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Islam versus Enlightenment values

Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 13, 2010, 01:56:53 AM
Quote
On a Good Society
Nexus Conference, Amsterdam
13 november 2005


There are some who are inclined to think that European civilisation reached its zenith during the Middle Ages. At that time Europe knew but one religion - Christianity in its Catholic version - and but one language, at least for the elite, and that was Latin. Therefore people of all nationalities could study at the Universities of the Sorbonne or Oxford, Louvain or Bologna.

I do not agree with this thesis because I find penicillin and the modern dentist drill also important. But I recognise that a common language and framework favour communication because much which may be considered known can be omitted. I can assure you that whoever wants to talk on Java in Indonesian or in Tanzania in Swahili on local traditions, will have to start at zero. A real discussion then remains out of reach. So there is a lot to be said for such a common cadre for reference. Let us call it the canon.

It was a happy occasion when Prof. E.D. Hirsch of the University of Virginia published a book called “Cultural Literacy” in 1987. Its subtitle was: “What every American needs to know!”. Its appearance was front page news. The criticism was immediate and sharp. Prof. Hirsch was criticised for unduly concentrating on d w e m = dead white European males, and excluding other cultures as well as the experience of repressed minorities in the United States.

It is clear that this takes us to the heart of the debate on multiculturalism. The origin of this concept is to be found in anthropology. When one visits a culture in order to observe it from the inside one should abstain from letting one’s own judgements intrude. That seems common sense, even though one may well question whether certain anthropologists have obeyed this injunction. But the point I wish to make here is that this principle of non-judgmentalism has of late been allowed to spread over the whole of the public domain.

Now it is my thesis that all civilisation depends on discriminating people, on people who make judgments. I, for one, am very judgmental. I prefer Beethoven tot Hindemith and both to the bongo-players on the corner of the street. I prefer claret to beer, Japanese to German food and New York to Philadelphia. And that also goes for civilisations. Multiculturalists maintain that one cannot - or should not - rank civilisations. But I persist in believing that the civilisation of Rome was superior to that of Gaul.

My critics ask which yardstick I use. The one that most readily comes to mind is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Applying that yardstick enables me to say that I consider Unionist America to be superior to the slave-holder Confederacy and West Germany superior to communist East Germany.

It is true that the Universal Declaration is of Western origin. When it was drawn up, around the birth of the United Nations, Africa and most of Asia were still colonised. Japan, Italy and Germany had lost the war and were therefore excluded. So there was the first world - the United States, Britain, France - and the second: the Soviet Union and its satellites. The Committee to draw up the Declaration was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. When it came to the vote, the Soviet-bloc abstained. So, yes, it was of Western origin. But the incident at Tien An Men Square and many others all over the world have convinced me that all ordinary people, wherever they live, aspire to the benefits of the Universal Declaration. As such the Declaration is perhaps the greatest achievement of Western Civilisation and an argument to support the thesis of Mr.  Francis Fukuyama about the End of History and the Last Man.

If one applies the yardstick of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the islamic civilisation it ought to be clear that Western Civilisation is superior to it. Now this, say my critics, is triumphalism. But apart from the fact that personally I do not feel triumphant to all, this reproach should not blind us to the facts.  Why do so many who live in the Middle East want to settle in Western Europe? Because they think they will be happier here than there. Why do so many of them say: “Yankee go home but please take me with you”? There is none so blind as the multiculturalist ideologue.

Mr. Silvio Berlusconi said something like this a few years ago. Now I have no desire whatever to defend the Italian Prime Minister. But still, the chorus of his critics was deafening and in the end he caved in and apologized.

Why were so many people upset that Mr. Berlusconi extolled the superiority of Western over Islamic civilisation? Is it because they fear that such comparisons, although glaringly obvious to any impartial observer, will encourage terrorists? Or that it has caused the government of Iran to call the USA the great Satan and to say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth?

In my view the reason is different, namely the lack of self-confidence of Western Europe. I am here leaving aside the United States, about which others may wish to say something. Why does Western Europe lack confidence in its own culture, of which the whole debate on multiculturalism is an outcrop? Opinions on this differ. My view is that it is the combined result of the First World War, the confusion of the interbellum, the Second World War and in particular the Holocaust, and the cultural revolution of 1968 and the years thereafter. Without the Dutch feelings of guilt over the Holocaust, the political correctness associated with the multiculturalist dogma would here not nearly have been as pervasive at it has been.

