Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Self-Taught Engineer Successfully Flies aboard Steam Rocket

September 21, 2018

And now, before the serious stuff, something completely different, as Monty Python used to say. This is a short video I found on YouTube from the Inside Edition channel. It’s their report on the successful flight of a steam-powered rocket, built and crewed by ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes. Hughes is a limousine driver and a self-taught engineer. His reason for building the vehicle is, er, eccentric: he wanted to see if the Earth was flat.

The video was posted on 18th March 2018, and shows Hughes and his rocket taking off in the Mojave desert in the south-western US. It climbed to an altitude of 1,850 feet before finally returning to Earth, its descent slowed by two parachutes. Hughes had spent ten years building it, and the video shows stills of early versions of the rocket.

Hughes’ landing was rough, however. The video describes it as a crash. A rescue team got him out of the cockpit, but he complained that his back was broken. When the news crew caught him with him to talk, ironically just outside a courthouse where he’d been giving a ticket for speeding, Hughes’ claimed that he might have a compressed vertebra.

The video ends by reassuring its viewers that, yes, the Earth is indeed flat.

I’m actually saluting this bloke, because he’s obviously really clever and has done something I’d love to do myself: build a low power rocket that could hold a man or woman and send them up to a reasonable height. Way back in the 1990s I had a paper printed in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society arguing for the construction and flight of such vehicles as a new leisure industry. I based this on the use of hang-gliders, paragliding and microlight aircraft as hobby aviation. People fly them because they want to enjoy the experience of powered flight, not because they actually want to go from A to B. In the same way, I feel, human-carrying rockets could be built and flown to give ordinary people something of the experience of astronauts going into space aboard real rockets, like the Space Shuttle or the Russian Soyuz craft. But obviously without having to spend millions on a ticket to space.

Steam, or hot water rockets, have been around since the 19th century. The first modern hot water rocket was patented in Britain in 1824 by the American inventor, Jacob Perkins (1766-1849). The American Rocket Research Institute, based in California, and founded in 1943, established a special centre for the research and construction of hot water rockets, the Perkins Centre, named after him. The Institute runs a number of training programmes for students and aspiring rocket engineers. The rockets developed could carry payloads up to 5,000 feet.

After the War, the German rocket scientist, Eugen Sanger, and his wife Irene Sanger-Bredt, carried out research into hot water rockets to see whether they could work assisting heavily loaded aircraft into the air. The main US researcher in the area was Bob Truax.

The rocket engines developed by the RRI ranged from senior student college engineering projects with a thrust of 700 lbs per second to the Thunderbolt II constructed by Truax Engineering, which had a thrust of 16,000 lbs per second.
The photo below shows the STEAM-HI III hot water rocket being installed at the Perkins Safety Test Centre in 1963.

This photo shows Truax Engineering’s Thunderbolt rocket and its static test firing in 1973.

See ‘The Rocket Research Institute, 1943-1993: 50 Years of Rocket Safety, Engineering and Space Education Programs’, George S. James and Charles J. Piper, in Jung, Philippe, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics, AAS History Series, Vol. 22; IAA History Symposia, vol. 14 (American Astronautical Society: San Diego 1998), pp. 343-400.

And the Earth is very, very definitely round. As it has been known to be by educated European since the 9th century, and by the Greek astronomers long before that. All that stuff about how people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat and that if you sailed far enough west you’d fall off was basically invented in the 19th century by Washington Irving. The Church Fathers knew and accepted that it was round. St. Augustine said so in one of his works, and argued that when the Bible spoke of the world as flat, it was an instance of God using the beliefs of the time to make His moral message intelligible to the people then alive.

I’ve no idea where the modern delusion that the world’s flat comes from. Well, actually, I do – it seems to have started a year ago in 2017 with the comments of a rapper on American radio. But before then I thought the idea was very definitely dead and buried. In Britain, the Flat Earth Society had dwindled to a single member. This was actually a physicist, who believed that the Earth was round. He used the Society to argue against dogmatism in science. And I thought he had packed finally packed it in, leaving the number of Flat Earthers in Britain at zero.

Now it seems that there are any number of eccentrics, who believe the world is really flat. They’re completely wrong about that, including Hughes.

But Hughes did something superb in building his own, human-carrying rocket

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The Real News on AIPAC’s Suppression of Al-Jazeera Documentary on Israel Lobby

September 18, 2018

This is another video about the Israel lobby in the US from the Boston-based The Real News Network, posted on YouTube in March 2018. In it, presented Aaron Mate talks to Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada about Al-Jazeera’s documentary about America’s Israel lobby, and AIPAC’s efforts to suppress it.

AIPAC is one of the main pro-Israel lobbying organisations in the US. I’ve already put up a video by Dena Takruri of AJ+, YouTube’s companion channel to Al-Jazeera, of what she saw when she attended AIPAC’s annual conference way back in 2016. The conference was attended by all the presidential candidates, including Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, all pledging their total support for Israel. The only one, who didn’t attend, was Bernie Sanders.

The video opens with a clip of Democrat congressman Chuck Schumer making an incredibly ignorant speech at AIPAC, in which he claims that the reason why there isn’t peace between Israel and the Palestinians is because the Palestinians don’t have the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament. They don’t want a Jewish state at all, and that’s because they don’t have the Torah, which supports it.

Mate states that this also reveals another reason why there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians: liberal politicians in the US hold extremist position on Israel.

He then move on to talk about Al-Jazeera’s suppressed documentary about the US Israel lobby. After their documentary, The Lobby, which exposed officials at the Israel embassy in Britain conspiring with members of the British civil service to take down politicians that were insufficiently supportive of Israel, Al-Jazeera decided to make a similar documentary about the Israel lobby in the US. They sent undercover reporters into AIPAC and other organisations. Although the documentary they produced has not been released, the identities of the reporters themselves has become known. They were reported by the newspaper Haaretz in Israel, and some Jewish newspapers in the US.

Amongst other things, they found that the Neocon organization, the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies collaborates with the Israeli embassy and acts as a front for the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs. The documentary’s revelations are apparently so damaging to the Israel lobby, that they have sent a succession of their officials to Qatar. They haven’t said that they are trying to put pressure on the Qatari government to suppress the documentary, but it seems that this is what they’re doing.

