The Bright Immensities

And have the bright immensities
Received our risen Lord
Where light-years frame the Pleiades
And point Orion’s sword?

Do flaming suns His footsteps trace
Through corridors sublime,
The Lord of interstellar space
And Conqueror of time?

The heaven that hides Him from our sight
Knows neither near nor far:
An altar candle sheds its light
As surely as a star;

And where His loving people meet
To share the gift divine,
There stands He with unhurrying feet,
There heavenly splendors shine.


-- Howard Chandler Robbins (1876-1952)

Everything You Think You Know About The Crusades Is Wrong

It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe’s lacklands and ne’er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed “turn the other cheek” into “kill them all; God will know his own.”

Every word of this is wrong.

via Inventing the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden.

Burning Responses

Imagine a hypothetical YouTube where the videographer burns a Koran and urinates on the ashes. We in the modern West consider this kind of thing an act of free speech.

Would that act be offensive to Muslims? Absolutely. It be offensive to Jews if it were a Torah. It would be offensive to Christians if it were a Bible. It would be offensive to United States patriots if it were the Constitution.

Do Jews, Christians, or United States patriots use that kind of speech as a pretext to riot or murder? If so, would their violence be met with sympathy from the West? No, no, and no. Burning a Koran, and reactions thereto, should be no different.

But here’s the thing: you feel *safe* when you criticize Jews, Christians, and United States patriots, because you know they don’t consider it acceptable to do violence in response to offensive speech. You *don’t* feel safe when it comes to Muslims, because you know there is a non-trivial number of them who *do* consider it acceptable, even a requirement, to do violence in response to offensive speech.

The vast majority of Muslims reading this are civilized, and recognize that violence is not a civilized response to offensive speech. But there are some Muslims, and their sympathizers, who believe that offensive speech must be answered with violence, and who will use offensive speech as a pretext for riot and murder. The behavior is uncivilized, premodern, and barbaric, and should be recognized as such.

You Think Atheists Are More Intelligent? Think Again.

A summary of Vox Popoli: Mailvox: the distribution of atheist intelligence:

– On average, atheist IQ is a little higher than theist IQ. Of course, averages are misleading, because …

– There are more high-IQ theists than high-IQ atheists.

– The majority of atheists have sub-100 IQs.

– “The two most common types of atheists are the High Church atheists with 128+ IQs and Low Church atheists with 65-72 IQs. The Low Church atheists actually outnumber the High Church atheists, 22.9 to 17.2 percent.”

– “There are 11.4x more 128+ IQ theists who either ‘know God exists’ or ‘believe God exists despite having the occasional doubt’ than there are 128+ IQ atheists who ‘don’t believe God exists.'”

See the article for an interesting set of graphs.

Part of me wonders if this accounts for the “I Love Science!” crowd, despite not actually know what science *is*, as well.

FWIW, I was raised a Methodist Christian, so I have a warm place in my heart for religion. In adulthood I became an agnostic, not an atheist, so I have no particular dog in that fight. I have not taken a formal IQ test so I do not know where I fall on that scale. I like science as a methodology, which is why I am perturbed by messages purporting to be “scientific” when they are not.

Dawkins And Allah: The Answer Is, “Because They Will Try To Kill You”

In a recent Al-Jazeerah interview, Richard Dawkins was asked his views on God. He argued that the god of “the Old Testament” is “hideous” and “a monster”, and reiterated his claim from The God Delusion that the God of the Torah is the most unpleasant character “in fiction”. Asked if he thought the same of the God of the Koran, Dawkins ducked the question, saying: “Well, um, the God of the Koran I don’t know so much about.”

How can it be that the world’s most fearless atheist, celebrated for his strident opinions on the Christian and Jewish Gods, could profess to know so little about the God of the Koran?

As the title says, criticism makes you an assassination target. I wonder if he’d be as fearless regarding the Jewish and Christian God if the Jews and Christians had a credible recent history of killing their critics. Via Facing uncomfortable truths | The Jewish Chronicle.

Vicious Stereotypes in Polite Society

One of the less attractive patterns in human behavior is our tendency to stereotype those with whom we disagree, those whose interests conflict with our own, or those who are simply different from ourselves. Such stereotypes create and reinforce prejudice, and they distort our politics, our policy debates, and our constitutional debates. These evils are of course well known; they are an important part of racism, sexism, and discrimination against lesbians and gays. But we do not appear to have generalized the lessons.

Among the educated classes that have been most sensitized to the dangers of the most widely condemned stereotypes, other stereotypes and prejudices flourish. Respected academics and journalists, and respected journals who pride themselves on their tolerance, publish extraordinary statements about groups that have generally failed to engage the sympathies of intellectuals.

