Ideology

Christianity as a Religious Ideology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 3:33am in

Religions are ideologies. They are little different from something like capitalism, or Marxism, or the divine right of kings, or humanism.

That is to say ideologies are sets of statements about how the world and people are, and how they should be.

Christianity takes humans as fallen. We are innately bad, and we must be reformed by good education, including punishment. “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” This is different from classic Confucianism, which assumed that humans were essentially neutral slates, or the Confucianism of Mencius, which believed that humans were innately good, similar to Rousseau. The Chinese Legalists, on the other hand, assumed humans were bad, and the Imperial justice system tended to run on their ideas, not those of Mencius.

If you believe humans are bad, you must change them; fix them. Such ideologies tend to be punitive. If you think humans are good, on the other hand, you have to mostly avoid screwing them up, and such ideologies try to avoid punishment and negative reinforcement.

Christianity’s caused a lot of suffering down through the ages, a statement I hope isn’t controversial. A lot of that comes down to Christianity’s metaphysical beliefs for most of that time.

  1. The only way to go to Heaven is through acceptance of Christ;
  2. If you don’t go to Heaven, you will wind up in Hell. Hell is eternal torment.

The combination of these two beliefs means that, logically, anything is acceptable if it leads to someone becoming a Christian. Charlemagne once force-converted ten thousand pagans, then executed them. They died as Christians, with no chance to sin, doubtless they went to heaven. Spanish conquistadors would burn heretics, because they believed that would send them to heaven. Conquering a country to convert its people was not only moral, it was the only moral thing to do. To do otherwise would be to condemn everyone born there to hell, which is to say to torture which never ends.

Christianity is a form of hegemonic ideology. “Everyone should follow this ideology.” Democracy is another hegemonic ideology, “Everyone should be able to vote for their leaders.” Oh, there are exceptions, but they are minor. A country that is not a democracy, to a believer in democracy, isn’t ruled legitimately. Plenty of wars have been justified by hegemonic democratic principles, and plenty of non-democratic governments have been overthrown when democratic powers defeated them (Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, for example.)

But remember that, after the Napoleonic wars, aristocracy was re-instituted in France. The hegemonic philosophy of the day can differ.

Islam is also a hegemonic religious ideology: everyone is supposed to eventually become a Muslim. That’s the goal, although it’s sort of okay for the other monotheists to stick around.

Hegemonic philosophies which get traction change the world. They evangelize. They conquer. When they go bad, they go really bad.

Religious hegemonic ideologies have the extra oomph of “God said.” If “God said,” well then, you can’t override that, because obviously “God is right.” The best you can do is to say “Well, perhaps we misunderstood part of this.”

Non-hegemonic ideologies find hegemonic ideologies horrifying. Hegemonic ideologies breed fanatics, people who aren’t willing to say “it’s okay for other people to live differently.”

Don’t think this is always a bad thing: Our ideology may radically oppose slavery, for example, or starvation, or torture or rape, and say “No one should every do these things!”

Is that bad?

Well, is it worth fighting wars over? That’s really the question. Is it worse using violence to stop this? How much violence? At what point are the evils of the violence you’re using worse than whatever it is you oppose, or whatever good you intend to impose?

Christianity’s monster state ruled by crusades and inquisitions and insisting that women bear the children of their rapists–that sort of thing. This isn’t in question, because we have a lot of Christian history.

This doesn’t make Christianity uniquely monstrous, or more evil than many other ideologies, but it is baked into the set of beliefs required to be Christian (forced conversion, death to pagans and heathens) or is easy to pervert a hegemonic ideology towards (abortion is murder, murder is always bad, unless you’re murder a non-Christian to force conversion of their society).

Other ideologies have other monster modes. We’re beginning to see Hinduism’s right now. We’ve been seeing how Islam goes wrong for many decades now. Communism regularly gets vilified for its crimes and I trust people know the crimes of capitalism, though they tend to be understated–because it is our ruling ideology.

But religious ideologies are always particularly dangerous, for the simple reason that one cannot admit God was wrong, because God can’t be wrong. (The Hindu Gods, oddly, can be wrong. Pagans are usually pretty clear that gods aren’t always right.)

Beware the consequences of monotheism with infallible Gods, and beware the consequences of hegemonic ideologies.

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Killing Herd Animals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 12:43pm in

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Ideology, Religion

One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in pain.

There’s been a kerfuffle in Britain, where the Green Party leader said he’d bank Halal meats.

There’s an argument for this based on Nassim Taleb’s tyranny of the committed minority. If enough people simply won’t buy something unless it’s done their way, it makes sense for capitalists to just produce all of whatever it is that way. “Just butcher them all Halal.”