The Foundation for the Defence of Democracies also spies on anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups and compiles lists of their members. Al-Jazeera also recorded its chief, Jonathan Schanzer, openly admitting that they smear critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists as anti-Semites as a weapon to defend Israel. However, he also says later in the video that this strategy is no longer as effective as it once was. Winstanley states that this is also damaging to the Israel lobby, as it wants to appear powerful and hegemonic.

Since the documentary was filmed, AIPAC and the other organisations have been trying to get the government to register Al-Jazeera as a foreign agent, in the same way that they forced, or tried to force, RT as an agent of Putin and the Russian government. But the FDD should also be forced to register because of its very strong links to the Israeli government. But there has been absolutely no moves to do so.

It’s clear that if the whole documentary was aired, it would be extremely damaging to the American Israel lobby and considerably embarrassing for the Israelis. It would seriously discredit their attacks on pro-Palestinian activists.

It’s particularly a pity that the clip of Jonathan Schanzer brazenly stating that they smear their opponents as anti-Semites hasn’t been shown. This should be posted up everywhere and go viral, as it would do immense damage not just to the American smear campaign, but also to its British counterpart against pro-Palestinian activists over here, and to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party.

Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns ‘Gig Economy’, Tories Go Berserk

September 15, 2018

More hypocrisy from the Tory party. This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gave a long speech attacking Universal Credit and zero hours contracts. He described the ‘gig’ economy the Blairites and the Tories have created, in which workers in insecure jobs are only called in if their bosses decide there’s work for them to do, and go without pay if there isn’t, the ‘return of an ancient evil’.

He made the speech after Labour had outlined its commitment to empowering workers, which included a comprehensive attack on the gig economy. Zero hours contracts will be banned, and employment benefits like sick pay and maternity leave will be extended to cover part-time workers. The party also pledged to end the ruse in which many firms seek to dodge their obligation to provide their workers with proper rights and benefits by making them officially self-employed.

The Archbishop mentioned Labour’s John McDonnell in his speech, who in turn praised the Archbishop. McDonnell said

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.

“I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism. Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.”

The Tories, however, immediately went berserk, and showed their own hypocrisy when it comes to supporting the political intervention of religious leaders. They were more than happy when the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks claimed that Corbyn and the Labour party were anti-Semitic. However, they were outraged that the Archbishop had dared to criticize the wonderful Thatcherite capitalism they’d created.

The Tory MP, Ben Bradley, tweeted

‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’

He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’

Simon Maginn tweeted his response

Rabbi Sacks: “Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite.”
Tories: “Listen to the holy gentleman.”
Archbishop of Canterbury: “Tories have increased poverty.”
Tories: ‘Must keep religion out of politics.”

Mike in his article notes that Archbishop Welby was unapologetic, and observed that ‘The Bible is political from one end to the other’.

Mike concludes

His intervention is to be welcomed.

The Church of England is often seen as a haven for Conservatives and it will be interesting to see what happens to those Tories’ attitudes, considering this new direction from the pulpit.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/13/tory-hypocrisy-over-archbishops-intervention-in-employment-politics/

This has been going on for decades. The Anglican Church has been described as ‘the Tory party at prayer’, and the Tory party itself was set up back in the 17th century by supporters of the aristocracy and established church against the more liberal Whigs.

However, the Church has also contained passionate reformers working against social evils. Archbishop Temple in his book, Christianity and the Social Order, published in 1942, pointed to reformers like William Wilberforce and the others in the ‘Clapham Sect’, who campaigned against slavery; John Howard and Elizabeth Fry and prison reform; and F.D. Maurice and the Christian Socialists in the 19th century. These latter wished to see businesses transformed into co-operatives, which would share their profits with their workers. This strand of Anglican social activism continued into the 20th century, and in 1924 the Anglican church held a conference to examine the question of how the Church should tackle the poverty and injustices of the age. Temple also pointed to the example of the pre-Reformation Church in attacking some of the economic and social abuses of the times, and particular Protestant Christian leaders and ministers, like John Wesley, after the Reformation.

He also quotes the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament to show how property rights, while certainly existing and respected in ancient Israel, were also limited and intended to ensure that each family had their own portion of land and that great estates held by single individuals, did not develop. He writes

In the days of the Kings we find prophets denouncing such accumulations; so for example Isaiah exclaims: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and yet be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.” (Isaiah v.*8); and Michah: “Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields and seize them; and houses, and take them away; and they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage” (Micah ii, 1, 2). And the evil here was not primarily economic, though that may have been involved. The evil was the denial of what Tertullian (c.160-230) would call ‘fellowship in property’ – which seemed to him the natural result of unity in mind and spirit. (p. 38).

The first chapter of the book, ‘What Right has the Church to Interfere?’, gives the reasons Temple believes that the Church indeed possesses such a right. It’s too long to list all of them, but one of them is that the economic structure of society is immensely influential on the formation of its citizens’ morals. Temple writes

It is recognized on all hands that the economic system is an educative influence, for good or ill, of immense potency. Marshall, the prince of orthodox economists of the last generation, ranks it with the religion of a country as the most formative influence in the moulding of a people’s character. If so, then assuredly the Church must be concerned with it. For a primary concern of the Church is to develop in men a Christian character. When it finds by its side an educative influence so powerful it is bound to ask whether than influence is one tending to develop Christian character, and if the answer is partly or wholly negative the Chu5rch must do its utmost to secure a change in the economic system to that it may find in that system an ally and not an enemy. How far this is the situation in our country to-day we shall consider later. At present it is enough to say that the Church cannot, without betraying its own trust, omit criticism of the economic order, or fail to urge such action as may be prompted by that criticism. (P. 22)

Temple was also very much aware how some politicians resented the Church speaking out on political issues. For example, Queen Victoria’s first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, is supposed to have said after hearing an Evangelical preacher that ‘if religion was going to interfere with the affairs of private life, things were come to a pretty pass’. Temple added

(L)ater prime ministers have felt and said the same about the interference of religion with the affairs of public life; but the interference steadily increases and will increase. (P. 15).

