Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Wants Poor and Disabled Euthanised

May 18, 2018

Here’s another report from the American left-wing news site, The Young Turks. And it tells you everything you’ve always suspected about right-wingers both in the USA and over here: they really do want to kill the poor.

The offensive posts turned up on the Facebook page of Chris Barnett, who is running to be governor of Oklahoma. After a poll on the requirements to get food stamps, Barnett then apparently stated that euthanasia would be a solution to the ‘issue’ of the poor and disabled. This really did not go down too well with large sections of the general public. One person posted that most people on food stamps were actually in work, and those that weren’t also included the elderly and disabled. This met with the reply asking why ‘we’ are required to keep them? He went on to say that ‘euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make you a slave to the government’.

Barnett then met with such a barrage of criticism, that he’s issued a statement blaming the posts on that old excuse: his Facebook page was hacked into. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur, the two anchors reporting the story, make the point that this is unconvincing. A random member of the public wouldn’t know the codes to get into his account. He could have blamed one of his staff instead, but this would have meant throwing the staffer ‘under the bus’. Unless it was the staffer, who really did it. He then made a further statement that what he meant was the poor and disabled shouldn’t be killed, but should simply be left to starve.

They also find his excuse unconvincing, because if you look at Republican webs sites and pages, so many of them are saying exactly the same thing. It therefore looks very much like Barnett did post those comments, unbelievable as they are.

This will also corroborate what Mike, Geoffrey Davis, one of the commenters on my Blog, and so many other disabled people, carers, and disability rights activists, that the Tories over here are also engaged in a policy Mike has termed ‘chequebook euthanasia’. The Tories are throwing extremely vulnerable people with no other sources of income off benefit, through sanctions and the wretched work capability tests, in the hope that they will starve to death. A thousand or so have. Mike, Johnny Void, and Stilloaks, as well as the Angry One from Yorkshire, Another Angry Voice, have posted up the lives and biographies of those who have, or worse, committed suicide in despair. Stilloaks compiled a list of these victims, which was reblogged by the others. The last time I looked it was around the 750 mark. And that was some time ago. I expect it to be approaching a thousand now.

And Tweezer and the rest of her foul crew are still saying that these deaths have nothing to do with the benefits system, even though many of the suicides left notes declaring that it was precisely because of the benefits system that they were taking their lives.

No, no, move on, you ignorant proles! Nothing to see here. We’re totally blameless, and in the right, because we’re helping you find work with our return to the less eligibility policy of the workhouse.

The Tories and the Republicans have very strong contacts with each other, and the Tories have been taking over Republican and Libertarian policies. Like the privatised police force. That was one of Rothbard’s brilliant idea, the founder of the Libertarian party in the America. The same Libertarian party, whose members include one of the billionaire Koch brother, and which in the 1970s ran a special issue in its magazine denying the Holocaust. Ctesias, who is, like Geoffrey Davis, one of the great commenters on this blog, also pointed out that the Tories also seem to have taken over the ideas of one Canadian right-wing philosopher, Gauthier. This piece of work wrote that the poor woman starving at the gates of a rich man feasting, has no call on his wealth, especially as it would deprive him of the pleasure of feeding the crumbs to the birds. It’s a complete inversion of Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus, in which the rich man, who ignore the poor man at his gate, goes to hell after death while the poor man enters heavenly bliss with Abraham. So much for the Christian Right’s concern for true Christian values!

A little while ago Tweezer’s choice for a universities’ watchdog, to make sure democracy wasn’t being stifled by all those nasty left-wingers on campus, Toby Young, was revealed by Private Eye as having gone to a eugenics conference at University College London. Yup, Tobe’s big on eugenics. And some of the others were far more extreme than he was, connecting it to race and IQ.

I’ve commented before that the Republicans and Conservatives are Social Darwinists, just like the Nazis. They see poverty and wealthy purely in terms of biological and economic fitness. The rich are there because they’re biologically superior. And the poor should be prevented from breeding, because they’re biologically unfit and so will only spread poverty. It was one of the ideologies in the 19th and early 20th century that was used to oppose health and safety legislation for working people, and the establishment of any welfare benefits. It led to the sterilisation of the poor, disabled and mentally challenged. And these policies were taken over by the Nazis, who claimed that they had made absolutely no innovations when adopting them.

