Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gender-Fascism and the Tech Industry

I have been seeing a steady stream of articles lamenting the low participation rate of females in the tech industry.  A selection of articles on computer science is here and here.  For engineering, we have this and that.  Given that I am a male engineer who happens to do a lot of coding, the clear takeaway from these articles is that I am a condescending chauvinist and also hostile and unwelcoming towards females.  Of course this should be obvious, since those who go into engineering and computer science typically relate to machines and equations much better than they relate to people, thus, we are all socially challenged.  What no one seems ready to study is whether or not engineers and computer scientists are equally condescending chauvinists, hostile and unwelcoming to their own gender.  And how do we behave towards kittens and puppies?

There is a flip side to this, that the dominance of women in many majors (medical assistants, education, psychology) is comparable to the dominance of men in engineering and computer science.  Anything involving people, whether dead or alive, will prefer females, so that the large majority of forensics students are female.  Then there is the fact that something like 60% of college degrees are awarded to women.  A popular version of this was part of the Grand Torino movie which left us with another famous quote from a Clint Eastwood movie:  "Hmong girls over here fit in better.  The girls go to college and the boys go to jail".

Clearly gender is a complicated thing.  Perhaps we can hope for a future convergence as bionic females attract more male interest due to the imbedded coding requirements and females take more of an interest in counseling and softening the artificial intelligence derived personalities of the terminators.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vulcan Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is the one that disturbs my sense of the logical order of the universe more than any other.  Why is it that those female Earthlings are attracted to red roses?  And why is it that this ritual must take place in the middle of winter when flowers in their Northern Hemisphere are mostly not blooming?  Then there is the fact that if a husband fails to obtain roses for his wife on Valentine's Day, he will be condemned for having never bought a flower for his wife in his life, even if he had bought innumerable flowers for her at earlier times.  Then there is the issue that the flower must be cut, which greatly shortens the flower's life expectancy.  A flower in a pot with dirt won't do, even if it will continually bloom for months.  The Valentine's rose must also have the fresh cut fragrance, even if the recipient is allergic to the flower.  And we haven't yet gotten into discussing the history of this special day.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Loss of Faith in Science?

Full Disclosure:  I earn a living doing scientific and engineering software development, thus, I have a direct financial interest in this topic.

The San Jose Mercury News has this editorial: "Scientists must solve growing trust problem."  I don't believe in the existence of these mythological beings called "scientists", but there seems to have been a convention where thousands of people dressed up for SCIENCE-CON, which is a bit like COMIC-CON (TM), except that the costumes are different.

Anyway, they are worried about the loss of faith trust in science.  No, this really isn't a joke.  The country that has been indoctrinated more than any other on the conflict between faith and science now has "scientists" worrying about the lack of "trust", which is a synonym for faith.

Setting this aside, the intellectualoids really are facing a new problem.  Conservatives have been the main doubters over the past 150 years, but the general response to conservative doubts has been to vastly increase the funding.  The most infamous was that of the fetal stem cell ban that conservatives tried to enforce, since it involved aborted fetuses.  The Dr. Frankensteins took this and whipped up hysteria about the anti-science freaks.  Eventually this landed them billions of taxpayer funds.

The problem now is that big science means big pharmacy, big medicine, big agriculture, and big chemicals for food substitutes.  This has the left's voter base freaking out, which is a completely different dynamic than upsetting conservatives.  Then there is the more basic leftists moral and justice concerns about a professor earning $250,000 per year doing taxpayer subsidized R&D for a rapacious multi-national corporation when there are poor people going to bed every day who didn't get to smoke some marijuana that day.  And why is the government not working harder to increase the production and purity of hallucinogens?

Of course the "scientists" weren't bothered at all from the 60's through the 90's as this same class of people bought their magic crystals and went into new age spirituality.  But now this is costing real money, and the SCIENCE-CON gurus have noted a 10% drop in science funding over the last 6 years, in spite of the fact that we have a pro-science president.

I won't pass any judgment on this.  It is just fun to sit back and note the various strains of cognitive dissonance that flow through our society.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guizot: On the origin of Communes

The chapter on Communes and the Third Estate gives a rather surprising (to me) explanation for the origin of the Communes.  These begin as a response to Feudalism, so Feudalism needs to be understood first.  After the Germanic invasion, there was no central government and petty nobles gradually took control of lands that extended about as far as you could see from the top of your house.  That is, there were countless little zones of several square miles ruled by a lord, protected by knights, and these would enslave and tax the serfs.  Since squabbles between the petty lords were endless, so was the need for taxation.  For towns, we generally had the same situation, except that the petty noble was usually tied in with the bishop, unless the bishop was the petty noble.