Halal killing is a cut to the jugular vein, and then all blood is drained. In part it’s fairly clear that the intent is to spare animals pain, same as it is in Kosher butchering, where the carotid and jugular and windpipe are all cut in one smooth motion.

So both these things seem good to me, but it seems that there’s a third style of killing herd animals that is even more painless: the Mongolian one. They make a small incisition in the neck, then pull out a vein. The animal dies quickly and painlessly (though it’s messy, as you’d expect.)

I have little respect for religious rules just because they’re religious, and that includes rules about how animals are treated. Animals, especially mammals, clearly have emotions and suffer. If you want to obey “God’s” rules yourself, knock yourself out as long as it affects no one but you. But when it effects other people, those rules get no extra points because “God” said so.

Both Halal and Kosher killing is better than what happens in most slaughterhouses. But if Mongolian butchering is painless, then that’s what we should use. It should be mandated by law, everyone who kills animals should be trained, and slaughterhouses should be inspected.

And if that means some Jews and Muslims (or anyone else) decide not to eat meat, they can go howl.

The point here isn’t really about slaughtering animals (though we should do it humanely, and yeah, I’m willing to see prices go up if that’s required and I’m poor enough that means I’d eat less meat), but about religions and ideologies and policies.

Religions are ideologies which claim special status. “God said”, usually.

Those claims are laughable. It’s not that God may or may not exist, it’s that there are too many religions all claiming “God” said different things.

Obviously most of them are wrong. Heck, they’re probably all wrong, even if God exists.

So that means they’re just ideologies: a series of assertions about how the world is, how the world should be and how humans should think, feel and act. As such they are due no more deference than any other ideology, whether capitalism, the divine right of kinds, the Pax Romana, or democracy. They are simply provisional sets of ideas, from a particular time, with a particular history, and they can be wrong, or more to the point, harmful. Some will be good, some bad, and so on.

As such they must be evaluated by the good they do, and the harm, and if better ways of doing things, in terms of the welfare of humans, animals and life in general are found, what some guy centuries or millenia ago said about what God wanted should be thrown out the window.

Religion, all religion, including yours, is just ideology in supernatural drag.

Treat it as such.

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“Far Left”? There’s No Such Thing in This Democratic Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 8:31am in

American Communists.jpg

            America has lots of leftists. Forty percent of voters say that they would prefer to live in a socialist country than a capitalist one.

            Yet America has zero leftists running for president.

            Think about that the next time someone tells you that we live in the greatest country on earth, or for that matter, that this is a democracy. If the United States was democratic or, more precisely, had a truly representative form of government, 40% of the electorate would have someone to vote for.

            According to the mainstream media, the Democratic Party is left. And the current crop of contenders for president has never been more left.

            Beto O’Rourke, Fox News says, had a “far-left presidential platform.” He likes pro-corporate jobs-exporting free trade agreements, backs a blank check to Israel’s right-wing government and wants to send teenagers to prison for 15 years for sexting. If that’s far left, I have a Palace of the Soviets I’d love to sell you.

            “If Democrats select a nominee who is unelectable because of a far-left or socialist agenda, then their beds will be made,” frets The Hill.

            “As a left-wing San Francisco liberal I can say to these people [progressive candidates]: What are you thinking?” asks Nancy Pelosi. How can you be “a left-wing San Francisco liberal” and vote to invade Afghanistan?

            It’s BS but over time, even the most strong-minded among us succumb to the never-ending tsunami of propaganda. Like Winston Smith in “1984,” we doubt ourselves and believe the lies. No wonder 47% of Americans say that the Democratic Party has moved too far left.

            Now more than ever, we need a reality check. Electoral politics has no space whatsoever for the real, actual left: Communism, socialism, left anarchism, left libertarianism, etc. Corporate journalistic outlets employ no actual leftists. There is no organized left in the United States.

            Under a socialist economy, workers own the means of production. This is important because it means they are no longer exploited. As Karl Marx wrote: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution.” So those who aren’t able to work due to physical or mental infirmities, for example, have equal access to the good things in life.

            Though the “green new deal” espoused by Bernie Sanders would theoretically employ millions of Americans as government workers, those employees wouldn’t own their workplaces. Similarly, “Medicare for all” would abolish private insurance but it wouldn’t put healthcare workers on the government payroll as is the case in other countries. Those two ideas, if implemented, would resemble New Deal-era programs like the WPA and CCC. Contrary to the dogma of the conservatives who currently control the national political dialogue, if it’s socialism for the government to hire somebody, then any place with a single cop is a socialist country.