And the endpoint of that was the murder of the disabled by the SS and Nazi doctors under the infamous Aktion T4. This was abandoned after a massive public outcry, especially by Roman Catholics led by Count Galen. But the murders didn’t stop, and the programme led eventually to the wholesale gassing of the Jews in the extermination camps.

Barnett may not have posted those vile comments, but they do speak for the Republican and British Conservative mindset. A mindset that is killing the poor and disabled by starvation, all while claiming just to be reforming and making the welfare state more efficient.

They’re lying. The true attitude to the poor is shown by the number of deaths they’ve caused, and the quarter of a million more people, who’ve been thrown on to private charity in the food banks.

Get them out before more people die.

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Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party and the Rise of Militant Zionism in America: Part 1

May 11, 2017

One of the points made by Jewish supporters of the Palestinians is that there at more Christian than Jewish Zionists in America. Indeed, Prof. Norman Finkelstein has pointed out that support for Israel amongst Jewish Americans was marginal until the late 1960s, when Conservative activists worked hard to engineer support for the country after its victories against the surrounding Arab nations. Mike made a similar point in his defence of himself and his commenter, Paul Mabbo, against the accusations of anti-Semitism flung by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Not everyone making the accusations was necessarily Jewish.

In fact there has been an alliance between right-wing American Christian groups and militant Zionists since before the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980s. Reagan’s election was partly due to his support from these right-wing Christian groups, brought about by the fundraisers and PR men Richard Viguerie, Terry Dolan, Howard Phillips and Ed McAteer. These men founded, led or advised a slew of conservative Christian organisations such as Conservative Caucus, Religious Roundtable, National Conservative Political Action Committee, Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, Christian Voice, Young Americans for Freedom and the Moral Majority. The term ‘Moral Majority’ was coined by either Weyrich or Phillips when McAteer arranged for them to meet Jerry Falwell. McAteer was then the head of the Christian Freedom Foundation, which was funded by money from the Pew and DeVos families, who owned Sunoco and AmWay respectively. It isn’t surprising that Betsy DeVos has now popped up as Trump’s Education Secretary, with a militant right-wing plan to privatise all American public schools into Charter Schools with an explicitly right-wing Christian curriculum. Weyrich was also a member of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which was financed by money from the Coors and Richard Scaiffe. As well as being a member of Young Americans for Freedom, Phillips had also been a minor member of Nixon’s administration. They chose Falwell because he had helped Anita Bryant defeat the Dade County Gays Rights Bill in 1977.

Falwell was one of the most notorious of the right-wing televangelists of the 1980s. He was actually the least popular of them, became the most influential through his contacts with Ronald Reagan. He first came to public attention for his 1965 speech denouncing Martin Luther King. However, it was the series of rallies he conducted in 1976 and ’77 which brought him to the attention of the leaders of the American Christian right. In 1983 Reagan allowed Fallwell to attend National Security briefings on the possibility of nuclear war with Russia, and discussed theology and nuclear war with him in his presidential limousine. Fallwell was also active establishing links with the Israeli leadership to the point where he became the most influential gentile lobbyist for Israel and Israeli expansionism.

As part of this, Falwell began arranging tours to the Holy Land. One of these was attended by a journalist, Grace Halsell, in 1983. She noted the prominent role apocalypticism played in the tours, with many of her fellow tourists believing that Christ’s return, and the end of the world were imminent. These tours also had an explicit agenda in drumming up support for Israel. The Israeli guide referred to Palestinians as Arabs, following the official Israeli line set by Golda Meir that there were no Palestinians. He then went on to state that the ‘Arabs’ preferred to live in poverty, had repeatedly refused Israeli friendship and bluntly stated that ‘all Muslims were terrorists’. When the tour bus stopped at Nazareth, it was only to use the toilets there. Halsell suspected that they were being prevented from speaking to any Palestinians or Christians living in Israel. This is not unlikely. One of the ministers at our church said that if you go to Israel, you will be kept from meeting Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians. The tour finally met Falwell at a hotel in Jerusalem, where they were treated to a speech by the Israeli defence minister, Moshe Arens, boast about Israeli victories in the invasion of Lebanon.

