Dvorák – From Johannes Brahms to Duke Ellington

Dvorák’s 9th symphony (From The New World) is wonderful. It sounds so “American,” yet is composed entirely of Bohemian folk themes, though Dvorák listened many times to Harry Burleigh (an African-American) singing Negro Spirituals just for him at the National Conservatory of Music in New York (Burleigh was a student), which Dvorák directed during 1893-1895. Dvorák blended the themes of his homeland into the sound and spirit of the musical America that Burleigh exemplified. As quoted in the New York Herald in 1893, Dvorák said:

“I am now satisfied that the future music of this country must be founded upon what are called negro melodies. These are the folk songs of America, and your composers must turn to them. … In the negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music. They are pathetic, tender, passionate, melancholy, solemn, religious, bold, merry, gay, or what you will. It is music that suits itself to any mood or any purpose.”

Another of Dvorák’s African-American students at the conservatory was William Marion Cook, a violinist and composer. Cook, along with Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet mentored Duke Ellington in 1915-1916, encouraging the teenage Ellington to take his musical knowledge and talent into public performances (gigs in New York and on the road), and launch a musical career.

Dvorák himself had been discovered, mentored and financially aided by Johannes Brahms, and they remained close friends for the rest of their lives (for Brahms till 1897, for Dvorák till 1904).

(See wikipedia articles for Harry Burleigh, Will Marion Cook, and Duke Ellington).

So, from Brahms to Ellington, by way of Dvorák, Burleigh and Cook.

Dvorák’s New World Inquiry
How a Czech composer helped America find its authentic voice (2004)
http://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2004-11-12/237252/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Burleigh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Marion_Cook

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Ellington

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Young Love

Children touch all the buttons
with dirty little hands, cling
forever fighting weaning
and after suck has ended
sulk sullen seeking second mothers
rebirthing them as love’s evangelicals,
shouting praises of amorous physicality,
lingering languorously on love’s lips and nipples,
iron pinpricks of rootedness awash in pendulous sensuality.
And old men sipping coffee quietly in corners,
stroke ears, raise eyebrows a hair,
remembering the first awakening –
just for a moment –
faint echoes returning to forgetfulness;
and old women walk by
passing hands over fruit
laid in open boxes
mellow sweetness to the sun
squeezing sensing softness
mindlessly,
while chattering one and another
as they stroll through the market.
And each writes their verses on flakes of light –
leaves of memory –
like a forest burning, a crumbling cascade of color
peppering autumn’s wind,
fading to the earth of innumerable beginnings –
again unknowing.

22 March 2004

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If I Knew Then What I Know Now

If I had to do it over again, I would be less obedient, less trusting and less credulous. I would keep up my piano lessons for the duration, do a lot more photography throughout, and travel more while still young – for my own interests, not for work. I would have worked on my passions much harder, even with abandon; I would not have wasted time on many inconsequential distractions; and I would have paid much less attention to many people. A very few people I would have paid more and better attention to. I would be much less afraid of dying, though I did come pretty close. I would have read Balzac and Flaubert in my teens, and then I would have had a much clearer idea of what men want from women, and what women want from men. I would have read Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene in 1976 when it was first published, and then I would have understood what family is really about. Balzac, Flaubert and Dawkins are the best preparation a young man can have before engaging in the battle of the sexes. C. G. Jung, though his ideas are rather elaborate, was very helpful for understanding the failures of human nature. While Jungian thought is too cumbersome to be absorbed in your teens, it is wise to do so in your twenties so you can understand the psychological catastrophes others will try to suck you into, as well as your own mid-life crisis in your thirties, or forties or fifties. I don’t have too many regrets about the many compromises I made in order to support my family, because I am happy my children are who they are today. I made my mistakes as a parent, but overall I am happy with how I performed as a father. Even so, had I to do it over again I would be much more adventuresome about my career in my younger half of life.