And the friction between the Tory party and the Anglican and other churches has been going on ever since Thatcher set foot in 10 Downing Street. She got very annoyed when the-then Archbishop, Robert Runcie, issued a report detailing the immense poverty that had been produced by her policies. Norman Tebbitt, her attack dog, made comments casting aspersions on the good clergyman’s sexuality, on the grounds that he had a sing-song voice and the slightly camp manner of many churchmen. He was soon showed to be very wrong, as Runcie had been an army chaplain, whose ferocity in battle had earned him the nickname ‘Killer Runcie’. A friend of mine remarked about him that the really hard men don’t show it.

The Church has gone on issuing reports and holding inquiries into poverty in Britain, and other social issues. And the Tory response has always been the same: to attack and criticize the Church’s interference. There have been comments of the kind that the clergy should stick to preaching the Gospel, and then they might have larger congregations.

But if Thatcher and the Tories didn’t feel that the Church had any right to interfere in politics, they definitely believed that they had the right to interfere in the church’s ministry and pastoral theology. And that this right was absolutely God-given. When Thatcher was on the steps of Number 10, she started quoted St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, ‘Where there is darkness, let us bring light’ etc. She also took it upon herself to lecture the ministers of the church on the correct interpretation of scripture. I can remember her speaking to a conference of the Church of Scotland, in which she explained to the assembled ministers and faithful her own view of charity and the welfare state, based on St. Paul’s words, ‘If a man does not work, he shall not eat’. Needless to say, the guid ministers were not impressed, and showed it in the massed ranks of stony faces.

Temple was absolutely right in stating that Christians had a duty to examine and criticize the economic structure of society as the major force affecting people’s morals and character. But Thatcherism goes far beyond this. I’ve read pieces that have stated that Thatcher’s whole outlook was based on her peculiar right-wing religious ideas. Thatcherism isn’t simply an economic system. It’s a political theology. Thatcher was strongly influence by Keith Joseph, who was Jewish. It’s why she prattled about ‘Judeo-Christian values’ rather than just Christian values. I have no doubt that the Jewish readers of this blog will have their own views about proper Jewish morality, and that these may be very different from Joseph and Thatcher’s interpretation.

Thus in Thatcherism the free market is absolutely virtuous, and any interference in its operation is an attack on a divinely sanctioned system. But from the standpoint of a left-wing interpretation of Christianity, Thatcherite theology is like its economics, profoundly wrong, bogus and harmful. And her celebration of the free market turns it into an idol, an object of false religious worship.

More and more Christians both here and in America are turning against this idol, just as left-wing Jews are turning against right-wing politics as incompatible with the liberal politics of traditional Judaism. The Church has every right and, indeed, a duty as a moral body concerned with people’s spiritual welfare, to attack Thatcherism and its destructive legacy.

I’m very much aware that we now live in a post-Christian society, where only a minority attend Church and most people profess to have no religious beliefs. Just as there are also sizable non-Christian communities, such as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and the various neo-Pagan groups, who also have every right to make their voices heard politically. Temple also advances other reasons why the Church should speak out on more rational, non-religious grounds, such as morality and common human sympathy for the victims of suffering. I hope, however, that regardless their religious views, people will support Welby on the issues of employment rights as an entirely justified attack on an iniquitous situation, which desperately needs to be corrected.

Private Eye Attacks Facebook Group for People Suspended from Labour

June 15, 2018

Private Eye has published much excellent material, and over the past few days I’ve blogged about some of the material revealed in this fortnight’s issue. But the magazine does have a very pronounced anti-Corbyn bias, and does seem to have swallowed, and regurgitated all the bilge smearing Corbyn and his supporters in the other parts of the lamestream media. It does seem to take as fact that the smears that Momentum is full of abusive misogynists and anti-Semites, and that the Labour leader and his supporters are ‘hard Left’ and Trotskyites. They aren’t. Corbyn and Momentum really are just traditional Labour, standing for the old Social Democratic policy of a mixed economy, and strong and healthy NHS and welfare state. All of which is anathema to the Thatcherite right – the Blairites – who have tried to position themselves as moderates when in fact the truth is, they’re the extremists. They’re extreme right. And outside the Labour party this is also unwelcome to the Tories and the mainstream media and its bosses pushing for more privatisation and further policies to destroy the welfare state and push the working class further into poverty. Because they see it as good for business having a cowed workforce on poverty wages.

In this fortnight’s Eye, for 15th-28th June 2018 on page 10, the pseudonymous ‘Ratbiter’ has published an article attacking a Facebook group for those suspended from the Labour party, and the attempts of its members to make contact with officials close to Corbyn to obtain justice or redress. It accepts absolutely uncritically the charges against them. And the end of the article once again repeats the claim that those suspended for anti-Semitism are automatically guilty, with an example of an anti-Semitic post from one of those in the group.

But many of those suspended from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and other offences are anything but, as shown in the cases of people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and very many others. As I’ve blogged about ad nauseam, ad infinitum. The article therefore needs to be carefully critiqued. It runs

Suspended Animation
Facebook has a secret and carefully vetted political group called Labour Party Compliance: Suspensions, Expulsions, Rejections Co-op. As the ungainly title suggests, it is a online hangout where Corbyn supporters facing disciplinary action for abuse, anti-Semitism and other loveable quirks can nurse their grievances in private. Or so they think.

Screenshots of the site obtained by the Eye show that the outcasts are not so far out in the cold they don’t have access to the highest levels of Corbyn’s Labour.

Take 17-year-old Zac Arnold, who has been suspended from the Forest of Dean Labour Party. He revealed he had “been given the email of someone called Thomas Gardiner by James Schneider at JC’s office, who said he would be a useful contact over my suspension”. He asked his fellow pariahs “what your thoughts are and if you know him”.

They certainly knew Schneider. “I have chatted with James,” said Caroline Tipler, the founder of the “Jeremy Corbyn Leads Us to Victory” Facebook group. “I def think it would be useful to make contact”. The best way to get back into the party would be to start by “making a tentative enquiry and gauge from the response whether to progress it from there”.

