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Archive | Religion

French Paper Charlie Hebdo Reprints Mohammad Cartoon

The French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, whose office was fire bombed after it printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad has reproduced the image defending “the freedom to poke fun” in the four-page supplement, which was wrapped around copies of the left-wing daily Liberation.

Writes Brian Love on the incident in Reuters “French paper reprints Mohammad cartoon after fire-bomb“:

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place hours before an edition of Charlie Hebdo hit news stands featuring a cover-page cartoon of Mohammad and a speech bubble with the words: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”

The weekly, known for its irreverent treatment of the political establishment and religious figures, bore the headline “Charia Hebdo,” in a reference to Muslim sharia law, and said that week’s issue had been guest-edited by Mohammad.

The incident pits Europe’s tradition of free speech and secularism against Islam’s injunction barring any depictions seen as mocking the prophet. The publication of cartoons of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper in 2005 sparked unrest in the Muslim world in which at least 50 people were killed.

By Islamists defending the Orwellian “religion of peace” i suppose, or perhaps “a few drunks”?

Here is the photo…

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Cross: The Bogus Ayn Rand “Biographer”

From “Six things you probably didn’t know about Ayn Rand” (Christian Science Monitor), on item number five “Atheism and Israel” Rand “biographer” Jennifer Burns conflates the “Jewish race” (genetics) versus the “Jewish religion” (ideas):

Rand was a life-long atheist with a secular philosophy. “She was Jewish, but she always said her religion had no meaning to her,” says Jennifer Burns, a history professor at the University of Virginia and author of the biography “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.” But in 1973, she made the first monetary donation of her life to the state of Israel. Scholars are still trying to explain it.

Not Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute — see Israel Morals Match Rand Ideology.

Returning back the to CSM article:

Some say the donation had nothing to do with religion. “Rand had a tendency to overlook certain facts when she was enthusiastic about something,” says Heller.

What “facts” Rand is “ignoring” is not stated in the article. Later in the article:

[...] Rand did see Israel as a bastion of civilization in the region, but her individualist philosophy of honoring only commitments one chooses – unlike family or religion, which one is born into – makes her contribution to Israel notable, says professor Burns in a telephone interview. “Her donation raises some interesting questions about whether her religion was more important to her than she was willing to publicly admit.”

Actually Ayn Rand did publicly “admit” them on The Phil Donahue Show:

Quoting Ayn Rand on Israel (Ford Hall Forum lecture, 1974):

Question: What should the United States do about the [1973] Arab-Israeli War?

Ayn Rand: Give all the help possible to Israel. Consider what is at stake. It is not the moral duty of any country to send men to die helping another country. The help Israel needs is technology and military weapons—and they need them desperately. Why should we help Israel? Israel is fighting not just the Arabs but Soviet Russia, who is sending the Arabs armaments. Russia is after control of the Mediterranean and oil.

Further, why are the Arabs against Israel? (This is the main reason I support Israel.) The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don’t want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don’t wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency.

For more on the Objectivist view on Israel see Israel Has A Moral Right To Its Life by Yaron Brook.

For a review of Burn’s book see “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.”

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Religious Freedom vs Economic Freedom: Kennedy Townsend’s False Alternative

Ms. Kennedy Townsend is very confused about Ayn Rand.

Sadly, because like many of Rand’s critics, her views on Ayn Rand are based on third-rate biographies as opposed to actually reading Ayn Rand’s views first hand. Take for example Kennedy Townsend’s  straw man attack on Ayn Rand’s view of government.

Writes Townsend in The Atlantic:

America was a beacon of freedom from its earliest days. But the freedom to earn one’s living is not the same as the freedom to emasculate government. It’s a mistake to enshrine individual liberty without acknowledging the role that a good government plays in preserving and promoting it. Look at places like Haiti, Somalia, and the Congo to see what happens when governments aren’t around much.

When government is marginalized, it’s not just individual freedom that suffers; the economy suffers too. A vibrant capitalism requires a legal system: contracts must be honored, fraud punished. Markets have to work, and for that we need a strong infrastructure of roads, rail, energy, and water and sewage systems.

Ayn Rand was no anarchist as pure libertarians are.

Rather than blindly accepting Kennedy Townsend’s view that Ayn Rand was against a legal system that honors contracts, lets see what Rand actually wrote on this issue in The Virtue of Selfishness:

The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. ["The Nature of Government"]

Ayn Rand was for good government. In Rand’s view the essence of good government was judged by one principle: the protection of individual rights, which means in practice the banning of the initiation of physical force from all human relationships. Rand would agree with a government to enforce contracts, however, there is no reason for government being required to build roads, railroads, build power plants or sewage systems. Practically, because private industry can do these things more efficiently and at a better bang for the buck, i.e., before they were nationalized, America’s railroads were actually built by private industry. Morally, because such endeavors by government can only be funded by robbing the wealth of those forced to finance such projects against their will.

Even worse is Ms. Townsend’s misunderstanding of the relationship of religion and the concept freedom, the latter of which she views as a competing set of contradictory freedoms as opposed to an inseparable whole:

 I’ve always understood that one’s loyalty to God should take precedence over one’s patriotic duty. [As did the 9/11 terrorists! -- D&C] Churches are exempt from taxation, and conscientious objectors aren’t required to serve in war. Our high regard for the First Amendment shows the preeminence of faith in the American consciousness.

But to place economics on the same level as religious freedom seemed to me almost blasphemous. Are we really to believe that the freedom to make money should stand on the same level of religious liberty?

Yes, because freedom is an inseparable whole.