When the peasantry revolted and deposed the petty noble, or perhaps executed the bishop and burned his property, there would be a brief time of self governance.  This was a commune.  The problem was that the sort of uncivilized barbarity that characterized the bishops and nobles and which prompted the peasants to revolt was fairly common among the peasants also, so the usual consequence of the throwing off of the bishops and nobles was an explosion of crime and violence by your neighbors.  Eventually the peasants would be compelled to seek a strong lord to bring back order.  As Guizot put it, there was an inevitable conflict between freedom and security, so that it was impossible to have both at the same time.  The communes were thus never stable, since anarchy, the central government, and the nearby nobles all conspired against them.  Yet they did spring up here and there over much of France until the central government succeeded in weakening the feudal system.  To the north in Flanders, the economy flourished on trade and crafts, so that the system of communes was much more durable.

Synchronicity?

To be honest, I don't believe in synchronicity.  But I just had an experience that would seem to me to be of the sort that the true believers would find compelling evidence.  My wife and I were at the grocery store two days ago where she was eyeing a bag of chocolate candy that she knows I would love to consume with her.  After going through several paroxysms related to my chocolate addiction, I summoned the moral strength to say 'no', and we reluctantly returned the bag to its position on the shelf.  Then a day later a parcel arrived from my parents with an even larger container full of chocolates.   Synchronicity?

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Of Communes and the Third Estate: French History according to the French

I have been listening to A Popular History of France From the Earliest Times, by François Guizot (1787-1874), who was a French historian and politician active in the 19th century.  This is really a follow on to my previous foray into the writings of the communists Trotsky and Lenin.  What I gather immediately is that the communists formulated their rhetoric on the French/German revolutions of 1848 and the earlier French revolution.  These events in turn were sparked by earlier circumstances, so any sensible attempt to grapple with the subject will necessitate going back to the beginning.  The beginning being Clovis (466-511) and his expansion of the Frankish kingdom together with embracing Nicaean Christianity.

Guizot's history is 100 hours of listening time, compared to the Bible at 40 hours.  Thus, this is going into a fair amount of detail, yet still leaving out much from the chronicles from which it is derived.  What has stood out so far is the degree to which the Norman conquest of England based on fraudulent claims was to create centuries of cross-channel claims and conflicts between England and France.  I have now reached a chapter entitled Communes and the Third Estate, which I can't really comment on since it hasn't started yet.  At the same time, however, I can note that these two institutions start in the feudal era.  Guizot notes that there is considerable confusion in his own time regarding the meaning of Third Estate.

Thus, we have the wonderful observation that while each phase of history is a reaction to what went before, and tracing it must necessarily be taken in order, at each phase the reaction to the previous phases is based on poor understandings, which become worse as time goes on.  Thus, at some point we must distinguish between the history and what people believed about the history.  This is most important with the communists, since they are basically disgruntled children of the bourgeoisie who have decided to exploit class envy to bring the wrath of those less fortunate against the "rich", noting that the "rich" are those who the bourgeoisie is jealous of.  In stirring up the envy, however, the upper class communists will habitually twist everything.

20 hours of listening are now complete, with 80 to go.  One side benefit is that most of the history so far is parallel to what I have learned in a church history class.  When this is done, there are two or three histories of the French Revolution to go through, and I should then be sufficiently prepped to dive into Marx and Engels!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Winter Swimming Update

This was to be the first year for me to swim through the winter season.  My schedule continued nicely into January, but then I got hit with the flu, which was the third time since September.  This kept me out of the water for a few weeks, and I am still not fully recovered.  My muscles are itching to get some exercise, so I finally took the cold dip on Monday of this week.  As soon as my head went into the water, I was gasping for breath.  This lasted about 10 minutes until I calmed down and was able to do about 1,000 yards (900 meters).  The gasping is related to a nerve in the face which has a reflex behavior when dipped in cold water that causes the heart to start beating hard and the lungs to contract.  Since I was regularly swimming in cold water through December, however, this had gone away for me.  The few weeks of slacking off caused me to revert to a more normal reflex behavior.

Yesterday I swam again and the gasping reflex was mostly gone.  Today I skipped, but tomorrow I will try again.  The water temperature is likely a bit less than 50F (10C), but my swim partners are the ones with the thermometers and they are all avoiding the lake at the moment.

Finally there was the low water level which was due to the "drought" over the summer.  Water is now being pumped from the local arroyo into the lake, so the level has increased by perhaps 6 inches.  It could use another 6 feet to get back to a reasonable level.  Restarting to a regular schedule mid-winter is somewhat more difficult than just keeping it going through the fall.  A final note is that the lake cools rapidly in the fall, but it warms much more slowly.  The cold water will be with me until mid-April.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hacked!