Falwell was richly rewarded by the Israelis for his services to them. A forest was named after him, he was showered with free trips to the country, and was also given a private jet by the Israeli government. He became the only gentile to receive the Jabotinsky medal, named after the Zionist leader, who advocated waging a war of extermination against the Palestinians in order to set up an Israeli empire that straddled both sides of the Jordan. It was Falwell who turned Jesse Helms, another prominent Reaganite, from a militant anti-Zionist into an enthusiastic supporter of Israel.

Falwell also visited the West Bank, where he had his photo taken with a Jewish American family, who had recently immigrated there. He set up a convention in Annapolis in 1983 to organise support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This was attended by James Watt and Richard Allen, two members of Reagan’s administration; Yehuda Hellman and other Jewish leaders; Viguerie, Phillips and Weyrich; and former presidential sleazebag Richard M. Nixon. Falwell also told a Texan newspaper that same year that Israel had a divine mandate, through the covenant between the Lord and the patriarch Abraham, to parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan, and that the whole of Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait should also belong to Israel. This would have to be achieved through force. Falwell stated that ‘good intentions are acts of stupidity’.

Extremist American Christian groups have also given support to Jewish terrorists, such as Gush Emunim, who have attempted to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem in order to restore Solomon’s Temple, whose site they believe the mosque occupies. In 1984 18 members of the terrorist group were convicted of trying to blow up the mosque, with the covert support of the Shin Bet and other members of the Israeli army and police. The group also attacked three Palestinian mayor, wounding them.

The terrorists were received as popular heroes in Israel, including by the judge who sentenced them. There were pleas for mercy from Yitzhak Shamir, and American right-wing Christians and Jews began sending money to finance their defence. Wealth American Jews also fund Gush Emunim and Meir Kahane’s extreme right-wing Kach party. Gush Emunim is also funded by Marcus Katz, a Mexican arms salesman, who made immense profits from selling guns and other armaments to Iran and various South American countries. Ruben Mattus, the head of the ice cream firm Haagen-Dazs, is one of the major backers of Kahane’s Kach party in Israel and his Jewish Defence League in the US.

The foremost Christian supporter of Israeli terrorism, at least in the 1980s, was the Jerusalem Temple Foundation, headed by the self-declared new Nehemiah, Terry Reisenhoover. Reisenhoover’s an Oklahoma speculator in oil and land, and styles himself after the Biblical Nehemiah, who was the first governor of Jerusalem after the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon. The land Reisenhoover has speculated on, along with his Israeli partner, Shony Braun, includes land taken from Palestinians on the West Bank. Reisenhoover appointed as secretary Stanley Goldfoot, once implicated in the Stern gang’s 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Temple Foundation aimed to raise $100 million annually to rebuild the Temple and establish a yeshiva to teach the future priests the correct way to sacrifice animals there. They also supplied funds to Gush Emunim’s defence lawyers after the 1983 attack.

Another right-wing Christian group funding Israeli terrorism is the International Christian Embassy, who lobbied their governments to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This group were also financed by South Africa.

Vox Political On May’s Grubby Plan to Turn Teachers into Border Guards

December 2, 2016

Mike yesterday also put up a piece commenting on Theresa May’s plan to use teachers as border guards in her campaign to cover up her failure to crack down on illegal immigration. Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, had joined a number of other politicians condemning May’s plan to force schools to withdraw offers of places to the children of illegal immigrants. Rayner rightly attacked these plans as contrary to British values and impractical. She stated it was trying to turn teachers into border guards.

Mike makes the point that teachers are already overworked. It is also unfair and illegal to stop children under 16 from having an education in order to punish their parents. As for teachers demanding to see children’s passports, Mike makes the point that not all children have them. He didn’t until he first went abroad in his twenties. I first acquired a passport when I was at school – in the sixth form – to go on a school trip, so I also didn’t have one until quite late, at least by May’s standards.

And Mike also makes a point about how this reflects on May’s declaration that she is guided by her Christian faith. He thinks that this is less about Christian charity, and more about the Old Testament dictum that ‘the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children unto the third and fourth generation’. But I don’t think it’s even about that. It’s just sheer vindictiveness against the poorest and most defenceless, just to cover her own failings.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/01/the-grubby-little-idea-that-will-tarnish-theresa-may/

Actually, there’s a bit of synchronicity here, as I read this on Mike’s site just after coming back from the first part of an Advent course held at our local church. This was an exploration of the meaning of hospitality in the Old Testament. The minister argued that hospitality has to be at the centre of Christian practice. He made the point that in the Old Testament, hospitality meant much more than it does today. Observant Jews in ancient Israel were expected to entertain and feed travellers, the poor and strangers, including foreign residents, as Abraham, the founder of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, does in Genesis when he meets the Lord and two angels. The patriarch urges them to stop by his tent, washes their feet, and his wife, Sarah, prepares a meal for them. He invites them to join him, saying that he would be honoured if they’d join him.