I Will Be Great Again

I need attention.
I can’t and don’t want to progress,
So the country has to be pulled back
And you have to regress
So my world-view can be preserved
By everyone else conforming to it.
Then, I will be safe, honored, important,
And my pitiful innocence can be exploited
By the big moneymakers of the day,
And I can share in their success with envy,
With satisfaction that those who tried to pull away
Were held down and kept from gaining what I lacked.
And I will feel powerful again,
Not weak, and alone, and left out.
I will be among the deserving.
I will be strong because they will be weak.
I will be popular because they will be gone.
I will be smart
Because no stranger will be allowed to prove me ignorant.
I will be great again.

25 February 2017

Trump Liberates American Bigotry From Shame

Pogo

Pogo

The reason Trump is so popular is that he liberates Americans from being ashamed of their bigotries. This is even true for more American blacks, Jews, Asians, Hispanics (but not Latinos) and even Muslims than you might imagine. We can see this in the many instances of overt and expanded persecutions: the white man who two days ago shot three people in a Kansas bar in an anti-Middle East hate crime murder (“get out of my country!”), killing an Indian engineer and wounding two other men; the many video-recorded instances of excess brutality (and killing) by usually white police officers against usually non-white and usually unarmed civilians; the recent mass vandalism of Jewish tombstone toppling (in response to which Muslim Americans raised $100k to help fund restoration work); the more militarized and less humane (pulling people awaiting surgery out of hospital beds) round up of undocumented aliens, and increased harassment of legal resident aliens, citizens and travelers – all with significant popularity among a rainbow spectrum of Americans who claim “their” jobs are being stolen by “illegal immigrants”; the militarized police attacks on anti-pipeline protesters on Native American land (effectively an invasion against supposedly sovereign territory); the belligerence against potheads in legalized marijuana states (even poor white people can be persecuted for seeking alternatives to opioid addiction and overdose death); the official resurgence of and approval of bias against alternative sexual identity and non-heterosexual orientation; the eagerness of many careerist bigots to spew out Neo-Nazi propaganda publicly (with official tolerance and even approval), and of bigoted cowards to scrawl Nazi graffiti on monuments of groups targeted by Neo-Nazis (I’ve seen such myself, in Oakland!); the resurgent bigotry against females generally and reproductive rights in particular (individual sovereignty of their own bodies by females); and the orgy of unrestrained greed skyrocketing the Dow Industrial Average right now: the rush to privatize the $620B public education money stream (and then later be able to skyrocket tuition at “good” primary schools parents desperate for “successful” children will want to get their children into); the rush to capitalize on yet-to-be-extracted fossil hydrocarbons (quarterly capital gains trump climate change and even the hastening of the end of the world); the fury to deny socialized healthcare in favor of your-money-or-your-life profitability for the already rich; and the enjoyment of the self-righteous satisfaction in an “America first” attitude of being able to bomb all the other “darkies” on Earth. The remedy for all this depends on the collective actions of the American people over the next (few?, many?) years.

Do-It-Yourself Alternative High School

High School in the United States is about training for conformity, and molding for obedience. High School gets in the way of becoming educated, in the same way that organized religion gets in the way of realizing spirituality (“knowing God”). The following is a list of 20 books I would gave to a student for a do-it-yourself education (an intellectual expansion) of a type American High Schools cannot deliver. I offer this list to you, and to American teens today, because I think that as a set they represent an entry to the endless path of awakening to the great wide world (reality), and to the art of self-teaching. Anyone who would read all these books, and work out the problems in them (if such), would merit the Alternative High School Diploma, which comes in the form of the personal satisfaction in having enjoyed learning many interesting things, and in how to think better.

