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ISSUES: CHRISTIANS AND THE WORLD

Ultimo Aggiornamento: 06/03/2012 20.19
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European court rules against
Crucifix in Italian schoolrooms



I think this is a landmark event in the de jure secularization of Europe - and I have no idea how the Church is going to fight a juridical verdict. The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. I do not know how binding this decision will be on the Italian state which is a signatory to the Convention. Here is the rest of the press release from the Court:




Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded the applicant 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

Principal facts

The applicant, Ms Soile Lautsi, is an Italian national who lives in Abano Terme (Italy). In 2001-2002 her children, Dataico and Sami Albertin, aged 11 and 13 respectively, attended the State school “Istituto comprensivo statale Vittorino da Feltre” in Abano Terme. All of the classrooms had a crucifix on the wall, including those in which Ms Lautsi’s children had lessons.

She considered that this was contrary to the principle of secularism by which she wished to bring up her children. She informed the school of her position, referring to a Court of Cassation judgment of 2000, which had found the presence of crucifixes in polling stations to be contrary to the principle of the secularism of the State.

In May 2002 the school’s governing body decided to leave the crucifixes in the classrooms. A directive recommending such an approach was subsequently sent to all head teachers by the Ministry of State Education.

On 23 July 2002 the applicant complained to the Veneto Regional Administrative Court about the decision by the school’s governing body, on the ground that it infringed the constitutional principles of secularism and of impartiality on the part of the public authorities.

The Ministry of State Education, which joined the proceedings as a party, emphasised that the impugned situation was provided for by royal decrees of 1924 and 1928.

On 14 January 2004 the administrative court granted the applicant’s request that the case be submitted to the Constitutional Court for an examination of the constitutionality of the presence of a crucifix in classrooms.

Before the Constitutional Court, the Government argued that such a display was natural, as the crucifix was not only a religious symbol but also, as the “flag” of the only Church named in the Constitution (the Catholic Church), a symbol of the Italian State.

On 15 December 2004 the Constitutional Court held that it did not have jurisdiction, on the ground that the disputed provisions were statutory rather than legislative.

The proceedings before the administrative court were resumed, and on 17 March 2005 that court dismissed the applicant’s complaint. It held that the crucifix was both the symbol of Italian history and culture, and consequently of Italian identity, and the symbol of the principles of equality, liberty and tolerance, as well as of the State’s secularism.

By a judgment of 13 February 2006, the Consiglio di Stato dismissed the applicant’s appeal, on the ground that the cross had become one of the secular values of the Italian Constitution and represented the values of civil life.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

The applicant alleged, in her own name and on behalf of her children, that the display of the crucifix in the State school attended by the latter was contrary to her right to ensure their education and teaching in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions, within the meaning of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.

The display of the cross had also breached her freedom of conviction and religion, as protected by Article 9 of the Convention.

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 27 July 2006.

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Françoise Tulkens (Belgium), President,
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portugal),
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky (Italy),
Danutė Jočienė (Lithuania),
Dragoljub Popović (Serbia),
András Sajó (Hungary),
Işıl Karakaş (Turkey), judges,
and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar.

Decision of the Court

The presence of the crucifix – which it was impossible not to notice in the classrooms – could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion.

This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities.

The freedom not to believe in any religion (inherent in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Convention) was not limited to the absence of religious services or religious education: it extended to practices and symbols which expressed a belief, a religion or atheism.

This freedom deserved particular protection if it was the State which expressed a belief and the individual was placed in a situation which he or she could not avoid, or could do so only through a disproportionate effort and sacrifice.

The State was to refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it. In particular, it was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils.

The Court was unable to grasp how the display, in classrooms in State schools, of a symbol that could reasonably be associated with Catholicism (the majority religion in Italy) could serve the educational pluralism that was essential to the preservation of a “democratic society” as that was conceived by the Convention, a pluralism that was recognised by the Italian Constitutional Court.

The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities, and especially in classrooms, thus restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions, and the right of children to believe or not to believe. The Court concluded, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 taken jointly with Article 9 of the Convention.




AAAARGGGGGHHHHH! How does one argue against such idiocy? But meanwhile, is this now a precedent that cnanot be appealed to any court????



PS. 11/4/09

IRONY - AND LUNACY -
OF THE STRASBOURG DECISION


Perhaps the most original reaction I have read so far to the Strasbourg decision comes from Massimo Introvigne, not where he says that the judgment is "the sign that Christianophobia has passed from the indirect to the direct phase" - which is certainly true - but in this:


Why does not Mrs. Lautsi [the Finnish woman who filed the lawsuit against the crucifix] ask her country to change its national flag, which features a cross? People like her ought to understand that the cross in school or on a flag is not a tool of religious proselytism but the symbol of a multi-century history.



I looked it up and found the following:

Left photo, flag of Finland. In fact, the Nordic cross is the characteristic of all five Scandinavian flags.
Right photo, from left: Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark.

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Other European flags with the cross: From left, Greece, the UK, Georgia, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
[IMG]http://i601.photobucket.com/albums/tt96/MARITER_7/2009-2/0-EUROPEANFLAGS-WITH-CROSSES.jpg[/IMG]

And what if some nut now lodges a suit with the Strasbourg court to question the crosses on all these flags? Will that court then compel them to revoke part of their national history and replace their flags???? This is absolute lunacy.

What the Strasbourg cross demonstrates - besides its anti-Christian bigotry and bookish literalness in interpreting human rights - is ignorance of human history, in which after the circle, the cross has been one of the most universal signs even in pre-Christian cultures. Just consider the Egyptian ankh or even the Celtic cross!


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There is a literal torrent of ink flooding the Italian media on the anti-Cross ruling in Strasbourg, and just reading through them takes time, after which I must decide which is worth translating to share, so for now, here's TIME's take on this development:


Will crucifixes be banned
in Italian schools?

By Jeff Israely
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Thursday, Nov. 05, 2009


Europe's increasingly muscular brand of secularism has an unofficial capital: Strasbourg, France. Over the past decade, the quaint city of 273,000 near the German border — home to the European Parliament and other key international bodies — has been the site of a series of repeated slap-downs to those who are fighting to hold on to the Old Continent's fading religious impulses.

The latest religious vestige to be targeted is the crucifix that still hangs on the walls of many Italian public schools, a fixture the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights has now ruled is a violation of religious and education freedom.

The Italian government announced it would appeal the Nov. 3 decision that would force Italy to pay a €5,000 ($7,400) fine to a mother in northern Italy who fought for eight years to have the crucifixes removed from her children's classrooms.

Though the European court's decision does not call for the immediate removal of all the Italian crucifixes, it could eventually force a Continent-wide review of the use of religious symbols in all state-run schools.

The presence of this Christian symbol in public schools (it's also on display in some Italian courtrooms) might be jarring to those in the U.S. and U.K. — even to the religiously inclined — where separation of church and state is drawn with clear lines.

But while faith is fading in Italy as it is across Europe, the crucifix is widely accepted by Italians as a cultural as well as religious symbol.

The decision in Strasbourg was swiftly condemned by most of Italy's political establishment, from the divorced and famously loose-living Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the center-left leader and onetime Communist Party member Pier Luigi Bersani, who called the ruling an example of "good sense as victim of legalities."

The Vatican, whose influence in Italy has helped maintain a role for Catholicism in public schools, including hiring church-approved teachers for religion hour, lashed out at what it called the latest "ideological" ruling from Strasbourg.

"The court wanted to ignore the role of Christianity in forming Europe's identity, which was and remains essential," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement on Nov. 3. "Religion gives a precious contribution to the formation and moral growth of people, and it's an essential component in our civilization. It's wrong and myopic to try to exclude it from education."

The reality, however, is that Pope Benedict XVI and other religious leaders in Europe are swimming against a growing secular tide. A 2008 Gallup poll registered a continued decline in Christian faith across Europe.

More than two-thirds of respondents in countries such as Britain, France, the Czech Republic and all of Scandinavia responded "No" to the question of whether religion was important to them.

The 82-year-old Benedict has made it a centerpiece of his papacy to reverse the decline of Christianity on the Continent, where the faith originated [No, it originated in Galilee and Judea!]

Last month, he used a Vatican meeting with the new E.U. envoy to the Holy See to recall the church's lingering bitterness over the failure of the European Parliament to include a reference to the "Christian roots" of Europe in the E.U. constitution a few years back.

In 2004, a committee of the same Parliament was also responsible for torpedoing the nomination for European commissioner of Rocco Buttiglione, a prominent Italian politician known for his traditional Catholic views and friendship with Pope John Paul II.

The recurring flare-ups between Italy and Strasbourg are both anomalous to and emblematic of the continental shift in faith.

[Israely fails to make the distinction that the more habitual and perhaps more dangerous 'Strasbourg' foe of the Church is the European Parliament, an organ of the European Union. The Strasbourg-based European Court for Human Rights is an organ of the Council of Europe - different from the European Union (it has 47 member states to the EU's 27) but overlapping it in many ways, as it has its own Parliamentary Assembly and its own courts. Check out a fact sheet on
www.coe.int/aboutCoe/index.asp?page=nepasconfondre&l=en
for an at-a-glance comparison of the Council of Europe and the EU. Not incidentally, the EU president was among the first to denounce the ruling of the Strasbourg Court, pointing out that the EU has nothing to do with it.]


The Vatican's presence within its borders keeps Catholicism a part of the public life and social fabric in Italy, where only 23% of respondents answered "No" to the Gallup poll question.

But the largely rhetorical battles like the one over crucifixes [the tenor and passion of the denunciations in the Italian media, from political leaders at the very top to parishioners having their say does not at all suggestthat the battle over the Crucifix is merely rhetorical!] mask the reality that Italian life is ever more secular, and the ethnic and religious fabric is in fact undergoing major changes with the arrival of immigrants, including many from Muslim-majority countries.

Buttiglione, who called the court's decision this week "abhorrent," referred to the role of immigrants in Italy today, apparently also to the plaintiff in the crucifix case, a Finnish-born mother of two married to an Italian native. [I think it's the other way around - she's an italian woman married to a Finn.]

"Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history," said Buttiglione. "Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history."

Still, the Strasbourg court cannot be accused of discriminating against Christianity in particular. In 2005, the human-rights court upheld a then long-standing ban on headscarves in public buildings in Turkey, a law that has since been eased by the current ruling Muslim party.

And of course, beyond the halls of its European institutions, the city of Strasbourg is also in the heart of the ever more secularized French Republic, where students are forbidden from wearing headscarves or any other religious symbol in public schools.

To U.S. and U.K. sensibilities, this ban continues to seem as strange as crucifixes on the walls.

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The untold stories of Israel's martyrs


For the first time ever in a book, depictions of the victims of Islamist hatred.
Young and old, men and women. Struck down in a bus, at a bar, at the market.
Killed solely for being Jewish



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ROME, November 7, 2009 – Today Jews all over the world are commemorating their martyrs of the "Night of Broken Glass," the victims of the Nazi pogrom on the night of November 9-10, 1938, in Germany.

There is universal, mournful observance of that massacre and of the tremendous extermination of Jews by the Reich that came after it.

But the same is not done, in Europe and the West, for the many other Jewish victims who for years have been killed in Israel, assailed by Islamic terrorism.

Every time one of them is killed, it is covered in the news and then immediately ignored. The victim ends up buried in the vagueness of the "Palestinian question," viewed by many as Israel's "fault."

Meanwhile, one out of every 300 Israeli families has been directly affected by an attack. The terrorist actions number in the thousands. More than 150 suicide attacks have been carried out, and for each of these the Israeli police estimate that they have prevented nine more. 1,723 people have been killed to date, 378 of them women. More than ten thousand have been injured.

The indifference of the West and of Christians in the face of this steady stream of victims, struck systematically in the midst of their daily routine, on the buses, in the cafes, in the markets, at home, now has a response in a book that recounts their stories for the first time. It finally tells us who they are.

The book was published a month ago in Italy, and translations will soon be published in New York and London. Its title is Non smetteremo di danzare[We will not stop dancing]. And the subtitle: "Le storie mai raccontate dei martiri di Israele [The untold stories of Israel's martyrs]."

The author, Giulio Meotti, is already known to the readers of www.chiesa for two in-depth reports that have received extensive attention: on the most Islamified city in Europe, Rotterdam, and on the "Hilltop Youth," the latest generation of Israeli settlers.

His most recent book opens with a preface by English philosopher Roger Scruton, and with a letter by Robert Redeker, the French writer who has been living in a secret location since he began receiving death threats from Islamist fanatics.

The following is an extract from the first chapter.



The unsung dead of Israel
by Giulio Meotti
From "Non smetteremo di danzare," pp. 26-36

Why this book? Because before it. there was not even one presentation of the story of Israel's dead.

It was written without any prejudice against the Palestinians, it is an account motivated by love for a great people and its marvelous and tragic adventure in the heart of the Middle East and through the whole twentieth century.

Every effort to exterminate an entire class of human beings, from Srebrenica to Rwanda, has been commemorated in some great story. This does not seem to be allowed for Israel; history has always been scrubbed quickly of the blood of Jews.

Jews killed because they were Jews, whose stories have been swallowed up in the disgusting and amoral equating of Israelis and Palestinians, which explains nothing about that conflict and even blurs it to the point of disappearing.

This book is intended to rescue from oblivion this vast reserve of suffering, to elicit respect for the dead and love of the living. [...]

The most beautiful gift in these four years of research was given to me by the Israelis who opened their grief-stricken world to my request for help, laying their sufferings bare. It was me knocking at the door, a stranger, a non-Jew, a foreigner. But they all shook my hand and spoke about their loved ones for the first time. [...]

I decided to tell some of the great Israeli stories full of idealism, suffering, sacrifice, chance, love, fear, faith, freedom – and the hope that, in spite of all this silence, Israel will triumph in the end. [...]

There are incredible people like the obstetrician Tzofia, who lost her father, a rabbi, her mother, and her little brother. Today she helps Arab women give birth to their children. [...]

There's Torah copyist Yitro, who converted to Judaism and whose son was kidnapped and executed by Hamas. There's Elisheva, from a family of farming settlers who lost them all in Auschwitz, and whose daughter, nine months pregnant, was killed by remorseless terrorists because "she wanted to live the Jewish ideal."

In Tzipi they stabbed the chief rabbi to death, and where his bedroom used to be there is now an important religious school. Ruti's husband and David's brother was a great humanist doctor who cared for everyone, Arabs and Jews.

There's the rabbi Elyashiv, whose son, a seminarian, was taken from him, but who continues to believe that "everything in life makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker."

Then there's Sheila, who always talks about the coming of the Messiah and about how her husband took care of Down's children. Menashe lost his father, mother, brother, and grandfather in a night of terror, but continues to believe in the right to live where Abraham pitched his tent. [...]

Elaine lost a son during dinner on the shabath, and for more than a year was not able to cook or make any sound. There are the friends of Ro’i Klein, a human shield who leapt onto a mine reciting the Shema’ Yisrael, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Yehudit lost her daughter too soon, coming back from a wedding together with her husband. From Uri, who made the alyah from France, they took his daughter as well, a volunteer working with the poor.

Orly lived a happy life in a trailer, but her son didn't have time to put his kippah back on his head before he was killed. There's Tehila, one of those God-fearing but modern women who populate the settlements, the wife of an idealist who "lived the land," who loved the pink and blue plumage of Samaria's flowers. [...]

There's also the marvelous Yossi, whose son sacrificed his own life in order to save his friends, and every Friday went to give out religious gifts to passers-by. Rina had created a pearl in the Egyptian desert, she thought of herself as a pioneer. She had her son taken from her, together with his pregnant wife. [...]

There's Chaya, who embraced Judaism together with her husband. For them, conversion "was like marrying God." [...]

All of these stories speak to us of this nation that is unique in the world, born from the 19th-century philosophy of secular Zionism, which from the ashes of the Holocaust brought back to their ancient homeland a people in exile for two thousand years and cut down to less than half its prewar size.

Stories that speak to us of courage, desperation, faith, of the defense of hearth and home, even if errors are sometimes made, of the preservation of "honorable warfare" in the only army that permits disobeying an inhumane order. [...]

The story of these Jewish victims is not only a story of heroes. They are almost always defenseless people. [...] The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, the most important center for analysis in Israel, has calculated that only 25 percent of the Israeli victims were soldiers. The majority were and are Jews in civilian dress.

Among the Israelis, 40 percent of all the victims are women. Europeans believe that Israel is the stronger side, the country and military with the control of the territory, the technology, the money, the knowledge base, the capacity to use force, the friendship and alliance with the United States.

And before it stands the pitiful weakness of a people claiming its rights, and ready for martyrdom in order to obtain them. But this is not the case. The stories of these new unsung victims proves it.

The Israelis have shown that they love life more than they fear death.

The terrorists have killed hundreds of teachers and students, but the schools have never closed.

They have killed doctors and patients, but the hospitals have continued to function.

They have massacred soldiers and policemen, but the list of those who volunteer has never shrunk.

They have shot up buses of the faithful, but the pilgrims continue to arrive in Judea and Samaria.

They have made massacres at weddings, and forced young people to wed in underground bunkers.

But life has always won over death. Like at Irit Rahamin's bachelorette party at the Sea Market Restaurant in Tel Aviv. When the terrorist began to shoot and throw grenades into the crowd, Irit threw herself to the ground, and from under the table called her future husband and told him that she loved him. Amid the screams. And the dying....




I resent it deeply - and my outrage is great - that militant Jews and some Israeli officials have decided that Catholics, especially Pius XII and Benedict XVI, could possibly not be malevolent against Jews, and that successive Israeli governments have treated the Catholic Church in the Holy Land almost contemptuously, failing to execute a status-defining law passed 14 years ago and using every dilatory tactic to keep from doing so.

But that does not affect my belief that the Jews are rightly resettled in their historic homeland, nor my admiration for the prosperous democracy they have built against all odds, nor my incomprehension that the international community has been mostly unfair to them in the 62 years since the modern state of Israel was born.

In fact, if is so obvious that the prevalent political bias against Israel is nothing but the contemporary form of anti-Semitism, only nobody's saying it. And the anti-Semitic liberals who hold the loudest megaphones on the world stage do not think for a moment that there is anything wrong with deciding that Palestinians have a right to everything whereas Jews should not!

So, after that infamous Goldstone report by the UN on the war crimes for which it denounced both Israelis and Palestinians in thr December 2007 Gaza Strip fighting, this book about the Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism is a rare counterpoise to balance the scales s bit....



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I have not previously posted anything on this particular dispute but the following open letter in this week's issue of the diocesan newspaper of Providence gives the context quite clearly. It is about time Catholic bishops in the United States are clear and unequivocal with their flock on


What it means to be Catholic
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“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

But let’s get down to a more practical question; let’s approach it this way: What does it mean, really, to be a Catholic? After all, being a Catholic has to mean something, right?

Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?

Your letter also says that your faith “acknowledges the existence of an imperfect humanity.” Absolutely true. But in confronting your rejection of the Church’s teaching, we’re not dealing just with “an imperfect humanity” – as we do when we wrestle with sins such as anger, pride, greed, impurity or dishonesty. We all struggle with those things, and often fail.

Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

Congressman Kennedy, I write these words not to embarrass you or to judge the state of your conscience or soul. That’s ultimately between you and God. But your description of your relationship with the Church is now a matter of public record, and it needs to be challenged. I invite you, as your bishop and brother in Christ, to enter into a sincere process of discernment, conversion and repentance. It’s not too late for you to repair your relationship with the Church, redeem your public image, and emerge as an authentic “profile in courage,” especially by defending the sanctity of human life for all people, including unborn children. And if I can ever be of assistance as you travel the road of faith, I would be honored and happy to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence

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THE MURDEROUS CONSEQUENCES
OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
GONE INSANELY OFF THE RAILS


It's been one week since a militant Muslim - who got his medical education courtesy of the US Army and served as a psychiatrist counseling American soldiers back from service in Iraq and Afghanistan - decided one fine afternoon to open fire on a huge crowd of soldiers and their families gathered for a graduation ceremony in Fort Hood, Texas. He killed 13 persons [Correction: Make that 14 - one of the persons killed was pregnant] and wounded dozens of others.

I have not till now posted anything about the horrific incident which, given all the unbelievable facts that have since emerged about the murderer, any objective observer would describe as an Islamist terrorist attack on Americans. by an American soldier of Palestinian ancestry. who had sworn an oath to defend the US Constitution and fellow Americans.

And there's the equally dreadful realization that sane men serving in the same military preferred to keep silent about all the overt signs the murderous major had given out about his propensities. These 'sane' men feared they could be accused of prejudice against the psychiatrist - whose apparent faults included 'poor job performance' all this time but was nonetheless promoted to major a few months ago - because he happens to be Muslim.

The willful and ultimately criminal acts of omission increasingly done by seemingly sane men in the name of political correctness are mounting by the day. What will it take to stop the insanity?

[Which, as of today, includes the President of the United States taking the insane decision that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks will be brought to New York City to be tried in a criminal court, in New York City, no less, instead of a military tribunal in Guantanamo!

Common sense and simple human sensitivity to the feelings of all the families and friends of the 9/11 victims have both been trumped by Mr. Obama's political correctness (and overriding desire to keep faith with his political base): in an instance where no one who is not an extreme leftist or a supporter of murderous extremists - not even the European tinpot leaders Obama is trying to cozy up to - could have faulted the US in any way if the trial were done by the military.

Mark Shea expatiates more ably and fully on the Fort Hood madness....


See No Evil
by Mark P. Shea
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11/10/09


One thing you can give our media Chattering Classes: They are utterly consistent.

After Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on a roomful of defenseless people in Fort Hood, it was absolutely assured that we would immediately be told that this outrage had nothing to do with his Islamic faith and that it was not an act of terror.

Then, as time went on and the bleedin' obvious became bleedin' obvious, we would spend all weekend enduring TV pundits scratching the $200 haircuts on their 88-cent heads and pondering the question of whether there might be some remote connection between Islamic belief and a guy who praises Muslim suicide bombers as heroes and martyrs, sits under the teaching of a Radical Islamic imam who praises his act of slaughter as heroic, uses his authority as a psychiatrist to proselytize vulnerable patients with Islamic agitprop, and dresses in traditional Muslim garb and shouts "Allahu akbar!" as he guns down his prey.

It was a spectacular display of deliberate willed stupidity by a media culture that demonstrates repeatedly it does not want to acknowledge that Islam tends to breed such acts of terror with startling frequency.

And it was predictable because it happens every time some Islamic butcher opens up on innocent victims in the name of the Prophet. So, for instance, when a Koran-spouting Egyptian took it upon himself to butcher innocent people for the crime of flying on El Al, the initial twaddle from both the state and the media immediately assured us this was an "isolated incident" and that it had nothing to do with the crazy, bloodthirsty Islamic beliefs of the butcher who did it.

Finally, after nearly a year of intensive study of the noses on their own faces, the FBI and CNN finally figured out that the murders were specimens of Islamic terrorism.

Same deal with the guy in Seattle, who slaughtered a few Jews in the name of Allah some years back. We got the assurance from the media that this had nothing to do with Islam. Then they eventually tried the novel approach of opening their eyes to see the plain light of day. Good job, Sherlock.

Of course, that same media culture has absolutely no trouble painting Christians as dangerous fanatics (no doubt due to the roving gangs of gun-toting Methodists who shout "Jesus is Lord" as they blast away at defenseless people).

We live in a culture where Larry David can piss on Jesus, but we are continually lectured on the need to respect the sensitivities of butchers who get invited to participate in the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute Presidential Transition Task Force and who return the favor by murdering the sons and daughters of the nation that gave him a great education and such high honors.

Meanwhile, the Religion That Can't Grow Up beholds the carnage wrought by another Son of the Prophet and naturally blames . . . somebody else, while feeling sorry for itself:

"When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal," said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. "But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad."

Um, no. When the Muslim calls it jihad, we call it jihad, just as when a Christian used to call it a crusade, we call it a crusade. (And, by the way, when the rare Christian does something heinous in the name of Jesus, Christians condemn the evil act and the one who committed it, not the world for being upset by the evil act.)

But in the world of our crazy media, the first response to mass murder by an Islamic killer is moaning that somebody made fun of the shooter. Poor widdle butcher. Boy, I'm sure lucky that nobody in our culture ever mocks us mackerel snappers or says we are the greatest force for evil in the whole wide world. If they did, I guess we'd be perfectly justified in opening fire on innocent human beings.

Indeed, speaking of us mackerel snappers, some particularly ingenious thinkers actually found a way to blame 400-year-old English Catholics for Hasan's crime:

There simply is no information yet about what Hasan's motives were, or whether Hasan is indeed muslim [sic] or not. Of course, that last bit of information is the one that everyone will want to know about the most, even though in a fundamental sense it matters the least. . . .

However, something disquieting about the date . . . . It should be noted (as others like Ali Eteraz already have) that today is Guy Fawkes Day -- the anniversary of a plot by a Catholic dissident to blow up the English Parliament then dominated by Protestants).

If the shootings were motivated by some sense of grievance against US foreign/military policy, then the date is surely significant.


If you are wondering why centuries-dead Catholics are the Prime Suspects for some of our Chattering Classes, Roland Emmerich [a film director] does a standup job making clear what motivates so much of the willed stupidity from the Won't See the Noses on Their Faces Brigade. It's all about the cowardice:

For [his new film] "2012," Emmerich set his sites on destroying the some biggest landmarks around the world, from Rome to Rio. But there's one place that Emmerich wanted to demolish but didn't: the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure located in the center of Mecca. It's the focus of prayers and the site of the Hajj, the biggest, most important pilgrimage in Islam.

"Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit," the filmmaker told scifiwire.com. "But my co-writer Harald [Kloser] said, 'I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie.' And he was right."

Emmerich went on: "We have to all, in the western world, think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have . . . a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it's just something which I kind of didn't [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out."

Note the passive voice. Emmerich doesn't acknowledge that he is a coward afraid of offending Bronze Age Bullies with thin skin. Instead, he blabbers something about "what the state of the world is."

By this, he means that Christians have that whole "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" thing that makes us such safe targets to courageously attack. In a word, Rome doesn't issue fatwas.

Now, I'm all for not leaping to conclusions. Merely having a Muslim-sounding name no more makes it an act of Islamic terror than being named Rodriguez makes a shooter a "Roman-Catholic terrorist."

But had the shooter in Orlando [incident the day after theFt. Hood murders] had a history of praising the IRA murders and bombings, of posting that non-Catholics deserve death, of trying to use his position to pressure subordinates to convert, and of opening fire on rooms full of defenseless people while shouting "Hail Mary!" I think normal people would agree that this guy was a terrorist inspired by a very dark version of the Catholic Faith.

What drives me crazy about our media is that they constantly make the preemptive leap to definitively declare that acts of evil committed by Muslims have nothing to do with their Muslim faith, when any fool can see that's exactly what inspired them.

No, that doesn't mean all Muslims are terrorists (of course!). Indeed, one of the few sensible people in this entire exasperating farce of idiots in need of Insensitivity Training was Osman Danquah, co-founder of the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, who, after listening to Hasan's Radical Islamic nuttery, told him, "There's something wrong with you," and assumed the Army would, you know, take care of an obvious threat to its own troops in its midst.

But the Current Thinking among the leadership is that the slaughter of a few troops is to be preferred to upsetting the sensitivities of butchers and those who love them:

Danquah assumed the military's chain of command knew about Hasan's doubts, which had been known for more than a year to classmates in a graduate military medical program. His fellow students complained to the faculty about Hasan's "anti-American propaganda," but said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.

That's because, like everybody else in charge in this crazy country, we treat ideas as though they are genetic traits we can't help having and refuse to acknowledge the possibility that ideas have consequences.

We regard theological and philosophical profiling with the same horror as racial profiling. But here's the thing: Skin color doesn't kill. Thoughts of the heart, however, are exactly where murder begins.

That doesn't mean instituting Thought Police, but it does mean that when somebody (or some particular ideological group) demonstrates a pattern of sympathy for violence, we are idiots to ignore it.

And it means we are absolute idiots to go on ignoring the fact that
a) Islam has plenty of room in its body of doctrine for this sort of brutal violence;
b) Islam has plenty of people who approve of this kind of violence and are in various stages of readiness to commit it; and
c) Radical Islamic ideologues often emit glaring warning signals.

We are even greater fools to tiptoe around those Muslims whose first reaction to such crimes is to blame everybody else but their tradition and to demand victimhood for themselves.

We want very much to believe that Violent Islam is a perversion of the Islamic tradition and Wise and Benevolent Islam is the Real Islamic tradition.

But the reality is that Islam is an invented human religion that borrows from fragments of Judaism and Christianity, mixes in Mohammed's own delusional (or lying) claims of revelation, and completes it with a dash of conventional wisdom from seventh-century Arab culture.

It is not a magisterial faith with some adjudicating body that defines what is and is not the orthodox reading of the Koran. It is whatever its various adherents say it is.

That means that if you are looking for a sanction for violence in the Koran, you can find it, because it's there. So is the wisdom, almsgiving, and peace stuff, if you want that.

So Muslims who commit these heinous acts with such frequency are not "betraying Islam" when doing so out of self-described piety. They are, in fact, implementing one possible interpretation of the Muslim tradition (and often slaughtering a great many other Muslims in the process).

Westerners who lie to themselves that these monsters are "not real Muslims" are simply self-deluded fools. They are as Muslim as Mohammed, as are their Muslim victims. There is no Islamic Magisterium to excommunicate them. They don't speak for all Muslims, but they most certainly do speak and act for the disturbingly large percentage of Muslims who either applaud them, remain silent, or complain about being victims of suspicion and distrust by the victims of terror instead of complaining about the thugs who commit the terror in the name of Islam.

That said, the reality is that the cure, if it is to come at all, will have to come from within Islam: from Muslims who inculcate in their children a sense of shame for Radical Murderous Islam, just as Christians have successfully inculcated shame in their own ranks for expressions of Christianity that turned a blind eye to slavery, terrorism, oppression of women, and racism.

It will not come from the preferred Western dream of a post-religious secular world scrubbed clean of "religion." Such experiments have been attempted in communist countries; they are akin to saying, "We've noticed a correlation between immune systems and disease, so let's get rid of immune systems."

Not accidently, the disease of human sin has only prospered in such regimes to the tune of millions slaughtered. Instead of pretending the beast of Radical Islam is not there, the West will sooner or later have to learn how to educate itself about theology again -- or perish.

It will also have to profile those who have not a particular skin color but a particular ideological paper trail of ideas and views that makes it obvious they sympathize with Radical Islamic violence, just as we should profile those who sympathize with skinheads, Klansmen, or tales of the Glorious IRA Terrorists.

Most of all, it means we need to get theologically literate again and find a more sophisticated way of understanding things than simply dumping Christianity and Islam into a bucket and calling it all "religion" (which, as we all know, leads to undifferentiated "violence").

The only way to counter an inflamed theology like Islam is with a healthy one, not with the watery delusions of postmodern secularism. And that, sooner or later, means a return to the sanity of the Catholic Faith.


As the world should know by now -
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The headline of this article makes it seem as though the tried-and-tested initiatives listed in the book were a sort of '20 easy tips to get out of the crisis', when in fact, they are not. For the simple reason that carrying them out and keeping them going require a great measure of political will and a prudent investment of material resources, without which, of course, no meaningful social program is possible.


On the eve of UN food summit:
20 best ways to feed the hungry

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff Writer
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November 15, 2009


Washington - On the eve of a world food summit that will acknowledge 100 million additional hungry mouths in the world since last year, a new study chronicles 20 good ideas that have helped feed millions of people.

The initiatives range from milk cooperatives among women farmers in India to land reform in China, and they demonstrate what it takes to boost food production.

The 20 initiatives are showcased in a report titled "Millions Fed" by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. It will be presented at this week's three-day world food summit in Rome, which starts Monday.

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The search for the Oscars of food-production success resulted from frustration. Much of the focus on the 2008 food crisis has been on what went wrong. But people at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the study, "were thinking about successes, not failure," says IFPRI director Joachim von Braun.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, which is hosting next week's summit, says the number of hungry people has topped 1 billion for the first time since global hunger estimates were first made in 1970.

But David Spielman, a research fellow with IFPRI's regional team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has another way of looking at that statistic: roughly 1 billion people were hungry in the late 1950s, when that number constituted about one-third of the world's population.

"The world's population has doubled since the 1950s, and today more than 5 billion people are food secure," Mr. Spielman says.

That's actually significant progress, he adds, but "the successes have been overshadowed by the doom and gloom."

The "Millions Fed" study goes beyond listing successes to detailing why and how each case was successful.

China's land-tenure reform has perhaps had more impact on food production than any initiative in history, IFPRI says. It worked in part because it gave millions of peasants the incentive to produce.

Other projects were successes because they teamed increased production with infrastructure and marketing improvements.

The findings may be a bright spot at a world food summit that is already mired in disputes over targets for agriculture investment and ending global hunger. A draft declaration had called for eradicating hunger by 2025, but some delegations balked. They said an existing UN target of halving hunger by 2015 is already falling out of reach.

Many food-production experts concur that food security won't be substantially addressed until developing countries increase both agricultural aid and investment in the farm sector.

But a commitment to increasing the percentage of international aid that goes to agricultural development – bringing it to 1980 levels – has also been watered down. The draft text now calls for increasing agriculture's share of aid without setting any target amount.

The "Millions Fed" report is really a study of the link between agricultural investment and food production, says Prabhu Pingali of the Gates Foundation. Yet "despite the proven successes," he says surprisingly little attention is given to the role of investment in agriculture.

"When people meet in Rome," Mr. Pingali says, they may wonder "why are we talking about investment in agriculture. This book gets beyond the why to the how – to what works and doesn't work."


The entire book is available online and may be downloaded in PDF:
www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/oc64.pdf


If I had any opportunity to do it at all, I would go into a third career getting involved some way in developing and promoting a food program in the neediest areas.

As a Filipino, I have vivid memories of how the Green Revolution came to the Philippines, with the establishment of the International Rise Research Institute (IRRI) in 1960 in conjunction with the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines (my Alma Mater) in its campus about 30 miles outside Manila.

By 1965, new high-yield, high-resistance varieties of rice introduced throughout the Philippines and much of Asia began to improve rice production dramatically, so that we stopped having to import rice at all. Both when I was at university and as a journalist, I had occasion to visit IRRI headquarters periodically to keep abreast of what they were doing.

IRRI statistics show that in the past 50 years, the increased production made possible by the new rice varieties has resulted in a spectacular drop in the real price of rice, bringing great relief to the poor.

IRRI, originally funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, is now funded by the Word Bank, the FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. It now has offices in 14 other countries of Asia and Africa.

Rice is the major food for almost half of the world's population and requires much less processing than wheat, the other main staple. Milled rice (unhusked) is ready to cook and eat, whereas wheat has to be further ground into flour, and the flour then made into bread or noodles.

The 'Tilapia Revolution', one of the 20 successful strategies mentioned, was just as exciting. Tilapia can be raised on fish farms, in artificial fresh water ponds. I remember a time when it was very 'in' to raise your own tilapia in a home pond. It is an excellent fish, very fleshy, not spiny, and very flavorful any way you cook it.




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Manhattan Declaration:
A call of Christian conscience

by Joe Carter
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Friday, November 20, 2009, 1:37 PM


The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,732-word statement signed by a movement of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders who are collaborating around moral issues of great concern.

Its signers affirm the sanctity of human life, marriage as defined by the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The Manhattan Declaration endorses civil disobedience under certain circumstances.

Among the 148 signatories are 14 Roman Catholic bishops, 2 Eastern Orthodox bishops, 20 presidents and 19 faculty members from seminaries and college, 46 leaders of various ministries, 22 pastors, 10 magazine editors and publishers—including First Things editor Joseph Bottum—and various other luminaries.


The full text can be found on
www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2009/11/manhattan-declaration58-a-call-of-christian-co...

You may sign up here:
manhattandeclaration.org/sign-the-declaration



Christian leaders take issue with laws:
Defense of beliefs urged

By Michelle Boorstein and Hamil R. Harris

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Conservative Christian leaders unveiled a declaration Friday calling on Christians not to comply with rules and laws forcing them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage and other ideals that go against their religious doctrines.

The declaration urges Christians to practice civil disobedience to defend their convictions, even though some signers of the document backed away from the strong language.

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The Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl, was among the first signers of the Manhattan Declaration. He appeared at a news conference in the District on Friday to announce it, even as the Church was considering a city-proposed compromise on its same-sex marriage measure.

Church officials say the bill, as it stands, would require faith groups, such as the church-run Catholic Charities, to extend benefits to married same-sex partners, an example of what the declaration's authors see as a violation of religious liberty law.

"We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them," the declaration says. It lists the "fundamental truths" as the "sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty."

The declaration is signed by more than 125 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical leaders. Other leaders at the news conference at the National Press Club included Cardinal Justin Rigali, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities; Pentecostal leader Harry Jackson, pastor of a Beltsville church; and evangelical activist Tony Perkins. Other signers include evangelical leader and Watergate-era figure Chuck Colson and academics Timothy George and Robert George.

The leaders are urging the public to sign the online document.

The declaration notes that Christianity has taught over the centuries "that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required." People who signed the declaration, however, were vague about how they hoped Christians would respond to it.

Wuerl's office played down the civil disobedience wording, saying he wasn't urging Catholics to "do anything specific," said his spokeswoman Susan Gibbs. "That wasn't something we had talked about."

Asked if appearing at the news conference seemed at odds with the spirit of negotiation over the same-sex marriage measure, Gibbs said no. "There's a difference between working out language in a bill and compromising our belief system."

D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said, "It's a shame they don't extend the same efforts to issues that really matter, like health care and homelessness."

The declaration was more than a year in the making, starting with meetings in Manhattan, and comes amid other efforts by conservative religious leaders around the world to coalesce. The most obvious sign of that came this fall, with an overture by Pope Benedict XVI to orthodox Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church over the issue of homosexuality.

Some political activists said the declaration was evidence of evangelical leaders trying to lure back Catholics who voted Democratic in 2006 and last year.

"Privately they're saying, 'Look what happened when we let Democrats, even pro-life Democrats get into power,' " said R. Randolph "Randy" Brinson, a conservative activist who founded Redeem the Vote, a national effort to get young evangelicals to vote. "They're trying to re-poach that territory."

Although the declaration's positions are hardly new for religious conservatives, it says social ills have been exacerbated by the election of President Obama, an abortion rights advocate, as well as a general erosion of what it calls "marriage culture" with the rise of divorce, greater acceptance of infidelity and the uncoupling of marriage from childbearing.


