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Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Philosopher Who Gave the New Atheists Their Theoretical Foundations Became Convinced that God Exists

Splendid sunset on the sea - from the website Human Health and Animal Ethics

British professor Antony Flew wrote over thirty philosophical works which established the foundations for atheism for half a century.

His 1950 paper "Theology and Falsification" was the most reprinted philosophical publication of the 20th century.

In December 2004 Flew announced in a symposium and subsequent video that he had completely changed his view and now, based on scientific evidence, believed that God exists.

In 2007 he wrote the book There Is a God (Amazon USA) (Amazon UK) , subtitled How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

This is the man without whose ideas the various Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dennett, Wolpert, Stenger, (not to mention Christopher Hitchens and Pat Condell) et al, none of whom is a philosopher, would not have had rational arguments to support their faith: atheism.

So it's not surprising that, when on 9 December 2004 the international journalist agency Associated Press gave the world the news about the British Professor of Philosophy's "conversion" with the headine "Famous Atheist Now Believes in God: One of World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, Based on Scientific Evidence", atheists became hysterical.

Roy Abraham Varghese, in his Preface to There Is a God, wrote:

"One atheist Web site tasked a correspondent with giving monthly updates on Flew's falling away from the true faith. Inane insults and juvenile caricatures were common in the freethinking blogosphere. The same people who complained about the Inquisition and witches being burned at the stake were now enjoying a little heresy hunting of their own. The advocates of tolerance were not themselves very tolerant. And, apparently, religious zealots don't have a monopoly on dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism, and paranoia.

"But raging mobs cannot rewrite history. And Flew's position in the history of atheism transcends anything that today's atheists have on offer."

Photo of sea sunset courtesy of the website Human Health and Animal Ethics

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Queen Christmas Message Does Not Mention the Plight of Christians

Baghdad Church burnt by Muslims

Happy Christmas everyone!

I watched the Queen's 2013 Christmas message on the BBC.

It would have been nice, if she hadn't told two lies, one by action and one by omission.

The former was: "For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God's love, as we strive daily to become better people."

It's quite obvious that not in all faiths believers strive to become better people, unless we consider as self-improvement perfectioning suicide-bombing and beheading skills in order to impose one's faith - to be specific, Islam - to the whole infidel world with whatever available means.

And this takes us directly to the lie by omission. Her traditional Christmas message could have been a good opportunity for the Queen to remind her subjects not just in Britain but also in the rest of the Commonwealth that not all Christians are free to celebrate Christmas.

For years now, Christmas has been a time when Christians in many parts of the world - thanks to some faithful of the "religion" mentioned above, in their striving for self-amelioration - are routinely massacred and have to fear for their lives more than ever.

At least 38 Christians have just been killed and 70 wounded in Baghdad by two car bombs, one on Wednesday targeting a Christian market and the other on Christmas Day outside a church, targeting the faithful after a service.

On December 21 in Syria, some of those heroic freedom fighters that Obama and Cameron are so eager to help, anti-Assad "rebels" - otherwise known as bloody, murderous, kill-the-infidels-wherever-you-find-them jihadists - fired multiple mortar shells on a church, killing 12 Christians and injuring many others.

The Christians, clearly having a different concept from Muslims of what self-betterment is, were distributing charity help to the local population.

And, to get closer to the Queen's own home turf, the Commonwealth includes superb examples of countries whose Muslim majority takes a special pride in becoming better and better people at discriminating against and ferociously persecuting the Christian minority.

One of them is Nigeria, which has been rightfully called the most deadly country to be a Christian. Another is Pakistan where, after many years of continuous attacks on the Christian community, 2013 has been one of the worst of them. In September, 96 people were killed and 130 wounded in twin suicide attacks on a church in Peshawar, the most deadly attacks of this kind since independence.

Why hasn't the Queen, who always talks about the Commonwealth in her Christmas messages and this year expanded on the Commonwealth Games, found in herself the courage to speak up for the millions of her fellow Christians who are subjected to psychological and physical torture just for their belief in the same Jesus Christ whose birth we are today celebrating (in case someone, among the trees, cards, shopping and central London's "winter" lights, had forgotten)?

Friday, 20 December 2013

ObamaCare: A Word of Warning from Britain

First published on FrontPage Magazine.

By Enza Ferreri

In light of the ongoing ObamaCare debacle, it can be interesting to see how a state-run national health system free for all, like Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) – Obama’s favourite model -, has failed to deliver.

The UK is one of the few countries in the world – mostly concentrated in Europe - to have completely free universal health provision. It sounds cuddly and comfy, but, like in all utopias and fairy tales, reality is a different matter.

The NHS is Britain's sacred cow. No party, if it wants to be elected, can scrap it or reform it in any real sense. All parties have to recite the mantra: "The NHS is safe with us. We are ring-fencing the NHS".

In 2009, British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, interviewed on Fox News (see above video) about the impending Obamacare, warned Americans that the NHS is a “60-year-old relic” and claimed he “would not wish it on anyone”. Hannan was then condemned back home as “evil”, “unpatriotric” and “a traitor”.

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson said that the NHS is “the closest thing that the British have to a religion”. And Labour politicians managed to create a climate in which this institution was considered sacrosanct, untouchable by criticism.

But it’s becoming increasingly impossible now to keep that pretence.

The NHS, born on 5 July 1948, is the first system of free universal medical care ever established. The 1942 Beveridge Report, influential in founding the UK’s modern welfare state of which the NHS is part, was conceived and implemented during a special time, when the population was not only ethnically and culturally homogenous, but also feeling like a great family, bound together by the heroic struggle of WW2.

The fundamental principles of the NHS, then as now, have been: 1) services provided free at the point of use; 2) services financed from central taxation; 3) everyone eligible for care (even people temporarily resident or visiting the country).

According to Treasury figures, NHS spending almost doubled in real terms from £57 billion in 2002/03 to £109 billion in 2012/13, and is forecast for £129 billion in 2014.

Britain spends 18.5% of its annual budget on health, the second highest expenditure.

The NHS has always been beleaguered by problems and cash crises, and needing reform.

All “reforms” attempted through the years have only amounted to internal changes and restructurings - giving similar bodies different names. The current “reform” is no exception. Crisis has always been the NHS’s permanent condition.

Its original ideal is too expensive even in the best conditions and, with health care becoming more costly and population ageing, the conditions are going to worsen.

But more money doesn’t mean better care. Department of Health reports admit that, despite significant and consistent increases in funding, hospital productivity has fallen.

A study in the prestigious Lancet of health data over 20 years in 19 countries shows Britain lagging behind in 12th place.

The BBC reported on the research:
Many deaths happen because the NHS is not good enough at preventing people getting sick or because treatment does not rival that seen elsewhere in Europe, says Mr Hunt who is responsible for health policy in England.
By cancer survival rate comparisons, the NHS is one of the worst health systems in the Western world, even overtaken by former European communist countries.

The remedies are worse than the ills. After having created problems and produced terrible results, governments, to save their face and not risk losing votes, try to find band-aid solutions that make things even worse.

One instance of that is setting targets, which has led to patients being neglected to meet them:
Another example occurred at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, where over three years from 2005 between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly as managers ruthlessly cut costs — particularly nursing numbers — to meet targets the Labour government laid down to win ‘foundation’ hospital status.

Doctors were diverted from critically-ill patients in order to deal with less serious cases to meet the target of discharging all patients from Accident & Emergency units within four hours of admission.

Vulnerable patients were left starving, in soiled bedsheets or screaming in pain. Some became so dehydrated they drank from flower vases…

Apparently, the [Francis] report will damn not just the Mid-Staffordshire management but a ‘culture of fear’ from Whitehall down to the wards, as managers became fixated on meeting targets and protecting ministers from political criticism.

Countless families in Mid-Staffordshire have been left grieving for loved ones who were, in effect, killed by the National Health Service.
This is by no means an exceptional case. Inquiries follow scandals and are followed by new horror stories.

Top public health officials, from the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt down to Medical Director of NHS England Sir Bruce Keogh, have acknowledged that in many cases patients were abused, neglected and bullied, and have expressed serious concerns about the service at some NHS trusts.