My computers seem ok, but one of my credit card numbers has gotten out.  There is a certain entertainment and educational value to everything, however, and the notable part of this is what was purchased:  It was a gift subscription to "Muslims4Marriage", which is an Islamic dating site.  Any thoughts out there on this?  Since I am the one paying for the introduction, should I try to get an invite if there is a marriage?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

California Supreme Court: Judges can't be members of Boy Scouts

This is the latest ruling, but it seems that I have missed a trend that has been going on for a while.  The article says that 22 states have rulings baring judges from serving if they belong to groups that bar people based on sexual disorders.  I had wondered how that squares with say, Islam, which says that gays should be executed, or Judaism which also says that gays should be executed, but only if they are within the borders of Israel and the government is a Jewish theocracy.  Christianity teaches that those with sex disorders should be admonished to reform their ways and that their access to target populations should be restricted, which is likely where the Boy Scouts got their rules.  The article indicates that there is one remaining exception to the California courts rules, which is for religious organizations.  The "ethics" advisory committee had even gone to the point of banning judges from being part of US military organizations prior to the rulings that sexual disorders were not to be discriminated against in the US military.  My understanding is that this is doing wonders for morale as Christian US soldiers are commanded by lesbian officers.  How does that work if the officer who sends you into combat hates you more than the enemy?

The article quotes the committee as saying this will "promote the integrity of the judiciary" and "enhance public confidence".  No doubt the sex predators will all agree.  I can't really protest any of this, however, since the US is a neo-pagan theocracy, and I am like Abraham before, an "alien and pilgrim" on the Earth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Yes, Men-toring IS Sexist.

I made the unfortunate mistake of reading this article and found myself face-to-face with my depraved inner self.  Yes, I am a man.  The shame of it.

My previous studies taught me that Mentor was a character from the Odyssey, where he was an old man who served as a teacher sent to guide the son of Odysseus, Telemachus.  Except that Mentor really was the goddess Minerva in disguise.  So I had thought it wise to avoid taking on the role of Mentor lest someone should mistake me for a goddess.  What hadn't crossed my mind was how this was a view brought on by extremist sexism.  Is it really the case that an ordinary male should be ashamed of the more honorable reputation of a woman?  And not just any woman, but rather a goddess?  Clearly my brain was clouded with testosterone.  But then the flip side of it is that both the societies of ancient Greece and modern America are both so patriarchal that they cannot admit even having received critical life counseling from the divine if that divine being happens to be female.  So from now on I shall only refer to Femtor rather than Mentor.  Or perhaps I will start asking young people who your Femtor/Mentor is.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homo's and Ousia: The Church Council of Nicea (325AD)

This incident has probably been described a few million times on the internet already.  From my readings, the early Christians accepted the teachings of the church and things were going along merrily with the various persecutions being done at just the right intervals to maximize the growth of the church.  Yet they really hadn't spent a lot of time pondering the nature of God the Father and the relationship with Jesus as God's son.  Then Arius came along and tried to insist that God the Father and Jesus were not coequal, but instead that Jesus was less than God, but more than man.  This seems to have been accepted for a time, and was at least compatible with the various classical superstitions that were already in place.  For example, Hercules would have been somewhere between the gods and men, so that Jesus could readily have been viewed in a similar light.
Most of Christianity hadn't given this much consideration, but Athanasius of Alexandria determined that a clear distinction was needed between a classical Pagan Philosophical view of Christ on the one hand, and the Judeo/Christian view on the other.  A council was called by the Roman emperor Constantine to settle the matter.  Going into the council, most seem to have been in favor of some sort of compromise, but as the group of theologians studied and discussed the matter of a period of months with great care, while studying the scriptures, the large majority of them settled against the classical philosophical forms of Arius and chose the Trinitarian formula instead.

Where confusion sets in for our day is that, the manner in which the trinitarians chose to make the distinction employs the language of classical philosophy, in particular the word οὐσία, (ousia).  οὐσία is usually translated as "substance" or "essence" in its philosophical usage, and "property" when used to speak of someone's wealth.  In the Bible, only the latter usage is found.  The former usage of οὐσία is primarily found in Aristotle's works On Categories and Meta-Physics, thus, intimidating the masses and offering a temptation to the mystics.

