and gerrymandering to ensure their hegemony?
On the other, will the country be inundated with hordes of Muslims, whose first allegiance is to the Islamic Ummah, whose creed regards the Constitution as an abomination? I would not be the first observer to note that illegal (and even many legal) Mexicans and Muslims harbor a peculiarly insular and ingrained xenophobia for their adopted country and a bizarre fealty to the countries they fled.
There is a synergistic linkage between submission to Islam, even to Christianity, and to Congress. All three institutions require, insofar as obeying the “law” is concerned, absolute and unquestioning obedience. These forces complement and buttress the other.
In Islam’s Koran -- and this is applicable to Christianity and Congress, as well -- there are no optional laws, proscriptions, and commands to observe or obey. It is all or nothing, either immediately, or in increments or stages over a lifetime. Once set in motion, however, regardless of the schedule, the observance and obedience cannot surcease unless the perils of submission are identified and the submission repudiated.
A modern Petronius might ask of the influx and presence of Muslims, as, in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis, Petronius might have asked about Christians: Who are these strange people who cling together in this weird, joyless cult? What is this creed that brags so loudly and insistently that it is peaceful and loving? All I can espy, milord, are crossed scimitars on a black banner. I am sure they are not banquet carving knives. Is it the peace of the conqueror over the conquered that the cult offers? Its glossolaliac shamans do not say. They speak in tongues, behind the Thespian masks of comedy and tragedy.
The spectacle of grown, articulate adults believing in supernatural beings, whatever their names, attributes, characters, and legends, baffles me. Many authorities on Islam and its jihad subscribe to the notion that there are "moderate" Muslims who condemn terrorism in the name of Islam. Aside from its obvious totalitarian nature, what is there to Islam that stakes a claim to a "moderate" Muslim's devotion and loyalty to it? What is it about Islam that beguiles thinkers and observers, who concede its cruel, utterly primitive character, that it can be made benign? Is it the altruist morality of self-sacrifice and selflessness, which it shares with Christianity and practically all other creeds? Is it the seductive language of its "pacific" imperatives in the Koran and Hadith to do "good" and be civil to and tolerant of Muslims and non-Muslims alike?
Of all the religions I detest -- and oppose as an observer and critic, not as an obsessed proselytizer -- I detest Islam the most, because of its totalitarian nature (of governing every aspect of one's life and thinking, as Christianity did in the Dark and Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment); because of its endless checklist of disparate, arbitrary imperatives both banal and belligerent; because its "prophet" was a barbarian, who, besides his belief in faith or force, is a personification of some unattractive personal characteristics which past and present Islamic theologians do not deny existed; and because its deity, Allah, is perhaps a worse psychopathic being than Jehovah of the Old Testament.
I recently came upon a site that features the “scientific” Koran. Reading the rationalizations of the various Suras is akin to reading the fortunes one finds in Chinese cookies. The language of the verses is so vague that it can be interpreted any way one wishes. It is elaborate tarot card reading. They are unintentionally humorous. It is like comedian Professor Irwin Corey declaiming and expecting one to take him seriously.
The Koran, unlike the Bible, does not cite Original Sin as one of man’s failings. It actually professes that men have a choice to follow good or evil. Only the instances of good and evil cited in the Koran are a bewildering kaleidoscope of virtues and sins. In Islam, however, there is a form of Original Sin; the only men who are innately evil are non-believers. Allah commands them to be enslaved or extinguished.
The relationship between the doctrine of Original Sin and the alleged necessity of regulating men by faith or force is also synergistic. Because men are by their nature irrational and criminal, men must be controlled by a moral code that sets them against their “nature.” Unquestioning faith in authority, selflessness and self-sacrifice, all redeem a person in the eyes of God or society. These are the links between Christian doctrine, Islam, and collectivist ideologies.
If man has any trace of innate (or potential) “evil” in him, it is the capacity to abdicate the responsibility for thinking, and surrender to the temptation to defer to the collectivists in the moral sphere. It is easy and requires no effort to otherwise maintain one’s life. One can have one’s mind and body without the burden of maintaining one’s freedom. All the abdicator asks of his master -- whether it is God, society, or government -- is to be allowed a modicum of time to pursue his own selfish values without interference. He cedes all his other time to authority.
But to abdicate and surrender is to sanction -- ultimately -- the full range of servitude over one’s existence, to defer to the “moral authority” of God or society or government, is to grant unlimited power over one’s every action and value. As the narrator of “Three Things You Didn’t Know about Islam” emphasized, there is no picking and choosing.
