Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Good Friday Greetings

April 19, 2019

Today is Good Friday, the day when Christians across the world remember Christ’s trial by Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion and death, and look forward to His glorious resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. St. Paul calls Christ ‘the Firstborn of the dead’, as Christians since the earliest days of the church have seen His resurrection as the precursor of what will happen to everyone at the end of time. And this belief in a general resurrection came to Christianity from Judaism, where, I believe, it is called the Olam Ha-Ba, or the World To Come. And as another Abrahamic faith, this belief in the ultimate resurrection of all humanity by the Almighty is one of the fundamental tenets of Islam.

I also feel at this time we should remember prisoners of conscience across the world, regardless of the political or religious views we hold. Like the crackdown on various dissenting religious groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Putin’s Russia, and atheists and the other non-Wahhabi religions and philosophies in Saudi Arabia. It’s grotesque that people belonging to either of these groups should be called ‘terrorists’ simply for holding the views they do, without harming anyone.

On a more positive note, I just wish all the readers of this blog a great and happy Easter weekend, whether they are religious or otherwise.

Best wishes to you all.

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Is the Latest Anti-Labour Smear Motivated by Tory Fears of General Election?

April 7, 2019

Mike suggested in his first article on the Sunset Times’ latest anti-Semitism smear against the Labour party that it was motivated by the fear that a general election was in the offing. Mike wrote

This is a critical time for the people of the United Kingdom.

Hysteria over Brexit is at fever pitch, with Theresa May in negotiations with a Labour team on a way to save the process from the disaster she has made of it.

If the talks fall apart, it is possible that Mrs May will trigger a general election in the hope that a new Parliament may be able to support one of the options available.

And in this context, The Sunday Times publishes a piece smearing the leader of the Opposition.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/07/a-general-election-is-in-the-offing-time-for-another-anti-semitism-smear-against-jeremy-corbyn/

I don’t think there can be much doubt about it. The Skwawkbox has also pup up a very interesting little piece reporting that the Mail on Sunday has an eight-page feature telling its readers ‘How to protect your cash from Corbyn’. Which, as the Skwawkbox points out, is a frank admission that they think he’s going to win the next election, and that they think that one’s coming soon. The Skwawkbox also points out that it shows that the Tories are also all about the wealthy, drily commenting ‘Who knew, eh?’

https://skwawkbox.org/2019/04/07/mail-spends-eight-pages-telling-readers-corbyns-going-to-win-next-ge/

Who indeed? The Tories have always seen themselves as the party of business and industry. Or rather, they have since they stopped presenting themselves as just the party of the Anglican Church and aristocracy, and decided to broaden their constituency by taking the business vote from the right-wing of the Liberal party. As a result, they are very much the party of the Establishment, although it has to be said that the religious right have also become very worried that a large section of the Anglican church, along with many other British churches and religions, doesn’t support them. And it seems from the latest smears against the Labour party and this piece in the Heil on Sunday that the Establishment is very, very worried. And so they should. Polls last week showed Labour five points ahead of the Tories, and the Newport by-election even suggested that the lead could be as much as nine points. Or at least it was in Newport.

Hence the Sunset Times’ attack, which, as well as being a malign attempt to misrepresent and libel Corbyn and his party, is also an act of utter desperation. The Tories are desperately afraid they’ll lose the next election, and so they’re reverting to the anti-Semitism lies and smears. But they’ve used them so often before, it’s very likely that the British public, or at least a sizable part of them, realises that they’re lying and simply don’t believe them. I’ve blogged before about a piece I found elsewhere on the Net, which reported that a senior member of the Israel lobby, responsible for spreading the anti-Semitism smears against opponents of Israeli ethnic cleansing, lamented that it was no longer working as effectively as they’d like.

I hope this continues and the whole, wretched sham campaign of smears and lies is utterly discredited along with the soulless hacks and politicos that retail it. And that Labour wins the next election by a landslide.

Tony Greenstein on the Abuse of Anti-Semitism to Silence Criticism of Israel

March 24, 2019

This video was put on YouTube two years ago, in March 2017, by Brighton BDS, the local branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and oppression of the Palestinians. It’s one of two videos from that meeting, in which Greenstein and Jackie Walker respectively tell of how accusations of anti-Semitism are used to stifle justified criticism of Israel. Both Greenstein and Walker are Jewish critics of Israel, and despite their being firm anti-racists and anti-Fascists, have thus been smeared as anti-Semites.

Greenstein begins his speech by welcoming his audience, and congratulating them in that they are going to see two anti-Semites for the price of one. He explains that the accusations of anti-Semitism have nothing to do with real anti-Semitism. They’re the method used to silence critics of the unjustifiable, like Israel’s destruction of a Bedouin village in the Negeb desert to make way for a Jewish village. And Administrative Detention, where the only people detained without trial are Palestinians. It is also difficult to justify a law which retroactively legalises the theft of Palestinian land, and the existence of two different legal system in the West Bank, one for Palestinians and the other for Jews. He states that in most people’s understanding of the word, that’s apartheid. It’s certainly racist. And it’s easier to attack critics as anti-Semitic, than deal with the issues concerned.