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This is another belated post, but is the best of the reports I have seen so far about what was immediately called Climategate: the exposure of the active conspiracy by climate-change alarmist scientists to load the dice in favor of a hypothesis they realized early enough was not supported by actual scientific data - allowing their obsessive ideology not simply to cloud their good judgment but to pervert science to their ends.



Climategate: the final nail in the coffin
of 'anthropogenic global warming'?

By James Delingpole
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November 20th, 2009


If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW; aka ManBearPig) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) and released 61 megabytes of confidential files onto the internet.

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest scandal in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

One of the alleged emails has a gentle gloat over the death in 2004 of John L Daly (one of the first climate change sceptics, founder of the Still Waiting For Greenhouse site), commenting:

“In an odd way this is cheering news.”

But perhaps the most damaging revelations – the scientific equivalent of the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal – are those concerning the way Warmist scientists may variously have manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.

Here are a few tasters.

Manipulation of evidence:

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.


Private doubts about whether the world really is heating up:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.


Suppression of evidence:

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?

Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.

We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.


Fantasies of violence against prominent Climate Sceptic scientists:

Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.


Attempts to disguise the inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP):

……Phil and I have recently submitted a paper using about a dozen NH records that fit this category, and many of which are available nearly 2K back – I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back….


And, perhaps most reprehensibly, a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process.

How, in other words, to create a scientific climate in which anyone who disagrees with AGW can be written off as a crank, whose views do not have a scrap of authority.

This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that – take over a journal! So what do we do about this?

I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board… What do others think?

I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor...It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice !


Hadley CRU has form in this regard. In September – I wrote the story up here as “How the global warming industry is based on a massive lie” - CRU’s researchers were exposed as having “cherry-picked” data in order to support their untrue claim that global temperatures had risen higher at the end of the 20th century than at any time in the last millenium.

CRU was also the organisation which – in contravention of all acceptable behaviour in the international scientific community – spent years withholding data from researchers it deemed unhelpful to its cause.

This matters because CRU, established in 1990 by the Meteorology Office, is a government-funded body which is supposed to be a model of rectitude. Its HadCrut record is one of the four official sources of global temperature data used by the IPCC.

I asked in my title whether this will be the final nail in the coffin of Anthropenic Global Warming. This is wishful thinking, of course. In the run-up to Copenhagen, we will see more and more hysterical (and grotesquely exaggerated) stories such as this in the Mainstream Media.

And we will see ever-more-virulent campaigns conducted by eco-fascist activists, such as this risible new advertising campaign by Plane Stupid showing CGI polar bears falling from the sky and exploding because kind of, like, man, that’s sort of what happens whenever you take another trip on an aeroplane.

The world is currently cooling; electorates are increasingly reluctant to support eco-policies leading to more oppressive regulation, higher taxes and higher utility bills; the tide is turning against Al Gore’s Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

The so-called “sceptical” view – which some of us have been expressing for quite some time: see, for example, the chapter entitled ‘Barbecue the Polar Bears’ in WELCOME TO OBAMALAND: I’VE SEEN YOUR FUTURE AND IT DOESN’T WORK – is now also, thank heaven, the majority view.

Unfortunately, we’ve a long, long way to go before the public mood (and scientific truth) is reflected by our policy makers. There are too many vested interests in AGW, with far too much to lose either in terms of reputation or money, for this to end without a bitter fight.

But to judge by the way – despite the best efforts of the MSM not to report on it – the CRU scandal is spreading like wildfire across the internet, this shabby story represents a blow to the AGW lobby’s credibility from which it is never likely to recover.


As someone who earned a science degree in college and have been working in an applied science field for the past 20 years, I have always tried to follow climate-change reports. Early enough, I started noticing reports by reputable scientists who raised questions about the facile conclusions by the climate ideologues and cited objective scientific data to prove a contrary or at least mitigating point of view.

I had learned a hard lesson when my teenage enthusiasm over Rachel Carson's Silent Spring turned out to be misguided - what with the counterproductive if not destructive consequences in Africa of banning the use of DDT. I was not going to be taken in again so easily with climate change, given that the anti-ideologues had convincing scientific data, and the alarmists generally had only relatively short-term data. Plus I have this overwhelming common-sense gut feeling that global climate is a cosmic phenomenon usually reckoned in eons, not decades, so why the rush to judgment?

Certainly, the fact that global warming may not be happening, or if it is, that it is by no means the imminent catastrophe that the alarmists make it seem, does not excuse anyone from having to be prudent about energy use, as one must be about those individual and social activities that could degrade the environment in any way.

But reality check: Too many important people everywhere have been too invested too long - ideologically, intellectually, politically and economically - in global-warming alarmism, that they will fight tooth-and-nail to make believe their facade has not been shattered. So the battle goes on... while untold resources are wasted on quixotic climate-control schemes that are misdirected because the scientific basis is simply not there, or at best, equivocal and inconclusive!



One MSM newspaper had an editorial about this today:


Hiding evidence of global cooling:
Junk science exposed among
climate-change ideologues

Editorial
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Nov. 24, 2009


Scientific progress depends on accurate and complete data. It also relies on replication. The past couple of days have uncovered some shocking revelations about the baloney practices that pass as sound science about climate change.

It was announced Thursday afternoon that computer hackers had obtained 160 megabytes of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in England. Those e-mails involved communication among many scientific researchers and policy advocates with similar ideological positions all across the world. Those purported authorities were brazenly discussing the destruction and hiding of data that did not support global-warming claims.

Professor Phil Jones, the head of the Climate Research Unit, and professor Michael E. Mann at Pennsylvania State University, who has been an important scientist in the climate debate, have come under particular scrutiny. Among his e-mails, Mr. Jones talked to Mr. Mann about the "trick of adding in the real temps to each series ... to hide the decline [in temperature]."

Mr. Mann admitted that he was party to this conversation and lamely explained to the New York Times that "scientists often used the word 'trick' to refer to a good way to solve a problem 'and not something secret.' "

Though the liberal New York newspaper apparently buys this explanation, we have seen no benign explanation that justifies efforts by researchers to skew data on so-called global-warming "to hide the decline." Given the controversies over the accuracy of Mr. Mann's past research, it is surprising his current explanations are accepted so readily.

There is a lot of damning evidence about these researchers concealing information that counters their bias. In another exchange, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann: "If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone" and, "We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

Mr. Jones further urged Mr. Mann to join him in deleting e-mail exchanges about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) controversial assessment report (ARA): "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re [the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report]?"

In another e-mail, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann, professor Malcolm K. Hughes of the University of Arizona and professor Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: "I'm getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!"

At one point, Mr. Jones complained to another academic, "I did get an email from the [Freedom of Information] person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn't be deleting emails."

He also offered up more dubious tricks of his trade, specifically that "IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI [Freedom of Information]. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on."

Another professor at the Climate Research Unit, Tim Osborn, discussed in e-mails how truncating a data series can hide a cooling trend that otherwise would be seen in the results. Mr. Mann sent Mr. Osborn an e-mail saying that the results he was sending shouldn't be shown to others because the data support critics of global warming.

Repeatedly throughout the e-mails that have been made public, proponents of global-warming theories refer to data that has been hidden or destroyed. Only e-mails from Mr. Jones' institution have been made public, and with his obvious approach to deleting sensitive files, it's difficult to determine exactly how much more information has been lost that could be damaging to the global-warming theocracy and its doomsday forecasts.

We don't condone e-mail theft by hackers, though these e-mails were covered by Britain's Freedom of Information Act and should have been released. The content of these e-mails raises extremely serious questions that could end the academic careers of many prominent professors. Academics who have purposely hidden data, destroyed information and doctored their results have committed scientific fraud.

We can only hope respected academic institutions such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Arizona and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst conduct proper investigative inquiries.

Most important, however, these revelations of fudged science should have a cooling effect on global-warming hysteria and the panicked policies that are being pushed forward to address the unproven theory.

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Rigging a climate 'consensus':
About those emails and 'peer review'

Editorial
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November 27, 2009


The climatologists at the center of the leaked email and document scandal have taken the line that it is all much ado about nothing.

Yes, the wording of their messages was unfortunate, but they insist this in no way undermines the underlying science. They're ignoring the damage they've done to public confidence in the arbiters of climate science.

"What they've done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world," Penn State's Michael Mann told Reuters Wednesday. Mr. Mann added that this has made "something innocent into something nefarious."

Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, from which the emails were lifted, is singing from the same climate hymnal. "My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues," he said this week.

We don't doubt that Mr. Jones would have phrased his emails differently if he expected them to end up in the newspaper.

He's right that it doesn't look good that his May 2008 email to Mr. Mann regarding the U.N.'s Fourth Assessment Report said "Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?" Mr. Mann says he didn't delete any such emails, but the point is that Mr. Jones wanted them hidden.

The furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or whether climatologists are nice people. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced.

The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.

According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges from critics outside this clique are dismissed and disparaged.

This September, Mr. Mann told a New York Times reporter in one of the leaked emails that: "Those such as [Stephen] McIntyre who operate almost entirely outside of this system are not to be trusted."

Mr. McIntyre is a retired Canadian businessman who checks the findings of climate scientists and often publishes the mistakes he finds on his Web site, Climateaudit.org. He holds the rare distinction of having forced Mr. Mann to publish a correction to one of his more famous papers.

As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003.

Mr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal Climate Research published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that — take over a journal!"

Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views.

A more thoughtful response to the emails comes from Mike Hulme, another climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, as reported by a New York Times blogger:

"This event might signal a crack that allows for processes of re-structuring scientific knowledge about climate change. It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science."

The response from the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science.

Their proof for this is circular. It's the best, we're told, because it's the most-published and most-cited—in that same peer-reviewed literature.

The public has every reason to ask why they felt the need to rig the game if their science is as indisputable as they claim.


The wholesale dishonesty among the climate-change alarmists is reprehensible not just because it is morally and intellectually wrong, but because their false conclusions are driving gullible national leaders and international institutions to institute draconian measures that will cause more harm than good to all of mankind than if they did nothing for now.

Note that those who are preparing for the much-ballyhooed Copenhagen conference on climate next week are all behaving as though the Climategate revelations never happened!

It is political correctness taken to unacceptable extremes to ignore inconvenient scientific facts for the sake of pursuing a wrong-headed crusade - into which too much ideology and great expense has already been invested, and upon which people like Al Gore and Michael Mann have built not just their career but their very identity! That's selfishness to the max, in the name of altruism!

Yes, personal, social, national and international responsibility must be assumed and exercised actively by everyone who cares about the planet and mankind - through reasonable, reasoned and responsible measures, not by rabidly ideological fiat.

But measures such as Barack Obama's so-called 'cap-and-trade' bill, which would impose drastic measures overnight to reduce carbon dioxide gas emissions to levels that many studies show will not affect global climate an iota [it's like creating a fly to swat an elephant - pitting ineffective human means against a cosmologic phenomenon], with Obama's own admission that doing so would cause household energy bills to 'skyrocket' - and all this in a time of global economic crisis and double-digit unemployment in the USA - constitute gross irresponsiblity and hubris.




And the scandal just gets bigger! No serious scientist would ever dump the raw data on which he bases his conclusions and reports.

But the guys who admit in e-mails how and why they have doctored data and reports to 'substantiate' their global climate alarmism have just admitted they did - so we will never know what the actual data were, unless someone tries to go back and reconstruct anything they may recover from the hard drives of those who gathered the data originally.

Read and weep. Is there no end to dishonesty in the name of ideology?




Climate change data dumped
by Jonathan Leake
Environment Editor
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November 29, 2009

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building. [That is never an excuse: Store them offsite in an archive and/or send them to be scanned into archive disks. That's what any one with common sense would do.]

The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data.

In a statement on its website, the CRU said: “We do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

The CRU is the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures. Climate change sceptics have long been keen to examine exactly how its data were compiled. That is now impossible.

Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, discovered data had been lost when he asked for original records. “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us’. So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science,” he said.

Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. The lost material was used to build the databases that have been his life’s work, showing how the world has warmed by 0.8C over the past 157 years.

He and his colleagues say this temperature rise is “unequivocally” linked to greenhouse gas emissions generated by humans. Their findings are one of the main pieces of evidence used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says global warming is a threat to humanity.

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Why is Obama still going to Copenhagen?

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November 30, 2009, 10:05 PM


Honestly, for a brief moment, I entertained the notion that maybe, just maybe, Obama was going to spend the time and money necessary to go over the Carbonhagen – oops, – Copenhagen in order to surprise us and do something dramatic, like denounce the bastardization of scientific method in order to advance a political agenda.

Think of it. The “whole world” of true believers, who are completely in denial - almost “Orwellian” denial - about how badly their “settled science” has been wounded, gather at Copenhagen - ”the most important meeting ever", or at least since WWII. The fix is almost in.

And then Obama steps up, makes sure his teleprompters are in place, tilts his head back a little and declares AGW “an unjust hoax perpetrated upon all the peoples, tempting others to hypocrisy, warping notions of sovereignty and political autonomy, abandoning the poor, enriching those who already have more than they can ever use…fellow citizens of the world, I come not to praise AGW, but to bury it!”

In one fell swoop, the AGW nonsense would end, we could all buy incandescent lightbulbs again, and – best of all- The American President would have single-handedly and bloodlessly set the whole world free from a nascent tyranny. Hooray!

Bush woulda done it, you know.

But then, I read this over at Hot Air, and my daydream collapsed: WH Spokesman Robert Gibbs declaring, dutifully, like a party member in good standing, says “the science is settled - there’s no real scientific basis for the dispute of this.”

If by “settled” you mean that what has been referred to as “science” in the matter of AGW has been something so narrow and shallow and dishonest that even a true believer is appalled, disgusted and unable to sustain belief on it, then yeah… something is settled. And I don’t want to step in it.

As I noted last week:

There is an anvil-heavy irony to all of this. Part of the smart/stupid, left/right narrative was built on the fantastic strawman that the AGW-doubters on the right were “enemies of science,” that first they were not allowing science to use human embryos for experimentation, and now they were daring to doubt the most imperative scientific advice in the history of mankind.

But if the excesses of the weather-sciences are about be discredited to the degree that - as some worry - may “bring all science into dispute”, then that harm comes not from the right, who simply dared to question, but solely from the left, who refused to permit questions, openness, transparency.


But they love science.


This issue concerns me greatly because with so many other world priorities that are obvious to the naked eye and do not have to rely on data which can and has been doctored, the world cannot afford to waste its resources needlessly to perpetrate a lie.

Those who do not live in the United States should know that the so-called MSM or liberal media cabal have virtually ignored this story, which is generating 'global heat' in the blogosphere, although a few articles and opinion pieces that give it an airing have turned up in places like the Washington Post. But any mention that the others deign to make of it is to deride it, as the New York Times does, whose chief environment writer appears to have been in the loop with the reprehensible data-doctors.

Little wonder that the White House dismisses it, and that Obama is rushing to commit the United States to some airy-fairy goal to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions drastically by 2050. (He surely cannot think he will be President till then!)

In short: 1) dishonesty is wrong in any way, shape and form; 2) science is too sacrosanct to be defiled in this way; and 3) it is the grossest irresponsibility and an unspeakable crime to lead world organizations and leaders to commit their governments and people to gargantuan, long-range financial burdens based on patently false data.




Climategate: the worst scientific
scandal of our generation


Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment
cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash.


By Christopher Booker
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Nov. 28, 2009



A week after my colleague James Delingpole , on his Telegraph blog, coined the term "Climategate" to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Google was showing that the word now appears across the internet more than nine million times.

But in all these acres of electronic coverage, one hugely relevant point about these thousands of documents has largely been missed.

The reason why even the Guardian's George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics. Their importance cannot be overestimated.

What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Leaked climate change emails 'won't bias UN global warning body' says chairman Professor Philip Jones, the CRU's director, who is in charge of the two key sets of data used by the IPCC to draw up its reports.

Through its link to the Hadley Centre, part of the UK Met Office, which selects most of the IPCC's key scientific contributors, Jones's global temperature record is the most important of the four sets of temperature data on which the IPCC and governments rely – not least for their predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it.

Dr Jones is also a key part of the closely knit group of American and British scientists responsible for promoting that picture of world temperatures conveyed by Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph which 10 years ago turned climate history on its head by showing that, after 1,000 years of decline, global temperatures have recently shot up to their highest level in recorded history.

Given star billing by the IPCC, not least for the way it appeared to eliminate the long-accepted Mediaeval Warm Period when temperatures were higher they are today, the graph became the central icon of the entire man-made global warming movement.

Since 2003, however, when the statistical methods used to create the "hockey stick" were first exposed as fundamentally flawed by an expert Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, an increasingly heated battle has been raging between Mann's supporters, calling themselves "the Hockey Team", and McIntyre and his own allies, as they have ever more devastatingly called into question the entire statistical basis on which the IPCC and CRU construct their case.

The senders and recipients of the leaked CRU emails constitute a cast list of the IPCC's scientific elite, including not just the "Hockey Team", such as Dr Mann himself, Dr Jones and his CRU colleague Keith Briffa, but Ben Santer, responsible for a highly controversial rewriting of key passages in the IPCC's 1995 report; Kevin Trenberth, who similarly controversially pushed the IPCC into scaremongering over hurricane activity; and Gavin Schmidt, right-hand man to Al Gore's ally Dr James Hansen, whose own GISS record of surface temperature data is second in importance only to that of the CRU itself.

There are three threads in particular in the leaked documents which have sent a shock wave through informed observers across the world.

Perhaps the most obvious, as lucidly put together by Willis Eschenbach (see McIntyre's blog Climate Audit and Anthony Watt's blog Watts Up With That ), is the highly disturbing series of emails which show how Dr Jones and his colleagues have for years been discussing the devious tactics whereby they could avoid releasing their data to outsiders under freedom of information laws.

They have come up with every possible excuse for concealing the background data on which their findings and temperature records were based.

This in itself has become a major scandal, not least Dr Jones's refusal to release the basic data from which the CRU derives its hugely influential temperature record, which culminated last summer in his startling claim that much of the data from all over the world had simply got "lost".

Most incriminating of all are the emails in which scientists are advised to delete large chunks of data, which, when this is done after receipt of a freedom of information request, is a criminal offence.

But the question which inevitably arises from this systematic refusal to release their data is – what is it that these scientists seem so anxious to hide?

The second and most shocking revelation of the leaked documents is how they show the scientists trying to manipulate data through their tortuous computer programmes, always to point in only the one desired direction – to lower past temperatures and to "adjust" recent temperatures upwards, in order to convey the impression of an accelerated warming.

This comes up so often (not least in the documents relating to computer data in the Harry Read Me file) that it becomes the most disturbing single element of the entire story.

This is what Mr McIntyre caught Dr Hansen doing with his GISS temperature record last year (after which Hansen was forced to revise his record), and two further shocking examples have now come to light from Australia and New Zealand.

In each of these countries it has been possible for local scientists to compare the official temperature record with the original data on which it was supposedly based. In each case it is clear that the same trick has been played – to turn an essentially flat temperature chart into a graph which shows temperatures steadily rising. And in each case this manipulation was carried out under the influence of the CRU.

What is tragically evident from the Harry Read Me file is the picture it gives of the CRU scientists hopelessly at sea with the complex computer programmes they had devised to contort their data in the approved direction, more than once expressing their own desperation at how difficult it was to get the desired results.