At the same time, the Torah – the Mosaic Law -in Leviticus commanded the people of Israel to respect and provide for the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner, ‘for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt’. During the Feast of Sukkoth, Jews were supposed to open their doors and feed widows, orphans and strangers, according to a passage in the Talmud. This is the oral, supplementary law which guides observant Jews as well as the written law revealed by Moses. The passage in the Talmud, which enjoins this states that the man, who does not open his gates to the poor during this feast, is not really celebrating it, but only his belly. And such hospitality is regarded as a mitzvah – a commandment.

It strikes me that this last statement contradicts the various Tories, who turned up during Thatcher’s tenure of 10 Downing Street, to tell us all that Christ’s remarks about looking after the poor and marginalised were all about doing so responsibly, and had nothing to do with government policy. In the context of the time, they don’t. But it’s much stronger than the voluntarism the Tories and New Labour tried to promote.

These passages from the Bible and the cultural contexts in which they are placed, such as the Talmudic laws on the correct observance of the Hebrew festivals, are a very sharp rebuttal to the current xenophobia that is sweeping the nation thanks to Brexit. And the minister leading the service said that he was very worried about the xenophobia which was rising in this country.

I realise that many of the readers of this blog are atheists. The point I am trying to make here, is that Tories don’t have a monopoly on the Jewish and Christian revelations and the Bible. And when it comes to the poor, quite often the commandments of the Bible point away from the abuse heaped on them by the Conservatives and Blairite right.

As for the duty of the wealthy to entertain the poor, this was also taken extremely serious in medieval and 16th century Britain. Great lords used to set aside sums of money so they could be seen to be feeding and supporting the poor. The prior of St. James’ Priory in Bristol, for example, fed 100 beggars at the priory gates every day. Similarly, one town chronicler in the 16th century lamented the burning down one gentleman’s house, because its owner was a generous man, at whose house many people were refreshed. In other words, he took seriously his responsibility as a member of the upper classes to provide for those less fortunate than himself.

Which poses an interesting question. If Theresa May wants to restore society to the quasi-feudal conditions of the 19th century, does that mean that she’s also willing to accept the feudal responsibility of feeding and clothing the poor once again? Not just through food banks, but also at the gates of their homes? Somehow, I don’t think so, no matter what she might say about the importance of charity. You can imagine the screams of rage she’d utter if 100 poor men and women turned up at her house, asking for bread.

Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 2

May 28, 2016

What changed Jewish attitudes to Israel was the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The Americans saw Israel very much as a kind of outpost of American interests in the Middle East, and identified its people with great American heroes like Davey Crockett, and the struggle of the Texans for independence from Mexico. There was an equivalence between Israel’s soldiers and the heroes of the Alamo. The Israelis were invested with all the heroic values Americans believed characterised themselves, and from it being unpatriotic to support the Israelis, it became the reverse. It was super-patriotic to support them.

Crucial to this was the Israeli claim to have practised ‘purity of arms’. Unlike Vietnam, where the Americans were losing and committing terrible atrocities, the Israelis were winning without committing massacres and other breaches of human rights. This record has gradually darkened as the wars between Israel and its Arab neighbours continued. The classic case of the ‘bad war’ was Lebanon, where the Israelis killed tens of thousands of people, the majority of whom were civilians. But as historians like Benny Morris examined Israeli’s own history and war record, it became increasingly clear that Israel at its foundation had not practised ‘purity of arms’. In fact, if anything, the record of the Israeli army had actually improved and become cleaner over time.

And just as more was known and published about Israeli massacres of Palestinians and ethnic cleansing, so more information appeared about the regular use of torture by the Israelis. Previously the very few people writing and reporting on this were a Communist, a Trotskyite and an industrial chemist. They were marginal figures, whose work it was easy to shrug off and dismiss. But more and more Jews and Israelis brought to light information on torture. As Jews began their investigations, so it encouraged international groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to become involved. These had originally remained aloof from examining Israel’s record in this regard, partly from entirely noble reasons: accusing Jews of torture was too much like the accusation made against the Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. And then the use of torture reached truly epidemic proportions of tens of thousands of detained Palestinians in the 1990s during the Second Intifada.

