Patrick Madrid: Atheism and Human Rights

June 25, 2012

Modern Americans — like most Westerners living in developed countries — are big talkers when it comes to human rights.  These two words have become a meaningless slogan that resonates well with the average man and woman.  It flows effortlessly from the chattering mouths of inane celebrities, obsequious politicians, and vacuous television news anchors.  “Human rights!” they all cry.  But what exactly does that mean?

According to Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and the other principal Founding Fathers, it had something to do with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” which, they affirmed all human beings “are endowed by their Creator with.”  They spoke of these as “certain unalienable rights.”

Jesus Christ declared that the fundamental human right of all people is to be truly free to know and love God, who created them:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  –Jn 8:32

Atheism, on the other hand, can speak of human rights in only the narrowest of senses.  Would human beings really possess rights in a naturalist universe?  If so, on what basis would they have them?  Where would such “rights” come from?  On purely scientific grounds, how would a material cosmos have the capacity to endow randomly generated things with “rights”?  What “rights” would rocks have?  What “rights” would light waves have?  On what basis would human beings, say, be entitled to more “rights” than cockroaches?

If God does not exist and there is nothing beyond the material universe, how could “rights” arise naturally from endless chemical interactions or from physical particles randomly jostling one another?

So, if it isn’t the material universe that bestows human rights, then who or what does?  Is it our family or tribe?  Does the society in which we live endow us with human rights?  Does the State?  Or does the individual man or woman establish his own set of “human rights” to which he lays claim by sheer force of his or her own will?

The problem with any of these possibilities, of course, is that any right granted by some person or group of persons is a right that can easily be taken away at the whim of the grantor.

Historically, kings could raise a man to riches and glory or send him off to be burned alive — in an instant, with the mere lifting of a finger.  In officially atheist regimes, such as China, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union, it is the State that grants “rights” to the individual — and the State can remove any or all of them at will…

When we speak of “human rights,” we typically have in mind either those “rights” that are granted by a secular authority which can, rightfully, legally, revoke them… or rights that are intrinsic and, as the Founding Fathers described them, inalienable.  These rights, such as the right to life, men and women possess by virtue of their nature as human beings.

These are Rights with a capital R.  They are God-given, true, and valid, and they exist, regardless of whatever anyone may say and whether or not the state acknowledges them.  These are rights no power on earth can rightfully take away because no power on earth can grant them.  Only God can.

As the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

Only our Creator can endow us with rights that are unalienable — rights that cannot be taken away by any human power.  Our Founding Fathers understood this truth.  In a godless universe comprised of nothing but material substances, time, and chance, there is no one to bestow these kinds of rights.

Patrick Madrid
Chapter Seven, “The ‘Do As I Say, Not As I Do’ Hypocrisy of Atheism”
The Godless Delusion:  A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism


Robert Spencer: Islam vs. Science

June 24, 2012

It’s true:  Muslims once led the rest of the world in various intellectual endeavors, notably mathematics and science.  But there was such a decline after this “Golden Age” that of the age itself there is scarcely any trace left in the Islamic world.

Take, for example, the medical sciences.  Muslims established the first pharmacies and were the first to require standards of knowledge and competence from doctors and pharmacists, enforced by an examination [9].  At the time of the fifth Abbasid caliph, Harun al-Rashid (763-809), the first hospital was established in Baghdad, and many more followed.  Yet it was not a Muslim, but a Belgian physician and researcher, Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), who paved the way for modern medical advances by publishing the first accurate description of human internal organs, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) in 1543.  Why?  Because Vesalius was able to dissect human bodies, while that practice was forbidden in Islam.  What’s more, Vesalius’s book is filled with detailed anatomical drawings — but also forbidden in Islam are artistic representations of the human body.

In mathematics, it’s the same story.  Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (780-850) was a pioneering mathematician whose treatise on algebra, once translated from Arabic, introduced generations of Europeans to the rarified joys of that branch of mathematics.  But in fact, the principles upon which al-Khwarizmi worked were discovered centuries before he was born — including the zero, which is often attributed to Muslims.  Even what we know today as “Arabic numerals” did not originate in Arabia, but in pre-Islamic India — and they are not used in the Arabic language today.  Nonetheless, there is no denying that al-Khwarizmi was influential.  The word “algebra” itself comes from the first word of the title of his treatise Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah; and the word “algorithm” is derived from his name.  Al-Khwarizmi’s work opened up new avenues of mathematical and scientific exploration in Europe, so why didn’t it do the same in the Islamic world?  The results are palpable:  European’s ultimately used algebra, in conjunction with other discoveries, to make significant technological advances; Muslims did not.  Why?