This lack of self confidence – which, incidentally, has also corroded the European Commission - has surfaced most clearly in the debate on the Enlightenment. A new term has invaded our discourse. It is “Enlighentmentfundamentalism”.

What does this oxymoron mean?

Since a few years there is a new current which attempts to downgrade the Enlightenment. An important person in this movement is Prof. John Gray of the London School of Economics, according to whom just about all modern evils have come out of the Enlightenment: not only Communism and thus the Gulag but even National-Socialism. One should have thought that if there were anyone who had turned himself against the Enlightenment, it was Hitler. But Prof. Gray persists in seeing both Communism and National-Socialism as attempts to rearrange society according to some preconceived plan, one might say some intelligent design. But to reduce the Enlightenment to Saint-Just and Babeuf is grotesque.

There have been various forms of the Enlightenment. The Scottish moralists maintained that each person had his unique worth. The German Enlightenment stressed the humanities. Read Lessing’s Nathan der Weise and the parable of the three rings. It is true: the Enlightenment in France was more aggressive and perhaps more fundamental. But to base the oxymoron Enlightenmentfundamentalism on this aspect alone is bizar.

Where has the movement come from? It has multiculturalist antecedents. It is the view of people who dislike critics of the Islam. These critics point at aspects of the islamic civilisation which are at variance with fundamental Western values like the equality of men and women and the importance of a free and independent judgement.

“Sapere aude” - dare to think -  wrote Kant but that core of the Enlightenment is rejected by the dogma’s of the  Islam. Those who critize these dogma’s are accused of engaging in an “intellectual jihad” against the Islam. The interesting thing is that the people who use the term Enlightenmentfundamentalism may be counted among the left part of the political spectrum, at least in this country. It is they who have always been critical of the Catholic and Reformed Churches. It is they who have always supported feminism. But now that the Islam is concerned, critics of its civilisation are accused of advocating an “aggressive universalism”. The accusers are critical at home, conformist abroad. Or to put it in another way : they think that the splinter in our own eyes is heavier than the mote in the eye of the other.

Now for those among you who may think this is nitpicking among bored intellectuals I have news. The Dutch Minister of Justice Donner has said: “The Enlightenment, the idea that there is no more than what you can see or understand with your mind, is also a belief”. So according to him Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam and the Enlightenment are ranked equally: all four a belief. But the Enlightenment wants to submit all religions to the Critique of Reason. It precedes belief.

Another example is afforded by our Minister of Education Maria van der Hoeven who wants a broad debate about Evolution and Creationism, maintaining  that  the theory of Evolution is not complete. That may be true - which theory is complete? - but to say that not everything has been explained is of course not offering an alternative hypothesis. The Minister wants to mix belief with science. Scientists want to keep them separate. “I think that is a pity”, says the Minister, “the force of science is precisely to acknowledge the other in his science!”. She thus declares the biblical story of the creation to be a science, which of course it is not.

Do not think that this sort of things is confined to The Netherlands. It has been proposed in Canada to give the sharia force of law for those who wish to have recourse to it. Fortunately the proposal had been defeated. On 21 June 2005 a bill has been enacted in the UK called the “Incitement to Religious Hatred Act”. We have had half a millennium of criticism of the Bible. Why should that sort of criticism be confined to Christianity? “Do we really have to fight for the Enlightenment all over again?” Salman Rushdie  recently cried out in despair.

I recently read an account of a public debate which involved religion. First came a Buddhist who spoke of enlightenment and how to still desires. The members of the panel reacted by saying :”Wow, great, if it works like this for you, then it must be OK”. Second was a Hindu who spoke of reincarnation. And everybody said :”Wow, great, if it works like this for you, then it must be OK”. And so it went on until a Catholic priest spoke of Jesus, redemption and the eternal life. And again everybody said :”Wow, great, if it works like this for you, then it must be OK”. But the priest did not take this lying down. He thumped the table and shouted : “Whether it works for me is irrelevant. It is the true word of the living God and if you are not prepared to believe it, you are all condemned to hell.” And everybody said: ”Wow, great, if it works like this for you, then it must be OK”.

