Discussion Board

Topic: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: C. Allen Doudna
Location: Grand Island, Nebraska
Date: 02/16/2010

Having learned that Poul Anderson has passed away I suppose I'll share with you what I thought last night I might share with him. Doubt I'll ever get these finished, but back in the 1970s I had the idea of a circa 1700 airship sailing across America. To date I think I've gotten one page written.

Here's a brain-teaser: Alien astronomers learn about us by studying our radio and TV broadcasts--but what are they going to learn? Our most powerful broadcasts are radar. But guess who has the second most powerful? Christian missionaries beaming the Gospel of Jesus Christ into China, the communist Soviet Union (as of back when the signal left Earth), and the forbidden lands of Islam. Every missionary society that can owns a transmitter like this or they're among the biggest paying customers on secular transmitters. (They're also making sure they get in on satellite broadcasts.) Almost certainly some young alien research associate translating these broadcasts is going to become converted. He will be fired and blacklisted and have not where to lay his head. Friends, family, collegues and the curious will seek him out to learn what it was he did that could possibly have resulted in this--and what could possibly be worth more than his bright future. Most are dismayed and perplexed that he won't listen to good sense--but a small following gathers around him, dedicated to sharing the Gospel to all the world and to all the Universe. In human history it typically takes a radical new philosophy about 300 years to go from a band of lunatic outcasts to harmless wierdos to the dominate force of Society. By the time humans reach them they have built huge huge orbitting transmitters that have broadcast the Gospel to every star in the Galaxy. Several solar systems have been convered and have built transmitters beaming the Gospel to every galaxy in the Universe.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 02/18/2010

Sounds like a bestseller to me. Next step--the aliens come to Earth and tell terrestial Christians to shape up and get it right, or else. Shades of DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, no?

Get writing!

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Date: 02/19/2010

Montgolier-Punk airship over pre-Lewis-and-Clarke America--love it! The second idea is reminiscent of The High Crusade...Mr. Anderson would have smiled, don't you think?

Love "The Man Who Would Be Kzin"--the tale you spun with S.M. Stirling for Man-Kzin Wars IV (also included in The Best of All Possible Wars, both available from Baen Books). Since we're talking about alien converts, I'll confess I outlined a story recently about a Kzin pope.

A warcat wanders into a church on Fafnir, sees a bloody crucifix and judges it to have a distinctly Kzinti flavor. At first impressed and then obsessed, he enters a novitiate, ends up a cardinal and finally (to much acclaim/controversy) pope (or antipope).

By then he's convinced himself that Jesus could only have been a stranded kzin telepath, and teaches same. There's a schizm and a holy war, and in the end...well, it turns out he's right.

Title? "The Kzinti Code," of course.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: qiiiss
Location:
Date: 02/25/2010

Or they wait for them to construct a [M]acroscope.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 03/04/2010

Hmmm... an albino Kzin brings bad luck?

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA, USA
Date: 03/14/2010

Dear Messieurs Doudna, Goodwin, and Bear.

Very interesting comments! Especially since I'm such a strong Poul Anderson fan.

But, one short story by PA which touches on similar themes was overlooked. That being "The Word to Space," in which it was ALIEN religious broadcasts which were deliberately beamed to us. Rather than accidental human broadcasts reaching other stars. The amusing thing about "The Word to Space" was how a Jesuit priest and astronomer turned the tables on the aliens, by asking subtle questions of the aliens which insidiously undermined what looked a lot like an Islamic theocracy on the alien world.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 03/26/2010

Poul was opposed to ANY theocracy! And remember, Islam is six hundred years younger than Christianity...

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA, USA
Date: 03/28/2010

Dear Mr. Bear. Thanks for your comment. Of course PA would be as opposed to theocracy as he would for any other kind of tyranny. But I don't see what the age of either Islam or Christianity has to do with this. To me, concentrating just on politics, a crucial difference between Islam and Christianity is how the Koran lacks any thing like the "rendering unto Caesar and God" text you find in Matthew 22.15-22. Which is one cause of the Church resisting attempts by many states over the centuries to controlling it. And that resistance helped to define the idea the state should have only LIMITED powers. An idea you can find in PA's THE SHIELD OF TIME, in the section called "Amazement of the World." Islam, by contrast, believes, at least in theory, in merging mosque and state. And many Muslims still hope for a restoration of the theocratic caliphate. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

But this has strayed rather far from commenting on PA's short story "The Word to Space."

