You will know a country's ideals by its advertising. Advertising is reflecting a valued perceived way of life. In many advertisements it is vague individualism with vague judgmental cynical humor. Christianity in America is owned by the culture and it is sold as a product of self help and self aggrandizement. The success of Prosperity preachers in America is to the rational mind unbelievable but when you see the propaganda of advertisement it fits well with the the culture. The God market. Jesus King-Have it your way. Build-A-Bear to Build-A-Jesus. Dress him as you like. Man created religion to justify himself.
Key historical developments such as the Jews under Persian rule (424-331 B.C.), Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period (331-167 B.C.), Greek rule under Alexander (331-323 B.C.), Egyptian rule under the Ptolemies (323-198 B.C.), Syrian rule under the Seleucids (198-167 B.C.), the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean dynasty (167-63 B.C.), the Roman period (63 B.C. to Christian era), must be studied to understand the rivers of history and how they mix to set cultural trajectory. In the religious realm, the Jews were exposed to beliefs like Hellenistic religion, traditional mythology, philosophies like Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism and Neo-Pythagoreanism, mystery religions, Gnosticism and Emperor worship.
The human will to significance can be problematic. Ideologies of self justification and self aggrandizing beliefs may be a human defense to its demise but it can lead to horrible realities. The transference of life and meaning to objects and symbols is a human trait that makes conflict more probable. It is no longer a piece of land, cloth, stone or building but my very life and existence. Two heroic systems that are born from this escape from oblivion and this will to significance, cannot stand to co-exist with one another because their mere existence points to the fallacy of their absolute superiority. Thus genocide is even justified kill the people to keep the ideology alive. Humans have often sacrificed real life for imaginary life.
The human ability to give meaning to colors, flags, stories, and symbols has often led to two or more movements to battle in a bloody conflict for hegemony. Becker wrote, "The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the strange customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to ones own."
"Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together."
- Eugene Ionesco
Sigmund Freud wrote "the narcissism of the small difference... It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them."
Becker wrote, "The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the strange customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to ones own."
"Societies are standardized systems of death denial."
Simona was born 1979 in Germany, from Palestinian parents. She grew up in Denmark and today has her home in Copenhagen and San Francisco.
She plays Arabic percussion, especially darbuka, despite the fact that this is considered a masculine instrument, and almost always played by men. Therefore she is one of very few women in the world from The Middle East who play’s this instrument professionally.
Simona is self-taught and has been playing since she was 15. One of her goals is to record an album that fuses western music, rock, house and pop with the Middle Eastern rhythm. To facilitate a meeting of cultures is a wish close to Simonas heart.
All Africa Reports: Arusha — World famous Simona Abdallah, Denmark -based, female musician will kick off her maiden performance in Tanzania at a concert to be held in Arusha in September.
Confirming her participation in the AICD festival Ms Simona Abdallah stated via email that after performing at the 'Cultural Diversity' festival in Arusha that Saturday she would also play one show at the Alliance Française in Dar Es Salaam on the following Wednesday, 15th of September before connecting to Kenya and Uganda.
"The flight is booked for my solo tour in Tanzania which may also cover Uganda and Kenya. I am so excited," Simona said adding that she will however first perform in France (Vence and Grenoble) and Croatia (Zagreb) with the wonderful star, Natacha Atlas (Belgian singer), then at Mela festival in Oslo en-route here.
The New Atheism Axe & Dogmatic Ice Sheets (Sometimes it takes the Axe and sometimes it takes intellectual warmth)
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
Live to the point of tears.
I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart.
- Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Need one go through the problems in the world due to lack of critical and free inquiry? I defend the New Atheism on the basis that it goes where others will not due to polite society (Neo Victorianism) and gives some people the chance to break free from religious dogma and the tyrannies of the mind.
Let me paint a picture for you. Religious dogma is a thick sheet of ice and the person is trapped underneath it. To use a quote from Kafka it sometimes takes an Axe to break the frozen sea. I see the New Atheism as an Axe that for some it is the only instrument to break the sheet of ice and allow them some fresh air of reason and scientific wonder. For those individuals the New Atheism was a necessary good. I think religious liberals feel that their thin ice of religion is being attacked by that Axe and it seems superfluous. I think that is the misunderstanding. The New Atheism is most beneficial for the thick ice not the thin ice.