Now that I have had some Greek, however, it is best just to go to the basics.  οὐσία is simply the participle form of εἰμι, which is the Greek verb, "to be".  In other words, οὐσία simply means "being", and it is the something that constitutes the most significant aspect of its existence.  The prefix "homo" just means "one", thus, ὁμοούσιος, (homoousios) means "one being".  In Greek it comes off as much cleaner in meaning than when we translate this into English as "one substance".
This usage of language, however, resulted in a separate dispute, since the distinguishing of Christian theology from classical philosophical theology was accomplished by adapting classical philosophical terminology.  Perhaps they could have started with a Hebrew framework.  For example, the Hebrew name for God is "I am", YHVH, and Jesus picks up on this at a number of points, such as in John 8:58-59, "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.' So they picked up stones to throw at him ...".  Thus, the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming that he is the same, "I am" as God, and were trying to kill him for blasphemy.  All the trinitarian formulation is really saying is that Jesus and God the Father are the same "I am", or that their "being" is the same.  This is incomprehensible to classical philosophy, but as they used the terminology of classical philosophy to express it, some have argued that the trinitarian formula is based in classical philosophy.  That is my takeaway from the latest review.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Prediction for 2015: The Jews will ally with the "Far Right" parties against Europe's Establishment Parties

It is about time for me to make a prediction.  Furthermore, it should be a risky prediction, since predicting that the Spring will come is not particularly brave or useful.  Since Netanyahu and Le Pen were both disinvited from the "Je Suis Charlie" event, I will stick my neck out and propose that certain parties that began anti-Semitic will find it in their interest to reverse course, just as those which were not formerly anti-Semitic have already found it convenient to become hostile to the Jews.

This isn't to agree that there are "right wing" or "far right" groups in Europe.  The term "right" in Europe refers to parochial fascism that respects traditions while demanding massive government intervention, as opposed to universalist fascism which seeks a pan-national, lowest, non-common cultural denominator with a similar per capita rate of perpetually increasing government bloat.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je ne suis pas Charlie

That heading already gets more than half a million hits, so I probably should learn to be more creative.  And before going on, my condolences to the families of those who were murdered.  May God grant you comfort in your mourning and a way to come to terms with the shock that will go with you the rest of your lives.

The favored conservative explanation for my contrarian title is that we live in a censorship crazed West where the number of speech crimes increases constantly so that we almost need to have hour by hour updates to keep from running afoul of the speech gestapo.  And now we suddenly are going to proclaim ourselves in support of Charlie Hedbo?  And would anyone be supporting Charlie Hedbo now if they weren't offering up leftist mockery?  What if they had regularly mocked PETA?  Or Greenpeace?  Or Multi-Culturalists?

I will pick my starting point as the Biblical book of Jude:

"But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively."

Mocking what you don't understand is a bad idea, whether you are conservative or leftist.  Then there is my Christian viewpoint that the worldly conflicts we see are manifestations of spiritual conflicts of a different sort in another dimension.  Humans are like blindfolded vermin in the middle of different battle lines in the spiritual battle, and we are going to hurl insults at all the nearby combatants?

So I am for free speech at least to the level of trying to make some sensible understanding of the world.  But as a mocker myself, I need to take this more as a self-examination exercise.  I regularly mock or am tempted to mock leftists with their pretenses to knowledge and wisdom.  Yet admittedly, all this does is inflame them all the more against me, and it doesn't help them in the least to come to a correct opinion on anything.  On the other hand, my mocking is usually the result of trying to make some sense of things.  Leftists from what I can tell usually mock as a final goal in itself, although some conservatives do this as well.  This sort of mocking is the worst kind, and makes a mockery of free speech laws at the same time.  If the only purpose of free speech is to mock, then free speech is a worthless commodity.

"Not Afraid"

Brave words.  A bit like kicking a rattle snake while blindfolded.  There is no reason to be afraid of what you can't see.  Just ask the ostrich.

And with that, I will admit that I am doing a lot of censoring of what I write on this topic.  Je ne suis pas Charlie.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Story of Feminanity, Vol. 1, by Justo Gonzalez

Professor Gonzalez has anticipated that some uneducated fundamentalists would take note of his translation of a letter by Pliny the Younger (61AD-113).  This tells of the Roman governor's dilemma as he tortures two Christian slave girls.  The traditional English translations refer to these women as "deaconesses", but Gonzalez uses the term, "ministers".  This immediately caught my eye, even before I found out that the full English translation of this series of Pliny's letters was separately included in our course translations and also used the word, "deaconesses".