In July of this year, 14 trusts were found to have unusually high mortality rates. In August, up to 42,000 deaths a year due to kidney failure were linked to dehydration in patients who were not given water by NHS staff. In September, it was discovered that 13,000 every year die of sepsis because of delays in diagnosis and treatment – negligence which also costs the NHS more money. In October, we had: the previous Labour government was accused of a pre-election cover-up about hospitals with higher-than-normal death rates, “with inspectors finding blood stains on floors and curtains and badly soiled mattresses”; NHS doctors were discovered to have been routinely giving performance-enhancing drugs to patients to “enhance their recovery rates”; and NHS managers getting hundreds of thousands of pounds in redundancy just before being given other NHS jobs – this was due to the latest NHS “reform”, which is simply a reshuffling. In November, it was found that NHS dementia patients were left hungry for hours and not given medication at the right time; a £200 million NHS fraud scandal was uncovered, with patients illegally claiming free services, and dentists, agencies and firms working for the NHS committing fraud and sending false invoices; 19 more hospitals were investigated over their links to allegations of sexual abuse by late TV celebrity Jimmy Savile, making a total of 32; it was discovered that the NHS spent nearly a fifth of its budget for maternity services on clinical negligence insurance in England in 2012, nearly £500m; there was news that Colchester hospital has been fiddling with patient records to improve its waiting times for cancer treatment, with potentially life-threatening consequences. In December, it’s been disclosed that up to 170 operations are cancelled at the last minute each day by NHS hospitals for bed shortages, faulty equipment and lack of staff.

This is just a sample, in no way a complete record. Not bad for less than a half year’s work.

A former London correspondent for Time sounds very reassuring:
Health care was more psychically seamless in the U.K. Nobody worried about going bankrupt if they got sick.
Nobody goes bankrupt individually, but everybody will go bankrupt with the rest of the country because the NHS and the whole welfare state are taking Britain to the verge of economic collapse, with an unsustainable and growing national debt.

Tim Kelsey, a director at NHS England, the central body in charge of the health service, warned in July:
We are about to run out of cash in a very serious fashion... our analysis will disclose that by 2020 there will be a £30bn funding gap in the healthcare system. [Emphasis added]
Senior NHS doctors and managers said that up to 20 hospitals across the country may have to close to save the NHS from financial ruin.

Although the American system of employer-provided medical care is different from the British system, comparisons of the latter with Medicare, Medicaid and Obama’s “vision” for public healthcare can be made. When healthcare is mostly paid by a third party, there’s little incentive to economize on it, and as a consequence expenditures rise dramatically. Late US economist Milton Friedman would call the NHS a plan for the “socialisation of medicine”, flawed like all government programmes to control social fields.

Two weeks ago, during a visit to Vladimir Bukovsky, I asked him if he thought that looking after the health of a whole country is a task a government can be efficient at. He replied: "There are very few things that governments are efficient at".

Interestingly, the US has always been used as a bogeyman to scare Europeans into believing that they need universal healthcare. Look at what happens in America, where there is no state-run health system, Leftists and media say.

However, that the question "Are you insured?" asked in US hospitals is caused by lack of free healthcare for all, European-style, is far from the truth. It was free medical care provided by employers during the war - to attract workers at a time of price and wage controls - that led to the current situation in the US. Most Europeans have never heard of the existence of Medicare and Medicaid, and believe that Americans who can’t afford insurance are practically left to die.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

For Sexual Relativism and Homophilia the Tide Is Turning

There are undoubted similarities between Muslim activists on one hand and LGBT and feminist activists on the other.

Both groups want to impose their views - and now, with same-sex marriage, laws - on everybody else.

And both react badly when they don't succeed.

At the moment, as I previously wrote, the trend towards total normalisation of homosexuality is experiencing a setback. Maybe people start having enough of it, and are waking up.

The above video shows events on 23rd-25th November, when a loud and threatening mob attempted to storm the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (John the Baptist) in Argentina.

In the video, 7,000 lesbian and pro-abortion feminists mock, abuse, spray-paint, sexually harass, spit on and physically assault 1,500 young Catholic men just for forming a human shield, standing and praying around their own Cathedral, so that the activists could not storm in, desecrate and ransack it. Displaying their "tolerance", the feminists spray-paint writings the nicest of which is "Burn the church".

Then they burn an effigy of Argentinian-born Pope Francis. The similarity of behaviour with Muslim crowds is astonishing. The feminist, LGBT mob even ululates, as Muslim women do. Savagery replicates barbarism.

Many other similar attacks have been perpetrated against Christians, churches and other Christian symbols by homosexual activists, feminists and - guess whom - Muslims. Assaults that, had they been directed against the perpetrators themselves, would have been called "hate crimes", but committing them against Christians, for some inexplicable reason, makes them OK.

In Croatia, on 1st December people voted in a referendum to support the definition “marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman”, definition which will now become part of the country's constitution. 450,000 petition signatures were necessary to call for the referendum, but the pro-family campaigners collected 750,000 in only two weeks in a country of about 4.4 million (this would be the equivalent of getting 54 million signatures in the United States).

Two thirds of the electorate voted in favour of this new Constitutional Amendment: 66% to 34%. Liberty Counsel website elaborates and accuses:
Earlier this year, the Croatian government drafted a bill that would create homosexual “life partners.” Recognizing this as a step towards same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church organized the citizens’ referendum. The citizens stood strong against government, media, and even international pressure.

“The Obama administration is working to undermine marriage and family around the world,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

According to a White House fact sheet outlining President Obama’s actions, Advancing LGBT Rights at Home and Abroad, the Obama administration is actively proliferating homosexuality around the world:

• Working with the Global Equality Fund, LGBT Global Development Partnership, and government and private-sector partners to train LGBT leaders;

• Working with our embassies overseas and civil society on the ground to develop strategies to advance LGBT status in countries around the world;

• Supporting resolutions specific to LGBT issues;

• Cosponsoring the UN Human Rights Council resolution on LGBT rights; and

• Ensuring that LGBT persons are included in broader human rights resolutions.

In 2014 the United States will host an international conference of homosexual donors and activists to coordinate and strategize LGBT international public policy initiatives.

“The memories of so-called ‘progressive’ regimes controlling society are fresh in the minds of Eastern Europeans. They know if the people stand united, they can overcome these ‘progressive’ ideals that wreak havoc on families and communities,” Staver points out. Croatia joins Serbia, Montenegro, Poland, Hung[a]ry, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Latvia in passing laws to affirm natural marriage.

“President Obama’s anticolonial ideology is shrinking America’s influence in national political affairs, but he is a colonist when it comes to forcing his anti-God and anti-values ideology upon foreign countries. Obama’s ideology is morally bankrupt and anti-American,” says Staver. [Emphasis added]
Indeed, Eastern European countries, although generally poorer than their Western counterparts, seem to be more politically aware and intelligent than those. Having experienced socialism (for Marx, the first stage towards communism) and a communist government, they know what those evils really are like, and correctly recognise Western "liberal" agendas in various areas, from the welfare state to the normalisation of homosexuality (not to mention transexuality), as different faces of the same monster they knew in the bad old days.

In Croatia, the referendum campaign came in response to proposals by the current Leftist government to extend marriage-like benefits to homosexual partners. Having witnessed what happened in the West, where this kind of stealth approach has led to homomarriage and same-sex couples' adoption rights - and we haven't seen the end of the process yet -, the Christian, pro-family activists have been endowed, so to speak, with the power of prediction and been able to stop this train of events before desensitisation stepped in and it became too late.

Similar story in Slovenia, Croatia’s neighbour which shares borders with Italy and Austria. In March 2012 the people of Slovenia rejected Leftist social engineering by repealing a new “Family Code” adopted the year before by the Slovenian Parliament, which would have cleared the path towards complete equalisation of the homosexual and conjugal marriage and towards homosexual child-adoption. It was the first referendum of this kind in an EU member state, and is likely to become an important point of reference for any further legislation in this area in Central Europe.

The piece "Croatia: post-communist nomenklatura wants to re-define marriage, but civil society resists", written before the Croatian referendum, explains:
In both Slovenia and Croatia, the debate around so-called “LGBT rights” evidences the growing disconnection between the ruling classes (which, due to their lack of genuine moral and intellectual qualities, one would hesitate to describe as “elites”) and the population. In both countries, politics and economy are under the control of a small – mostly ex-communist – nomenklatura seeking to ingratiate itself with the influential pressure-groups that currently act as opinion-makers throughout the greater part of Western and Northern Europe. These elites believe that, in order to be worthy members of the EU, their countries need to recognize same-sex “marriages”, and be it against the declared will of the people.

