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Showing posts from November, 2014

An Open Letter to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins

Greetings, fellow scholars.

I am writing to you to ask for your approval and support for a worthy cause. Like yourselves, I have struggled with the irrationality of faith and superstition for the better part of my life. As a child, growing up in the deep south, I was indoctrinated into Christianity at a very impressionable age. While I fondly remember many outdoor picnics and holiday celebrations with family and friends, I never managed to fully embrace the Christian worldview. My tenacious curiosity often led me down the most confusing paths, because those elders to whom I looked for understanding were so helplessly steeped in myth and dogmatic traditionalism that they were seldom able to satiate my inquisitive nature with answers or ideas I could accept.

Under the Shadow of Devils

When Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq contrasted the “famous Janissaries, whose approach inspires terror everywhere” with the debilitating condition of their vulnerability for alcohol, which they rarely (and perhaps correctly) consumed, he was probably not being dismissive of the notorious “infantry of the royal guard” (Ghiselin). His observant attention to detail in his account of the Janissaries reflects the priority of his mission, which was to “assess the military and economic potential”  of this terrifying force of foreigners who had beaten a bloody path from Iran to the feet of young and deeply embattled Charles V. Of all the threats faced by the Hapsburg dynasty, none is more poignantly summarized than the Ottoman tenacity in Ghisilen's symbolic metaphor: “if they taste a drop of wine, they must needs indulge in a regular debauch.”
While Protestants marched (or burned, or both) in protest in the west, and with Constantinople long lost to the unstoppable Janissary thrusts in the …

The Diaspora Seal

Islam grew a long shadow in a short period of time. Within twenty years of the death of the last prophet, the faith-based conquests had reached Khurasan to the east, and Armenia and Georgia to the north. In another three decades, Uthman added all of northern Africa, from Egypt to Morrocco, to the fledgling empire. In time, military campaigns would be halted as far as Tours in France, and Merv, at the battle of Talain, where the Chinese were able to adequately defend against the invading Arabs. To speak of society in this period is to stop the heavens in motion and simply begin describing what one sees in free form.

Elizabethan Gender Perception in Shakespeare

Though Elizabethan rule in England was novel, it was not unprecedented, nor was it the frail and timid administration of a weaker sex. Unlike her father, who shifted from his defense of papal doctrine against the heretical Martin Luther, full-swing across the continuum into absolving England of all fealty to the Roman Catholic church, Elizabeth used her authority to marginalize the radical elements on both sides of a religious civil war in favor of all the normal, more tolerant people in the middle. Bards like William Shakespeare, with a keen eye on the dispositions and tendencies of the human character, from prince to pauper, would have been very well attuned to this counter-intuitive shift in the winds of social change.

On St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans

The basis of salvation is faith, as explained by St. Paul, speaking of the Covenant with Abraham, wherein “the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not through Abraham, nor through his seed, or through the law, but through righteousness of faith.” (Rom 4:13) The author reenforces this concept in the sixth chapter, explaining that death and sin have no dominion over the resurrection, which offers freedom from sin by declaration of faith. The root of Paul's argument is clear in chapter eight, where he asserts “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” (Rom 8:3)

Investiture Own Risk

A striking example of the conflict created by the struggle between the crown and the cross during the Late Middle Ages is the exchange between Henry IV, then Holy Roman Emperor, and the young, but brash, Pope Gregory VII. The subject of contention between the two is the determination of who may appoint church officials, but more than that, it is the clash of will and ego for the supremacy of authority. While it is not a matter of historical debate to speculate which authority wields greater responsibility- he who provides for the defense against invading forces and famine, or he who guides souls toward salvation, it is clear from the tone between these two historic figures that neither has any intention of willful surrender to the other, however politics may shape their initial approach.

The Rest and The West, Not a Love Story.

In “Civilization: The West and the Rest”, Niall Ferguson demonstrated a wonderful grasp of human history, but a shortsighted view of the future of this species. His basic premise in the book surrounds the recent 500 year ascent of what many refer to as “western civilization,” (read the U.S., and the Eurozone) relative to what he describes as a relatively stagnant “east,” (read Russia and Asia).
Ferguson tells the story of many unique peoples and places through what are arguably some of the most profoundly influential periods in human history, from the reformation of the Catholic Church, to the displacement of the Ottoman Turks, the rise of Germany, the Space Race, and its accompanying arms races, to name just a few aspects of history Ferguson considers.

On the Worker, In the Worker, and Over the Worker

The article entitled "On Democratic Centralism" describes an incoherent, contradictory, and rather childish utopia, with little to no focus or reason expended for the illustration. With no input from Madison at all, it is easy to spot the hapahazard conflicts implied by this author's fantasy of "Democratic Centralism." In the thesis line, the "Communists," (second person, inclusive-'We') "bitterly oppose...bourgeois democracy."

Academic Mysticism in Antiquity

The path of progress is beset on all sides by the tendencies of disorder and regression.
Religion and politics are seemingly always on a collision course of some kind. In the early times of emerging civilization, the pantheon was littered with imaginative constructs and awe-inspired influences. Astronomy students may recall the eastern star Sirius, whose appearance signaled the flood seasons for ancient Egyptians. The men who were tasked with knowing this correlation and observing the heavens throughout the seasons so that they might report the news of the event were essentially the priests of their day. In a very real sense, this kind of knowledge was invaluable to the common people, and the prestige of these early astronomers gave them the rare political position as intermediaries with the Gods themselves.

