Christmas and Political Correctness: There is no “War on Christmas”:

Summary:

Conservatives (both religious and non-religious) have made a big fuss in recent times over the fact that some sections of Western society are moving slightly away from the specific celebration of Christmas towards a more secular general end of year holiday. Many people have claimed that this is an example of political correctness gone mad, whereby out of fear of offending people with different cultural, religious or non-religious backgrounds we are afraid to openly celebrate our Western traditions. Hence, some conservative Christians have claimed that this is an example of the persecution of Christianity in Western nations, believing that progressives, followers of other religions and atheists will eventually seek to make Christianity illegal. Likewise, many conservatives have claimed that “if you tolerate this, then your children will be next[i]”.

All of these claims are in truth pretty much groundless hysteria. In reality Christianity still maintains massive privileges in Western society, particularly at Christmas and Easter time. The fact that many people are now choosing to say “Happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” should in fact be celebrated as progress, in rejecting the obviously mythological traditional religious Christmas story, and rejecting a Christocentric view of the world. No one is preventing Christians from going to church, reading the Bible or whatever. Rather, we are simply seeing the gradual reduction in Christian privilege, which can only be a good thing, though there is enormous resistance to this process within some circles, who think that the Communists will surely follow and strip us of all our parents achieved.

If anything, I would argue that Christmas still represents a major infringement on the separation of church and state. That being, Christmas is a time in which Christian religious songs (or hymns) are played in various non-religious locations (workplaces, shopping centres etc.), sung by school children in secular, government schools etc. If anything we should have greater separation of church and state, not less.

Christmas has always been more of a general mid-winter (for the northern hemisphere) feast and celebration than a time of specific religious piety, and it is only right that Christmas moves back in the direction of a secular, global end of year celebration, rather than one with specific links to one particular religion. We can however make this shift without falling into rampant materialism, and try and use the time to encourage goodwill, charity, compassion and peace, and emphasis friendship and family, without needing to base this upon a religious myth specific to one particular religion. Again, we can (and should) use the time to further spiritual values, without needing to push any one particular faith and/or culture at the exclusion of others.

Main Article:

Every year around Christmas time we start coming across articles, videos and posts from conservative Christians (and some non-religious political conservatives) claiming that Western civilization is going down the drain, strangled by political correctness and the like. In the lead up to the last US election we had Donald Trump’s making a big fuss about Starbucks and their Christmas cups[ii], claiming that Christians were executing their political power in the US[iii]. Trump and others seem to think that Christians are getting their rights squashed by a move towards political correctness, diminishing their religious freedom. As a whole I have to say that I personally find this a bit silly.

One will do well to find an expression more widely abused in the English language than the phrase “political correctness”. That is not to deny that there are some legitimate examples that deserve the expression. That is, there are indeed cases whereby people are afraid to speak out about real problems due to public perception of the issue. There are times in which the left goes too far (way too far even) in what is usually a pursuit of a good intention, losing sight of the bigger picture. Just look in the Universities if you wish to find examples of some far-left lunacy. However, from where I am standing it seems that the phrase political correctness is more commonly misused by conservatives (in both religion and politics) to deride those who (I would argue) simply display some common sense and/or common decency.

Putting it bluntly, I would say the following:

Those who make the biggest fuss about political correctness are usually those that lack an informed, balanced general knowledge, and those that display a lack of common decency in the political arena.

Conservatives complain about political correctness when it is expected that LGBTI individuals get treated with the same rights that straight people receive. This isn’t political correctness, it’s merely common decency. Likewise, conservatives complain about political correctness when efforts are made to compensate for the injustices that white, European people committed against people of color and/or indigenous peoples in many nations. This isn’t political correctness, it’s merely common sense and common decency. Acknowledging the injustices that have been committed by white people does not mean that we hate white people or Western culture, are racist against white people, or that white people are being discriminated against (all of which have been claimed by some amongst the far-right).

Likewise, religious conservatives complain when we attempt to foster an environment whereby people of different religions and spiritual paths are seen as part of one greater family. This isn’t political correctness, this is merely common decency. This shouldn’t mean that we view all faiths as being equal (as many on the left mistakenly do), or that we deny the reality that many faiths have legitimate issues (as both conservatives and progressives often do).

By comparison, political correctness is failing to call out religious ideologies as being directly linked with terrorism, or being afraid to mention that gang violence is particularly prevalent within particular racial and cultural groups. Acknowledging that gender isn’t simply black and white and that society can force rigid stereotypes upon children isn’t political correctness, but complete denial of biological differences between the majority of boys and girls is[iv].

Essentially what we are dealing with here is that Christianity is losing some of its privileges, and many Christians (primarily conservative ones) and others with more of a political motivation (that being, conservatives and white nationalists) don’t like it. As such, many have claimed that there is some sort of conspiracy being enacted by Jews, Communists and Leftists etc. to persecute Christians. Hence it could be said that many people don’t know the difference between persecution and the losing of privilege.

Public schools sing Christian hymns (that is, Christmas Carols), practically all shops play Christian hymns, nativity scenes are found everywhere etc. No one is stopping Christians from going to church, reading the Bible, celebrating Christmas, singing carols etc. However, conservative Christians really enjoy using Christmas as a time to push their beliefs onto non-Christians. Family members think it is their right to tell religious stories to my children at Christmas time and to give religious books to them for Christmas presents etc.

Christmas has always been more of a general mid-winter festivity rather than a religious birthday party for Jesus. Christianity effectively appropriated (or perhaps annexed) much of the world’s mid-winter festivities. The religious celebration of the solstices and equinoxes dates way back into history, and the evidence for this is literally set in stone. Likewise, countless cultures had their own version of a mid-winter feast and celebration, and the Western Christian tradition of Christmas fits well into this mould. That is not to say that the Christmas tradition doesn’t have strong religious links. It does. Since the 4th century CE most Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus in sync with the winter solstice, and the Santa Claus mythos is directly derived from a Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas. However, the wider community celebrates Christmas as a time of gift giving, of feasting and revelry, and celebration of community and family.

The fact that some businesses and councils have taken to saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” is not indicative of some sinister conspiracy to rid Western Civilization of all that is good, but rather is something that should be applauded as positive progress. Christians shouldn’t feel upset if others don’t share their beliefs. It doesn’t impact on their freedom to believe what they want, go to church, and celebrate within their own homes.

We are not talking about persecution of Christians here, nor is this an example of Christians losing their religious freedom. Rather, yet again, this is an example of some (conservative) Christians wishing to take away the religious freedom of all others. That being, if someone belongs to a different faith or does not follow a religion and therefore considers the end of year to be a general, universal end of year, mid-winter solstice celebration rather than a specific Christian holiday, (conservative) Christians find this rather upsetting.

You see, conservative Christians rather like pushing their faith onto others. In fact, they kind of feel like it is their right, because (according to them) everything good about modern Western civilization is due to Christianity (which is of course not true…). Furthermore, they often feel like it is their duty, as they believe non-Christians are destined for an eternity of suffering (again, not true…). So, conservative Christians generally take full advantage of the privilege offered to them by Christmas and Easter time to push their religion onto others to the full extent that they can.

What we can see through all this is that conservative followers of various faiths often take significant offense when others don’t share their beliefs. It’s as if they think that their happiness and freedom depends on everyone thinking the same way. When you say it out loud, it sounds crazy, because of course it is.

Regarding Donald Trumps outrage at the Starbucks special Christmas cup (which apparently wasn’t “Christmassy” enough for him), it is hard to know how to comment on this without resorting to egoic polemics and rhetoric. Shall we say that a calm, dispassionate commentary on the topic is affectively indistinguishable from rhetoric. To put it in the mildest possible terms, the whole thing was just plain silly.

Trump even went as far as telling people to boycott Starbucks, because their special red-green Christmas cup was just too plain. It didn’t have Santa on the front, or little baby Jesus. And that just wasn’t good enough for good ol’ American Republicans. As part of his pre-election campaign Trump stated on a number of occasions that he would bring back “Merry Christmas”. So, I’m a little confused as to how he is planning on implementing this. Is he planning on sending round the Christmas police to make sure that everyone is saying Merry Christmas? Or perhaps he might deploy the military? And significant numbers of people cheered when Trump made these promises. It’s hard to know where to start to engage with such things.

Spirituality and Christmas:

Of course, there is another side to Christmas that is worthy of discussion. That is, to many people Christmas is a time when they are reminded of the importance of family, of generosity, grace, compassion, forgiveness and charity. These are things that are worth keeping as we evolve our conception of Christmas time.

Whilst Christmas time is the most exciting time of the year for many children, it is however also true that for many adults it brings great stress. I myself have felt in previous years the expectation to spend money on gifts for family and friends, whilst struggling to make ends meet myself. Certainly this is also true for many other people. Working in retail every year we can see people going a bit mad in the month (or so) prior to Christmas time. Hence, retail rage is now a thing, and shopping centres have even had to make an effort to encourage shoppers to be gentle with the staff at such times. Likewise we also see it on the roads. The manner in which one drives is generally a good indication of their psychological state, and we see the evidence of the silly season on the roads every year.

I personally feel that it may be wise for adults to end the tradition of giving gifts to other adults, and to only give gifts exclusively to children. Adults know what they want and/or need and will buy things for themselves that they find most appropriate. Much of the gift giving between adults is wasteful; that is, people spend money they can’t afford on gifts that other people don’t really need or want. The only people that benefit from this are business owners. Hence Christmas has taken on quite a materialistic value, and it has become a time of stress for so many people. As an alternative I suggest that adults merely share food with their family and friends, and encourage a time of grace, patience and gratitude with their extended family, and with the wider human family.

Whilst I am not a big fan of all the “baby Jesus” songs that are played practically everywhere during Christmas time, it is nice to have some degree of spirituality in the public arena (even if it is intermingled with erroneous religious mythology and doctrines). In our world there is much darkness, much hate, anger, fear, stress, suffering. It is a good thing for there to be times when the concepts of divine light, love, forgiveness, grace, peace and abundance etc. are in the forefront of human consciousness. When a great number of people come together with a spiritual intent there can be great power, which can be tangible to those who are sensitive to such things. It however would be great if in the future we can aspire towards these spiritual ideals without the baggage that often comes with special religious myths and doctrines. If this were to take place we could truly reach out to all beings as one whole, one family, one great Cosmic Dream.

Peace

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX8szNPgrEs.

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giU4TyVJ7v8.

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrmyveItPUI&app=desktop. In truth, the religious right in the US wields tremendous political power, and is a major cause of many of the US’s problems.

[iv] In case anybody doesn’t get my point here, I’m saying that gender is a continuum, but that the majority of people are far enough to one side or another that if we only counted them it might seem that there were only two clear, distinct categories. Noting that the majority of men and women are distinct in their gender however should not mean that we treat those whose gender identity is less polarized as inferior. Likewise however, noting that gender is not black and white should not mean that we deny the biological differences between most men and women, and the way in which biology alone (removed from social conditioning) can affect the way in which consciousness expresses in its outward form.

There is significant different as to the level of masculine traits amongst men, and likewise the same is also true of women. Aside from the primary genetic markers of gender, I believe that modern biology has shown that there are countless secondary factors that produce a range of different influences. Furthermore, I would argue that from a spiritual perspective, consciousness/spirit is beyond gender, and gender is merely part of the vehicle through which it expresses in this particular lifetime. As we are spirit incarnate within a body, we should respect and appreciate our unique bodily expression, but also know that which is beyond it.

Advertisements

Regarding the recent disgraceful events in Charlottesville:

I would presume that practically all of my readers are well aware of the events that went down in Charlottesville, Virginia US on the 11-12th of August this year (2017). As we all know, a plethora of far-right political groups gathered together to protest the planned removal of the statue of Confederate commander Robert Edward Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. Included in this “Unite the Right” rally were neo-Nazis, KKK, neo-Confederates, and various far-right militia groups (which were armed with semi-automatic weapons), amongst other white nationalists, white supremacists and other members of the far-right (or alt-right). A large group of counter-protesters also turned up, consisting of clergy, anti-racism activists, students and concerned locals, and also wide range of left-wing groups, including socialists, communists and members of Antifa (who I will discuss in some detail shortly).

Unsurprisingly, violence broke out between protestors and counter-protestors. People were beaten up, attacked with clubs, sprayed with chemicals, and a number of people were hit by a car which drove through a crowd and hit another car, which then killed a young lady by the name of Heather D. Heyer.  Heyer was herself counter-protesting the rally, whilst the driver of the car that caused the death was a young neo-Nazi by the name of James Alex Fields.