The nomenklatura’s contempt for democracy becomes apparent in a statement by the country’s president Ivo Josipović, a former communist, who said he had doubts “whether we need such a referendum”. The Minister of Social Politics and Youth, Milanka Opačić, called the referendum “expensive and completely unnecessary”. In addition, the Prime Minister of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, called the referendum “completely pointless” and said that “this will be the first and last time that such a referendum is announced”.

Pointless? Yes, because the government appears determined to simply ignore the outcome of the plebiscite. The Minister or [sic] Public Administration, Arsen Bauk, has defiantly announced that, in case the referendum is successful (and the introduction of same-sex marriages thus becomes impossible), a new bill will be drawn up to grant homosexual partnerships the same legal rights as marriages. Since the fall of Communism, one has never seen a Croatian politician treating a democratic expression of the electorate’s will with such arrogance.

However, arrogance and brazen contempt for democracy are by now known to be the trademarks of the homosexualist lobby. It suffices to remember the way in which the French government violently cracked down on the peaceful participants of a demonstration against the re-definition of marriage, or the fact that the European Commission funds the budget of ILGA-Europe, a radical homosexualist lobby group, with more than 1 million Euro of taxpayer’s money every year – a contribution without which this fake “non-governmental organization” would simply cease to exist.

But in the meantime, the real civil society is slowly awakening. The foreseeable outcome of the referendum in Croatia will provide further encouragement. [Emphasis added]
I conclude with Matt Barber, who writes in WND's article "America's chief export: Immorality":
Indeed, under this president, America’s chief export has become immorality. Sexual deviancy, murder of the unborn, redistribution of wealth and other evils have been sanitized and propagandized as “basic human rights.”

Thus, when this arrogant man stands before the U.N. and decries those nations that refuse to embrace his special brand of pagan relativism, we shouldn’t be surprised if those nations push back.

And so they push back...

For instance, there has been, of late, great weeping and gnashing of teeth among mainstream media – and other circles of intolerant “tolerance” – over successful efforts by several foreign governments to stem the tide of “LGBT” propaganda within their own sovereign borders.

Russia, India, Croatia, Peru, Jamaica and even Australia, for instance, along with other nations, are now moving to inoculate themselves from the fast-metastasizing cancer of sexual relativism.

Having witnessed, from afar, the poisonous results of such propaganda here in the U.S. (the hyper-sexualization of children, the deconstruction of natural marriage and family, the rampant spread of sexually transmitted disease, religious persecution and the like), there seems an emerging global recognition that the radical “LGBT” agenda – a pet cause of Obama’s – is not about securing “human rights,” but, rather, is about promulgating moral wrongs.

The world is finding that forcing others to “tolerate” – indeed, to celebrate – unfettered licentiousness, under penalty of law, is as harmful to society as is said licentiousness to those who practice it...

While America may be lost (though I pray not), it would seem that her traditional values – values still shared by many, if not most, of the American people – are, nonetheless, gaining momentum abroad.

And that is encouraging.

Now let’s pray those values come full circle.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Fight Against Redefining Marriage Is Not Over

I've received the latest email news from Coalition for Marriage, saying that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has climbed down from its proposal of merging official figures for same-sex and traditional marriage with “no differentiation possible”. This would have airbrushed true marriage from official data.

Before the proposal was implemented, an ONS consultation asked whether it was “important” that “some tables” could show separate heterosexual and homosexual marriage figures, which received an enormous volume of responses from Coalition for Marriage supporters insisting for separate figures.

The ONS has now released a statement saying that it is not going to combine the figures, but “will publish marriage and divorce statistics in the future where figures for opposite sex and same sex couples are shown separately”.

Coalition for Marriage comments: "So the statistics for traditional marriage are not to be a state secret."

After the passing of the homomarriage law in Britain, several people have given up hoping and fighting.

This episode shows that there are still many differences that we could make. The homosexual marriage experiment may still not succeed, especially in the long term. Changes made can be reversed.

A piece of evidence for that comes from the PS to the email, saying:
[T]he Australian High Court has overturned a same-sex marriage law in the Australian Capital Territory. The law was passed a few weeks ago, but the judges unanimously ruled that it was inconsistent with federal law, which defines marriage in Australia as the union of one man and one woman.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Historically Distorted Perceptions of Islamic Violence

Vienna, Schönbrunn Palace

Towards the end of the last millennium, when the year 2000 was near, many people were asked what was in their view the most important invention of those thousand years. The majority gave answers like the television, or the computer, or the internet.

The Italian philosopher Umberto Eco answered: the cultivation of the bean, whose introduction in the Middle Ages freed the European peoples from the spectre of hunger. In an essay translated and published in the English newspaper The Guardian, he argued in favour of the "humble bean", this highly-proteic, wholesomely-nutritious vegetable.

He explained how it's easy to focus only on the most recent inventions, for the same distortion or optical illusion which is at the root of perspective in art.

I agree with him on that: closeness in time causes events near to us to appear bigger than they objectively are in relation to other events, in much the same way as closeness in space makes near things appear bigger.

Faced with the increasing threat of Islamic terrorism, people in the West have tried to understand it in terms which are near to us and our modern views of the world: Third World poverty, the so-much repeated mantra of the "widening gap between rich and poor nations", the Palestinian cause, the perceived injustice of Arab and Muslim humiliation, and similar.

Very rarely one hears or reads a commentator capable of placing this modern phenomenon into a wider temporal context, of putting it into historical perspective.

And yet it would be sufficient to listen to what some leaders of that terrorism are saying. Osama bin Laden openly referred to the West as Crusaders (as well as Zionist).

This is exactly the way the Muslim world sees us: descendants not only of the Crusaders, but also of those European states who defeated the Ottoman Empire when it was about to conquer Vienna in the 17th century. That was the moment when their seemingly never-ending expansion was put to a halt. It happened only three centuries ago: after all, it's not such a long time in the three-thousand years of history of the Western civilization. Especially, it's not such a long time for people like the Muslims. Again, time is perceived differently according to what is being done or happens during that time. Many things have happened to us, Europe in 1647 was hugely different from now; but not so many changes have happened in the Islamic world.

Photo by Nagesh Kamath (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0).

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why When We Say 'Racism' Do We Think of White Racism?

Dubai Marina

Some time ago I found an interesting post in a blog by an Indian in London.

The post, now removed, was entitled "Dubai - Still Racist?", and said:
Dubai (and the UAE) then and now is arguably one amongst the more institutionally racist places in the world with a strict hierarchy of privilege. Arabs are at the top of the heap, followed closely by Western Europeans and US (called the Whites in Dubai), Eastern Europeans, Philipinos and finally Indians and Pakistanis. The different communities were completely isolated from each other in terms of housing, schools, social clubs – it was like two different worlds – a glittering world inhabited by the Whites and the Arabs, and a more dreary one by us lot…

Advertisements for jobs explicitly state – "No Asians Please". Salary differentials based on nationality abound…

What is really interesting is that most of the younger Whites who live in Dubai often come from pluralistic, tolerant societies and are as embarrassed about the obvious racism as we are.
I find it so interesting that, when people think of racism, they almost invariably think of white racism against other ethnic groups or cultures, whereas in fact white racism is a minuscule phenomenon in comparison with the racism you find among other peoples.

Since then, I encountered many other online sources of information on racism in Dubai, from which I picked up a few lines.

From Dubai: wretched hive of racism and bigotry:
Israelis are not allowed in.
Dubai is a racist state.
From Silent discrimination – a fact of life in Dubai:
[D]iscriminatory job ads, racist door policies in bars and restaurants and stereotypical expectations are still everyday occurrences that – and I’m not condoning this at all – often slip by with barely a raised eyebrow.

While job ads these days don’t tend to mention physical attributes, photos are always required with the application, and it’s still common and accepted for employers to specify “Westerners only”, “Filipinas required” or “Indian national wanted”. Furthermore, there’s an unspoken understanding that the salary offered will depend on the nationality of the applicant. An Indian passport-holder, for example, will be paid less for the same job than a similarly qualified man of Indian origin holding a British passport.