Professor Gonzalez thus gives this topic a suitable delay, and then forcefully establishes his authority in the matter:

" ... Governor Pliny informed Trajan that he had ordered that two Christian female ministers - ministrae - be tortured." - The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, pg. 114

Ouch.  I stand corrected.  The Church clearly had female Ministers from the earliest times.  Just to be 100% sure, I checked the Latin edition and found that he was correct:

"Quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri, et per tormenta quaerere." Letters of Pliny, Book X, 96

But then just for fun, I put the Latin into Google translate, and miraculously, ministrae in Latin translates to deaconesses in English!  Why not "minister"?  Google translate certainly isn't the final word in translation, so we need to gives this some more looking.  How about the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica:

"The word minister as originally used in the Latin Church was a translation of the Greek diakonis, deacon; ..."

OK, so deacon wasn't originally a Latin word, but the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, transliterated the Greek, διάκονος, into the Latin, diaconus".  Pliny couldn't have used diaconus, because this was a church Latin of a later age.  Instead, he used ministrae, because this was the proper translation of διάκονος into Latin.

To finish this off, let's look at an entry from the Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary:

"minister (L. servant) ... 4. There is no Catholic usage of the word to mean an ordained cleric as is the fashion of Protestantism."

Or to put it another way, the modern Protestant usage of the word, minister, is very much different from the Latin, ministrae, of 100AD.  Instead, the modern word, deaconesses, is the appropriate translation.

I am beginning to think that the point of reading The Story of Christianity centers on the errors.  If there weren't glaring errors, I would snooze through reading the book, but since every other page smells of something rotten, I have some motivation to do some research and track things down.  Yeh!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, by Justo Gonzalez

This is a required book for a class at Western Seminary, which is supposedly the "conservative" seminary in the Bay Area.  The book is by Justo Gonzalez, who is a professor at a United Presbyterian seminary.  We should note that the United Presbyterians are the world's fastest shrinking religion at the moment.  I just have a few remarks since I am just starting this book.  There were a number of things that didn't quite pass the "smell test", but I will select just a few.  In 70AD the city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed, but the Christian community survived because it packed up and moved a few years earlier:

Eusebius, History of the Church, book III, chapter V:

"But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed by approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella."

Gonzalez pg. 28:

"Soon thereafter, the leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem decided to move to Pella, a city beyond the Jordan River, the population of which was mostly Gentile.  This move seems to have been prompted, not only by persecution at the hands of the Jews, but also by Roman suspicion regarding the exact nature of the new religious sect."

This is an example of what bugs me with histories.  It would have been a shorter read to include the original source, but instead a longer version is included that contradicts the original based on modernist speculations.  These speculations, however, aren't even defensible, since the church in Jerusalem had already survived several decades of persecution and poverty.  Why make the move?  The end result is a conflicting narrative, not only about this specific move, but involving just about everything associated with Christianity's reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Much of the problem here seems to be an emphasis on an evolutionary meta-narrative regarding Christian consciousness that was probably dreamed up in the 19th century.

Gonzalez pg. 27-28:

"In that early church, authority was vested primarily in the twelve (although some scholars suggest that this emphasis on the authority of the apostles appeared slightly later, as part of an effort to tighten up the system of authority within the church)."

Scholars have speculated every possible permutation of the origin of the Bible, so I don't quite know what this is all about.  Eusebius places a great emphasis on the settling of the Biblical canon, which Gonzalez doesn't really engage with, except to invoke (without credit) the minority position of Eusebius that Revelation couldn't have been written by John the Apostle because the Greek is different from the gospel and letters of John.

Regarding the execution of Christians by Pliny the Younger under the reign of Trajan, Gonzalez offers this:

Gonzalez pg. 50:

"Not quite convinced that this was the whole truth, Pliny put two female Christian ministers to torture."

Compared to what Pliny actually wrote:

"I thought it the more necessary, therefore, to find out what truth there was in this by applying torture to two maidservants, who were called deaconesses."

Other translations refer to two female slaves, but retain the term deaconesses.  My sense is that the Gonzalez variation is reflecting a bit of the modern feminist religion, but can't be quite sure.

And so I will proceed with the usual attitude towards wikipedia:  Don't Trust, But Verify.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Friday, January 02, 2015

Buddhism and Buddhists in China: Corrections

Going a bit further into the book, it is clear that I have a number of errors that will undoubtedly land me into purgatory for cleansing.  The most significant is that the Buddhists have a fairly elaborate system of punishments for the morally challenged, and this is accompanied by a long list of the offenses which lead to punishment.  There is also an affirmative requirement to do good.  The Buddhist purgatory is said to have been imported to China, thus, it dates back to the early stages of the Buddhist system.