To secular statists like Obama and his Congressional and appointive cohorts, the American “original sin” is to have been born in independence. Americans, to them, need to “get religion” of the socialist/fascist kind, and just keep quiet.
Can Islam be reformed?
Christianity underwent reformation over several torturous and bloody centuries. In the end, in the West, religion was largely separated from the state. Why? Because one crucial element in Christian (and Jewish) doctrine emphasized one’s personal, private salvation and state of grace beyond the approval or control of any established authority, religious or secular. This was the wedge that allowed, over a few centuries, exponential swaths of dissension to be achieved, some measure of tolerated questioning. It led to much turmoil within Christianity itself, such as Henry II’s conflict with Thomas à Becket, Henry VIII’s conflict with Thomas More and the Church, and Martin Luther’s conflict with the Vatican, and so on. These conflicts within a moral system also contributed to the development of a philosophy of individualism vis-à-vis political power. The United States was the first to incorporate the idea of a necessary separation of church and state into its political philosophy.
But, in Islam, the union of religion and politics is essential to its existence. Dissension, questioning, and doubts about theological authority are absolutely and utterly forbidden on pain of death, except over picayune matters that do not create umbrage over the core tenets. One without the other would make them mutually irrelevant and impotent. Islam is a political/religious ideology, very similar in theory and in practice to Nazism and Communism. That is its prime identity. I think that many perceptive non-Muslim critics of Islam and some more thoughtful Muslims believe Islam can be "reformed." I do not think it can be "reformed" without killing it. Subject its doctrine to moral surgery to remove its belligerent, homicidal, racist, and rapacious elements, and what would be left but a creed as pacific as the Quaker or Amish? It could no longer be "Islam," but something else entirely.
The most important organ to remove from Islam would be its heart, the codified, nihilist hatred for life and existence.
As an atheist, I can score Christianity for as many valid reasons as I can Islam (or any other creed that claims fealty to a supernatural being, and that asserts that such an entity was the "first cause" of everything). But believing in a pacific Jesus Christ who counseled passive altruism and non-violence, and believing in the words of a barbarian who bypassed persuasion and resorted to the scimitar to spread his "faith," are two different things. Christ was a "flower child" to Mohammad's Attila the Hun. Mohammad is the source of all that "radical extremists" and "moderate passive" Muslims believe. Muslims, imams, mullahs, and rank-and-file of the two dominant sects, Sunni and Shiite, do not budge on that point. They are quite pentecostal on the matter. Mohammad received the word of God through the angel Gabriel, and that cannot be questioned. Jefferson, a Deist, held Christ to be his ideal man. I think he was wrong to and I do not esteem him any the less for that error. But who in his right mind would esteem Mohammad as an "ideal man" and practically a saint? One may as well elevate Hitler, or Mao, or Pol Pot.
Do the "moderate" Muslims rationalize Islam and compartmentalize it so they can get on with living? If they feel it necessary to compartmentalize it in their minds, wouldn't that suggest its impracticality as a guide for living on earth? I observe the same phenomenon in Christians and followers of other creeds, and I would pose the same question to them, as well. I think that attempting to "reform" Islam would not only be a dangerous enterprise -- its more doctrinaire spokesmen would raise holy hell and call for fatwas on anyone who tried it -- I think it would be a futile and profitless enterprise. Islam, like Christianity, must be renounced and repudiated in its entirety, and reason and rationality proclaimed in all things moral and political.
I do not think there is such a thing as "radical Islam." There is just "Islam." The "radicals," or the terrorists, are the ones implementing it in its purist, most consistent form, just as Mother Teresa practiced selflessness in India, acquiring her “saintliness” by keeping her fingers in the sores, wounds, and diseases of her charges. One may as well make the false distinction between Nazism and "radical Nazism" or between Communism and "radical Communism." Islam is more an ideology than it is a religion.
The religious elements of Islam are identifiable, and buttress the political or ideological elements (Allah, miracles, angels, Paradise, etc., all other-worldly). Islam can command the same loyalty and conformity as would a straight "non-religious" ideology such as Nazism, which had its own here-on-earth mysticism (the "race" or the German Volk) to "justify" its programs. Like Communism, it promised a better life for Germans "in the future." Aside from these differences, Islam and Nazism each found the other compatible as ideologies. Islam had a god, the unknowable Allah (by way of Mohammad), and Nazism had as its "prophet," Hitler. But the religious element is there, and so it is proper to refer to Islam as a political/religious ideology.