(Interestingly, housemaids, when placing ads seeking work, are also guilty of this: Many request a job with a “white” or “Western” family, the implication being that the terms will be better and the salary higher than from any other type of employer.)

On a daily basis, this “silent” racism translates as a European sometimes getting served ahead of an Indian in a queue; a taxi driver picking up a Westerner rather than the Filipino he saw first; a European biting her tongue when an Emirati pushes in front at the till. While perhaps not agreeing with it, over time, many expats become desensitised to it, which is presumably how the China Times ad – which would have been inconceivable in the West –slipped through the net.
From Ten things I hate about Dubai :
Would it be racist of me to say that the Arabs are kind of racist towards us South Asian folks?

They have their nose in the air and most of the times don’t prefer to interact with South Asians. There is no such thing as labourer rights too, by the way. Most of the labourers are Pathans from Pakistan.

My brother and his South Asian friends are often stopped by the police and told to carry all his identification documents at all times.
From U.A.E Racism Against Immigrant !!!:
I believe U.A.E is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to justice,fareness [sic] and human rights.
From Racial Discrimination In Dubai:
Those arabs are very racist, the first day I arrived in dubai airport, the immigration officer was speaking english to the rest of the white guys and when it got to my turn he became deaf and dumb and was behaving funny to me, I had to ask him what his problem was and why he was not treating the rest in the same manner he treated me.
From Racism in Dubai:
the emirati arabs are the most racist people i have ever come across. i am a well educated british/pakistani that has had to put up with subhuman treatment. ive been sworn at, gotten into fights and spat on in the street by [expletive] arab knobends.the arabs seem to be very proud of themselves but they dont have much to be proud of, they are just a group of bedouin morons. they are arrogant and are always rude to asians. it is strange to think that i left the uk because of some racist people i was unfortunate to work with, but in dubai it is even worse. i hope the usa decides to bomb the uae next, because these people make me sick!
From Why I left Dubai and won’t come back:
The UAE is a racist country, sometimes playing it subtle and some other times being too awkwardly open about it. This is not the UAE’s fault by the way. It is the collective prejudice of all the different cultures that get mixed up in Dubai.

Ever since I started dating someone from a different race, I noticed this differentiation way more than before. So much that sometimes, eating at a restaurant, after my Indian partner pays the bill, I have heard staff saying things such as “Thank you M’am. Please come again M’am”. As if ‘Sir’ was invisible.

Work discrimination based on country of origin is ridiculously common. Where else in the world would you read job ads that include sentences such as:
“Only UK/Australians”
“Seeking maid. Filipino only”
“Indians please abstain”
“Job position for Arabs only”.

With work discrimination comes salary discrimination. There is an unofficial rule that the job market in Dubai seems to follow: a person should get double the salary that he/she would earn in their country of origin. This should be enough to justify someone to move but… how does this make sense when everyone living in the same city would have the same level in expenses?

This ad leads me to think that an [sic] European hairdresser makes more money than many Asians in higher positions

This changes it all from here onwards. Depending on your race and country of origin, you will be more inclined to live in certain parts of the city that you can afford according to your job category. You will eat at certain places, you will use certain means of transportation. And you will feel outraged and, not so unlikely, be racist yourself, not by discriminating others directly, but by developing prejudices that will end up serving as fundament to racist and ethnocentric behavior.

If you ever have trouble with a local, it will probably be your fault. You don’t want to be in a car accident that involves an Emirati, even if he/she was the person colliding with you. In many cases, the law will tend to help the local person, in detriment of the other, no matter who’s fault the event was to begin with. Depending on your nationality and race, you might be better off. If you are white (specially US American or British) you will probably do fine. If you are from Southern Asia… good luck to you. For everyone else: it’s 50/50.

Photo by Fabio Achilli (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Paternal Uncertainty in a Godless Society

Paternal uncertainty's classic case: white couple with black baby

When I work until late at night, just about the only TV programme left to watch afterwards is often The Jeremy Kyle Show. At first I watched it for its comic value, as dysfunctional couples and families shout at each other over non-existing problems before turning to the namesake presenter of the show for guidance and, more importantly, to solve their real problems with DNA paternity and lie detector tests.

But then I realised that this broadcast is much more useful than an average comedy show. It has exposed at least two things.

The first is how in the lives of the people appearing in Kyles' studio - who are British reprentatives of what American sociologist Charles Murray and others call the "underclass" - Christianity has totally disappeared.

The underclass is a new social class, it is no longer the working class. It is not characterised by its economic status so much as by its behaviour, mores and ethos.

It has a disproportionately high illegitimacy rate, school drop-out rate, unemployment rate and crime rate. It is anti-social in its outlook, attitudes, rules and codes.

In the US the underclass is disproportionately black - which is why the American version of the JK Show has mostly black guests - but in Britain it is mainly formed by indigenous Britons.

The complete abandonment of Christian values and principles, particularly those of self-discipline in every area of life - ranging from what psychologists today call "anger management", and was once the fight against the sin of wrath, to sexual self-restraint -, seems more than a mere coincidence in the type of problems that Kyle guests face.

The second thing that this TV show evidences is how in today's society the pendulum has gone too far in favouring women over men, in many different fields but specifically here in the case of paternity issues.

Gerd Gigerenzer's book on risk and its statistical aspects, Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty (Amazon USA), (Amazon UK), explains how human males are exceptional in the animal kingdom in being expected to contribute to the rearing of a child without certainty of fatherhood. Paternity uncertainty coupled with parental responsibility is a very heavy burden that society forces men to bear:
Why is there wife battering all around the world? And why do many more men than women kill their partners? Although there are many contributing variables, such as alcoholism, the classic explanation is paternal uncertainty. Unlike in the majority of mammalian species, in which males contribute nothing to the upbringing of their offspring, in the human species males and females cooperate in providing parental care. Fathers face a problem that mothers do not, and which according to evolutionary theory is so serious that most mammalian fathers opt out of paternal investment entirely. This problem is cuckoldry. That is, a man has to accept some degree of uncertainty about whether he actually is the father of his children. A woman, in contrast, can be certain that she is the mother of her children (barring an accidental exchange of babies in the hospital). Paternal uncertainty can be reduced by many means, one of which is for a man to control his partner physically to ensure that she is not consorting with other men. According to this argument, the cost of male parental investment brings with it male sexual jealousy, which leads men to use methods ranging from vigilance to violence to controlling sexual access to their mates.

How certain should human fathers be about their paternity? Probably not as certain as is conceivably possible since the mid-1980s, when DNA fingerprinting became available as a highly reliable method for paternity testing. Using DNA fingerprinting, researchers found that 5 to 10 percent of children in Western countries who had been studied have a different biological father from the one they thought they had. [Emphases added]
Or, as the Romans put it in their lapidary, succinct way: Mater semper certa est, pater numquam (the mother is always certain, the father never).

At least since the advent of feminism, it's always been considered sexist (in the direction of misogyny) to stigmatise female adulterous and promiscuous behaviours in a way that male corresponding behaviours are not.

In fact, in light of the serious repercussions on paternal uncertainty, what is sexist (in the direction of misandry) is not to stigmatise women more than men for sexually promiscuous habits.

It has to be noted that Gerd Gigerenzer is not a political writer. He is a psychology academic, former Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and currently director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

The book from which I quoted deals with statistics, calculation and assessment of risk in human and medical sciences. It is a scientific work, with hardly any political implication.

His political views on this matter are unlikely to be similar to mine, i.e. right-wing or anti-feminist, firstly because he would by now have been sacked from his academic position, secondly because his work is highly recommended by openly Leftist, Guardian columnist and author of Bad Science (Amazon USA), (Amazon UK), Ben Goldacre, and thirdly because the application of DNA paternity tests that he mostly advocates is for catching fathers trying to avoid their responsibilities.

He writes, for instance:
Before DNA testing, court proceedings were often colored by the public humiliation of unmarried mothers...

DNA testing has helped to dispense with the humiliating [for the mother] character that court hearings had in the past. Now that DNA evidence for paternity exists, courts rarely subject mothers to cross-examinations about their sex lives...