The question was : what is a good society? The answer is : one that cherishes the values of the Enlightenment and encourages discrimination and judgmentalism, one that abhors political correctness and cant.

Frits Bolkestein, 13 november 2005

http://www.fritsbolkestein.com/site/references


I thought that was pretty impressive although I'm still inclined to believe that it obviously all boils down to how people interpret and take advantage of either the enlightenment or Islam. I like Bolkesteins interpretation of the enlightenment. Yet I think both Islam and liberalism have their failures, mainly that they are too idealistic and both not realistic enough. I can enjoy the intellectual side of liberalism and its hopeful futuristic outlook but I dislike the corrupting effects it has on people in terms of egoism, unbridled consumerism and hedonism. I like the selfless side of Islam and its emphasis on tradition and culture but I dislike the anti-intellectual effects and many retarded fatwas and other silly offshoots. But no, I don't see anything positive growing out of liberal islam (a combination of the two) just paradoxical pragmatism based on the failures of modern multicultural society. After all it would be a recent invention to cover up the dirt of the last 40 years or so.

I've always found it strange that socialists welcome Islam in Europe. Socialism is linked to red totalitarianism, not exactly the best friend of Islamic totalitarianism as evidenced by history. I can see christian conservatives working together with Islamic conservatives, but why would conservatives welcome an alien religion in their country? It would go against their beliefs and would ultimately work as a third leg that wants to go its own way. Bolkestein is correct in pointing out that our tolerance of Islam and heavy emphasis on political correctness is the result of certain mind bending over the last 100 years. I'm glad to see someone of such stature to agree with on that even if the enlightenment was just another form of self-deception. Unfortunately liberals pursue global capitalism and ultimately the eradication of all other cultures just like any other "peaceful" ideology does. In that sense they are no different from fundamentalism or communism, they just have a different method: the global market.

Yet I think both Islam and liberalism have their failures, mainly that they are too idealistic and both not realistic enough. I can enjoy the intellectual side of liberalism and its hopeful futuristic outlook but I dislike the corrupting effects it has on people in terms of egoism, unbridled consumerism and hedonism. I like the selfless side of Islam and its emphasis on tradition and culture but I dislike the anti-intellectual effects and many retarded fatwas and other silly offshoots. But no, I don't see anything positive growing out of liberal islam (a combination of the two) just paradoxical pragmatism based on the failures of modern multicultural society. After all it would be a recent invention to cover up the dirt of the last 40 years or so.

I agree. Secular humanism and Islam are vain usurpers and invading outsiders respectively, even if each has a few qualities. Westerners need to reclaim the Occidental traditional values they alone created. Where neoliberalism and Islam clash obliterating one another leaving a vacuum is where the alternative fits.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 13, 2010, 02:27:06 PM
"Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value."

-Schopenhauer, from The World as Will and Representation

specifically from the chapter "On Man's Need for Metaphysics"-- essential reading

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 14, 2010, 08:45:31 PM
"Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value."

-Schopenhauer, from The World as Will and Representation

Spot-on, and in essence echoed by every great European mind of the last couple of centuries.  Islam is another example of the liberal agenda turning lies into fact.  If there's a pecking order to be had among organized religions, and I would question why qualifiers are even needed when sorting through a passel of dishonesty, Islam would be standing on the side of the road with a tin cup.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 15, 2010, 08:32:43 AM
"Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value."

-Schopenhauer, from The World as Will and Representation

Thanks for the insightful quote. Another reason to avoid Schopenhauer.

echoed by every great European mind of the last couple of centuries.

You must be alluding to Europeans such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Quote from: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, West-eastern divan
If from Eternity the Koran be—
   Of that inquire I not.
If one of God's created things it be—
   That truly know I not.
That the Koran the Book of books must be,
    I hold as faith to duteous Moslems taught.
But that wine from Eternity must be,
   On that head doubt I not.
Created ere the angels? That may be,
   And no mere poet's tale with fable fraught,
The drinker sure, however this may be,
   Looks in God's face, to livelier joyance wrought.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 15, 2010, 09:11:20 AM
"Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value."

-Schopenhauer, from The World as Will and Representation

specifically from the chapter "On Man's Need for Metaphysics"-- essential reading

This is not an argument but an unfounded criticism.  I would be interested to know whether anyone who voices these kind of opinions has read the Koran, let alone the commentaries that would make its deeper meaning more accessible, most significantly Ibn Arabi, he is to Islam what Dionysius and Eckhart are to Christianity.