Mohammad the barbarian can no more be removed from Islam and Islam remain “Islam,” than can Christ the flower child or Moses the Law Giver be removed from Christianity and Judaism and those creeds retain their moral suasions.
In the main, however, one can view Islam as a purely political ideology, because, first, it requires literal submission to all its imperatives, in the same way federal law can override and subsume state and local law; not to mention Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights; and second, because its stealth jihad acts as a corrosive to insinuate itself into the “democratic“ secular jurisprudence of a nation. Its chief goal is to establish political hegemony. When viewed from this perspective, the religious element becomes a secondary factor. But together, the political and religious elements constitute an all-encompassing theocracy.
The Conservative Alternative
In a classically conservative article on what is necessary to move America away from socialism and collectivism, Adam Graham, in “To Reform Government, Reform the Culture First,” asserts, among other things, that “In the end, the majority of the world has little in common with the libertarian archetypes of Howard Roark or John Galt. We will either have strong families, strong houses of worship, and strong communities, or we will have strong government to take the place of all three.”
This triumvirate of cultural requisites for the survival of America is false. I am sure there are countless liberals, leftists, and welfare statists (the legislative and beneficiary kinds) who have “strong families,” attend “strong houses of worship,” and live in like-minded “strong communities.” The world may not now have little in common with the figures of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark and John Galt, but its survival depends on how soon men recognize their value as individuals not beholden to God or society. They stand in stark contrast to what Mr. Graham claims are the fountainheads of moral strength. He does not dwell on why families, churches, and “communities” establish “moral strength.”
How does having or growing up in a “strong family” imbue one with the value of limited government? No answer. How does regularly worshipping a supernatural being instill the value of limited government”? No answer. How does living in a “community” move one to advocate limited government? No answer. In Rand’s novels, Howard Roark was always at odds with the architectural “community” of his time, while John Galt walked out on one that sought to condemn him to a lifetime of servitude to it.
To be sure, Mr. Graham is correct in saying that “We cannot effect a permanent reduction in the size and scope of government, or meaningful government reform, unless we change our culture’s demand for the government to provide our every need.” Conservative politicians, both the religious and middling kind, share with the collectivists the same altruist morality that is responsible for “big government.” Because they do not or will not challenge the morality of selflessness and self-sacrifice, all they have been able to do is simply endorse the more “radical” programs proposed and enacted by the more blatant collectivists, and merely criticize the size and cost of those programs.
I have always questioned the fearful reluctance of conservatives to champion the likes of Howard Roark and John Galt, or to acknowledge that they are the fundamental models of what this culture needs more of. I have always suspected that these heroes represent a morality as much a perilous nemesis to conservatives as they represent to the Obamas and Pelosis of the world. Roark and Galt are deemed “too extreme” examples of individualism. But in the final analysis, their “extremism” is precisely what makes living and innovation and progress possible, and their freedom to live and act for their own reasons are primary requisites, not families, churches, or society. No productive individual honestly acts out of a sense of family, church, or society. If he claims he does, he is deceiving himself and perpetuating a fraud.
The Question of “Is” And a Big Hunk of Stuff
Why cannot men just accept the fact that existence exists? Why must existence -- the universe -- have a prior or "first cause“, usually ascribed to a supernatural ghost whom no one has seen (except Moses) and who seems to be a bit shy about showing His face (unless it is in the form of “miracles“ and catastrophes that claim millions of lives and cause incalculable destruction and burning bushes and a divine derriere)? Scientists have kept going further and further back in time to date the “Big Bang.” But, was there ever such an event?
What is the nature of this obsession with “first causes” and the “Big Bang”? The two phenomena -- God and this measureless hunk of stuff (was it square, round, or Platonically “extra-dimensional?) that just exploded to form galaxies and everything else -- are manifestations of the same fallacy. They are conceptual doppelgangers. What caused the big hunk of stuff to explode? Aha! It must have been God snapping his fingers! For if this big hunk of stuff had existed for measureless time, why could it not have continued in that state? What caused God to snap his fingers? Was he bored with having this big hunk of stuff as his sole companion? Was he in a mischievous mood? One cannot imagine that the hunk of stuff was very talkative.