The “someone called Thomas Gardiner” to whom young Zac referred is a Labour councillor from Camden. When Corbyn assumed total control of the Labour machine in March by installing Jennie Formby, Len McCluskey’s former mistress, as Labour’s general secretary, Formby’s first act was to call in Gardiner.She sent John Stoliday, the head of Labour’s compliance unit, on gardening leave and put Gardiner in charge of overseeing complaints against members. So he is certainly a “useful” man to know for as any Corbyn supporter facing troublesome allegations – as indeed is Schneider, who works in the leader’s office alongside fellow Old Wykehamist Seumas Milne as Corbyn’s director of strategic communications.

Suspended members appear to think that, so long as they discuss their prejudices in private, they will be fine. Their Facebook group is splattered with posts painting Labour activists as victims of a Jewish conspiracy. “They will try to silence you,” reads one. “They will try to discredit you. Because you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics.” But their own group suggests
that you are, as long as you aren’t caught and have friends in high places.

So what’s going on here? Well, first of all, the fact that Ratbiter claims to have had screenshots passed to him of the Facebook page shows that it’s not based on his research. It’s from an outside organisation. From the way this is about smearing Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites, it looks like it’s the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement up to their vile tricks again. The CAA’s modus operandi is simply to go back over people’s internet conversations in search of something vaguely anti-Semitic they can use, and then grossly distort it so that they can smear them. They did it to Mike, taking his comments out of context and grossly misreporting what he actually said. They did it to Jackie Walker and her conversation with two others on Facebook about the Jewish participation in the slave trade. Again, a serious issue, which reputable historians are discussing. Walker never said that Jews were responsible for the slave trade, or that they were exclusively in charge of it. She said that the ultimate responsibility lay with the Christian monarchs and states which employed them. There are, however, real anti-Semites, who claim that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade, and so the CAA smeared her, a practicing Jew with a Jewish partner, as an anti-Semite. Just like they’ve smeared Ken Livingstone, because he dared to talk about an embarrassing truth: that the Nazis did reach an agreement with the Zionists to send Jews to Israel, before they decided on the Final Solution. And then there was that entirely artificial controversy a month or so ago, where they smeared Corbyn himself as an anti-Semite, because of a post he made admiring a piece of street art showing bankers around a table resting on the bodies of black men. Only two of the bankers were Jewish, but nevertheless, the CAA and the Board of Deputies of British Jews frothed that it was ‘anti-Semitic’, trying to link it to all the vile theories about the Jewish banking conspiracy.

Unable to unseat Corbyn at the leadership elections, the Blairites and the Israel lobby have been trying to oust him gradually by suspending and smearing his supporters. As happened to Mike. The CAA’s vile article smearing him was passed on to the Labour party, who suspended him just as he was about to fight a council election as the Labour candidate in his part of mid-Wales. As Mike has blogged, he has appealed against his suspension, but was tried once again by another kangaroo court, very much like the one that decided that the veteran anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth, was an anti-Semite. The Labour party’s compliance unit is so determined to refuse justice to expelled or suspended members on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, that there is now an organisation set up to fight them on this issue: Labour Against the Witch Hunt, one of whose organisers is the redoubtable Tony Greenstein. I think another is Walker herself. As for Wadsworth, he has gone on a triumphant tour defending himself up and down the country. His campaign was launched in London with Alexei Sayle. Sayle’s parents are Romanian Jews, who were card-carrying Communists, and Sayle himself was one of the leaders of the new, politically correct Alternative Comedy in the 1980s. He was very anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay rights, as were the others that emerged at the same time. So he is very definitely not anti-Semitic.

Clearly, the movement to discredit the smear campaign against decent people unfairly libelled as anti-Semites is gaining ground, otherwise Ratbiter wouldn’t bother writing the article, and attacking and revealing the officials close to Corbyn, who may be prepared to give assistance to them.

Now let’s deal with their quotation that ‘you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics’. Is this anti-Semitic? Or is simply a clumsy way of expressing a truth: that any criticism of Israel, or support for the Palestinians, will result in you being smeared and suspended. I strongly believe it’s the latter. And the issue of Israel has been deliberately confused with Jews by Israel and its satellite, Zionist organisations themselves. Netanyahu a few years ago declared that all Jews, everywhere, were citizens of Israel. Of course, it’s a risible statement. Many Jews don’t want to be citizens of Israel, a land with which they have no connection, and certainly not at the expense of the country’s real, indigenous inhabitants. Netanyahu and the other maniacs in his coalition don’t want all Jews to be citizens of their country either. Liberal or genuinely left-wing Jews, or Jews, who simply ask too many questions about the Palestinians and dare to think for themselves, rather than swallow Likudnik propaganda, aren’t let in. or if they’re there already, they get thrown out. As have dissident Israelis, like one historian now at Exeter University, Ilon Pappe, who was driven out of his homeland because he dared to describe and protest his nation’s long history of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

The organisations behind the smear campaign are Jewish organisations, or claim to be pro-Jewish, like the CAA and the Jewish Labour Movement, which was formerly Paole Zion, ‘Workers of Zion’. Now these organisations clearly don’t represent all Jews. They only represent those, who are fanatically and intolerantly pro-Israel. They also have gentile members, so it’s highly questionable just how ‘Jewish’ these Jewish organisations are. Those smeared by them include self-respecting and Torah-observant Jews, and they have subjected them to the kind of abuse, which would automatically be considered anti-Semitic if it came from a non-Jew. Indeed, many of the Jews smeared by them feel that there is a particular hatred of Jewish critics of Israel. Just like the founders of Zionism were absolutely dismissive of diaspora Jews.

Given this, it should be no surprise if a non-Jew, who has been smeared, becomes confused and says that you can’t criticise ‘Jewish politics’, meaning Israel. Because these Jewish organisations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, insist that you can’t. And deliberately so, in order to make it easier to claim that all critics of Israel are anti-Semites.

This is a nasty, mischievous and deceitful article. It is designed to further isolate Corbyn by smearing his supporters and attacking the official close to him, who may be able help them. And it repeats the lie that all of those smeared are anti-Semites. It’s publication is a disgrace to Private Eye.