At the same time, Israeli politics has also become more corrupt and sleazier. Finkelstein states that Israel’s founders were idealists, who believed in the Jewish state as an ideal, and lived austere lives. They were not concerned with their own enrichment. As a result, Israel was one of the most transparent – that is to say, not corrupt, countries. Yitzhak Rabin, for example, was forced out of office in the 1980s because his wife was found to have an American bank account. There was nothing in it, but the simple fact that she had it was enough to torpedo Rabin’s stint in office. Now, Finkelstein states, hardly a day goes by without an Israeli politicians appearing in the papers because of a financial or a sex scandal.

The views of the Israelis as the injured party in the conflicts with the Palestinians, who were always provoked into war, has also been reversed. The previous received wisdom was that it was the Israelis who always made peace overtures, which were rejected by the Palestinians, ‘who never missed a chance to miss a chance for peace’. In fact, the historical reality is the exact opposite. Finkelstein quotes a book, 800 pages in length, by an Israeli scholar at one of the country’s institutes for military strategy. This academic went through everything that was written on the various Arab-Israeli wars and their causes, and found that in all of them it was the Israelis, who were the aggressors, and the Palestinians, who wanted peace. Which was nearly always rejected.

And the views of the New Historians, like Benny Morris, about how Israel from the first advanced a programme of ethnic cleansing – ‘population transfer’, in the coded jargon of the generals and politicos – and apartheid against the Palestinians has gradually entered mainstream Israeli scholarship. The lie that the Palestinians were ordered to flee their villages by the invading Arab armies was exposed by Benny Morris, who found that no such call actually took place. Finkelstein makes the point that you can now read a mainstream Israeli history school textbook, and it’s very little different from what left-wing, dissident historians have been saying. At the same time, it’s now accepted that what the Israelis are inflicting on the Palestinians through their systematic discrimination is indeed apartheid. It’s actually been described as such by the Israeli paper of record, Ha’aretz. And when Ha’aretz uses the term, you know that attitudes have changed.

As a result, American Jews, and especially young American Jews, have been increasingly indifferent and distanced from Israel, despite the AIPAC and the official Israel lobby.

Finkelstein’s talk lasts for about 1 hour and 22 minutes, or thereabouts. After this is there’s about another hour or so where he answers questions from the audience. These cover topics such as the religious dimensions to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the historical friendship between Muslims and Arabs, and Finkelstein’s work exposing the ‘Holocaust Industry’ – the exploitation of the suffering of the Jewish people during the Nazi genocide for the profit of the campaign’s leaders and the Jewish organisations. This is particularly odious to Dr Finkelstein, as it demeans the real human suffering of the true victims, who all too often don’t see a penny.

One of those asking the questions is a young woman from a very Christian background. She states Dr Finkelstein has not tackled the spiritual motives at the heart of Zionism. She admits she does not know much about the conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs, but is impressed by the strong similarities between Judaism and Muslim, Arab culture. She understands from the people at her Presbyterian church that the Jews have a very strong urge to settle in the land of their ancestors, based on the Covenant between the Lord and Abraham. Finkelstein replies to this by saying that the reason he did not discuss it, as once you start invoking religion you put it beyond the possibility of reaching a political solution. He states that if someone came up to you and said that, according to the Bible, you should move out of your house because it was of great spiritual significance to them, you would not do so. At this point, some of the audience clap and cheer. He shuts them up, stating that although he’s an atheist, he has no wish to damage other’s faith. He also states that she must be aware that during the period of slavery, the Southern lawyers defending the institution did so using tracts from the Bible about Ham, whose descendants were forced to serve Noah’s other sons, because he saw his father naked when drunk. Finkelstein states that the justices, who ruled against slavery did not tackled the religious arguments, but simply ruled according to secular law.

