Quote of the Night

July 3, 2009

scan0061As midnight passes, as the wine glass is slowly emptied, as the cat snores on the sofa’s spine, the quote of night is inspired by tonight’s Zen-heavy themes. Here’s 1960s Asian philosophy maven Alan Watts on Zen:

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”


Russell Redux

June 18, 2009

Frankly, however, the aspects of Russell’s thought that I consider most relevant still to people today concern his politics and his writings on morality. Unlike many progressives during his lifetime, Russell recognized early on that the communist regime of the Soviet Union was a disaster for its citizens and for humanity at large, and was accordingly publicly very critical of it. In a typical fashion, here is how he managed to attack the Soviet revolution and the Catholic Church in one paragraph:

“One who believes as I do, that free intellect is the chief engine of human progress, cannot but be fundamentally opposed to Bolshevism as much as to the Church of Rome. The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm.”

I have never had the chance to read much of Russell except for a multi-pound volume titled “History of Western Philosophy and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day,” which I still have not finished but hope to by year’s end (I think I’m up to the Renaissance). However, anyone with the philosophical gust to write a book titled “Why I Am Not a Christian,” in 1927, deserves to be saluted for his willingness to offer up an unpopular world-view when blasphemy was still a crime in some parts of the Western world (an unfortunately re-emerging trend).

Thanks to Dr. Pigliucci for pointing our Russell’s contributions.

When will religions stop advocating violence?

June 17, 2009

Christian minister David Bayly seems to give tacit support of killing in the name of religion in the following sermon on the heels of the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller (who was killed at his church).

Bayly said:

* Violence is not always wrong. Killing is not always forbidden. Opposition to abortion does not obligate us to oppose all forms of killing. In saying this I make a biblically defensible statement. God has given the power of the sword to the state so that it may judge and execute judgment. This is true internationally and locally. Condemnation of the vile sin of abortion, the murder of an infant, an innocent, in its mother’s womb is not the same as the death penalty, properly applied.

* Nor do I believe that Dr. Tiller’s killer necessarily acted inappropriately as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner. Like the couple who boldly went into the tent before the congregation at Peor and were immediately killed by Phinehas, Dr. Tiller’s bold practice of the indefensible, his brazen boasting of his practice rendered judge and jury superfluous. He was self-accused and self-convicted.”

During a time when any person dedicated to peace and kindness should have naturally condemned Tiller’s murder, this supposed follower of Jesus Christ chose to say “Well, maybe Tiller got what he deserved.” What a violation of the trust that should be implicit in the relationship between a religious leader and his congregation. So much for “Love thy neighbor.” Replace that with “Feeling lucky, Punk?”