In this brief comment, I wish to illustrate the point with a few clear examples. Some involve religion; one involves a potpourri of political and class biases. These are by no means the only examples; the problem is pervasive. Many of us-probably most of us-have acted on unstated and unexamined assumptions that would be as offensive as these if we committed them to print without the veil of euphemisms. Printed or unprinted, flagrant or veiled, these stereotypes are corrosive of the social fabric. The only way to resist is to highlight them and to sensitize ourselves to them.

This is a fantastic piece. I think it took real guts to publish. It and bears reading in its entirety, especially by smart people, academics, and intellectuals. Via VICIOUS STEREOTYPES IN POLITE SOCIETY.

Kubrick’s comments regarding ‘A Clockwork Orange’

The violence in the story has to be given sufficient dramatic weight so that the moral dilemma it poses can be seen in the right context. It is absolutely essential that Alex is seen to be guilty of a terrible violence against society, so that when he is eventually transformed by the State into a harmless zombie you can reach a meaningful conclusion about the relative rights and wrongs. If we did not see Alex first as a brutal and merciless thug it would be too easy to agree that the State is involved in a worse evil in depriving him of his freedom to choose between good and evil. It must be clear that it is wrong to turn even unforgivably vicious criminals into vegetables, otherwise the story would fall into the same logical trap as did the old, anti-lynching Hollywood westerns which always nullified their theme by lynching an innocent person. Of course no one will disagree that you shouldn’t lynch an innocent person — but will they agree that it’s just as bad to lynch a guilty person, perhaps even someone guilty of a horrible crime? And so it is with conditioning Alex.

Films and TV are also convenient whipping boys for politicians because they allow them to look away from the social and economic causes of crime, about which they are either unwilling or unable to do anything.

Q: Alex loves rape and Beethoven: what do you think that implies?

A: I think this suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazis were cultured and sophisticated men but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good.

Q: In your films, you seem to be critical of all political factions. Would you define yourself as a pessimist or anarchist?

A: I am certainly not an anarchist, and I don’t think of myself as a pessimist. I believe very strongly in parliamentary democracy, and I am of the opinion that the power and authority of the State should be optimized and exercized only to the extent that is required to keep things civilized. History has shown us what happens when you try to make society too civilized, or do too good a job of eliminating undesirable elements. It also shows the tragic fallacy in the belief that the destruction of democratic institutions will cause better ones to arise in their place.

Certainly one of the most challenging and difficult social problems we face today is, how can the State maintain the necessary degree of control over society without becoming repressive, and how can it achieve this in the face of an increasingly impatient electorate who are beginning to regard legal and political solutions as too slow? The State sees the spectre looming ahead of terrorism and anarchy, and this increases the risk of its over-reaction and a reduction in our freedom. As with everything else in life, it is a matter of groping for the right balance, and a certain amount of luck.

The Kubrick Site: Kubrick’s comments regarding ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Islamist Vandalizes Poster, MTA Responds By Prohibiting Posters

Just one day after an Islamic activist attempted to cover over private property in spray paint (and a woman who got in her way), the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York has announced they will amend their rules to prohibit the types of advertisements that offended her.

The New York Times reports the MTA will prohibit any advertisements that it “reasonably foresees would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.” Those “viewpoint” ads that do not meet this criteria will be allowed, so long as a disclaimer is included saying the MTA does not endorse them. The MTA met on Thursday to discuss the rules, which were approved unanimously 8-0. 

Maybe Christians should start spray-painting over speech they find offensive, too. Via NYC Prohibits Controversial Subway Ads in Wake of Islamist’s Vandalism.

Against Denigration of Religion? Yeah, Right.

Muslim outrage over an amateurish trailer for a probably non-existent video coincides with an ongoing hit Broadway play ridiculing the Mormon Church, the reappearance of the once government-subsidized Piss Christ photos, and so on. When the administration apologizes for the excess of a private individual, but ignores condemnation of far more widely disseminated similar venom, some of it sponsored by the U.S. government, it is making a policy statement — we dare not tamper with free speech unless it touches upon Islam, not out of principle but because of sheer cowardice.

via Please, No More Apologies For Free Speech – By Victor Davis Hanson – The Corner – National Review Online.

More, Please: Iran Cleric Pummeled by ‘Badly Covered’ Woman After Warning

Cleric: “You cover yourself!” Woman: “You cover your eyes!” Awesome.

An Iranian cleric said he was beaten by a woman in the northern province of Semnan after giving her a warning for being “badly covered,” the state-run Mehr news agency reported.

Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied “you, cover your eyes,” according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.

“I fell on my back on the floor,” Beheshti said in the report. “I don’t know what happened after that, all I could feel was the kicks of this woman who was insulting me and attacking me.”

Via Iran Cleric Pummeled by ‘Badly Covered’ Woman After Warning – Bloomberg.