The girl responds by making a comment about Arab terrorism. This is answered in turn by an Arab member of the audience, who understandably denies that his people are terrorists. He states that they are loving people, and advises her to read the book L’Amite Judeo-Arabe by a French author, which details the long friendship between Jews and Muslims. It was the Islamic world, he states, which took the Jews in and protected them after they were expelled from Europe. Later, another audience member, a Palestinian, adds further information to this. He is a Palestinian, and states that in his village there were Jews, who had Arab names, just as there were throughout the Arab world from Yemen to Iraq. There was no spiritual animosity between them. Indeed, he states that the desire of the Jews to possess the land seems to start in the Bible 3,000 years ago, and then absolutely nothing until the foundation of Israel. He argues very strongly that the conflict between the Isrealis and the Palestinians is not religious.

The Qu’ranic Laws of War the Islamists Don’t Follow

December 4, 2015

This is another meme I found over at 1000 Natural Shocks. The phrase ‘PBUH’ suggests that it does indeed come from a Muslim site, or at least one sympathetic to Muslims. The acronym stands for ‘Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him’. This is supposed to be said by Muslims whenever they mention the Prophet. There are similar respectful phrases, which Muslims are also expected to use about the other prophets venerated in Islam, like Isa – Jesus, Musa – Moses, Ayub – Job, Ibrahim – Abraham, and so on.

Shariah War Laws

This is pretty much what I was told at College when I studied Islam there – that shariah law prohibited the killing of non-combatants and so on. ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban also know this stuff too. They simply don’t care, and have invented a whole load of convoluted theology to allow them to get away with murdering civilians. There was a programme on Channel 4 a while ago that interviewed a whole load of such Islamists in a seminary in Saudi Arabia. One of them said there that, of course, what they were doing was against Islamic law, but they could never stage their insurrections otherwise. It was the only thing they could do, or words to that effect.

Elsewhere on one of the Beeb’s programmes there was a piece explaining that they excuse and justify such atrocities by stating that modern economy and society means that the distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘military’ no longer exists. Thus they justify killing civilians and non-combatants, quite against the explicit prohibition of Islamic law.

Warning: Remember, 1000 Natural Shocks is over 18s only.

The Sacrifice of Isaac: Francis Wheen Spouts Mumbo Jumbo

June 3, 2013

You may remember that way back in the last decade there was a spate of sceptical books attacking what their authors saw as pseudo-science. These included various New Age beliefs, and very often also Creationism and Intelligent Design. These books included Bad Science, by the Roman Catholic writer and science jounralist, Ben Goldacre, and How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World, by Francis Wheen. Wheen’s a left-wing journalist, who has, I believe, written for the Guardian. He is a frequent guest on the News Quiz, a satirical panel show about the news on BBC’s Radio 4. In his introduction he stated that part of his purpose in writing the book was to defend the Enlightenment. These revivals of what he considered irrationalism threatened it. He confessed his admiration for the Enlightenment and its values, including its secularism.

Strange Days and Paranoia, Terrorism and Psychiatric Abuse of Dissidents in the 1970s

Now Wheen is an excellent writer. His book on the paranoia and chaos of the ’70s, Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia, is very good. It begins with Nixon and Watergate, and expands to include the fear surrounding Mao and the Gang of Four. He traces the way Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare formed the template for that decades western urban terrorists, including the Provisional IRA in Britain, the Rote Armee Fraktion or the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and the Maoist terrorists in France. These latter emerged following the failure of the 1968 uprising to topple French capitalism, and drew intellectual inspiration and support from radical academics. One of these latter appears to have done little except march around his university campus disrupting the classes of other lecturers he considered to be bourgeois and reactionary. He also discusses the murky events surrouding Harold Wilson’s prime ministership and the preparations to remove him in a coup by those who suspected him of being a KGB agent. One of the most fascinating, and relevant pieces in the book is his description of how Soviet psychiatry came up with a new mental illness that would justify the forcible incarceration of dissidents. This was done under the pretext that they must be insane to challenge the great, Soviet workers’ paradise. The Soviet political abuse of psychiatry strongly influenced the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. In the series, the totalitarian Federation used mind control, including drugged food and water, and the conditioning, brainwashing and psychiatric brutalisation of dissidents to maintain its brutal and corrupt rule. This particular episode in Soviet history should be particularly alarming and provide a stark warning to people of faith concerning some of the pronouncements made by contemporary atheists. Some of the New Atheists, like the Rational Response Squad, made it clear they thought religion was a psychiatric disorder. Even now some professional neurologists have stated that they look forward to the day when neuroscience will be used to cure radical or dangerous religious beliefs. Blake’s 7’s fictional federation also closed churches. Science Fiction has been described as the literature of warning, and Blake’s 7 provided a fictional treatment of the Soviet psychiatric persecution of dissidents. The Soviet medicalisation of religion as a psychiatric disorder is one that some atheist scientists now seem to be following on their own. They’re either unaware of or unconcerned by their totalitarian predecessors.