And Israel doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It receives more aid from the United States than every other country in the world combined. Israel is defended because it’s a very important partner of the West in the Middle East. It’s critics do single out Israel, because it’s the only apartheid state in the world, the only state that says one section of the population – Jews – will have privileges, while the other section won’t. He states that there are many repressive states in the world, but there is only one apartheid state. The Zionists then reply that there’s only one Jewish state. Greenstein responds to that by pointing to 1789 and the liberation of the Jews in France during the French Revolution, the first people to be granted such emancipation. The French Revolution established the principle that the state and religion should be separate. This is also a cardinal principle of the American Constitution, but it doesn’t exist in Israel. Greenstein states that he has the right to go to Israel, claiming citizenship, and get privileges like access to land because he’s Jewish, while Yasser – a member of the audience – has no such rights, despite being born their and having a family there, because he’s not Jewish. You can’t say it’s not racist and unjust, and so they accuse people, who criticise it, of anti-Semitism.

He makes the point that it’s like the British in India. They didn’t claim they were going there to exploit the natural wealth of India, and pillage and rape it. No, they justified it by saying they were going there to civilise it by getting rid of Suttee, the burning of a man’s widow on his funeral pyre. He cites Kipling’s metaphor as the Empire as a burden on the White man’s back. It was the Empire on which the sun never set, which was because, as some people said, God didn’t trust the British. It wasn’t just the Conservatives, but also the Labour party, who justified British imperial rule in these terms. The Labour Party justified it as trusteeship. Britain held the lands in Africa and Asia in trust for their peoples until they came up to our standard of civilisation.

It’s the same with Israel today. When Britain and America support Israel, they don’t do it because it’s colonisation, or because Jewish mobs go round Jerusalem every Jerusalem Day chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’, utter anti-Muslim blasphemies and their other actions, which mean Arabs have to stay in their homes to avoid being attacked by thousands of settler youths. It’s because of anti-Semitism and some vague connection with the Holocaust. But opposing Israel is in no way anti-Semitic. He states that the definition of anti-Semitism is simple. It is ‘hostility to Jews, as Jews’. He states that a friend of his, the Oxford academic Brian Klug, worked that out years ago. He then talks about how the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism was devised in 2004 to connect anti-Semitism with Israel by the European Monitoring Commission. It met much resistance, and was opposed by the University College Union, the National Union of Students opposed it along with other civil society groups. In 2013 the EUMC’s successor took it down from its website and it fell into disuse. It was then revived as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. This then emerged a few months previous to the meeting, when a Home Affairs Select Committee report, apart from attacking Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti for tolerating anti-Semitism in the Labour party, came up with this new definition. This takes 500 words to say what could be said in 50.

One of these is accusing Jews of being more loyal to each other than their own nation. He shows that definition is nonsense by stating that if he received a pound for every time he was called a traitor because he was an anti-Zionist, he’d be quite rich. The essence of Zionism is that Jews owe a dual loyalty, and their main loyalty is to Israel. Israel defines itself as the Jewish state, not just for its own citizens, but for Jews everywhere. This is unique, as most countries have a citizenship based on that country, to which everyone belongs, and a nationality. Britain has a British nationality. That nationality applies to everyone who lives in a particular place. If Scotland became independent, as the SNP made clear, then everyone living in Scotland would have Scots nationality. The same with France and Germany. But in Israel there is no Israeli nationality, although it says so on the Israeli passport. But the Hebrew translates as ‘citizen’ not ‘nation’, but the Israelis assume most people are too stupid to notice the difference. There are hundreds of nationalities in Israel, primarily Jewish, but also Arab, Islamic, Christian and those of other religions. But the only nationality that counts is Jewish, and it applies not only to Jewish citizens and residents, but also Jews wherever they live. He states that this is the foundation stone of Israeli racism, that some people – Jews- are returning, because their ancestors were there 2,000 years ago. This is one of the many racist myths that abound.

He then goes on to another definition, ‘Denying the Jews the right to self-determination’. He states that he asked Joan Ryan, the Labour MP and chair of Labour Friends of Israel, when she was wittering on about how anti-Semitic to oppose the Jewish right to self-determination about it. He wrote her a letter, to which she never replied, which asked her when precisely Zionism talked about the Jewish right to self-determination. It’s only very recent. If you look back at Zionist documents, like The Jewish State, by the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, it talks about colonisation. The first Zionist congress, held in 1897, was a result of the publication of Herzl’s pamphlet. The Zionists never talked about Jewish self-determination, they talked about colonisation and did so for most of their history. But with the change in zeitgeist they changed it to Jewish national self-determination. But this means that Jews are not citizens of the country where they live. He compares Jews to Roman Catholics, as the idea that all Roman Catholics form the same nation is clearly a retrogressive step. In many ways it’s an anti-Semitic step, as it says that Jews do not belong in the countries in which they live, as they’re all one and the same. 