One answer is that Europe had a long-standing intellectual tradition that made such innovations possible, while the Islamic world did not.  This even included making use of Arabic works in ways that Muslims themselves did not:  Aristotle, along with his Muslim commentators Avicenna and Averroes, were studied in European universities in the twelfth century and after, while in the Islamic world their work was largely ignored and certainly not taught in schools, which concentrated then, as now, mostly on memorization and study of the Qur’an…

Much of the responsibility for this must be laid at the feet of the Sufi Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1128).  Although he was a great thinker, he nevertheless became the chief spokesman for a streak of anti-intellectualism that stifled much Islamic philosophical and scientific thought…

In his Incoherence of the Philosophers, al-Ghazali accordingly accused Muslim philosophers of “denial of revealed laws and religious confessions” and “rejection of the details of religious and sectarian teaching, believing them to be man-made laws and embellished tricks” [12].  He accused the Muslim philosophers al-Farabi and Avienna of challenging “the very principles of religion” [13]…

Al-Ghazali’s attack on the philosophers was a sophisticated manifestation of a tendency that has always hindered intellectual development in the Islamic world:

There is a prevailing assumption that the Qur’an is the perfect book, and no other book is needed.  With the Qur’an the perfect book and Islamic society the perfect civilization, too many Muslims didn’t think they needed knowledge that came from any other source — certainly not from infidels.

[9]  Philip Hitti, The Arabs:  A Short History (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1996), 141-42.

[12]  Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, translated by Michael E. Marmura. (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 200), 2.

[13]  Ibid., 8.

Robert Spencer
Chapter 7, “How Allah Killed Science”
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades)


Robert Spencer: Islam Oppresses Women

June 24, 2012

It’s widely accepted, almost to the point of being axiomatic, that Islamic mistreatment of women is cultural and does not stem from the Qur’an — and that Islam actually offers women a better life than they can enjoy in the West.  The Los-Angeles-based Muslim Women’s League claims that “spiritual equality, responsibility, and accountability for both men and women is a well-developed theme in the Qur’an.  Spiritual equality between men and women in the sight of God is not limited to purely spiritual, religious issues, but is the basis for equality in all temporal aspects of human endeavor” [3].

Another Muslim women’s advocate, the Egyptian Dr. Nawal el-Saadawi, who has run afoul of Egyptian authorities because Muslim divines consider her opinions less than Islamic, goes still further:  “Our Islamic religion has given women more rights than any another religion has, and has guaranteed her honour and pride” [4].

In the same vein, the Christian Science Monitor in December 2004 featured several Latin American female converts to Islam [5].  One of them, Jasmine Pinet, explained that she “has found greater respect as a woman by converting to Islam”… The Monitor reports that there are forty thousand Latin American Muslims in the United States today, and that “many of the Latina converts say that their belief that women are better treated in Islam was a significant factor in converting.”

For readers who might find this surprising — given the burqa, polygamy, the prohibition of female drivers in Saudi Arabia, and other elements of the Islamic record on women that are well known in the West — the Monitor quotes Leila Ahmed, professor of women’s studies and religion at Harvard:  “It astounds me, the extent to which people think Afghanistan and the Taliban represent women and Islam.”  Ahmed says that “we’re in the early stages of a major rethinking of Islam that will open Islam for women.  Muslim scholars are rereading the core texts of Islam — from the Koran to legal texts — in every possible way.”

But did the Taliban really originate the features of Islam that discriminate against women?  Will a “rereading” of the Qur’an and other core texts of Islam really help “open Islam for women”?  These are some of the texts that will have to be “reread”:

Women are inferior to men, and must be ruled by them:  “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other” (Qur’an 4:34)

The Qur’an likens a women to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills:  “Your women are a tilth for you to cultivate so go to your tilth as ye will” (Qur’an 2:223)

It declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man:  “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (Qur’an 2:282)

It allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also:  “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one, or a captive that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” (Qur’an 4:3)

It rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter:  “Allah thus directs you as regards your children’s inheritance:  to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (Qur’an 4:11)

It tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives:  “Good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.  As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (Qur’an 4:34)…

Individual Muslims may respect and honor women, but Islam doesn’t.

[3]  Muslim Women’s League, “Gender Equality in Islam,” September 1995, http://www.mwlusa.org/pub_gender.html

[4]  Nawal El-Saadawi, quoted in Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi, The Ideal Muslimah:  The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah, International Islamic Publishing House, 1998, http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/humanrelations/womeninislam/idealmuslimah

[5]  Christine Amario, “U.S. Latinas seeks answers in Islam,” Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 2004.