For some people they don’t even realize there is a world beyond the ice sheet and for those people I see the New Atheism as a benefit. Now that does not mean it is completely without fault. There could be problems with the style and delivery that turn people off or make them go deeper into dogma. Perhaps a more indirect approach of wonder and skepticism is better to thaw the ice instead of break it with a blunt instrument. A warmth of intellectual stimulation would be better to thaw out the ice of dogma for some. For me the writings of Ernest Becker and Gerry Spence were important in thawing out my ice sheets of the mind. But I also understand that the Axe can be necessary for breaking the frozen sea within some of us. And when I think of Spence and Becker's writings they are quite blunt with powerful imagery in their use of syntax.
There has been a critique of the Dawkins and Hitchens Atheism as too aggressive, militant, angry, and simple. This New Atheism is uncultured, unsophisticated and lacks theological and philosophical nuances. Ironically this critique comes from the far right religious fundamentalists along with the academic left. Strange bedfellows but they are both invested in protecting the status quo. Some on the Academic left (for example Karen Armstrong) see religion as an ornament of culture and it should be studied and appreciated as part of the human fabric. Academically speaking this is something reasonable to consider –to be dispassionate, apolitical and passive with the subject you are studying. Unfortunately most people do not have the access to all that Academia offers to take part in a grand study of religion. Not only do they not have the access to an opportunity of research but - this is important - they do not even have the disposition to study something from afar because the religion owns everything they see. When one is under the thumb of dogma it is impossible to rise to the heights of freethought.
Religion is a real force in parts of society and the impact is real in the lives of people. It is not benign and the attacks on science education, sex education and free inquiry are very real. There is a growing culture of anti-intellectualism and it should not be taken lightly by anyone who prizes a liberal education. I know there is good reason for the suspicions of Western Imperialism & Colonialism but somehow this suspicion has been widened to the New Atheism which is looked at as a form of the previous hubris(Possibly because of Hitchens politics on War). And this is where I think Karen Armstrong and others like her see religion as a part of culture and therefore should be protected to a certain extent from aggressive atheism. It is out to destroy culture and the status quo. Parts of the academic left see no distinction between religion and culture, the religious right sees it as the only culture worth protecting, and the New Atheism is a destructive and blunt object of a movement to both. For me the status quo is not something to protect but to be challenged. Not to make the world a utopia but to allow for free inquiry and expression. Nothing should be beyond the right to question.
For a large number of people in the world religion is a real influence in life that takes on many forms that are not always soft or benign. Religion often gets in the way of a child’s full potential to education and greater vision. For this reason alone I cannot view religion as something to behold in passive appreciation. There are other foes to contend with such as racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, fascism and many other isms so it should be acknowledged that there are many variables to the problems in the world and humans with or without religion have a will to power that needs to be checked by the persistent voice of reason.
"Man is a frightened animal who must lie in order to live."
"Societies are standardized systems of death denial."
"A continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity-is so much the rule and law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have risen among them. The are deeply immersed in illusions...What does man actually know about himself?...even concerning his own body-in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers!"
Eternal life for humans? Sex is sacred for humans? Humans are special? God makes humans the center of the Universe? E.O. Wilson stated that at its base humans are tribal carnivores. To think that the world was made for your tribe and to think that you are superior to the animals you kill for food and consume is flowing from this tribal carnivore.
This solipsism and speciesism is what made the discoveries and ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin and the greater awareness of deep space and deep time in modern science such a threat to human culture and society. Humans may be a different species but we are not special, sex is not sacred, death is certain and we humans are tied to our mortality like all other animals on Earth. The Scientific perspective and reality is too much for a creature that survived on storytelling myth and delusions of grandeur to propagate itself in a hostile and indifferent world. As Becker stated in so many words human society is built on denying death through symbols, culture, religion, and even heroic "immortal" feats of a secular nature. Humans hide their bodies, their waste, their dead and the source of their food for the most part. The great escape from reality and mortality is the will to significance and superiority through human civilization. Suppressing reality and hiding the mortal animal becomes an everyday operation for the tribal carnivore.