He goes on to talk about Herzl himself, and encourages his audience to Google him, if they haven’t already. Herzl was a Viennese journalist, who operated in Paris. His diaries are particularly interesting, as if you read all four volumes of them, you find he talks about anti-Semitism as having the divine will to good about it. In other words, there would be no Zionism without anti-Semitism, which provides the propulsion for Jews separating out of their own nations and going on for what he hoped would be a Jewish nation. Herzl traveled around Europe trying to create an alliance between Zionism and one of the imperial powers of the time. Eventually in 1917 they reached an agreement with the British imperialists, Lloyd George’s war cabinet, the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain granted them the land of Palestine over the heads of the Palestinians, who were not asked for their opinion.

When Herzl was going around the European princes, he met the Kaiser’s uncle, the Grand Duke of Baden, who told Herzl that he agreed with him and supported him. This was because Herzl told him that Zionism would take the revolutionary Jews away from the socialist movement and move them to a pure national ideal. The Grand Duke said he had no problems supporting Zionism except one. If he supported Zionism, which was at that time very small, only a handful of Jews supported Zionism up to 1945, then people would accuse him of being anti-Semitic. Most Jews at the time considered Zionism to be a form of anti-Semitism. Greenstein asks how many people know that on Lloyd George’s war cabinet, the one member who opposed the Balfour Declaration was its only Jewish member, Sir Edwin Montague, who later became the Secretary of State for India. He accused all his fellows of anti-Semitism, because they didn’t want Jews in Britain, but wanted them to go to Palestine. And he states that is what they’re opposing today. The opposite is true when they accuse Israel’s opponents of being anti-Semitic. It is the Zionist movement that has always held that Jews do not belong in these countries  and should go to Israel. We see it today in the election of Donald Trump. There has been an outbreak of anti-Semitism, and the Zionist movement has no problem with it, because Trump is a good supporter of Israel. And the appointment of Steve Bannon was welcomed by the Zionist Organisation of America, who invited him to speak at their annual gala in New York. He didn’t attend because there was a large demonstration of leftists and anti-Zionists. He concludes that if someone today tells him he doesn’t belong in this country, they’re either a Zionist or an anti-Semite.

Greenstein thus exposes the real agenda behind the anti-Semitism accusations and the utter hypocrisy of those making them, as well as the real anti-Semitism that lies at the heart of Zionism itself. It’s to silence critics like Greenstein and Walker that they, and so many other decent anti-racists, have been accused of anti-Semitism while the real anti-Semites, like Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, have been given enthusiastic welcomes by the Israeli state.

However, the decision by many Democrat politicos not to attend the AIPAC conference this weekend may indicate that there’s a sea change coming in the American people’s tolerance for this nonsense. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Israel’s critics like Greenstein and Walker are properly recognised as the real opponents of racism and anti-Semitism, and the people who smeared them held in contempt for their lies and vilification.

Labour Complaints Unit Fine With MP Wes Streeting Smearing and Doxing Party Member

February 11, 2019

Now that Tweezer is floundering about trying to keep herself and her wretched party from sinking on the black rocks of Brexit, they, the Blairites and the Israel lobby both within and outside the Labour party have taken to repeating the anti-Semitism. One of those who decided that he was going to try to whip up the witch hunt there again was Wes Streeting, who took it upon himself to dox and smear a 70-year old woman using a fabricated image on twitter.

Doxing is publishing someone’s name and personal details, like their address, on the internet without their consent. It’s against Twitter’s rules and is very dangerous. People have been personally threatened, attacked and their homes vandalized through others maliciously putting their personal details on the internet. In this case, Streeting decided he was going to dox Annie W-B because he’d decided that she’d dismissed anti-Semitism as a smear. He tweeted

Meet Ann . Ann dismisses anti-Semitism as a smear and says that hatred is being perpetrated by Emily [Benn] and Luciana [Berger] against innocent people who have never in their lives been anti-Semitic’.

He then goes to say ‘Let’s take a look in her back catalogue’.

But the tweet he was referring to did not dismiss anti-Semitism as a smear. It only dismissed the witch hunt against innocent people in the Labour for alleged anti-Semitism as a smear. Ann W-B actually posted this tweet, replying to Emily Benn raving about how brave Luciana Berger had been for standing up to anti-Semitism.

Oh please go away. Luciana Berger has done everything she possibly can to smear Mr Corbyn & over 500k members. #EnoughisEnough of the cost hatred being perpetuated by you and others towards innocent people who have never in their lives been antisemitic.

