APHORISM: “On Veterans Day” / Madison S. Hughes

By Madison S. Hughes (11.11.2011, revised 11.10.2013)

Veterans Day, like many if not most American holidays, is a paradoxical celebration at best, a fraud at worst, and intentionally so. Be it known to those who have not “served” in the military, that military personnel are not the heroes the media, and politicians make us out to be. We are simply economic conscripts trying to survive in an oligarchy of which most of us do not realize we are of part.

So, as one celebrates this Veterans Day, think less about the veterans themselves, and more about why we as country continue to have such an unquestioning demand for their inhumane services. For example, one may reflect upon the huge, tax evading, profit driven multinational corporations run by an oligarchy that rules the country that many mistake for a democracy.

ALWAYS QUESTION AUTHORITY 2013 IN REVIEW: “Thank You 125,092 Visitors and 347 Followers”

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

EXPOSITORY ESSAY: “Atheism, Agnosticism, and Antitheism” / Madison S. Hughes

By Madison S. Hughes (06.21.2012)

Atheism, Agnosticism and Antitheism

It is by our beliefs, knowledge and values that we define ourselves, and are judged by others. Many are willing to kill, or be killed for such abstract concepts without even a rudimentary understanding of the abstraction for which they are all too willing to meet their maker. Atheism, agnosticism and antitheism are three commonly misunderstood terms that describe beliefs, knowledge and values respectively. Analytically defining each word will show a direct correlation between each term, and their respective abstract concept for which they describe. It will prove beneficial to any reader’s future conversations, correspondence, or consternations concerning atheism, agnosticism, and antitheism.

Atheism

Atheism is a term that describes one’s rejection of supernatural belief. Simply put, a theist is one with a belief in a supernatural deity, or deities; while an atheist is one without a belief in a supernatural deity, or deities. The American Atheist organization founded in 1963 by “Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the noted atheist activist, [who] as the result of her successful battle against mandatory school prayer, and Bible recitation” [was responsible for their removal from public schools] defines atheism as follows (About):

Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists, but natural phenomena (matter), that thought is a property or function of matter, and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units. This definition means that there are no forces, phenomena, or entities which exist outside of, or apart from physical nature, or which transcend nature, or are “super” natural, nor can there be. Humankind is on its own. (Atheism)

When it comes to a belief in the supernatural one must either be a theist, or an atheist, for no other alternatives are available. This is not a false dilemma. One cannot kind of, sort of believe, but not really. It would be analogous to kind of, sort of being dead; it is not possible. One is either dead or alive. Likewise, one is either a theist or an atheist. In both cases there are no other alternatives available. Atheism is concerned with belief.

Agnosticism

Often, because of the negative emotive connotations associated with the word atheist, people will incorrectly use the term agnostic to describe their lack of belief in an intellectually vain attempt to avoid being labeled the pejoratively and socially stigmatic term atheist. It is intellectually dishonest to do so, for “agnosticism is the position of believing that knowledge of the existence or non-existence of god is impossible. . . . The agnostic holds that human knowledge is limited to the natural world, that the mind is incapable of knowledge of the supernatural” (Agnosticism). Agnosticism is not an undecided position concerning belief between a theist, and an atheist. As previously shown theism, and atheism describe belief. One cannot use the term agnostic as a surrogate to describe one’s belief. Agnosticism is concerned with knowledge.

Antitheism

“Antitheism is active opposition to theism. . . . it typically refers to direct opposition to organized religion, or to the belief in any deity” (Antitheism). An antitheist values truth over unity, while it is observable that theists value unity over truth. For example, an antitheist will overtly, and without reservation, claim that anyone who believes in the story of a talking snake is irrational. Conversely, the theists would not concern themselves with the antitheist’s claimed irrationality of a talking snake so long as the unity of their cult, church, or community is maintained.