Much has been said regarding President Trump’s response to the riots. In his first press conference Trump referred only to “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides…”, without specifically calling out the various far-right groups that initiated the rally. Particularly, Trump was grilled for failing to name neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist groups and identify them as the guilty parties.

I would like to talk about this a bit, as I feel that many people missed some of the subtlety here. We did indeed have a legitimate right to call out Trump regarding his response to the riots. He was however half-right about one thing; that is, there was indeed violence on both sides. It does indeed appear that violence was initiated both by far-right protestors and far-left counter-protestors (who we can identify as Antifa). However, Trump did indeed make a false-equivalence between the far-right groups involved in the rally, and the various counter-protestors. Likewise, Trump also expressed sympathy for the inspiration of the rally itself, and argued that not all the right-wing protestors were Nazis.

One can (and should) simultaneously call out Trump for his response, and also acknowledge that Antifa groups around the world have initiated and participated in political violence. White supremacists are a real problem in many countries, particularly the US. A great deal of murders and acts of domestic terrorism occur with regularity in the US, and most of them fail to hit the news here in Australia. Likewise, Antifa groups have violence as part of their core foundational philosophy, and they continue to initiate and escalate violent clashes in many countries around the world. Trump did indeed attempt to deflect blame away from the alt-right, and should indeed be held accountable for his motives here. Likewise however, there are many on the left who have attempted to downplay or deny the guilt born by Antifa for the appalling behaviour seen in Charlottesville, amongst other crimes.

Video footage from the riots clearly show different examples of both right wing groups initiating violence against counter-protestors, and counter-protestors initiating violence against right wing groups. Likewise, testimony from those present also shows that violence was enacted by both protestors and counter-protestors. An African-American man was beaten with poles, a metal pipe and wooden slabs (all by white supremacists), and Antifa members charged at protestors with clubs and used chemical sprays. Video footage of the vehicular attack clearly shows the car in question accelerating suddenly into the crowd of counter-protestors[i]. To say the whole affair was ugly would be putting it in the mildest of terms.

Having noted all of this, we should recognise that it is indeed a false-equivalence to talk about those involved in the “Unite the Right” rally and those who counter-protested it as if they are equal in their bigotry, hate and violence. Whilst there was indeed violence on both sides, they weren’t morally equal in what they stood for, why they were there, and what they were protesting against.

The far-right rallying groups involved literal neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan, as well as other equally extreme white supremacist and white nationalist groups, along with militia groups, who were armed to the teeth. The very reason for their protest was the planned removal of a statue of a war commander who literarily fought against the US government to try and retain slavery. So, there is no question that the rallying groups themselves stood for racism, hatred, bigotry and violence, and they were united by their desire to retain the memory of a man who committed treason in an attempt to uphold chattel slavery. The counter-protestors were protesting against them, against National Socialism, against the KKK, against racism, anti-Semitism and the romanticism of pro-slavery war traitors. They were standing up against fascism, hate and injustice. So, just to be clear, lets restate that:

One side was made up of Nazis and racists who wanted to remember someone who fought for slavery; the other side wanted to protest against racism, against bigotry.

So, let us not humour any ideas that both sides were equal.

Regarding the alt-right, I have largely been holding my tongue on this matter for some time, not due to conflicting opinions on my part, but rather due to how close to home it hits. I have some immediate family and other friends that are directly involved in the alt-right. I do not define these individuals on the basis of their opinions and online behaviour. Hence, I see their strengths as human beings as well, whilst I utterly abhor many of the opinions they express and the way they go about deliberately baiting and taunting people online. I struggle to find words strong enough to express my disgust of both the opinions of the far-right (or alt-right), and the manner in which they conduct themselves.

At times when I have not been able to retain my own awareness of the inner peace that is indicative of my true nature, my heart has literarily broken when I have seen the things that the alt-right write. It is hard to know where to start in responding to the opinions and attitudes of the alt-right. One can legitimately question if there is actually any point in attempting to directly engage with them, as they seem so extreme, so completely immune to reasonable discussion, and so completely intent on merely inflaming and bating those that disagree with them (rather than actually engaging them), that one wonders whether there is anything we could say or do that would help. One has to hope however that the inherent humanity within such individuals can somehow shine through and bring about space in which they can consider opinions other than those they already hold, and weigh up opposing arguments and evidence.

My current opinion regarding the political situation in most modern Western countries is that whilst the left certainly does have many real problems and blind spots of its own, the right seems to be far more extreme in its aberrations, and there are far more serious consequences as a result. That is, there are real problems in even the moderate left, and our Universities are filled with radical leftists, Marxists, radical feminists and gender theorists and so forth, giving the alt-right legitimate opponents on the other side to react against. The moderate left on the other hand appears to be quite centrist, in aiming to balance economic and environmental concerns, trying to balance the freedom of individuals to own private property and be rewarded for their effort and brilliance with a concern for the suffering of those that are unwell (whether physically or mentally), and/or struggle to make ends meet. The moderate, mainstream left appears to me to stand for real progress, real moral and ethical clarity, justice, equality and prosperity. It doesn’t always succeed in balancing these things, but at least its heart appears to be in the right place.

There is a moderate right that seems to simply have different opinions on the practical results of policy to that of the moderate left, though they may share the ultimate ideals of the left. Such conservatives seem to be open to real discussion and debate, capable of and willing to compare opinions, and behave with civility. The far right (or alt-right) on the other hand seems to have no compassion at all for those that suffer, no desire for justice and equality, no willingness (or capacity) to engage with those on the other side of the spectrum, and compare beliefs, arguments and evidence, or behave with decency and decorum. Rather, in its rants about political correctness, the alt-right appears to have thrown common decency out the window. In it’s crusade against the far-left, the alt-right appears to stand against everything good, and stand for all that is bad.

Many far-right groups make the extraordinary claim that today it is white, heterosexual, Christian men that are the victims of the racism, sexism and discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and religion. Of course, I’m not really sure where to start in responding to such claims. I’m not even sure if such claims are worthy of responding to, or whether people that make such claims would hear any argument to the contrary.

Obviously, there are real examples whereby activists for just causes go too far. Such cases do not however make the original oppressor the overall victim of a new oppression. There are examples whereby racial justice activists lose sight of the big picture. There are examples whereby LGBT activists have gone too far. There are cases whereby radical feminists have left behind legitimate causes worthy of fighting for, and attempted to portray all men as being animals. Likewise, Christians are actually persecuted in many parts of the world today (such as Egypt). Again, whilst there are some cases whereby for example LGBT activists have deliberately bated Christians in order to attract publicity for their cause, Christians are largely simply losing privilege in the West, rather than suffering direct discrimination or persecution. To claim that white, straight, Christian men are today victims of discrimination in Western countries is just absurd.

The far-right doesn’t differentiate between the moderate left (or even moderate conservatives) and full-blown communists. They use a black and white approach to politics; if it isn’t full-blown, unregulated capitalism, its communism. Hence, I have seen far-right groups claim that the left are to blame for the rise of modern neo-Nazis and KKK groups. As such, some in the far-right have blamed the Charlottesville affair as a whole on the left. Again, such claims are simply absurd, and downright ugly.

Regarding Antifa, we do indeed have a real problem here. Of course, Antifa isn’t simply one organisation, one group. Rather, it is more of a method, a philosophy, and there are countless regional groups (or chapters) to it. They are a string of groups, held together by a common thread. All such groups however are united by their belief that violence against the right is wholly justifiable and absolutely necessary. As such, they have on many occasions initiated violence against peaceful protestors, launched random attacks on conservatives in the streets (such as against Andrew Bolt[ii]), caused significant property damage, and instigated and retaliated against violence in clashes such as the one at Charlottesville.

The mainstream left must be absolutely clear in explicitly disavowing ourselves from Antifa. We should encourage police and government measures designed to restrict their potential for violence[iii]. Antifa do not not help our causes, and they only widen the gap between the left and the right, moving us further away from real political and social progress. In this manner, Trump (and others on the far-right) were indeed correct that there were many on the left that refused to acknowledge the role that Antifa had to play in the Charlottesville riots.

As one example, feminist Laurie Penny was recently part of a weekly panel on Q&A, which is aired on the ABC in Australia. When quizzed by host Tony Jones regarding the part that Antifa had to play in the riots, Penny completely denied that Antifa were violent and had any responsibility for the brawls[iv] (although, in her defense I would mention that she did make a legitimate point about the severity of Antifa violence by comparison to white supremacist violence). This is despite the fact that Antifa websites themselves explicitly state that violence against the right is part of their mandate.

Antifa are responding to hate with hate, violence with violence. This only perpetuates the cycle of suffering. We must be able to look violence in the face and show peace, look at hate and show love, look at racism and show justice and equality. We must stop the cycle now and create new norms, new standards and ideals. Obviously I am not suggesting passivism. Rather, I am stating that we should stand up with peace, for peace, speak out when necessary, but never forget the positive side of the spectrum that we are actively standing for, rather than what we are against.

Whilst it is true that the far-right considers anybody and everybody to their left to be communists (including moderate and centrist conservatives – who they label “Cuckservatives”), many people in the far-left (and intimately involved in Antifa groups) are actually full-blown communists. The left needs to remember this, and just as we don’t want Nazis and fascists to run modern Western countries, neither do we want to descend into full-blown communism, as the consequences of that are also well known. One can legitimately state that Antifa are basically communist thugs. It is a disturbing reality that in 2017 in America Nazis and communists are going to war on our streets. Obviously, we don’t want to go to back to 1941 at the the Russian Front.

Perhaps the one good thing I should say in the defense of Antifa is that they actually protected some peaceful protestors (such as members of clergy) from charging far-right groups during the Charlottesville riots. For this, we should acknowledge them. However, this only just goes to show how the police completely failed in their mandate to keep the peace. Given the toxic mix of far-right hate and militant groups who were armed to the teeth, and Antifa who likewise deliberately provoked violence, it is a miracle that more people weren’t hurt or even killed.

It really shows the full ridiculous implications of open-carry laws, to literally have Nazis in the US in 2017 with semi-automatic rifles marching outside a Jewish synagogue[v]. The local council/government never should have allowed this event in the first place. It so easily could have escalated into a massacre, with Nazis and militant groups opening fire on counter-protesters, with police then opening fire upon such groups.

Getting back to the topic that inspired the rally in the first place, it occurred to me that the statues of Confederate soldiers are the equivalent of modern Germany having statues commemorating Nazi leaders. The same thing also occurred to a number of other writers, and I would recommend that my readers follow some of these links, as many relevant points have been made on this topic[vi]. Donald Trump has on a number of occasions expressed his sympathy for protestors, tweeting “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it…”[vii]. He seemed to have no awareness that these monuments are a testimony to unspeakable injustices that occurred in the past, and a monument to those that attempted to uphold them.

Chattel slavery of African people is one of the single most evil episodes in Western history. It would perhaps be more appropriate to have slavery memorials and segregation memorials than public statues of confederate generals. The monuments in question were created as part of a revisionist movement within America that sought to sweep its history of slavery under the carpet, and re-write the American civil war as simply a disagreement about the autonomy of states. We should perhaps remember that immediately following the abolition of slavery, new laws denoting segregation were enacted. America’s ugly history of racism did not end with the abolition of slavery; rather one chapter ended and a new one begun.

Trump has likewise defended some of the protesters from the “Unite the Right” rally, arguing that they weren’t all Nazis, and they had a legitimate reason to be protesting. In response I would refer my readers to a video message from Arnold Schwarzenegger[viii].

We can and should differentiate between peaceful and violent counter-protesters, as they had legitimate things to protest against. However, I don’t believe that much can be made in terms of differentiation between the various groups involved in the “Unite the Right” rally itself. That is, I don’t believe that moderate, reasonable conservatives would have been marching alongside Nazis and KKK in seeking to uphold the memory of a pro-slavery traitor. Rather, reasonable conservatives were outraged by Trump’s response to the riots, criticising him for failing to call out the hatred of the various far-right groups that founded the rally itself.

On the other hand, there were moderate, reasonable, progressives counter-protesting the rally, unfortunately alongside Antifa thugs. It wasn’t like the counter-protest was organised to promote communism and instigate violence against the right. Rather, the counter protest was against Nazis, against the KKK and against those that wanted to celebrate America’s ugly past.

I have seen far-right writers conflate our ancestors that fought against slavery with those that fought for it, as if both were part of a collective white history that needs to be equally recognised. This is of course absurd. Nationalists have a history of seeking to downplay, defend of deny the injustices that their ancestors have committed against others. Many Americans are in denial about the reality of the US civil war, believing that it wasn’t so much fought over slavery as much as the autonomy of individual states. Some white nationalists deny or defend the atrocities committed against indigenous American Indians. Some white nationalists likewise deny or defend the atrocities committed against Australian aboriginals. Likewise, neo-Nazis deny the holocaust, and Japanese nationalists downplay or deny the atrocities committed by Japan during WW2 etc.