That these accusations are nothing but baseless lies and smears is amply shown by some of the very upstanding people, who have been accused. People like former Momentum Vice-President Jackie Walker, a Jewish woman of colour and civil rights activist; Marc Wadsworth, a Black anti-racism activist, who campaigned with the Board of Deputies of British Jews against anti-Semitic assaults by the BNP in the 1980s; Cyril Chilson, a former member of the IDF and the son of a Holocaust survivor and a heroic Russian Jewish airman; Ken Livingstone, who has always been notorious for his opposition to racism and the recruitment of real, genuine Nazis by the British secret state; Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-racism activist and campaigner. Because he campaigns against Zionism for the good reason that it is just another form of apartheid and Fascism. Tony Odoni, another Jewish anti-racist, for the same reason. And, of course, Mike, for defending Livingstone and Walker.

Then Streeting moved on to smearing Annie W-B with a doctored image. She was shown tweeting her approval of an image posted on Twitter by another person, which contained a spurious quote from Voltaire ‘To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize’. This was next to a giant hand coming down crushing a group of people. On its sleeve is a Magen David, a Star of David. Mike points out that the quote doesn’t actually come from Voltaire. It comes from an American Nazi and Holocaust-Denier Kevin Alfred Storm. As for the image, it has a variety of forms in which the symbol on the sleeve differs. In its most common form, there is no symbol. It’s possible that Annie W-B may have genuinely believed the quote was from Voltaire. I’ve come across it several times, and until Mike’s article did not know who was really responsible for it. Mike suggests other Labour members and supporters may have been tricked into liking it because of its similarity to Tony Benn’s ‘Five Essential Questions of Democracy’, which as Mike says, are ‘What power have you got? Where did you get it? In whose interests do you use it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?’ And the dodgy quote does look like something Voltaire would say as an Enlightenment philosopher and defender of free speech against institutional religion and absolute monarchy.

He also decided that she had to be an anti-Semite because she had also posted a series of comments attacking the Rothschilds. Mike says of this

Interesting subject, the Rothschilds: A hugely wealthy and influential business/banking organisation that is apparently immune from investigation under any circumstances because those questioning its actions may always be accused of anti-Semitism. Does anybody – apart from a witch-hunter – think that is reasonable? We can see that Mr Streeting does, but then, he stands with the witch-hunters.

And the family has immense personal power. Last year one of the continental members of the family appeared in a very brief article in the I. It reported that this man was having the indigenous people in one region of Zaire cleared out of their homes in order to make it his personal hunting preserve. It’s because of its wealth and power that the Rothschilds feature in many of the Nazi conspiracy theories about Jews, Freemasons and the Illuminati plotting the downfall of the White race. But they also have a very sordid past. They lent money to the Third Reich, even when it was known that the Nazis were persecuting and exterminating the Jews. But because the Rothschilds themselves are the subjects of so many conspiracy theories, any person asking serious questions about their influence and power is automatically tarred as an anti-Semite themselves.

The peeps on Twitter immediately pointed out to Streeting that what he had done to Annie W-B was wrong. Not only had he published her name, but it, and the story, had been picked up by BBC news. This was far too far, and they began writing complaints to the Labour party about Streeting, with one person stating it was a sackable offence. Unbelievably, the complaints team said that Streeting’s actions did not contravene Labour policy. Which made them all the more determined to press their complaints and escalate it.

As for Streeting, he then went off and attacked Mike for being an anti-Semite using the old, and now absolutely discredited Sunday Times article. Which left Mike demanding that, if it was an attempt to smear him, he wanted an apology.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/06/police-investigation-threat-for-mp-over-faked-anti-semitic-image-and-doxxing/

The controversy continued when Jenny Formby got involved. She was upset that Streeting was being ‘tried by twitter’ and so asked everyone to send their complaints into the Labour party’s Compliance Unit instead, so that they could all move on to attacking the Tories. She was then bitterly attacked in her turn by angry Labour party supporters, furious that the Blairites were able to smear and bully ordinary party members as they pleased without Formby or anyone else for that matter taking any kind of disciplinary action. As proof of this, Mike cited the example of one individual, who was thrown out for liking the music of the Foo Fighters, while Streeting himself went unpunished for what should have been a disciplinary offence. Some people stated that it was high time the Blairites were kicked out of the party. The sheer number of complaints about their behaviour on Twitter showed how deeply unpopular the various right-wing members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are. Finally, to show just how unfair the system is, Mike put up the case of Karen, a Labour party member, who told Formby that when she sent in a complaint against Tweeting, one of his little minions reported her in turn for ‘bullying’. Mike asked if Karen was also going to be penalized.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/07/formby-asked-and-labour-answered-reform-labours-complaints-system-but-will-she-listen/

You can understand why Formby doesn’t want a fuss kicked up about Streeting, or any of the other Blairites and supporters of the Israeli apartheid state. They’re actually a tiny minority in the party, but they have the full support of a deeply biased right-wing media. Whenever they are even lightly embarrassed or taken to task, their immediate response is to whine about how they’re being bullied by evil Trotskyites, Stalinists, Communists and anti-Semites. As Joan Ryan did after she lost her local party’s vote of ‘No Confidence’. And these lies are automatically retailed as absolute truth by the Beeb and everyone else.