My point is that the mere possibility of DNA fingerprinting can be sufficient to end denial, to spare the mother an inquisition into her sex life, and to oblige the father to pay child support.
I don't see anything wrong with public humiliation and stigma for unmarried mothers. It's because Western societies have abandoned this stigma that illegitimacy rates have been steadily rising in all EU countries, North America and Australia.

In 2009, 41% of children born in the US were illegitimate, from 5% a half century ago. As for the European Union:
In 2011, 39.5% of all births in the 27 EU countries were extramarital. In that year, births outside marriage represented a majority in Iceland (65.0%), Estonia (59.7%), Slovenia (56.8%), Bulgaria (56.1%), France (55.8%), Norway (55.0%), Sweden (54.3%), and Belgium (50%). The proportion of extramarital births is also approaching half in Denmark (49%), the United Kingdom (47.3%) and the Netherlands (45.3%)...

In the EU, the average percentage of extramarital births has risen steadily in recent years, from 27.4% in 2000 to 39.5% in 2011.
In the UK most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016.

While people were too concerned about sexual liberation and women's rights, children and society at large were paying the price. I cannot cover in this post all the consequences of fatherlessness - and they are all negative -, although I will in future articles.

But I'll say that the price is astronomical in terms of children's psychological wellbeing, children's poverty, crime levels, antisocial behavior, unemployment, and finally the welfare state bills for taxpayers.

Also, observe the double standard. Whereas hormonal and other biological factors are often utilised in women's favour, as excuses even for murders allegedly due to Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) or postpartum psychosis, similar factors are never employed to excuse men in cases of rape, for example, or, as in this case, paternity uncertainty is never recognised as an intense stressor for a man and used to justify his jealous, controlling or violent behaviour.

Men are expected to provide for and in other ways contribute to a child's upbringing, no questions asked.

Not many consider this immense factor of stress for men, in the same way as in public discourse it's very rare for someone to examine things from a man's perspective. It is politically incorrect. It's only from a woman's viewpoint that we are supposed to look at everything.

Whereas oceans of ink and light years of film have been devoted to all the various problems associated with the woman's role in reproduction, hardly anybody has paid even the scantest attention to those related to the man's role.

Photo by toledo clubber (Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0).

Friday, 22 November 2013

Question Time: the NHS Is still in Chaos

Question Time presenter David Dimbleby

Have you seen Question Time on BBC1 tonight? Among the panelists was Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

They talked about the NHS (National Health Service), welfare, pensions, youth unemployment, housing crisis. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it on BBC iPlayer online.

Interesting points have been:
  • the idea of forcing owners to sell or develop property on unused land seems popular (although some people would probably forcibly impose developing, which seems to me communist-style; the idea of a tax on unused land or brownfield sites to make owners sell or develop is better).
  • the average age of people buying a property these days is 38 years (apparently higher than in the past), which many find too high. I disagree: probably the average age was too low before. It’s not necessary for everyone to own a house, as it’s not necessary for everyone to go to university: these are wrong ideas of equality and set the wrong targets to achieve for many people.
  • nothing very interesting was said about the NHS, reflecting the fact that they haven’t got a clue about how to solve its problems. However, despite what I had read about the drop in number of nurses, an audience member said that their number is probably the same, only their job names have changed from “sister” to “manager”. Another attendee correctly observed that hospitals in the news like the Mid-Staffordshire hospitals - where, in the 3 years from 2005 to 2008, between 400 and 1,200 more patients died than would have been expected - have neglected their patients because they were more worried about meeting government targets than about sick people in their care. This is true, and confirms my idea that it is not the function and within the nature of the state to manage the health care of a country.
  • nobody obviously mentioned immigration. The term was pronounced once by a woman who was discussing a different subject and didn’t actually talk about immigration at all, but using the “i” word once was enough for the audience to boo her.
  • about youth unemployment, an elderly gentleman made the observation that he bought his first property at 33, and he could do so because he was prepared to move to where the jobs were. I believe that his point is valid, the welfare state has made unemployed people unwilling to move with the jobs.
  • the government’s proposals of making people below 25 not eligible for benefits were covered, obviously disliked by the Lefties and the young in both panel and audience. There was also talk of removal of certain entitlements like free bus passes from pensioners.

Photo by eye dropper (Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0).

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Christianity and Animal Welfare

Milan, Santa Maria delle Grazie: Leonardo, The Last Supper

After Support for Christianity Should Not Alienate People, How Christian Charity Developed Western Ethics, Hospitals, Schools and Slavery, Colonialism and Christianity, I've arrived at the fourth (not the last) instalment of my replies to common contemporary criticisms of Christianity.

The issue of how animals are considered is of particular ethical importance so, if I really believed that Christianity debases the moral status of animals, I would not support it.

About the issue of treatment of animals, my reader Tony says:
I cannot see how you, as a vegan, can support the Bible: the treatment of animals in the Bible is appalling, and I say this even though I am not vegan. Burnt offerings of animals is a fundamental aspect of worship in the Old Testament, God is pleased with the smell of burning animal flesh, cutting animals in half is considered 'good' in the eyes of Yahweh, e.g. Exodus 29:16-18 "16 Slaughter it and take the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides. 17 Cut the ram into pieces and wash the inner parts and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. 18 Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire." It's wrong and primitive Enza.
Here Tony makes the same mistake I've already briefly discussed before: confusing and conflating the Old Testament into Christian doctrines.

This is especially true regarding the subject on which he dwells, offerings of animals, since these two religions, Judaism and Christianity, are on it entirely different, so much so that we cannot even talk of a Judaeo-Christian tradition. There are two distinct traditions, going in opposite directions. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then it is highly significant that the Old Testament and the New on animal sacrifices have led to antithetical practices.

Judaism here presents, alas, similarities with Islam. Modern ritual slaughter to produce kosher meat in the former and halal meat in the latter is closely related to animal sacrifice.

That is why Rabbi David Wolpe felt the need to write an article In Defense of Animal Sacrifice, fortunately rebuked by the people who commented on it. His arguments are falsely against animal cruelty, in that he doesn't take into any consideration that the stunning of animals before slaughter, which Jewish ritual slaughter does not do, is a humane way to spare them at least some of the agony and anguish.

Christianity, on the other hand, is and has always been one of the very few religions and cultures not to standardly practice animal sacrifices.

Here again, Christianity has produced momentous cultural consequences. Christians claimed that, since Jesus had shed his own blood and offered a perfect sacrifice, there was no more need of animal sacrifice, because the door was now open to access God. In ancient times - and still today in many non-Western cultures -, people believed that the death of a sacrificial (in some cases human) animal was necessary in order to approach God or the gods. After Jesus' sacrifice, Christians rejected animal sacrifices, and this has created in the Christian West a culture averse to them.

As with slavery, the fact that the New Testament does not explicitly condemns the practice of animal sacrifice is much less important - in terms of the effects and the way of thinking that it has generated - than the entirety of its message.

It is so strange how Eastern religions are always praised for their consideration, even reverence, for animals, when Hinduism carries out animal sacrifices on a vast scale. What has been dubbed "the world's goriest mass killing of animals" is a Hindu festival involving the sacrifice of 250,000 animals in the village of Bariyapur, in Nepal.

If we - or some of us - don't associate the ending of animal sacrifices with Christianity, in the other parts of the globe they do:
The practice [of ritual slaughter of animals] is now far less universal than it was once, and in Christian countries it is generally looked upon as one of the basest expressions of primitive superstition. There is, for instance, hardly a book written to defend the “civilizing” role of the white man in India, which does not give publicity to that gruesome side of Hindu religion, through some bloodcurdling description of the sacrifices regularly performed in the temple of the goddess Kali, at Kalighat, Calcutta.
This, once more, gives away where these constant attacks on Christianity originate: from the politically correct, the multiculturalists of today, heirs to the communists of yesterday, who only blame whatever is connected with the Western world for the speck in its eye and never dream of noticing, let alone criticising, the log in the eye of the rest of the world.

I wish that our atheist friends realised that, every time they attack Christianity, they attack the West, our culture, our world, our countries.

Going back to Tony's Biblical quotations, the Old Testament (the several canonical editions of which are largely based on the Tanakh, the "Hebrew Bible") is a collection of Jewish texts, and Judaism is a different religion from Christianity.

