Good on paper

But if they scored on one’s actual life, I don’t think I’d do quite so well. Result of Quiz :: Which religion is the right one for you?

You scored as Christianity.

100% Christianity
063% agnosticism
046% Judaism
038% Buddhism
021% Hinduism
013% Satanism
013% Paganism
008% Islam
000% atheism

I suppose this may explain why my writing appears to be rather better received by agnostics than atheists. Although I suppose it would also help if I would stop kicking their heroes in the teeth.

First the book, then the movie

I submitted my proposal for “The Irrational Atheist” to the publisher last night, so we’ll have to wait and see if they decide to do it or not. Those of you who enjoy my lean, stripped-down prose will no doubt be amused to note that at 16,612 words, the two-chapter proposal clocks in just 10 percent shorter than Sam Harris’ recent book… or pamphlet, as I prefer to call it.

Here’s a brief sample from Chapter IV, which is titled Sam Tzu and the Art of War:

From “The Irrational Atheist” by Vox Day
copyright (c) 2007
All rights reserved

The conflict in Palestine is primarily ethnic, not religious. Atheist Jews, who represent 22.9 percent(15) of the Israeli population, are targeted by their Arab enemies as readily as the ultra-Orthodox. (Another 21 percent call themselves secular and do not practice any religion, but nevertheless profess to believe in God.) Moreover, the violence in Palestine began with the secular Zionists attacking the Christian British.

In Sri Lanka, the political divide is linguistic, not religious. Tamil-speaking Hindus and Christians are allied against Sinhalese-speaking Buddhists and Muslims. The government’s main rival, the revolutionary Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, are secular Marxists seeking political independence for a Tamil-speaking state. The LTTE’s own Internet FAQ settles the matter conclusively, stating in no uncertain terms that the Tamil Tigers are not a religious organization.(16)

To list the many historical counterexamples that disprove Harris’ contention would require a book of its own, but a short list of territorial conflicts between co-religionists would have to include the Roman wars of the Italian peninsula, the Renaissance wars of the Italian city-states, the wars of the Greek city-states, the wars of the petty German principalities, the eleven Russo-Swedish wars, the English Wars of the Roses, in short, nearly the entire history of European warfare(17). It is simply not true that most conflicts which “seem entirely driven by territorial concerns” are “often deeply rooted in religion”. They almost never are.

For as Jared Diamond, the author of the award-winning “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, informs us, territorial conflicts are predominantly rooted in geography, not religion. To suggest otherwise would be to eviscerate his Nobel Prize-worthy explanation for how Europe’s technological development managed to leapfrog that of China during the fifteenth century, as it was European political disunity created by geography that prevented the centralized stasis which left a backward-looking China mired in the past.

“Hence the real problem in understanding China’s loss of political and technological preeminence to Europe is to understand China’s chronic unity and Europe’s chronic disunity. The answer is again suggested by maps. Europe has a highly indented coastline, with five large peninsulas that approach islands in their isloation, and all of which evolved independent languages, ethnic groups and governments…. Europe is carved up into independent linguistic, ethnic, and political units by high mountains (the Alps, Pyrenees, Carpathians, and Norwegian border mountains), while China’s mountains east of the Tibetan plateau are much less formidable barriers…. Unlike China, Europe has many small core areas, none big enough to dominate the others for long, and each the center of chronically independent states.”(18)

In a continent with only four religions or religious denominations of note in 1400,(19) Europe was divided into over 1,000 independent political states.(20) This number was reduced by half only one hundred and seventeen years later, at the start of the Protestant Reformation. And while there was certainly an amount of violent interdenominational Christian conflict during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, it is difficult to imagine that even with the increase in the amount of potential religious conflict, more wars took place than occurred during a century wherein half of the political entities disappeared, swallowed up by their larger, more powerful neighbors.

Indeed, the contrast between the largely peaceful spread of Christianity throughout the continent of Europe with the violent migratory invasions that wracked it from 300 to 700 AD as the Goths, Vandals and Franks moved westward, later followed by the Slavs, Alans, Avars, Bulgars, Hungarians, Pechenegs and Tatars, underlines the fundamental absence of historical support for Harris’ assertion.

(15) Shmuel Neeman Institute for Advanced Study in Science and Technology, Haifa.
(16) “Is the LTTE a religious organization? No. Most members of the LTTE are Hindus however there are many members who are Christian. The LTTE does not have religious motivation for fighting against the government of Sri Lanka. The theoretician for the LTTE and one of the founding members is Anton Balasingham, who is a Christian.” (2006)
(17) I shall concede the Thirty Years War and the eight French Huegenot Wars, and, in an ecumenical spirit of generosity, exclude the Peasant’s War and the English Civil Wars from my list of counterexamples.
(18) Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (1999), 413.
(19) Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517.
(20) Diamond, 412.

Mailvox: so very Bright

AF demonstrates that superior atheist intellect, education and devotion to empirical evidence:

Rather than rant for ten minutes about your entire entirely wrong article titled “the irrational atheist” I wanted to share with you one statistic in response to the extract from your article below.