But time is not on their side. They are only a minority and the strength of the response to Streeting’s smears and doxing, and Formby’s attempts to hush it all up, show how much ordinary party members have lost patience with them. And it is becoming glaringly clear to an increasing number of people outside the party that people like Streeting do not represent the real heart of the Labour party, and that their smears and accusations of anti-Semitism are nothing but grotesque lies. As for their own threats and bullying, it’s high time the leadership stood up to them and called them out on it. That would have saved a lot of grief if it had been done at the very start, no matter how hard they may have whined and moaned in response.

Maoist Rebel News on Nazi Coup Plot in Germany

November 30, 2018

I’ve absolutely no respect for Chairman Mao. Far from being a liberator, the former Chinese dictator was a ruthless butcher, who killed and brutalized millions during the ‘Cultural Revolution’. Over 60 million people died in the artificial famine his regime created. He and his comrades were also vandals and barbarians, who tried to destroy China’s millennia old culture by smashing monuments and priceless art treasures, as well as the ruthless persecution of religion, including Buddhism and Taoism, as well as Christianity.

But Jason Unruhe of Maoist Rebel News says some very interesting things and makes some very acute observations of contemporary capitalism. In this piece, he discusses reports, found only in the Mail and RT, that the German authorities discovered a Nazi plot by serving members of the armed forces to overthrow the government. The plot including 14,000 soldiers, who were members of Nazi organisations. It’s a trivial number compared to the vast numbers in the German armed forces, but it’s serious because they were genuine Nazis. In the event of widespread unrest, the plotters in the military planned to leave the civilian government to its fate, and start re-opening concentration camps, in which they would incarcerate leftists and members of ethnic minorities.

Unruhe notes that this story seems to have been comprehensively buried by all of the media, with the exception of the two above, because of its explosive nature. He also states that we don’t know how many people have been arrested. This is a serious threat to democracy and justice in Germany. It means anti-Fascists have to become better organized and equipped, with German antifas now in a dangerous position. This plot means that they are Europe’s first and best line of defence against a real Nazi resurgence.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the high number of real Nazis in Germany’s military. The Baader-Meinhof Gang in the 1970s were spurred on to carry out their terror attacks from the realization that the denazification campaign after the War had only affected a comparatively small number of those serving Hitler’s vile regime. Many others had escaped, and despite their horrific crimes were living peaceful, comfortable lives. The British and Americans recruited Nazi agents and collaborators, including men responsible for vicious pogroms and massacres against Jews, for the intelligence agencies during the Cold War. It thus really wouldn’t surprise me if they let many Nazi members of the armed forces keep their jobs in the Cold War as part of Europe’s defence against Stalin. Just as they set up Gladio, a left-behind resistance network that would fight Communism if the Warsaw Pact successfully invaded and conquered the West. The feared invasion mercifully never happened, but various elements of the Gladio network were involved in far right-wing terrorism. It’s possible something similar could have been behind the persistence of real Nazism in the armed forces. Also, the neo-Nazi papers on sale in the eastern parts of the Federal Republic after the War styled themselves as the newspapers for soldiers and peasants.

Fascism is now a very real threat in Europe, with the election of Far-right wing parties to power in Poland, Hungary and other countries in eastern Europe, Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, and the Fascist Alternative fuer Deutschland on the rise in Germany. The leaders and senior members of the latter do have Nazi, or neo-Nazi connections. They’ve made speeches denouncing Germany’s Holocaust memorial as a ‘national shame’, and declared that if they got into power they’d open an underground railway to Auschwitz.

But I’m not as pessimistic as Unruhe is here. I got the distinct impression that young Germans are very anti-totalitarian, and that German anarchists, who are very ready to fight Fascism on the streets, are very well organized.

This is, of course, if there’s anything to this story at all. I think it probably is true, but it may be fake news concocted for some strange reason, and released only by those two sources. I also wonder about the figures involved. 14,000 sounds very high. I’m not sure that the National Democrats or the German Republican Party, two of the main neo-Nazi parties before the AfD a few years ago, had anywhere near that number of members. They certainly didn’t have much popular support, as they always came very low down the list in German elections, although the NDP did manage to get something like four members elected to the Reichstag or somewhere in Germany before they were banned.

But if this is true, then it’s a frightening demonstration of how serious a threat Fascism now is. It has to be fought wherever it’s found, right across Europe, before it seizes power again and begins another Holocaust.

RT Video of Interfaith March for Religious Peace

November 6, 2018

This is another short video from RT UK, of an interfaith march held on Sunday to promote peace between the different religions in the UK. Most of the marchers appear to be Muslims. The women wear the chador, and the marchers hold banners with Islamic slogans written in Latin and Arabic script. Some of these are addressed to Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law, who is the fourth caliph for Sunni Muslims and revered by Shi’a as the first imam. There are also placards from Muslims Against Terrorism, and others proclaiming ‘They shall not divide us’ and ‘Love will win, Terror will lose’. They also have prayer mats, and some are shown praying.

