Abominable Bloodshed

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 24th, 2010

When I hear people talking about how “advanced” our culture has become or is higher than other cultures, I am reminded of good ol’ Dostoevsky (emphasis mine):

In any case civilisation has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever. Which is worse? Decide that for yourselves. They say that Cleopatra (excuse an instance from Roman history) was fond of sticking gold pins into her slave-girls’ breasts and derived gratification from their screams and writhings. […] Of course boredom may lead you to anything. It is boredom sets one sticking golden pins into people, but all that would not matter. What is bad (this is my comment again) is [if all human action can be based on man’s true advantage,] I dare say people will be thankful for the gold pins then.

I have not really reviewed Life without Priciple (which is awesome) or Nausea (which is groovy). I should revisit them. My concern is to review them, I kind of suck the life out of them, from my perspective. Ironic really, considering this blog “kills” concepts for me!

Anti Citizen One

“Violence is Never the Answer”

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 23rd, 2010

To provide a little perspective on the view “tolerance is always good”, “respectful discussion is paramount”, etc, here is a contrary view:

And I agree with him.

Anti Citizen One

A Humanists view on the protest the Pope demonstrations

Posted by on September 22nd, 2010

Here follows an article by Brendan O’Neill, humanist journalist and editor of Spiked magazine. I have copied it in full.

“There was a delicious irony at the heart of the anti-pope demo in central London on Saturday: the protesters had clearly got so carried away with smugly expressing their intellectual superiority over the faithful hordes – ‘RELIGION IS STUPID’, said one particularly popular placard – that they forgot to proofread their own intellectual outpourings.
The spelling was atrocious. ‘Abstinance [sic] makes the church grow fondlers’, said one huge banner, held aloft by gays dressed as cardinals. ‘Science flies you to the moon – relgion [sic] flies you into buildings’, said another. A lone woman elicited cheers for waving a homemade placard that said ‘Fuck off back to the Spanish Inquisition in the fourteenth century’. Now, the f-word I don’t mind – but a Spanish Inquisition in the fourteenth century? If you’re going to bandy around the word ‘STUPID’ , then at least read a history book or two first, or get one of those bright kids from Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year-Old? to spellcheck your propaganda.
But we shouldn’t let the actual illiteracy of the demo blind us to the real problem with it: its moral illiteracy. Shrill, decadent, profoundly illiberal in sentiment, this protest confirmed what the pope has become for at-sea secularists: an Emmanuel Goldstein figure, who allows them to get their moralistic rocks off.