Wheen’s Mumbo Jumbo and the Sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis

Much of Wheen’s book on ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ is unremarkable. It tackles some of the bizarre New Age beliefs. It shows his own left-wing views in criticising Thatcherism and her pursuit of the free market. Wheen is, however, an atheist. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, to which Wheen has contributed, has joked about how Wheen called him an ‘irrational theist’. The book makes it clear that Wheen views religion as not just wrong, but dangerous. It shows the effect of 9/11 and the subsequent jihadi attacks on atheist opinions towards religion in general. Wheen does not consider them the action of just one religion, or even or a movement within that religion, but due to religion as a whole. He specifically blames the patriarch Abraham and the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, for causing suicide bombing. God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is, in Wheen’s view, a demand for the blind faith and for believers to give up their lives in the service of their God. It is the origin of the blind faith of the suicide bombers. He then rants about how Abraham was a barbarian who should be excluded from the tables of civilised people.

This is profoundly wrong. Wheen misses the point about the sacrifice of Isaac completely. His Comments do, however, say volumes about received atheist opinion towards religion. Mostly, this is that many prominent atheists actually aren’t concerned about the basic facts behind religious events and phenomena before they utter their opinions.

Abraham and God’s Mercy: God Unlike Pagan Gods, Does Not Demand Human Sacrifice

For Jews, Abraham is not a symbol of fanaticism and blind faith, but mercy. This is shown by his conversation with the Almighty concerning the number of good people, who would have to be in Sodom before the Lord destroyed the city. This goes down to about ten, showing that even if only a minuscule number of righteous people are present in a place so steeped in evil that the outcry against it goes up to the Lord Himself, God will withhold His anger from it. As for the sacrifice of Isaac, that has to be seen in the context of the pagan religious practices of the Ancient Near East. Human sacrifice was an accepted part of the ancient Near Eastern religions. It’s found in the law codes of the Hittites. In ancient Phoenicia, Canaan and Carthage infant children were burned alive as sacrifices to the pgan gods. The tophets, the sacrificial altars on which these poor mites were killed, have been found in the remains of Carthage itself. The remains of these sacrifices have also been found in ancient Canaan. The point the story of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac makes is that the Lord does not want people to sacrifice humans to Him. Yes, He rewards the faith that makes people wish to fulfill His commands, even to death, but does not want them to make that sacrifice. Abraham does indeed make the pyre and prepare to sacrifice his son, but this is halted by God sending a ram, caught in a thicket, for the patriarch to sacrifice instead. The whole point of the story is against suicide bombing.

Wheen Ignorant of Scholarship on Ancient Paganism and the Meaning of Isaac’s Sacrifice

Few people are experts in Ancient Near Eastern culture. But you don’t have to be. I remember studying the sacrifice of Isaac in RE (Religious Education) at my old Church of England School. Wheen went to one of the British public schools, which in this case, for transatlantic readers, means that he went to an elite private school. Despite having a very expensive education, he clearly either didn’t study this part of the Bible in RE, or simply wasn’t paying attention when they did. Even if they didn’t study that part of the Bible, Wheen could still have tried to understand it simply by consulting a commentary. There are a number of good commentaries on scripture, some of which are available online. But Wheen didn’t. He simply assumed that the apparent message he read into the text was the correct one. His failure to consult a commentary or what Christians and Jews actually historically believe and say about this event also shows a completely dismissive attitude towards their beliefs. He appears to beleive that traditional Jewish and Christian views of scripture are of so little importance, so automatically wrong, that an atheist should not even remotely consider studying them before making their pronouncements.

