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Jihadist Terror

Recently I have been embroiled privately and publicly in condemning Islamic terrorism. Because I pulled no punches, I have alienated and lost some old friends. The following is from the Dharma Wheel website forums which I wrote in response to the thread.

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Postby steveb1 » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:26 pm

Dharma Flower wrote:

“He’s saying that we’re at war against international jihad, which is the drive to take over the world for Islam that has been part of Islam from the beginning. Millions of Asian Buddhists have died at the hands of Islamic conquest. Is there any Asian Muslim country that wasn’t converted by the sword?

“What Sam Harris is saying is that the Muslim world needs an enlightenment and a reformation, the same way that the West had an enlightenment and a reformation. Christianity had a very violent, brutal history too, but the West is different today because of the reformation and the enlightenment.”

Exact and to the point.

[Requisite PSA: Not all Muslims are terrorists! Only a small minority. Most are peaceful!]

Jihad is a toxic, ugly truth at the heart of Islam. Sadly, only Muslims can rid the religion and the world of Islamic terrorism via “reform”. The odds are stacked against it, because Jihad is embedded in the Quran and the life of Muhammad. Allah is the first deity to teach the principles of Jihad to a human being – that is a rock-solid, ground truth. It is not an argument to say that most Muslims are not Jihadists or supporters thereof. As everyone can agree: “THEY are not the problem”. The terrorists ARE.

The “peaceful Muslims” gambit is being used by the Left and by the cucked Right as a dodge, a red herring, a ploy with the intent to try to distract the public’s gaze from the true horrors of Islamic terrorism, a crime that has no foreseeable end. To reform Islam is, according to everything stated and implied in the Quran, to reform Perfection. Can’t be done, and all attempts to do so will end in fire and sword.

Harris is a mixed bag. On religion, I think he’s mostly misled, but on political Islam he’s mostly correct. And it is beneficial to recall that condemnation of Jihad is not condemnation of religious Islam.

Religious Islam began fairly peacefully in Mecca until the Prophet became increasingly megalomaniac and political, and the Meccans kicked him out. He then went to Medina where he became a politician, a judge and a warlord. When he had assembled a strong following there, he returned to Mecca to exact a frightful vengeance upon those who had so sensibly rejected him earlier (his revenge fell especially on Jews who had rejected him).
Thus Islam, as we have it, contains both the Meccan/pacifistic religious “Surrender” as well as the Medinan/terrorist “Surrender”. Unfortunately, both are woven of the same cloth and so cannot be separated and still be called “Islam”.

Westerners whose first reaction to a Jihad attack is to rush to protect “innocent Muslims” from Western attack are simply wrong-headed. The first response needs to be quarantining, jailing, and punishing the perpetrators and their networks – plus strong, legal expressions of outrage and public protest, including demonstrations and marches. The second response should be taking care of all the victims, their friends-and-families, as well as any physically uninjured witnesses who are suffering from emotional trauma. The third response is to keep peaceful Muslims on the back burner of “Concern!” – because, after all, that’s where they belong, since …THEY are not the Problem.

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Too much me vs. you

Following the recent US election, I am shocked and disappointed in the reactions of the Left. I “tend toward” the Left in many things myself, but the violent, clownish and infantile Leftist response to the election of Donald Trump to the presidency has thoroughly disgusted me. Talk about sore losers. Talk about demonizing one’s fellow citizens, starting with Hillary Clinton’s calling potential Trump supporters  “the Deplorables”, right down to the point, immediately after the election, when arrogant Leftists took it upon themselves to condemn voters who elected Trump, holding signs that said, “Your vote was a hate crime!”  This kind of reaction just staggers me, and is contrary to the spirit inherent in the voting process of a democratic nation.

What has this country come to? I have witnessed people I have known, and known affectionately, for years, unfriending people on Facebook, to the extent of announcing that anyone who they may have missed on their lists might as well unfriend them as well. Ending friendships, sometimes lifetimes long in the case of younger posters, speaks volumes about the attitudes and values of the “noble, tolerant, liberal Left”.

Morally speaking, its “there” seems to have absconded, only to be replaced by the very fascism that the Left falsely claims to eschew. Haughty hypocrisy has become the rule, not the exception. I myself do confess to a kind of uncharitable satisfaction watching the Left play out all the cliches projected onto it by the Right, such as its sore loser-ism, its fascistic thinking, its whining and its (quite literal) weeping, its impotent rage, its sissified indulgence in hurt feelings, etc.