How To Solve It
(G. Polya)

Desert Solitaire
(Edward Abbey)

Cat’s Cradle
(Kurt Vonnegut)

The Divine Proportion
(H. E. Huntley)

The Periodic Table
(Primo Levi)

The Ancestor’s Tale
(Richard Dawkins)

Gods, Graves and Scholars
(C. W. Ceram)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(Mark Twain)

The Oedipus Trilogy
(Sophocles)

Slaughterhouse Five
(Kurt Vonnegut)

David Copperfield
(Charles Dickens)

Four Plays by Oscar Wilde:
– The Importance of Being Earnest
– An Ideal Husband
– Lady Windermere’s Fan
– A Woman of No Importance
– and if you want a 5th one: Salomé

Stranger In A Strange Land
(Robert Heinlein)

The Lathe of Heaven
(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(George Orwell)

Animal Farm
(George Orwell)

Brave New World
(Aldous Huxley)

On The Road
(Jack Kerouac)

Eichmann In Jerusalem
(Hannah Arendt)

Cadillac Desert
(Marc Reisner)

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God And Country

“My own mind is my own church”
— Thomas Paine, (1737-1809) The Age Of Reason

“God is in His heaven, and all is right with the world”

“If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church?” The inability of adult authority to give a six year old boy an unequivocal answer planted a freethinking seed that flowered into liberation.

To criticize religion is unkind, like ridiculing a child’s thumbsucking and security blanket. Then why discuss it, since for many discussion is equivalent to critique? Because concepts of God are at the root of attitudes about community, security and power, and these in turn affect our shared external reality — country. Church and State, God and Country, they are never far apart. The ideal would be to keep our Gods contained within ourselves so they do not destroy what we enjoy together. Reality is otherwise.

Belief and Religion

Religion is organized belief in response to psychological need.

“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand.”
— Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), (1)

There are two aspects to consider, a personal one of belief or unbelief in the existence of God, and the social one of communities of organized belief or unbelief: religions or societies of freethinkers, secularists and humanists. How do the beliefs within these communities affect the politics between them?

First, let us consider belief.

The Age Of Reason

In January 1794 in Paris, Tom Paine began his last important work, The Age Of Reason, of which he completed Part 1 six hours before his arrest by the Jacobins. Paine escaped the guillotine by accident, but nearly died of illness during his ten month incarceration. This patriot of the American Revolution, who had been elected an honorary French citizen and returned to the Convention (in Paris) by three different constituencies in 1792, had seen the promise of the French Revolution debased by the concentration of power, the self-aggrandizement of “leaders,” and a loss of vision and human connectedness by many others. A Robespierre who could believe “I am of the people because I feel all their wants, their hurts, their pains, their sufferings,” was a man elevating himself to godlike heights — with glacial empathy. (2)

Paine’s response was to write about religion because:

“The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of the priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest, in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true.” (3)

The Age Of Reason shocked Paine’s contemporaries, even many who agreed with his politics. The nature of his belief was shared by Jefferson, Washington and Adams, but they were careful to avoid any public expression of unorthodoxy. (4)

Paine wrote:

“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.” (3)

The incendiary phrase is “and no more.” Paine spelled out the “no more” at length, generally a criticism of the Old Testament from a moral point of view, (4) and a dismissal of the Jewish, Roman, Greek, Turkish and Protestant orthodoxies. (3) Though Paine’s belief is now commonplace, these three words still keep it beyond the permissible limits of many today.

For Paine, belief was personal — not organized — and it informed personal acts, in his case an unwavering opposition to slavery (in America), oligarchy (in England) and unnecessary bloodshed (in France). He was a democrat opposed to cruelty in any form.

The Undiscovered Self

A more recent voice speaking eloquently about personal belief was that of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). He was separated from Paine’s lifespan by 66 years, and from today (2004) by 43 years. Jung had no need of faith, he was an empiricist who observed that natural processes of growth and decay included a natural process of psychological integration, which he called individuation. For him, that this happened of its own was God, and being aware of the process within oneself was knowing. And no more.

“The fact is that what happens to a person is characteristic of him. He represents a pattern and all the pieces fit. One by one, as his life proceeds, they fall into place according to some predestined design.

“All that I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. I only believe in what I know. And that eliminates believing. Therefore I do not take His existence on belief — I know that He exists.” (5)

One can hear an echo of Herakleitos (c. 500 BC) in Jung, “Character is fate.” (6) Jung recommends that you dive in, that you know for yourself, and in particular that you “beware of childishness.” And what could be more childish than unquestioning obedience?