This is much the same as how conservative followers of various world religions often deny the flaws within their faiths. People become attached to sense of identity, and feel a need to defend it, lest they become diminished or even annihilated. Nationalists subconsciously feel that if they concede the mistakes of their ancestors that they themselves are threatened, that they become less.

Our true identity cannot be found in the color of our skin, nor our racial heritage, nor religious or political beliefs. Rather, we all share the same true identity as Spirit, infinite consciousness, and an awareness of this will unite all beings into the one family. Despite this unity however, we are all different in our outward expression, and there is room in this vast universe for an infinite array of diversity. Whilst we can recognise that racial history does not define who we are, we can recognise that certain racial and cultural groups do carry trans-generational trauma from gross injustices that have occurred in the past, and we should indeed express our sympathy towards them, and work toward healing such traumas.

We do not become less by conceding the great injustices that our ancestors have committed against others. We do not become less by conceding the legitimate weaknesses of our society and culture. I for one am extremely grateful to have been born into a free, democratic nation in an age of modern science and medicine. However, my appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices made by many of my ancestors does not mean that I must downplay, defend or deny the many mistakes of my ancestors.

Likewise, acknowledging my own weaknesses as a person and the many mistakes I have made over my life does not take away from my joy in the now. Rather, if anything, acknowledging the mistakes of the past is an important part of recognising that such mistakes do not define the true being. Finding identity as pure awareness naturally means that we are open and honest about our failings in our outward expression. Just as we offer compassion and grace to others, we likewise offer it towards ourselves.

Those beings that express such hatred and lack of compassion towards others reveal their lack of awareness of the true Self, therefore showing that there appears to be a hole inside themselves where they don’t experience the natural fulfilment that is their birthright. In finding true inner peace we naturally show love and empathy towards others. This however is not the end of human life and the drama of our physical play, but rather the beginning of a new phase, in which we remember that we are not the characters, but the actors, the dreamers and not the dream figures.

Peace

[i] I have seen examples of far-right media attempting to defend James Alex Fields, arguing that he was merely terrified by the crowds of counter-protestors, and that he was simply driving away to protect himself. I will concede that the manner in which he drove his car into another car (which then hit Heather D. Heyer) was quite bizarre. He did however also hit a number of other people in the process, who were injured but not killed by the impact. One way or another however, I must state that I feel that any attempts made to defend James Alex Fields are driven primarily by political bias, attempting to deflect the blame onto the hands of counter-protestors.

[ii] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/is-melbourne-too-dangerous-for-conservatives-behind-the-leftwing-antifa-movement-that-attacked-andrew-bolt-20170608-gwnb6h.html. Just to be clear, from the first moment that I encountered the work of Andrew Bolt there was no question that I could not believe the appalling things he was saying. However, the attack against him was simply not on. It doesn’t help make the world a better place in any way, and it doesn’t do anything to stand against Bolt’s opinions. If anything, it only gives further fuel to the far-right, convincing them that they are right, making them more and more entrenched in their convictions.

[iii] Such as the recent Victorian laws restricting face-coverings at protests: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/masked-rioters-face-jail-under-new-laws/news-story/89162793d98d080584d2f1104c97f28e.

[iv] http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4708044.htm.

[v] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/neo-nazis-marched-past-their-synagogue-chanting-sieg-heil-two-weeks-later-the-charlottesville-jewish-community-is-still-healing/2017/08/26/d75ef1d0-8a70-11e7-a50f-e0d4e6ec070a_story.html?utm_term=.25c904d87d37.

[vi] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/20/why-there-are-no-nazi-statues-in-germany-215510 and also: https://www.vox.com/world/2017/8/16/16152088/nazi-swastikas-germany-charlottesville.

[vii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/08/17/trump-mourns-loss-of-beautiful-statues-and-monuments-in-wake-of-charlottesville-rally-over-robert-e-lee-statue/?utm_term=.cbb282f6a71c.

[viii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN_YIBr0ELM.

A few quick thoughts regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing:

North Korea has been in the news constantly over the past few months (and continuously over many years), mostly due to its development and testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. This development has been taking place over many decades, but has reach a critical point recently, as North Korea has reached a pivotal point in its military capabilities.

North Korea now joins the exclusive club of nations that posses stockpiles of nuclear weapons, along with the capability to launch them at cities across the globe[i]. With every new nation that joins this club it could be argued that the possibility of nuclear war grows higher. We are quite fortunate to have survived the Cold War (between the US and Russia) without any nuclear weapons being used in battle by either party (though it came very, very close several times). Likewise, the risk of a serious accident (such as an accidental trigger) grows higher (there have been some very close calls in the past).

Aside from the risk of these evil devices being used in anger to devour millions in fire in a mere instant, there is a huge environmental cost to be paid for their development and testing. The process required to manufacture weapons-grade Plutonium (which is man-made) is dangerous, and naturally produces the very worst kind of poisons (as high-level transuranic waste can remain radioactive for very long periods of time[ii]). The US itself was enormously irresponsible when it went through the process of producing its plutonium stockpiles. At one point the CIA actually had to raid the US military facility that was handling its Plutonium, due to a number of serious OHS and environmental issues.

One can only imagine what the standards are like at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, given that the country is in dire poverty, and given the long list of human rights abuses occurring during its regime. Given that careful handling and storage of transuranic waste is immensely costly (and contributes significantly to the cost of electricity from Nuclear Fission), I have very little faith in North Korea to put the safety of their citizens and the environment on the priority list. On this ground alone it could be a major humanitarian and environmental disaster.

Also, every single test of a nuclear weapon is in itself an environmental disaster. There is the sheer force of the explosion itself, registered in the same way as an earthquake, and the utter destruction that occurs in the immediate area, even when underground. Underwater testing is even worse, due to the absolute desecration of the underwater environment that occurs. Then there is the case that every single test of a nuclear weapon increases the background radiation level of the planet as a whole (let alone the immediate area), and underwater testing (as North Korea has recently suggested it might perform, and as performed not so long ago by France, and to devastating affect by the US at Bikini Atoll half a century ago) releases incredibly dangerous isotopes into the oceans.

The good news at least is that I find it very, very hard to image that North Korea would initiate a nuclear strike against anyone (and I haven’t really seen anybody in the know disagree). Certainly they like to talk tough, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that they have a tendency to run their mouth. Nevertheless, they would have to have an awareness that regardless of their own capabilities, any nuclear strike they could launch would only guarantee that they would be literarily wiped off the face of the planet in a retaliatory firestorm.

Hence, I really can’t see North Korea actually deliberately seeking to use their weapons in anger. However, the bad news is that we may be well past the point of anyone being able to do anything about North Korea. We may well have to live with a North Korea that has the capability to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile against various nations (possibly including the US, Australia and more). This effectively leaves international relations with the country in a permanent state of heightened Cold War vigilance, not a nice thing to have to live with. Likewise, we face the possibility of North Korea “testing the waters” more aggressively; using nuclear threats to attempt to get away with more acts of smaller scale aggression (particularly towards South Korea).

Whilst I am obviously no fan of Trump, there is no question that North Korea is the aggressor in this situation[iii]. Nevertheless, we (critics of Trump) all knew that Trump would only escalate nuclear tensions with North Korea. Prior to the election we all said that he would be the one to start a nuclear war. So, it is not really that surprising. Trump and Kim Jong Un are in some respects every bit as bad as each other, two immature boys hurling insults at each other, with each round escalating to more and more serious threats.

However, the fact remains that even without Trump, this point in time has been coming for many years, and North Korea bares the primary responsibility for it. Whilst I admire Barack Obama as a sensible, intelligent and compassionate man (regardless of whether or not all his policies were wise), we would still be in this mess if he were still in office (or if any other Democrat leader was in Trump’s shoes). One would think that without Trump we possibly wouldn’t have the same circus of escalating insults. Yet certainly we would still have a nuclear North Korea baiting the rest of the world with threats of firestorms.

North Korea has been playing nuclear blackmail for many years now, and unfortunately any chances of stopping them may now be spent. Whilst I am generally somewhat suspicious of attempts by Western nations (particularly the US in recent years) at attempting regime changes, I do not necessarily oppose such things out of hand. In the case of North Korea a forced regime change would have been a compassionate option, to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people, living under a government that spends nearly its entire budget on its military programs.

North Korea’s game of nuclear blackmail makes a mockery of their core philosophy of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. In truth, they spent literarily all their money on nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and their military in general, whilst they depend on UN and US aid to feed their starving masses. It is quite literarily insane, the very worst example of communism achieving the exact opposite ends to which it aspires.

I am not quite sure what course of action can and should be taken against North Korea. The idea of just having to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea doesn’t sound particularly comforting. They are quite literarily a terrorist nation in every respect, and an example of how evil communism can be. One would imagine that if the US (or anyone else) were to attempt a regime change through invasion, that under those conditions North Korea would attempt to deploy their nuclear capabilities in some way. Whether or not they truly have the capacity at this point to do so is almost irrelevant now. The price to pay would be utterly enormous if North Korea were to be able to get a nuclear tipped missile through unintercepted.

The UN and US have already tried various sanctions on North Korea, with little real success. North Korea gains much of its (little) wealth through illegal means (drugs, hacking etc.), and the government has essentially no concern for the suffering of its people. I have to hope that there is some external path that can be undertaken to remove the threat that a nuclear North Korea poses to international relations. Likewise, I have to hope that there is a pathway that would lead to a reform of the political identity and governing ideology of North Korea.

Some have suggested that the ultimate solution to the threat of North Korea (and others) is in more advanced weapons defence systems. Existing systems are largely untested in real-world conditions, leaving a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not any nation could stop a ballistic missile. This suggestion is not without its strengths, though I feel it has the potential to lead us all down into another never-ending race to develop more and more sophisticated weapons and weapons defence systems.

All arms races are ultimately bottomless pits, wasting money and resources on death rather than life. As the systems get more and more advanced, they naturally become more and more expensive, leading further and further away from the prosperity that we all seek. Upcoming technological advances with quantum computing, AI, nuclear fusion etc. will all lead to the possibility of developing capabilities that have seemed limited to the realm of science fiction. However, if we develop such technology without solving the fundamental flaw in human psychology, then we are heading deeper and deeper down into this bottomless pit, and the potential consequences will only get worse and worse.

Regardless of what happens externally, humanity as a whole needs to cure the ultimate cause of suffering, delusion, insanity and injustice. This we can do right now. Simply discover and live from the place of the true Self, in which there is no hate, no fear, no competition, no scarcity. In the true Self (the Spirit) there is infinite and unconditional love, joy and simple perfection. This is not mere poetry, nor speculation. This can be our unbroken reality.

The behaviour of North Korea is a symptom of complete false identity of a nation as a whole, complete lack of awareness of the Self. Likewise, the same aberration occurs in other nations, but (generally) to a lesser degree, and manifesting in ways that is unique to its environment. From the perspective of the Self, there is compassion for North Korea and all its people; that being not just the civilians who suffer enormously under the tyranny of their government, but also for the people directly involved in their government and military. All are suffering from the effects of egoic delusion. However, having compassion for them does not mean that externally we go soft on them. Rather, it should mean that any action that is taken is driven by wisdom, rather than egoic reaction. Unfortunately, the US is led by a man who is himself also completely consumed with egoic delusion, and who also runs his mouth in a manner completely unfit for a president, using Twitter as his medium of choice.

The paranoia that rules international relations only continues to perpetuate human suffering and injustice, wasting precious resources and funds that could alleviate suffering and allow humanity to invest in education, science, medicine, infrastructure, industry and scientific research and development. The ego drives people, organisations and nations to act as if there is a shortage of resources for which they must compete, under the belief that they can live better (and thus be happier) if they take from others, or stop others from having a share. In reality however, this belief of lack actually creates shortage. In pouring resources into competition, we rob ourselves of our natural abundance. North Korea is the perfect example of this, as almost the entire country is devoted to its military, and they rely on overseas aid (whilst claiming to operate under a philosophy of self-sufficiency) to feed their starving populace.

One can only hope and pray that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, where peace, freedom and sanity prevail. May the leaders of this world be filled with wisdom, clarity and inner peace, and may new solutions emerge that serve the highest interests of all beings. I hope that all beings get to live with true love and peace within their hearts, as I have been so privileged to discover myself.

Peace.