Robert Spencer
Chapter 5, “Islam Oppresses Women”
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades)


Robert Spencer: The Bible vs. The Qur’an

June 23, 2012

So the Qur’an teaches war.  But so does the Bible, right?  Islamic apologists and their non-Muslim allies frequently try to make a case for moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity:  “Muslims have been violent?  So have Christians.  Muslims are waging jihad?  Well, what about the Crusades?  The Qur’an teaches warfare?  Well, I could cherry-pick violent verses out of the Bible.”  You can find that sort of thing in all religious traditions, we’re told.  None of them is more or less likely to incite its followers to violence, we’re assured.
     But is all this really true?  Some Islamic apologists and non-Muslim purveyors of moral equivalence claim to find even in the New Testament passages that exhort believers to violence.  They most often point to two passages:

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:26-27).

     Of course, the fallacy here is that these are the words of a king in a parable, not Jesus’ instructions to His followers, but such subtleties are often ignored in the modern communications age.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew 10:34-35).

     If this passage were really calling for any literal violence, it would seem to be intra-familial jihad.  But to invoke it as the equivalent of the Qur’an’s jihad passages, which number over a hundred, is absurd:  Even the Crusaders at their most venal and grasping didn’t invoke passages like these.  Also, given the completely peaceful message of Jesus, it is clear that he meant “a sword” in an allegorical and metaphorical way.  To interpret this text literally is to misunderstand Jesus, who, unlike Muhammad, did not take part in battles.  It fails to recognize the poetry of the Bible, which is everywhere.
     Perhaps aware of how absurd such New Testament arguments are, Islamic apologists more often tend to focus on several Old Testament passages.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenent with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2).

“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you.  Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

“Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.  But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18).

     Strong stuff, right?  Just as bad as “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Qur’an 9:5) and “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” (Qur’an 47:4) and all the rest, right?
     Wrong.  Unless you happen to be a Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite, these Biblical passages simply do not apply to you.  The Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction.  Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.  The Old Testament, in contrast, records God’s commandments to the Israelites to make war against particular people only.  This is jarring to modern sensibilities, to be sure, but it does not amount to the same thing.  That’s one reason why Jews and Christians haven’t formed terror groups around the world that quote these Scriptures to justify killing non-combatants.
     By contrast, Osama bin Laden, who is only the most visible exponent of a terror network that extends from Indonesia to Nigeria and into Western Europe and the Americas, quotes the Qur’an copiously in his communiques…

Robert Spencer
Chapter 2, “The Qur’an: Book of War”
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades)


Robert Spencer: The Qur’an, a Book of War

June 23, 2012

There are over a hundred verses in the Qur’an that exhort believers to wage jihad against unbelievers.  “O Prophet!  Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them.  There abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed” (Qur’an 9:73).  “Strive hard” in Arabic is jahidi, a verbal form of the noun jihad.  This striving was to be on the battlefield:  “When you meet the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly” (Qur’an 47:4).  This is emphasized repeatedly:  “O ye who believe!  Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you:  and know that Allah is with those who fear Him” (Qur’an 9:123).
     This warfare was to be directed against both those who rejected Islam and those who professed to be Muslims but did not hold to the fullness of the faith:  “Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them.  Hell shall be their home:  an evil fate” (Qur’an 9:73)…
     Jews and Christians were to be fought, along with “idolaters”:  “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29).  The jizya was a tax inflicted upon nonbelievers.
     Jihad is the highest duty of Muslims:  “Do ye make the giving of drink to pilgrims, or the maintenance of the Sacred Mosque, equal to the pious service of those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and strive with might and main in the cause of Allah [jihad fi sabil Allah]?  They are not comparable in the sight of Allah:  and Allah guides not those who do wrong.  Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in Allah’s cause [jihad fi sabil Allah], with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah:  they are the people who will achieve salvation (Qur’an 9:19-20).  In Islamic theology, jihad fi sabil Allah refers specifically to taking up arms for Islam.
     Paradise is guaranteed to those who “slay and are slain” for Allah:  “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise):  they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain:  a promise binding on Him in truth (Qur’an 9:111).
     One may attempt to spiritualize such verses, but there is no doubt from the historical record that Muhammad meant them literally.

Robert Spencer
Chapter 2, “The Qur’an:  Book of War”
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades)


Jean M. Twenge: Love Yourself First

May 28, 2012

“You Must Love Yourself Before You Can Love Others”

This is one of the most widely accepted of our cultural aphorisms…

“It’s not someone else’s job to make us happy.  It’s your job to make yourself happy.  And to know who you are.  And if you don’t know yourself, or love yourself, how can you expect someone else to?”