Donald Trump is no dream come true. I didn’t vote for him, any more than I voted for Clinton – on the principle that voting for “the lesser evil” is still voting for evil. We are now stuck with the evil – as well as any potential good – that the voters put into place in the White House as of November, 2016. The Leftists need to grow up and accept this simple fact, or risk becoming the living stereotypes which the Right perceives them to be.

God again

Much is made in “new atheist” circles about the supposed uselessness, harmfulness, and silliness of faith. However, I am skeptical about this claim that faith/belief is really the core issue in genuine religion and spirituality.  Certainly the real issue is not the shallow, sophomoric “God = the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Flying Spaghetti Monster” slogan/analogy/cliche. The core issue is subjective spiritual experience, and the corollary is the non-materiality and non-quantifiability of spirit/Spirit.

Subjective experience:

Mystical experience, especially that of divine union, is never founded on belief.
Direct apprehension of the divine via mystical states, and the specialized knowing resulting from that apprehension (satori, gnosis), are neither belief-derived, nor belief-driven. The state of divine union and the claim of spiritual insight are experiential, not theoretical or intellectual.

The original experience is, of course, famously ineffable. But if it is to be put into understandable language, then naturally pre-existing terms will almost necessarily be invoked, and particular connections with the language of pre-existing faith systems may be established. But the experience itself is not mediated by “belief-in” or “belief-about”.  As the mystics themselves say, once a thing is known, knowledge supplants faith; “belief-in” becomes obsolete.

This fact is important to the current conversation because historically all founders of religious movements operated out of direct spiritual experience, not out of belief(s). That is, Jesus was a divine union experiencer before he was a social reformer; the Buddha was a Dharma-Nirvana experiencer before he challenged the Brahmins. Therefore, perhaps somewhat ironically, faith – defined as belief-in/belief-about – is directly opposed to the original vision of the founders (even though it suffices for vast numbers of adherents appropriately designated as … “the faithful”).

Nor is the frequently invoked argument cogent that the brain can produce delusional spiritual experience, or even real spiritual experience. At this stage of the discussion, the primary issue is not the multi-capacities of our collectively-shared three-pound skull organ. The issue is simply the fact that the claim “religion = faith/belief” is inadequate at best, and distortive and false at worst.

Non-quantifiability of spirit/Spirit:

Spirit’s non-quantifiable nature, naturally, means that it is not materially quantifiable. Certian so-called “open minded” atheists who, with studied graciousness – and with a great show of  humble liberality – declare that sufficient evidence could move them toward theism, can only maintain this position by ignoring the fact that spirit is non-material and materially unquantifiable. They have therefore conveniently set for themselves a playing field that is on the one hand impregnable and extremely comfortable (not to mention comforting); but on the other, is something of an intellectual ghetto, a view with a pre-embedded limited horizon, permitting only a certain circumscribed and predictable forensic outcome.

An atheist for whom materialism is an unquestioned principle by definition cannot acknowledge (even for the sake of argument?) religion’s non-materialist claims: thereby firmly encasing himself/herself into the box of a self-selected and limited field of discourse.

Put simply: If nothing exists but matter, the present conversation by nature must stop with that claim. And ideally, what should also stop is the  claim that evidence might lead materialists and/or atheists toward theism, because the evidence offered by theism is, a priori, absurd and inadmissible to the materialist. This self-congratulatory (in the sense of “Observe how I am being fair and liberal”) position is really “anything but”, because it demands evidence that is, a priori, unacceptable to the very people who are trumpeting the call for evidence.

Of course, it is quite apparent that spiritual claims are not unquantifiable in the broad sense. Sages like the Buddha certainly claimed that spiritual knowledge/insight is subjectively quantifiable, and they meticulously set out means by which to verify their claims. Of course, the obvious difference is that science quantifies by looking outward, whereas spirituality quantifies by looking inward. But both proceed along the same threefold path of injunction, experimentation, conclusion, and sharing of the process with a community of those who have also adequately performed the three steps.