“Discovering yourself provides you with all you are, were meant to be, and all you are living from and for. The whole of yourself is certainly an irrational entity, but this is just precisely yourself, which is meant to live as a unique and unrepeatable experience. Thus, whatever you find in your given disposition is a factor of life which must be taken into careful consideration.

“If you should find, for instance, an ineradicable tendency to believe in God or immortality, do not allow yourself to be disturbed by the blather of so-called freethinkers. And if you find an equally resistant tendency to deny all religious ideas do not hesitate: deny them and see how that influences your general welfare and your state of mental or spiritual nutrition. But beware of childishness: whether you call the ultimate unknown “God” or “Matter” is equally futile, since we know neither the one nor the other, though we doubtless have experiences of both. But we know nothing beyond them, and we cannot produce either the one or the other.” (7)

Who was Jung’s God?

“The collective unconscious, it’s not for you, or me, it’s the invisible world, it’s the great spirit. It makes little difference what I call it: God, Tao, the Great Voice, the Great Spirit. But for people of our time God is the most comprehensible name with which to designate the Power beyond us.” (8)

And

“Without knowing it man is always concerned with God. What some people call instinct or intuition is nothing other than God. God is that voice inside us which tells us what to do and what not to do. In other words, our conscience.

“In this dark atomic age of ours, with its lurking fear, man is seeking guidance. Consciously or unconsciously he is once more grasping for God. I make my patients understand that all the things which happen to them against their will are a superior force. They can call it God or devil, and that doesn’t matter to me, as long as they realize that it is a superior force. God is nothing more than that superior force in our life. You can experience God every day.” (5)

The Sound Of One Hand Clapping

What makes Gods godly is their remoteness from human scale. This remoteness is one of power, emotion and concern. The ancient Greeks understood this about the Gods, they could be magnanimous or unearthly cruel, and they could equally well be completely oblivious about our individual fortunes or misfortunes. Jung’s great insight about God was this evenhandedness between the right hand of sweetness and light, and the left hand of darkness and cruelty; the mandala, the yin-yang of the Tao. Jung presented this in his work Answer To Job (1952), which of his writings most disturbs his religiously orthodox critics.

Does the image we have of God or Not-God inspire humility and satisfaction in “doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy?” Or, does the image we have of God or Not-God support a feeling of power and exclusivity, something that sets us above the unanointed with a superior sense to “feel all their wants, their hurts, their pains, their sufferings?” The first attitude as a social norm is essential to civic health, and to this end it does not matter whether any individual’s image is of God or Not-God. The second attitude as a social norm would be the left hand of God playing the religion card.

It is not what you believe that determines the worthiness of your religion (or non-religion) and the merit of your practice, but what you do, how you act, what you support.

If I call the unimaginably vast and ancient, powerful and impersonal universe the superior force in my life — God — and I view my own existence as an insignificance of such scant proportion that mere random chance can easily explain it, do I hold a belief in God that inspires humility and appreciation, even exultation in being alive, or have I crossed over into unbelief? Is there any difference?

The opposition of God and Not-God may be a false dichotomy if the practical outcome for the adherents of each is Paine socialism. If the social outcome is a Robespierrean absolutism, then the belief or atheism of the perpetrators is irrelevant, despotism is despotism. Where under Paine socialism the widest variety of personal conviction and religious practice would be tolerated, despotism would eliminate all competing thought in favor of one compulsory system of belief — a theocracy even if atheistic.

Only those religions or non-religions intent on achieving a Robespierrean absolutism (saving the country, saving the world) will be concerned that their particular form of the God or Not-God image dominates popular attention. If they have a mission, they are a threat to society, a mental health epidemic. Orthodoxy is the enemy of the people.