[i] Though one could perhaps question whether they do truly have the capacity to put a thermonuclear warhead on board their ballistic missiles. Certainly they have basic nuclear weapons at least, but they may possibly be bluffing about their possession of a thermonuclear warhead (otherwise known as a Hydrogen bomb) and/or their ability to fire it from their ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, taking action with the presumption that they are bluffing could have utterly catastrophic results.

[ii] Fortunately there appears to be potential ways in which we can “burn up” such waste in next generation reactors in the future, and hence can reduce or even use up all of such waste that is currently being stored. Unfortunately, large amounts of these isotopes have already been released directly into nature, with barrels of waste being dumped into the ocean, amongst other tragedies.

[iii] Obviously, like most people, I know lots of people that immediately turn for the “false-flag” conspiracy theory in literarily ever single topic of current affairs, blaming everything on a secret ruling elite within our own Western countries. I myself have delved into this field in the past, and am open to the possibilities of some of these theories having some truth to them. However, it is quite clear that the conspiracy world is largely (if not wholly) devoid of the standards of scholarship and journalism that are present in the mainstream. That is, whilst mainstream scholarship and journalism certainly suffers from the biases and trends that affect human beings, it also (to its credit) demands some basic standards of reasoning, cohesiveness and evidence.

The conspiracy world is almost entirely devoid of these same standards. Hence, even if there were some truth to some of these grand conspiracy theories, sorting through the mess of them would be an immense amount of work. Whilst mainstream narratives do show bias, they are generally far more reasonable and cohesive by comparison. Whilst I share many criticisms of the US (and other Western nations), there is no question that North Korea is a danger to us all (and itself).

A few quick thoughts on marriage equality and the upcoming Australian postal plebiscite (or survey):

In recent years many Western countries have been able to pass through laws enabling marriage equality. Australia by comparison has lagged behind on this issue, due largely to the fact that a conservative government has been in power during the period in which the issue has been at the forefront of current affairs. That is not to say that there weren’t people pushing for marriage equality prior to 2013. There were, and there were nations that had already passed legislation to allow it prior to then. However, the past 4 years (or so) have seen many Western nations (the US, the UK and NZ to name a few) following suit and changing the legislation surrounding same-sex marriage (lets call it SSM for short).

Certainly, if Labor (or any other left-leaning political party) were to take power in Australia (now[i]), there is no question that a marriage equality bill would simply be passed through government. The Liberal party however have been adamant that if marriage equality is to be passed under their power that there will be a plebiscite, in which all Australians get to vote. Their reasoning has generally been that in matters such as this it is important to let everyone have their say.

Labor and the Greens have however blocked the previous attempts to enforce a plebiscite. Conservatives have treated this as a matter of hypocrisy[ii], or have argued that progressives fear that they would fail to get a winning vote. The polls however have repeatedly shown that the majority of Australians support marriage equality. The reason why Labor and the Greens shot down the previous plebiscite bill was that it was very expensive (I believe $170 million?), and that it was going to provide tax-payer money to both yes and no groups, effectively giving federal funding to a public anti-marriage equality campaign (as well as the pro campaign).

Conservatives that oppose marriage equality ask what is wrong with that, for government funding to go to those that insist on upholding a “traditional conception of marriage”, and allowing everyone to have their vote? Such people consider it to be a perfectly reasonable thing to oppose SSM, and feel offended that they get labelled bigots for merely expressing their opinion. The problem is this: Opponents of SSM have presented numerous arguments against it, but they are all completely erroneous. Every. Single. One. That is, there are lots of reasons why some people oppose SSM, but not one single good reason. I’m not going to go in-depth into all such arguments here. If you wish to read such arguments, you can start with the following links[iii].

Opponents of SSM argue that it would change the definition of marriage, and therefore it wouldn’t really be marriage at all. That is, they argue that marriage has always been defined as the union of a man and woman, for life, and for the purpose of bringing up children in a safe and stable environment. The thing is, that if we want to be frank, a major part of the traditional (and yes, Biblical) conception of marriage was as the purchasing of property (the woman) from her father to the husband. Fortunately most of us in somewhat modern cultures do not see marriage in this way anymore, but rather consider marriage to be a legal recognition of a life-long romantic partnership. We do not see the husband as owning the wife, but rather we (ideally at least) see them as equal partners.

As for the children part, many heterosexual people get married and do not have children, many by choice. LGBTI people already have legal access to IVF and adoption, and recognition of their unions as marriage will not change that in any way. Hence, if you are to deny LGBTI people access to marriage on the basis of it being strictly for the raising of children, perhaps you ought to divorce straight couples that have not children.

As such, given that the modern conception of marriage is as a legal recognition of a committed romantic partnership, there is no reason why this should apply only to heterosexual couples, and not to the LGBTI community. Words and concepts frequently evolve over time, and this is another example of such evolution. Not so long ago racism was largely accepted by mainstream society, and whilst it still certainly exists today, a significant percentage of modern people in Western nations will not tolerate it. It wasn’t even so long ago that women in Western nations were denied many of the rights given to men, and whilst there are still some legitimate areas for feminists to keep fighting, much ground was been won in this regard.

Regarding, the Liberal parties original plebiscite bill, it proposed giving taxpayers money to anti SSM lobbyists. Can you imagine a government giving federal funding to a racist organization to publish anti-Semitic material on television, in newspapers or on billboards? Can you imagine a government providing funding to a men’s rights group to petition the withholding of women’s rights?

Over the past few weeks we have constantly seen vile homophobic garbage in the media, from Bronwyn Bishops comments comparing SSM to bestiality and infanticide[iv], to the “Stop the fags” posters that have been showing up in Melbourne[v]. This is exactly why Labor and the Greens have opposed Liberals plans to host a plebiscite on marriage equality, as it is simply giving a voice to awful, irrational hatred that doesn’t deserve to be heard. Furthermore, the postal survey isn’t even a formal plebiscite, but rather a yes vote will simply lead to a vote in parliament. Hence, the whole thing can certainly be argued to be a gigantic waste of time and money.

Holding awful opinions doesn’t necessarily make someone an outright awful person:

Ultimately, I have to say that I think that the only reason why anyone would object to SSM is that they are homophobic. I happen to have a significant amount of family (and perhaps a few friends) that are openly homophobic, some virulently so. I personally feel that such opinions are equivalent to anti-Semitism; that is they are completely irrational, and downright ugly.

I do think however that we should avoid defining people completely by such opinions. That is, I know of many wonderful people that hold awful opinions. Human beings are complex creatures, and people temporarily identify with a range of different beliefs, seeking identity with religious, philosophical, political, racial and national groups. And yet, all beings are Spirit, and therefore have infinite worth and unlimited potential to shine forth radiance into the world. Most people have a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, and may largely help other people, whilst still being held back by erroneous beliefs.

It is important to remember that beliefs, opinions and even behaviour can change, and that these things do not define the true Self. Rather, the true Self is eternal and unchanging, always accessible when the mind is still. Homophobia is one of the many symptoms of ego and illusion. Whilst we should stand up for what is true and good, we can simultaneously hold sympathy for those that are suffering from illusion, fear and hate.

There is much more that can be said on this topic, but this will suffice for today. May we treat each other with respect and dignity, find love within, and be an example of how love can express itself in the world at large.

Peace

[i] Labor previously opposed same-sex unions prior to 2009.

[ii] As in Australian progressives had the chance to vote in marriage equality, but they themselves shot it down.

[iii] An example of a case against same-sex marriage “10 reasons why homosexual marriage is harmful and must be opposed”: https://www.tfpstudentaction.org/blog/10-reasons-why-homosexual-marriage-is-harmful-and-must-be-opposed. See for yourself, all the arguments are baseless.

18 arguments against gay marriage – and why they’re all bollocks”:

http://www.mamamia.com.au/arguments-against-gay-marriage-rick-morton/

Common arguments against gay marriage”: https://www.thoughtco.com/moral-and-religious-arguments-250095

I oppose same-sex marriage – (and no, I’m not a bigot) by Michael Jensen”: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/jensen-i-oppose-same-sex-marriage-(and-no,-im-not-a-bigot)/6502850 .   He claims that perhaps many people simply haven’t heard a sensible argument against same-sex marriage. In truth however, his argument simply consists of “it won’t be marriage as we know it; it will change the definition of it.” We have already heard that, and no, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

[iv] Bronwyn Bishop links same-sex marriage to bestiality and infanticide: https://twitter.com/skynewsaust/status/894887903158910976?lang=en.

[v] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-21/advocates-slam-anti-lgbti-poster-on-melbourne-street/8828566.

Ego identity and football:

Roughly six months ago I was having dinner with friends and discussing politics, and a mate of mine made an observation in response to some of my own thoughts about the rise of political far-right. Politics isn’t football.

I live in Victoria, Australia. We have rugby and soccer like most other countries, but we also have our own form of football: Aussie rules. I like Aussie rules football, it’s a great game. I enjoyed playing it at school, and I still enjoy a kick of the footy with friends. I don’t necessarily always like the culture that goes with it though.

I understand that for many people, that statement is tantamount to blasphemy. A significant percentage of men and women in this country live and breathe football. That is, they don’t merely appreciate the game, but rather they are totally consumed by it. Football fans of all ages often get quite obsessed with their team, and allow their emotions to be controlled by the results of the latest game. That is, grown men (and women) get angry and upset when their team loses, and can even sulk for days (or weeks) after a loss. Grown men and women scream obscenities at the players (on both sides), umpires and supporters of other teams. And of course, excessive alcohol consumption only makes this worse.

All forms of football are quite physical, and by very nature players come into physical contact with other players. Whilst players accept this, it is common for it to be taken too far, contact becomes excessive, and those on the receiving end resort to knee-jerk reactions, and brawls are the result. Fortunately, Aussie rules football fans don’t generally riot, as do soccer fans worldwide (or Ice Hockey fans in the US). So perhaps then, in this respect they are relatively restraint.

Anyways, the point is that sports fans often allow their emotions to be controlled by events that are completely beyond their control. A victory brings on a euphoric high, and a loss brings a gut-wrenching low. Whilst I admire the skill, fitness and intelligence required to play the game well, football players themselves sometimes get overtaken by an inflated image of themselves, or take on an overtly harsh personality as a result. It is good to be strong, but power and strength can have both positive and negative manifestation.

All this being so, this is not what this article is about. Rather, the reason I am writing this article is to show that life is not like football. Most football fans choose a football team to support, and then they give themselves over completely to that team. They become one-eyed, they develop narrow vision (or tunnel vision). They support their team regardless of what happens, and they consider other teams to be their enemies. They write a blank cheque to their team, and will honor it no matter what. There are of course many people that might take a more sensible, moderate approach to football. Such people may enjoy the game with a smile regardless of the outcome, appreciate and respect players of various teams, and recognize the relative strengths and weaknesses of all teams (including their own). Likewise, not all players (and other people closely associated with the game) make football part of their artificial identity – their ego. So, when I talk about football culture and the ego, I don’t mean to say that everyone who plays or enjoys the game is the same. However, the fact remains that football culture is saturated by ego.

Many people that are passionate about religion and politics display similar tendencies and behaviour to that of hardcore, one-eyed football fans. That is, many people (particularly those we would term conservatives), approach religion, politics, national identity and so forth as if they were football. That is, they choose a team (for whatever reason), and they write a blank check to their team to do anything, and they will always take their side.

But life isn’t football.

At least, it isn’t like how many people view football. Complex and important topics naturally demand a more complex, nuanced approach. Questions of how we view life as a whole, how one chooses to live, how you choose to treat others, how you sort through the myriad of competing views about the nature of humanity and the cosmos, and how best should a nation govern and regulate behaviour, resources and finances, naturally demand a sensible, objective and well-considered approach.

Complex subjects frequently demand that we weigh up opposing interests and find a sensible middle-ground. It is true that – as my brother David frequently says -, “Truth isn’t necessarily always found halfway between two opposing views”. That is, there are some areas of debate in which one side may be completely correct, and the other completely wrong. However, whilst truth isn’t always found somewhere in the middle between polar opposites, it often is! That is, most commonly, in most areas of division and dichotomy, a reasonable and informed opinion finds itself flanked on all sides by more extreme, unbalanced views.

Those that simply choose a team and identify with it may feel a sense of inflated ego as a result. That is, they feel superior because they believe they are on the right team. They feel justified when they demonize those that differ from themselves. They overlook the flaws of their own team, and refuse to acknowledge the strengths of their opponents. They are however holding on to a false sense of self, and they refuse to see the whole as it is. If you place your happiness upon the foundation of a false identity, it has a precarious existence. You will feel threatened by any challenge, as if your own being was at stake, and will react emotionally, without balance and depth.