The phrase ‘motley crew’ could have been invented for this gathering of Protest the Pope activists. There was a generous smattering of ageing lesbian and gay activists, getting one last wear out of their radical-queer bishop and nuns outfits from the 1970s. There were refugees from the rump of the old left, mostly from the Extreme Social Inadequacy Tendency. And then there were the professional secularists and humanists, who took to the stage one by one to try to out-adjective each other in their expressions of fear and/or loathing for the pope.
What brought these disparate groups together was a fairly obvious need for something – anything – to get hot under the collar about. Now that homosexual lifestyles are publicly prized, the old queer rights lobby doesn’t have much to get angry about; so thank God for the pope’s visit, which allowed it to resurrect – for one night only! – its unique brand of political bitchiness. ‘The devil DOES wear Prada’, said one gay group’s placard, referring to Benedict’s red, possibly Prada shoes (and the fact that he’s the devil). The poor old left, in terminal decline for the past 20 years, leapt upon the pope’s visit to talk about global institutional corruption plus brainwashing and stuff. And for the New Atheist crowd, the arrival of Benedict – a man who actually believes in God! – is cast-iron confirmation that irrational religious belief is spreading like hellfire.
This was less a coherent protest against a real problem, and more a madcap attempt to transform the pontiff into a political pin cushion, into which every group desperately seeking a sliver of purpose could then stick their particular pin. So some were protesting against paedophilia, others against AIDS; some were concerned about Holocaust denial, others about homophobia, and others still about the undermining of human rights. And apparently the pope, taking over from money, is the root of all of these problems and of evil in general, being a wicked, Prada-wearing, Bush-meeting devil and all. Some even waved placards saying ‘STOP STONING’ and ‘Religion flies planes into buildings’, which, correct me if I’m wrong, are problems that are associated with the Islamic faith rather than the Catholic one. But who cares. Got a grievance? Pin it on the pope.
The whole thing had a whiff of voodoo about it, as the protesters sought to make the pontiff into a doll they could beat up. The sense of desperately needing something to get into a flap about was brilliantly summed up by a placard that simply said: ‘GENERAL DISAPPROVAL.’ This wasn’t radicalism as we have known it; it was a feeling in search of an outlet, a collection of lost causes looking for one more day in the political sun. A columnist for the New Statesman provided an unwitting insight into the feeling of unformed liberal fury that has opportunistically attached itself to the pope, when she argued: ‘It is hard to pinpoint exactly what offends most about Ratzinger’s visit. Is it his attempts to rehabilitate child rape within the church [eh?] or his intolerant stance on safe sex and abortion…? It is all of these things, and none.’ Whatever it is, this is ‘legitimate liberal indignation’, she confidently claimed. It’s indignation about something or other – does it matter what?
Yet just because this campaign springs from neediness rather than political clarity, that doesn’t make it endearing or entertaining. On the contrary, there is a sharp authoritarian edge. Things turned ugly outside Downing Street when Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society branded the pope an ‘enemy of the state’, giving rise to the cacophonous chant: ‘GO HOME POPE, GO HOME POPE.’ It was like a scene from 1984. I have been on many a radical demo that has challenged the branding of some group or individual as ‘enemies of the state’; but this is the first radical demo I’ve been on where the protesters themselves demanded the silencing and even expulsion from Britain of someone they decreed to be an ‘enemy of the state’. Even one-time ‘enemies of the state’ – the so-called queers and the old left – were using that criminalising phrase, that piece of political demonology, to chastise the pope. It was the world turned utterly upside down. Being ‘an enemy of the state’, an ‘enemy of women, an enemy of gay people’, there is nothing for the pope to do but ‘go away and leave us alone’, said Sanderson.
It was extraordinary stuff. Consider what is being said: that because the pope’s views run counter to the British state’s views, he has to leave the country. Because he does not support gay rights or women’s equality, he must go home. Partly this is a creepy echo of the old prejudice about Catholics not being sufficiently loyal to the state – but more fundamentally, it speaks to a serious warping of the liberal humanist outlook. If you had to distil the profound, historic tradition of liberal humanism into one principle, it would surely be that no one should be persecuted for having views that are the opposite of the state’s or of mainstream political thought. Yet here was a gathering of so-called humanists clamouring for the expulsion of the pope on the basis that he does not accept ‘British values’, as the QC Geoffrey Robertson described them on Saturday.
One author says the problem with Benedict is that he is ‘spitting in the wind’; he’s standing in the way of a ‘tremendous tsunami of modern tolerance [surging] forward to swamp the rotten structures of family, patriarchy, superstition and sexual prudery’. But doesn’t being Enlightened mean defending people’s right to ‘spit in the wind’? Isn’t tolerance about accepting people’s freedom of conscience to reject mainstream ideologies? These ‘humanists’ have clearly forgotten their John Stuart Mill, who argued against forbidding so-called ‘bad men’ to propagate ‘opinions which we regard as false and pernicious’, even if we believe that those opinions will ‘pervert society’. Saturday’s demo exposed as utterly false the anti-pope lobby’s claim that its only objection to Benedict’s presence in Britain is that it has been organised as a state visit, and an expensive one to boot. No, they don’t want him here, not because of how much he costs, but because of what he believes. And that is genuinely shocking.
Beneath the radical garb, what the liberal fury over Benedict’s visit really represented was a demand that every individual – even the goddamn pope of Rome – should genuflect before the altar of ‘British values’ – that is, the state’s values, the liberal elite’s values – or else face the consequences. Demonisation, perhaps, or expulsion; certainly removal from polite society. No dissent from their creed can be tolerated. I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll have to say it again in the future: I don’t agree with anything that the pope says. But I come from the kind of humanist tradition where, even when that is the case, you will still defend to the death his right to say it.”


A brief response

Posted by on September 19th, 2010

One of the interesting social elements of the Papal visit has been the wilful misrepresentation and misinterpretation of various of his utterances. Thats selective media for you. Naturally this has been exploited to its fullest extent to both rile and fuel those various groups who oppose the Pope, his visit and what he stands for. This disparate and unusual ‘alliance’ includes evangelical protestants, dissaffected catholics, and secular humanists.

I just want to touch briefly on different misrepresentations (as I percieve them).

– the reductio ad hitlerum.
“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a ‘reductive vision of the person and his destiny'”

Subtly, perhaps crucially, (maybe even cynically) there is a break in the continuity of his comment. He speaks first of Nazi tyranny, then proceeds to ‘reflect’ on the lessons of atheist extremism in the 20th century. Two distinct (though related) lines of thought. To qoute one respected media commentator: “He did not say that Nazis or Hitler were atheists. He routinely condemns different kinds of dictatorship, including the modern dictatorship of relativism.” adding later on “The Pope didn’t spell out the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century.”