In April 1961, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968) became the first human to orbit the Earth. During his 89 minute orbit he radioed “I don’t see any God up here.” This led to many apocryphal stories and jokes, like the following. Yuri Gagarin is interviewed by Western journalists after his historic flight. An American journalist asks “Did you see God when you were in space?” Gagarin answers, “Yes, she’s black.” I heard this from Brother Kieran, OSF in my high school biology class of 1966. This was a Franciscan Brother, and it was the 1960s. Another entertaining story is told in (9). Gagarin’s documented quote is included in compilations of interesting quotes about atheism, (10) religion, science, skepticism and nonbelief. (11)

Now, let us consider nonbelief.

Why I Am Not A Christian

“The objections to religion are of two sorts — intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are now and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.”
— Bertrand Russell, (12)

In 1925 Bertrand Russell published a booklet called What I Believe, “to say what I think of man’s place in the universe, and of his possibilities in the way of achieving the good life.” This booklet, and other writings, were presented as evidence in court that Russell was unfit to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York. The court agreed and Russell was barred from accepting his professorship in 1941. The successful campaign against Russell was carried on by “ecclesiastical journals, the Hearst press, and just about every Democratic politician joined [in a] chorus of defamation.” Of the sad result John Dewey said “As Americans, we can only blush with shame for this scar on our repute for fair play.” (13)

In What I Believe, Russell said this on the existence of God:

“God and immortality, the central dogmas of the Christian religion, find no support in science. It cannot be said that either doctrine is essential to religion, since neither is found in Buddhism… But we in the West have come to think of them as the irreducible minimum of theology. No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked. But for my part I cannot see any ground for either. I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist; so may the Gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.” (14)

In Why I Am Not A Christian, Russell succinctly demolishes five major arguments advanced to prove the existence of God. A summary might be as follows (C = Christian, R = Russell, J = Jungian Christian):

First Cause Argument
C: Everything in the world has a cause, and the root of this causal cascade — the First Cause — is called God.
R: “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God.”

Natural Law Argument
C: Processes in nature, like the planets orbiting the sun, follow natural laws, pointing to a divine lawgiver.
R: “Human laws are behests commanding you to behave in a certain way…but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being mere description[s]…you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing there were, you are then faced with the question ‘Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?'”
C: God did so for his own good pleasure, without reason.
R: Then there is something which is not subject to law, and your train of natural law is interrupted.
C: In fact, God does have a reason for each law, to create the best universe.
R: “You would never think it to look at it,” but if there were such reasons “then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary.”

Argument From Design
C: Everything in the world is designed just so that we can manage to live in it, pointing to a supreme designer, for if the world were ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it.
R: Since Darwin we know that creatures evolve to adapt to their environments, not that environments are created just so for existing creatures — there is no evidence of design. “When you look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world…should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think, that if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists?”

Moral Argument
C: There would be no right or wrong unless God existed.
R: “[If] there is a difference between right and wrong…is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer significant…to say that God is good. If you are going to say…that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning that is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them.” If so, “it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but they are in their essence logically anterior to God.”
J: God can be bad.
R: A Gnostic hypothesis — “which I often thought was a very plausible one” — is that “this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.”

Argument For Remedying Injustice
C: The existence of God is required to bring justice into the world.
R: “In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.”
C: To have justice in the universe as a whole there is a future life, with heaven and hell, to redress the balance of life here on earth.
R: The simplest logic is to assume that this world is a fair sample of the rest of the universe unknown to us, “and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also. Supposing you got a crate of oranges…and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue ‘The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.’ You would say, ‘probably the whole lot is bad,'” and a similar argument would apply to the universe. “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in this world,” which in turn forms “a moral argument against deity.”

But belief in God is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of imprinting and emotion. We humans are very similar to geese (read Konrad Lorenz), we imprint many images and associations very early in life, often our most indelible images and compelling associations. “Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it,” as Russell observes right after concluding his five counterproofs of deity, just described. The emotion is “the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you.”