A curious feature of Chinese Buddhism is the attempt to marry Confucian family ideals with the mental nothingness of Buddhism.  These actually seem to me to be complete opposites.  Seriously, can anyone hope to have a mental state that is completely devoid of any concerns while being married to a Chinese tiger mom?  The Confucians were quite clear on the impossibility of this, thus, one Confucian scholar writes:

"The Buddhists, disliking the excesses to which the evil desires of men lead, would put away, along with them, the actions which are in accordance with the justice of heavenly principles, while we, the orthodox, put away the evil desires of men, whereupon what are called heavenly principles are the more brightly seen." - Buddhism and Buddhists in China, by Lewis Hodous (1872-1949)

I don't know that any system can "put away the evil desires of men".  Just ask a feminist.  But Christianity and Aristotelian ethics seem to be more in accordance with Confucian thinking, while Buddhist morality appears to be more over-the-top.  What is surprising to me is to learn that Buddhism had been suppressed by Confucianism in China.  A separate surprise is that the aggressive Japanese government of the early 20th century was pursuing its expansionist agenda in sync with Japanese Buddhism:

"This Buddhist world has much more of a program than it had twenty-five years ago.  its object is to unite the Mahayana and the Hinayana branches of Buddhism and to spread Buddhist propaganda over the world.  At present the leadership of this movement is in Japan.  It is in part a political movement.  There is no question that Christianity is not at all pleasing to the Japanese militarists.  It is regarded by them as the advance post of western industrialism and political ambition.  Quite naturally such leaders desire to make the Buddhist world a unit."

There are many more remarks in this work that support this from different angles.  The original data of this text is December, 1923.

A final note of interest is on charitable works, which include schools and hospitals.  These are encouraged among the Buddhists, at least as of a century ago.  My main observation on this is that Buddhism is big in Taiwan today, yet the landscape seems to be dotted with Christian hospitals, in this Christian minority land.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Buddhism and Buddhists in China, by Hodous (1872-1949)

This work was published in 1924.  The reading of this work is as a follow on to Giles' works about religion in China, in which he skipped Buddhism for the reason that too much had been written on the subject.  The work was intended for Christian missionaries.  I have been following this up with a reading of the Buddha and Buddhism articles in the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica, with my usual suspicion of later scholarship.

My personal interaction with Buddhism is through the Chinese community, which generally leaves me with an impression of some sort of superstition based, prosperity gospel.  Prayer is for health, wealth and successful children.  The Western fascination with Buddhism centers on Japanese Zen, which Giles pointed out was a Japanese refinement to early Chinese Taoist philosophy, and really has nothing at all to do with Buddhism.  So what precisely is Buddhism?  I will give a few tentative thoughts, while retaining the right to revise them.  The following are what I see as the original Buddhist notions and how they compare with Christian views.

1. Buddha's teachings were the product of self-revelation in reaction to other views of his time.  In other words, he made it all up, although to the believers, his making it up was a true revelation.  Of course Atheists will assert that all religious views are just made up, so that is really not saying much from their perspective.  Of course, Atheists arrived at this conclusion through self-revelation.  Christianity has a strong emphasis on the "Word of God", which is the source of truth, whereas the self-revelator is called the "false prophet".

2.  Buddha's teachings were not referenced to God, yet deal with the souls of men and the supernatural.  Whereas Christianity has a view of God as being outside of creation and having a purpose to all that is being done.  Causality is part of the overall scheme of things, but the overall is done according to God's purposes.  Buddhism has causality, but doesn't seem to have any purpose.

3. Buddhism has no concept of salvation.  In Christianity, a sin is a permanent, fatal error, which is why our conscience retains this.  The dealing with sin has to be done at a legal level that Buddhism doesn't have a concept of, thus, salvation is meaningless to Buddhists.  From a Christian perspective, even if Buddha achieved perfection, he still lived a life of indulgence before perfection was acquired, and he is legally responsible to God.  So far I don't see that Buddha had any answer to the guilt that comes with sin.  In this sense Buddhism is similar to Modernanity, which has some sort of moral teaching but denies the reality of sin and the need for salvation.

There does seem to be some sort of a moral component to Buddha's teachings, although I would characterize them more as vague principles than anything concrete.  The original Buddhist teachings developed into something quite different in China as various other notions were grafted onto the original.  There were also distinct forms that developed outside of China, so the question, "What is Buddhism?" is not one that admits to a simple answer.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome to 2015

We are one year closer to the end of everything!