From where I am standing, the commentary given by people that treat politics and religion like football has little value, as sorting out the half-truths from their bias is often so difficult, you are better off to start from scratch. It is necessary for reasonable and intelligent people to sort through the maze of opinions out there and offer a true alternative. We must however be careful not to be drawn into reactivity to the ego in others. That is, it is often hard not to react in kind towards inflammatory remarks made by others. We must have the courage to face up to what is not true, whilst holding in our hearts what is true.

Peace.

Marriage is NOT a Judeo-Christian concept:

I have been intending to publish a piece on marriage equality for some time, but I haven’t got around to finishing the article I started quite some time ago on the topic. Anyways, the media has been all over tennis legend Margaret Court over the past week or so after she announced her intent to avoid flying Qantas (where possible) due to its support of same-sex marriage.

I was watching Court’s interview on “The Panel”, and as is common when hearing conservative Christians discuss their opposition to marriage equality, it was quite clear that Court believes that somehow marriage is a Judeo-Christian concept, as if it was invented by Jews (and Christians), and as if it were dependent upon the Bible.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of the concept of marriage appears to be lost somewhere in the realm of pre-history, as practically all recorded history shows the presence of some form of concept of marriage. That is, the very earliest surviving written records reveal that men and women formed life-long partnerships that were recognized as akin to formal marriage. That is, the kings of ancient Egypt had their queens, who were of course their wives. The gods of ancient Mesopotamia had their female consorts – their wives.

These early records significantly pre-date any evidence of Hebrew culture and/or religion by well over a thousand years, showing the existence of concepts of marriage well prior to any historical evidence for a Judeo-Christian tradition. Of course, Christians can claim that their religious tradition existed well before the earliest definitive and widely recognised historical evidence (roughly 1200 BCE). The same however is true for Egypt, Mesopotamia and India (amongst others). Hence, we cannot simply grant the Jewish-Christian claims without evidence and not do the same for other cultures.

Concepts of marriage exist in practically all cultures, most of which are clearly independent of any Judeo-Christian tradition. Obviously there are vast differences in the details of marriage traditions, but the fact remains that marriage is a universal concept, existing from time immemorial.

I have pointed this out to many Christians before me who had been claiming that marriage was a Christian (or Judeo-Christian concept), who have then sought to move the goalposts by arguing that, “well, our modern Western conception of marriage is derived from the Christian tradition”, or “the West is built upon Judeo-Christian foundations, and marriage in Western countries is based upon the Bible”.

This is of course simply a matter of splitting hairs, as if they are saying that because Western culture is different in some details from the innumerable cultural traditions of the world at large, that therefore marriage in our society is different. So, what they are trying to say is that Christian marriage is a Christian concept. Well, of course it is. Just like Hindu marriage is a Hindu concept. But Hindu marriage and Christian marriage are both marriage. And an Australian Christian husband and wife are recognised as being married in India, just as an Indian Hindu husband and wife are recognised as being married in Australia.

Furthermore, our modern Western culture is secular, not Christian. It was Christian, but thankfully over the past several centuries we have separated church from state, leading to the potential for dramatic reforms, allowing for massive improvements in women’s rights, religious freedom, multiculturalism and general liberalisation. Of course our modern culture is not perfect, but to take the flaws of modern culture as evidence of “cultural Marxism” or the evils of a relativistic, secular world as the far-right claim, would be mad. We have come a long way. We still have much progress to make, we may have regressed in some ways, but there is no point looking back to a time when religion ruled all, as in truth things weren’t so rosy back then.

To claim that marriage in general is based upon the Bible is absurd, and simply factually incorrect. Of course, Christian marriage within a church is based upon the Bible. But marriage as a whole; no. So, when Christians say that we should leave marriage alone, they are trying to reunite church and state. Modern marriage is largely a secular and legal matter to be determined by the state. Of course people can still choose to be married in a church or temple if they are so inclined, but they have no right to deny the legitimacy of someone else’s marriage just because they are outside their faith, or their sexual preference is abhorred by an ancient text which they hold sacred.

Whilst I will save my thoughts about marriage equality in general for a further article specifically on that topic, I will say this now. I have little sympathy for conservatives who claim that they are being bullied when called bigots for opposing marriage equality. Just to be clear, obviously I don’t condone actual bullying of people on the basis of their beliefs.  Freedom of speech is important, as is freedom of religion, even if we don’t approve of things that people say or believe.  However, when people cite the Bible in their denouncement of homosexuals and speak of diabolical conspiracies taking aim at our children in reference to pro-marriage equality political lobbying, such things deserve to be actively denounced.  Those that make such statements cannot expect others to simply let such comments fly without a response.  I have seen lots of bad arguments against marriage equality, but no good ones. Whilst Christians are indeed persecuted in some parts of the world (particularly many parts of the Middle-East), I don’t believe Christians are being persecuted in Western countries (though there have been some cases whereby activists have gone too far). Rather, Christians are losing their privilege, as they should. Christians need to accept that in a secular culture they cannot expect to say “the Bible says so…” and expect people to follow suit. Fortunately, the Bible has no standing in a secular culture.

Certainly our conception of marriage has already changed dramatically over time, and this is certainly a good thing, not something to mourn. For much of history, marriage has literarily been a transfer of property (the bride) from her father to her husband. The fact that in Western culture we largely aim towards the ideal of men and women being equal and autonomous entities in themselves is certainly a major step forward from historical norms. The modern Western conception of marriage is as a formal, legal and cultural recognition of a life partnership between two adults who love each other, and share both deep friendship and also romance and passion. In recent times we have come to recognise marriage between men and women of different faiths, races and cultures as perfectly healthy and normal. Recognizing marriage between members of the same gender is simply the next natural step in evolving modern morals and ethics in the direction of truly universal and timeless ethical ideals, and away from backwards and superstitious cultural norms.

There is obviously much more I could say on the topic, but again, I will save that for a further article on the topic in general. I just wanted to say that when you hear Christians claiming that marriage is a Christian concept, based on the Bible, you can call BS. It’s simply not true. Christians should stop making this claim, and they should retract their previous statements.

Peace

On Donald Trump and the upcoming 2016 US election:

 

It is hard to know what to say in face of the circus that is current American politics. I have been feeling torn and tongue-tied; however this is not out of equal consideration of two opposing views, or out of a shortage of opinions to be expressed. Rather, it is because I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid the usual games of rhetoric and polemics that make the topic of politics such an ugly thing, despite its absolute importance. Regarding Trump, I don’t want to simply repeat the same labels of him and his followers that his many critics have been using. Rather, I typically find that such an approach doesn’t help, it doesn’t achieve anything constructive. Where possible, I attempt (again, not always successfully) to stick to the facts, and go into detail in explaining why I support a certain position over another.

With Trump however, I don’t believe a detailed examination should really be necessary. The problem with Trump is that if I say anything less than the usual rhetoric, I feel I would be holding back from speaking the truth, out of fear of offending others (including a few friends and family that support him). However, I could not live with myself if I held my tongue on this matter.

Of course there are many things that I can say without hesitation about him (and those that support him), all of which are already being said elsewhere. The common rhetoric from his critics is that he (and anybody that has and would support him) is insane, stupid and evil. This is where I really find it hard, because I generally don’t find such rhetoric useful. I don’t want to merely insult others that hold contrary views to myself. Certainly I can see that often both sides of politics lower themselves in their attacks against each other, and I personally wish to see politicians (and commentators) that are above such ploys.

The problem with Trump and co. is that anything less that the usual rhetoric wouldn’t really be true. We could try and sugarcoat it and present it in less offensive terms, but ultimately I think to conclude any less would be to fail to call things as they are. I have a policy regarding these things, and it is as follows: Speak the truth with love. This means to try to speak out about the things that matter, but to do so in a manner that does not seek to enhance ones own ego (in presenting oneself as superior to those on the receiving end). Basically, I believe one should be willing to stand up on issues that matter, knowing full well that there are those that will choose to take offense at your perspective. However, I believe we must be careful not to take this a license to deliberately cause offense, or to justify careless language.

Through this inner conflict I have felt regarding this issue, I have found this whole lead-up to the American election to be quite depressing. If only a handful of people were supporting Trump it would feel easy to just dismiss them all as being irrelevant to mainstream politics, and try and stay centred and optimistic about the possibility of improvement in the way our countries are run. However, with large numbers of Americans getting behind Trump it almost feels like there is no point caring about politics, if this is what so many people actually want for their leadership.

Whilst I am grateful to live in the 21st century in a Western country, with democracy, education, modern medicine and science, religious freedom and all that, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that there are many things that we need to improve and reform about Western culture (though I am aware of some on the far-right who wish to defend Western culture like a religious belief, considering anyone who is critical of any aspects of our culture to be self-loathing). To see improvement in the world we need leaders who are reasonable and intelligent, possessing wisdom, compassion and strength. Likewise, we need the general public to turn off their reality TV, put down their phones and be willing to take some time to educate themselves about things that really matter.

Now, from that last statement some might accuse me of displaying some sort of intellectual snobbery towards those that have no interest in politics. Certainly there are some amongst the privileged classes that turn their noses at the common man, considering themselves above the passions of the lower classes. Obviously, I do not condone such things. However, class snobbery goes both ways, and I have certainly witnessed numerous examples of those who actually attack those that seek to encourage greater knowledge on important topics. We can only blame our leaders so much; there comes a time when we must accept responsibility ourselves. If so many people honestly want Trump as the president of the United States of America, then the problem isn’t simply our leaders and the media. Rather, we the public are a major part of the problem.

I am fortunate enough not to know Donald Trump personally. Obviously, I try to see the best in other people, I attempt (and often fail) to be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Likewise, I always seek to get the facts from all sides and become quite familiar with the details of a topic before reaching definitive conclusions. I have initial impressions and intuitions of course, but I attempt to remain somewhat open about important topics until I have enough of the facts.  It is true that I can often express very strong opinions on a topic, but I try and withhold such conclusions until after I have shown (or am about to show) why such opinions are well justified.

I am still somewhat new to politics, in that I have not yet gone into the detail that I would like to in order to be able to offer my thoughts on comparing economic polices of progressives and conservatives, and other such topics. However, regarding Trump and co., I really do not think that you need to be an expert on politics to see what is going on here.

You would have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of all the crazy and disgusting things Trump has said and done. As a result, I’m not even going to try and document them here. Many people already have done so, and everything I am saying is easily verifiable to anyone with an Internet connection.

Trump encouraged the paranoia of evangelical Christians with his hysterical comments calling for his supporters to boycott Starbucks because their special Christmas coffee cup (in red and green, Christmas colours) wasn’t “Christmassy” enough? He stated that if he became president everyone was going to be saying “Merry Christmas”. So, is he going to send the army around to the houses of non-Christians to force them to sing songs about baby Jesus? He openly mocked a disabled man and then lied about it straight afterwards (gaslighting). He has repeatedly incited his followers to violence (and defended them for beating up protesters at his rallies), he commented that a female reporter that asked him difficult questions was having her period, and then there is of course his treatment of women… He openly said that using loopholes in business law to avoid paying tax “made him smart” (actually Trump, immoral), and then again denied it straight afterwards (gaslighting again). He has stated that there is a media conspiracy against him (like, why on earth would anyone not like him?), and that he may not accept the results of the election if he loses.

Now, I don’t really like the way that the media goes through peoples closets looking for skeletons. It’s generally malicious gossip and tabloid trash, and it doesn’t help. I have certainly said and done things, which I’ve been ashamed of later, and I think most people if they are being honest would confess the same. However, in Trumps case it is not as if he has made mistakes in the past but now he is a changed man. No, the man seems to have no genuine remorse for his obnoxious behaviour, and he continues the very same behaviour. Regarding the video that was recently released with Trump boasting about chasing a married woman and forcing himself on woman without their consent, the problem is that this wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Rather, the content of that video was simply another explicit example of Trump’s true nature, and its not like we haven’t already seen enough examples of that (check out his row with Rosie O’Donnell for the full ugliness of the man).

Donald Trump honestly thinks he is above the law, and above morality. That is, he does and says whatever he wants; he honestly does not care. He thinks because he is wealthy and famous he can say and do anything. He seems to be saying: “Look, I’m a jerk, and I don’t care”, and it has encouraged others to follow in his image, showing the full potential for the ugliness of the far-right. Somehow, Trump is being seen as a hero by many people. In their polemics about political correctness the far-right abandons common decency as well, and they have repeatedly defended Trump’s actions (whilst more reasonable conservatives have – to their credit – denounced him).

And then we have the bizarre situation that Trump has somehow managed to appeal to many underprivileged people, by telling them that he will bring down the system? Here’s the thing; Trump is the system! He’s a billionaire that doesn’t pay taxes, running for a party that objects to raising the minimum wage to a liveable level (that wouldn’t require working 2-3 jobs or being on welfare as well as working full-time), objects to universal healthcare, progressive taxation and affordable higher-education, to name a few things that would help the underprivileged.