I have always been troubled by the lack of insight into the meaning of Semitic scriptures on this forum.  I think this mainly stems from a background in metal symbology and an inability to grow out of a fairly juvenile opposition to convention, which is for somehow directly equated with the monotheistic religions.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 15, 2010, 10:13:01 PM
not to deny the brilliance of Goethe, but there's a wealth of information ranging from his dalliances with alchemy, christianity, islam, homosexuality, etc. etc., to suggest that Goethe's search for self was a bit misguided.  although not accorded the same volume as the current stream of political correctness accords to muslims, there is evidence to indicate Goethe was actually leaning toward a reconciliation with christianity in the latter stage of his life. are we to conclude that Goethe was a born again christian?  hardly. given Goethe's sexual proclivities, there's very little to suggest he was a muslim either.  the muslim special interest has carefully and conveniently chosen his pro-muslim statements as a coup for their side and that's all well and good, but it's little more than revisionism.  

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 18, 2010, 05:12:05 PM
Most religions turn a blind eye when homosexuality is practiced by someone who (a) confines it to privacy successfully and (b) also contributes something of value.

Most societies, even secular ones, rebel when homosexuality is openly practiced in the streets "too much." This is why we still have gay districts in the USA.

The real problem with Islam isn't Islam; it's (a) the ethnic composition of those who practice it and (b) perception of it as being alien to Europe. That's stupid because Islam is probably derived from the same mishmash of thoughts as Christianity.

Ultimately, we should return to our Hindu-Pagan roots through a Christianity which gives less of a shit about the sniveling fag Jesus Christ.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 18, 2010, 05:18:26 PM
Now you have me laughing out loud. But you're making baby Jesus weep.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 18, 2010, 07:59:30 PM
The real problem with Islam isn't Islam; it's (a) the ethnic composition of those who practice it and (b) perception of it as being alien to Europe. That's stupid because Islam is probably derived from the same mishmash of thoughts as Christianity.

It's more (c) Islamic terrorism and (d) low IQ immigrants and their criminal families who give Islam a bad reputation.


Ultimately, we should return to our Hindu-Pagan roots through a Christianity which gives less of a shit about the sniveling fag Jesus Christ.

Seems like a nice idea but I'm not entirely convinced religion is necessary for intelligent people. Why would they need gods telling them what to do if they have science? Why would they be concerned with the afterlife if they know there is none?

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 19, 2010, 12:23:33 AM
Indeed.  The next best step is for man to become his own judge and divorce superstition once and for all.  If we are drifting into a shit society where man is forced to be an isolated individual, then superstition is only going to increase his handicap. 

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 19, 2010, 01:14:03 AM
The next best step is for man to become his own judge and divorce superstition once and for all.

An entire hemisphere has endured a century or more of this practice. Did you notice?

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 19, 2010, 02:17:35 AM
The next best step is for man to become his own judge and divorce superstition once and for all.

An entire hemisphere has endured a century or more of this practice. Did you notice?
Egalitarian superstition has not been dispelled yet.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 19, 2010, 02:33:47 AM
The next best step is for man to become his own judge and divorce superstition once and for all.

An entire hemisphere has endured a century or more of this practice. Did you notice?
Egalitarian superstition has not been dispelled yet.

Is it really accurate to say that is a superstition?  It is not, at least not in the same sense as we generally mean by that word.

The equality myth has risen out of our civilization's attempt to judge itself, divorced from superstition.  The idea that we're all equal-- that's where we ended up.

Then, I suppose I have merely elaborated on your post.

Re: Islam versus Enlightenment values
July 19, 2010, 02:41:04 PM
Well if you ask me things like "equality" the way they are used now fit into my definition of superstition.


I think what I am against is functional superstition, where we know something is a lie and yet we believe in anyway because it's easier to or it serves a motive.


And even if we did live under a century of such an order, a man's nature does not change in a century.  If man is going to rule himself, he has to be use to it.  When you let him out of the reigns, he will not know what to do because he has had a government or a religion make all his decisions for him for thousands of years, but history shows that those people who are used to taking care of themselves over time will do it better and better, but those who fall back on the safety of the known will just revert slowly back to the eternal peasentry.