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 04/10/2010

All true. However, what Mohammed hoped to achieve was a religion where no priest would intervene between God and the faithful. The state would then be a convocation of the faithful. That hasn't worked out in most instances.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 04/11/2010

Dear Mr. Bear. Again, thanks for your comment. I don't know if Mohammed wanted to leave no one between God and man. From what the Koran says, it sure looked like HE would be the mediator. And, of course, Islam has developed a de facto clergy of imams, mullahs, doctors of Muslim law, etc. And rather more than merely de facto in Shia Islam to boot.

And I have fears for the next century or so. I think we are in for increasingly worse jihads from fanatical Muslims who dream of setting up that ideal of "The state would then be a convocation of the faithful." Complete with again imposing the code of dhimmitude on non Muslims unlucky enough to fall under Muslim rule. We may live long enough to see!

Sincerely, Sean

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/07/2010

Right now, what's going in with this so-called War Between Civilizations is an extended mopping-up operation conducted by Western Culture, after a long series of horrible blunders in the 20th century stripped the autonomy and dignity away from nearly all the Muslim states. Any other view seems to neglect the simple analysis of where the power lies, where the military strength lies, and ultimately, where the money lies. We're addicted to foreign oil and share responsibility for the Middle East much as we're responsible for the drug war in Mexico and elsewhere. We change our habits, the power shifts away completely from those who naively believe they can control the world's destiny. Of course, if we're too undisciplined or foolish to change our habits...

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: CAllenDoudna
Location: Grand Island, Nebraska
Date: 05/07/2010

It's fairly predictable that we will eventually do to the Moslems as we did to the Indians: kill most of them off and herd the survivors onto reservations and settle their land. Whether someone thinks that's Good or Bad is beside the point, the simple Fact is that's what will happen. At this time there is the rising possibility the Moslems have colonized Europe and will out-populate the Europeans. But that overlooks the rise of Neo-Nazism in Europe, which will recieve a tremendous boost as the Economy there collapses exactly as Germany's did before World War II.

The importance of Oil is largely over-played. Oh, sure, it's extremely important right now, but of far greater significance is the simple fact the Middle East is simply in the way. The cheapest way to travel is by water. Try getting a ship from China, Japan, or Australia without going through Islamic waters. Europe needs food and a lot of that food comes from Australia. Trade between Europe and Asia goes back to the days before Marco Polo and has played a powerful role in the development of the West. Trying to avoid the Moslems led to the discovery of America and the colonization of Africa.

And then there is Russia. Russia is a vast and powerful land--that needs to get permission from Denmark before it can go out and kick the living daylights out of some other country. The reason has to do with seaports. When England or France or America wanted to go out and kick the crap out of somebody the Navy picked the Army up and took them there. But Russia basically doesn'thave a coastline and so has never been able to do that. Russia has a coastline on the Pacific--but that's halfway around the world from Russia. Russia has a coastline on the Arctic--but that's frozen solid nine months out of the year. Russia has a coastline on the Black Sea--but can't get from there to the Atlantic without first passing through a narrow chanel controled by Turkey which has been Russia's ancient enemy for centuries. So that leaves the Baltic Sea. The exit from the Baltic Sea is controled by Denmark and Denmark happens to be on good terms with everybody Russia wants to kick around. Looking at this situation, Peter the Great--a contemporary of our Pilgrims--declared that Russia's future as the World Power it ought to be lay southward to the warm water ports of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Grasp this simple fact and you will understand Russian Policy for the last several centuries. It was for this reason the Russians took the area between the Caspian Sea and China and why they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It is why the Russians tangled with the British over India in the late 1800s. It is why when Hitler and Stalin announced their non-agression pact on the eve of World War II and Hitler and Mussolini declared the areas of the world they would dominate Stalin said that Russia's interest lay "in the direction of the Persian Gulf." It is why the Russians occupied northern Iran during World War II and delayed in withdrawing afterwards. It is why the Russians sided with the Arabs against Israel and with India against Pakistan. It is why Russia has stood on the sidelines while Israel and America pummel the more powerful ragheads just south of Moscow: When we get tired and go home no power on Earth will be in a position to stop the Russians from rolling South. to the warm water ports and the gateway to true World Power. oh, yeah, they'll also get more Oil with which they can put a major squeeze on Europe, China, and Japan, but that's just frosting on the cake.

The world has been rubbing shoulders more and more over the last several centuries. The Moslems don't like it. They're in the way and they will be eliminated as the Indians were.

