Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
I never in fact understood how allowing gay marriage could have any effect on traditional marriage. I suppose the thought must have been that many repressed or closeted homosexuals are in traditional marriage, so that if they become free to marry the person they love, then lots of divorces? Is that the argument? (It was really never made very clear.)
But one of Jennifer Rubin’s posts today has a very interesting section:
Social conservatives who opposed same-sex marriage now live in a country in which the Supreme Court has ruled and gay marriages take place every day. There is no going back. And by the way, straight marriage has not collapsed in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. We ascribe no causation but divorce rates are at a 40-year low. Perhaps “traditional marriage” advocates should be cheering this:
The U.S. divorce rate dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years, according to data released Thursday.
Marriage rates, on the other hand, increased last year. In 2015, there were 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women age 15 or older, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. This represents a jump from 31.9 in 2014 and is the highest number of marriages since 2009, which suggests that marriage rates may be stabilizing after decades of decline.
On the divorce side, the 2015 rate was 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women age 15 or older, which is down from 17.6 in 2014 and a peak of almost 23 divorces in 1980.
And she raises a good point: those who opposed gay marriage because it would (somehow) harm tradition marriage—are they now pleased and happy by the outcome, which shows their fears were ill-founded and things have worked out well? or would they rather be angry?
Louis René Beres writes in the OUP blog:
“I learn a science from the soul’s aggressions.”
— Saint-John Perse
Amid all current debate about the best way to defeat ISIS, one easily forgets that this Jihadist adversary is merely the most visible expression of a much wider and much deeper pathology. Failing to understand this vital hierarchy of importance will be very costly, no matter what one’s own subjective position on counter-terrorism strategy and tactics may be. After all, an inevitable consequence of any such failure would be to strike vainly against symptoms, and not meaningfully against actual “disease.”
The epidemic violence we continue to witness in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, is only microcosm. It is, more precisely, just the most visible reflection of far more pervasive determinants. They are,: (1) the relentlessly malignant tribalism of our world order system; and (2) the fusion of derivative and broadly sectarian violence with reinforcing claims of “sacredness.” The philosopher Hegel once commented: “The State is the march of God in the world.” This crucial nineteenth-century observation now applies equally well to an expansive amalgam of twenty-first century Arab/Islamic terrorist groups, and not merely to ISIS.
Looking ahead, we must consider yet another ominous fusion. This is the prospective coming together of atomic capability with decisional irrationality. Such a fearful prospect should come to mind, not only in such “front page” venues as Iran and Pakistan, but also North Korea. As earlier instructed by the Prussian strategist, Carl von Clausewitz (On War), world politics are eternally and relentlessly systemic. It follows, we must finally understand, that what happens in north Asia, just as an example, could also substantially impact Europe and/or North America.
We can never really hope to fix the “ISIS problem” until we have first understood the more underlying human bases and expected rewards of Jihadist-engineered insurgent conflicts. It is important, therefore, that we soon learn to look seriously and continuously behind the news.
Always, it must be recalled, the conspicuously grinding threat from ISIS is more a visible symptom, than an actual disease.
If we should mistakenly focus too much on ridding ourselves of this singular symptom, and not the underlying disease, we could then find ourselves exacerbating the ultimately more fundamental and more insidiously “metastatic” pathology. To wit, if American policy should wrongly focus upon the “War Against ISIS” as consuming and overriding, we would then simultaneously strengthen other foes in Syria, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah.
For other examples, focusing too much on ISIS could undermine our counter-terrorist regime allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who are presently engaged in combat operations against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, and also strengthen assorted Muslim Brotherhood forces, including Palestinian Hamas — the Islamic Resistance Movement — which is effectively the “Son of Muslim Brotherhood.” Of course, a too-consuming counter-terrorist focus on ISIS would correspondingly embolden a variety of core al-Qaeda organizations, groups from which ISIS itself had originally been spawned. . .
Update: See also this review in the NY Review of Books.
Take a look at—or, more accurately, a listen to (the visual images don’t amount to much)—this brief exposition. Certain one can see the relevance of Kierkegaard’s analysis if not his solution to the problems of today. And if he’s smart enough to figure out the situation, maybe he’s also smart enough to figure out the solution—or at least a solution schema. Via Open Culture, of course.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is perhaps best known for his systematic philosophical ethics, conceived of as a post-religious framework for secular morality. His primary ethical mandate, which he called the “categorical imperative,” enables us—Alain de Botton tells us in his short School of Life video above—to “shift our perspective, to get us to see our own behavior in less immediately personal terms.” It’s a philosophical version, de Botton says, of the Golden Rule. “Act only according to that maxim,” Kant famously wrote of the imperative in his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, “by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”
This guide to moral behavior seems on its face a simple one. It asks us to imagine the consequences of behavior should everyone act in the same way. However, “almost every conceivable analysis of the Groundwork has been tried out over the past two centuries,” writes Harvard professor Michael Rosen, “yet all have been found wanting in some way or other.” Friedrich Nietzsche alluded to a serious problem with what Rosen calls Kant’s “rule-utilitarianism.” How, Nietzsche asks in On the Genealogy of Morals, are we to determine whether an action will have good or bad consequences unless we have “learned to separate necessary events from chance events, to think in terms of cause and effect, to see distant events as if they were present, to anticipate them….”