Most antitheists are so because they “take the view that theism is dangerous or destructive” (Antitheism). Many antitheists are strident in their opposition to theism. The late Christopher Hitchens who in his 2001 book Letters to a Young Contrarian, wrote, “I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful” (Antitheism). Antitheists look at the negative effect of religious belief on society. They believe that the influence of the churches is unnecessary for positive effects to be made in society. Secular institutions such as the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, Planned Parenthood, Amnesty International, PlanUSA, etc. do so demonstratively with neither a need for the promise of salvation, nor the fear of damnation. Antitheism is concerned with values.

The metaphysical misunderstanding of abstract concepts such as belief, knowledge and values need not continue to thrive in a culture of intolerance. A simple analytical understanding of the definitions of atheism, agnosticism, and antitheism clearly shows their respective correlation to belief, knowledge and values respectively.

Atheism is concerned with belief.
Agnosticism is concerned with knowledge.
Antitheism is concerned with values.

Works Cited

“About.” American Atheists. Ed. Admin. American Atheists, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 June 2012.

“Agnosticism.” The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Ed. Robert T. Carroll. The Skeptic’s    Dictionary,  19 May 2012. Web. 19 June 2012.

“Antitheism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 June 2012. Web. 19 June 2012.

“Atheism.” American Atheists. Ed. Admin. American Atheists, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 June 2012.

Related articles

PHILOSOPHY ESSAY: “God is dead!” / Madison S. Hughes

By Madison S. Hughes (06.05.2013)

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

God is dead!

“Being ‘a Nietzschean’ is no more possible than following someone else’s orders
to be free! After all, it was Nietzsche himself who insisted that ‘Those who
understand me, understand that I can have no disciples’” (Soccio, 477).

This essay will embrace Nietzsche’s philosophy because he proposed that God is dead, life is meaningless, and fate trumps faith. Ultimately, he provided an alternative philosophy of life that is life affirming. The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) has many distracters, for a myriad of reasons. Undoubtedly, most of those in opposition to Nietzsche’s philosophy base their objections on a misperceived threat to their firmly indoctrinated religious beliefs. While this essay may not dissuade those distracters from their religious beliefs, for that is not its purpose, it may help clarify a few of their misperceptions. To illustrate, we begin with one of philosophy’s most contentious, yet misunderstood quotes.

God is Dead

Nietzsche first proposed that God is dead in his 1882 book The Gay Science when he declared,

‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.’ By this Nietzsche means that society no longer has a use for God; the belief does not in any way help the survival of the species, rather it hinders. (Jackson 56)

Clearly we cannot hold Nietzsche solely responsible for God’s death, nay; Nietzsche was more like a messenger. “Nietzsche claimed he was the first to have “discovered” the death of God. In part, he meant that the idea of God has lost its full creative force, its full power” (Soccio, 468). Recall that Nietzsche witnessed the world through the great transformation of a rural agrarian society rapidly morphing into vast urban sprawls caused by the industrial revolution. He was born less than fifty years after great minds of the scientific revolution nearly liberated humanity from the clench of the Church in the 17th and 18th centuries. While Nietzsche and other great minds of his day could see the dethronement of God before their eyes,

[t]he full extent of the dethronement of God is not yet felt by the great masses, who still believe that they believe in God. Yet if we dig deep into our own psyches, Nietzsche prophesied, we will discover that we no longer have ultimate faith in God: Our true faith is in scientific and technological progress. (468)

“And even though some of us may sense that the old religions are dead and dying, [many] remain unable to face the consequences of life without God” (469).

Life is Meaningless

While the conviction of Supernatural belief provides many with inner comfort, the external Cosmos is not privy to such conviction, and, like it or not, the universe lacks objective meaning and purpose. “Copernicus and Galileo had forever changed our sense of scale: The earth is a tiny, virtually invisible speck in a massive, purposeless universe. ‘What are we doing when we unchained the earth from the sun’” (469)? What’s more, “Darwin had forever altered our sense of ourselves as God’s special creation. The new image of merely human beings is ignoble: We are but one species among millions struggling to survive, descendants of some primordial ooze” (469). These astronomic, and evolutionary biological discoveries led many to a great sense of emptiness.