Most significantly, Trump is the exact opposite of what we need. We need honest, trustworthy, decent, compassionate and wise leaders. Trump is none of that; rather, he’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we need.

What then of the opposition? There are many people claiming that Hillary Clinton is no better, or that she is actually worse. Well certainly Clinton was extremely careless in breaking the rules and using a private email server for classified government emails. So, she was irresponsible, majorly, but does this make her as bad as Trump? Well, obviously no. Being an amoral jerk and being severely irresponsible are pretty much at two opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m not sure how severe the email scandal should be considered in normal conditions, but by comparison to Trump it’s nothing.  Beyond the email scandal there are many, many claims made about Hillary Clinton, that she is crooked, taking bribes, using her foundation for profit instead of charity, amongst other things. The problem is that almost all of these are either false, half-true or unprovable speculations. Yeah, maybe some of these accusations against her could be true. Maybe she isn’t a saint. Or maybe they are almost all false.

I can’t say either way with what information I have encountered, and I haven’t seen anyone make a proper case against her. Rather, I have seen many, many heavily biased and poorly written articles saying she is this and that. As far as the full-blown conspiracy theories go that say she is part of the Illuminati and/or a Reptilian alien, if you want me to believe something like that and conclude she is no better than Trump, then you are going to have to actually make a really, really good case. Sure, I have read some David Icke and I have spent many, many hours reading through the endless conspiracy sites on the Internet. I suspect that some of it may be true, but if I were to commit to holding very serious positions, I would want to be absolutely convinced.

I am not so naïve to be taken in by mainstream media; however from what I have seen the whole conspiracy genre fails to meet the standards of argumentation and evidence that are required to accept their conclusions. It is true that sometimes just because a case hasn’t been made properly that it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some legitimate points. However, you can’t expect me to believe that Hillary Clinton is as bad as Trump on the basis of rumours, conjecture and the email scandal. By comparison, to see the problems with Trump you just have to be aware of the things he has openly said and done, and the crazy policies he wants to implement (like building a wall between the US and Mexico, and trying to get Mexico to pay for it!?! Ok conservatives, if you want to have a serious discussion about open borders and immigration, make a sensible case).

It is rather depressing that the leadership of such a massive and powerful country is decided by something that could not be called anything less than a circus. One could easily be forgiven for giving up on politics, for giving up on caring about important issues, or trying to encourage positive progress. If this is what America really wants, one could almost ask if they actually deserve democracy? Of course the opposite isn’t worth considering, I am simply voicing the frustration that I have felt in watching the Trump campaign.

There are reasonable conservatives out there. Far-left Socialism is indeed a true evil, and there are real problems with the moderate left of Western nations. However, I simply don’t know what to say when dealing with the far-right. It pains me to my soul to see and hear the way they go about things, and I don’t know where to start in pulling apart the web of misinformation they spread.

All of this is rather unpleasant, and I don’t enjoy it at all. I totally understand why many people run for the hills the moment a conversation turns to politics. Yet, we must be politically active. We must urge people on both sides of the spectrum to be reasonable, be patient and forgiving with those on the other side, even though they may appear to be our adversary.

If there are any conservatives reading, can I please ask you to consider that most people on the left in Western nations are not simply Soviet spies trying to covertly bring about full-blown Russian communism. Rather, they generally simply care about social justice, the environment and sustainability, and wish to see Western civilization find balance between economic progress and technological advancements, and a healthy ecology and fair social-economic system. Likewise, I urge progressives to consider that there is often another side of the coin to be considered, and that they can often go too far in fighting for a just cause.

We need to show kindness to those that hold different opinions to ourselves, even when they show aggression towards us. Likewise, we need to be honest enough with ourselves to consider the possibility that our deeply held opinions and beliefs may be wrong. We need to be cautious and slow to wholeheartedly accept definitive positions on far-reaching topics, and we absolutely must compare arguments on all sides before we reach our conclusions.

I don’t think we can reform our political and economic models simply through making our case really well however. Rather, we are talking about fundamental human behaviour, and whilst I think we should be active in standing up for what is real and good and trying to create a better world, we must have peace inside. Our actions often reflect our inner state, and where there is conflict and imbalance in external circumstances it is guaranteed that there is inner turmoil that is feeding the fire.

We must truly know that we are not simply our mind or our body. We are all capable of experiencing unspeakable inner peace and stillness, regardless of external circumstances, and nobody outside of ourselves can ever have the power to withhold that peace from us. I am still working on it myself (I fluctuate); however I have certainly tasted it. We can hold that peace within ourselves, and act in accordance with it. When we do that, we have the potential to change our external circumstances. Rest assured, that those who create and continue the imbalances of our external world do not have peace inside.

May we all strive to be the best we can be, and encourage others to evolve into their best person, whilst being patient, accepting and forgiving with both others and ourselves for being flawed human beings.

Peace.

It’s time for us to take more responsibility in choosing our leaders:

Right now we have federal elections looming both here in Australia and also in America. I am happy to admit that for many years I didn’t invest much time or energy in learning about the different political parties, understanding their ideological positions and their policies. It is all too easy to dismiss them as all the same, and conclude that we are simply equally screwed regardless of who gets into power. I again confess that I have certainly expressed this opinion in the past.

I do indeed think that it is true that parties and candidates on both sides of the political spectrum have to work within the same overall system, and are subject to influence by outside forces that may make it difficult for them to fully manifest their ideals. Likewise, I agree that there are certain modes of behaviour that are common on both sides of the political spectrum. However, it simply isn’t true that all politicians are the same, or that all parties are the same. It simply isn’t true that we get the same results regardless of who wins the election. Rather, we do see some correspondence between the actions of a party once in power and its political ideology.

It is sad however that breaking election promises has become par for the course, to the point that some commentators think we shouldn’t be too hard on politicians when they fail to come through on the things that got them elected in the first place. Hence, we can understand the apathy that many of us feel towards electing new leaders. However, we the people need to make a stand and demand honest leaders with integrity who will come through on their word. We will not achieve this by sitting on the sidelines and ignoring the action up on the stage, but rather by paying closer attention to what goes on in office.

It is commonly thought to be impolite to discuss politics, religion, philosophy and other subjects in public, due to the offense that many take to hearing opinions contrary to their own. These subjects stir the egos of pretty much all involved and often bring out the worst in us. However, we have a crazy situation where it is considered fine to talk trash, gossip and so forth, but discussing things that really matter is out of bounds.

Politics really matters. It determines how a nation collects and spends money, how it behaves in international conflict and what ideology drives its actions. Our involvement (or lack thereof) in political affairs can help to influence whether or not we (and those we care for) can access affordable education and healthcare, it influences the state of our transport infrastructure, our environmental policy, whether or not we attempt to intervene to prevent discrimination and bullying, how our economy functions and whether businesses are constraint by excessive red-tape, whether financial institutions and international businesses are allowed to take advantage of our nation, how we go about intervening and offering assistance to those who suffer in other nations around the globe, and on it goes.

I would like to challenge us all (myself included) to take responsibility and start to invest more of ourselves into engaging with the big issues. Sure, we all have lots going on in our own lives. However, it has become all too acceptable to become completely immersed in our personal dramas and sheltered from the big picture. We need to care about the big issues, we need to invest some of our own time and energy into educating ourselves and becoming somewhat active on a national and international level.

Perhaps the first thing we can all do is to take time to learn about the parties and candidates who we will be voting for in the upcoming elections, rather than allowing ourselves to be swayed by the propaganda machine that inevitably rolls forth in the time preceding the election. We need to be educated so that we cannot simply be enticed by mere slogans.

I would hope that in the near future we can show politicians what we demand of them, rather than simply accepting that it is normal for politicians to behave like primary school kids, shouting each other down, using cheap shots, launching witch-hunts like trashy tabloid magazines, lying through their teeth, falling short on their promises and all that. We must demand that our leaders demonstrate behaviour above and beyond what we see amongst the masses. We must demand calm, rational, compassionate and generous leaders. We want men and women who demonstrate that they have open minds and hearts, patience, wisdom, and the bravery necessary to lead our nations into difficult territory.

Likewise, we the people must be willing to invest some degree of time to consider opposing arguments from both sides in order to decide which policies we wish to support, rather than being led by the tactics employed by industry spokespeople and religious apologists when defending their institutions against the threat of collapse.

We the people must take responsibility for who we elect and why. The stakes are indeed high. There are many in America who are terrified of what will happen both to America and to others at the hands of America if Trump were to be elected. Likewise, for us in Australia we will reap what we sow in regards to who we elect. I urge for everyone to attempt to lay their egos aside and care more about the big issues in life, as they really do matter, and they affect all of us.

Peace

A Few Quick Thoughts On ANZAC Day:

For those of us here in Australia today is Anzac day, a day where we remember the horrors of war and the sacrifices of our ancestors that fought to retain the freedoms which we cherish. As with other days related to war and issues of national pride, it’s a day that can also divide people on the basis of their political allegiance. As I have been reminded by my conservative friends, we often find that around this time we encounter articles written to counter the “Anzac myth”, or to challenge the glorification of war. Many people on the left side of politics and religion feel that we have glamourized war, arguing that conservatives seem to actually like war, and act in ways to encourage or outright create it. On the other side, many people on the right feel deeply insulted by the disrespect shown towards the fallen by those that use Anzac day as an opportunity to criticize our brave soldiers.

The following statement is one that I will repeat in many different articles:

Whilst it is indeed true that the truth isn’t always found halfway between two opposing views, it is most commonly the case that it is.

War is a tremendously ugly thing. Obviously there’s large scale death of soldiers and civilians. There are all those that are maimed and injured, let alone all those psychologically destroyed (should we mention the high rate of suicide, substance abuse and other mental illnesses amongst victims of war). There is slavery, rape, and environmental destruction. And then there is the sheer cost of war. It is a sad irony that many times war has broken out because someone wishes to take power over another nation to make themselves wealthier, and yet war is surely one of (if not the) primary cause of poverty in the world. If we did not spend so much on war and defence it would surely be a different world.

And yet, when there are those who are driven by whatever ideology or desire to attempt to infringe upon the freedom of others, we need good strong people to stand against them. Indeed many atrocities have occurred at the hands of those fighting for the US, and I would presume that Australia, New Zealand and Britain would likewise not be exempt from this. However, this does not simply make us the same as those we have fought against, and we must all be thankful for our predecessors that fought to defeat the forces of evil.

There is a popular idea in New Age spirituality that you cannot fight against ego (or unconsciousness if you prefer) and win. It is thought that if you do you simply become the same yourself, in which case ego has won and you have lost. Rather, many people believe that you should only ever show love in the face of evil, and that in doing so one can transform your opponent, bringing them out of their unconsciousness. Unfortunately, because of this idea I have seen and heard many spiritually minded people argue that violence is never appropriate, apparently even in the face of opposing violence.

Obviously such an approach is completely untenable. I believe that the Bhagavad-Gita dealt with this issue wisely when it stated quite clearly that it is the duty of righteous people to stand against evil and protect against the collapse of culture. We should note however that the Gita also noted that to fail to defend oneself out of not wanting to cause harm to others would actually be to succumb to ego, in viewing ones opponents as merely the body to be cut down. The Spirit is immortal, it cannot be killed. Yet if someone is to try to take away your freedom it is your duty to stop them, even if it means killing their body. There is just as much ego in absolute passivism as there is in aggression, and passivism will achieve the same end, as it will only allow the aggressor to succeed.

I believe that the left are indeed correct when they point out that many in the right have glamourized war. It seems that it is difficult to fight a righteous war without being taken over the mindset of conflict. Certainly the US did largely save the world in WW2. Yet it does seem that many in the US have been taken over by this group-consciousness of believing themselves to be police and/or saviours of the world. How many movies have presented this theme quite clearly? What effect then does this group-mind have upon foreign policy and various other vital issues?

It is difficult (if not impossible) to look evil in the eye and feel love, but that is perhaps the ideal to which we should aim. To do everything possible in striving for peace, to offer compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness and infinite and unconditional love to all, and yet be willing to stand strong and fight when necessary. To be able to hold love in ones heart for an enemy whilst being willing to end their life if necessary in the horrors of war.

In this way we perhaps do not fight against ego, and we refuse to be pulled into it ourselves. We can fight against flesh and blood when necessary, but be careful not to create in ourselves an ideology that is dysfunctional in much the same ways as those we fight against. It is a common human tendency to swing too far one way in response to unbalance on the other side. We however have the ability to change, to grow. We must evolve if we wish to change the world in which we live for the better. And of course, the easiest and best place to start is with ourselves.