Can we ever have that kind of foresight? Can we formulate rules such that everyone who acts on them will predict the same positive or negative outcomes in every situation? The questions
It occurs to me that Kant’s approach is somewhat similar to John Rawl’s “veil of ignorance” that we assume as we define the roles, responsibilities, and rights of the various social groups without knowing beforehand which role we shall assume. It’s more or less the idea of fair sharing between two people: one cuts the portions, the other gets first choice: both are satisfied because the procedure ensures fairness.
UPDATE: See this good short video:
Precisely because it educates: opens new perspectives, increases knowledge, imparts respect for reason, etc. This story is a perfect example.
Dr. Mona Kanwal Sheikh has an interesting post at the OUP blog:
“Many of the inhuman struggles that have divided the human race would hardly have occurred if the situation had been one of completely righteous men confronted by undiluted and unmitigated crime”. These are the words of the historian Herbert Butterfield who several decades ago commented on the tragic patterns in human conflicts.
Back in 2008, when I first travelled to Pakistan in order to understand the grievances and religious worldview of the new Taliban movement that arose in the northwestern tribal areas, I wearily met the ambivalence that Butterfield had pointed out. Had I just encountered pure evil, it would probably have been less troubling for me and for others who are trying to comprehend, how to respond to the growing number of terrorist movements that is currently challenging not only Pakistan, but also Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and various parts of Africa.
All simplistic hypothesis about “what drives terrorists” falter when there is suddenly in front of you human faces and complex life stories. The tragedy of contemporary policies designed to handle or rather crush movements who employ terrorist tactics, are prone to embrace a singular explanation of the terrorist motivation, disregarding the fact that people can be in the very same movement for various reasons. It is not about either politics, religion, vulnerable mental health, or socioeconomics, but more often than not, it is about all of these in mixture. For some, their embracement of violent movements has more to do with their mythic worldviews than their grave analysis of world politics, while for others it has everything to do with the west’s policies and colonial behavior. Again, other cases reveal that unjust socioeconomic structures produce highly vulnerable individuals in search for material gains and personal acknowledgement.
During my years of research into the Pakistani Taliban movement, I have met aged ideologues who were highly preoccupied with the hypocrisy of the west, and for whom it seemed to be an utmost pleasure to repeat the fact that the west was once sponsoring some of the same people, the mujahideen, that they are now stigmatizing as terrorists. As one of the militants, that I interviewed, told me “back then we smelled awfully of sweat, and today we smell awfully of sweat” – he saw no difference in who the mujahedeen were at that time and what the Taliban stand for today, but the change had come from the west, who well-willingly traded principles for power gains. The fight, for this type of militant, is about confronting the superpower-ambitions of the US and the expansionist-colonialist ambitions of the west. The invasion of Afghanistan was about oil, influence or establishing the cultural hegemony of the west, and the US drone campaign that started in 2004 in Pakistan a reflection of the west’s reckless indifference to the sovereignty of Muslim countries. . .
Her conclusion is worth noting:
. . . Today, between 10-20% of Afghanistan is still in the hands of the Taliban. In addition to losing territory to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the Afghan army has come under pressure from the Islamic State who has made its entrance into both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Pakistan, 134 children were massacred at a school in Peshawar in 2014 by the Pakistani Taliban – this was months after the Pakistani army initiated a large-scale operation to eliminate terrorist in all shapes and sizes in North Waziristan, the hotbed of the Pakistani Taliban. Al-Qaeda, the movement that Bush promised to destroy “piece by piece” in 2001, never left the area, but only expanded piece by piece, to North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, and Iraq, and recently they also announced the establishment of a new chapter to operate in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In fact, Al-Qaeda is more forcefully present than it was ever expected in 2011, when the death of Osama Bin Laden was celebrated as a huge victory of the war on terrorism.
There should be little doubt, that after more than a decade of fighting that started in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and moved to places like Iraq, Mali and Syria, the mission of crushing terrorism does not only falter, but is producing more enemies and more terrorists. Until we are ready to face that the militaristic approaches are complicit in keeping the terrorist movements alive, we will never be able to turn the tide and develop better tools based on a deeper understanding of the multifaceted character of the enemy.
Lesley Clark and David Lightman report in McClatchy:
In the 1990s, many evangelicals were adamant that Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs were ruining America.
“We are facing a profound moral crisis,” James Dobson, a longtime Christian right activist and founder of Focus on the Family, said at the time.
Now faced with the candidacy of Donald Trump, a thrice-married man who bragged about sexually forcing himself on unwilling women, some evangelical leaders, notably older men, are saying this is different.
“Donald Trump is not a perfect man, but he is pro-life,” Dobson told McClatchy. “To my knowledge, Donald Trump has never abused women physically or had oral sex in the Oval Office with a vulnerable intern.”
That kind of approach is opening a split within the religious community. Younger evangelicals and women express dismay with the older, mostly male church leaders who have elected to stand with Trump.
Beth Moore, a prominent evangelical author and founder of Houston-based Living Proof Ministries, struck a nerve when she said via Twitter that she was among the “many women” who had been “sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled (and) talked naughty to.”
And she seemingly chastised the religious leaders who were sticking with Trump.
“Try to absorb how acceptable the dis-esteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal,” she said.