2015-08-05

Various readings and random thoughts

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by Neil Godfrey

A few remarks on a small slice of what I’ve been reading lately…..

A most positive blog-post appeared on James McGrath’s Exploring Our Matrix a little while ago: Temper Your Criticism With Kindness. Perhaps this is a sign of a welcome rapprochement up ahead. 🙂 (But sadly not everyone in the field of biblical studies seems to have taken this advice to heart.)

I found myself welcoming the title of a blog post by Peter Leithart, All Theology is Public Theology, and was hopeful of finding arguments to engage the public more openly with the full gamut of the biblical studies field. Unfortunately, the post limited itself to engaging with the sheep well secured within in the fold. 

Craig Keener is a fairly productive apologist scholar who seems to be regularly listed as one of several show-case examples of an atheist becoming a Christian. Yet Craig’s own account tells us his conversion happened when he was all of 12 or 13 years of age. I vowed to become a teetotaler forever and signed a pledge to guarantee it when I think I was around that age. But I suppose he’s a good one to add to the apologist statistics. I am reminded of this because of an interview with Craig now appearing online.

It’s now respectable to publicly say it. The evidence to justify the argument that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in order to save the lives of American/Allied soldiers has always been wanting (quite apart from the problematic morality of wiping out civilians to reduce military casualties), but forty years ago to say that Russia’s declaration of war on Japan had more to do with both Japan’s surrender and the decision to drop the bombs meant one would be accused of being a Commie, a rabid anti-American, and far removed from the field of decent, respectable discourse. But now it can be said openly and on a national news site — even though it is framed as some sort of “new” discovery: Hiroshima atomic bombing did not lead to Japanese surrender, historians argue nearing 70th anniversary

And the same argument (and more) surfaced in a program by our favourite interviewer, Phillip Adams, in which he speaks with Oliver Stone: Oliver Stone: America’s brutality started the day we dropped the bomb

But lest we sink too far down with such contemplation of our dark side (“our” — Australia has been wholly allied with America in recent decades), Steven Pinker offers some very happy news about the reasons for the decline of violence overall in the last few centuries, and the advance of the “Rights Revolutions” (civil rights, women’s rights, children, gays, animals). In The Better Angels of Our Nature he attributes much of this improved lot to the democratic states of the West and “gentle commerce”. There is much more and it would be wrong to suggest that he attributes the relative peace we are now experiencing to these two factors alone, but I single them out as a shield against any glances accusing me of being morbidly fascinated by reading/listening to anti-American thoughts.

And the current news about Cecil the lion, or rather the news about the world-wide reaction to the one who shot him, surely is a milestone to show how far much of our world has changed with respect to animal rights.  Not too long ago such reactions would have been unthinkable and the hunter universally, um, “lionized”.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to getting my next post on Plato’s Laws and the Bible up; and I’m well into preparing my next installment of Masalha’s book documenting the Zionist movement’s plans for the Palestinians and diplomatic efforts to carry them out.

And still slogging away at cleaning up broken links on Vridar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  • 2015-08-06 06:29:12 UTC - 06:29 | Permalink

    RE Hiroshima:

    I get it, and have always gotten it, that the ethical questions were horrendously complex and the correct answers, if any, were neither clear nor distinct. The suggestion that no sensible American loyal to his country could have opposed the bombing is ridiculous. But so is the suggestion that no morally enlightened person could have supported it.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2015-08-06 20:46:30 UTC - 20:46 | Permalink

    I imagine the bombing of Guernica was controversial and fraught with the same moral complexities in its day. Such complexities, I understand, played a part in the dropping of war crimes charges at Nutermberg against Germans who had been responsible for the aerial bombing of civilian targets during WW2. German officers responsible for the shooting of a handful of civilians in order to protect the lives of their occupying soldiers from further civilian attacks were not deemed to present moral complexities, however.

    What’s past is past. Our standards are different now — or they are for many more of us at least. We will no longer tolerate the proud boasts of a Churchill announcing that dropping gas on native tribes to cower them into submission was a “good thing”. That generation is gone.

  • David Ashton
    2015-08-06 22:40:02 UTC - 22:40 | Permalink

    Our standards have improved, but crimes and cruelties continue.

    Franco’s supporters actually were embarrassed by the Guernica event at the time, and Sir Arnold Wilson and others were enlisted to inspect the damage to support an alternative explanation. What is interesting is that the bombing of civilians by Spanish Government forces have been almost completely overlooked, and this particular atrocity has been used as a propaganda weapon. We are at the mercy of media and regime narratives in so many conflicts, whether or not widely reported. Katyn was one of many such examples. Who today has heard of Kolyma or Vorkuta, and who cares?

    On 23 August there is an International Remembrance Day of the victims of Stalinism, to which has been prudently added “of Nazism and fascism”, though not “communism” in general, perish the thought. It must not “detract” from The Holocaust which has three separate remembrance days, Holocaust Day, Shoah Day and Anne Frank Day. All victims are equal, but some more equal than others.

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