The third shocking revelation of these documents is the ruthless way in which these academics have been determined to silence any expert questioning of the findings they have arrived at by such dubious methods – not just by refusing to disclose their basic data but by discrediting and freezing out any scientific journal which dares to publish their critics' work.

It seems they are prepared to stop at nothing to stifle scientific debate in this way, not least by ensuring that no dissenting research should find its way into the pages of IPCC reports.

Back in 2006, when the eminent US statistician Professor Edward Wegman produced an expert report for the US Congress vindicating Steve McIntyre's demolition of the "hockey stick", he excoriated the way in which this same "tightly knit group" of academics seemed only too keen to collaborate with each other and to "peer review" each other's papers in order to dominate the findings of those IPCC reports on which much of the future of the US and world economy may hang.

In light of the latest revelations, it now seems even more evident that these men have been failing to uphold those principles which lie at the heart of genuine scientific enquiry and debate.

Already one respected US climate scientist, Dr Eduardo Zorita, has called for Dr Mann and Dr Jones to be barred from any further participation in the IPCC.

Even our own George Monbiot, horrified at finding how he has been betrayed by the supposed experts he has been revering and citing for so long, has called for Dr Jones to step down as head of the CRU.

The former Chancellor Lord (Nigel) Lawson, last week launching his new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rightly called for a proper independent inquiry into the maze of skulduggery revealed by the CRU leaks.

But the inquiry mooted on Friday, possibly to be chaired by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society – itself long a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause – is far from being what Lord Lawson had in mind.

Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with a whitewash of what has become the greatest scientific scandal of our age.

Christopher Booker's The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History? (Continuum).


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As I stated in the BENEDICT thread yesterday where I had thought this item belonged, I was flabbergasted to find out that there is not a single mention of Cardinal Ratzinger, benedict XVI, or the book being introduced, in this lengthy Introduction by Russian Orthodox Arhbishop Hilarion Alfeyev to the Russian-Italin book Europa, patria spirituale, published by the Patriarchate of Moscow, using four of the major discourses on Europe given by Cardinal Ratzinger and Benedict XVI in the past decade.

I continue to be outraged by Hilarion's unexplainably thoughtless omission of the book and author for whom he ostensibly wrote this Introduction. However, it is a very informative document about the Russian Orthodox Church and its vision for Europe. That is why I went on to translate the entire thing, especially since it might not be translated into English at all in the usual media outlets.

I can only conclude that in publishing this book, the Russians meant to ride piggyback on Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's prestige to more widely publicize their point of view about Europe.

Of course, anyone who buys the book will certainly not limit himself to just reading the Introduction and get to the Pope's speeches. Still, I find that the circumstances of this 'Introduction' don't make sense at all! What would it have cost anyone to add a single line that ties in all that Hilarion says to what Benedict XVI has been advocating to Europe and for Europe?



Europe and the intimidations of secularism - Part 1
by Hilarion Alfeyev
Archbishop of Volokolamsk
Translated from
the 12/2/09 issue of

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Editor's Note: "The role of the Church in the cultural integration of Europe" is the subject of the roundtable Tuesday evening in Rome at the Ministry for Economic Development, at the presentation of the book Europa, patria spirituale by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.

The event takes place within this year's Italian session of the Forum for Dialog of the Italo-Russian civic societies.

The book is a collection of three discourses by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and one by Benedict XVI on the subject of Europe, published in a bilingual Italian-Russian edition by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow (231 pp). We are publishing the Introduction written by Archbishop Hilarion, president of the Patriarchate's Department for External Relations.



Travelling in Europe, especially in the traditionally Protestant countries, I am always surprised to see not a few churches abandoned by their congregations, and then transformed into pubs, clubs, businesses, or for other profane activities.

There is something profoundly deplorable in this sad spectacle. I come from a country in which for many decades, churches were used for irreligious purposes. So many places of worship were completely destroyed, others converted to 'museums of atheism', and still others adapted to become secular institutions.

This was one of the features of what was called militant atheism that dominated my country for 70 years and whose collapse was fairly recent.

But in Western Europe, what is the reason for similar phenomena? Is it because the space for religion in Western society has been reduced rather considerably in recent decades? How is it that religion has increasingly less space in the public sphere?

Further, why is this contraction of the religious presence in Europe coincident with processes of consolidation at the political, financial, economic and social levels?

I will not try to give an answer to these questions. I will limit myself to some observations on the role of religion in modern Europe, on the possible contribution of Churches and religious communities to the process of European integration and on the ways in which Churches can develop their relationship with the world.

I write both as an official representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as a person whose personal experience matured through contact with European culture. Thus, I will state not only the official position of my Church but I will also offer some personal reflections.

Europe is a unique ethnic-cultural phenomenon. Iin a comparatively small territory, different cultures co-exist, each with its own identity, language and plurisecular tradition. In the course of their history, the nations of Europe have been lacerated by contrasts that have often led to armed conflict. In most cases, these acts of aggression have been the result of a collision of political interests between two nations, but the origin has often been of a cultural nature.

Some conflicts also had a religious dimension such as those between
Catholics and Protestants, or between Christians and Muslims. Some inter-confessional and inter-religious rivalries continue to this day - just think of Northern Ireland and Kosovo.

In the era of colonialism, when the world was divided up among the European empires into their respective spheres of influence, the internal contradictions in Europe assumed global weight.

The two world wars of the 20th century, which coincided with the disintegration of the colonial system, were in fact European wars since they were the result of confrontations among the dominant states in Europe.

But these wars affected the whole world. What's more, they revealed the destructive potential in the variegated conglomerate of European nations and cultures.

Right after the Second World War, when Europe lay in ruins, the need for pan-European solidarity became evident, not only for the survival of the continent, but of the entire world. It was necessary to avoid at all costs a third world war which could have annihilated the entire human race.

For this reason, right after 1945, there started to take shape a system of reciprocal support and solidarity, starting the process of integrating the Western European nations with a view to constituting the United States of Europe. The very presence of Big Brother beyond the Iron Curtain impelled the West to work towards integration and unification.

Initially, this process had economic, military and political dimensions only. Nonetheless with time, the demand for a common cultural space, of a single European civilization, became more acute.

Thus, it has also been necessary to develop a new universal ideology which, by reducing ideological and religious tensions among different peoples, would be able to assure peaceful coexistence among various cultures in the network of one single European civilization.

To create an ideology of such broad relevance, it was necessary to reduce all the cultural, ideological and religious traditions of Europe to a common denominator. The role of such a denominator was taken on by 'post-Christian' Western humanism, whose essential principles were formulated in the age of Enlightenment and the 'slogans' of the French Revolution.

The model of a new Europe based on this ideology presupposes the edification of a society that declares itself secularist, in which religion can only have space in the private sphere.

In conformity with this secularized model, religion should be separated from the state as well as from society: it should not have any influence on social development nor take part in political life.

Such a model not only reduces to zero the social dimension of every religion but constitutes a challenge to the missionary vocation of so many religious communities.

For the Christian churches, this model represents an authentic intimidation because it threatens their possibility to preach the Gospel to 'all the nations', to announce Christ to the world.

If the secularized model is unconditionally imposed on Europe without taking into consideration whatsoever the specific role that religion has in society, then it will be pushed into a ghetto, where it is allowed to exist but from where it will be difficult for it to emerge.

The faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church lived in such a ghetto for decades. When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, one of the first decrees they issued was that of separating Church from State and schools from the Church.

The introduction of the first principle, separation of Church and State, had been awaited for some time, because since the start of the 18th century, the Church in Russia had found itself under the control of the State and sought a way to liberate itself.

Nonetheless, separating schools from the Church means that the Church was no longer able to carry out its role in education. Shortly after the revolution, when the Bolsheviks adopted militant atheism, the Church was forbidden to manage any educational institution of its own.

It was not allowed to publish books nor periodicals, or to give religious instruction to children and young people, or to ask adolescents to participate in liturgy as altar boys.

For so many decades, until the 1980s, it was unimaginable to see a priest inside any school, or to see any teacher enter a church, or to see any schoolboy render any service in church. The frontier between the ghetto and the external word was kept under tight control, and any transgressors, whoever they were, were severely punished.

In the Soviet Union, religion was persecuted for 70 years. There were various waves of persecution, and each had its own particular character. In the late 1920s and the 1930s, the persecutions were at their most cruel. A great part of the clergy were put to death. All the monasteries, theological schools, and majority of the churches were closed.

A less brutal period came after the end of the Second World War, when some monasteries and schools were reopened. But in the 1960s, a new wave of severe persecutions began, aimed at the total annihilation of religion which was projected to take place by the 1980s.

But in the mid-1980s, the Church was not only still alive but, in fact, although slowly, was starting to grow. As the Soviet ideological system started to decay, the growth in the Church became more rapid, and the State even started to look at the Church with growing favor. This led therefore to noteworthy changes in the relationship between Church and State.

But one thing did not change: the prohibition on religion emerging from the ghetto to which it had been confined by the atheist regime. The Church continued to be excluded from any possible contact with the life of society which, in turn, was 'protected' by a shield against any possible religious influence.

To be a believer meant to be a pariah: faith was not to be discussed openly; one's religious convictions must be kept hidden; and conversations on spiritual topics were to be avoided.

The processes which are taking place in Europe today are somewhat similar to what took place in the Soviet Union. Militant secularism is just as dangerous to religion as militant atheism was. Both militate towards excluding religion from the public and political sphere, relegating it to a ghetto, restricting its practice to private devotion.

In the rest of Europe, the unwritten rules of political correctness are increasingly applied to religious institutions. In many cases, this implies that believers may no longer express their own religious convictions publicly, since doing so could violate the rights of those who do not share these convictions.

One could add that in the West, the lay press has a largely negative attitude towards Christian churches - their real life does not interest the journalists at all. Usually, their interest lies in any scandals among or within the communities.

The Churches cannot be absolved of their responsibility for these sad episodes, but the life of the Church does not consist of scandals alone, even if this is the kind of news about the Church that the media follow quite assiduously.

The question is this: does the negative information in the media constitute a deliberate way to undermine Christian witness in the world? If that is so, can this be considered part of a much wider policy which aims at the progressive marginalization of Christianity from society until it is finally expelled?

The results of such a policy are quite evident. In some countries, especially those that do not have a Catholic or Orthodox majority, those majestic cathedrals which, until a few decades ago, saw thousands of faithful assembled in prayer, are now half empty.

Theological seminaries are closing down for lack of vocations. Religious communities are aging and not being replenished. Church properties are being sold, and former places of worship are transformed into centers for worldly activities.

Once again, it cannot be denied that in many cases, the Churches themselves are responsible for the situation, but the destructive effect of secularism should not be under-estimated.

Religion is really being expelled from the public sphere and increasingly marginalized in secularized societies. This, notwithstanding the fact that in all the Western world, and particularly in Europe, most people still believe in God. [Particularly in Europe? I really doubt that!]

Many Europeans are asking themselves the same thing: How can we safeguard Christian witness for the world? How can we prevent society from plunging into the abyss of secularism? How can we bring back young people to God? How do we build bridges between the Church and the state, on the one hand, and with society and the mass media on the other?

The Russian Orthodox Church - with its unique experience of surviving the harshest persecutions and fighting militant atheism, re-emerging from the ghetto as soon as the political situation changed, recovering its proper place in society and redefining its own social responsibilities - can help Europe find answers to these questions.

Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union, unlike so many countries of Western Europe, are living through a period of religious rebirth. Millions of persons are turning back to God; monasteries and churches are being built everywhere.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which undoubtedly is one of the fastest-growing Churches in the world today, does not suffer any lack of vocations: on the contrary, thousands of young men are entering the theological schools to consecrate their lives to God.
The Russian Orthodox Church is carrying out serious intellectual efforts to comprehend the role of Christianity in a secularized world, to define its relationship with society and with the State, so that the positions of the Church may be clearly proposed regarding the key problems of modernity.

"The Foundations of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church”', a document adopted by the Council of Bishops in 2000, is the written proof of the fact that the Church approaches these problems in a mature and responsible way, and that it has the intellectual potential to give balanced and understandable answers to these problems.

Once these document is read - the first text of its kind in the entire history of the Orthodox Christianity - everyone will see that it comes from a Church that no longer lives in a ghetto, but one that is at the peak of its powers.

Heavily damaged by militant atheism, this Church was never destroyed. On the contrary, it emerged from the fire of persecution renewed and rejuvenated. Having descended to hell, it has risen from the dead, a Church that has much to say to the world.

The unique situation of the Orthodox Church, its rich experience in Church-State relationships, its rootedness in European culture, and its important role in the edification of a new Europe, are elements acknowledged by the officials of the European Union.
For the Russian Orthodox Church, there cannot be a single ideological model, nor a single system of spiritual and moral values to be imposed indiscriminately on all the European nations.

The Russian Orthodox Church sees a Europe based on authentic pluralism, a Europe in which the diversity of cultural, spiritual and religious traditions should be fully represented. This plurality of traditions should be reflected in every legislative document and respected by every court in its verdicts.

If laws and court sentences are based exclusively on principles rooted in Western secularist humanism - with its specific concepts of peace, tolerance, freedom, justice, respect for human rights, and the like - then they risk not being accepted by a great part of the European population, particularly those who, by belonging to a religious tradition, have a different view of these same principles.

The official position of the Patriarchate of Moscow, reflected in the declaration by its Department for External Church Relations to the Convention on the Future of Europe, is that the Western secularist model does not normally assume any link at all between religious values and the social order, even as in many places outside the Western world, religious factors play a crucial role in the formation of political and social doctrines.

The questions posed by the Russian Orthodox Church are these: If the European Union is called on to be the common home for so many people, how can the liberal humanist secularist model of political structure - a model that originated in Western Europe and North America - have the right to exercise a monopoly?

Should we not perhaps give greater consideration to the growth of religious influence on society, particularly that of Orthodoxy, but even of neo-charismatic groups and Islam?

Is it not time to understand that a society deprived of the possibility of realizing a religious idea as its principal and central element is being deprived of its very future?

The terrifying events of 2001 (9/11) in the United States showed how the collision between two 'global projects' can be so dangerous - one being liberal humanistic, the other radical conservative, with each of them considering no alternative, and both claiming to exercise a monopoly. The total destruction of one side by the other which has sometimes been proposed is not a way out - it would be mutual suicide.

Partisans of the liberal humanist secularist vision should accept a pluralism of ideas and opinions in all Europe. They should recognize the right of different communities to keep their own cultural and spiritual identity, the nucleus of which is often constituted by religion.

These observations of a general character have led the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow to advance concrete proposals regarding the statements that, in its view, should be inserted into the future definitive Constitution of the European Union.

In particular, it must be recognized that for so many believers, the commandments of God are seen as the source of universal values, whereas non-believers claim these values have different origins. Religious organizations should be treated as representative of a certain sector in society: they should be respected and their freedom safeguarded to have their own view of what fundamental values are.

In the constitutional treaty for Europe, individual freedom should be counterweighted by freedom for cultural and religious communities. In fact, they have the right to protect their integrity and the values on which their existence is based.

The expansion of the European Union eastward, the statement from our Department continues, should not mean the extension as well of standards that are extraneous to the culture and way of life of nations which are joining or about to join the Union.

The totalitarian dictatorship of the recent past should not be replaced by a new dictatorship by pan-European governing mechanisms.

In an expanded EU, every culture and every nation should have the freedom to express its own specificity and should have access to decisional mechanisms.

There should be a clear division of responsibilities and rights of the European Union, on the one hand, and those of the member State on the other.

[Continued in the next post)


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 03/12/2009 16.34]
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Europe and the intimidations of secularism - Part 2
by Hilarion Alfeyev
Archbishop of Volokolamsk
Translated from
the 12/2/09 issue of

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The Russian Orthodox Church takes the position that every State should have the right to legislate what it believes about matrimony and the family, on questions of bioethics, on educational models.

The countries with an Orthodox tradition, for example, will not accept laws that legalize euthanasia, homosexual marriage, drug trafficking, brothels, pornography and the like.

Moreover, we believe that every country should have the right to develop its own model of Church-State relations. Legislation which limits itself only to guaranteeing religious freedom to its citizens creates the conditions for 'savage competition' among religions and confessions.

We should create, together with religious freedom, the conditions for which the democratic freedoms of an individual, including his right to religious self-determination, do not conflict with the rights of national communities to preserve their own integrity, their fidelity to their own traditions, social ethic, and religion.

These are particularly important elements in the creation of regulations governing movements of a destructive and extremist religious character, as well as when there is proof of violation of religious freedom by traditional religions whose expansion in some parts of Europe threaten the public and social order.

In many European democracies, religious freedom for the individual is balanced by protections given to traditional confessions, at both the juridical and social levels. it is necessary to conserve the variety of models in Church and State relations that Europe has inherited in her history, allowing single nations and single peoples to freely determine the degree of compenetration between Church and State, of their cooperation in the social and humanitarian fields, as well as in education, culture and others.

What has been said shows how the Russian Orthodox Church has already taken into consideration the problems that concern the future of Europe, and how these can be inserted into the founding documents of the European Union and in European legislation.

The dialog between the Russian Orthodox Church and European political institutions is only just beginning. It is to be hoped that this dialog will lead to reciprocal enrichment and that the Russian Orthodox Church itself can benefit from a close collaboration with European political institutions.

For the Russian Orthodox Church, which seeks to define its relationship with modern society comprehensively, such a dialog is essential.

Allow me now to get back to the subject of European integration and to offer some observations regarding the possible practical consequences if the secularized value system is imposed on the European Union.

Where no guarantees are given to religious communities, the collisions and confrontations between religious institutions, on one hand, and the secularized world on the other, will be inevitable.

These encounters could take place at various levels relative to various questions, but it is not difficult to predict that, in most cases, they will have to do with morality, which the religious community, on one hand, and modern society, on the other, understand differently.

There is already a striking divergence between the value system in traditional religions and those that characterize the secularized world.

'The Foundation of Social Doctrine' is not a manual for private use: it is a public document in which the Russian Orthodox Church expresses its official positions openly and explicitly.

The language of the document is different from that of secularized society: the notion of sin, for example, is practically absent from the vocabulary of secularism.

Nonetheless, the Church maintains that it has the full right to express its positions publicly, not only when they are in concord with generally accepted opinion but even in discord.

There are so many positions articulated in the Foundation of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church that may not correspond to the standards of secularism.

For example, the Church considers abortion “a grave sin’, equivalent to homicide, and states that “from the moment of conception, any intervention against the life of the future human being is criminal”. [NB: Note the terminology ‘future human being’ for the fetus, who is already a human being, by Catholic standards].

The Church also rejects as “against nature, and morally unacceptable” so-called ‘maternal surrogacy’, along with every form of extra-corporeal insemination.

Human (egg) donation is considered “an unequivocal challenge to the nature of the human being himself and to the image of God imprinted on him, from which derive the freedom and uniqueness of each person”. Fetal therapy is considered ‘absolutely unacceptable”. Euthanasia is condemned as ‘a form of homicide or suicide’.

Sex change is considered ‘a rebellion against the Creator’ that the Church does not accept: if someone with a gender different from what he was born with presents himself for baptism, he will be baptized “according to the sex that he was born with”.

Since the Orthodox Church holds these positions internally, presumably they would be tolerated by modern secularized society (the Roman Catholic Church has similar positions).