The Old Testament pre-dates the birth of Jesus Christ. How can what's written in it be attributed to the teachings of a man who was not alive when it was composed?

In addition, what matters is not so much counting the references to not harming animals in the New Testament, even less in the Old Testament, but looking at the meaning of the whole message.

The animal welfare and rights movements were born out of the compassion that Christianity has inspired throughout its vast influence on Western thought.

Does Tony really think it’s a coincidence that the animal rights movement only started and developed in the part of the world which is historically Christian, the West?

In the moral philosopher Peter Singer's theory of the “expanding circle”, which I think is correct, the moral development of a society goes through stages: first people allow into the sphere of moral consideration only close relatives, then clans, then tribes, then populations, then nations, then the same ethnic group, then the whole human species, and then – and this is the phase which we are entering now in the West – all sentient beings.

Expanding the circle to include all humans was done in the deepest sense, in the most effective and lasting way by Jesus Christ, at a time when that was unthinkable for most people.

Still today, the moral equality of all men is not embraced in every part of the world.

Islam, for example, does not consider all the human species as equal. Islam condones racism, against blacks for instance, and slavery, which still exists in the Muslim world. For Mohammedanism non-Muslims do not have equal status with Muslims, the community of believers, called the “Ummah”. Non-Muslims are not treated with equal consideration and respect as Muslims, nor do they have equal political rights in Islamic countries.

Hinduism incorporates the caste system, a form of inequality which is part of the religion.

It's very difficult, if not impossible, for a culture that has not fully accepted human rights and the equality of all men to develop the idea of animals' moral equality and rights.

That's why only the West, thanks to Christianity, has been able to do so.

In short, there is no comparison.

Without our Christian roots animals would have been in much greater trouble, as well as humans.

To be continued.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Muslim Persecution of Christians and the Vatican

Vatican City. Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel: the Creation of Adam

The Vatican has done more to counter the Islamic threat than people think.

If we in the West now know that Syrian "rebels" are in their majority bloody jihadists and not innocent victims of Assad, it is due to the Vatican news-gathering agencies in the region. At first the Western media were totally biased and were unquestioningly transmitting the propaganda they received from local reporters on the rebels' side as bona fide news. It was the Vatican agencies that eventually managed to correct this bias.

And the Syrian case is just an example. The Vatican is one of the major sources of information about the persecution of Christians all over the world, by Muslims - which represents the overwhelming majority of cases - and non-Muslims like communists. It is also the force that helps these Christians most in practical ways.

We have to understand how the Vatican works, there are things that it cannot do because of its special role. For example, the Pope cannot openly condemn Muslim violence because that would only result in an increase in retaliatory violence against Christians: that is intrinsically connected to his role as the highest Christian authority on earth.

Photo by Sebastian Bergmann (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0).

What Is Natural, and Is It Better?

Splendid Sea Sunset

The word “natural” is treated in a way peculiar in the extreme. This perhaps reflects our confused ideas about nature, or perhaps darker, more sinister misconceptions are at work.

There is a strange dichotomy between the positive connotation of “natural” in one realm (that encompassing health, food, medicine, environmental management, and the like) and the negative connotation of “natural” in another realm (social and political organization).

If you use the adjective “natural” in conjunction with objects of the first group, eg natural remedies, natural substances, natural environment, it is almost invariably taken as a virtue, a good qualitative appreciation.

If, on the other hand, you use “natural” in discussions of the second group of subjects, for example regarding differences between sexes, sexual orientation or a thorny question such as war, its use is at best controversial, and at worst considered a threat against the march of progress.

In expressions like "natural foods" or "natural medicines", "natural" is taken to mean, among other things, "good" and "not harmful". In the case of remedies or drugs of natural source, the idea is that they shouldn't have the nasty side effects of other drugs.

In fact, there have been cases of harmful side effects of so-called natural and herbal remedies, much the same as the risk exists with all medicines.

And, if you think about it, there's no reason why it should be otherwise. Poisonous mushrooms are natural, and so is snakes' venom.

The idea that substances occcurring naturally should necessarily be good is a fantasy, but a widespread one. “Nature knows best” is the dogmatic slogan in this field of thought.

But, when we discuss sexual roles, the natural, biologically determined forces moulding the behaviours of men and women are treated as demonic entities to be fought tooth and nail. Something similar applies to many explanations of social facts, events and behaviour in terms of nature, including class differences, race differences, sexual orientation, violence, war.

In all these areas “we know better” than nature, we can improve on it, or this is the received wisdom.

We don’t know whether our view of social organization is indeed better than a more natural one. Of course, the dispute is often about what is natural, but frequently that simply shifts the question, because the sort of people who have utopias and are certain about what the best society would be are also people who defy the most compelling scientific data and reject the most overwhelming empirical evidence when these don’t conform with their own pet theories.

I think that both attitudes are wrong, or rather that this dichotomic attitude, which expresses itself in the two faces of the same coin, is wrong. There should not be an a priori value judgement about nature and what is natural, in either direction.

Each situation where we compare something “natural” with something artificial, or created by human individuals and societies, should be considered according to the particular circumstances of the case and judged accordingly.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Slavery, Colonialism and Christianity

Museum of London Docklands: portrait of William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith prompted him to successfully campaign against slavery

My analysis of my reader Tony's attacks on Christianity, after Support for Christianity Should Not Alienate People and How Christian Charity Developed Western Ethics, Hospitals, Schools, continues. On the subject of slavery he writes:
The Bible actually condones slavery Enza. I can send you verse after verse from the Old Testament where God tells his people how to treat slaves, how they should be sold etc. Never once does the OT teach that slavery is wrong. In the New Testament neither Jesus nor Paul call for slavery to be abolished. On the contrary they provide teaching on how to treat slaves. The Bible was used as justification for slavery in the early colonies of America. Furthermore slavery was spread around the world as Christian Western powers built their Empires. One Pope, Nicholas V, actually issued a papal bull in 1452 authorising slavery of captured Muslims.
Here we find again the problem that I briefly mentioned in a previous article: Tony's failure to recognise the break between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Christian part of the Bible is the New Testament.

Although we can talk of a Judaeo-Christian tradition, we cannot talk of a Judaeo-Christian religion. These are two separate and different religions.

St Paul compared the condition of the world (including the Old Testament) before the advent of the religion of Jesus to a child-like, immature state.

Christ said: “The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16).

In addition, just about everything that Tony says about slavery comes to nothing for one simple reason: you cannot discuss a historical subject abstracting it from a historical context.

When we talk about slavery, we may forget that we are looking with modern eyes at an institution that has been part of human history in virtually all cultures.

No culture on the globe has ever questioned the morality of slavery, no culture has ever effectively abolished it. Only in relatively recent times this has been done - and it was Christians who did it.

If Tony, and all of us, reject slavery it is because we were born in the Christian West, regardless of whether we consider ourselves Christian individually or not. Or, as the great Oriana Fallaci, who was among the first to alert the West to the dangers of Islam after 9/11 and who called herself a "Christian atheist", said: "We are all Christian".

Very early the Church baptised slaves and treated them as human beings equal to all others in dignity. They were allowed to marry, be ordained, and some became saints.

St. Isidore of Seville (born about 560 AD) said: "God has made no difference between the soul of the slave and that of the freedman."

His teaching has its roots in St. Paul's First Epistle to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:10), which condemns slave traders and places them among the sinful and lawbreakers, and Epistle to Philemon. In the latter, Paul writes that he is returning fugitive slave Onesimus to his master Philemon, but he urges Philemon to regard Onesimus as a beloved brother.

Historian Rodney Stark writes in The Victory of Reason:
Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. [Emphasis added]
This was during the "Dark Ages".

Later, when the Spanish Conquistadores were enslaving South American Indians and importing African black slaves, their main adversary was the Catholic bishop and missionary Bartolomé de Las Casas, "Protector of the Indians", who devoted 50 years of his life actively fighting slavery and the abuse of native populations.

His efforts led to a greater focus on the ethics of colonialism and to many improvements in the legal status of indigenous peoples, including a 1542 Spanish law prohibiting the enslavement of Indians. Las Casas is considered as one of the first advocates for universal human rights.