Oh, by the way, the Chadian Sea (Lake Chad) was once half the size of the Mediterranain and rain from it made the Sahara something like Texas. It could be restored either by daming the Congo or by laying a couple thousand black pipes from the sea to the mountantops of North Africa. Sunlight would cause water vapor to rise in the pipes then condense out in underground chambers on the mountain tops to flow down as streams. A similar thing would transform Arabia. North Africa and Arabia would become the Land of Opportunity for Europeans fleeing economic Depression.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/07/2010

Sounds like an extensive future history here! Let's not forget that Russia may soon enjoy ice-free northern seaports.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 05/08/2010

Dear Mr. Bear: Many thanks for your comments, despite me disagreeing with some of them. Candidly, when I think of the horrors conquering Muslims imposed on Jews, Christians, and pagans in lands they overran, I find it difficult to have much sympathy for the far milder "mistreatment" they received from an expanding Europe in the 1700s to early 1900s. One writer I recommend are the works of Bat Ye'or, author of books like THE JEWS OF ISLAM, THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY, etc.

What I see in Europe these days is supine cowardice in the face of Jihadist terror from too many European leaders. And the same problem exists in the US. Yes, I mean the Democrats and their President, Obama. For both of whom I have only contempt.

I do agree with you about the oil and drug problems. As writers like Jerry Pournelle have long advocated, freedom and prosperity depends on cheap energy and a limited gov't. That means we need to get SERIOUS about nuclear power and space based solar power. And any decline in oil would also take a lot of the wind out of jihadism.

And we Americans need to get REAL, I agree, about drugs. I would legalize marijuana, regulate it the way we do alcohol and tobacco. Let the tobacco formers of TN, VA, NC, GA, etc., have the profits from pot! Legalization would, I hope, take the profits out of the hands of terrorists and criminals. And that would help restabilize Mexico.

Ah well, this has again strayed from any discussion of PA's books. Altho he did write in one of his letters to me about his fear that Islam was entering a jihadist phase.

Respectfully, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/15/2010

Hmmm... When the Christians laid siege and entered Jerusalem, they slaughtered every man, woman, and child within the city. This was not an uncommon practice. But Saladin allowed the citizens to depart, and did not slaughter them.

Jews (and Christians) were allowed to live and work in many medieval Islamic cultures, accepted as "people of the book," relatively safe. In Europe and Russia, under Christian rule, Jews were reviled, preached against, subjected to pogroms and massacres and appropriations of wealth at regular intervals. The conquest of Muslim Spain resulted in hideous reprisals against the Jews, including forcing them to convert or die. Christians frequently slaughtered Christians. (It's also true that Muslims freqGermany, a Christian country, finally attemped to get rid of the Jews in Europe.

History is cruel. The historical record of Islam, by and large, is no worse than than that of Christianity--or even early Judaism. Consider Joshua.

Show me--specifically--how Islam was or is worse in its cruelties and I will concede your point.

If Islam is our enemy, as you suggest, then how does it advance our "war" by failing to understand the truth of history?

That said, getting loose from Middle Eastern Oil is a goal we can all agree on!

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 05/15/2010

Hmmm... When the Christians laid siege and entered Jerusalem, they slaughtered every man, woman, and child within the city. This was not an uncommon practice. But Saladin, at the conclusion of his siege, allowed the citizens to depart, and did not slaughter them.

Jews (and Christians) were allowed to live and work in many medieval Islamic cultures, accepted as "people of the book," relatively safe. In Europe and Russia, under Christian rule, Jews were reviled, preached against, subjected to pogroms and massacres and appropriations of wealth at regular intervals. The Christian conquest of Muslim Spain resulted in hideous reprisals against the Jews, including forcing them to convert or die. (To be sure, Islamic extremism in Spain contributed to the end of a prosperous and learned period.)

Christians frequently slaughtered Christians, as well. It's also true that Muslims frequently discriminated against other Muslims, and even fought them.

I offer Salo Wittmayer Baron's SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS HISTORY OF THE JEWS, if you have time to skim through 27 volumes...!

Germany, a Christian country, finally attemped to get rid of the Jews in Europe.

History is cruel. The historical record of Islam, by and large, is no worse than that of Christianity--or even early Judaism. Consider Joshua.

Show me--specifically--how Islam was or is worse in its cruelties and I will concede your point.

If Islam is our eternal enemy, as you suggest, then how does it advance our "war" by failing to understand the truth of history? (And why do so many of my atheistic Libertarian friends and colleagues feel the need to defend Christianity over Islam? Both historical extremes would burn atheists at the stake, given their moral druthers.)