This year's goals (besides working and church):

1. Continue swimming in the lake regularly throughout the winter.

2. Finish another semester of Greek.

3. Dabble regularly into Hebrew.

4. Keep up a steady diet of reading and blogging.

This is all progressing nicely at the moment.  Today's Greek Linguistics readings featured this note:

"Two arguments are used in support of the eight-case system - one historical, the other linguistic.  First, through comparative philology (i.e. the comparing of linguistic phenomena in one language with those of another), since Sanskrit is an older sister to Greek and since Sanskrit has eight cases, Greek must also have eight cases." - Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics, by Daniel Wallace

Apparently it is necessary to study Sanskrit in order to understand Greek, according to some linguistiticians.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part II: Gathering Data

"For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge." - Proverbs 6:34

"Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" - Proverbs 27:4

The sources I have used for this quick survey is the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica article on Anti-Semitism and The Shield: Russia and the Jewish Question - Russian Intellectuals on Anti-Semitism, published in 1916.  Between these two, I certainly have a good collection of English and Russian views prevalent around the earliest part of the 20th century.

The point that these articles both agree upon is that Anti-Semitism was a German export that seems to have begun with Hegel.  Blaming things on the Germans, however, is really too easy and doesn't at all explain why nearby countries should have embraced German Anti-Semitism while rejecting bratwurst, sauerkraut and Octoberfest.   Banking was an industry that was dominated by Jews making them quite prominent as wealthy capitalists, even though most Jews were working class.  Socialism (and its twin, Fascism) was also on the rise at this time, thus, making the Jews the perfect bogey man for the demagogues. Thus, in much of Europe the anti-semites were closely allied to the socialists, including some parties that went by the name "Christian Socialist".

Russia seems to have been where the most action was taken during this period, and is also the most complicated.  The dysfunction of the Tsar's government was combined with the other agitations of the demagogues resulting in many of the Jewish bankers exiting the country, and this caused a further spiral down of the economy, which provided more fodder for the demagogues.  The Jews who stayed seem to have sided with the revolutionaries, and the revolutionaries were leftists, thus, making it hopeless to categorize the Jews, unless we want to label them as "Leftwing Capitalists".

The Shield emphasized the inherent Russianness of the Russian Jews, which is in direct conflict with the racist assertions of the Anti-Semitic movement.  Likewise, the German Jews were German, and this undoubtedly was true throughout Europe.  The end result of the period was that a disparate group of people who had not considered themselves a race were coerced by the fanatics to embrace such an identity:

"So far from injuring the Jews, it has really given Jewish racial separatism a new lease of life.  Its extravagant accusations, as in the Tisza Eszlar and Dreyfus cases, have resulted in the vindication of the Jewish character.  Its agitation generally, coinciding with the revival of interest in Jewish history, has helped to transfer Jewish solidarity from a religious to a racial basis." - Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1910.

Thus, the irony of the modern Jews having viewed themselves principally as a race, based on shoddy accusations by uneducated and/or malicious anti-Jews.  The holocaust was still to come at this point, but the Zionist movement is well underway.

As a Christian, some comments are needed about this period.  In Western Europe, modernist protestantism was dominant with its belief in the superiority of man's intellectual over the Bible, making it little more than atheism under a thin religious veil.  Catholicism with its emphasis on ritual and ritual and ritual wasn't really in any good position to intellectually address anything.  Russia still didn't have any kind of serious education system for the masses, so the people were not in a good position to study what the Bible taught for themselves.  In the US and to a lesser extent England, the study of the Bible was more common, which I believe to be the best remedy against anti-semitism.  This situation - that of Biblical literacy - however, has been confronted head on in the US so that those graduating from high school in the US today have never been taught anything correct about Christianity unless they were part of the tiny fraction that attended Sunday School at a plausibly Christian institution.  The same can be said for a good portion of America's Doctors of Philosophy, including many with theology degrees.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Afghan Wars 1839-42

This is a story of the madness of the English as they sought to, well, they don't seem to be quite sure, so neither should I be.  So far the English have managed to displace a popular tyrant in Cabul with an unpopular one who is known for a "mixture of timidity and duplicity" that leaves him despised and hated while the English are compelled to stay and keep him propped up.  The logic seems to have been something like the enemy of the enemy ... of my enemy is certainly going to be my friend, although the character of this leader is such that he would have had trouble being the friend of anyone, while the former ruler wasn't the enemy of the English.  The author gives this little note at the start:

"The Duke of Wellington pronounced with prophetic sagacity, that the consequence of once crossing the Indus to settle a government in Afghanistan would be a perennial march into that country."

Afghanistan wasn't any kind of western centralized government, but instead a collection of tribal groups that supported a central monarch.  Maybe.  Dealing with these leaders is what required an expert leader, which unfortunately was the one the English had just ousted.  Then there is this note on the character of the Afghan leaders:

"When historians write of Afghan treachery and guile, it seems to have escaped their perception that Afghan treachery was but a phase of Afghan patriotism, of an unscrupulous character, doubtless, according to our notions, but nevertheless practical in its methods, and not wholly unsuccessful in its results."