At the beginning of the video, one young man says

What we’ve seen a lot of now is the voices of hate, the voices of extremism, whether that be from the right wing, from people who call themselves certain religious groups, and try to bring themselves up within the media. They’re getting a larger voice than they should, perhaps. What we want to do is trying to say is the majority of people do not believe in this. The majority of people have not got this kind of belief in their mind, of hatred between each other and causing friction.

He’s followed by a rabbi, surrounded by a group of clergy from the different faiths, including Christians and Muslims. The rabbi says

Today we are standing here, looking at the background of grassroots Muslims expressing a clear message of peace and harmony with all segments of the community. This is very important to dispel the myth about all Muslims being negative towards society. Here they are announcing, and they are declaring that the way forward that they desire is peace and harmony.

Amen to that. The bigots and fanatics are getting too much attention. And unfortunately the media recently has allowed a platform to Tommy Robinson and those like him, which are threatening to normalize Islamophobia. Muslims across the world have denounced terrorism. A year or so ago, India’s biggest Muslim organization issued their declaration against terrorism. But the Islamophobes continue to ask, completely spuriously, why Muslims haven’t denounced terrorism.

I have a feeling that the invocations to Ali probably mean that the marchers, or at least those shown, were Shi’a, which is the majority religion of Iran. The march is therefore extremely timely, as Trump seems to be whipping up war fever in America ready to invade them. As if too many countries already haven’t been turned into a bloodbath thanks to western military actions and invasions. Iran is an oppressive theocracy, which viciously persecutes political dissidents, trade unionists and those of its people who convert to Christianity. However, change, if it comes, has to come from the Iranian people themselves. Western action will only allow the mullahs there to claim that the various opposition movements are simply tools of the west to subvert the country and reimpose western domination.

And if Trump invades, it won’t be to liberate the country. He’ll simply be following the Neocon agenda of invading middle eastern and Islamic states, that have blocked American and Israeli interests. Like Iraq and Libya. They’d also like to invade Syria and Somalia as well. Well, the Iraq invasion left behind a bitterly divided society, in which the mercenaries the Americans used alongside regular troops ran riot, organized prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis simply for the hell of it, while the American military authorities ran death squads. The country’s oil fields and industry was seized for the benefit of western multinationals, as were major state enterprises. As with Libya, a relatively secular society in which women were safe to enjoy careers outside the home, and whose citizens had the benefit of free healthcare and education was destroyed. The economy and infrastructure was wrecked, and at least in the case of Iraq, the removal of all the trade tariffs protecting the country’s own businesses were torn down, so that everyone dumped their goods on them. The native businesses were driven into bankruptcy, and unemployment shot up to something like 60 per cent.

And this will happen again in Iran if Trump launches yet another invasion.

It’s time to stop this warmongering and aggression. Jeremy Corbyn’s right: there should be no more interventionist wars. Everyone needs to unite about this, whether they are religious or not. We did before, when two million of us in this country marched against Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

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’.

Book on the Evolution of the Human Brain

December 30, 2017

The Human Brain Evolving: Paleoneurological Studies in Honor of Ralph L. Holloway, edited by Douglas Broadfield, Michael Yuan, Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth. Stone Age Institute Press, Gosport Indiana and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. 2010.

This is another book I got much cheaper than the cover prise through Oxbow Books’ bargain catalogue. The book is a collection of papers from a two day conference by the Stone Age Institute in April 2007 to celebrate the life and work of Ralph Holloway, one of the great founders of the field. Holloway as he explains in the first paper in which he gives his personal perspective, started out studying metallurgy at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He then moved to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he took courses in anthropology and geology. After this, he enrolled in the Ph.D. programme in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. There he became interested in exploring how evolution had shaped the development of primate brains. His interest in this area led him to do research in the brain casts from australopithecine skulls in South Africa, where his mentor was professor Phillip V. Tobias. In 1969 he settled down to study paleoneurology fulltime. His decision was partly made by the testicular trauma he suffered the previous year by the cops while in a student demonstration in New York. This gave him considerable with Prof. Tobias as the struggles he was having against apartheid and the fuzz in South Africa.

As Holloway himself explains, any study of the evolutionary development of the specialised structure of the human brain was very strongly discouraged when he was a student. The simple assumption was that humans got more intelligent as their brains got bigger. There was no investigation about how the particular areas of the brain, in which specific brain functions are located, developed. Indeed this was actively and vehemently discouraged. He says that his first mentor at Berkeley was Professor Sherwood Washburn, who kindly suggested that he take various courses in anatomy. When Holloway told him that he wanted to take the course in neuroanatomy, however, Washburn was horrified, and said that he would no longer be Holloway’s mentor if he did so, fearing that it would make him too specialised to be a physical anthropologist, an argument Holloway found unconvincing. He goes on to point out the paucity of material in physical anthropological textbooks from the 1950s to the present, pointing out that only one, published in 2008 actually does because its co-author, John Allen, is a neurologist.

The book’s contents include the following papers.