But, wait -- where did He come from? What are His antecedents? Can he produce a birth certificate? How did He come by his whimsical powers? What is His true gender? Or does that question apply? Is He genderless? How long has He been around? Or is “time” an inappropriate measurement? How did he occupy his time (not yet invented) throughout eternity? Did he just sit on His throne, tattooing His fingers on the not-yet celestial armrests, and then yawned? No answers are forthcoming, nor will they ever be found because God’s existence requires proof of a positive, and that will never be accomplished, because…there is no evidence. The concept of God and the concept of a “Big Bang” of a hunk of stuff that just grew tired of being a big hunk of stuff (was it matter as we know it, or just incomprehensible fairy dust?) are two sides of the same coin.
It is an illogical fallacy that philosophers and theologians have been wrestling with for centuries, sometimes as allies, sometimes with mutual, finger-wagging animosity, trying to find answers from the perspective of "infinite regression," which is as impossible as attempting to square a circle. Those who follow the path of infinite regression will find only madness. They simply cannot fathom the concept that existence exists, and has always existed in one form or another. I have always been skeptical of the "Big Bang" theory, anyway. It exactly parallels belief in a supernatural being. It is a “first cause.“ But no one has been able to credibly reconcile the existence of either as mutual phenomena. There was God, and there was this big hunk of stuff (not yet "matter" or "energy") floating in an indescribable void (the “nothingness“ of space, which to exist, must have at least two objects by which to measure it). Their other alternative to the exploding big-hunk-of-stuff hypothesis is that God simply wished existence into existence.
Then they face the questions of: What is He made of? And where did He get the idea of "existence"? If space and matter had yet to be created, where exactly did He exist? Believers will reply that such questions invalidly assume that God’s (or the big hunk of stuff‘s) resident venue of spatial dimensions is similar or are our own. After all, before God snapped his fingers, or the big hunk of stuff exploded, there were no “spatial” measurements. But if we can assume no commonality of spatial attributes -- if we cannot even know them -- why should we bother with speculation on what cannot be known?
A long line of philosophers, from Plato to Kant to Nancy Pelosi (she of the pass-the-bill-so-she-can-let-you-see-what’s-in-it school of reality) averred that we cannot know anything for certain or at all. The same approach applies: Why bother contesting the non-rational or the irrational?
You see that this cannot be resolved rationally. It is a close cousin to that hoary old lawyer chestnut, "When did you stop beating your wife?" The big-hunk-of-stuff argument and the supernatural argument both rest on the premise that there must have been a "first cause," which is an invalid application of cause and effect, which can only be applied to what one can perceive as real, that is, to what is, and not to what is unproven, unknowable, or impossible.
I can hardly improve on James M. Kaufman’s humorous queries to President George W. Bush about how to observe Jewish (and, by implication, Christian and Islamic) religious law. Kaufman is Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia’s education department I will merely settle for this observation about Moses.
According to Exodus, 33:21-23, the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me and thou shalt stand upon a rock. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock; and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand and thou shalt see my back parts,” First, He appears to Moses as a burning bush. He, in effect, then moons him. What bizarre behavior. Then, like Mohammad, he has a secret meeting with God (or his envoy) and descends the mountain with the Ten Commandments and God knows whatever other instructions.
Furthermore, Moses was not what one could call a “nice guy.” He was as barbaric as Mohammad. Numbers 31 reports him as ordering his Israelite soldiers to kill every Midianite woman, boy, and non-virgin girl; virgin girls were shared amongst the soldiers. The Israelites killed the kings of other tribes. Moses was no exemplar of civil behavior, either. One could take bets on a contest between him and Mohammad on who was the most homicidal, rapacious, and looting. And his dealings with other tribes could be deemed “sharp practice,” in the same sense that Barack Obama, Charles Rangel, Barney Frank, and Nancy Pelosi could be charged with it.
I have always thought the Bible was just as bad and bloody-minded as the Koran. In fact, I suspect that the Koran is largely a knock-off of the Bible with great dollops of dogma and ritual borrowed from other Roman Empire and post-Empire creeds. Christian dogma, itself was a shameless shoplifter of other doctrines and dogmas, particularly pagan ones. It had a head start and began accumulating texts and apocryphal tales long before Mohammad's ear was bent by the angel Gabriel. He and Islam burst upon the scene a few centuries later. Only the names and places have been changed to protect the guilty and various tongue-in-cheek plagiarists who contributed to both texts over the centuries.