The Rabbinical Condemnation of Gossip and Slander

June 4, 2018

I found this passage on the condemnation of gossip by the rabbinical sages of late antiquity in the book, Knowledge Goes Pop, by Claire Birchall (Oxford: Berg 2006). Birchall is, or was, a senior lecturer at Middlesex University, and the book, subtitled ‘From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip’, is about popular knowledge, such as conspiracy theories and gossip and how it is formed and shapes the way people see the world. The book also examines how valid it is compared with official knowledge, and the question of ‘why does such (mis)information cause so much institutional anxiety?’.

The chapter on gossip contains a discussion of its condemnation in the Bible in both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the New Testament, before going on to describe how it was also attacked by the great Jewish sages of the Talmud. The passage reads

Editors of The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion explain that the rabbis of classical Judaism in late antiquity warned against gossip in the most heightened terms. For example, the rabbis claimed that slander, talebearing, and evil talk were worse than the three cardinal sins of murder, immorality, and idolatry. Indulging in lashon ha-ra is seen to be akin to denying the existence of God (see the entry for ‘Lashon Ha-ra’ in Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1986). Of note for our discussion later concerning the unstable verity of content transmitted through gossip is that while Judaism distinguishes between slander (lashon ha-ra) which refers specifically to true talebearing, and motsi’shem ra (causing a bad name) which applies to untrue stories, ‘both are totally forbidden by Jewish Law’ (Zwi Werblowsky and Wigoder 1997:648). Here, then, the verity of the gossip is not at issue, but rather the very act of passing potentially damaging information on whether true or false. (Pp. 98-99).

In Mike’s case, and those of the countless other decent people like him, who have been libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement, the truth of the accusations made against them is very much the issue. In the case of these decent, anti-racist people, the stories and claims made by Gideon Falter’s outfit and the JLM are very much a case of motsi’shem ra – causing a bad name – as they’re intended to be. They’re intended to smear and provide grounds for the expulsion from the Labour party of critics of Israel and left-wing opponents of the Blairites.

This passage also shows how the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement conveniently forgot these moral injunctions when they decided to vilify and malign those of opposing viewpoints. And this includes self-respecting Jews, who have lost relatives in the Holocaust, and/or have been subject to real anti-Semitic abuse and violence themselves.

But this doesn’t alter anything: their tactics of smear and libel are nevertheless condemned in the Talmud, no matter what specious stories they may make, claiming to be defending Jews, or rather, Israel, from anti-Semitism.

Refuting Anti-Semitism Smears with the Reasonableness Test: Part Two

May 25, 2018

The claims that some of the comments made by critics of Israel are anti-Semitic because of their imagery and language used also reminds me very strongly of the claims made by some of the paranoid conspiracy theorists themselves. For example, Israel has constructed a wall around itself designed to keep the Palestinians out. This is very controversial, and the great British caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe, drew a cartoon of the Israelis building it using the blood of the Palestinians as mortar. The picture was published either in the Independent, or the I. The Israeli ambassador, an odious creep called Mark Regev, immediately declared that the cartoon was anti-Semitic. The inclusion of blood in the picture was a reference to the Blood Libel, the murderous lie that Jews kill Christians and use their blood in the matzo bread at Passover.

In fact, the cartoon contained no reference to this vile libel. There were no references to either the Passover, matzo bread or ritual murder. It was purely about the wall, and the Israelis’ butchery of the Palestinians. But the accusation had the intended effect. The I or Independent caved in and made an apology. But blood and its imagery is a very common image used to portray the brutality of oppressive, violent regimes and groups of all types around the world. It is certainly not confined to Jews. Regev was, of course, making the accusation of anti-Semitism to close down a graphic portrayal of the Israeli state’s brutality, as the Israel lobby has been doing to its critics since the 1980s. But his accusation bears less relation to objective fact than to some of the really paranoid theories that have circulated around America about secret cabals of Satanists plotting to destroy American society from within.

One of these, which surfaced c. 1982, concerned Proctor and Gamble and their logo, as shown below.

As you can see, this shows a ‘Man in the Moon’ surrounded by thirteen stars. According to the rumour, which was boosted through its inclusion by several Southern fundamentalist Christian preachers in their sermons, the imagery reveals that the company is run by Satanists. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen members of a witches’ coven, and the ‘Man in the Moon’ is really Satan himself. Especially as the curls of the figures hair is supposed to show the number 666, the number of the Beast, the Antichrist, in the Book of Revelations. See the illustration below, where I’ve circled where I think these ‘Satanic’ curls are.

Now if you applied the rule adopted by the lawyers for the Israel lobby to the imagery here, you could argue that it is fair to accuse Proctor and Gamble of Satanism, because that’s how its logo and its imagery has struck thousands of Americans. But you be ill-advised to do so, because the company vehemently denies any Satanic connections. It’s actually a patriotic symbol, with the thirteen stars representing the thirteen founding colonies of the USA. The company has also redesigned the logo to iron out those curls, so that they no longer appear to show 666, and engaged the services of other right-wing fundamentalist preachers, like Jerry Falwell, to show that the company is not run by Satanists. They also have a very aggressive legal policy, so that if you do claim that they’re a bunch of Satanists, they will sue. And I very much doubt that the court will be impressed by claims that the company must be Satanic, ’cause somebody can think that looking at their logo.

This is real, Alex Jones, tin-foil hat stuff. And stupid rumours of Satanic conspiracies have real consequences for ordinary people, just like the smears of anti-Semitism have been used to damage the lives and reputations of decent people. We have seen people falsely accused of child sacrifices and abuse, based on no more than fake recovered memories, in scenes that could have come out of the Salem witch hunt back in the 17th century. Some of them have even gone to prison. This is why it is absolutely important that people are always considered innocent until proven guilty, and that accusations of Satanic ritual abuse, and anti-Semitism, should always be held to objective, not subjective standards. The rule that such accusations must be believed, because somebody may think that a person is a Satanist or racist, simply on the way a comment subjectively strikes them, only leads to terrible injustice.