For we can find peace within ourselves right here and now (and of course, that it is the only place it can ever be found). Those that attain inner peace will never seek to impose their rule over others, nor wield any weapon in acts of violence. Real peace however will not lead to passivism, but rather make us strong warriors when necessary.

May we find that peace, lest we forget.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Lokah Samastah, Sukhino Bhavantu.

Islam, Terrorism and Religious Tolerance:

Summary:

We see in the world news a consistent trend of violence and terrorism associated with Islam, most of which happens in foreign countries, though some of which has recently had more of a direct effect here in Australia.  Whilst ideally human beings should feel equal outrage for atrocities that occur overseas and those that occur closer to home (and likewise feel equal empathy for those that suffer wherever they are), the reality is that we naturally take these issues far more seriously when they come closer to our immediate circle.  There is currently fierce debate as to whether Islam bears direct responsibility for breeding terrorism, or whether terrorism is more of a universal response to various other issues.  This is a topic, which brings together religion and politics, and it is one where we need to get our facts straight and be willing to face reality.

Conservatives in both religion and politics have openly condemned Islamic terrorism and militarism, and have argued that these are directly caused by Islam itself, and that every problem we see associated with the faith can be linked to the content of the Koran, and the central tenets of the faith.  Progressives on the other hand have argued that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, and that violence and terror is a universal problem, that all Muslims are being unfairly tainted with the same brush, and that Islam itself is not to blame.  Many progressives have gone even further and defended Islam, accusing the West of deserving terrorism both in response to our intervention in the affairs of the Middle East and the way we treat Muslims (and others) back at home.

Whilst I generally swing far more to the left then the right (on both religion and politics), this is one issue where I believe that conservatives are closer to the truth, although I believe that the left has good intentions (albeit intentions that are in this case misdirected).  The truth is that whilst the potential exists for human beings to twist and misinterpret any faith, philosophy or ideology, there is in-fact a direct causal link between the problems associated with radical Islam and the core tenants of the faith itself.  The Koran itself should legitimately be held accountable when we can see an obvious relationship between its content and the behaviour of some Muslims.

This however does not mean that all Muslims are bad people, or that they should be discriminated against or persecuted, or that all Muslims will eventually become terrorists.  Rather, it is a difficult question of how to respond to a dangerous ideology, when this ideology is held sacred by a significant number of people, who naturally have rights as human beings.  It is very difficult to conceive of how to restrict Islamic terrorism without becoming the persecutor ourselves; hence the topic is a true can of worms.  Whilst progressives are seeking to promote peace, tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism, many of them are going about it the wrong way, by resorting to pure relativism (in believing that all faiths are identical and/or equal), and by confusing criticism of bigotry with bigotry itself.

This topic is the perfect example of why we need to redefine our model of religious pluralism, and offer a rational middle ground between religious exclusivism, pure relativism and the rejection of faith altogether.  We desperately need to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate criticisms, and understand the difference between true bigotry and the need for good people to stand up against true evil (or deep unconsciousness).  Seeking harmony between different religions does not mean that we need to be unrealistic and dishonest about the very real flaws in many faiths.  Rather, as long as we pretend that these flaws do not exist we only allow them to become worse.

We must seek to reform the world’s religions towards the ideal of a Perennial philosophy, in doing so celebrating their strengths whilst seeking to rid them of their weaknesses.  In doing so some of the worlds faiths (such as Islam) will need to either radically change into a liberal mystical form (and grow into a Perennial Sufi mysticism or move in the direction of the Baha’i faith), or disappear altogether.  We need a rational middle-ground whereby we can acknowledge the difficulties we face when a potentially dangerous ideology holds the hearts and minds of large numbers of people, whilst we seek to uphold our own ideals of freedom, equal rights for all, pluralism, tolerance etc.  However, we must not be afraid to ask the hard questions, and in times of war there sometimes is no easy answer.  We must admit that we have a real problem with Islam, and the problem will not go away by ignoring it and trying to play nice.  As for what the solution is I do not know; what I am sure of thought is that being dishonest about the situation is not helping anybody.

Main Article:

Religiously motivated violence is an issue that has plagued humanity all the way through human history, and since the events of 9/11 western media has continuously paid attention to the threat of terrorism.  Obviously it should be noted that the vast majority of terrorist attacks occur outside the western world.  However we in the west have not been immune to this problem, and recent events from late 2014 (with the Martin Place siege in Sydney, which some have argued should not be classed as an act of terrorism) – early 2015 have brought this to the forefront of conversation for those of us here in Australia, whilst the latter attacks against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper attracted worldwide media attention.

These tragic events have once again spawned a wave of commentary on Islam in the media, with the conservative right condemning Islam as the cause of the events, whilst the progressive left seeks to separate religion from these tragedies, arguing that Islam is not at fault and that it is merely the actions of a few lone extremists that do not represent mainstream Islam.  Politically I probably fall more to the left then the right, and the same is certainly true when it comes to religion, in that I promote a refined form of religious pluralism and oppose religious exclusivity.  However, in this case I think conservatives seem to have a much better understanding of the facts at hand, although of course some far-right commentators and groups have used these examples to attempt to justify their own agendas.  It seems that as an extension of currently inadequate model of pluralism that is favoured by progressives, the left is in complete denial as to the true nature of Islam, the content of the Koran and the consequences of its central tenets (just as it is in denial as to the issues inherent in other faiths and their sacred texts as well).

Of course, religion itself cannot be blamed for all of the problems that plague its followers, and the left does indeed have a half-truth here.  There are indeed examples where followers of a faith misinterpret a text, and act against the tenets of their faith, whilst claiming to uphold it.  However, when we examine these cases in detail it is quite apparent when someone is twisting a text for their own reasons, and when they are simply following through on what is actually written (in which case defenders of scripture attempt to argue that a text should be read allegorically when it is embarrassing to them, regardless of the original context of the work itself).  Many issues that plague religion are simply a manifestation of the lower side of human nature, and the very same issues manifest in slightly different ways in various other fields, such as politics, business and so forth.  However, we need to acknowledge the reality that there are indeed many cases where individual religions condone and promote hatred, discrimination, violence and so forth, and hence when their followers manifest these features there is a link between the faith of the individuals and their behaviour.

It is indeed true that a psychologically and spiritually mature person can find the best in whatever culture and faith they are raised in and highlight those features, whilst someone who is immature can likewise do the opposite.  However not all faiths are equal or identical, and different religions have different strengths and weaknesses.  We do not have a problem with Sikh terrorists murdering civilians, or Buddhist monks preaching hatred against western civilisation.  Whilst there are examples where followers of the Dharmic faiths have been involved in local disputes (such as the problems in Burma), their religious texts do not generally condone and/or promote violence or hate.

Progressives commonly point out that Islam is not alone in having “difficult passages” in its sacred text, and that the same can also be said of Christianity and Judaism, amongst others.  Likewise they often also go on to point out that the religious right in America have a major influence on American politics and foreign policy.  Likewise, they point out that Israel’s actions and general policy towards the Palestinian’s in occupied (or “disputed”) territory may not simply be a case of political ideology, but may likewise be influenced by religious tensions between Jews and Muslims and a belief that Jews alone have a God given right to the land of Israel (Zionism).  Hence they argue that Christianity and Judaism are just as guilty of influencing religious violence as is Islam, and that an equal amount of justification for their atrocities can be found within the Bible and Tanakh as within the Koran.

In response, conservative Christians generally attempt to argue that Christianity is without blemish, that their critics simply misread the Bible, take it out of context and attempt to paint all Christians with the same brush due to the actions of a few misguided souls who do not represent Christianity as a whole.  Likewise, they are also frequently known to defend all of the actions of Israel, and to distance Judaism and Christianity from Islam (conservative Christians like to speak of the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, to separate it from the term “Abrahamic faiths” that those outside of their faith use to group Judaism, Christianity and Islam together into a general category).

In this regard Christian apologists play exactly the same game that Islamic apologists play, except from the opposite side of the table.  The problem is very much the same for both Christians and Muslims alike, in that many of them are in denial about the very real issues with their faiths, and they attempt to deflect legitimate criticisms back to their critics, accusing their critics of religious bigotry and racism, despite the reality that their critics are often accurately identifying bigotry within their faith.  It matters not how well we present our case against any religion; followers of those faiths who have made their identification with that faith part of how they see themselves (their ego, or false self) will refuse to acknowledge the case, and will use all manner of fallacies in order to justify to themselves (and other devotees) the deflection of their critics case.

Unfortunately the left side of religion and politics have in many respects become the friend of the fundamentalist, in that many progressives will not acknowledge that the problems with Christianity and Islam have roots in the foundation of these faiths, in their sacred texts and core concepts and beliefs.  Rather, the dogma of the left as a whole is that it is only that some misguided souls misinterpret portions of various sacred texts that we perceive problems in these faiths, and that the founders and founding principles and texts of all the world religions were pure vehicles for higher truths.  The problem is that this simply isn’t true; it paints progressives (who I count myself amongst) as being ignorant and/or dishonest about religion, and it actually goes a long way towards allowing fundamentalism and fanaticism to continue.

As long as progressives deny that there is anything fundamentally flawed with the Tanakh, the Bible and the Koran, there will be individuals who will read these texts as they are, and will take them seriously; including passages that (if taken seriously) bare serious consequences.  You cannot read the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths objectively and tell me that there are only a handful of “difficult” passages found within them; rather the opposite is true, they are filled with offensive concepts and commandments throughout.  Hence, as long as progressives espouse the dogma that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these texts, they are allowing these texts to retain their status as sacred works, and passively promoting them.

What we (those of us on the left) should be doing is being honest about the content of these texts, and promoting informed and reasonable views about them.  One can be informed and realistic about the nature of the Tanakh without being an anti-Semite.  Likewise, being realistic about the Bible doesn’t make you a bigot.  And again, being informed and realistic about the nature of the Koran doesn’t make you racist against people of middle-eastern descent, or Islamaphobic, or anything like that.  Rather, when progressives start to be honest about religion we will actually have more hope of being successful in our attempts at promoting peace.  Pretending that there aren’t any problems does not solve the problems; rather it allows them, and hence progressives that take the soft approach are shooting themselves in the foot, and refusing to stand up for the principles (freedom, human rights etc.) that are supposed to define their worldview.

Very few people on the left side of the political spectrum seem to understand the subtlety and complexity of the relationship between the three Abrahamic faiths, and their social effects.  It is indeed absolutely true that Judaism and Christianity both share many of the same flaws that are present in Islam, and I for one am quite open in my criticisms of them for these reasons, as I am with Islam.  The Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh, which appears in slightly modified form in the Christian Bible as the Old Testament) suffers from many of the same flaws as does the Koran.  The Tanakh is filled with “difficult passages”, and even the New Testament contains many problems, despite its far more pleasant nature by comparison to the OT.

As with Islam, there are many examples of real issues that occur in Jewish and Christian contexts today that can be directly linked to the content of the their sacred texts.  Judaism today however is (thankfully) quite different in the way that it is practiced by comparison to the religion that was practiced by the ancient Hebrews, and Judaism has been through many levels of reform through to the modern age.  That said, many Jews still consider the Tanakh to be divinely inspired and take it seriously, and would be hesitant to admit the great number of flaws it contains.

The nation of Israel has a very difficult relationship with the nations around it (of which I do not wish to discuss here), and it can possibly be argued that its actions have been motivated by an ideology that the Jewish people have a divine right to the land of Israel (Zionism), and that this ideology has inspired various human rights abuses, and contributed towards very difficult political territory (noting that Jewish people are also still victims of real anti-Semitism, and Hamas is a effectively a terrorist organization).  However, outside of the Middle East, one does not hear of Jewish people stirring up trouble for non-Jews due to their religious ideology.  Rather, Jewish people seem to be quite happy to allow non-Jews to live as they will, and do not feel a need to proselytize and convert others to their faith.

Christianity today is quite diverse in that there is a large spread from conservative to liberal believers.  We are all quite fortunate that very few Christians today attempt to enforce Old Testament laws upon anyone, but rather partial (or total) abrogation of the Jewish Law is a fundamental feature of Christianity.  Essentially we have a situation in which Christians generally believe that the Old Testament is the word of God and accurately represents the laws, behaviour and personality of God prior to the coming of Christ.  However, as explained through the Pauline epistles Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Law and brought about a new dispensation (age), in which these laws no longer applied.  There are several problems with all of this however, the primary one being that nowhere is there a specific explanation over which of the laws still apply and which don’t.  Hence, Christians themselves essentially pick and choose which parts of the Old Testament they choose to accept and which they don’t.