Chapter 1: The Human Brain Evolving: A Personal Retrospective, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 2: The Maternal Energy Hypothesis of Brain Evolution: An Update, Robert D. Martin and Karen Isler.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of Brain Size: The Evolution of Conceptual Complexity, P. Tom Schoeneman.

Chapter 4: Human Brain Endocasts and the LB1 Hobbit Brain, Ralph L. Holloway.

Chapter 5: The Fossil Hominid Brains of Dmanisi: D 2280 and D2282, Dominique Grimaud-Herve and David Lordkipandze.

Chapter 6: The Evolution of the Parietal Cortical Areas in the Human Genus: Between Structure and Cognition, by Emiliano Bruner.

Chapter 8: Study of Human Brain Evolution at the Genetic Level, by Eric J. Vallender and Bruce T. Lahn.

Chapter 9: Brain Reorganisation in Humans and Apes, by Katerina Semendeferi, Nicole Barger and Natalie Schenker.

Chapter 10: Searching for Human Brain Specializations with Structural and Functional Neuroimaging, by James K. Rilling.

Chapter 11: Structural and Diffusion MRI of a Gorilla Brain Performed Ex Vivo at 9.4 Tesla, by Jason A. Kaufman, J. Michael Tyszka, Francine “Penny” Patterson, Joseph M. Erwin, Patrick R. Hof, and John M. Allman.

Chapter 12: The role of Vertical Organisation in the Encephalisation and Reorganisation of the Primate Cortex, Daniel P. Buxhoeveden.

Chapter 13: The Evolution of Cortical Neurotransmitter Systems Among Primates and their Relevance to Cognition, Mary Ann Raghanti, Patrick R. Hof, and Chet C. Sherwood.

Chapter 14: Sex Differences in the Corpus Callosum of Macaca fascicularis and Pan troglodytes, by Douglas C. Broadfield.

Chapter 15: Dental Maturation, Middle Childhood and the Pattern of Growth and Development in Earlier Hominins, by Janet Monge and Alan Mann.

Chapter 16: Perikymata Counts in Two Modern Human Sample Populations, by Michael Sheng-Tien Yuan.

Chapter 17: Mosaic Cognitive Evolution: The case of Imitation Learning, by Francys Subiaul.

Chapter 18: The Foundations of Primate Intelligence and Language Skills, by Duane M. Rumbaugh, E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, ,James E. King and Jared P. Taglialatella.

Chapter 19: Hominid Brain Reorganisation, Technological Change, and Cognitive Complexity, Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick.

Clearly this is a written at an advanced, technical level for a specialist academic audience. I’ve done little but skim through it so far, but have found some fascinating facts. For example, Holloway’s paper on the brain of the Flores Hobbit recognises that it does share some features of modern microcephalics, but also others that are very different. This could mean that the creature could have been an archaic hominid suffering from a peculiar form of neurological defects that now no longer exists.

Emiliano Bruner’s paper argues from the study of Neanderthal and Early Modern Humans that modern humans’ parietal lobes are actually larger than would have been predicted by evolutionary theory for hominids of our size.

Anne Weaver’s paper argues that, in contrast to the standard view that this area of the brain has not evolved in the course of the development of modern humans, 30,000 years ago the size of the Cerebellum increased relative to the Cerebrum. The cerebellum is the part of the human brain dedicated to motor coordination and related tasks.

Douglas Broadfield’s paper on sex difference in chimp brains takes further Holloway’s and Kitty Lacoste’s 1982 paper, which controversially showed that that the corpus callosum in women was larger than those of men. His study of this part of the brain in chimps shows that this development is unique to humans.

Paleoneurology is still controversial, and Holloway holds some very controversial opinions. He’s an evolutionary reductionist, who considers culture to be the sole product of evolution, and religion and politics to be intrinsically evil. It’s an opinion he recognises is not held by the vast majority of people.

He also laments how the anthropology course at Columbia has abandoned physical anthropology, and been taken over completely by social anthropology, stating that the majority appear ‘postmodern, post colonialist, feminist and political’. This led to him being marginalised and isolated at the faculty.

He also states that it is stupid, for reasons of ‘political correctness’ not to consider that the same evolutionary processes that have shaped the different physical forms of the various human races, have not also affected their mental capacities and evolution too. He describes this research as intensely political and near-suicidal, and describes how he was accused of being a Nazi because of his investigation into it. He states that one critic described it as the kind of research that got his relatives put into concentration camps.

Professor Holloway is clearly a decent, humane man, who has in his day stood up for liberal values and protested against institutional racism. However, while he states that the neurological differences between male and female brains are ‘more or less accepted’ today, there are still women neurologists, who argue against them. More recently they’ve argued that sex difference in the brain are a continuum between the extremely male and extremely female, with most people lumped somewhere in between. In fact, the sex differences in the brain are so small that you simply can’t tell by looking whether a brain is male or female.