The Israel lobby here are showing the same paranoid psychology that permeates the racist, anti-Semitic extreme right. The type of people, who search the newspapers and other texts looking for proofs that the Illuminati really do run the world. Or that the Zionist Occupation Government really has taken over America and the West, and is attempting to destroy the White race through racial intermixing. Or that Communists have burrowed into the American government.

One of the proofs of this last conspiracy theory was the tiny lettering on the Roosevelt dime. Just below FDR’s neck and extremely small, were the letters ‘JS’. According to the rumour, the letters stood for ‘Joe Stalin’. This rumour first appeared in the Cold War, in 1948, when the scare about ‘Reds under the bed’ was just beginning. But it’s completely false. Oh, the letters are there, but they don’t stand for Stalin. They’re the initials of the coin’s designer, John Sinnock. You can claim all you want that the claim is subjectively true, because liberalism and the welfare state = Communism, or some such similar right-wing bilge. But it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.

And some Christian fundamentalists in America have also seen in the colours used by state roads signs evidence of a conspiracy to put them in concentration camps. Back in the 1990s there was a rumour panic going around about the colours used in spots adorning the highway signs in Pennsylvania. These were supposed to show the location of the concentration camps, in which true Christians would be incarcerated when the Communists or one world Satanic conspiracy came to power. In fact they showed no such thing. The state’s highway department used the dots as a colour code to mark the year the sign was first painted. This was to show how old the sign was, and so indicate when it should be repainted.

Continued in Part Three.

Vox Political: Why Isn’t Britain and other Countries Condemning Israeli Gaza Massacre More Strongly

May 18, 2018

On Wednesday Mike put up a post questioning why Britain and many other countries had not made stronger condemnations of the Gaza massacre by Israeli soldiers. He also attacked the statement issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, justifying the shootings by stating that Hamas is a terrorist movement intent on the destruction of Israel that ruthlessly uses unarmed civilians and children, and so put them up to massing at and trying to break through the fence. Mike points out that, whatever the Israeli state has claimed, no Israelis were harmed, while 55 – the number of dead reported at the time – Palestinians had been killed. He also pointed out that this is blaming the victims, exactly what the Nazis did to justify their own persecution and genocide of the Jews.

And other Jews in this country and Israel have similarly been appalled and disgusted at the Israeli’s violence. They include tweeter Tom London, whose avatar is the fizzog of 18th century radical Tom Paine. Haggai Matar, whose first name is that of one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible, also posted a piccie of 500 Israeli protesters blocking the Tel Aviv road.

Muslims and those of Arab descent have naturally not been silent. Aleesha has expressed her utter disgust, and Mehdi Hasan has stated that the comments on the massacre by various organisations, which don’t condemn the Israeli state, mean that nothing they say on the subject of Israel should ever be taken seriously again.

Alistair Burt, speaking for the government, just made a very anodyne and half-hearted condemnation urging restraint of both sides, stating he was very saddened by the massacre and the use of live fire, but also the use of civilians by terrorists, and that all this was a threat to the peace process and a two state solution.

He was immediately torn into by Tom London, who found this weak condemnation also ‘cowardly, immoral and shameful’.

Rupert Colville, the UN’s spokesman on human rights, declared that the massacre was a violation.

And Linda Sarsour pointed out that South Africa, which has also lived through apartheid, has just broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa was a strong supporter of Israel under apartheid, something that appalled and disgusted many Israelis, even those who supported their own apartheid against the Palestinians. Will this loss of an erstwhile ally upset the Israelis? Not while they’ve got new, extreme right-wing allies in Europe like the present Polish administration and Fidesz in Hungary.

So why is the British government’s own response so muted? According to Marsha de Cordova, it’s because last year Britain sold the Israelis £216 million of arms, including sniper rifles. And coincidently, many of those murdered in Gaza were killed by snipers. The tweeter radicals put the figure at £445 million, including snipers.

Jeremy Corbyn issued a much more robust, statesmanlike response stating that the massacre came after weeks of Palestinians being killed while demonstrating for their right of return. He mentioned Trump’s movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem as a further emphasis to the threat to peace and the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians. He condemned the weak response by western governments to the massacre, and urged them to take a lead from Israei campaigners for peace and justice. There should be an end to the 11 years siege of Gaza, and the 50 year occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

He concluded:

“We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.

“The international community must at last put its collective authority and weight behind achieving a lasting settlement that delivers peace, justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, who have waited so long to achieve their rights.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/16/why-is-the-uk-and-the-international-community-not-condemning-israel-bitterly-for-the-gaza-massacre/

Corbyn’s speech is excellent, gives due credit and emphasis to Israeli campaigners for peace and justice for the Palestinians, and rightly condemns the ‘merchants of death’. So we can expect it will be seized upon and twisted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for alleged Jew hatred. As soon as the Israel lobby finds a way of fending off public outrage against them, of course. Mike’s put up a piece today reporting that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is being torn to shreds by British Jews, who like Tom London, find their statement disgusting. Liberal Judaism is particularly appalled, as is Yachad. Many joined a demonstration held outside Downing Street by Jewdas, while others held a ‘Kaddish for Israel’. The Kaddish is the lament at Jewish funerals, and comes from the passage in the Hebrew Bible ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’. MPs have also condemned the shooting, and the board’s excuse that 50 of those killed were Hamas terrorists has been dismissed by one blogger as ‘a load of Fascist crap’. It’s another comparison between Israel and the Nazis. But as Mike points out, it isn’t anti-Semitic as it’s accurate.

He ends his article with the rhetorical question that if the side of reason is winning the argument, then

Why is the Duke of Cambridge – Prince William – determined to continue with a planned visit to Israel that will amount to an endorsement of that country’s murder of innocent people?

This issue becomes more complicated by the second.

Which is precisely the point Dr. Basem Naim, the former Gaza Health Minister raised when interviewed by Afshin Rattansi earlier this week.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Apart from arms sales, there are also other geopolitical reasons why Britain supports Israel. It’s one of the two pillars of British foreign policy in the reason, the other being Saudi Arabia. They’re supposed to represent islands of stability in the region, and were our allies against the Soviet bloc and its Arab allies.