But what would happen if one single country adopted any of these positions and orients its legislation accordingly once Europe has been integrated? Will this be considered a deviation from common European parameters?

So far, every country in Europe has had the right to establish its own standards relating to human morality. It is of crucial importance that in the new Europe, every nation continues to enjoy this right, and that no leveling standard shall be imposed on the members of an enlarged European Union.

It is of equally crucial importance that Churches and religious communities have the right to express their positions on moral questions not only in private but also in public, without being accused of interfering with established norms, threatening the minorities, or promoting a spirit of intolerance.

The right of Churches to follow their own canonical traditions must be recognized, and to prefer them to secularized laws. in cases when there are super-impositions or evident contradiction.

According to the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church, “when human law completely rejects the divine standard which has absolute value, replacing it with something contrary, then the latter ceases to be law and becomes illegal whatever juridical vestments it may wear”.

Therefore, “in everything that concerns the exclusively earthly terrain of things, the Orthodox Christian must obey the law, no matter how imperfect and unfavorable it is. Nonetheless, whenever respect for the law threatens his eternal salvation and requires apostasy or the obligation to commit a sin in the eyes of God and one’s neighbor, the Christian is called on to profess with daring his own faith, for the love of God and his truth, and for the salvation of his own soul, for eternal life”.

“He must denounce with legal means the clear violation committed by society or by the State against the laws and commandments of God. And if such act shows itself to be impossible or ineffective, then he must go on to civil disobedience” (iv, 9).

Obviously, disobedience to civil law is an extreme measure that a local Church may adopt in exceptional circumstances. Nonetheless, it is a possibility that should not be excluded a priori, in case a system of secularized values becomes the only one operating in Europe.

Precisely for the purpose of avoiding this possibility, European legislation should be inclusive enough to allow the representation of a plurality of positions, including those of the major European religious communities.

In 1992, Jacques Delors, as President of the European Commission, said: “We shall not build Europe only on legal foundations or on the basis of economic knowledge… If, in the next decade, we will not have given a soul to Europe, if we shall not be capable of giving it spirituality and meaning, then we will have lost the game”.

In saying this, Delors very likely had in mind the need to recognize the spiritual dimension of European integration, and not the need to invent some sort of ‘European spirituality’.

Europe certainly has had a soul and a spiritual tradition for centuries. It is this tradition that must be rediscovered and given back to Europe, at a time when all traditional values have been placed into question.

Another ex-President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, stated that “Europe is inspired by humanism that is based on its Judeo-Christian legacy” and that “this fact must be reflected in its declaration of fundamental rights”.

Agreeing with this statement on principle, I wish to specify that the importance of the Judeo-Christian legacy is not limited to having given form to the civilization of humanism: both the Jewish tradition and the Christian tradition are living traditions, and their value, along with that of the Islamic tradition and those of other major religions, must be fully recognized and respected.

It is not right to indiscriminately absorb all traditions into one ‘common denominator’ since their value systems do not always coincide with the element advanced by unification.

Although the Churches and various religious traditions in Europe may have different positions on single problems posed by modernity, they are united in asking that they be assured the right to preserve and publicly express the values they believe in.

These traditions have a vital importance in the process of European integration. A great part of the Churches of Europe, through the Conference of European Churches and the Catholic Commission of the Episcopal Conferences in the European Community, have formulated common proposals regarding Churches and religious communities for inclusion in the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union:

The European Union recognizes and respects the right of Churches and religious communities to organize themselves freely in accordance with their national laws, their convictions and their statues, and to pursue their own religious objectives in the context of basic rights.

The European Union respects the specific identity of the Churches and religious communities and their contribution to public life, and will maintain an institutional dialog with them.

The European Union respects and will not act with prejudice on the status of the Churches and religious communities with respect to the national legislations of the member States. The Union will likewise respect the status of philosophical and non-confessional organizations.


These articles, submitted to the attention of the Convention on the Future of Europe so they may be included in the appropriate sections of the future European Constitution, reflect the identical position of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Protestant Churches and other Christian Churches.

I believe that solidarity among European Christians should be increasingly made manifest as the process of defining a common system of European values makes progress.

Only together will Christians, along with the representatives of other traditional religions in Europe, be able to safeguard their own identity, fight against ‘militant secularism’ and face the other challenges of modernity.

The Russian Orthodox Church is ready to collaborate at the interconfessional level, at the inter-religious level, as well as at the political, social and other levels with all those who are not indifferent to the future identity of Europe, with all who believe that traditional values are an integral part of such an identity.

Finally, I wish to comment on the recent sentence of the European Court of Human Rights against Italy, namely, the prohibition against the display of the Cross in Italian schools.

This sentence goes against the right of every State to preserve its own traditions and its own identity, and thus offends the inviolable principle of authentic pluralism of traditions. It is an unacceptable demonstration of militant secularism.

The activities of the European Court should not be turned into cynical farce. The ultra-liberal attitude which prevailed in the adoption of that decision should not dominate in Europe.

The origins of Europe are Christian. The Cross is a universal symbol, and it is absolutely unacceptable that, in order to follow ultra-liberal and atheistic standards, Europe and its social institutions should be deprived of the symbols that for centuries have formed and united its peoples. The Cross is not a symbol of violence but of conciliation.

I think that in all these fields, we can collaborate with the Catholic Church in defending the Christian tradition in the face of militant secularism and aggressive liberalism.

In this context, I wish in conclusion to pose the following question: Are we constructing a Europe that is completely atheistic and secularist, where God is expelled from society and religion is pushed into the ghetto of the private, or shall the new Europe be a true home for different religions, thus becoming authentically inclusive and pluralist?

I think this is the question that the Churches and religious communities in Europe should be asking, a question which the politicians have the duty to answer. This is the question that the dialog among religious communities and European political institutions should focus on.

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Mosques and minarets:
Swiss vote reveals European concerns

By Father John Flynn, LC
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ROME, DEC. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Switzerland’s referendum on banning the construction of minarets for mosques raised once more the issue of the growing Islamic presence in Western Europe. According to final results, 57.5% of voters and a majority of cantons voted in favor of the ban.

There are an estimated 200 mosques and prayer rooms in Switzerland, mainly in disused factories and warehouses, according to a report by the news agency Swissinfo on Nov. 29. Only four of these have a minaret.

As ZENIT reported on Dec. 1 the Swiss bishops criticized the minaret ban. In a communiqué published Sunday, the Swiss bishops' conference stated that the move, "represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect."

Fortunately just before the Swiss referendum Stefano Allievi, an Italian sociologist at the University of Padua, published a report on mosques, titled: “Conflicts Over Mosques in Europe: Policy Issues and Trends.”

Published under the auspices of the Network of European Foundations, the report started by noting the various controversies in Europe raised by the presence of Islam.

-- Conflicts about principles and ideas: from the Rushdie affair in Britain to the cartoons affair in Denmark.

-- Conflicts brought about by dramatic events happening in Europe concerning Islam and caused by Islamic terrorism and its consequences in European countries.

-- Controversies frequently raised and discussed in public debate relating to gender issues, for example on the role of women in Islam.

Turning to the issue of mosques, Allievi explained that this matter is not limited to the establishment of places of worship, but also involves the question of their visibility in European cities, which has an evident symbolic value.

Then, there is the matter of the broadcasting the adhan, the call to prayer, from mosques to the areas surrounding them, as well as the issue of Muslim cemeteries and the right to obtain religiously exclusive areas within existing cemeteries.

It’s a mistake, the report commented, to interpret these conflicts as if it were just something stemming from action by “political fearmongers.” At stake, Allievi continued, are questions of deep social and cultural import.

Historically, the matter of places for Islamic worship was linked to the presence of Islamic workers who arrived in Europe starting several decades ago. Initially, Allievi explained, prayer halls appeared in the foyers of buildings where the workers lived or were employed.

By the end of the 1970s and especially the 1980s, there was a gradual spread of prayer halls, which was partly the result of a growing awareness that this was a permanent migration, the report commented.

With time the number of prayer halls multiplied and there were increasing concentrations of Muslims in the local communities. As a consequence in large cities, especially the capital cities, large purpose-built Islamic centers were constructed. This was normally done with finance from external resources, the report noted, which was often from the Muslim World League, an organization under the control of Saudi Arabia.

Outside of the capital cities the mosques that were eventually built tended to be located in the industrial suburbs, where it was easier to find buildings of sufficient size to adapt to these purposes, or in ethnic neighborhoods, on the outskirts of a big city.

A section of Allievi’s report examined the matter of how many mosques are present in Europe. He also compared the total number of Muslim inhabitants to the number of mosques.

In the area of Western Europe he calculated that there are 18.06 million Muslims and 10,869 mosques, roughly equivalent to one mosque for every 1,660 Muslims. This is, he noted, a ratio roughly comparable to the situation in many Muslim countries or, in Europe, to places of worship of the dominant Christian religion in the respective countries.

He then excluded the data on Bosnia, where Islam is a historically established presence and also Thrace, where there is also a historical Muslim minority. The result was a total of 8,701 mosques serving a world of Islamic immigration made up of approximately 16.44 million people, corresponding to one prayer room for every 1,890 Muslims living in Europe.

“The figure may seem surprising, given the widespread assumption that Muslim places of worship are few in number,” Allievi commented.

While this popular impression may still be true for some countries exposed to more recent immigration phenomena, it is not true in terms of the European average, he added.

Then, the report continued, if we compare these figures to the people of Muslim origin who actually practice their religion, which is about one-third according to a recent study he cited, the number of Muslims per mosque is of course significantly lower. “Therefore, there is no problem of a lack of places of worship,” he concluded.

The report then turned to look at the situation in those countries where the Islamic presence is particularly notable. In France, Muslims account for about 5.5 million people, or 8% of the population. There are approximately 2,100 Islamic places of worship in the country. This is proportionally lower than in other countries, but the report explained this figure is similar to that of other religions and is testimony to the impact of the secular and republican ideology in the life of the country.

Germany comes second behind France in the ranking of European countries for the number of Muslims -- 3.2 to 3.4 million -- even though the proportion in relation to the overall population is considerably lower, at about 3%.

The absolute number of mosques, however, is the highest in Europe (at least 2,600), the report affirmed. In fact, the ratio between the number of mosques and the number of Muslims is the highest in Europe, excluding Bosnia, and their presence is significant and highly visible, according to Allievi.

In the United Kingdom the proportion of mosques is significant when we take into account that the estimated 2.4 million Muslims have over 1,000 mosques, the report commented.

As well, many mosques are purpose-built, especially in the large ethnic communities around the country. Thus, there are 116 mosques in Birmingham, of which 10 are purpose-built, for a total of 140,000 Muslims. There are 44 in Bradford, of which six are purpose-built, for the city’s 75,000 Muslims. And there are 31 in Manchester, of which five are purpose-built, for 125,000 Muslims.

Overall, the proportion of mosques is twice the European average, with almost one mosque for every 1,000 Muslims. It’s also possible to frequently find Islamic prayer rooms and other forms of religious facility in a wide range of places: airports, shopping centers, and meeting places of various kinds, including football stadiums.

Further on in the report it observed that the minaret “appears to have become a symbol par excellence of the conflict surrounding Islam, or rather of its visibility in the public eye.”

Allievi commented that historically towers have always been a sign of power and domination. For example, in medieval Italian cities the victory of a family or a city over another resulted in the destruction of the towers of the defeated party.

He concluded by saying that the mosques in themselves are not the problem, but rather there are the problems related to an increasing cultural and religious plurality that is now producing not only a quantitative but also a qualitative change in European states. How Europe deals with this situation will continue to be a topic of much interest in coming years.


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This three-part series on the recent Swiss vote against construction of new minarets
was published online recently in First Things.



Minarets in Switzerland and
crucifixes in Italy

by Robert Louis Wilken
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Dec. 7, 2009


Wilken, a member of the editorial ­advisory board of First Things, is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia.


Two stories were front-page news last week, the President’s speech on Afghanistan and the spectacle of Tiger Woods smashing his Cadillac Escalade into his neighbor’s tree at 2:30 a.m. But two other items caught my attention, the one from Italy and the other from Switzerland.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that crucifixes be removed from Italian classrooms. According to the blogger Fabio Paolo Barbieri, in response hundreds of mayors in Italy passed town ordinances requiring that every classroom display a crucifix.

Even in red Tuscany, a historic communist region, the mayors have been sending Carabinieri to the schools to check that every classroom has its crucifix. In one case when a high school teacher tried to remove a crucifix his students revolted, and when the headmaster heard what the teacher had done he suspended him for ten days without pay.

The other story came from Switzerland where voters, and a majority of the cantons, adopted a law imposing a ban on the construction of minarets in the country.

Though the initiative was opposed by most political parties, churches and businesses, a solid majority of 57 percent voted in favor of the new law.

The four existing minarets in the country will be allowed to stand, but construction of new minarets is now banned. What struck me in reading editorial opinion on the decision was that the only language writers had to discuss the matter was that of human “rights.”

Predictably the vote was seen as a triumph of bigotry and intolerance, an infringement of the rights of Muslim.

I mentioned to a friend that I thought the vote in Switzerland and the defense of the crucifix in Italy were perhaps part of a piece, signs that, in spite of much evidence to the contrary, the peoples of Europe apparently still believed in the potency of Christian symbols.

He responded that these protests had little to do with religion, only about culture. But isn’t that the point? Religion does not exist without culture and culture is a carrier of religion.

When Christianity first came to northern Europe in the early middle ages, conversion meant a change of public practice and the creation of a new public space, in architecture, law, calendar, language, communal rituals, et al.

For the Swiss, erection of minarets taller than church steeples would alter the skyline of cities and towns, visibly severing links to the past. The construction of minarets was seen as an assault on memory, and memory is attached to things. Without memory a people have no sense of who they are.

In Italy the assault on memory had to do with the central Christian symbol in the west. In a historic Christian culture wrote Barbieri, “the symbol of a naked, suffering, unjustly condemned man in whom all that is good and worthy of worship and respect . . . is centered, is buried deep in their souls.”

In Italy even atheists and Communists respect the Crucifix “because it means so much about the condition and value of a man.”

The issue is not human rights or religious freedom, but respect for cultural traditions and fealty to those who have gone before. There is no reason to think that prohibiting the erection of minarets in Swiss cities will jeopardize the rights of Muslims to practice their religion.

But if a society loses all memory of its Christian traditions, there is a real question whether those things that make western civilization unique, e.g. human rights, freedom of religion, will endure.


My view from the start: That the Swiss vote reflected a cultural expression much more than about religion, since therre is no objection to the construction of new mosques.


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The “European Street” on minarets
by David P. Goldman
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Dec. 8, 2009


Goldman is now senior editor of First Things, which he joiend last fall as asociate editor.

Europe’s religious leaders — including the Vatican, the Swiss Catholic bishops, and the Conference of European Rabbis — have condemned the ban on minaret construction imposed by a nearly three-to-two majority in a referendum of Swiss voters.

The Elizabeth Church, Basel’s oldest Protestant house of worship, declared its bell-tower to be a minaret in protest against the ban and brought a Turkish imam to the church to bless the transformation —although the Turkish government has rebuffed numerous requests to permit the construction of a Protestant church.

Prima facie, Switzerland’s voters have restricted the symbolic manifestation of a religion, if not its practice. It would be hard for Catholic, Protestant or Jewish clergy to respond otherwise.

We have heard for years of the “Arab Street” — call this the debut of the “European Street.” A scissors has opened between the sentiment of European voters and the positions of mainstream leaders.

The sponsor of the referendum resolution, the Swiss People’s Party, has about a quarter of the national vote, but it pulled 57.5 percent of the vote for this symbolic slap to Islam.

The Swiss initiative was cleverly designed: The minaret ban combines the maximum insult to Muslim pride with the minimum infringement of actual religious practice. Six hundred years after the Battle of Sempach the Swiss evidently know how to pick a fight.

Switzerland’s unique system emphasizes direct votes on major issues, and it is very likely that if the Dutch and other Europeans were allowed to vote directly on such issues, the result would be similar.

The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who came to prominence attacking radical Islam and unrestricted immigration, polled second in his country’s 2009 elections. Like the Swiss People’s Party, the Freedom Party has nothing in common with the extreme right — it is allied with the Dutch trade unions on some major economic issues.

Popular hostility to Islam often is misrepresented as a reaction against radical Islam; as Rabbi Aba Dunner, the head of the Conference of European Rabbis said December 4, “ Europe cannot beat radical Islam by knocking down minarets.”

On the contrary, the trouble lies in the moderate position, articulated forcefully by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that “assimilation [of Muslim immigrants into European culture] is a crime against humanity,” in a speech before 20,000 Muslim immigrants in Germany.

[What an outrageous statement, proclaiming, in effect, the right of immigrants to remain apart and un-integrated into their host nation. That is contrary to every immigration practice in modern times, and contrary to the very spirit of immigration itself. The host nation cannot be expected to willingly harbor an un-integrated potentially hostile population.]

Erdogan’s tirade against assimilation rankled German politicians. Prominent German conservatives have rebuffed Erdogan’s comments. Erwin Huber, the head of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union, fumed, “Erdogan preached Turkish nationalism on German soil.”

But the official German response has been to import professors from the theology faculty of Ankara University to train Muslim clergy and teachers for the growing cohort of Turkish children in German schools.

It is not only Erdogan, but also Europe’s institutions — including its churches — who seem determined to prevent Muslim assimilation. According to the leading Italian journalist Magdi Cristiano Allam, whom Benedict XVI received into the Catholic Church on the Easter vigil of 2008, large numbers of Muslim immigrants already have converted, but are afraid to admit this for fear of violence. After his conversion Allam said:

His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message [by personally receiving Allam into the Church] to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.


On the contrary, Magdi Allam was left to his own devices following his high-profile conversion and the Vatican has shown no interest in the predicament of Muslim converts.

A leading Jesuit Islamologist excoriated the Pope in the Jesuit monthly Popoli shortly afterwards for failing to renounce proselytization of Muslims. This seems to have prevailed.

[Goldman is taking a one-sided view on the Italian situation. On the contrary, there have been signs that more liberal Italian communities - and the Church hierarchy within them - are tending to bend over backwards to accommodate the Muslims in the most questionable of politically correctgestures. Such as making available churches and chapels for the regular Friday services of Muslims, or the recent scandal of thousands of Muslims occupying the piazza in front of Milan's Cathedral during a Mass to stage a prayer rally [replete with prayer mats and facing Mecca] and protest demonstration.]

Whether Muslim immigrants to Europe are assimilable is unclear, since Europe’s institutions have made no effort to assimilate them. [And how exactly should they do that? Schools take them in freely, and so far, no one but France has forbidden Muslim schoolgirls and students to wear their head veil. They set up mosques and prayer halls on their own, and with virtually no opposition so far [except a German city that opposes construction of a mosque in a declared historic sone that would thereby lose its character]. But should European courts suddenly adopt sharia law as a gesture of 'assimilating' Muslims?

Assimilation is a two-way process. Immigrants with a foreign culture who wish to be assimilated will be assimilated in time, as America's 200-year history has abundantly proven. The problem is that most Muslim communities in Europe appear to wish to remain 'autonomous' and separate - for the simple reason that they look down on the culture of the host nations that they live in, and that sense of inherent superiority is the greatest factor against their assimilation and integration.]