In 1537 Pope Paul III issued the papal bull Sublimus Dei against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the continent of America, who were non-Christian. A papal bull is a document of rare importance and significance, formal and profoundly authoritative. Sublimus Dei shows in an exceptionally meaningful way the Christian approach to slavery as early as in the Renaissance:
We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.
Yes, slavery persisted, and sometimes received ecclesiastical permission. Yes, supporters of slavery before the American Civil War used the Bible as justification for it. But abolitionists could easily point out that slavery was against the whole Christian message of love for your brother and neighbour like for yourself and equality of all men before God.

If we are too attached to and fixated on the letter of the Scriptures, we risk losing the most important part, their spirit, the whole picture, namely the message that Jesus conveyed with all His entire life, His words and His actions.

He was not a slave owner, like Muhammad 600 years after Him.

So, anti-slavery views were present in Christian thought and practice since the 6th century AD.

Modern abolitionism, the anti-slavery movement, started in Britain in 1787 with the foundation of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The people behind it were Christians, including William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, who wrote:
We cannot suppose therefore that God has made an order of beings, with such mental qualities and powers, for the sole purpose of being used as beasts, or instruments of labour.
The strong, prolonged opposition to slavery that followed - a unique example in the whole history of mankind - was a formidable effort, with nothing to gain and everything to lose economically by ending this enormously profitable business. Only an exceptional moral force could have achieved it: and that force was the profound Christian conviction of the abolitionist leaders that slavery was wrong.

There were ecclesiastical figures supporting slavery, as there were in every other category of people. But, with rare exceptions, only devout, committed Christians - priests, monks, Christian laymen - opposed slavery. Atheist, secular, non-Christian opposition was unheard of for generations.

If we used the same yardstick employed by anti-Christians, we should say: what have atheists done to condemn or resist slavery when it was difficult to do so, when it was not yet politically correct and orthodox to be abolitionist?

American abolition crusader William Lloyd Garrison declared:
Abolitionism, what is it? Liberty. What is liberty? Abolitionism. What are they both? Politically, one is the Declaration of Independence; religiously, the other is the Golden Rule of our Savior. [Emphasis added]
When Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery in 1834, it had to fight against African tribal leaders who wanted to continue their profitable trade in African slaves. These chieftains were also virulently hostile to Christian missionaries because of their opposition to slavery, and not due to their desire to convert.

The current, politically correct orthodoxy about slavery that Tony espouses demonstrates for the umpteenth time how the enemies of Christianity and the enemies of the West use - not coincidentally - similar, false arguments to attack both, showing once again how the fate of the West is intrinsecally tied to that of Christianity.

Not only were black Africans and Arab Muslims deeply involved in slave trafficking - and in Islam slavery is still practised today -, but whites were also enslaved by Muslims in great  numbers. But, while we never cease to hear about the nasty, racist whites making slaves, we never start hearing about other ethnic and religious groups doing the same, including to whites.

In the same way as Christianity is wrongly and unjustly castigated for slavery - when only Christians abolished it permanently -, so the West is uniquely berated for it. If you hear or read "liberal" thinkers, commentators and all the vast numbers of people that they managed to brainwash, you must be forvigen for thinking that slavery, as well as colonialism, are wicked Western, white, European, Christian inventions. All other populations of the earth are just the innocent victims, and they never harmed a hair on anybody's head.

What has been used to whip white Westerners has been used to whip Christians.

Look at what Westerners and Christians have in common and see if it can be a coincidence: they are both disproportionately attacked for two phenomena - slavery and harmful colonialism - that have existed throughout history and geographical locations, and they are both those who in fact saw the immorality of them and put an end to them.

Rather than going through the long history of how Western colonialism is not what it has been portrayed, of how it was often economically disadvantageous for the European powers involved but on many occasions motivated by the desire to help underdeveloped populations - aim that was often achieved -, I'll point you below to well-researched posts on the subject.

The Islamic world never abolished slavery, and still practises it today.

And remember that it was the European imperial powers which put an end to both the frequent raids and piracy by Muslims that for centuries tormented the Southern European coasts, and to the payment of the extortionate jizya tax demanded from the subjugated Christians living in Muslim lands.

The latter was for those unfortunate brothers and sisters a short-lived respite until multiculturalism, producing Islamophilia on one hand and anti-Christianity on the other, strengthened the Muslim world.

To be continued.

Further reading on slavery, European colonialism and Islam:

Photo by Elliott Brown (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).

Sunday, 17 November 2013

How Christian Charity Developed Western Ethics, Hospitals, Schools

Peaceful garden still maintained by the monks of the St. Paul Monastery, Italy

This is my second article in reply to Tony, who wrote to me with critical observations on my speech What is Uniquely Good about Western Civilisation Derives from Christianity. The first article is Support for Christianity Should Not Alienate People.

My reply is in several parts because he covers many issues, although sometimes using too simplistic arguments compared to the attention they would deserve.

The problem I have in answering him is that in the space of a couple of emails he enumerates many things which he finds wrong about Christianity, each of which would require a book (and in fact they have books entirely devoted to them) to be addressed in full, or at least a short essay.

Furthermore, he mixes and confuses several different layers: criticisms of Christianity, of the Old Testament - which is the non-Christian part of the Bible -, and of the Church. They are three very distinct things, and putting them together only serves to entangle the issue, especially since he seems to believe that all of them are to be blamed on Christianity.

Add to all this that his minestrone contains both true and untrue ingredients - everything these days is thrown at Christianity but the kitchen sink, to remain in the culinary metaphor -, and you can see my predicament in giving a proper, and not superficial, answer.

I'm devoting so much attention to Tony's comments because they represent several of today's standard objections to the Christian message.

I'll do my best, but sometimes, for more in-depth analysis than is desirable on a blog post, I'll have to refer him - and other readers - to great books published on the matter or to other articles I've written that can complemement this.

Tony says:
I agree with you that many wonderful things have come from people professing to be Christians. Public schools and hospitals in Britain are one example. However there is no reason to believe these would not have come about without religion.
How it is possible to deny the role played by Christianity in all those advancements which were clearly derived from the application of Christian precepts and values, and also have a historical connection with the spreading of Christianity, I don't know.

Nevertheless, to address this issue, let's proceed in an empirical fashion, the way a scientist would. Let's focus on one microcosm, one very specific and easily circumscribed case in which - due to the reduced number of variables affecting it - it is fairly simple to observe the influence that Christianity had on pre-Christian ethics and behaviour.

Let's take a look, for example, at how Christianity changed the Roman treatment of gladiators. This is how an atheist, one of the most influential moral philosophers of our time, Peter Singer, who is no friend of Christianity, treats the subject in his book Animal Liberation (Amazon UK) (Amazon USA) (pages 190-192, The New York Review of Books, second edition):.

First he quotes from W. E. H. Lecky's History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne:
The simple combat became at last insipid, and every variety of atrocity was devised to stimulate the flagging interest... Nor was any form of human suffering wanting.... Ten thousand men fought during the games of Trajan. Nero illumined his gardens during the night by Christians burning in their pitchy shirts. Under Domitian, an army of feeble dwarfs was compelled to fight.
Then Singer remarks:
It is against this background that the impact of Christianity must be assessed...

In its application to human beings, the new doctrine was in many ways progressive, and led to an enormous expansion of the limited moral sphere of the Romans...

On this basis the outcome of the interaction of Christian and Roman attitudes is not difficult to guess. It can be seen most clearly by looking at what happened to the Roman games after the conversion of the empire to Christianity.

Christian teaching was implacably opposed to gladiatorial combats. The gladiator who survived by killing his opponent was regarded as a murderer. Mere attendance at these combats made the Christian liable to excommunication, and by the end of the fourth century combats between human beings had been suppressed altogether.[Emphases added]
And the Romans were the most advanced civilisation at the time, with a sophisticated system of law and highly developed morals.

What people often don't take sufficiently into account is that ethics is like everything else, philosophical thought - of which it is part -, science, technology, crafts, economy, military, art, music, culture, political and social institutions: it progresses (or at least it may) through human history. We don't blame the Romans for not having thought of inventing the computer, and we shouldn't blame them for holding ethical views which seem backward now but were ahead of their time.