Perhaps this was wise as some atheists refuse to accept (is believe an appropriate phrase?) that in the name of atheism (which by no means should infer criticism of atheism as a system of thought) atrocities have been committed. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot are named by some (I can only comment on Stalin). Perhaps also though that he did not spell it out opened himself to criticism. Though I personally feel that whatever he had to say would have attracted criticism from some disaffected quarter.

“I assume the ideal solution from a believers perspective is to be able to speak without any disagreement”

At Westminster the Pope said:

“Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?”

He then warned:

“If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.”

This seems to belie the idea that he seeks unquestioned acceptance. Even were it religiously motivated this would amount to a social consensus. The “challenge” for democracy then is that “Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation.”

Conversation, dialogue anyone?

“There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. ”

I hear this from a secularist element frequently… which on an aside sounds like defeatism, having been unable to convince the whole of religious believers to abandon their faith it would seem more preferable then to simply not have to listen to it.

“These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.”

The first two freedoms are important and I would note that the vast majority of the secular world respect and mutually hold. The last line I would agree is in need of clarification. In my opinion religion (as a language game) as a cultural group or as a group expression of culture is as deserved of a right to public expression in national political debate as is any other cultural group.

I cant help myself 🙂
re: Dawkins

“His arguments rather address their beliefs but generally don’t go as far as ad hominem and therefore do not disrespect anyone. Ideas themselves are never owed respect, only people.”

To the last line first. Ideas belonging to the conceptual world are not in a position to demand respect (agreed). A tolerant society that allows the free transmission, acceptance or rejection of those ideas however demands that those voices who project the ideas be respectfully allowed to speak. (I have no trouble with this). Yet isnt that simply an idea of how society should be? An ideal so to speak? Is that not a demand for an idea (freedom of expression) to be respected?

As for Dawkins doesnt do ad hominem…
“a well-organised and well-financed group of nutters’” – a secondary source quote re: the Intelligence Design Lobby*
name-calling e.g. ‘dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument’
On Nadia Ewieda having “one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen”.
On the Pope: “a leering old villain in a frock” …

Debate continues in the philosophy world as to what extent “mere” name calling constitutes a logical ad hominem, or whether an ad hominem is merely confined to being a logical fallacy but rather can be extended to being a rhetorical fallacy.

*I asterisk this quote as it is taken from an extensive and ongoing argument between Dawkins detractors who accuse him of a string of ad hominem attacks and his supporters who refuse to countenance such a charge. This quote is peculiar in that when it was used to charge Dawkins with committing ad hominem it was a secondary quote, i.e. somebody else quoting Dawkins. This has been used as a defence (i.e. the quote is inadmissible). Apparently the quote is taken from a Dawkins supporter so the counter-argument goes it has good provenance… the debate is ongoing.
In truth I asterisk it as Dawkins, much like the Pope has a public following and makes public pronouncements either planned or spontaneous, verbal and written. Consequently the media are very deft at msiquoting, misrepresenting and distorting his views. After all a “culture war” between science and religion seemingly makes for good news material.

The more I read and listen to the current Pope’s views the more certain I am that he is wilfully misrepresented. He made frequent comments about dialogue (as opposed to the imposition of one moral code) and about the tolerance of all belief systems and their right to participation in the national dialogue.
This is the real challenge of democracy and the litmus paper against which it may be tested and compared to tyranny.
In our culture some of religion may oppose abortion, some of non-religion may support it and never the twain shall meet. How then should we proceed? In a democracy fair and open and tolerant debate and dialogue must be allowed (are we really so intransigent that we may not change our minds on something or that our consience may not be swayed one way or another?). And it would seem to me a simple utilitarian good of the many must prevail in the final decision making process. (Even though this is a tyranny in itself). Yet it is perhaps only the vanquished, the minority viewpoint who would interpret such an outcome as tyranny. No-one in such a diverse culture as ours will ever be wholly satisfied. But this is why debate and dialogue must continue, and why media misrepresentation of either side must be ignored.

The Pope and Intolerant Secularism

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 17th, 2010

I initially started writing about the pope and his recent “reductio ad Hitlerum” against atheism but the obvious points have been said. I had hoped that debate would start on a slightly more informed level. Oh well. His comments on UK culture are also interesting: “may [the UK] always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate”. What is he referring to? I will explore some ideas.