According to Nietzsche, the death of God leads to nihilism. From the Latin word for ‘nothing,’ nihilism refers to the belief that the universe lacks objective meaning and purpose. . . . Nietzsche predicted that nihilism would be the wave of the future (our present). He predicted that as more and more people perceive religious values to be empty and science as having no meaning or purpose to offer us, a sense of emptiness would initially prevail: It all amounts to nothing. Life is a cosmic accident. There is no Supernatural order; no divinely or rationally ordained goal. (470)

One must be careful not to mistake Nietzsche as a nihilist. He is saying that both Supernatural belief, and superficial values imposed by the Church have proven only to shackle humanity’s mind, and as time goes on will be shown to be fatuous. Nietzsche, like his pessimistic predecessor, Arthur Schopenhauer, had a great appreciation for the aesthetics. Many of us agree, and are quite comfortable with the fact, that the universe lacks objective meaning and purpose; however, the masses are not so content with these facts, and most require faith and external authority to get them through the human condition. Nietzsche offers a viable alternative approach to life for those seeking meaning in a postmodern world.

Fate Trumps Faith

In the infancy of humanity, the benighted masses relied on faith to provide solace for the unexplainable and uncomfortable realities of the human condition. Humankind has evolved from its insipid infancy to the adolescent age of postmodernism. However, this maturity is not without its price, for it requires that we, as individuals, now take individual responsibility for our own existence. Nietzsche expressed this transition from faith to fate when he stated:

In the absence of God . . . we must redeem ourselves with the sacred Yes to life expressed through amor fati, the love of our specific fate expressed as joyous affirmation and delight that everything is exactly as and what it is. (476)

In his 1882 comment titled “For the New Year,” Nietzsche expressed amor fati quite eloquently when he penned,

Amor fati: may that be my love from now on! I want to wage war against the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. May looking away be my only form of negation! And, in all: I want to be at all times hereafter only an affirmer. (478)

“Nietzsche saw nihilism as a positive affirmation of life, to be freed of the burden of hope in an afterlife, in salvation. You should love your fate without the need of fictions and false securities to comfort you” (Jackson 103).

Conclusion

Since God is dead, life is meaningless, and fate trumps faith, it is clear that an alternative philosophy of life is necessary, and Nietzsche provided an alternative philosophy of life that is life affirming. Surely Nietzsche distracters have not been dissuaded from their religious beliefs; however, maybe, just maybe, a few of their misperceptions have been clarified.

“Inasmuch as at all times, as long as there have been human beings, there have
been herds of men (clans, communities, tribes, people, states, churches) and
always a great many people who obeyed, compared with the small number
of those commanding . . . it may fairly be assumed that the need for
[herding together] is now innate in the average man. . . .”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Works Cited

Jackson, Roy. Teach Yourself Nietzsche. First ed. United States: McGraw-Hill, 2008. Print.

Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. Seventh ed.    United States: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.

ESSAY: Madison S. Hughes / “Religious Privilege: A Nonconscious Ideology”

By Madison S. Hughes (07.19.2012)

Religious Privilege: A Nonconscious Ideology

            History is paved with the pervasiveness of religious privilege, and in contemporary United States the zeitgeist of religious privilege, especially Christian privilege, is at an historical zenith. Religious privilege has so saturated our society that it is the status quo. To pronounce discontent with this implicit entitlement would be the equivalent of a flailing fish expressing oneself on the bank of the River Styx. A mere mention of the existence of religious privilege ignites a cry of war on “religious freedom” from those of the privileged religious right. Religious privilege is pandemic, and its correlative problems, which range from group divisiveness to genocidal death, are plethoric. In a constitutionally secular society like the United States the privileging of any specific ideology is a threat to its democratic principles, and a trail littered with the crumbs of religious privilege ultimately leads to a theocracy not a democracy. Religious privilege is pervasive and problematic. The first step of problem solving is to identify the problem that the privileging of religion represents, which is that the privileging of any ideology in a democratic society undermines the bedrock of democracy itself. This paper will take the axiomatical first step of problem solving, the ability to identify the problem, and consider a few of the spectres haunting our secular society.