In fact the various statements that have been made justifying this situation are just so much guff. Israel isn’t the only democratic state in the region – so was Lebanon. And what the Americans and our governments feared was Arab nationalism, which was also considered pro-Soviet. Many of the Arab socialist regimes were pro-Russian, but not Communist. And almost from the moment the Balfour declaration was issued, there were suspicions that this was an attempt to create a pro-British Jewish island in the region, just like Belfast was a pro-British island of Ulster Protestants.

The Conservatives have always had a very close relationship with the arms industry, and I don’t doubt for an instant that many of them have shares in arms companies. The excuse for backing the arms industry is that it will open up these countries to the import of other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t buy other British goods, just our arms.

And earlier this week people compared the British attitude to the Gaza massacre with the Saudis using British arms to kill children and babies in Yemen. Well, once again, the accusation is correct. The Israelis have also been using British weapons to kill the innocent. Especially as one of those who died was a baby after Israeli squaddies threw CS gas into a tent.

Israel is an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing. It is a disgrace, like every other nation with the same policies. We should stop arms sales now, and give every effort to support a secure, just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And those organisations justifying such massacres and persecutions should be marginalised and destroyed.

Oswald Mosley also Hated ‘the Wrong Kind of Jews’, like the Board of Deputies Hates Jewdas

April 13, 2018

Jewdas is an organisation of religious Jews, who put their faith into practice in left-wing politics. Earlier this month, the Jewish establishment of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council went berserk at them and Jeremy Corbyn, because Corbyn had the temerity to attend their Passover Seder. Jewdas themselves were pleased to have the Labour leader’s company, and were pleased that he was taking an interest in their community and its issues.

But they’re left-wing, and that can’t be allowed. Not when Arkush, the President of the Board, and very many of its other leading members, are also paid up Tories. They immediately accused Corbyn of anti-Semitism, yet again, because he was ignoring the mainstream Jewish community. By which they obviously means Tory-voting supporters of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And their venom carried over to Jewdas itself. They were also accused of being a nest of anti-Semitism.

It’s rubbish, of course. Corbyn has been an inveterate enemy of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. And Jewdas’ real crime is that they’re left-wingers, who have a different conception of the political implications of their faith than the Board and its right-wing members. They’re not the first Jews to think that way either. Jews were very strongly represented in the Russian Communist party at the time of the Russian Revolution, because the party offered to free the Yiddish-speaking working people of the Russian Empire from oppression by the tsar and capitalism. Hence they formed the Bund, one of the constituent groups in the Russian Social Democratic party, the first Marxist party in Russia. They were also strongly represented in other Marxist and Socialist, and radical socialist parties across Europe. Rudolf Rocker, the German anarcho-syndicalist, had a Jewish wife, and was strongly influenced by the Jewish anarcho-syndicalists amongst whom he lived and worked. Way back in the 19th century Moses Hess, before he became a Zionist, was also a socialist. Hess was a Jew from the Rhinelands, whose wife was Roman Catholic. I can remember reading in Sir Isaiah Berlin’s article, ‘The Life and Opinions of Moses Hess’ way back at College that Hess considered ancient Israel to be an ideal socialist state, because it put into law the abstract moral precepts of the Torah. So close has the connection between Jews and radical politics, including Communism, been that it entered Nazi ideology. Communism and the Russian Revolution were plots by the Jewish bankers to bring down gentile civilisation and enslave Whites.

Mike, and other great bloggers, pointed out how the Board repeated this anti-Semitic trope when they attacked Jewdas, because they were ‘the wrong kind of Jews’.

And Oswald Mosley shared their attitude towards left-wing, immigrant Jewry. I was talking to a friend of mine a little while ago about a book he’d been reading on the history of Marks and Spencer. Before the firm decided that Maggie Thatcher was the best thing to hit British politics since Disraeli and Winston Churchill, the firm had a strong left-wing ethos. Marks was Jewish and also a socialist. After spending a week on his shop floor, he ordered that his shop assistants should have proper podiatric care with Harley street specialists, and was keen that his managers should actually have experience working on the shop floor. Spencer himself was a British aristo, who was content to invest in the firm but didn’t take much interest in actually running it.

One of the stories in the book is that one evening in the ’30s, Oswald Mosley came to call at a dinner party held by the two entrepreneurs. The wannabe dictator then declared how he was going to promote the British Union of Fascists by attacking the Jews. But, the fan of Mussolini and Hitler went on, they were only going to target the poor immigrants coming over from the continent. They would not touch respectable Jews like Marks.

The founders of the high street store naturally weren’t impressed. According to the tale, Spencer rang a little bell to summon the Butler, and told him, ‘Sir Oswald will be leaving now. Please show him out’, and so politely kicked the Fascist thug out.

It’s actually not clear if the story’s true or not. Spencer apparently denied it had ever happened. As for Mosley, he claimed that he wasn’t originally an anti-Semite, and that it was only Jewish opposition to the BUF that turned him against them. But the membership of the BUF contained very many virulent anti-Semites, who expressed their vile hatred in articles in the party’s newspaper, Action. Mosley himself had also chaired debates about anti-Semitism and the Jews between other Jew haters for right-wing groups, before he officially adopted anti-Semitism. It therefore seems to me that, whatever Mosley later claimed, he was already an anti-Semite.

As a Fascist party, the BUF was anti-socialist and virulently anti-Communist, as well anti-democratic and anti-Semitic. They used to order patrols around their stalking grounds in London to defend Britain from Communists. Fortunately, the Communists, Jews and trade unionists they despised fought back and gave them a good hiding.

But there is absolutely nothing implausible about Mosley having a particular hatred for poor, Jewish immigrants. Someone once said that the British will forgive anything, except poverty. Which is absolutely true of the Tories and the Far Right. And Jewish immigrants at that time would have been particularly suspected of being dangerous, left-wing radicals with in-British, continental ideas.

The wrong kind of Jews, in other words. Just like Arkush claimed Jewdas were. Because they’re also left-wing.