Intolerance has at least two meanings: lack of respect for other belief holders and the desire to eliminate other beliefs. Regarding respect of religious believers, I heard a radio show host ask if religious people felt unable to “speak out” because of the negative “comments” and “raised eyebrows”. I assume the ideal solution from a believers perspective is to be able to speak without any disagreement. Having someone disagree with your core values can be embarrassing and stressful. The call for no opposition to religious views to assumes they have a right to not be embarrassed by a negative reaction. Disagreement is not the same as disrespect. I suspect that most people don’t underestimate religious belief, as it has the tradition of hundreds of years. Another examples is Dawkins’s claim that teaching religion to children is a form of child abuse. Again, this is a negative view of religion, but he doesn’t disrespect the individuals in the religion, as far as I can tell. To disrespect someone’s beliefs, he would need to insult believers simply for holding their belief. His arguments rather address their beliefs but generally don’t go as far as ad hominem and therefore do not disrespect anyone. Ideas themselves are never owed respect, only people.

The other prong of intolerance is the desire to eliminate opposing beliefs. I don’t think a case can be made that UK based secularism wants to abolish religious belief. Secularism’s main demand is to be free of religious rule and teachings. Although the pope might take umbridge that his political power is curtailed, that is not the same as people removing believer’s freedom to believe. He might argue that it does hinder the practice of their religion, by reducing the influence of believers to shape society. Well that’s tough I guess. I don’t know what basis religious people think they have for imposing moral codes on non believers, but it is a right that an open society does not recognise. Having your political power brought into line with “the consent of the governed” is not “aggressive” or unfair. The pope draw an analogy between “aggressive” secularism with National Socialism (aka the Nazis). The only way this analogy is remotely valid is that secularism and the Nazi’s tried to reduce the political power of the church (through very different means). The analogy is weak, because UK secularists don’t round up christians and send them to death camps (or attempt to nationalize churches). In fact, the pope’s point applies to everyone who resists the political power of the Catholic church. “Does group X oppose Catholic political power? So did the Nazis, so X is intolerant.” Great argument *sarcastic*.

Anti Citizen One

Additional comments:

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life. Source

He seems to be objecting because he doesn’t dictate policy to public employees. If freedom of conscience overrules all other considerations, I could go on a murder spree and claim “my conscience made me to do it” and I’d be absolved of blame, since it overrules national government policy. After all … conscience is sacrosanct! Or is that loyalty to the pope is sacrosanct and all other belief is secondary? Which is it?

I used to think that the pope playing at politics was a historic phenomena, but I have recently changed my mind. How about he give what is Caesar’s to Caesar? And stay out of politics!


This is really not the time to pretend we have morals

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 8th, 2010

This is really not the time to pretend we have morals
A quote that probably was not originally intended as existential…


UK Alternative Vote Referendum

Posted by Anti Citizen One on September 7th, 2010

A bill to introduce AV to the UK parliamentary elections took another step forward recently. The battle lines are about to be drawn for and against in a public debate. There are a few points that are needed for an informed discussion of this issue.

The referendum should primarily be about AV verses first past the post (FPTP). Getting distracted by which party stands to gain or lose is slightly short sighted. If a particular party loses out, perhaps that just reflects the unfairness of FPTP? Also, objecting to the date is a slight distraction. Everyone gets a vote. The turn out is expected to be less in England, due to regional elections in other areas. If people can’t be bothered to cast a vote, they can only blame themselves. That’s how democracy by vote works, you get a vote and you should use it or lose it. It is rather patronising to say that the English are being hard done by, because they couldn’t be bothered to vote. On the other hand, if the turn out is too low, it does throw the legitimacy into question. That is a separate issue from differential turn out.

Of course AV has some disadvantages. But, to directly argue that AV has disadvantages to the conclusion that AV should not be adopted commits the perfect solution fallacy. It is like arguing “Seat belts are a bad idea. People are still going to die in car wrecks.” To properly argue for and against AV, the advantages and disadvantages of FPTP have to be considered. Then we can conclude that – overall – one or the other is the best choice.

The most persuasive argument for YES is that the balance of political power better reflects the balance of opinions and views of the electorate. This makes parliament more representative.

To most persuasive argument for NO, that I have heard, is stronger governments are more likely with FPTP and strong governments are more effective. But we have seen many “strong” governments in the UK that have a minority of the popular vote and therefore have questionable democratic legitimacy.


PS Mentioning, for search engine purposes: No2AV, Yes2AV