In the absence of efforts to integrate Muslims, the extremist minority has free reign. In a recent speech, Gert Wilders expressed the anguish of Europeans at the cultural dissonance:

All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it. This goes for the police as well. It’s the world of head scarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with baby strollers and a group of children. . . .

These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics. These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe. These are the building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city.

There are now thousands of mosques throughout Europe. With larger congregations than there are in churches. And in every European city there are plans to build super-mosques that will dwarf every church in the region. Clearly, the signal is: We rule.


Bernard Lewis famously predicted a Muslim majority in Europe by the end of the century. Whether this will occur is unclear; European countries assiduously avoid reporting birth rates by religion. But the enormous and growing presence of Islamic institutions in Europe jars the existing culture, and provides a host for a truly frightening extremist minority.

Abandoned by their leaders, Switzerland’s voters took matters into their own hands. It is hard not to recall the famous lines of from the Swiss national drama, Schiller’s William Tell: “When oppression becomes intolerable, you reach into the heaven and grab hold of your eternal rights, which are hanging up there, inalienable and indestructible as the stars themselves.”

Of course it is the wrong way to respond to an urgent problem. But if Europe’s leaders exclude the right way to respond, the European street will choose whatever way remains.

The valuable insight in Goldman's essay is that the Swiss vote is a sign that the European man-on-the-street - unlike the representatives they have in all the European institutions - may not all be that complacent (nor cowardly) when confronted with actual, practical threats to their centuries-old culture. About time, and may their tribe increase!

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Minarets and 'the conditions of Umar'
Gabriel Said Reynolds
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Dec 9, 2009

Reynolds is the Tisch Family Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

The Qur’an includes Jews and Christians among the “People of the Book,” among those to whom God has revealed something of divine truth in past times. Yet Islamic tradition insists that the Jews and Christians corrupted that revelation, and laments their failure to recognize the final revelation given to Muhammad.

Therefore in the ideal vision for society articulated by Islamic jurisprudence Jews and Christians are to be tolerated only by virtue of a certain contract (or dhimma) that makes them subject to a set of conditions (for which reason they are often called dhimmis).

These conditions were often attributed to the caliph Umar II, who ruled the Umayyad Empire from Damascus in the early eighth century, and hence called the “Conditions of Umar.”

According to the “Conditions of Umar” Jews and Christians are to wear a distinguishing item of clothing (in a color identifying their particular religious denomination); they are forbidden to wear fine clothing, ride horses, bear arms, own a Qur’an, insult Islam, construct new churches, or build houses higher than those of Muslims.

These conditions, it might be noted, address largely symbolic matters. They are not meant to annihilate Jews and Christians, as is sometimes suggested. Instead the conditions of Umar are meant to insure that Jews and Christians in no way interrupt the dominant order of Islamic society, an order shaped by the divinely revealed edicts of Islamic law.

By the new law in Switzerland Muslims can still build new mosques and they can still build tall houses, but they cannot put tall minarets, or any minaret at all, on their mosques.

Now the minarets that already exist in Switzerland no longer perform the function for which they were designed. There is no broadcast of the call to prayer in Switzerland, and even if there were, a minaret would hardly be necessary. These days the call to prayer is broadcast by loudspeakers, not by a muezzin who climbs to the top of the minaret. So the issue is largely symbolic.

In recent years the Vatican has raised the question of Muslim-Christian relations in terms of reciprocity. It has demanded that Christians in the Islamic world enjoy the same liberties already enjoyed by Muslims in Europe.

The legal prohibition of minarets in Switzerland might be thought of as an example of reciprocity in light of the “Conditions of Umar,” but this is certainly not the sort of reciprocity the Vatican has in mind. Not surprisingly, the Swiss bishops are opposed to this law.

But both supporters and opponents of the law might be surprised to discover that it has a precedent in, of all places, Islamic tradition.

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In the Tradition of the Catholic Church, Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are most often cited in discussions over what 'just war' is. Before the second Iraq war in 2003, John Paul II's forceful and public opposition was well-known, supported by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who nonetheless also wrote and spoke about the concept of just war in analystica terms those years. I put together some of those words in the PRF
freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=354533&p=2

George Weigel now comments on 'just war' in connection with Barack Obama's decision to continue fight against terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his justification of the decision in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

I find it interesting that his rationale for just war appears not to fully echo John Paul II's unequivocal opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, particularly in the light of Tony Blair's recent statement that even if he had known beforehand that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear WMD, he would still have advocated the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam had used chemical WMD once before to horrifying effect, not just against the Iranians with whom he was at war, but against Iraqi communities, his own people.



The 'just war' tradition:
Obama’s Oslo speech presumes too much
about a centuries-old intellectual concept

By George Weigel
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Dec. 13, 2009


In November, the President of the United States ordered a surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan and called on other countries to do their duty in bringing that war to a successful conclusion. A few weeks later, the same President traveled to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The notion that the juxtaposition of these two events involves a “contradiction” (as the Washington Post subhead put it, and as the President’s speech tacitly acknowledged) is, in fact, a neat illustration of just how badly the just-war way of thinking has deteriorated in our culture, and just how attenuated the idea of the pursuit of peace has become.

In the just-war tradition, as rightly interpreted, the justified use of proportionate and discriminate armed force was always understood to be in the pursuit of peace, which was the fruit of justice, security, and freedom.

By the same token, the defense and advance of the peace of political order of which the President spoke — a notion of peace that can be traced back as least as far as St. Augustine — was always, until recent decades, understood to necessitate the use of proportionate and discriminate armed force under certain circumstances.

The pursuit of peace and the rigors of the just-war way of thinking were not thought to be antinomies or contradictions; they weren’t even thought to be in serious tension.

Rather, they were understood to be part of the same intellectual and moral problem: How are we to build the peace of order in a world in which men are prepared to advance their aims by the use of mass violence, by the massive violation of human rights, or by both?

Contemporary confusions on this front derive from several sources. One is a vapid idea of peace as the absence of conflict, a condition that (as the president rightly recognized) will never obtain in this world, short of the coming of the Messianic Age — or its ultramundane equivalent, a global totalitarian dictatorship of singular efficiency and ferocity.

Then there is the simplistic equation of peacemaking with nonviolence, which (as the President again rightly recognized) is a tool of limited, if sometimes impressive, utility. (Connoisseurs of these arguments now await Colman McCarthy’s excommunication of President Obama from the Church of Nonviolence, with a fatwa that will almost certainly include a condemnation of Obama as a traitor to the cause of two men whose memory he invoked in Oslo, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.)

But perhaps the greatest damage to the deepening of the just-war way of thinking in our time has come from the notion, effectively propagated by the Catholic bishops of the United States in their 1983 pastoral letter “The Challenge of Peace,” that the just-war analysis of world politics begins with a “presumption against war".

In this construal of the tradition, the just-war way of thinking begins with a prima facie moral duty to do no harm to others. The moral philosopher or theologian then sets hurdles — last resort, reasonable chance of success, proportionate use of force, non-combatant immunity or discrimination — which the statesman must successfully overcome in order for the resort to armed force to be morally justified.

The President’s speech, for all the sense it made in its more robust anti-utopian moments, seemed infected with this intellectual toxin, which is likely to produce policy trouble down the line.

The classic just-war tradition did not begin with a “presumption against war.” Augustine didn’t begin there; Aquinas didn’t begin there.

And indeed, no one in the tradition began there until the late 1960s (surprise!), when a Congregationalist moral theologian (James Gustafson) sold a Quaker moral theologian (James Childress) the idea that the just-war way of thinking began with a prima facie moral duty to do no harm.

Childress then successfully sold the notion to J. Bryan Hehir, the Catholic theologian and political theorist who was the chief architect of “The Challenge of Peace.”

In fact, however, the classic just-war tradition began, not with a presumption against war, but with a passion for justice: The just prince is obliged to secure the “tranquility of order,” or peace, for those for whom he accepts political responsibility, and that peace, to repeat, is composed of justice, security, and freedom.

There are many ways for the just prince (or prime minister, or president) to do this; one of them is armed force. Its justified use can sometimes come after other means of securing justice, security, and freedom have been tried and failed; but it can also sometimes mean shooting first. Two obvious examples of the latter come from modern history.

The first (to which the president alluded in Oslo) was in the case of humanitarian intervention to forestall or end a genocide. (Thus all those liberal synagogues and churches with “Darfur: A Call to Your Conscience” on their lawns might consider whether there is any solution to that humanitarian disaster other than the use of armed force.)

The second comes from a more classic instance of an “aggression under way” (as some just-war thinking construes “just cause”), but without a shot having yet been fired. As students of World War II in the Pacific know, a U.S. carrier battle group under Adm. William Halsey was steaming off Hawaii in early December 1941.

Suppose Halsey and the Enterprise had run across Admiral Nagumo’s carriers in their stealthy approach to the Hawaiian archipelago. Would Halsey have been justified in assuming that Nagumo wasn’t there to check out vacation real estate on Oahu — and shooting first?

Of course he would have been, and from every rationally defensible moral point of view. (The analogy here between my Halsey hypothetical and hard intelligence of Iran loading a nuclear warhead onto a medium-range ballistic missile will strike some as suggestive.)

So the notion that just-war analysis begins with a “presumption against war” (or, as some put it, with a “pacifist premise”) is simply wrong.

The just-war way of thinking begins somewhere else: with legitimate public authority’s moral obligation to defend the common good by defending the peace composed of justice, security, and freedom.

The just-war tradition is not a set of hurdles that moral philosophers, theologians, and clergy set before statesmen. It is a framework for collaborative deliberation about the basic aims of legitimate government as it engages hostile regimes and networks in the world.

The President’s lifting up of this venerable moral tradition, which has deep roots in the civilizational soil of the West, was entirely welcome, if not to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and other bears of little brain.

The next step is the retrieval of the classic intellectual architecture of just-war thinking and its development to meet the exigencies of a world of new dangers and new international actors.

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This is a really yukky report that can only provoke outrage at the degree to which the 'sophisticated' modern mind can devise ways to corrupt and disparage the Christian faith... and the utter lack of taste of the offenders.



'Progressive' Church in New Zealand
puts up offensive billboard

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Dec. 15, 2009


As atheist adverts claiming “There’s Probably No God” are set to adorn buses in New Zealand, a church has launched a controversial billboard advert for Christmas, depicting Mary and Joseph in bed together.

The advertisement, which promises to cause upset down under, pictures the pair with disgruntled expressions and carries the slogan: “Poor Joseph. God is a hard act to follow.”

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St Matthew’s in the City, an Anglican church based in Auckland, commissioned the billboard.

The advert was designed by M&C Saatchi with the brief that it had to be sufficiently provocative to keep most other churches from allowing it.

It is designed to challenge stereotypes about the way that Jesus was conceived, and get people talking about the Christmas story.

Glynn Cardy, priest at the progressive church, told Ekklesia that the advert has already sparked considerable conversation around the meaning of the incarnation.

“Progressive Christianity is distinctive in that not only does it articulate a clear view, it is also interested in engaging with those who differ. Its vision is one of robust engagement,” he said.

“At Bethlehem, low-life shepherds and heathen travellers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.

“No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders most of them will serve up ‘middle mush’. Jesus will be born in a palatial sanitised barn and every king and crook, religious and irreligious, will be surrounding him saying ‘Merry Christmas my friends!’ No reader will be asked to do or think anything risky, no reader will be offended, and no reader will write a critical response. They’ll just yawn and turn the page.”


But why would any Christian reader have to think anything risky when contemplating the Birth of Christ? It has only had one meaning in the faith, regardless of what circumstances may be imagined to replace the Christ mastory as first narrated by St. Luke.

Besides, the ad has nothing to do with Christmas - it has everything to do with challenging the virginity of Mary and the Bible accounts thereof, which in turn would call into question other Christian teachings set in Tradition such as the Immaculate Conception or Joseph's submission to the will of God....


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The Big Lie continues:
Leftists in denial of the failure -
and murderous excesses - of Communism

By George J. Marlin
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January 27, 2009


We hear a little about Muslim persecution of Christians these days, though not much. But is anyone aware of the much larger and continuing evil presence that violates the rights and very lives of Catholics and other believers in our world?

It’s called Communism, and in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and a gaggle of wannabe Marxist dictatorships, this murderous ideology continues to generate high body counts and gulags for the Christians of the world while the mainstream media and prominent intellectuals hardly seem to notice.

There is ample precedent for this lack of interest going back even before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of Communism in Eastern Europe.

Throughout the twentieth century, the progressive intelligentsia was sympathetic to the idea that Marxist-controlled states would eventually give birth to an international utopian community. To maintain this view, they defended, denied, or overlooked the crimes against humanity committed by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, and their henchmen.

Even as the very foundations of the Iron Curtain were crumbling in the late 1980s, many leftist thinkers continued to promote Communist “truth.”

For instance, one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, America’s oldest left-wing journal, The Nation, refusing to face the harsh facts about the Soviet totalitarian menace, toed the party line by condemning the Center for Democracy, created by U.S. citizens, to aid the only independent publication in the U.S.S.R., Glasnost.

One European who had the courage to expose the lies was the late French philosopher-journalist Jean-Francois Revel (1924-2006). This World War II resistance fighter and Social Democrat fearlessly fought the ideological bullies of his time.

For him, they functioned “as a machine to destroy information even at the price of making assertions in clear contradiction of the evidence.” And they still do. As Paul Valery, a French poet, once observed, “everything changes but the avant-garde.”

Revel swam against the French intellectual tide by arguing that evil is inherent in Communism’s DNA. History, he believed, proved that as a governing system, it was never economically viable and retarded social justice: “Incarceration camps and prisons, show trials, murderous purges and deliberately induced famines have accompanied each and every Communist regime from beginning to end, without exception.”

The global left, of course, despised Revel. In a series of trenchant works, The Totalitarian Temptation (1976), How Democracies Perish (1983), The Flight From Truth (1991), and Anti-Americanism (2003), Revel assaulted those “who openly and on principle allow the annihilation of whole masses of humanity. . .to secure the realization of the Communist ideal.” He denounced leftists who, in the name of progress, yielded to the totalitarian temptation and became accomplices to political crimes.

In Last Exit to Utopia, a book of his just translated and published posthumously, Revel gives socialist apologists his last dig. Revel makes the case that many leftist intellectuals have been in a state of denial since the death of the Soviet leviathan.

They cannot admit they were intellectually wrong or morally compromised. Communism, they still insist, was an engine of social justice that and had good intentions. Genuine Communists tried to create a good society that would save the masses from “enslavement to consumerism.”

Revel calls this behavior “voluntary blindness;” ideologues ignoring or deforming truth to rationalize their apriori schemes.

To maintain the fiction and to take the spotlight off their short-comings these leftists have aggressively pursued a “take no prisoners” offensive strategy. The root of all evil they insist is “savage capitalism” and the devils who promote this depraved system are Americans. Critics of Communist regimes are “simplistic” and “obsessive” mean-spirited right-wing reactionaries or just plain old fascists.

Scholarly works that document Communist oppression are dismissed as “nostalgia for the Cold War.” “Why drag out that old stuff” is the typical reaction from the leftist chorus. “Haven’t we heard it all before? Let’s move on.”

American leftist elites employed this approach in their failed attempt to stop the acclaimed Yale University Press Annals of Communism series which publishes previously inaccessible documents from Soviet state and party archives.

The most vicious outcry was against the 800-page compendium detailing the crimes of Communist regimes worldwide, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Furious leftists used every vicious tactic to discredit the findings of the five French authors that over 100-million people were murdered for belonging to political parties, churches, or some hated social class. Critics pressured and intimidated the contributors—even threatening to get them fired from their academic posts—if they did not recant.

One delusional protester, the Marxist Jacques Rossi, who actually served time in the Gulag, defended the prison system claiming these Soviet camps were fine institutions that “served as a laboratory for the Soviet regime in order to create an ideal society: to compel obedience and indoctrinate.”

Revel boldly rejected these cover-ups. Western ideologues, he declared, “may have no blood on their hands; but their pens are dripping with it.”

Contrary to their claims, totalitarian states, unlike capitalist democracies, must commit crimes to survive. Recent actions by remaining Marxist regimes confirm his thesis: North Korea’s Communist masters have systematically starved over 3 million of their people.

In Tibet 1.2 million people — 20 percent of the total population —have been eliminated under China’s occupation of that nation. And in China itself, the regime has set up a subservient Patriotic Catholic Church to keep Catholics from following the real Church with its head in the Vatican.

Communism, writes Revel. “promises abundance and engenders misery; promises liberty and imposes servitude. . .promises respect for human life and then perpetuates mass executions; promises the creation of a ‘new man,’ but instead fossilizes him.”

Yet, by using “evil in the name of good” Revel observes, this failed experiment tragically continues to attract “angelic accomplices, in the name of ideals they have shamelessly trampled underfoot.”


George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen (Doubleday Image).


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The global warming guerrillas

Saluting the bloggers who changed the climate debate.
While most of Fleet Street kowtowed to the green lobby,
online amateurs uncovered the spin and deception
that finally cracked the rigged 'Climate Consensus'


by Matt Ridley
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Wednesday, 3rd February 2010


Journalists are wont to moan that the slow death of newspapers will mean a disastrous loss of investigative reporting. The web is all very well, they say, but who will pay for the tenacious sniffing newshounds to flush out the real story?

‘Climategate’ proves the opposite to be true. It was amateur bloggers who scented the exaggerations, distortions and corruptions in the climate establishment; whereas newspaper reporters, even after the scandal broke, played poodle to their sources.

It was not Private Eye, or the BBC or the News of the World, but a retired electrical engineer in Northampton, David Holland, whose freedom-of-information requests caused the Climategate scientists to break the law, according to the Information Commissioner.

By contrast, it has so far attracted little attention that the leaked emails of Climategate include messages from reporters obsequiously seeking ammunition against the sceptics.

Other emails have shown reporters meekly changing headlines to suit green activists, or being threatened with ostracism for even reporting the existence of a sceptical angle: ‘Your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists,’ one normally alarmist reporter was told last year when he slipped briefly off message. ‘I sense that you are about to experience the “Big Cutoff” from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.’

So used are greens to sycophancy in the television studios that when they occasionally encounter even slightly hard questions they are outraged.

Peter Sissons of the BBC: ‘I pointed out to [Caroline Lucas of the Green party] that the climate didn’t seem to be playing ball at the moment. We were having a particularly cold winter, even though carbon emissions were increasing. Indeed, there had been no warming for ten years, contradicting all the alarming computer predictions... Miss Lucas told me angrily that it was disgraceful that the BBC — the BBC! — should be giving any kind of publicity to those sort of views.’

Of course, reporters have been going native for decades. The difference is that they cannot now get away with it. When acid rain was all the rage in the 1980s, I was a science editor and I relayed all sorts of cataclysmic predictions from scientists and greens about its effect on forests. (Stern magazine said in 1984 that a third of Germany’s forests were already dead or dying and that experts believed all — all! — its conifers would be gone by 1990.)

Today, we know that these predictions were wildly wrong and that far from dying out, forests in Germany, Sweden and North America actually thrived during that decade. I should have been more sceptical.

Yet, this time round, despite 20 years of being told they were not just factually but morally wrong, of being compared to Holocaust deniers, of being told they deserved to be tried for crimes against humanity, of being avoided at parties, climate sceptics seem to be growing in number and confidence by the day. What is the difference?