That said, getting loose from Middle Eastern Oil is a goal we can all agree on!

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 05/28/2010

Dear Mr. Bear: Many thanks for your comments. I hope you are well.

You were quite right to mention the atrocities committed by the Firs Crusaders when they conquered Jerusalem in 1100. Christians are not guaranteed freedom from the temptation to be cruel and ruthless. But historians like Bat Ye'or have pointed out not all Muslims leaders were as chivalrous as Saladin (who, btw, gets an honorable mention by Dante in his poem INFERNO).

You might also have remembered the genocide of the Christian Armenians committed by the Muslim Turks from 1915 onwards. Some estimates say the slaughter reached 1.8 millions. I would say that was both a lot worse and far more recent than the First Crusaders massacre in 1100.

While Jews and Christians were, in theory, accorded an inferior "protected" status in lands ruled by Islam, this was not in real life all that different from what Jews endured in Christian ruled lands. Bat Ye'or, cited MANY instances of persecution and "reviling" of Jews and Christians by Muslims. And Ibn Warraq, in his book WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM, lists many instances of Jews being massacred by Muslims in North Africa and Moorish Spain. I'm sorry, I don't buy the image of "tolerant Islam."

And considering how the National Socialists of Germany also hated Christianity as well of Judaism, I don't consider that a good example. Hitler persecuted Christians as much as he thought it was politically safe to do so.

I've tried to tell you my basic view, the belief in Islam that mosque and state should merge into a theocracy will inevitably lead to tyranny. Or for wars against the non Muslims. One telling text of the Koran which has stuck in my mind is Sura 48.29: "Mohammed is Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers, but merciful to one another." And that was merely one of many similar texts!

This does NOT mean I beileve all Muslims are consumed with hate for all non Muslims or are hell bent on waging war on them. But I do believe Islam qua Islam, as distinct from PERSONS, allows for these things. That is why "moderate Muslims" have fared so badly in developing a political/theological response opposing Jihadism.

What does the first WTC bombing, the Embassy bombings in Africa, the sawing off of poor Dan Pearl's head, Nine Eleven, the Ft. Hood massacre, the Pantybomber, the Times Square attack, to list just a FEW, have in common? The perpetrators were motivated by fanatical belief in Islam. Or, if you like, "radical Islam."

And the truth of history you mentioned will have to include as well the "tendency" of Islam to be hostile to all non Muslims and to its being willing to tyrannize them.

I do not advocate waging war on Islam the way Jihadists do on us. My view is basicallty that of former President Bush, to use military means sparingly while trying to reach out to "moderate" Muslims. And it's my hope the best ideas of the West will eventually "tame" Islam. Altho that, of course, is why so many Muslims are hostile to us. The fanatical ones, I mean.

Btw, I disagree with you about atheists. It's far safer to be an atheist in mostly Christian nations than in Muslim countries.

And thanks for agreeing with me that we need to wean ourselves off oil. Alas, that will not happen till we get SERIOUS about both nuclear power and SPACE based solar energy.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Alex Brady
Location: st neots
Date: 06/07/2010

This is really interesting. Returning to the theme of the opening posts, I know Allen you were making a point about religion reaching aliens (and I thought the story idea was awesome!!) but think an advanced alien culture like the one at Leviathan could gather a lot of information on us and get our measure quite quickly without learning much new or groundbreaking.

I also think comparing atrocity scores between Christianity and Islam and basing hawkish views on the percieved outcome is a mistake for several reasons.
As a child of the 90s I feel any war is like lighting a
fire in an airliner- the biospehere is very fragile and shouldnt be messed with by wars.
Such tribal conflicts (religions are surely just super-tribes) exascerbated by climate change flooding, famine, mass migration, could easily turn nuclear, and that would be a real horror as we saw in Eon. SoI think we need to chill on that front. Sadly I suspect only a limited holocaust will wake us up. Again, Eon wasnt optimistic.

History is as cruel and Hobbsian as the jungle or the reef. Jihadis are inevitable in a system of extreme inequality, as are the black market and the war on drugs; intelligent humans dont like to be treated badly and get rightly angry, or are willing to do a lot to try and improve things for their offspring. They want honour and fun.
So the actual philosophy fanatics latch onto is surely almost irrelevant given the details mask simpler emotions.
I guess the only solution is a sort of anarchist utopia like the Culture, or a harmonised upload ultra hive culture like the one hinted at in Moving Mars.