Ernest Becker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, wrote, “In order to turn out a piece of work the author has to exaggerate the emphasis of it, to oppose it in a forcefully competitive way to other versions of the truth…the problem is to find the truth underneath the exaggeration.” When it comes to the variations of meaning within conflict and tragedy one is confronted with the limitations of covering such a broad subject when it is so complex in nature. The will to meaning within the human experience has had important consequences for the world. It is hard to exaggerate the influential aspects of the pursuit for purpose when the will to meaning in human experience has given so many the strength to deal with the blows of fate. But there is a dark side to the will to meaning and the denial of death.
The human ability to give meaning to colors, flags, stories, and symbols has often led to two or more movements to battle in a bloody conflict for hegemony. Becker wrote, “The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the ‘strange’ customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to one’s own.”
The transference of life and meaning to objects and symbols is a human trait that makes conflict more probable. It is no longer a piece of land, cloth, stone or building…but my very life and existence. Two heroic systems that are born from this escape from oblivion and this will to significance, cannot stand to co-exist with one another because their mere existence points to the fallacy of their absolute superiority. Thus genocide is even justified…kill the people to keep the ideology alive. Humans have often sacrificed real life for imaginary life.
I do not want to discredit humanity as a hopeless endeavor. A few years ago a friend and I went on a road trip. We came across a car that was stopped at the side of the road. I will never forget what I saw. I saw a woman sitting on the side of the road holding a dying deer. She gently stroked the creature’s head as it lay in her lap. My faith in humanity sparked again by its ability to give a damn. That woman made a horrible act of chance into a beautiful image of hope. Despite the indifference of the universe we humans still have the choice to care about the universe.
The universe is not built towards human happiness or fulfillment. Human happiness must be manufactured by human beings. The human ability to create through art, words, or other symbols is also the human ability to destroy. If a creature can create it can also destroy. The good and the bad of humanity is one. The complexity of it makes it less of dichotomy and more of a fusion. Nature is not cruel or beautiful rather it is both cruel and beautiful. The lion that takes the life of a baby gazelle does so under the beauty of the African landscape. A viciousness backed with the scenery of a lost paradise.
Policy makers who do not study humans on a micro level are “like a blind man in a dark basement searching for a black cat—that is not even there!” It is like an auto mechanic who only knows the outward workings of a car but has not grasp of the engine, the inward driving force. He can tell you how to drive it but not help you fix it. The study of human psyche and emotions should be a requirement to the world of policy makers if it hopes to really face the human challenges in the 21st century. When it comes to global politics human feelings and emotions can be as dominant and relevant as any empirical data that is produced. As Patricia Crone noted, “The very purpose of ideal types is to simplify a complex reality.”
I believe it was Christian Apologist Mary Jo Sharp or perhaps Ravi Zacharias who when the problem of evil comes up claim that it is the emotional problem of evil. Those emotional skeptics versus those dispassionate rational believers is another dishonest picture painted by desperate apologists who want to change the subject. The argument from Epicurus is strong logically and to pretend otherwise is more obfuscation in Christian apology. I am sure Mary Jo Sharp and Ravi Zacharias are so beyond mere mortals that emotional attachment has nothing to do with their lives and beliefs? Religion has had such power in human society precisely because of emotion! Religion takes advantage of the emotional family and community ties to influence individuals to join a particular faith group. The emotional connection to children, mates, and parents are often key to making one stay in their religious group. The emotional cultural moments of marriage, the birth of children, and the death of loved ones keeps many people attached to their religion on emotional needs alone. The pursuit of what is true is not even on the agenda when your life is so tied to the community of faith. Christian apologists are mere mortals who are susceptible to emotional attachment needs like any other human being. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest and emotionally dishonest!