The Marxist Origin of Suicide Bombing

As for suicide bombing, although this is now a favourite weapon of militant Islam, it was first used by the Tamil Tigers. As Marxists, they were atheists, who clearly wre not following a divine command, still less of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. But this is not mentioned by Wheen. Possibly he didn’t know about it. It does, however, show the deep antipathy of part of the atheist Left towards Judeo-Christian religion. There’s also an element of the secularist belief that all religions are somehow the same. If that is true, then therefore all religions must be equally violent. Thus Wheen sought to find the ultimate origin of the contemporary jihadist attacks not in today’s politics, or the violent theology and ideology of the terrorists themselves, but further back in Abraham’s lifetime, so he could blame and disparage all of the three Abrahamic faiths. Wheen’s other book are well worth reading, and much of his book on Mumbo Jumbo is too. Rather than being a product of reasoned thought and careful consideration, Wheen’s views on the sacrifice of Isaac in the Old Testament are merely the product of atheist ignorance and anti-religious bigotry.

The Age of Abraham and Israel

January 3, 2008

One of the most contentious areas in the archaeology of the Ancient Near East today is the debate between the ‘maximalist’ and ‘minimalist’ archaeologists regarding the foundation of Israel. The maximalists consider that the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – is a more or less accurate description of the history of the Hebrew people and ancient Israel. The minimalists, on the other hand, largely reject the accuracy of the Old Testament narrative, viewing it as too late and ideologically tainted to be an accurate representation of events. Thus, archaeologists like R.B. Coote and K.W. Whitelam have deliberately adopted a policy of ‘minimal recourse to Biblical texts’ in the words of another leading minimalist, Norman Gottwald. 1 A crucial part of this debate has been over the nature of the emergence of Israel in the late Bronze Age. Although most archaeologists thirty years ago considered that Israel emerged through the settlement of nomadic tribes c. 1200 BC, this consensus was seriously challenged in 1979 by the Marxist scholar, Norman Gottwald. 2 Gottwald instead considered that ancient Israel was the product of a revolution by indigenous peasants against the domination of the Canaanite city states.

In 1985 Gottwald’s ‘Peasant Revolt’ model was attacked in turn by the Danish scholar, Nils Lemche. Lemche was particularly critical of Gottwald’s assumption that sedentary farmers and nomads stood in opposition to each other. He noted several examples where some nomads settled down, so that the settled peoples and nomads of an area were actually related to each other. He also cited examples of where cities and villages were part of a continuum with mutual interaction, and concluded ‘that there is no instance in teh anthropological literature of the existence of the type of opposition between peasants and city presumed by Gottwald.’ 3

Lemche himself is certainly no maximalist, and is strongly critical of the historical accuracy of the Bible. Not all scholars share this view, however. The German scholar Udo Worschech in 1983 used the results of anthropology to argue for the historical reliability of the traditions about the patriarch Abraham. 4 Interestingly, despite his opposition to the historical reliability of the Bible, Lemche’s demonstration of the lack of a opposition between city dwellers, farmers and nomads actually supports an ancient date for the composition of Genesis.

I was discussing the date of Genesis with a friend a little while ago, who pointed out that the type of semi-nomadic lifestyle described in Genesis was typical of the type of society depicted in the Mitanni texts. The Mitanni were a people situated roughly northeast of present day Syria, whose civilisation reached its zenith between 1450 and 1350 BC before being destroyed by the Hittites and Assyrians. 5 Although some of the names of the towns mentioned in Genesis belong to a later period, the society described is the same semi-nomadic culture as that of the Mitanni, and there are technical legal terms in the Hebrew that also belong to this period. Contrary to the minimalist hypothesis, which saw Genesis as a late development projected back into the past by the Israelites to support their nationhood, the similarities between the culture of the Mitanni and the semi-nomadism of Abraham and his descendents indicates a very early origin for the book of Genesis. The accuracy of this depiction would seem to be supported by Lemche’s own observation of the lack of a dichotomy between sedentary and nomadic peoples. Thus, paradoxically, Lemche’s observations in this area could actually support the historicity of the Bible, despite his own rejection of the Bible as an accurate record of historical events.

Notes

1. J.B. Martin, ‘Israel as a Tribal Society’ in R.E. Clements, ed., The World of Ancient Israel: Sociological, Anthropological and Political Perspectives (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1989), p. 114.

2. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 27.

3. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 29.

4. J.W. Rogerson, ‘Anthropology and the Old Testament’, in Clements, ed., Ancient Israel, p. 31.

5. ‘1380-1200 The New Hittite Kingdom’ in Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann, translated by Ernest A. Menze, maps designed by Harald and Ruth Bukor, The Penguin Atlas of World History – Volume 1: From the Beginning to the Eve of the French Revolution (Harmondsworth, Penguin 1978), p. 35.