On a final note, it is tiresome to read airy dismissals of religion which originate from “salad bar” critics who condemn faith’s flaws while completely overlooking the fact that many unbelievers, too, sometimes participate in lunacy such as scientism, the myth of human progress, uncritical humanism, bald assertions, untested claims, excuse-making for scientific and technological dangers and failures, naive, unskillfully conceived and presented claims that theology is merely “the study of nothing”, and other such gaffes. Before such overbearing materialists and atheists cast stones, they are well-advised to commit to some degree of critical introspection – else they are doomed to duplicate – and act from – the same shoddy principles and unthinking attitudes which they claim to most despise in the religious.

The Hardy Japanese

Much is being made – and rightly so – of the lack of violence and looting in the aftermath of Japan’s recent catastrophes.

Most of the looting US audiences see in their media is done by impoverished Americans, many of whom are non-white. This is because many times the worst devastation occurs in impoverished neighborhoods where, unfortunately, many of our non-white brothers and sisters are born and die, sometimes with very little hope of economic betterment. If any people, regardless of race, are impoverished, of course they will loot. It’s really that simple. Wealthier people tend not to loot, because they don’t “need” to. They have the best chance of escaping areas of devastation, the best storage-reserve-retrieval systems, the best insurance, and the best opportunities for reconstruction.

It is a false paradigm to project the behavior of some impoverished Americans onto the Japanese. It’s not just a matter of the Japanese being civilized, orderly, and blessed with a built-in system of deep courtesy. The US media I have seen have reported the behavior of general urban Japanese populations, not the behavior of “ghettoized”, impoverished Japanese. Therefore it is a mistake to project US social expectations on a populace whose actions are being reported generically, with no particular focus on how impoverished sections of that populace are, or are not, behaving.

Finally, the Japanese wisdom – which effectively tends to limit looting – is that the local stores still operating in the affected areas are simply giving – donating – their supplies. And they are doing it with a sense of order. The supplies are not just thrown at “customers”, but sensibly rationed.

Kudos to the Japanese for their compassion, practicality, and common sense.

Making Christmas Linger

It’s the fashion in today’s America to be done with Christmas as soon as appropriate. Appropriateness varies between individuals and institutions. It is hardly surprising that after the season’s typical stress and hectic rush which many experience during this season, a sizeable number of people  want to rid themselves of “the Holidays” sooner rather than later.

I, for one,  don’t like to see Christmas go. I detest the current appetite among merchants to begin the Holiday season prior to Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the season began with Thanksgiving, and businesses reflected that trend. Now, thanks to factors mostly beyond the public’s control, the season begins as early as Halloween, and in some egregious cases, even earlier. When the season is forced upon us so early, it is not difficult to understand Christmas burn-out. However, because of the current regime, it is as if a great deal of the season’s spirit is spent much before it arrives, and this puts many into the “let’s get it over with” mode. I am not one of those folks.

My feeling is that once Christmas arrives, it should be invited to stay a while, to linger as long as possible. Looking at the season this way, I think that taking down Christmas decor on December 26, or even on January 2, is like asking an old friend to leave your house long before s/he has outworn  welcome. And it should be remembered that Christmas itself has not outworn its welcome. Rather, commercialism has burdened consumers with a too-early Christmas atmosphere, which is not the fault of the holiday itself.

But why, it might be objected, would anyone keep Christmas past New Year’s day? The answer is not strange or difficult to understand:

Christmas Day is only Day One in the Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas does not end until Midnight of the Twelfth Day after December 25, the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. This feast celebrates the “epiphany”, or “showing forth” of the Christ-child to the Magi. To shut down Christmas before the day that marks the Magi’s visit is simple lunacy,  especially in view of the iconic cultural popularity and importance of “the Three Wise Men” for the holiday.

Not only that. For nostalgic and sentimental people like me who hate to see Christmas leave, a full twelve days of Christmas gives us time to enjoy a longer season than is commonly enjoyed, and it permits us to say our goodbyes to the season gently, with appropriate ritual: the tradition is to relish your Christmas right up until very late on the evening 0f January 6, while you indulge in a final indulgence in seasonal music,  movies and treats. Then, after – or even during – this final acknowledgement of the season, you take down the Christmas decor and store it away until next Christmas. That way, Christmas lovers can protract the season as they please, and bid it a fond farewell without major heart-wrenching sensation.

I say, Give me my full Christmas season, from Advent through Christ’s birth on Christmas day, to his Epiphany on January 6. There is no good reason for Christmas lovers to cheat themselves of the full season, despite cultural pressures to do so.