Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mere Christianity, Eastwick, the Temple Mount, and morality

Greetings.

Jewish date:  20 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Thursday of the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Protect Against Toxic Chemicals”.

Topic 1:  Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame).  I finished reading it for the second time yesterday.  Mere Christianity is an intelligent explanation of fundamental Christian doctrines, including the teachings and nature of Jesus of Nazareth, for intelligent humans and should be considered recommended reading.  Notable is Lewis’s moral proof of the existence of God.  Lewis claims that morality is a human universal.  A lot of the details vary widely among religions and cultures, but a lot of the basics are widely agreed upon, e.g. “don’t murder” and “don’t steal”.  Lewis takes the universality of human morality as a sign that there is an objective morality and as a reason to believe that God exists.  This is by no means a rock-solid proof.  A lot of basic morality could have been shaped by evolution, both genetic and cultural, to be something which yields a functional society.  Once the basic moral system was established, it could have been spread all over the planet by human migration.  Still, the idea is a worthy attempt at a proof of the existence of God.

Topic 2:  The latest episode of Eastwick, “Madams and Madames”.  (I have to suffer watching this show, so all of you must suffer along with me.)  The more I think about it, the more the character of Darryl Van Horne seems to be a combination of two characters which we are supposed to hate:  Charles “Upchuck” Ruttheimer III from Daria and Emperor Palpatine of the Star Wars Universe.  Like Upchuck, Darryl is rich, obnoxious, and has a tendency to hit on women, even when he has little chance of success.  Like Palpatine, Darryl is evil, immoral, and (one might say) an evangelist for the Dark Side—which he seriously engages in in this episode.  However, if there is any influence, it is likely The Witches of Eastwick (1984) which is the influence on Daria (1997) and the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999-2005).  However, it is possible that some influence the other way has crept in during this latest incarnation of The Witches of Eastwick; time and future reading will tell.  Other things going on in this episode:  a Christian pastor opposes Darryl’s plan to build a brewery on the grounds that the land was promised to the church.  Darryl manipulates Joanna into exposing the pastor as a hypocrite who visits a whorehouse.  (Classify that as an anti-religious cliché.)  Meanwhile, Roxanne is haunted by visions of the dead Gus, her daughter’s would-be rapist.  This leads to her consulting a medium, whom she quickly recognizes as a fake.  Gus finally goes away after Roxanne gives her condolences to his mother.  And on top of this we have Kat and Roxanne working more magic via wishes.

Topic 3:  “Factor behind Temple Mount riots” gives more background on the current round of the Israeli-Arab War, with the Arabs rioting over apparently nothing anyone actually did.  The rioting may well be a political tactic to put pressure on Israel to make concessions (a form of jihad) or deflect attention away from ‘Abbas.  “J'lem: 'We win, you lose'” looks at the issue of competing narratives of Jerusalem in the Israeli-Arab War from a game-theoretic point of view.  Current Arab refusal to acknowledge the Jewish narrative and empirically accurate history and an insistence on a fictional history of a Palestine which never existed works against any chance of making peace except under the unacceptable term of accepting the dominance of Islam.  Not to mention that lying in order to win an argument is essentially admitting that one is wrong, as if the truth were on one’s side, a lie would be unnecessary.

Topic 4:  “Orthodox focus on Jewish ethics at High Holidays”:  Just a reminder that morality is part of religion and that we should never forget it.

That’s all for today.  Happy Sukkoth.

Aaron
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