Religion -Birth, Sex, and Death. The Cultural Emotional Meme Par Excellence
Humans want to understand and in their rush to understand they come to lazy conclusions and generalizations to comfort their lack of control and knowledge in a chaotic and overwhelming universe. People like to judge not necessarily because they are self-righteous but rather like a computer program they process information immediately…no matter how small or limited the information might be. The bigger the gap in knowledge or experience the more necessary it is to rely on the illusion of labels that is based on little or no reality.
A little knowledge mixed with a compulsory need to understand in real time leads to pathetic and cartoon like conclusions. Instead of taking the time and resources to study and understand something thoroughly it is easier to rely on the crutch of labels to once again ease your troubled mind. Complexity, ambiguity, and mystery do not give comfort to the human who lives in a bubble of his or her own prejudice. Life is a mix of necessity and possibility and those who ignore either one do so at their own peril. Necessity is more difficult to ignore but possibility still exists only waiting for the person of daring to take advantage of it.
Things that usually fit nicely into boxes are not living things and if they are they usually are forced there. We clip a bird's wings to force them into cages and we clip our own thoughts to imprison ourselves in the secure confines of ignorance and prejudice. Kierkegaard stated, "Once you label me you negate me." For instance expressions such as "well he or she is _____ therefore…" Fill the blank in with religion, ethnicity, political or cultural identifications and you see the apparent presumptions. Once people label someone they become prisoners to their own prejudice. So psychologically they are able to negate the other no matter what truth or logic is being communicated. That is the paralyzing impact of label pushers but unfortunately some would rather be paralyzed in ignorance than take on the burden of freethought. The label becomes the filter and only information that coincides with the label is able to come through, thus the arrogance of ignorance is reinforced. It is safe and comfortable in the cage of prejudice and pretentious thought but you are only negating yourself in the process. When Kierkegaard said that by labeling him you negate him there is a boomerang factor in this process. Negating and labeling others also limits your own possibility and intelligent inquiry. You limit yourself and in doing so only wrap a chain around your own mind. In truth one negates oneself by imprisoning ones own thought possibility. You imprison yourself when you prejudge others based on shallow information. You limit yourself to the shallow waters of labels and presumptions instead of daring out into the deep ocean of possibilities.
People have more of a diverse and intricate background than their skin, religion or country of origin suggests and those who do not have the intellectual fortitude or courage to know otherwise are only allowing themselves to sink deeper into their own mental prison.There are people who will judge a man with as little information as his skin color. That is the height of hubris. Ignorance always attaches itself to arrogance.
I am skeptical of those who speak with certainty on whole groups because unless they have lived a thousand years in a thousand different worlds and experiences they are limited by their minute time and space on this earth. It is important to accept and admit ones own limitations in order to accept the wisdom that only comes by patient observation over time. The fountain of wisdom does not flow like the Niagara Falls but rather drips incrementally and painstakingly. People who rely on generalizations and labels are handicapped in their knowledge and proceed to assist their weakness with judgments that are as lame as their ego. People are afraid of not knowing so they rely on hearsay or one previous experience to ease the pressure or tension of complexity and possibility. Humans should be able to reflect and not simply react. Some people actually base their judgments of whole groups of persons based on meeting one person they consider part of that group…and usually the connection is a shallow one at that.
Between necessity and possibility humans unnecessarily trap themselves into fixed ideologies ironically making it impossible to experience life in the chaotic yet freeing realm of possibility. Kierkegaard wanted this epitaph on his tomb "Here lies an individual." Being part of a group or identifying yourself with something larger may be a biological instinct but it can also be an intellectually limiting force. Groups can give you security but in doing so the herd can also limit your realm of possibility. To not have identity or origin or "home" can cause anxiety and dread as Kierkegaard knew but the opposite impact can be a life of diverse experience and greater expansion.
To paraphrase Immortal Technique, "Your opinions of me are like little kids throwing ice cubes at the sun." Again I second that to say that you label pushers are wasting your time and your mind with the ice cubes of presumptions compared to the gigantic and expansive heat of reality and possibility. (Here is a possibility and that is we don't even know ourselves much less that someone else does or is capable to.) Know thyself the ancient Greeks proclaimed…a much more worthy endeavor then prejudging others. Think out of the box and others who put you there can stay there.