Monday, April 21, 2008

No Remorse

I am often told that I am supposed to respect others' opinions. This perplexes me. As an absolutist about free speech, I certainly respect everyone's right to have and express an opinion. In fact, under certain circumstances, I can even respect the person expressing the opinion. But as for the opinions themselves, I believe that the only opinions worth respecting are those that satisfy the minimal requirements of reasonableness, rationality and counterfactual sensitivity (i.e. sensitivity and/or adaptability to possible counterevidence). Religious beliefs do not satisfy any of these criteria. Ergo, I disrespect all religious belief.

However, if am being unreasonable, irrational, or counterfactually insensitive, please let me know.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Slave New World

Karl Marx's "On the Jewish Question" is arguably the greatest essay of political philosophy of the 19th Century. In it, Marx argues that there can be political emancipation without human emancipation. For Marx, this meant that individuals can obtain and exercise their full rights as citizens of a secular state in spite of their religious beliefs. However, Marx's essay was far from a glowing endorsement of the modern democratic state. In fact, Marx believed that the modern secular state provided an illusory mode of social recognition that concealed the manifest social alienation necessitated by the capitalist economic system. He believed that the twofold existence of the individual - his existence as citizen of the state and as economic participant in civil society - are irreconcilable, and therein lies his political estrangement. Religion, according to Marx, was the spiritual analogue of the state. Both the state and religion function to redress the alienation precipitated by the forces of production, by displacing the individual's universal existence to another sphere. For Marx, religion is merely the symptom of a mode of political alienation.

I remain unconvinced. For one thing, I do not share with Marx any hope of a utopian economic and political structure that resolves all forms of social alienation. Furthermore, even if such a system could be achieved, religious irrationality would still subvert and destabilize the system's social and political gains. Marx is right to think that religious fanaticism is (often) a consequence of social instability; but he seems not to recognize the ways in which religion precipitates this very instability. The direction of influence goes both ways.



Sunday, April 6, 2008

Anonymous and Scientology

Because it matters. Because it is an affront to the values of free speech and free will. Because it is full of outright lies. Because it is utterly hypocritical and devoid of ethical action. Because Scientology, like Creationism, actually stands a chance towards political influence and dragging down what we, as humans, have worked so hard for in the past few centuries. Because we are a part of a distributed network for the first time able to effectively combat a centralized organization which has proven itself to be strongly anti-life, anti-humanity, and unethical.

Watch it, learn about it, and understand the model and how it applies to a great deal else in the world. When the general public response to organizations like this, or Creationists trying to take over the educational system is "Well, why even bother? What does it matter?" you should be anxious for the future. Why are we still not up in arms over the Patriot Act, and why don't people realize that it is exactly the same tactic that Scientology uses to suppress its defectors and opponents?

Who is Anonymous? We all are, when we chose to educate ourselves, spread the message, and act.