In a word, the internet. The Climate Consensus may hold the establishment — the universities, the media, big business, government — but it is losing the jungles of the web. After all, getting research grants, doing pieces to cameras and advising boards takes time.

The very ostracism the sceptics suffered has left them free to do their digging untroubled by grant applications and invitations to Stockholm.

The main blog used by the Consensus, realclimate.org, exemplifies this problem, because it was set up by a PR company and is run by an employee of NASA, who ties himself in knots trying to show that he does the blog in his spare time. It is also characterised by a tone of weary condescension and censoring of dissent that you do not find on most sceptic sites.

Contrast it with wattsupwiththat.com, a site founded in November 2006 by a former Californian television weather forecaster named Anthony Watts. Dedicated at first to getting people to photograph weather stations to discover how poorly sited many of them are, the site has metamorphosed from a gathering place for lonely nutters to a three-million-hits-per-month online newspaper on climate full of fascinating articles by physicists, geologists, economists and statisticians.

Or take a book published last month called The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford, a rattling good detective story and a detailed and brilliant piece of science writing. Montford has never worked in the media. He is an accountant and science publisher who works from his home in Milnathort in Kinrossshire. He runs a blog called ‘Bishop Hill’.

Montford came to the subject in 2005 when he read a blog post by another amateur non-journalist named Tim Worstall, a scandium dealer who lives in Portugal (I am not making this up), who was in turn passing on news of another blogger’s work: Stephen McIntyre, a retired mining consultant and keen squash player in Toronto.

Because he keeps catching errors in their work, McIntyre is the sceptic the climate scientists most love to hate, even though he is scrupulously polite and insists that the followers on his website, climateaudit.org, are too.

‘A certain person’, the Climategate scientists called him in their emails, or ‘Mr Mc “I’m not entirely there in the head”’, or ‘the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science’.

Notice that all of these sceptic bloggers are self-employed businessmen. Their strengths are networks and feedback: mistakes get quickly corrected; new leads are opened up; expertise is shared; links are made.

Prejudice and ignorance abound too, but the good blogs get rewarded with scoops and guest essays so they tap into rich seams of knowledge.

When Montford first ran his now classic post called ‘Caspar and the Jesus paper’, about the shenanigans the IPCC had to resort to in order to get a flawed paper rebutting McIntyre into the peer-reviewed literature in time to use it in their report, word of mouth caused interest in his website to explode.

Mcintyre’s forensic dissection of the Consensus papers puts cosy scientific peer review to shame. Digging deep into data and computer programs, he has found myriad mistakes in both the statistical technique and the data used to make the famous hockey stick graph, which purported to show that recent temperatures were unprecedented in level and rate of change.

But he has also uncovered a mistake in data that conveniently prevented 1934 being warmer than 1998 in America; the splicing together of the records of two Antarctic weather stations as if they were one; the smoothing of sea-level rise in a way that conveniently concealed its recent deceleration; the use of a Swedish lake sediment series upside down so it showed recent warming instead of cooling; and most recently the reliance of an attempt to resuscitate the hockey stick on a ludicrously small sub-sample of just 12 Siberian larch trees.

That last one came about when Montford spotted that a scientist who had been refusing McIntyre access to data for ten years had published in a journal with a strict policy of archiving data. Montford tipped off McIntyre, who asked the journal to force the scientist to release the data, which he eventually did.

‘It seems inconceivable to the commentariat,’ says Andrew Orlowski of the online newspaper of the IT industry, the Register, ‘that scientists have prejudices too, and that the publication process (peer review) is not some Kitemark of quality but is vulnerable to being hijacked.’

Chip Knappenberger, who blogs at masterresource.org, believes the rise of blogs as repositories of scientific knowledge will continue if the scientific literature becomes guarded and exclusive.

‘I can only anticipate this as throwing the state of science and the quest for scientific understanding into disarray.’

When Climategate broke, the mainstream media, like knights facing archers at Crécy, mostly ran dismissive pieces reflecting the official position of the Consensus.

For example, they dutifully repeated the line that the University of East Anglia’s global temperature record was vindicated by two other ‘entirely independent’ records (from Nasa and NOAA), which was bunk: all three records draw from the same network of weather stations.

Editors then found — by reading and counting the responses on their blog pages — that there was huge and educated interest in Climategate among their readers. One by one they took notice and unleashed their sniffing newshounds at last: the Daily Express went first, then the Mail and the Sunday Times, last week the Times and this week even the Guardian.

For those few mainstream journalists who had always been sceptical — like Christopher Booker — it must be a strange experience, like being relieved after living behind enemy lines. Who knows, one day even BBC News may ask tough questions. But it was the bloggers who did the hard work.

Matt Ridley’s book, The Rational Optimist, will be published in May.


For the record, I must post the most recent unforgivable howler pulled off by the UN climate group that co-won the Nobel peace Prize with Al Gore a couple of years ago. Surely you read about their prediction that the Himalayan glaciers would melt in the very near future - on the basis of the flimsiest conjecture by some amateur scientist in India who does not know zilch about glaciers, printed up in a sci-pop journal, and unbelievably taken up hook, line, and sinker by the chairman of the UN group into the UN report that helped win them the Peace Prize. The ideological incest rampant among liberals is vomit-inducing! How can we really trust scientific papers now, when it has been shown how ideologically driven scientists can so flagrantly conspire to falsify data to fit their hypotheses, turning the very principles of science upside down!... This article from the Times of London is delicious irony, because until very recently, their science writers were in league with the shameless ideologues!



World misled over
Himalayan glacier meltdown

by Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings
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February 2, 2010


A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: "If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments." [Excuse me? Where does Lal get off with such an 'It's no big deal' statement? Since when does any self-respecting scientist - much less the council "set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change" - accept one individual's 'assertions' and 'presumptions' as reportable scientific data without supporting studies that have to be vetted thoroughly for methodological validity, mathematical and criteria-driven data analysis, rigorous interpretation of such data, and plausible conclusions to support or disprove the working hypothesis? Anyone submitting an article to a scientific journal has to undergo that kind of scrutiny by the journal editors and experts and make the necessary changes to satisfy scientific standards before the article can be accepted for publication. (Having co-authored a couple of scientific papers with my boss for some medical journals), I have gone through such a process, and it can take weeks of back and forth. Yet this high-falutin' IPCC simply adopted one man's speculation, lifted from a sci-pop magazine (i.e., not a 'peer review' publication) without question. simply because it seemed to fit beautifully with their global-warming alarmism????]

The IPCC's reliance on Hasnain's 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview for the New Scientist. Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine.

Pearce said: "Hasnain told me then that he was bringing a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis."

"Since then I have obtained a copy and it does not say what Hasnain said. In other words it does not mention 2035 as a date by which any Himalayan glaciers will melt. However, he did make clear that his comments related only to part of the Himalayan glaciers. not the whole massif."

The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain's 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study [which cited Hasnain's work as an interview, not as a formal report!] but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was "very high". The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

The report read: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate."

However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. (i.e., Ideology also drives common sense out the door! Especially as all those involved now admit, at least, that none of them really know very much about glaciers!)

The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is 2-3 feet a year and most are far lower.

Professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, said: "Even a small glacier such as the Dokriani glacier is up to 120 metres [394ft] thick. A big one would be several hundred metres thick and tens of kilometres long. The average is 300 metres thick so to melt one even at 5 metres a year would take 60 years. That is a lot faster than anything we are seeing now so the idea of losing it all by 2035 is unrealistically high.”

Some scientists have questioned how the IPCC could have allowed such a mistake into print. Perhaps the most likely reason was lack of expertise. Lal himself admits he knows little about glaciers. [So should they not at least have consulted glacier experts before gleefully extrapolating Hasnain's apparently far more modest conclusions?

"I am not an expert on glaciers.and I have not visited the region so I have to rely on credible published research. The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist and it was reasonable to assume he knew what he was talking about," he said. [Can anything be more unscientific? It's one thing to find yourself agreeing personally with what a 'respectable' scientists says, without demanding scientific support. But you don't just feed unsupported comments into a scientific report that the world's leaders will base their decisions on. Far more than the ideological arrogance and the scientific laxity that this demonstrates, the huge unnecessary costs of programs urged by leaders who have thoroughly bought into global-warming alarmism must only be called criminal!]

Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, has previously dismissed criticism of the Himalayas claim as "voodoo science".

Last week the IPCC refused to comment, so it has yet to explain how someone who admits to little expertise on glaciers was overseeing such a report. Perhaps its one consolation is that the blunder was spotted by climate scientists who quickly made it public.

The lead role in that process was played by Graham Cogley, a geographer from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who had long been unhappy with the IPCC's finding.

He traced the IPCC claim back to the New Scientist and then contacted Pearce. Pearce then re-interviewed Hasnain, who confirmed that his 1999 comments had been "speculative", and published the update in the New Scientist.

Cogley said: "The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough. But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report. The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose. It is ultimately a trail that leads back to a magazine article and that is not the sort of thing you want to end up in an IPCC report.”

Pearce said the IPCC's reliance on the WWF was "immensely lazy" and the organisation need to explain itself or back up its prediction with another scientific source. Hasnain could not be reached for comment.

The revelation is the latest crack to appear in the scientific concensus over climate change. It follows the so-called Climategate scandal, where British scientists apparently tried to prevent other researchers from accessing key data [and manipulated or suppressed data to support their warming hypothesis when they appeared to indicate the opposite!]

Last week another row broke out when the Metoeorological Office criticised suggestions that sea levels were likely to rise 1.9m by 2100, suggesting much lower increases were likely.



And here's the latest update - the whole global-warming 'Climate Consensus' scheme is falling apart like a Lego construction after one piece is taken out...


A blizzard of climate scandals
by Thomas Sieger Derr
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February 4, 2010

Thomas Sieger Derr, a member of the First Things editorial and advisory board, is professor emeritus of religion and ethics at Smith College and the author of Environmental Ethics and Christian Humanism.

First came Climategate. Hacked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at England’s University of East Anglia (UEA) showed that CRU researchers were defending the thesis that humans are causing global warming by suppressing contrary evidence, trying to keep opposing viewpoints from being published in scientific journals, and dishing up private insults to skeptics.

The East Anglia CRU is one of three major sources of world temperature data; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the UN relies heavily on it. Thus, the scandal is serious.

When an Australian scientist sought access to CRU data under the Freedom of Information Act, CRU director Dr. Phil Jones stiff-armed him, telling him that he had twenty-five years of work invested in his data set and wouldn’t share it with anyone who intended to find fault with it.

Then, as pressure to disclose the data mounted, the CRU announced that the raw data had been destroyed, leaving only “interpreted” figures. The claimed temperature trends (ever upward) cannot be verified.

Next came another embarrassment, this time to the IPCC itself: the discovery that a 2007 report that the glaciers of the Himalayas could vanish by 2035, published by the IPCC in 2007, was entirely bogus.

The report had its origins in an article published by the World Wildlife Federation that was not peer-reviewed but that the IPCC accepted uncritically as scientific research. Dr. Murari Lai, the lead author of the IPCC report’s section on Asia, admitted that the claim was a deliberate exaggeration.

But, said Dr. Lai, “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.” [You see the extent of self-deception practised by these fanatic ideologues? Their end always justifies any means, including deliberate presentation as 'scientific fact' of data they knew to be unfounded. The delusion ramps up when they give such 'explanations' as a simple matter of fact without the least acknowledgment of wrongdoing!]

IPCC chair Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore on behalf of the IPCC) at first vigorously defended the glacier claim, calling criticisms of it “voodoo science.” He subsequently had to eat humble pie and withdraw the alarm, as there is no evidence of any such rapid melt.

Then came an IPCC report that ice is disappearing from mountaintops in the Alps, the Andes, and Africa. As it turned out, this report, too, was only masquerading as science.

It was based on an article in a popular climbers’ magazine that offered anecdotal evidence from climbers, and on a master’s thesis from a Swiss geography student who interviewed Alpine guides as sources. This anecdotal evidence is not science and certainly cannot go back to the early 1900s to show the trend the IPCC claimed.

But wait! Matters get even worse. The 2007 IPCC report also claimed, as a scientific finding, that 40 percent of the Amazon rain forest was at risk of turning into tropical savanna because of a global warming caused decline in rainfall.

This claim turns out, again, to have its source in the World Wildlife Federation, in speculation from two non-scientists - an Australian policy analyst and a freelance journalist and environmental activist. This is not the kind of science that the IPCC is supposed to produce. The main danger to the Amazon rain forest comes from loggers and expanding farms, not rising temperatures.

And again: The IPCC claimed that there was an increase in extreme weather conditions as a result of human-induced global warming. But the expert on whose paper this assertion was based said that his work was quoted only in part to make it yield a conclusion the data did not support.

There is insufficient evidence to claim a statistical link between global warming and catastrophic loss,” he said.

And one more: The IPCC used a study of tree-ring data from eastern Russia to demonstrate a history of ever-rising global temperatures. But subsequent inquiry by doubters showed that the data were cherry-picked only from trees that supported the thesis. The majority of the trees in the forest did not. Data indicating periodic cooling trends were suppressed.

What are the consequences of this series of exposs?

First, the credibility of the IPCC’s so-called scientific findings has been dealt a blow, possibly fatal.

The IPCC is not, in fact, an objective, neutral body that evaluates pure research; it is a dominantly political body controlled by a tight group of true believersan advocacy organization that only pretends to scientific objectivity. Its scandalous behavior has led to widespread calls for Dr. Pachauri’s resignation. Apparently, however, a majority of IPCC scientists still supports him.

Second, there is a new willingness in the mainstream media, and even among some hitherto reluctant scientists, to pay respectful attention to the so-called climate skeptics.

John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, says that climate scientists should be less hostile to doubters who question man-made global warming, and that public confidence in science depends on more openness to varied opinions.

Britain’s BBC, a longtime purveyor of climate alarmism, once thought the skeptics so foolish that they need not be noticed. Now the BBC has come around to covering them. Balance has made a belated appearance, and “The science is settled” is no longer a credible statement.

The British media on the whole, especially national newspapers such as the Telegraph and the Times, are way ahead of their American counterparts in reporting on these unsettling disclosuresperhaps because the big one, the incriminating East Anglia e-mails, occurred on their turf.

Third, the political drive to enact climate control (what a foolish expression!) legislation in the United States has been delayed, perhaps for a long time or permanently, although pieces of programs, such as mixing energy sources, will survive for other reasons. It is a safe bet that proposals for carbon mitigation, which will be expensive and will damage our economy, will not make it through Congress not now, and maybe not ever.

Finally, the credibility of science itself has been shown once again, as if we needed a reminder, to be subject to such ordinary human failings as ego defense, the willingness to bend the truth rather than admit error, and the temptation to disparage and insult one’s opponents. Greed may be in the mix, too, as research grants are at stake.

All in all, it’s been a sorry month or so for the global-warming alarmists. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole movement is going away, though.

A mystique has been built around it, and that is not going to vanish overnight. The movement’s credibility has been damaged, and its political future is dismal, but a large body of scientific opinion still supports it.

Meanwhile, if the temperatures do resume rising (right now, they’re flat), I, like most of humanity, intend to enjoy them.


P.S. The IPCC dingbats couldn't even get it right about an elementary fact anyone could Google-check:

Netherlands says UN climate report
wrongly states more than half
the country is below sea level!



THE HAGUE, February 5 (AFP) - The Netherlands has asked the UN climate change panel to explain an inaccurate claim in a landmark 2007 report that more than half the country was below sea level, the Dutch government said Friday.

According to the Dutch authorities, only 26 percent of the country is below sea level, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be asked to account for its figures, environment ministry spokesman Trimo Vallaart told AFP.

....

So did that Nobel Prize-winning IPCC report contain anything right at all?


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Thanks to a lead from the Catholic Herald's Anna D'Arco on her blog, here is a good background paper on natural law and the disputed 'equality' and anti-discrimination measures in the United Kingdom, prepared by the Dominican students at Blackfriars, Oxford, in response to the outcry over one of the statements made by the Pope to the visiting bishops of England and Wales earlier this week. In particular - the problematic aspects of the Equality Bill as well as what is meant by Natural Law.

The Dominican blog is called GODZDOGZ, from the familiar word play on 'DOMINICANI' as 'DOMINI CANI' (God's dogs).



Natural law and the Government's laws
by Brother Lawrence Lew, O.P.
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February 3, 2010


Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.


The above is just one paragraph of an address delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of England and Wales on 1 February 2010 at the close of their regular five-yearly visit to Rome.

What the Pope says is in response to various reports that the bishops give him in which they outline the strengths and challenges facing the Church in England and Wales.

But this paragraph has been highlighted by the media because it seems to comment quite directly on the Equality Bill currently going through Parliament.

In addition, it also seems to be a comment on the Sexual Orientation Regulations that came into effect last month, which compels adoption agencies to facilitate the adoption of children by homosexual couples.

According to Harriet Harman MP, the Minister for Women and Equality, the Equality Bill currently being debated [since withdrawn by Harman the day after this blog was posted and barely three days since the Pope made the above statement] aims to "tackle inequality and root out discrimination".

The Church is not opposed to such goals and so the Bishops' Conference have said that they "welcomed the extension of protection to religious believers and measures to combat unjust discrimination against human beings, each of whom is made in the image of God."


Problems with the Equality Bill
and the ideology of equality


However, some of the measures proposed by the Equality Bill would unjustly discriminate against the Church and threaten her freedom and integrity as a community living out the Catholic faith.

The proposed law largely concerns the Church as an employer, and those classed as employees include Catholic school teachers, parish staff, diocesan youth officers and even priests.

To be more precise, the job opportunities in question must be a public role of some significance, so we are not thinking of an atheist cook in a Church-run conference centre or a Buddhist gardener in a seminary.

Much attention has been focused on Government proposals to extend equal opportunities under employment law to homosexuals, thus making it impossible for the Church to choose not to hire a homosexual who did not live according to the teachings which the Church proclaims in fidelity to Jesus Christ.

In such a case, the issue is not that the person is a homosexual per se. After all, the Catechism states that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

Rather, the problem is that the hypothetical homosexual person does not even try to live according to the Church's teaching regarding homosexuals, and indeed might have a scandalous disregard for the teachings of Christ in this area.

Moreover, the same equality laws might also disallow the Church from excluding women from the Catholic priesthood, and militant atheists might well be employed as Heads of Catholic schools. The former would contravene Church law and Catholic belief, and the latter must at the very least present a conflict of interest, if not a downright contradiction that is tantamount to a breach of the Trade Description Act!

Every organization, including the Government, expects certain standards from their employees so that they are fit for their job. Presumably the Labour party would not admit an active Tory nor give the job of Chief Whip to a Liberal Democrat or member of the BNP. Neither would the BBC hire a blind man to operate a television camera nor drive its crew around town in a van. Would Marks & Spencer be expected to hire and retain a manager who publicly denounced the company's products and told customers to take their business to Primark?

The Government proposal is thus poorly phrased, for in its obsession with an ideological equality it does not appear to show enough prudence, as the Catechism implicitly does, to distinguish between just and unjust discrimination.

For the latter is rightly to be rooted out, but the former is sometimes necessary to maintain the integrity of an organization and to ensure fitness for the job, as the above cases illustrate.

The hypothetical situations that might face the Church may be somewhat unlikely, but these potential problems are raised by the Church to test the feasibility of proposed legislation and to help Parliament to tighten and improve the Equality Bill so that those who need protection under the Law are rightly protected but without detriment to the common good, nor indeed, to common sense.