At the end of chapter three, the first year of the occupation has now ended, the former ruler, Dost Mohammed, has just given himself up.  The English can feel smug, and the catastrophe is still to come.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Birds


Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the coming of Christ.  Since many are fond are quoting sentimental things from the Bible, I will need to do the opposite.  Jesus said:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:34-39

And so Christ promises peace between his followers and God, in exchange with conflict with the world, reaching even into family relations.  I find this to be more reflecting of the times than the sentimental versions.  And yet it is the peace with God that is the most precious.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pondering Anti-Semitism Part I: Etymology

This will (hopefully) be a series of short notes on this subject, which is more or less along the lines of the Protestant Dispensationalists.  This is a distinct view from the Eastern Orthodox, Romanist, and European state churches and is one of a few areas where I deviate from classical orthodoxy, although this is certainly not a central doctrine to classical orthodoxy.  Some of this is a reflection on a modern Russian Orthodox article, which was brought to my attention by Max.

The phenomenon of persecution of Jews is one that I want to get to, although admittedly I have very few original sources to go on, which really is crucial in properly understanding the subject.  Perhaps some will turn up along the way.

Etymology of Anti-Semitism:

Although the phenomenon of Anti-Semitism can be quite distinct from the origin or the word, the choice and origin of the word often gives some additional insights or nuances to the discussion.

We must begin with the root word "Semite".  This goes back to a Biblical origin with the names o the sons of Noah.  Shem (שם) is the father of those who settled in the middle east.  Shem gave birth to Eber (עבר), which I understand is the origin of the word, Hebrew (עברית).  Although perhaps technically a term referring to a people group and race, we primarily use Semitic to refer to a common set of languages that have similar patterns.  This includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Babylonian, Akkadian and Ugaritic, and Amharic.  It does not include Persian, Hittite or Egyptian.

What has always been puzzling to me is why the term "Anti-Semitism" was chosen in the first place, since this clearly refers to a group that is both broader and perhaps distinct from those who have been the target of the attacks.  Checking Dr. Wiki, it seems that the first usage of the term Anti-Semitism was by a German Jewish Scholar, Moritz Steinschneider, in response to a French Scholar, Ernest Renan.  Both seem to be experts on Middle Eastern languages.  A follow up on this topic would be to read what both of these men had written.

The wiki article asserts that Renan was a proponent of the idea of Aryan superiority, which leaves me wondering if this notion is of French origin!  He also asserted that the European Jews were of Turkish descent, which would leave them as neither Aryan nor Semitic.  Reading between the lines, Renan was an atheist, and engaged in the sort of intellectual malpractice regarding the Bible that atheists are famous for.  At the same time, he had not fully distanced himself from the church, like most of the other modernists both in Europe and America.

I should stop here and give some sort of a wrap-up.  It is clear that the modern term Anti-Semitic is a reaction to atheist views of racial evolution that were prevalent in the 19th century.  The irony here being that even if I accept atheist notions of the independent evolution of different races, the concept of Semitic as applied to European Jews is deserving of an F.

Personally, I should prefer the term anti-Jewish to anti-Semitic, as this is much more accurate.  Anti-Zionist might be an alternate, to refer to those who are opposed to the Jewish state, but aren't necessarily anti-Jewish, like the orthodox Jews.  And so here is a list of the eras to which this category belongs:

Classical Era:  This would range from Antiochus IV to the Bar Kokhba revolt and would be characterized as a conflict between Judaism and Pagan rulers.  As the Pagan rulers always had a tight merging of religion and state, a religion that was distinct from the state and would not submit to the state was hopelessly conflicting.

Intermediate Era:  This is the various anti-Jewish events in the Christian world.

Modern Era:  There are two distinct types of anti-Jewish in the modern era with entirely different motives.  The first is the modernist Christian / atheist view which is hostile to Jews and/or Israel for reasons that are unfathomable to me.  Perhaps the visible claim that God exists and would work through a people group is sufficient to outrage them.  The second is the Mohammedan view, which is likewise hostile, but this relates to the tenets of their religion, especially that of Jihad, and the fact that it is mandatory for clerics to stir up jihad fervor in this religion, while it is always "safe" to direct this fervor at the Jews and/or Israel.

As a Christian, it is the era when the Christian religion was dominant and Jews were treated badly that deserves some exploration.  I don't think I will quite get there in this series, but at least I should start working in that direction and perhaps find out where the sources are for this.

Postscript:  Having written this, I checked my 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica and found that they had a lengthy article on this topic which is certainly valuable since it predates most of the modern political correctness and revisionism.