There are a number of problems with this.  First, if you truly don’t care what anybody thinks of you, you’re probably not relationship material.  And if we could all be happy alone, why be in a relationship at all?  Also, plenty of people in earlier generations loved their spouses and children quite a bit, even though they never worried much about loving themselves.  Lower rates of divorce in previous decades might even suggest that they were better at relationships than we are.  Maybe we love ourselves a little too much.

But pop psych teaches us otherwise.  “No person can be happy with others until they are happy with themselves,” says Lindsay, 19.  It is now commonly accepted that you should have your own life and develop your own identity first, before you settle down with someone.  You’re supposed to date lots of people and find out who’s right for you before you marry someone…

Even breaking up is supposed to be good for us — after all, then we can focus on ourselves.  “Women in relationships tend to lose a piece of themselves, and when they move out on their own, they tend to find themselves,” says psychotherapist Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, quoted in Us Weekly.  “It’s common to get a huge amount of energy, feel better about yourself and take on new things.”  A huge amount of research soundly refutes this — breakups lead to depression, not “energy” — but it’s classic “you must love yourself first” pop psychology.  Maybe Dr. Lewis has watched too much TV…

This is the dirty little secret of modern life:  We are told that we need to know ourselves and love ourselves first, but being alone sucks.  Our ultimate value is not to depend on anyone else.  “Commitments imply dependency,” writes Jerry Rubin in Growing Up at Thirty-Seven.  “A love is like an addiction… I will learn to love myself enough so that I do not need another to make me happy.”  But the truth is that human beings do need other people to be happy — this is just the way we are built.  Yet say this at a cocktail party, and someone will probably say yes, sure, but it’s better not to need someone.  That’s co-dependent, the resident psychotherapy expert will say, and will repeat the modern aphorism “You can’t expect someone else to make you happy — you have to make yourself happy.”  Actually, you can expect this:  having a stable marriage is one of the most robust predictors of happiness.  We gain self-esteem from our relationships with others, not from focusing on ourselves… Study after study shows that people who have good relationships with friends and family are the happiest — these things consistently trump money or job satisfaction as predictors of happiness and life satisfaction.  Even Abraham Maslow, the favorite psychologist of New Agers, says that belonging and love needs must be satisfied before esteem needs.  And we know this, which is why we continue to get married, have children, and make friends.  Despite the idea that you can Be Your Own Best Friend, as the title of a popular self-help book claims, we know it’s better to have real friends and real relationships.

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D.
Chapter 3, “You Can Be Anything You Want to Be”
Generation Me:  Why Today’s Young People Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before


Ann Coulter: George W. Bush

October 10, 2011

.
For those easily duped by media propaganda, there would be no more staggering surprise than George W. Bush’s masterful response to a devastating terrorist attack seven months after he took office.  Never was the myth of a “dumb” Republican shattered with such dispatch.  Stupid old Reagan won the Cold War, but that took time.  It was the gradual, if inevitable, outcome of Reagan’s massive defense buildup, military invasions, support for anti-communist insurgents around the globe, and, finally, walking away from the table at Reykjavik.
     Unfortunately for liberals, a surprise attack on America on September 11, 2001, would test George W. Bush like no other president in United States history.  It was precisely the risk of something like a terrorist attack happening that sent the media into anxious reveries about Bush’s performance on Andy Hiller’s pop quiz.  How on earth could Bush be expected to handle a national crisis if he couldn’t name the Prime Minister of Swaziland?
     Bush’s alleged weaknesses — subjected to side-splitting ridicule throughout the campaign — were precisely those that would be most severely tested in the crucible of war.  Contrary to urgent news bulletins throughout the campaign, Bush was a masterful leader.  War was where the rubber met the road and Bush was the consummate wartime commander.  The media’s campaign portrayal of Bush as “not the sharpest knife in the drawer” was not simply wrong in the sense of being untrue.  It was the opposite of true.  The media had lied and now everyone knew it.
     Far from smirking bravado, Bush exuded calm deliberation.  He didn’t overreact with a quick ostentatious display of pyrotechnics, as Democrats are wont to do.  Indeed, in a direct rebuke to the Clinton administration, Bush pointedly said:  “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt.  It’s going to be decisive.”
     The very opposite of an incurious frat boy, Bush inspired the nation and showed the world America’s resolve.  In one of the most eloquent speeches in American history, he proclaimed, “As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror.  This will be an age of liberty here and across the world.”
     Describing a new and confusing enemy, Bush said we have “seen their kind before”:  “They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the twentieth century.  By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism.  And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends:  in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies”…
     In word and deed, the president emboldened a jittery nation:  “The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain.  Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war.  And we know that God is not neutral between them… Fellow citizens, we will meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come.  In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom and may He watch over the United States of America.”

Ann Coulter
Chapter Seven:  The Joy of Arguing with Liberals
Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right


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