Outsiders and Inclusion

The air was still and quiet, and provoked a feeling of guilt and obligation. I wore my nerd armor, as much to counter this effect as to ward off assimilation. Alone, and early enough to wonder if I had read the schedule correctly, I sat quietly and unobtrusively, as seemed to be the custom. I hadn't sat in any church at all in perhaps a decade. Still I felt this pervasive sense that at St. Pius X, at 11:00 AM, on 26 January 2014, everyone one was going to notice me, and it was going to be awkward.
The faithful arrived in full force almost simultaneously.
They were visibly homogeneously Caucasian, which made me wonder how far many of them drove to get to my neighborhood. The proceeded mostly to their knees between the pews, which suddenly bulged with bowed heads, clasped hands, and closed eyes. I noted this as the preliminary prayer.
A crowd of nearly one hundred individuals became one organism as they rose to great the pastor, Reverend Kallookalam, and Indian fellow with a heav…

On Christianity and Marketing

Christianity is an organization largely founded on well-developed principles of marketing. For any new organization, in any field or industry, there is always going to be a steep competition curve when trying to carve out a sustainable, expandable (read prolific) market-share. This process relies on well crafted advertizing, and an equally well defined concept of the target demographic. The best form of advertizing is word of mouth, and the most vulnerable demographic are the poor, the disenfranchised, and the optimistic. While many well-regarded and worthy scholars caution against judgments and interpretations of ancient events by modern standards, the sacrifice of perspective is at times unwarranted.

On the Didachi

The Jews are not referenced in the Didache as interpreted in “A Cloud of Witnesses,” at least not specifically. The word “hypocrites” is treated as a vague allusion in a footnote: “Presumably a reference to Pharisees or perhaps to unconverted Jews.” However, the only other reference to outsiders regards the Eucharist: “Do not give what is sacred to the dogs.” This admonition reflects the early exclusive nature of the Jesus movement.

On "The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Wars"

Reviewed: Ovendale, Ritchie. Origins of the Arab-Israeli Wars. New York: Logman Group, 1984. 232 pages.
One subject, befitting as much a citizen of any nation as a student of global history, is the war between the state of Israel and the Palestinian nation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The dimensions and origins of this conflict reach thousands of years backward into history and across the globe from every side. The story of these two peoples will certainly reach equally as far forward into the hearts and minds of audiences for generations to come. The story to be told is all at once political, religious, territorial, social, military, and moral.

The Senseless Deliverer

The following study examines a brief sample of news articles from the Washington Post and the New York Times during the period between 2003 and 2004. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the major themes of coverage during this period as they relate to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and the conditions leading to the Iraq War, as well as the attitudes and concerns of supporters, critics, analysts and politicians. As ten years have elapsed between the period examined and the time of the completion of this study, history allows for the hindsight necessary to make judgments regarding the accuracy and consequences of the prevailing views as the conflict unfolded, and also of the oversights and inconsistencies which may be avoided in future conflicts. The focus is on the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (or 'drones,' as they have come to be called) into the awareness of the general public, and into the theater of war.

In the Shadow of the Autopilot

Throughout the history of man, conflict has yielded incredible advances in technology. The necessity of war is advantage. He who holds the tallest hill the longest prevails. Ages beyond civilized history, hominids surely banded together on occasion to brutalize each other with sticks, rocks and bones. As the last Ice Age thawed, upright man emerged in the East, first with arrows and spears, then with swords and shields, and before long, with gun powder and cannon. At each phase in the history of weaponry, the human narrative changed in dramatic ways. Everywhere the next-best-thing went, traditions were extinguished and age-old systems of government fell. Lifestyles evolved to suit the ways of conquerors. Rations and wealth were appropriated to feed and compensate victorious soldiers. And always, counter-measures evolved in stride.

The Popcorn Paper Trail

Early in the twenty-first century, the United States lost its way. As the last chime of midnight tolled in the darkness of the eastern seaboard, the cold autumn winds extinguished the fragile candle flame of an old, rugged dream, under the battle blasted skies of a war between ideologically opposed factions. October of 2013 began with the not-so-novel flat-line of a terribly confused and schizophrenic derelict, caught in the duplicitous diversions of its own mania. This brief study attempts to eulogize its passing and to speculate upon the potential of its restoration, through the use of (among other sources) a survey of several articles and commentaries collected during the period of the first seven days of the American Government Shutdown.

Overlords

America is dying. Our livelihood in a free-market society is our Wage(W). The wage is also the tool by which we are subjugated, subtly and clandestinely, into the blind oblivion of slavery. Let us follow the path of the almighty dollar through the abysmal circuitry of our present society. In this manner, we hope to shed light upon the perverse and malicious nature of our relationship with the established forces responsible for controling and regulating how we are compensated for our sacred efforts and sacrifices.

Imagination: The Most Contentious Terrain

What is God?We may, as always, start with what we know. God is a word, like any other, upon which we inscribe meaning, but what meaning? From a purely neutral standpoint, the many varied synonyms are nearly as diverse as the interpretations that follow. In fact "what" we know about God ultimately reduces to the matter of where on the planet we happen to have spent the most time. But the "who" at least has a few common enough linguistic traits to help us form the beginning of a framework. God as "who", in the word sense, is the force or figure to whom (or which) we ascribe all physical and metaphysical control and origin of our tangible reality. From then on, the solutions of "who" are found to be myriad and cultural, as often contradictory or rational as the cultures themselves.