Another issue is that as Greg mentioned, Islam was set up with the intention of removing the middle man between man and God. This is obviously a metaphore for establishing an immediate and spiritual connection with the universe. Whether or not you believe in a specific creator deity the universe is obviously a spectacular and wonderous garden, the contemplation of which bring can deep philosophical well being. My point modern or histroric radical Islam, or any religion, is more about tribalism, righteous anger, revenge, hatred, and the simple desire to be a controlling force in ones environment, than it is about the original message of its prophets. If advanced aliens read the Sufi philosopher poets, I think theyd love them, and feel sad about the harm the other aspects of belief and its manipulation has had.

Im not trying to be reductionist by religions mask simple desires. The desire to gather resources is an obvious survival benefit, as is the cooperative aspect of religious organisation, but religions are complex constructs.
The human mind is complex and to survive and spread a religion has to be a subtle thing.
They have been honed by evolution to be in some cases logically slippery (ie christian Faith) or vaguely all encompassing (like buddhism). Personally I prefer the imaginitive space afforded by the buddhist idea better than the strict guides of Islam. Islam originated in a harsh environment, where imaginiation was probbaly less important than just staying alive and reflects this, encoding survival benefits for desert life, but just as our desire to gather resources is damaging the biosphere, desert sensibilities are sometimes incompatible with a machanised world.

Finally I think Sean Brooks listing atrocities committed by people identifying as muslim is a manipulation of the way we as humans interpret facts, to push a mildly racist agenda.
Hearing about all those horrible acts, a complete newcomer might thing muslims are all horrible. This is based on a limited data set though isnt it? The data is limited to a bunch of nasty killings. There have been a billion, largely unnoted times, when people were kind to each other too.

I went on a bit there but I hope that makes some sense.
PS I agree about nuclear energy. My dad is right now heading a tendering commitee thing to build a new one here in England. Im dead proud. Im sure new tech can make fission work pretty well, and Im hoping for a tour of the construction site if it all comes off!

Here is a bit of ancient Sufi poetry I was talking about earlier, by Rumi. Its not as calm as Basho, and I like it very much. He was a gay you know, another group radicalism tends to target.



-------

God said,  I am a hidden treasure. I wanted to be known, so I created the Universe in order to be known.

-------

The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

-----

You have been a prisoner of a little pond.
I am the ocean with turbulent flood.
Come merge with me.

-------

The elders we knew
Are only a few
Wine is overdue
Else silently sigh


And here is some ancient islamic art.

http://www.zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/islamic_mo_full/

See Allen its not all bad!

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Alex Brady
Location: st neots
Date: 06/08/2010

One other thing, the way a religion gains real political power is when it is coopted from its original adherents by powerful people who see an angle. So the original loonies get sidelined (or exectuted) and a religious hegemony forms.
This has surely been the case with some aspects of Islam, what with Mullahs pushing their own agendas through radicalisation.
I lived as a kid in Brunei, a muslim country, and I think my friends there would disagree it is "fairly predictable that we will eventually do to the Moslems as we did to the Indians: kill most of them off and herd the survivors onto reservations and settle their land."
Thats just a bizarre idea.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 06/09/2010

Dear Mr. Brady: Many thanks for your comments.

Truth to say, I don't really disagree with most of what you say, so I'll concentrate on the "atrocity list" bit. If I listed so many horrible things done by SOME, not all, Muslims, it's to correct the fashionable tendency to see only bad Christians as evil doers. But, I would reiterate my contention that the SYSTEM of ideas and beliefs called "Islsm" itself gives fanatical Muslims grounds to claim their crimes were justifiable or even commanded by God.

And just to correct the balance even more, I point out how the ATHEISTS of the USSR and Maoist China killed vastly more people than all the bad Muslims, Jews, and Christians combined (e.g., see Solzhenitsyn's THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO). The phenomenon called "fanaticism" is not limited to religious believers.

And your mentioning of the "fragility" of the world reminds me yet again of my firm belief that we need to get into space in a SERIOUS way simply to save our high tech civilization. Poul Anderson wrote an excellent short essay discussing this for the collection of short stories called SPACE FOLK.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 06/14/2010

Good points, Sean--atrocities committed in the guise of furthering non-religious politics, in the 20th century, tops all past atrocities. Religion certainly has no monopoly on fanaticism. Of course, Stalin conveniently invoked God and Mother Russia when fighting off Germans--and the German Catholic Church remained strangely silent in the face of execution of the mentally ill and, soon after, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists... Religion is, after all, a major arm of politics! Just ask any king.

Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 06/15/2010

Dear Mr. Bear. Thanks again for commenting.