            None of the 2020 candidates for president in the Democratic primaries favor the nationalization of currently private businesses that would be required to achieve a socialistic economy. You can’t have a far left without nationalization or socialism.

            None of the Democratic candidates oppose war in the manner of pacifists, much less adapt to the analysis of the left that there should be no war but class war. “The main enemy is at home,” noted the German Spartacist Karl Liebknecht, referring to the ruling classes. “We differ from the pacifists,” Lenin wrote during World War I, “in that we understand the inevitable connection between wars and the class struggle within a country; we understand that wars cannot be abolished unless classes are abolished and socialism is created; we also differ in that we regard civil wars, i.e. wars waged by an oppressed class against the oppressor class, by slaves against slaveholders, by serfs against landowners and by wage workers against the bourgeoisie, as fully legitimate, progressive and necessary.”

            A left—certainly a “far left”—candidate for president of United States would categorically oppose all wars of aggression, imperialism, and neocolonialism. Contrast that leftist ideal to the most anti-militaristic Democrats in the current race.

            Tulsi Gabbard, arguably the most stridently antiwar candidate in the cycle, nevertheless touts her military service even as she declaims “regime change wars.” She praised President Trump’s order to assassinate ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. She took $100,000 in campaign contributions from arms dealers. “When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” she said. “When it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.”

            Bernie Sanders, also on the left flank of the Democrats, told me that he would continue the drone assassinations that have killed thousands of innocent people. He voted for the authorization to use military force after 9/11, and 20 years before, to allow Bill Clinton to bomb Serbia.

            We will never get the chance to live in that better world embodied by the ideal of socialism and communism unless we understand that we have an awful lot of work to do before we can get there. Allowing commentators and the Democrats themselves to describe anything that’s going on in mainstream electoral politics as “far left” is self-destructive and an endorsement of the worst kind of lie, the fiction that the most important ideals are represented by anyone in American political life.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

When the Ideas that Run the World Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/09/2019 - 5:56am in

Real political change happens infrequently. The cycles are decades long. So, most recently, there was the crisis of the 70s which led to the rise of neoliberalism: Thatcher and Reagan. Everything that has happened since then, in the Western world and Japan, has been an unfolding of that. There are some important sideshows, but this is a neoliberal world.

Before that the Crisis of the Great Depression and WWII led to the post-war era. In the US, that runs from 1933 to 1980, essentially, but it was in crisis from about ’68 or so.

There are other such cycles, for example, in the early 1900s there was a collapse of support for Imperialism in Britain. It disappeared in a few years (I know a lot less about this). Everyone had to support it for decades, and suddenly they didn’t.

During a period where a sub-ideology reigns (all of these were capitalist periods, but they were very different forms of capitalism) it’s almost impossible to do things against the trend. The best you can do is grip on for dear life and try not to lose too much. You can, alternatively, go orthogonal: Neoliberals are basically okay with identity politics, so you can make gains there. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it can be done.

But the real fight is over the NEXT period, the transition. Key ideologues created neoliberal thought long before Thatcher and Reagan. When things go to hell (stagflation is the end point of the 70s) for long enough, people become willing to change ideologies.

They choose from the available ideas. Ideas with muscle and money, or which appeal to elites (if the elites aren’t being changed), have a better chance. But the key point is that if your ideas aren’t there, and being considered in the crisis period, you’ve already lost.

The conservatives were and are right: Ideas have consequences. Ideas are powerful. Next to physical facts, they are probably the most important factors in human existence (every invention is an idea first).

We are probably in a transition period. If we aren’t, we will be soon. Take this into account: Whoever wins this transition period will rule, if not the world, then a significant chunk of it. Everyone else will either be working out their ideas, resisting them, or trying to do something orthogonal to avoid them.

Finally, there are different types of ideas. Technological ideas are one subset. They aren’t as determinative as we moderns think. They determine the possibilities, but possibilities can lie fallow for a long time. Certain societies are possible with the steam engine, or the internal combustion engine. Composite bows and stirrups make other societies possible. The stirrup and composite bow were around for a long time before Genghis Khan showed what they could truly do. The Chinese invented gunpowder, the Ancient Greeks had toy steam engines.

So beware of over-determination, and also beware of the idea that histories and societies which didn’t happen–or have not happened–were therefore impossible.

Meantime, transition period, ho. Get to work, your enemies (and you have enemies) are.

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Postmodernism: The Ideological Embellishment of Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/08/2019 - 3:10pm in

Robert Pfaller interviewed by Kamran Baradaran, via ILNA The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies’ welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a “human”, “liberal” and “progressive” face. …