            In a predominantly nonreflective consumer culture, of which one may easily argue we are part, it is intellectually undemanding to understand how the existence of religious privilege, and its negative corollary impact, escapes “folks.” In Lewis Schlosser’s 2003 article “Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo,” published in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, he explains:

One possible explanation for the existence of Christian privilege is the notion of a “nonconscious ideology” (Bem & Bem, 1970, p. 89). Bem and Bem first defined the concept of a nonconscious ideology to describe how implicit beliefs and attitudes are used to maintain the status quo in terms of gender inequality. They used the analogy of a fish and its environment to illustrate their concept of nonconscious ideology. A fish does not know its environment is wet, because that is all it knows and all it has ever experienced. The fish has no idea that anything else exists besides water because it has never had to think about any other possibilities. (Schlosser 47)

The nonreflective folks that constitute the majority of contemporary society are too busy chasing the shiny objects of their next desires to reflect long enough to recognize the nonconscious ideology of religious privilege, for most folk have no idea that anything else exists; however, some salient spectres are not so translucent.

            Religious Privilege may be used as a defense to circumvent one’s civic “duty” to country. Richard Dawkins addresses this in his “Undeserved Respect” section of his book The God Delusion:

By far the easiest grounds for gaining conscientious objector status in wartime are religious. You can be a brilliant moral philosopher with a prizewinning doctoral thesis expounding the evils of war, and still be given a hard time by a draft board evaluating your claim to be a conscientious objector. Yet if you say that one or both of your parents is a Quaker you sail through like a breeze, no matter how illiterate you may be on the theory of pacifism or, indeed, Quakerism itself. (Dawkins 21)

Interestingly, it is worth noting that the Republican politician, Richard Milhous Nixon was a Quaker. Although he never saw combat, he did serve in the United States Navy, and did not claim conscientious objector status, but as a Quaker he well could have. Had he done so, this would not have disqualified him from later becoming the 37th President of the United States, and as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military sending 21,041 non-conscientious objectors to their ultimate deaths in Vietnam (Wiener). Religious privilege is not limited only to those threatened by death on the battlefield, no, it is also reserved for those whose health is threatened here in the Community Colleges of California.

            There are various fee waiver programs available to college students. One such program offered in California Community Colleges is the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver Program (BOGW). This is primarily awarded to those that can prove a financial need based on low-income—not religious privilege. “For eligible California residents, the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver permits enrollment [tuition] fees to be waived” (BOG). Another fee waiver program available to California Community Colleges students is the Health Fee waiver. “However, provisions in the Education Code . . . exempt students from the health fee who depend exclusively upon prayer for healing in accordance with the teachings of a bona fide religious sect, denomination, or organization” [emphasis added] (Bruckman). To be clear, a struggling college student, in whatever dire circumstance they may be bound, may live with constant hunger pangs wondering from where the next meal is going to come, but because they do not depend exclusively upon prayer for healing must pay a Health Fee. However, this struggling college student’s wealthy classmate, who is not burdened with such unfortunate circumstance, that claims to depend exclusively upon prayer for healing would have his/her Health Fee waived. This is pure, in-your-face religious privilege, and if one were to demand a revocation of such blatant injustice the reactive cry of a “war on religious freedom” would be as predictable as Roman Catholic Bill O’Reilly’s annual cry of the “war on Christmas” coupled with his simultaneous silence on the pandemic of predator priests raping children.