I am certain that the authors of the Koran cadged from the Bible and from other creeds. Both tracts emanated from the Mideast. The similarities between the Old Testament, which is about the adventures and longevity of primitive tribes (the bloody-minded and begetting and enslave and slay unbelievers part of the Bible, together with a psychopathic deity) and the Koran (with the same descriptive elements), which is a unified whole, with no "old" and "new" parts to it (except later verses or suras), are too eerie. Christ may have been an actual historic person, but probably one of many who "died for your sins" on a crucifix. Perhaps he was selected by lot by later authors of the Bible. It would be interesting to learn why him, and not someone else. (Recall Monty Python's The Life of Brian.). Mohammad may have been an actual historic person, as well, and I am inclined to believe he was, given how touchy Muslims are about him, because he was nothing to boast about. But on the other hand, that touchiness (excuse me, "sensitivity") may be rooted in their own suspicion that he was as fictive and attractive as Jabba the Hutt. No other religion shares so many prophets: Christ, Abraham, and Moses: Did the Koran cadge them, too?
Another aspect that makes me think Islam copy-catted Christianity's texts (and whatever actual holy books existed during Rome's decline and the beginning of the Dark Ages) is the Ten Commandments. I cannot help but suspect that the Muslims (Moslems, Mohammedans, whatever) seized on them and added about three or four dozen commandments of their own to fill out a pretty thin Koran. Then there is the anti-Jewish element in the Koran, which probably stems from the Hebrew tribes' conflict with Mohammad during the Arabian Peninsula conquest and his finally taking Medina. The Hebrews, after all, were just one of many such Semitic tribes in the region. And you must wonder when and how the anti-Jewish element evolved from being a mere difference in religious doctrine to an ethnic hatred of Jews, because everyone living in that region in that period was Semitic.
I fly in the face of countless academic careers and theological authorities here. It is the similarities in content and message in the Old Testament and the Koran that makes me think the Koran is a knock-off of early Christian holy texts, before the latter were assembled into one book, the Bible. Compilation of the Koran began probably after Mohammad's death in 632 A.D., and was added to and refined as circumstances permitted or allowed for centuries after. Islam was, after all, in direct competition for "men's souls" up to and during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age," it was the only truly rival creed, all the others having perished for a variety of reasons. Islam’s "birth" was about 500 years after Christianity's, and so there was a wealth of ready-made content Muslim theologians could adapt and tweak for their own purposes and claim was the true and only "word of God." After all, we have only their word for it that the Koran which exists today is the same which existed in Mohammad's time.
Deadness. That is what I see in Muslims here. Which is why I call them manqués -- human in form, but otherwise lifeless inside. Soulless and incomplete, from choice. Zombies who wish to feast on the flesh of the living. More so than in Christians and Jews, because Islam really does govern every aspect of a Muslim's life. I have no sympathy for them, and do not think "religious freedom" is their primary concern. No one who allows that to happen to him should be respected. Despised, yes. And it is a special malevolence in the creed and in the more "activist" ones -- not the terrorists -- but in the "community" types who are sanctimonious about their creed and "way of life," that should be identified and excoriated. Islam is not a way of life. it is a way of death, of living death.
The Last Link
Our federal government, together with Congress, also presumes it is a “first cause” of freedom, a font of freedom of speech, of property, of religion. Those “freedoms,” of course, are the inviolate political expressions necessary for men to live and trade together in organized society, “organized,” not by government, but by the nature of men. Those freedoms do not originate with government. They originate in man. They are recognized as rights by government, whose purpose is to defend them. Government cannot “big bang” legitimate, non-coercive rights into existence, it cannot simply wish them into existence. It can only invent privileges at the expense of real rights.
So, every time I hear a Democrat pronounce on the power of the federal government to compel Americans to buy health insurance or to submit to its edicts, I am reminded of a line from The Jerk, in which Steve Martin, a nouveau riche imbecile and ignoramus, instructs the sommelier in an elegant restaurant, “No more 1966. Let’s splurge! Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you’ve got -- this year. No more of this old stuff.” Obama, Pelosi, Frank, Dodd -- the whole fascist/socialist crew -- treat those liberties as that-was-then-this-is-now “old stuff,” and insist on serving Americans their bogus “fresh wine.” They are as ignorant and crude as Martin’s Navin R. Johnson -- but with this difference: They truly know what they are doing.
And those are the links between mysticism, belief, submission, and power that together form a chain being fitted around our minds, necks and ankles. Does anyone hear the clanking?