Russell summed up his own guiding principle this way, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” (15)

Why I Am A Pagan

Lin Yutang (1895-1976) like C. G. Jung was the son of a Christian preacher and seriously considered a life in the ministry, until his college years. The many doubts easily accessible to keen young Christian intellects — who use their minds as intended (if they were intentionally designed) — reached a head for Lin Yutang when he was a college instructor, one day in conversation with a Confucian colleague:

“Why,” I reasoned with a colleague, “if there were no God, people would not do good and the world would go topsy-turvy.”

“Why?” replied my Confucian colleague. “We should lead a decent human life simply because we are decent human beings,” he said.

“This appeal to the dignity of human life cut off my last tie to Christianity, and from then on I was a pagan.”

“It is all so clear to me now. The world of pagan belief is a simpler belief. It postulates nothing, and is obliged to postulate nothing. It seems to make the good life more immediately appealing by appealing to the good life alone. It better justifies doing good by making it unnecessary for doing good to justify itself. It does not encourage men to do, for instance, a simple act of charity by dragging in a series of hypothetical postulates — sin, redemption, the cross, laying up treasure in heaven, mutual obligation among men on account of a third-party relationship in heaven — all so unnecessarily complicated and roundabout, and none capable of direct proof. If one accepts the statement that doing good is its own justification, one cannot help regarding all theological baits to right living as redundant and tending to cloud the luster of a moral truth. Love among men should be a final, absolute fact. We should be able just to look at each other and love each other without being reminded of a third party in heaven. Christianity seems to me to make morality appear unnecessarily difficult and complicated and sin appear tempting, natural, and desirable. Paganism, on the other hand, seems alone to be able to rescue religion from theology and restore it to its beautiful simplicity of belief and dignity of feeling.” (16)

Lin Yutang went on to become a prolific writer, whose works include classics of philosophical commentary like The Wisdom Of Laotse, and of pedagogy like The Lin Yutang Chinese-English Dictionary Of Modern Usage. Lin Yutang’s 1937 bestseller, The Importance Of Living, is a work in the style of Michel de Montaigne’s Essays imbued with wu-wei, the Taoist concept of no-action.

Thinking Is Freedom

Is Russell’s freethinking unbelief of less value than morality compelled by orthodoxy? Russell makes an excellent case for the opposite. Is it possible that what Paine, Jung, Russell and Lin Yutang share is that their ideas of God or Not-God are motivated from their morality and not vice versa? Is it possible that both belief and unbelief are distractions, illusions, maya obscuring the living reality that has any value, which is adherence to the morality of “doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy,” of being “inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” of “leading decent human lives simply because we are decent human beings,” of “discovering yourself” with Jungian diligence, echoing the inscription at Delphi to “Know Thyself,” and Buddha’s dying words to “work out your salvation with diligence.”

Orthodoxy is the death of intellect, and in that there is no God, as Paine and Jung intuit, Russell proves and Lin Yutang eloquently confirms.

Church, Incorporated

Why have orthodoxy and churches?

Church is community, it is what people seek beyond family — or instead of it — to find belonging. At its best, such community can be very warm and accepting, and of great psychological and financial help in times of personal crisis. Many people find great comfort by association with others who mirror their concerns, and with whom they can form cooperatives for educating children and performing good works in their communities.

The church is the physical plant of a religion, which is an organized system of belief, which in turn is maintained by a priesthood or professional ministry who set about creating and interpreting theology to justify their existence, and creating community to maintain the attraction of their churches to ensure the continuing operation of this earthly enterprise. In the United States, religion is defined by the Internal Revenue Service, and religions are tax-exempt corporations. The original quid pro quo of this arrangement was that Churches would stay out of politics, and the State would stay out of the Church treasuries (“separation of church and state”). However, like all corporations Churches have preferences as to government policies, which can affect existing operations, income and the prospects for growth. So, churches engage in politics as the 1940 case of Bertrand Russell, and much else before and since has demonstrated. The role of the Catholic Church as a barrier to social and political reform is historic — read Bertrand Russell. In a recent (2004) article, Gary Leupp describes how the Catholic Church in France thwarted the aims of the Revolution of 1848. (17)