As the Bill proposed by Harriet Harman stood, there was a real risk of the Catholic Church being unjustly forced to act against her conscience and legitimate beliefs, but on 25 January, the House of Lords recognized this difficulty and voted to maintain the status quo.

As Baroness O'Cathain said: "Organisations that are based on deeply held beliefs must be free to choose their staff on the basis of whether they share those beliefs". However, there is still a chance that the Government will subsequently overturn the Lords' decision.

It is in the light of all this that the Pope (echoing Baroness O'Cathain) noted that the Equality Bill (and similar ideologically-charged legislation) imposed "unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs".

These laws are said to be unjust because they could effectively prevent religious communities from acting in a way that would safeguard their beliefs with integrity, thus violating a fundamental human right to religious freedom.


Human rights and equality
are founded on Natural Law


In the eyes of the secular media, the Pope's address has been seen as an assault on what Western society holds dear - tolerance, non-discrimination and fairness. These values lie at the heart of the Equality Bill, and Harriet Harman argues that "equality is ... right in principle" and "fairness is the foundation for individual rights".

But why is equality "right in principle"? What causes human beings to be equal in dignity? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Equality, liberty and fraternity: are these not the hallmarks of our enlightened Western society? But where do these ideas come from and who guarantees them? Is it the State? If so, then human rights are simply a kind of positive law which could change according to circumstance and political exigencies.

There is already this risk of reducing human rights to what the State or democratic society is willing to grant. Thus, the unborn and the terminally ill and aged are defined as non-human and not protected by the law: they have no human rights since they are not considered human.

Every tyrannical regime does the same thing: they de-humanize a group, strips them of human dignity and then consequently denies them fundamental human rights.

Yet, the fact that we can say, for example, that the Nazis who enacted positive laws violated human rights, means that ultimately we recognize that human rights are not just a matter of positive law but transcend politics and the positive laws of the State.

Thus, human rights are founded on something in our very nature as human beings. As Raymond Plant put it, human rights are "rights which we bear in respect of our specific human capacities, rather than as a member of this nation or this culture rather than that".

In other words, human rights are firmly rooted in natural law, i.e., the very nature of human beings as creatures endowed by God with reason and conscience. This idea is implicit in the UN's Declaration and it is evident in the UN’s Palais des Nations in Geneva which employs Biblical texts and Christian imagery in its architecture, thus underlining the link between Christianity and human rights, like the link of a mother to her child.

This is not to say that the idea of natural law is intrinsically Christian. In fact, it goes back to the Greeks who distinguished between human laws (positive law) and a higher law of nature according to which we are made (natural law).

Thus Aristotle said that "what is natural has the same validity everywhere alike", and Cicero said that "what is right and true is also eternal, and does not begin or end with written statutes".

So, the Church, in affirming the universal and innate nature of human rights, says that "the ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human beings, [nor] in the reality of the State, [nor] in public powers, but in man himself and in God his creator".

Slurs are often made against Joseph Ratzinger for having lived under the Nazi regime but those who are sensible realize that this man knows first hand what it is to have lived under an atheistic government.

He knows that human rights are "incomprehensible without the presupposition that Man [by the simple reason of his being human] is the subject of rights" that are "discovered but not invented" by the State.

An example from the history of jurisprudence may serve to illustrate this point. In the 16th century, the Spanish Dominican friar, Francisco de Vitoria, observed the injustice being done in Latin America. The indigenous were being enslaved and exploited on the basis that they were uncivilized or even non-human. As yet, there was no firm concept of international law, and States effectively did as they pleased and plundered the Americas.

De Vitoria, who is often considered the founder of international law, held that "the law of nations was a direct derivation of natural law”, and his juridical genius was to place human rights on a universal, fundamentally human level that transcended states and cultures.

Human rights thus acquired the force of moral law on an international scale and these took precedence over the positive law of the State. In effect, this notion of human rights is what we have inherited today, and it is rooted in the dignity of humankind as created in the image of God, and thus in our equality as children of God the Father.

Therefore, St Thomas Aquinas saw natural law as a "participation" in eternal law. This is to say that human nature, because it has the powers of reason and conscience, shares or participates in God's being. So, when we encounter another human person, we encounter God and we ought to give him or her due respect and honour. Thus, Christ said that when we love our brothers and sisters, we are loving Him, God.

Seen in the light of natural law and the Christian faith, then, Harriet Harman's Bill does not go far enough. We ought not just to tolerate the other, or just give the other legally-enforced fairness. No, the Christian Law is the Law of Love, which means that we actively seek the eternal good of the other, loving the neighbour as we love God and as we love ourselves.


Violating the Natural Law?

Therefore, it is in this tradition, and with these ideas of the natural law that Pope Benedict made his critique. As we have seen, natural law was seen as a higher law than positive law.

Hence, Cicero stated that "in the very definition of the term 'law' there inheres the idea and principle of choosing what is just and true ... Therefore Law is the distinction between things just and unjust, made in agreement with that primal and most ancient of all things, Nature; and in conformity to Nature's standard are framed those human laws which inflict punishment upon the wicked but defend and protect the good."

We have noted how the Equality Bill does not know how to distinguish between the just and unjust, and although it has a concept of human rights and equality, it values these in isolation, divorced from any understanding of the natural law.

And it does this because Western society, rather schizophrenically, has increasingly championed the notion of universal human rights, but has also increasingly rejected any notion of a universal human nature.

On the other hand, the Church has a clear understanding of a universal human nature, perceiving the end for which we have been made, and the purpose of our powers of reason and conscience.

So, the Second Vatican Council said that "since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mystery of God, Who is the ultimate goal of man, she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the innermost truth about himself. The Church truly knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer".

It is on this understanding of the human person, which is deeply purposive, that the Church is able to speak of the natural law, and thence of human rights. Humanity has these universal rights for a reason: so as to enable all human beings to flourish and ultimately, uplifted by grace, to reach the goal of their deepest longings.

What does the Pope mean when he says that the "in some respects [equal opportunity legislation] actually violates the natural law"?

He most certainly does not mean that it is unnatural to strive for equality and fairness. Neither does he think it is good to discriminate unjustly against any people in society.

However, he does seem concerned that the Government's championing of the ideology of equality, divorced from its philosophical foundation in natural law, means that some laws, do not actually promote the flourishing of humankind according to their universal human nature.

And the Pope does not just have the Equality Bill in mind but also the Sexual Orientation Regulations which have affected the Church's adoption agencies.

The issue on which this coalesces, then, is one which excites the media and which Western society finds controversial, namely, homosexuality.

More precisely, as we have seen above, the issue is not about homosexuality per se, but so-called practising homosexuality. For the Church actually distinguishes between the homosexual orientation and the sexual acts that one with such an orientation chooses to do.

The media and our society often fail to make this kind of distinction, seeing sexual activity as an inevitable expression of one's sexuality. Therefore, society thinks that to discriminate against homosexuals would be to violate their fundamental human right to sexual expression and love.

Christians, who believe that God is love, would certainly agree that love is a fundamental human right, but it is less clear how sexual expression is a human right.

For if that is so, then we religious and priests - including the Pope - would be denied a fundamental human right! But perhaps some people do think we are less-than-human...

Contrary to what our sex-obsessed world seems to think, sexual intercourse is not a fundamental human right, and although life may be poorer without it, one is no less human without it.

For a celibate Christian, life is enriched by friendship and the love of God through love for our neighbour. Thus, St Teresa of Calcutta has been called a deeply erotic woman, for she expressed her sexuality through a life poured out for others.

But that might sound strange when we have become so accustomed to think of sex as a means to our own pleasure rather than as a gift of oneself to another person, and the pleasure we receive as a result of this self donation.

We need to bear the above in mind if we are to even try to understand what the Pope has said and why natural law comes into the discussion on homosexuality.

The Church does not unjustly discriminate against homosexuals nor does she treat them unfairly. However, she does want to help homosexuals to live according to their human nature so that they can flourish and grow as human beings.

So, we are all free to love and to express that love in accordance with our human nature. But we are not free to express that love in a way that violates our human nature, or even human mores.

We know the latter all too well in our generation as we are faced with the atrocity of paedophilia. But again, what we seem to have in Western society is a morality just founded on positive laws but the State has ignored the very law of nature.

As such, the State posits that people of the same sex are free to marry (or form 'civil partnerships'), adopt and form a family, and engage in sexual intercourse. Indeed, the State equates the social and moral value of homosexual acts with heterosexual acts. By doing all this, the natural law is violated.

This is what Pope Benedict had in mind when he said back in December 2008:

If the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected, this is not some antiquated metaphysics.

What is involved here is faith in the Creator and a readiness to listen to the “language” of creation. To disregard this would be the self-destruction of man himself, and hence the destruction of God’s own work.


Then, as now, the media reacted intemperately, refusing to countenance a vision of the human person that differed from the common view of modern society.


Building a just, fair and peaceful society

Nevertheless, society is relentless in claiming more and more human rights, building a fortress of rights on a foundation of clouds because it denies the natural law.

Blessed John XXIII was one of the first popes to use the language of human rights, but he balanced those rights with a careful "observance of the divinely established order", and of corresponding rights and responsibilities as the only way to attain global peace. Why? Because this balance is founded on the more fundamental and God-given notions of justice and the equal dignity of humankind.

Thus John XXIII explains:

In human society one man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right. Every basic human right draws its authoritative force from the natural law, which confers it and attaches to it its respective duty.

Hence, to claim one's rights and ignore one's duties, or only half fulfill them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other.



Harriet Harman rightly desires to create a "peaceful society" based on equality and fairness. She is joined by Christians in this desire, but not at the expense of our duty to uphold the natural law.

There is much talk of rights these days, but hardly anything is said of our responsibility to God, to creation, to society and the common good. We have become like teenagers who demand more freedom and rights but fail to do our chores and face our responsibilities!

The Church does not like to be cast as the nagging mother, but someone has to do the job and remind us that rights come with responsibilities and that we cannot impugn the natural law as we please.

Church men like the Dominican friars De Vitoria, De Soto and Las Casas once helped their nation to see that they could not ignore natural law and destroy the Americas as they pleased.

So too today, the Pope has called on the Bishops of England & Wales and the people of our countries to heed the natural law and curb our desire to do as we please.

We have been given rights as citizens. It is our corresponding duty to help our legislators to frame good law that is just and fair. Moreover, as Christians, citizens of God's kingdom, we have also been given the duty of transforming this world through God's Law of Love.

And this Love alone is the ground and guarantee of a society in which, as Harriet Harman says, "everyone [has the] opportunity to fulfil their potential", and it is in God that we have true equality, fraternity and liberty.

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08/02/2010 00.13
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This begins as a sort of review of the filn Avatar but segues beautifully into discussing a new book on the 'faith instinct' - an argument by ane volutionary biologist that argues for a sense of the transcendent being hardwired into the human DNA, similar to discussions on a 'God gene' postulated by some neuroscientists in recent years.


'Avatar' and the faith instinct
by Jonah Goldberg
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December 31, 2009


You probably don't need a long synopsis of James Cameron's half-billion-dollar epic "Avatar," in part because even if you haven't seen it, you've seen it. As many reviewers have noted, Cameron rips off Hollywood cliches to the point you could cut and paste dialogue from "Pocahontas" or "Dances With Wolves" into "Avatar" without appreciably changing the story.

In short, "Avatar" tells the tale of a disabled Marine, Jake Sully, who occupies the body of a 10-foot-tall alien so he can live among the mystical forest denizens of the moon world Pandora. Sully is sent in mufti, like a futuristic Lawrence of Arabia, to further the schemes of the evil corporate nature-rapists desperate to obtain the precious mineral "unobtainium" (no, really).

Jake inevitably goes native, embraces the eco-faith of Pandora's Na'Vi inhabitants and their tree goddess, the "all mother," and rallies the Pandoran aborigines (not to mention the Pandoran ecosystem itself) against the evil forces of a thinly veiled 22nd-century combine of Blackwater and Halliburton.

The film has been subjected to a sustained assault from many on the right, most notably by Ross Douthat in The New York Times, as an "apologia for pantheism."

Douthat's criticisms hit the mark, but the most relevant point was raised by John Podhoretz in The Weekly Standard. Cameron wrote "Avatar," says Podhoretz, "not to be controversial, but quite the opposite: He was making something he thought would be most pleasing to the greatest number of people."

What would have been controversial is if -- somehow -- Cameron had made a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts.

Of course, that sounds outlandish and absurd, but that's the point, isn't it? We live in an age in which it's the norm to speak glowingly of spirituality but derisively of traditional religion. If the Na'Vi were Roman Catholics, there would be boycotts and protests. Make the oversized Smurfs Rousseauian noble savages and everyone nods along, save for a few cranky right-wingers.

I'm certainly one of those cranky right-wingers, though I probably enjoyed the movie as cinematic escapism as much as the next guy.

But what I find interesting about the film is how what is "pleasing to the most people" is so unapologetically religious.

Nicholas Wade's new book, The Faith Instinct, lucidly compiles the scientific evidence that humans are hard-wired to believe in the transcendent. That transcendence can be divine or simply Kantian, a notion of something unknowable from mere experience.

Either way, in the words of philosopher Will Herberg, "Man is homo religiosus, by 'nature' religious: as much as he needs food to eat or air to breathe, he needs a faith for living."

Wade argues that the Darwinian evolution of man depended not only on individual natural selection but also on the natural selection of groups. And groups that subscribe to a religious worldview are more apt to survive -- and hence pass on their genes.

Religious rules impose moral norms that facilitate collective survival in the name of a "cause larger than yourself," as we say today. No wonder everything from altruism to martyrdom are part of nearly every faith.

The faith instinct may be baked into our genes, but it is also profoundly malleable. Robespierre, the French revolutionary who wanted to replace Christianity with a new "age of reason," emphatically sought to exploit what he called the "religious instinct which imprints upon our souls the idea of a sanction given to moral precepts by a power that is higher than man."

Many environmentalists are open about their desire to turn their cause into a religious imperative akin to the plight of the Na'Vi, hence Al Gore's uncontroversial insistence that global warming is a "spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

The symbolism and rhetoric behind Barack Obama's campaign was overtly religious at times, as when he proclaimed that "we are the ones we've been waiting for" -- a line that could have come straight out of the mouths of Cameron's Na'Vi.

What I find fascinating, and infuriating, is how the culture-war debate is routinely described by antagonists on both sides as a conflict between the religious and the un-religious. The faith instinct manifests itself across the ideological spectrum, even if it masquerades as something else.

On the right, many conservatives have been trying to fashion what might be called theological diversity amid moral unity. Culturally conservative Catholics, Protestants and -- increasingly -- Jews find common cause.

The left is undergoing a similar process, but the terms of the debate are far more inchoate and fluid.

What is not happening is a similar effort between left and right, which is why the culture war, like the faith instinct, isn't going away any time soon.


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The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why it Endures.
By Nicholas Wade. Penguin Press; 310 pages



Spirit level: Why the human race
has needed religion to survive

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WHEREVER their investigations lead, all analysts of religion begin somewhere. And in the final lines of his densely but skilfully packed account of faith from the viewpoint of evolutionary biology, Nicholas Wade recalls the place where he first felt sanctity: Eton College chapel.

The “beauty of holiness” in a British private school is a far cry from the sort of religion that later came to interest him as a science journalist at Nature magazine and then the New York Times.

To examine the roots of religion, he says, it is important to look at human beginnings. The customs of hunter-gatherer peoples who survived into modern times give an idea of religion’s first forms: the ecstasy of dusk-to-dawn tribal dances, for example.

Charles Darwin, whose idea of the sacred also came from an English private school, witnessed religion at its most primordial when he went to Australia in 1836. He found it horrifying: “nearly naked figures, viewed by the light of blazing fires, all moving in hideous harmony…”

Whatever Darwin’s personal sensibilities, Mr Wade is convinced that a Darwinian approach offers the key to understanding religion. In other words, he sides with those who think man’s propensity for religion has some adaptive function.

According to this view, faith would not have persisted over thousands of generations if it had not helped the human race to survive. Among evolutionary biologists, this idea is contested. Critics of religion, like Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker, suggest that faith is a useless (or worse) by-product of other human characteristics.

And that controversy leads to another one. Does Darwinian selection take place at the level only of individuals, or of groups as well? As Mr Wade makes clear, the notion of religion as an “adaptive” phenomenon makes better sense if one accepts the idea of group selection. Groups which practised religion effectively and enjoyed its benefits were likely to prevail over those which lacked these advantages.

Of course, the picture is muddied by the vast changes that religion went through in the journey from tribal dancing to Anglican hymns. The advent of settled, agricultural societies, at least 10,000 years ago, led to a new division of labour, in which priestly castes tried to monopolise access to the divine, and the authorities sought to control sacred ecstasy.

Still, the modifications that religion has undergone should not, in Mr Wade’s view, distract from the study of faith’s basic functions.

In what way, then, does religion enhance a group’s survival? Above all, by promoting moral rules and cementing cohesion, in a way that makes people ready to sacrifice themselves for the group and to deal ruthlessly with outsiders.

These arguments are well made. Mr Wade has a clear mind and limpid prose style which guides the reader almost effortlessly through 200 years of intellectual history. Perhaps, though, he oversimplifies the link between morality, in the sense of obedience to rules, and group solidarity based on common participation in ecstatic rites.

All religion is concerned in varying degrees with metaphysical ideas, moral norms and mystical experience. But in the great religions, the moral and the mystical have often been in tension. The more a religion stresses ecstasy, the less it seems hidebound by rules especially rules of public behaviour, as opposed to purely religious norms. And religious movements (from the “Deuteronomists” of ancient Israel to the English Puritans) that emphasise moral norms tend to eschew the ecstatic.

Max Weber, one of the fathers of religious sociology, contrasted the transcendental feelings enjoyed by Catholic mass-goers with the Protestant obsession with behaviour.

In Imperial Russia, Peter the Great tried to pull the Russian Orthodox church from the former extreme to the latter: to curb its love of rite and mystery and make it more of a moral agency like the Lutheran churches of northern Europe. He failed. Russians liked things mystical, and they didn’t like being told what to do.

As well as giving an elegant summary of modern thinking about religion, Mr Wade also offers a brief, provocative history of monotheism.

He endorses the radical view that the story of the Jews’ flight from Egypt is myth, rather than history. He sympathises with daring ideas about Islam’s beginnings: so daring that many of its proponents work under false names. In their view, Islam is more likely to have emerged from dissident Christian sects in the Levant than to have “burst out of Arabia”, as the Muslim version of sacred history teaches.

At times, the book stumbles. In describing the interplay between Hellenic and Hebrew culture at the dawning of Christianity, Mr Wade makes exaggerated claims. He says there is no basis for a mother-and-child cult in the religion of Israel. In fact there are many references in the Hebrew scriptures to the Messiah and his mother; the Dead Sea Scrolls have made this even clearer. And his micro-history of Christian theology is inaccurate in places.

These objections aside, this is a masterly book. It lays the basis for a rich dialogue between biology, social science and religious history. It also helps explain a quest for collective ecstasy that can take myriad forms.

Perhaps his brief autobiographical reference to Eton should have noted the bonding effect not only of chapel, but also of songs like “Jolly Boating Weather”.


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/02/2010 00.18]
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