Perhaps not quite so coincidentally, your remarks about Stalin reminded me of the five chapters about that evil man which Solzhenitsyn wrote for the unexpurgated version of IN THE FIRST CIRCLE. In this context, because of the shock of the German invasion, Stalin was reverting to the ideas and terminology he had learned while a atudent in the Russian Orthodox seminary where he studied for the priesthood. The world would have been vastly better off if he had not started dabbling in Marxism!

But I don't agree the German Catholic Church was "strangely silent" in the face of the estermination of the mentally ill, etc. It was PROTESTS and pressure from courageous German Catholics which stopped at least some of the Nantional Socialist atrocities. I only need to point out examples like Clemens von Galen, Bishop of Munster. Throughout the ENTIRE rule of Hitler, he was a thorn in the side of the Nazis. And John Toland mentioned in his biogaprhy of Hitler that it was the CHURCH which saved more Jews from Hitler than everybody else combined.

And your comment that "Religion is, after all, a major arm of politics! Just ask any king.," needs nuancing. Throughout the history of Christianity, the role of the Church in politics has more often been one of RESISTING attempts by states at either destroying or controlling her. A very partial list of examples would be the persecutions by the pagan Roman Empire, the repeated state sponsored hereseies in the Eastern Empire, the Investiture Controversy between Pope Gregory VII and the Emperor Henry IV, the quarrels of Henry II of England with St. Thomas a' Becket, right on down to attempts in OUR country to coerce the Church to assent to morally objectionable practices.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Anang
Location: VA
Date: 06/15/2010

I would say fascists and dictators are actually more religious than religion itself. That is to say they appropriated religious elements in order to establish themselves as godheads of a marxist/socialist/fascist state. Stalin, Hitler indulged in personality cults where people adored and venerated them. Kim Jong il was born on a sacred mountain, birds heralded his birth with songs etc. As Christopher Hitchens would tell you, North Korea is one dead dictator away from a Holy Trinity.
There are elements of fanaticism in every form of philosophy, including religion. The second temple was destroyed due to the agitations of the Jewish zealots, which led to hellenized jews promoting a form of judaism that centered around the family and the community rather than the fanatic devotion to the state of Israel.
So please, don't blame the atheists, because those leaders weren't really atheists in the sense of supporting rationalism and humanism.
But I also don't support the current vein of atheism that elevates moral relativism over rationalism and is content to condemn western religions for their own socio-political reasons and far too quick to declare other cultures as superior because they are exotic, foreign and just not american, so they must be better.
It was the religious and tribal connections to ancient Israel that led the survivors of religious fanaticism (for that is what nazism was) to look to their religion and its tradition of secularism and create the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state of Israel.
Israel is a Jewish state. But it is not a jewish state in the sense that Saudi Arabia is a muslim state.
So religion is good for something.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 06/15/2010

Indeed, but with regard to Iraq, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Though I would have supported Bush 1's following through on the first Gulf War, I felt very different about the team that was in place for Gulf War 2, the rationale, the strategy or lack thereof, the financing (or lack thereof)--virtually everything about that massive effort. Because of such a huge screwup during the initial stages, the eventual outcome is still uncertain. Of course, all that might have happened to Bush 1, as well.

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Sean M. Brooks
Location: Lawrence, MA
Date: 06/16/2010

Dear Mr. Anang:

Thanks for your comments,altho I'm a bit puzzled how to reply. There's nothing in them I would strongly object to. Except for your comments about atheism. More exactly, the state sponsored atheism of the late, unlamented USSR.

That is, I would stress that for manny many years, the Soviet regime was DOGMATICALLY atheistic and hostile to any beiief in God. Avowed atheism was, after all, a necessary prerequisite if you wanted to rise to positions of power and influence. To say nothing, of course, of the vicious persecution of religious believers, especially Catholics and Russian Orthodox, in the USSR.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Re: Respects to Poul Anderson

From: Greg Bear
Date: 06/19/2010

Long before Russia went Communist/atheist, the various powers that be of all persuasions persecuted the Jews. In some parts of the Czarist empire, upstart Muslims and other ethnic groups also became targets--along with Jews. Stalin was just following the guidance of many who came before, religious and otherwise, and added a more groups to the list until one day in 1953 or so absolutely nobody felt safe. "First they came for..."

Rationalism has little to do with it. In fact, a fanatical rationalist may be even less likely to listen to other opinions, because quite clearly they are... iwwational! (Lovely bit in Gilliam's BARON MUNCHAUSEN.)

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