When the Catholic Church became a progressive force with “a preferential option for the poor” in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, it found itself opposed to oligarchy instead of allied with it as had been traditional, for example with Franco in Spain. Then, instead of having national armies protecting the Church, they attacked, murdering its priests and nuns, and even Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. Since these Central American oligarchies are extensions of US imperialism, what occurred was a war by the US government through proxies against the Catholic Church. What was true in Rome in 250 during the reign of Emperor Decius was true in America in 1980 during the reign of Ronald Reagan, Christianity seen as a threat to the State was persecuted. The subsequent retreat of the Church is evident in its shift from the liberation introduced by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II in 1962, to the renewed fundamentalism of Pope John Paul II. From the perspective of empire the spread of “liberation theology” among the masses is socialism and not to be tolerated, and from the perspective of the Churches fundamentalism that reinforces oligarchy and the status quo is the surest guarantee of its physical safety and financial security.

Religious orthodoxy is an element of social control and thus of political power.

If we taxed the Churches and allowed them to engage in politics in the same manner as any other corporation, there would be much less confusion all around about both the politics and the religions.

There is a great deal of hate and prejudice that aspires to suffocating political control, and appropriates the language of Christianity to elevate its self-image to god-like stature. Such so-called American Christianity is hate masquerading as religion to operate as tax-exempt corporation, giving an illusion of power to the ignorant, and a vent of cruelty to the fearful.

Orthodoxy opposed to intellect is religion addiction, and of this the United States has a mental health problem of epidemic proportions. We are not the only country so affected. Our “War On Drugs” does not now include the “opiate of the masses” because the present mass addiction serves the interests of the ruling elites.

The Levers of Control

The four major levers of control by any government are: guns (and armaments), money (the supply and use of, including gambling), drugs (including mass psychosis and religion) and women (libido, fecundity). Religions at the service of the State will facilitate its use of these levers.

We can see that people whose God/Not-God image springs from Paine socialist convictions will be most likely to oppose government oppression and oligarchy. They are also the people least likely to contribute to the support of Church, Incorporated, though a good number may be very socially, civically and charitably engaged. These people can be troublemakers because they are inquisitive, outspoken, uncowed, principled, responsible, disobedient, uncontrolling, witty and irreverent.

Being in control is an illusion, but one that obsesses many.

People who are intimidated by the prospect of thinking, who are fearful and seek security, willingly surrender funds, the free range of their intellect and their freedom of action to a higher authority in exchange for protection, also transferring with a sense of relief their personal responsibility for the social consequences of Church actions and policies. Recall Jung’s comment about childishness. They do their duty, follow the obligatory strictures, perhaps complain now and then about “having to go to mass,” or “having to keep kosher at grandma’s house,” but generally coast along without the burden of thinking with its frightening possibility of erupting doubts that would undermine the well-oiled routines of their daily lives and their personal concerns to make money, push their children to success, amplify the comfort of their homes, gain social status and all the usual preoccupations. Their existential problem has been put on autopilot, and many will fly to their graves without once looking back on the settings. For some, “the left hand of God” may pull them up short — a fateful accident, a tragedy — and force them to reevaluate, and out of such crisis to break through the religion spell and discover themselves.

If misery loves company then so does doubt and so does resentment over obligatory religion — if this is salvation, even immortality, where is the joy? Joy is what attracts the charismatics, they find group acceptance to act stupidly, babbling, whooping, writhing and feeling physically excited like children. Perhaps all we need are some playgrounds for adults, some shedding of public inhibitions, and police trained to understand the difference between a natural psychological outlet and an actual public disturbance.

Joy comes with the freedom of using your mind, of “being your own church.” Then you are part of the world, which is both good and bad, but most importantly you are not trying to push it away or control and suffocate it to end its threat to your ignorance — your fear. The politics of religious orthodoxy is an apartheid politics, it projects its fears externally then seeks to contain and punish these projections — sinners and people attributed with lower value — in a delusion that this is an escape to safety, an elevation to prosperity and righteousness.