            Child rape is considered such a vile act that even among prisoners child rapists are often segregated from the general population for protection of their lives. However, child rape is no so reviled when committed by a Catholic Priest. In fact, religious privilege acts a refuge for the priesthood with total disregard to their victims. In his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens implicitly addresses how we, as a nonconscious ideological society, euphemistically allow religious privilege to label Catholic Priests guilty of child rape instead as child abusers:

Again, how shall we reckon the harm done by dirty old men and hysterical spinsters, appointed as clerical guardians to supervise the innocent in orphanages and schools? The Roman Catholic Church in particular is having to answer this question in the most painful of ways, by calculating the monetary value of child abuse in terms of compensation. Billions of dollars have already been awarded, but there is no price put on the generations of boys and girls who were introduced to sex in the most alarming and disgusting ways by those whom they and their parents trusted. “Child abuse” is really a silly and pathetic euphemism for what has been going on: we are talking about the systematic rape and torture of children, positively aided and abetted by a hierarchy which knowingly moved the grossest offenders to parishes where they would be safer. (Hitchens 227)

The fourth estate of our nonconscious ideological society extends its religious privilege not only euphemistically, but quantitatively as well. Recently, this was evident in the national media’s asymmetrical coverage of the “child abuse” verdicts of former Penn State college football coach Jerry Sandusky and U.S. Catholic Priest Monsignor William Lynn.

            On Friday, June 22, 2012, Jerry Sandusky, now a household name to many, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual molestation. A July 16, 2012 Google search of “Jerry Sandusky verdict” yielded a News results total of 9,780, and “Coach Jerry Sandusky verdict” yielded 30,100 News results. A three-fold increase in News results was realized when Jerry Sandusky’s secular title “Coach” was added. Hold that thought.

            On that same day, within hours of each other, in a landmark clergy-abuse trial Monsignor William Lynn, a name not even recognized by most fundamental Catholics, was convicted of child endangerment making him the first U.S. church official branded a felon for covering up abuse claims. A July 16, 2012 Google search of “William Lynn verdict” yielded a News results total of 1,540, and “Monsignor William Lynn verdict” yielded 1,440 News results. Not only did the overall News results decline, but also noticeable was that the News results total decreased when William Lynn’s “religious” title “Monsignor” was prefixed to his name.

            Religious privilege is cancerous to a secular society. The nonconscious ideology of religious privilege has no place in a democracy, and absolutely no place in a secular society. We have shown how religious privilege can rear its ugly head anywhere from the highest office in the land to the battlefields on which our parents, spouses, and siblings give their lives. Currently, out of undeserved and unjustified “respect” for religious privilege, we are giving credence to the concept of superstition trumping science in the form of prayer for healing to exempt students from paying a health fee in our institutions of higher learning. Finally, and most disturbingly, history has shown that the pandemic of Catholic Priests raping our innocent children reassure religious privilege regarding persecution and prosecution for the heinous serial child rape crimes for which they have committed, and will no doubt continue to commit. Religious privileges must be identified, and not allowed to become a nonconscious ideology.

Works Cited

“BOG Fee Waiver.” CCCApply. California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, 2012. Web. 15 July 2012.

Bruckman, Steve. Implementation of AB 982 (Laird). Digital image. California Community College Chancellor’s Office. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2012.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.

Hitchens, Christopher. “Is Religion Child Abuse.” God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. 1st ed. New York: Twelve, 2007. 227-28. Print.

Schlosser, Lewis Z. “Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo.” Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development 31.January (2003): 44-51. Http://wiki.uiowa.edu/download/attachments/39006632/Christian+Privilege.pdf. University of Iowa Wiki Service. Web. June-July 2012.

Wiener, Jon. “Was Nixon Worse?” Truthdig. Zuade Kaufman, 11 Dec. 2006. Web. 15 July 2012.

POETRY: “From Sage to Philistine”

 By Madison S. Hughes (04.11.2009)

Chomsky, Vidal, Vonnegut and Zinn
Sages of generations past.
How will their prodigious wits last?

With Philistines of today
As far as the eye can see.
Oh sad, how sad, can this truly be?

APHORISM: On Optimism

By Madison S. Hughes (07.21.2012)

Optimism is a refuge reserved for the delusional and the willfully ignorant. It serves as a shallow subterfuge for ignoramuses to protect them from the depressive realism of toilful thought.