Furthermore, anthropological science was used in the period of full-blown European colonialism to justify White rule over their non-White subject peoples, and certainly has been used by Nazis and Fascists to justify their persecution of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other ‘subhumans’. After the War, the British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley cited scientific papers on the differences in intelligence between the races to argue for a form of apartheid that would lead to the complete separation of Blacks and Jews from White, gentile Brits. This would affect only those, who were allowed to remain in Britain, because their culture was compatible with White, gentile British civilisation. See the section 13, ‘The Colour Question in Britain, Immigration, the Racial Question’ in his wretched book, Mosley – Right or Wrong, published by Lion Books in 1961. And of course, like all Fascist after the War, Mosley denied that he was actually racist!

Holloway knows from personal experience just how touchy this subject is, and is aware that the lower IQ scores made by Black Americans is still a subject of intense and acrimonious debate. But he thinks it silly to rule out the question of racial differences in human brain structure because of current political dogma.

This is too complacent. My impression here is Prof. Holloway has this rather more tolerant view of the acceptability of this direction of neurological investigation, because he is a White man from a privileged background. After all, in the 1950s very few working or lower middle class Americans could afford to do a university or college degree. It simply has not affected him personally, although he has stood on the barricades to denounce racism and support other liberal causes during the student unrest of the late ’60s. The same applies to women. In the second edition of the BBC popular science programme QED in the ’80s, a female scientist presented a programme on how male scientists down the centuries had tried to argue that women were biologically inferior, before concluding that ‘the tables are turning’.

Racial neurology and the neurology of gender differences is particularly dangerous now with the rise of the Alt Right and real White supremacists and Nazis surrounding Donald Trump, and the whole milieu of the Republican party and Libertarians in America. These are intensely racist, despising Blacks, Asians and Latinos, and using scientific evidence like the highly controversial ‘Bell Curve’ to argue that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. I’ve also seen the islamophobes argue that Muslims also shouldn’t be allowed into Britain from the Middle East and Pakistan, as the average intelligence of the people from those regions is 75! Which to my mind is just ridiculous.

I’ve also heard from a friend, who keeps up with the latest neurological research by talking to some of the scientists involved, that recent studies of neuroplasticity have cast doubt on the amount of specialisation of brain function in specific brain regions. Moreover, everyone’s brain, male and female, is weird up differently. We may in fact know far less about the nature of the human brain, a point made by the neurologist and Humanist Professor Raymond Tallis in his book, Aping Mankind, written against precisely this kind of reductionism, which tries to reduce human cognition and culture by viewing it solely in terms of Darwinian theory in which humans are simply another species of ape.

This is a fascinating book, and offers many insights into the evolution of the human brain. But this is an area that is still developing, and intensely controversial. As such, other scientific opinions are available and should be read as well.

Steeleye Span’s Seasonal Hit ‘Gaudete’

December 29, 2017

I remember when at least one pop band nearly every year during the 1970s and 1980s released a Christmas single. The classic examples are Slade’s ‘Well, Here It is, Merry Christmas’, and one of the other glam rock band’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’. These seem to have disappeared these past few years, possibly due to the collapse of the charts. A friend of mine told me that it was now nearly impossible to compile them in the way that had been done a few decades ago, because the music scene has become very fragmented, with different people listening to a wide number of musical genres. Or it may just be that public taste has changed, and people are no longer interested in buying songs about Christmas. Some of this might be due to the increasing secularisation and religious plurality of British multicultural society, but I doubt it. After all, people still put on school nativity plays, and there’s even been two British comedies about them. This is despite the scare stories run by the Daily Mail about ‘left-wing’ councils or schools banning such plays in case they offend Muslims.

One of the great pieces of British Christmas pop from the 1970s was Steeleye Span’s ‘Gaudete’, which was released in Christmas 1972. Steeleye Span were one of the great folk rock bands, who produced a series of great rock versions of folk songs. ‘Gaudete’ itself is a medieval carol, celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s in Latin. The first line means, ‘Rejoice – Christ is born of the Virgin Mary’.

I found this video of Steeleye Span with their lead singer, Maddy Pryor, performing it on the Park Records channel on YouTube. It was staged as part of the 35th anniversary tour. The band is obviously older, looking very definitely middle aged, but their musical skill has not dimmed with the years.

I realise that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I hope whatever your views on religion, you can still enjoy a piece of great medieval music, performed by some of the great folk artists of the 1970s.

Here it is. Enjoy!

A Soviet Space Santa

December 24, 2017

After the Russian Revolution, the Soviet Union became an officially atheist state. Christmas as a state holiday was banned, and religion was very strongly repressed and persecuted. The trappings of the holiday was, however, kept but transferred instead to New Year, so you had a ‘New Year’s Tree’ and so forth.

This is another fascinating pic from 70sscifiart. It shows a Soviet ‘New Year’ Santa looking out at one of the Salyut space stations, which the Russians were then using to smash the records for the longest stays in orbit by humans. It shows both the seasonal greetings and the pride the Russians had, and still have, in the achievements of their space programme.

70sscifiart is on Tumblr at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/. Go there for more vintage space art.