Just to make a comparison with another ancient population, Thomas Sowell writes in Conquests And Cultures: An International History:
For about one-fifth of its recorded history, Britain was a conquered country, a province of the Roman Empire - and one of the more backward provinces at that. Men from other provinces ruled over Britain, but Britons did not rule other provinces. One measure of the backwardness of pre-Roman Britain was the ease with which it was conquered by greatly outnumbered Roman soldiers and held in subjugation, despite a massive and desperate uprising in 61 A.D. The Romans were simply far better equipped and far better organized. In many other ways as well, the Romans represented a much more advanced civilization than existed in Britain at that point in history. Indeed, after the Romans withdrew from Britain four centuries later, the Britons began to retrogress, and in many respects it was centuries after that before Britain regained the economic, social, or cultural levels it had reached as a province of the Roman Empire.

...There was little inkling of such historic potential [of Britain] in the land and people that Julius Caesar encountered in a raiding expedition on the British coast in 55 B.C. Indeed, not a single Briton's name had entered the pages of history before that time.
We all know what great civilised nation Britain became later, but we are now considering ancient times.

What about public schools and hospitals, the specific cases mentioned by Tony?

The influence of Christianity on their institutions is direct, easily traceable and with plenty of evidence to support it.

But first let's see what Tony writes just after the extract from his emails that I've quoted above:
The societal benefits that you describe as coming from Christianity came after the Reformation, when the power and influence of Christianity was greatly reduced, and the Church was put in its place. Prior to the Reformation, society was undermined by superstition, religious persecution and backwardness, there was very little in the way of social or scientific development for hundreds of years, which is why it's called The Dark Ages.
A thing is to be immediately noted here. The decadence in learning from the classical era experienced during the Medieval period has several historical causes. One of them is that, when you reach a peak in human achievement, this is eventually followed by a stasis, another is that the fall of the Roman Empire created a profound crisis in Western Europe.

To attribute this decline in total or in part to Christianity or the influence of the Church may be fashionable, but is unsupported.

The opposite is true: it is thanks to the Church that those ages were not darker.

It's odd how there is an increasing emphasis on the role played by the Islamic world in the preservation of classical antiquity's enormous cultural and intellectual treasures, but we hardly ever hear about the vital role of Church scholars and missionaries in preserving classical knowledge.

Church scholars were the only ones in Western Europe who preserved Greek and Roman texts in their libraries and scriptoriums in the Middle Ages. Even to this day the Church is, as has always been, a source of continuity linking contemporary Western culture to its classical roots.

But here, as in many other cases, the Western modern anti-Christian movement has given a great helping hand to Islam, whose apologists profess its unique role in the preservation of classical treasures while Christianity's right similar claims have been silenced by the West's repudiation of its historical religion's value.

The name "Dark Ages" for a certain period of European history, i.e. the early Middle Ages, has nothing to do with the negative role of the Church, as Tony portrays, but with what happened when the invading Germanic hoardes moved into the civilised Roman world and nearly destroyed its ancient culture, leaving almost no formal education for children. Rome's elaborate school system disappeared.

During the chaos that followed the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Church remained the only institution capable of supporting intellectual culture. Virtually nobody in Western Europe could read or write outside of monasteries, which became the centre for developing literacy.

Even Left-leaning Wikipedia has to recognise this:
The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of Rome. During the Middle Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western civilization. Many of Europe's universities were also founded by the church at that time.
And even after Western Europe found an order again, the Church continued to be a driving force in education, in schools associated with its monasteries, churches and cathedrals. Cathedral schools were centres of advanced education, and often developed into the Medieval universities which were the source of many European later achievements.

Recognising its unique role in learning, practically all men of intellect joined the Church in the Middle Ages, which is why Latin, the church's language, was for many centuries, as late as into the 18th and 19th centuries, the language of scholarship and erudition, science included.

Significant works of all subjects were written in Latin: Vesalius, Galileo, Descartes, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Torricelli, Kepler, Havers - and these are only a tiny number - wrote in Latin.

Newton wrote his scientific masterpiece Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in Latin. For Newton, God was part of his mechanics. Newton believed that his concept of absolute space protected the idea of God as the divine substance that expresses its own infinity in the double infinity of absolute space and time. He described God as:
“a powerful ever-living agent, who being in all places, is more able by his will to move the bodies within his boundless uniform sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the parts of the universe, than we are by our will to move the parts of our own bodies.”
The Church has always been a major source of schooling and medical care, and nobody in his sane mind can deny its prominent role in either. The evidence for that is too overwhelming even for the most lunatic atheist.

The people who dispensed these services were clearly inspired by Christianity:
As discipleship was important for the first believers (and those to follow), early formal education arose from Christian catechetical schools. Unique to Christian education was the teaching of both sexes.

Also a Christian distinctive, individuals from all social and ethnic groups were included. There was no bias based on ethnicity or class.
And for health care:
Consider also the issue of health care. Prior to Christianity, the Greeks and Romans had little or no interest in the poor, the sick and the dying. But the early Christians, following the example of their master, ministered to the needs of the whole person. During the first three centuries of the church they could only care for the sick where they found them, as believers were then a persecuted people. Once the persecutions subsided, however, the institutionalisation of health care began in earnest.

For example, the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325 directed bishops to establish hospices in every city that had a cathedral. The first hospital was built by St Basil in Caesarea in 369. By the Middle Ages hospitals covered all of Europe and even beyond. In fact, “Christian hospitals were the world’s first voluntary charitable institutions”.
The website of London's Science Museum has no doubt that Christian beliefs were the cause of the development of hospitals and not a coincidental occurrence:
Christian hospices first developed in the East in the late 300s. Some, like those founded by the Order of St John, appeared along routes of pilgrimage and offered shelter to religious travellers throughout Europe and the Middle East. The idea of religious charity lay at the heart of the medieval and early modern hospital. Medicine and morality were closely tied. This was evident in the location of beds, which was often determined by the location of an altar. Medical care was usually delivered by monks and [n]uns.

...The Christian practice of charity in Europe was based on the relationship between Christ and the pauper. The emphasis in hospital was therefore on care rather than cure, and the common denominator of patients was poverty, not illness. The original religious nature of early hospitals is still alive, most often in their names. Notable examples include the Hôtel Dieu in Paris, originally established in the 800s, and St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, which was founded in the 1100s and still exists today.
Not just hospitals, but medicine itself was developed by Christianity in the Middle Ages:
Guided by the principles of Christian charity and compassion, as well as by the biblical examples of helping the troubled and healing the sick, the clergy, besides the studying of medical sciences, soon turned to practical work and proceeded to treat the sick, establishing first hospitals within monasteries, initially accepting and treating monks and monastery servants, but subsequently admitting many ill laymen.
Tony says: all these positive developments could have occurred without Christianity. This expresses both the groundless and meaningless assertion that the same things might have happend through different causes - which can be said just about any historical phenomenon, including the bad things attributed to Christianity -, and a strange way of thinking, namely the belief that Western principles and institutions developed in a sort of a vacuum.

Besides, there is no evidence for that claim. Even today, Christians outperform atheists in terms of charity, when it comes to giving money to charitable organisations as well as dedicating their lives to charitable causes.

Repeated studies over time have shown, for example, that the US more Christian states give a greater percentage of their income to charities than the more secular ones.

Christians are also better neighbours, and a Forbes study found that Christian charities are more reliable than others, ranking highest in terms of using donor money towards charitable projects and services, rather than putting it in their pockets.

Four out of the five charities that received a perfect rating in both fundraising efficiency and charitable commitment are Christian organizations.

Tim Mettey, of Matthew 25: Ministries, one of the top-rated charitable organisations, said: "We have to be less than 2 percent on overhead. We thrive on being so efficient.”

The association’s mission statement is based on Matthew 25:34-40, which calls for the hungry to be fed, the homeless to be sheltered and medicine for the ill.

Mettey explained that the group’s success depends on support from the Christian community, adding: "[W]e have 22,000 volunteers because of our message. Without volunteers none of this would be possible," Mettey said.

The report on this Forbes study in Christianity Today concluded:
Faith-based organizations have the added benefit of turning to the Bible to remind themselves of motivation and direction.
All this, therefore, confirms that Christian teachings not only highly correlate with but also produce charity, generosity and selfless behaviour in aid of other people.

To be continued.

Photo by Anthony Majanlahti (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).