The right to religious freedom is not merely the freedom for the individual to practice religion as he chooses (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), but is the freedom from religion being imposed on the individual whether by private criminals or public bureaucrats, i.e., the freedom to not practice any religious doctrine.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, in his letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Quoting Jefferson in a letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814:

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.

Religious freedom is the application of the right to free speech and property applied to the religious sphere. You are free to say what you wish on these matters — even that God does not exist — and no one can physically force you to think or act differently. Remarks Jefferson’s on this point in his Notes on Virginia, 1782:

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Religious freedom — the right to free speech and action so long as one does not violate the rights of others — and economic freedom — the right to produce values necessary to support ones own life so long as one does not violate the rights of others — are equals, because the right to life is an inseparable, non-contradictory whole.

Religious freedom (the freedom from the state forcing some religious doctrine upon you) is an instance of the principle of freedom applied to the religious sphere. It is hierarchically a derivative of the fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There is no compromise or antagonism between religious and economic freedom when the two are properly grasped and defined.

Or in Ayn Rand’s words:

It is not society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill—but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a “compromise” between two rights—but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not derived from an edict of society—but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society—but is implicit in the definition of your own right.

Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. [“Textbook of Americanism,”The Ayn Rand Column, 85]

As for charity and the “special responsibility” of the wealthy here is what Ayn Rand had to say:

The small minority of adults who are unable rather than unwilling to work, have to rely on voluntary charity; misfortune is not a claim to slave labor; there is no such thing as the right to consume, control, and destroy those without whom one would be unable to survive. [CUI]

Quoting Ayn Rand in her interview in Playboy, March 1964:

My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

Rand did not see charity — the benevolent act of giving away one’s wealth to aid someone in need — as a badge of moral honor; she did award such a badge for the ability to produce that wealth. In Rand’s view your only political responsibility in regards to others is not to violate their rights by initiating force against them:

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force. [“The Objectivist Ethics,”The Virtue of Selfishness, 32 ]

And again quoting Rand in “The Nature of Government,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 108:

Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.

The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.

The difference between Ayn Rand and Townsend’s ilk is that Ayn Rand leaves people free to be good as dictated by their own reason and free choice; Kennedy Townsend wishes to use the power of the government to force her altruistic conception of the good on others (i.e., robbing the “rich” to help those who sleep under bridges, i.e., Marxian “fair” taxation, etc.).

Kennedy Townsend wishes to unleash the criminal power of government to initiate force against those who violated the rights of no one — illegitimate and immoral means — to achieve her ends. In Rand’s view, rights are not things to be violated by regulation, but are to be protected by right. Quoting Ayn Rand:

Freedom, in a political context, means freedom from government coercion. It does not mean freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide men with automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state—and nothing else.

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Sam Harris: Causal Connection Between Islam and Islamist Violence is Undisputable

Liberal atheist Sam Harris writing in the Huffington Post has penned an important piece on the connection between Islam and Islamist violence called Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks. Here are some quotes

What about all the civil, freedom-loving, moderate Muslims who are just as appalled by Muslim intolerance as I am? No doubt millions of men and women fit this description, but vocal moderates are very difficult to find. Wherever “moderate Islam” does announce itself, one often discovers frank Islamism lurking just a euphemism or two beneath the surface. The subterfuge is rendered all but invisible to the general public by political correctness, wishful thinking, and “white guilt.” This is where we find sinister people successfully posing as “moderates”—people like Tariq Ramadan who, while lionized by liberal Europeans as the epitome of cosmopolitan Islam, cannot bring himself to actually condemn honor killing in round terms (he recommends that the practice be suspended, pending further study). Moderation is also attributed to groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamist public relations firm posing as a civil-rights lobby.

Even when one finds a true voice of Muslim moderation, it often seems distinguished by a lack of candor above all things. Take someone like Reza Aslan, author of No God But God: I debated Aslan for Book TV on the general subject of religion and modernity. During the course of our debate, I had a few unkind words to say about the Muslim Brotherhood. While admitting that there is a difference between the Brotherhood and a full-blown jihadist organization like al Qaeda, I said that their ideology was “close enough” to be of concern. Aslan responded with a grandiose, ad hominem attack saying, “that indicates the profound unsophistication that you have about this region. You could not be more wrong.” He then claimed that I’d taken my view of Islam from “Fox News.” Such maneuvers, coming from a polished, Iranian-born scholar of Islam carry the weight of authority, especially in front of an audience of people who are desperate to believe the threat of Islam has been grossly exaggerated. The problem, however, is that the credo of the Muslim Brotherhood actually happens to be “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

The connection between the doctrine of Islam and Islamist violence is simply not open to dispute. It’s not that critics of religion like myself speculate that such a connection might exist: the point is that Islamists themselves acknowledge and demonstrate this connection at every opportunity and to deny it is to retreat within a fantasy world of political correctness and religious apology. Many western scholars, like the much admired Karen Armstrong, appear to live in just such a place. All of their talk about how benign Islam “really” is, and about how the problem of fundamentalism exists in all religions, only obfuscates what may be the most pressing issue of our time: Islam, as it is currently understood and practiced by vast numbers of the world’s Muslims, is antithetical to civil society. A recent poll showed that thirty-six percent of British Muslims (ages 16-24) believe that a person should be killed for leaving the faith. Sixty-eight percent of British Muslims feel that their neighbors who insult Islam should be arrested and prosecuted, and seventy-eight percent think that the Danish cartoonists should have been brought to justice. And these are British Muslims.

Link: Losing Our Spines to Save Our Necks

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