Jesus had it right when he said “By their works shall ye know them.” Don’t you think he would get along well with Tom Paine, Carl Jung, Bert Russell and Lin Yutang? Wouldn’t that be a fun party to attend? God is the ultimate reality, which we create for ourselves by our own actions. And no more.

Summary:
Concepts of God or Not-God that come from humane morality will characterize just societies.

References

[1] Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not A Christian,” lecture of 6 March 1927, printed in Why I Am Not A Christian, And Other Essays On Religion And Related Subjects, edited by Paul Edwards, 1957 (George Allen & Unwin Ltd.), NY: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster, Inc.), ISBN 0-671-20323-1

[2] Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine, 1943, NY: Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3064-X

[3] Thomas Paine, The Age Of Reason, 1794, see also [2].

[4] Bertrand Russell, “The Fate Of Thomas Paine,” 1934, see [1]

[5] C. G. Jung, “Men, Women, And God,” 1955, in C. G. Jung Speaking, Interviews And Encounters, edited by William McGuire and R.F.C. Hull, Bollingen Series XCVII, Princeton University Press, 1977, ISBN 0-691-09894-8

[6] Guy Davenport, Herakleitos And Diogenes, San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1994, ISBN 0-912516-36-4, see page 9 on Fragment 69.

[7] C. G. Jung, “The Art Of Living,” Gordon Young, Sunday Times (London)17 July 1960, see [5].

[8] C. G. Jung, “On The Frontiers Of Knowledge,” 1959, see [5]

[9] S. Wesley Ariarajah, “Many Voices, One God: Remodeling Christianity for a Pluralistic World”
http://www.tcpc.org/resources/articles/many_voices_ariarajah.htm [active 25 November 2004]

[10] Cliff Walker, Positive Atheism’s Big List of Quotations
http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/quote-g.htm
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968) Soviet cosmonaut who, in 1961, became the first person to orbit the earth. He rode Vostok 1 around the Earth (24,800 miles) and experienced weightlessness for 89 minutes. “I don’t see any god up here.” — Yuri Gagarin, speaking from orbit in 1961.
[an extensive site, active 25 November 2004]

[11] Quotations on Philosophy and Religion
http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/quotes_freethght.html [active 25 November 2004]

[12] Bertrand Russell, “Has Religion Made Useful Contributions To Civilization?,” 1930, see [1]

[13] Paul Edwards, “How Bertrand Russell Was Prevented From Teaching At The College Of The City Of New York,” 1957, see [1]

[14] Bertrand Russell, “What I Believe,” 1925, see [1]

[15] Bertrand Russell, “What I Believe,” 1925, see [1]

[16] Lin Yutang, The Importance Of Living, 1937 (William Morrow & Company), NY: Quill, 1998, ISBN 0-688-16352-1

[17] Gary Leupp, “The Wrong Side Wins, Democratic Elections in Historical Perspective,” CounterPunch, 2 November 2004
http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/11/02/democratic-elections-in-historical-perspective/ [active 25 November 2004]

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Originally published as:

God and Country
17 January 2005
http://www.swans.com/library/art11/mgarci29.html

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For Darwin’s views on belief versus nonbelief in God, see:

Darwin’s Living Legacy
13 February 2017
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/02/13/darwins-living-legacy/

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15 February 2017:

All religions are expressions of the fear of death.

The greater the ignorance of nature, the greater the likelihood of being a fearful person who believes in a god: a hoped for supernatural protector against the fearful uncertainties of life.

Some people will combat their fears by challenging their ignorance, through reading and study, to learn more about reality. Expanded knowledge gradually diminishes irrational terrors and irrational beliefs, and strengthens the confidence to conduct your life. Such people value gaining insights more than avoiding the discomforts of making personal changes.

Other people prefer to defend their ignorant irrationality — their prejudices and their religions — against the potential enlightenment offered by rational thought and scientific knowledge. They value their comfort in remaining unchanged more than the gaining of insight about reality.