The irrationality of the atheist can primarily be seen in his actions – and it is here that the cowardice of his intellectual convictions is also exposed. Whereas Christians and the faithful of other religions have good reason for attempting to live by the Golden Rule – they are commanded to do so – the atheist does not.

In fact, such ethics, as well as the morality that underlies them, are nothing more than man-made myth to the atheist. Nevertheless, he usually seeks to live by them when they are convenient, and there are even those, who, despite their faithlessness, do a better job of living by the tenets of religion than those who actually subscribe to them.

Still, even the most admirable of atheists is nothing more than a moral parasite, living his life based on borrowed ethics. This is why, when pressed, the atheist will often attempt to hide his lack of conviction in his own beliefs behind some poorly formulated utilitarianism, or argue that he acts out of altruistic self-interest. But this is only post-facto rationalization, not reason or rational behavior.

Clearly you are implying that most Atheists adopt morally loose behavior because they are not required by God to uphold values like not steeling. The statistic I want to share with you is simple, true, and not exaggerated. It is that Christians are at least 50 times more likely to go to prison than Atheists. Where did I get this statistic? The Federal Bureau of Prisons. It was also confirmed by numerous other websites on the internet.

Actually, I’m outright asserting the opposite, that most atheists do not engage in morally loose behavior because they do not have the courage of their convictions, instead they adopt the morality of the society around them and modify it slightly at their convenience.

As for the silly “50 times more likely to go to prison” claim, I have personally debunked this with regards to the British population. Regarding the American statistics, that too is demonstrably false:

“According to the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions (determined through answers to the question on “Religious Background” on the Penal entrance form) only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion.”

Some atheists just don’t mind lying. Of course, why shouldn’t they lie whenever it suits their momentary purpose? It’s not as if there is any moral code to which they are rationally bound.

And if atheists are so intelligent, why do so many of them rely on information that is demonstrably false?

Mailvox: well, I guess we’re even

I’m not sure what GL is saying either, although I gather he’s less than enamoured with my literary style:

A good memory plus a fast pace can make you a millionaire on “Jeopardy” but it can’t make you intelligent. Please put the cookies a little lower so I can reach them. An intelligent man makes complex issues easy to understand. An idiot makes simple issues seem complex. Maybe idiot is too strong a word, but I think you understand my drift. Maybe you should write two columns, one for you eggheads and one for the other ninety-nine point nine percent of us. Sorry, but in my first sentence I’m not using the word “you” in the editorial sense. While your writing why don’t you go ahead and say something intelligible. I’m sure you know already, but I’ll say it anyway, I’m using spell-check on these big words but only because my wife isn’t in the room. When she was in grammar school she would miss-spell words on purpose so she wouldn’t have to go to the county-wide spelling competition. Sorry to ramble on, my freshman English teacher thought I was a good writer, did yours? I’ll bet my English teacher was smarter than yours. Have a nice day.

P.S. Don’t confuse politicians with real Americans, or is that what your column said??

Actually, the main point of my column was to tell people to read Tanith Lee, because she’s a fabulous fabulist.

“When you die, no, when I kill you….”

The greater evil

Some correspondents don’t grasp the reality of the Lizard Queen:

One questioner asked Clinton if her track record showed she could stand up to “evil men” around the world.

“The question is, we face a lot of dangers in the world and, in the gentleman’s words, we face a lot of evil men and what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men,” Clinton said. She paused to gaze while the audience interrupted with about 30 seconds of laughter and applause.

Of course, they left out the part about how her nictitating membranes closed over her eyes and the way in which her eerie, unblinking gaze turned the first four reporters to stone.

It’s not her background that equips her to deal with evil and bad men, it’s her reptilian heritage. Assuming that by “deal” you mean “to eat raw”.

As for the political aspects, if she follows up her call to have American troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008 with a convincing pretense at limiting immigration and policing illegals, she will have sewn up the presidency before the campaigns even begin in earnest. I suspect the reason Giuliani is still sitting on the fence about entering the race is that he is well aware that it’s all but over already and he has no desire to play Bob Dole’s role of sacrificial lamb.

So much for the WDR

Perhaps the Bush administration should have considered the following before deciding that democratization and exposure to Western culture would be sufficient to deradicalize Muslims in Iraq:

Forty per cent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 said they would prefer to live under sharia law in Britain, a legal system based on the teachings of the Koran. The figure among over-55s, in contrast, was only 17 per cent.

The study found disturbing evidence of young Muslims adopting more fundamentalist beliefs on key social and political issues

If the British experience is any guide, then the American occupation can be expected to make things worse in Iraq even if the violence can somehow be brought to an end. The problem that the White House and the deluded cheerleaders for the war are facing is that when your basic strategy is wrong, it doesn’t matter what you do tactically, it is never going to work.

The Spanish defeated Islam in their country by forcibly evicting the Moriscos, creating the Inquisition to locate conversos who feigned the abandonment of their previous loyalties and maintaining a strong barrier against Muslim entry. They did not invade the Iraq or Morocco and attempt to turn the culture into a neo-Spanish one.

The historical strategy worked and kept Islam in check for centuries. The democratization strategy already shows signs of massive failure after less than four years.

Discuss amongst yourselves

This is kind of a weird one, but hey, whatever.