The Board has joined the rest of the Israel lobby in slandering decent, self-respecting anti-racist folk, purely out of a cynical desire to preserve the Tory party and defend Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And they have done so using a trope, which, if used by a gentile, would be rightly condemned as anti-Semitic.

They’re hypocrites. Perhaps the real objective should not be reforming the Labour party to crackdown on anti-Semitism. It should be reforming the Board, to make sure they really represent British Jews of all beliefs and political views. And stopping it from smearing decent people, Jews and gentiles, simply for making entirely just and factually accurate opposition to Israel’s persecution of its indigenous Arabs.

Book on the Problem of Evil and Suffering

March 22, 2018

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil (HarperCollins 1992)

Back at the weekend I put up a piece about some of the books I’d read about God and religion, which might be useful to anyone wishing to explore these issues for themselves. This was in response to a request from Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog, who asked me a couple of questions about them. This is another book, which I think might help people with one of the most difficult problems in theology: the problem of evil. To put it simply, this is the question how a God, such as the one Jews, Christians and Muslims worship, who is wholly good and omnipotent, can allow evil and suffering. The counterargument frequently made is that as evil exists, God is either not all-powerful, or not good.

Peter Vardy is the lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, and the book is written from a Christian perspective. It has the following chapters

Part 1 – The Problem of Evil

1. The Problem Stated
2 A God’s Eye View
3 the Free Will Defence
(i) The Free Will Defence Outlined
(ii) The nature of freedom
(iii) The utopia thesis
(iv) The FWD defended
4 Natural Evil
(I) The Devil and natural evil
(ii) Its this the best of all possible worlds?
(iii) Matter as evil
5 Is it all worth it?
6 Conclusion to the Problem of Evil

Part II – The Mystery of Evil
7 Introduction
8 The Euthyphro Problem
9 Albrecht Ritschl – Absolute Value Judgements
10 God Almighty
11 Can God Act in the World?
12 Animal Suffering and Physical Evil
13 Moral Evil – Job and Ivan
14 The Devil and All His Works
15 The Challenge of Freedom
16 Conclusion.

Vardy goes through and analyses and critiques arguments and attempted solutions to the problem of evil from Irenaeus, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to modern theologians and philosophers. He finds many of them inadequate, but in his conclusion fully asserts the Christian response to suffering. This is that meaning and purpose for human beings can only be found in the love and fellowship of God, that God does indeed act in the world and answer people’s prayers, but that such actions are rare and sparingly used, and that a world with less suffering could not have been created. This last is qualified with the statement that this is a matter of belief, and cannot be justified. He also states that there are forces of evil deep in the human psyche, and may be a real, independent force of evil outside of us. Which sounds very much like the Devil to me. However, that force cannot do more than persuade. It cannot take away human’s freedom. He also states ‘I am convinced that the power of evil is very real and that it needs to be fought both within us and in the world around us.’ On human free will, he states

Human beings are free to take responsibility for themselves as individuals, no matter what their circumstances, and to respond to God or not. I accept that the price for doing this will be high and that the road may be one that few will be willing to follow.

This last statement of what he considers should be the Christian attitude to evil concludes with

I accept that I could be wrong about all the above statements but am ready to stake my life on the “if” that I am right. I cannot do more. (pp. 203-4)

He also makes it very clear that Christians have a moral duty to fight evil. He writes

Augustine’s position, “I believe in order that I may understand”, rests on an opening judgement which cannot be proved, but once this is accepted then many things make sense which would not otherwise do so. The faith position is an altogether more positive and optimistic one than the assertion of meaninglessness. It maintains that although evil is a terrible reality 9it can be overcome and one of our main tasks as human individuals is to fight against it. Indeed the problem of evil is not at heart an intellectual one so much as an existential one – the presence of evil should call us to engage with it and to fight against it. As soon as we are overawed by evil’s power and allow it to have mastery we will cower beneath it in fear and trembling. We may have many excuses for doing this, we may hold that it is none of our business, or consider ourselves too weak or think that as we are not too badly affected it does not matter. Evil, however, spreads and unless it is combated its power will grow. We cannot stand idle and watch it increase – we have to face it now no matter how great the personal cost may be. Some may consider us foolish and certainly fighting evil wherever we find it (particularly in ourselves) can be a lonely and heartbreaking business. However the choice is simple: submit and be overcome or stand and fight and find freedom. This is a choice that needs to be lived out and so this book is, at the end of the day, a call to action. (Pp. 202-3)

Warning: in some places, this is not an easy book to read, as Vardy illustrates how pressing the problem is, and the terrible power of evil, with examples from ordinary life, such as the accidental death of children, to the sadistic acts of vile regimes. This includes the guards in the Nazi death camps throwing Jewish children alive into the quicklime that was used to destroy the bodies after death. He doesn’t dwell on these examples, but uses them to show that this is far more than an academic exercise.

On the other hand, he also uses the works of Tolstoy, and in particular The Brothers Karamazov, to explore the problem of evil, as well as the Book of Job in the Bible. Regarding the chapters on ‘natural’ and ‘moral’ evil, this is a distinction theologians and philosophers make between humans and the natural world. ‘Natural evil’ are disasters like earthquakes, plagues and so on, which bring terrible suffering, but the forces themselves don’t actually have free will. ‘Moral evil’ refers to humans, who do have free will, and are free to choose whether they pursue a particular course of action, or commit a crime or an atrocity, or not.

I’m very much aware that not all the readers of this blog are Christians by any means. I hope, however, that this might help those wishing to explore the problem of evil from the Christian tradition, and am aware that other religions have their own.

But I also hope that whatever our personal religious or philosophical views, we can all agree that, as human being, we do have freedom and a moral duty to fight evil and suffering.

Books on God and Religion

March 17, 2018

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.

Bibliography

Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

Introduction
What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Prayer
Conversion
Mysticism
Charismatic experiences
Revelation
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response
Conclusion

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Eternal
Omnipotent
Omniscient
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Saints?
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience
Conclusion

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Dualism
materialism
Idealism
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Freedom?
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles
Causes
Providence
Miracles
Summary

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism
Summary

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
Utilitarianism
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices
Conclusion

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One
Methodology

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three
Creationism

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five
Naturalism

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.