Fortunately for us today it means that we don’t have too many problems with Christians trying to enforce OT laws upon non-believers.  However, that is not to say that we do not still have problems with Christians trying to force their beliefs upon those outside their faith, and it is not to say that there are not real causal links between the content of the Bible itself and the behaviour of such Christians.  I for one am quite open in my criticism of some facets of Christianity and the behaviour of conservative Christians who take the Bible quite seriously.  Likewise, I again have been quite outspoken for some time in arguing that liberal Christians aren’t going far enough in their reforms, in that whilst I generally commend them for rejecting religious exclusivity, belief in eternal damnation and so forth, they generally still continue to give divine status to the Bible, and have not been strong enough in distancing themselves from various dogmas of their mother faith.

As with Islam, there is significant ignorance even amongst university-educated progressives as to the history of Christianity.  For example, the amount of times I have heard it stated that the doctrine of hell was invented by Catholics in the middle ages, and was not a feature of the early church, and likewise is not really espoused in the New Testament.  The problem with this statement is that it is patently false; in truth the doctrine of hell may have been extrapolated in the middle ages, but ultimately was taught from the earliest recorded times by the church fathers, and whilst there is certainly ambiguity about different terms used in the NT that are read today as referring to Hell, the passages are there, and at least some of them should probably be read in the way that fundamentalists today read them.

Likewise, the amount of times I have heard people claim that fundamentalism is a recent development in Christianity, only occurring in the last century in the US.  Again, there is only the faintest element of truth in this, as the label fundamentalism was only coined in the last century.  In truth however, nearly all of the core features of fundamentalism (as fundamentalists themselves defined it) can be traced back to the early church fathers who defined what orthodox Christianity was in the first place, and the only real grey area is the issue of how literarily the early church fathers read the Bible (I would argue that they read it literarily unless they were embarrassed by what it said, at which point they followed Philo in arguing for the absurdity of a literal reading).

The point of all this is that pointing out that there are likewise flaws in Judaism and Christianity does not mean that we cannot point out flaws in Islam, and it does not mean that we can’t argue for a causal relationship between the core problems of Islam and the behaviour of some Muslims.  Rather, we need to be realistic about all faiths, noting both their strengths and weakness.  We need to be able to give informed and reasonable critiques of any faith, ideology or culture without either going too far and being jerks about it, or on the other end of the scale being labelled as racists or bigots merely for objecting to offensive and dangerous beliefs.

Progressives are attempting to argue in favour of multiculturalism and religious and cultural pluralism, and to this I tip my hat (as it’s what I too aspire towards).  However, the way that many of them are doing it is invalid, and has dangerous consequences.  In wake of several of these attacks social media has been flooded with posts and blogs effectively siding with the terrorists, and accusing western civilization of deserving what was coming to them.  I agree that western civilization is not without it’s flaws, and I personally am sympathetic with many critiques of American (and allied) foreign policy.  However, this does not mean for a second that I sympathize with Islamic terrorists, as if their hatred for western democracy, pluralism and freedom was in any way justified.

It is quite ironic that so many liberals leap to the defence of Islam in believing that they are defending freedom, tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism, when in reality it is the ideology of Islam that is the enemy of all the things that they seek to stand up for.  It is Islam itself that is opposed to religious freedom and pluralism, multiculturalism, women’s rights, LGBT rights, democracy and secularism.  Legitimate critiques of Islam are done on the basis of this reality; it is those that make informed criticisms of Islam that are in-truth defending the ideals that progressives are supposed to stand for.

Let us make this quite clear; critiquing Islam is not the same as demonizing all Muslims.  As most of us well know, the vast majority of Muslim’s living in western countries are willing to abide by the laws of our land, and separate their private convictions (which still may contain ideas that clash with the collective cultural norms and ideals) from their public life.  There are many, many beautiful Muslim men and women in both western and Arabic nations that uphold many of the great human virtues, and who can draw on universal ethics to inspire them to greatness.  Likewise, there are even Muslim mystics who soar to great heights of spiritual attainment, and pursue a path of divine love.  However, none of this changes the reality that Islam has no tolerance for religious freedom and/or pluralism, and it is only in western nations that Muslims can leave their faith (and even then it can be very difficult, if not impossible).

There is a difference between giving legitimate critiques of a religious belief and racism.  Most people that criticise Islam are not racists, and do not condone discrimination against Muslims themselves.  There are of course real examples whereby people do employ racism against people of Arabic descent as a response to Islamic terrorism, and there have been examples of westerners attacking Muslims or people they mistake as Muslims (such as Hindus and Sikhs) in retaliation for terrorist attacks.  However, much of the criticism of Islam that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks has been accurate and fair, in that critics were pointing out that Muslim extremists were carrying out the commands of the Koran in murdering those that insulted Mohammad.  Yet when people such as Sam Harris point this out, they are accused of being racists.

Racism is discrimination against people on the basis of race, not faith.  Whilst criticism of Islam may seem to denigrate Arabic people in general, this is not necessarily the case, any more than criticism of Christianity in the US would be racism against white people.  Secondly, it is not bigotry to criticize someone’s beliefs, even if the beliefs in question are held sacred to them.  Rather, if religious beliefs are held to be above criticism then they gain absolute power, as they become untouchable.  When religious beliefs promote bringing all the world under the rule of a single religious authority and those beliefs are held to be above criticism, we are then in trouble.

Pretty much every single time I mention criticisms of Islam I get the response from somebody: “I know some Muslims and they are lovely people.  Perhaps you should meet them; you might learn something?”  Likewise, I have even got the same response when I have voiced criticisms of Christianity, despite the fact that the people giving this response should know that a great number of my friends and family whom I love and admire deeply are Christian.  Likewise, we saw the same response from Ben Affleck against Sam Harris and Bill Mahler(1), despite the fact that they made it quite clear that they were not criticising all Muslims as individuals, but rather critiquing bad ideas that are held sacred in Islam.  As stated previously, the majority of Muslims in western countries are happy to follow our laws, and keep their faith as a private matter.  However, the fact still remains that when a collective call to arms is raised by someone amongst their ranks in response to a perceived insult against their faith, we consistently see large numbers of Muslims come out of the woodworks rising up in violence and hateful rhetoric.

We also cannot afford to let conservatives be the only ones speaking out about Islam, especially as some of them are also failing to do so in a balanced and reasonable way.  Granted, there have been some excellent critiques of Islam by those on the right.  Likewise, there have been a handful on the left who seem to get it right.  However, if the left continues to define its position on the topic by its denial then they we risk giving fuel to the far-right (who would love nothing better than to completely discredit the left), in which case we have a situation whereby two equally unbalanced poles continue to fuel each other, and neither one resolves the situation at hand.  I personally was quite disgusted by the amount of people that I know that shared posts on social media or even wrote their own rants that basically sided with Islamic terrorists.  Whilst western civilization is certainly not perfect, the legitimate flaws of our culture do not legitimize the hatred with which many Muslims feel towards us.  Might I suggest that those that feel the need to so thoroughly critique western civilization that they would attempt to justify acts of senseless violence and terror might try living in a Muslim majority nation such as Iran, Syria or Egypt, and then see what happens when the “religion of peace” is given absolute power?

It is difficult to know what to do about Islam in terms of how to take action to prevent a threatening ideology from further harming the world, whether through acts of public terrorism, or through the human rights abuses that take place across the world in Muslim majority nations or enclaves.  It is hard to know how to institute measures to stand against evil without likewise becoming the very thing one is fighting.  Whenever someone mentions political measures designed to stop the spread of Islam (such as reducing or completely stopping immigration to Muslims, or even deporting Muslims, or halting or banning the construction and/or operation of Mosque’s and Islamic schools, or banning the burqa and hijab) it always makes me feel quite uncomfortable, as it blurs the line between persecutor and persecuted, right and wrong.  How do we stop bigotry without becoming bigots ourselves?

There is an example from history which is somewhat relevant to this topic and may give context to what we are facing (though it is an extremely touchy subject); that being Roman persecution of Christians in the first four centuries of the Common Era (which I will point out was actually quite sporadic, and was not the consistent and widespread persecution that many Christians would paint it as).  One may ask how that scenario is relevant to the discussion of Islam in the west today?  Certainly most people would view the Roman world as being the evil persecutor of innocent Christians, who were denied religious freedom and tortured and/or murdered simply for their faith.  Well this is true, but it is only part of the picture.  The Roman world was actually extremely pluralistic and tolerated all sorts of religious beliefs, as long as one was happy to take part in the state cult of Emperor worship, and propagation of the gods.

Christians weren’t so much persecuted simply for their personal faith; rather it was because they refused to participate in the state religion, and because they actively spoke against the empire of Rome (preaching its immanent destruction) and the religious practices and beliefs of everyone else (which they claimed were demonic in nature).  Christians weren’t trying to merely keep to themselves; rather they stirred the pot and stood against (what was then) the most powerful empire of the ancient world.  I repeatedly find it extraordinary that many Christians have claimed that Christianity can be credited for establishing religious freedom in the modern world, when in fact Christianity did the exact opposite from the moment it gained power.  When Constantine established religious freedom for Christians (which was later reinstated by Theodosius after it was revoked by Emperor Julian) Christians went about progressively removing the religious freedoms of everyone else, in as much was their capacity.

From this point through to the modern era Christians repeatedly brought about forced conversion on various peoples, and banned the practice of other religious traditions.  Granted there were some features of pagan religions of which I am glad have not survived, and certainly many of the traditions that were banned by Christianity were not enlightened paths.  However, Christianity also interfered with the practice of philosophy in the ancient world, and removed basic freedoms of large numbers of people over a significant period of time.  It took many brave leaders in the western world to bring about a process of separation of church and state, which has brought about the fortunate situation in which we pretty much have complete freedom of religion in our secular western world (though some conservative Christians feel persecuted that they are called out for bigotry when they express their opinions regarding the LBGT community).

I would like to make myself quite clear here however, I am not in any way condoning or seeking to justify the Roman persecution of Christians, nor do I condone the persecution of Christians today, nor any other group for that matter. Rather, I simply wish to point out that the Romans did indeed legitimately recognize that Christianity was a potential threat to its status quo, and this threat actually eventualized, as Christianity did much to prevent or even eradicate religious freedom within their reach in the ancient world.  Whether or not Christianity had anything to do with the actual fall of Rome, Christianity certainly was responsible for the fall of Roman religious freedom.

I do not wish to make it sound like Christianity did nothing good for the world; in truth I believe that it went both ways.  I do believe that the world would have been ultimately better off if Christianity had not become the official state religion of Roman world just before it crumbled.  However, that is not to say that there were not some horrible features of Roman society that Christianity stood against.  I may suspect that Christianity ultimately did more harm then good, but I would never have supported Roman persecution of Christians, let alone outright eradication of Christianity within the Roman Empire.  My point simply is that the Romans were right to be concerned about Christianity, and whilst they attempted to do something about it (in their own way) they still didn’t stop it, and what’s more they ended up looking like the bad guy (not saying they weren’t) for what they did to try and stop the threat.

If we apply this to our current scenario, we have a situation whereby our own culture is not perfect.  However, be that as it may, the fact remains that we do have a real issue in how to deal with Islam, and we must consider the possibilities of where this could lead in the future.  Having said that however, it is difficult to conceive of how we can act without being perceived as the persecutor.  In this manner progressives are currently making things very difficult, as they frequently stand alongside Muslim apologists, who claim persecution whenever a government attempts to do anything to prevent terrorist plots, or members of our community going overseas to fight alongside ISIL.  For examples of this I would cite numerous episodes of Q&A (on the ABC here in Australia), in which Muslims have repeatedly claimed that they were being profiled and persecuted whenever there were anti-terror raids on their community.  This is a double-edged sword whereby any action we take against Islam can potentially make us look like the aggressor, and in which Muslim apologists and their sympathizers on the left are making things worse by trying to claim that there is no problem in the Muslim world, and that we are fully responsible for all that has been done against us.

We have a real problem whereby anybody that publically insults Muslims is threatened; whether or not they are merely giving intelligent, legitimate criticisms of Islam (such as those given by Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris) or whether they are trolling Muslims, deliberately trying to provoke them (as is often the case with political satirists, who take their genre as a licence to be a jerk).  Time and time again these threats have been followed through on, producing consistent results that should shock us all.  Case in point, the film “Innocence of Muslims” was indeed a tasteless film (although it did contain truths in it, albeit poorly presented), though the response was something that we only see from the Muslim world.  Muslims all over the world responded with violent protests, storming US embassies, and committing acts of violence (noting that quite a number of people died) and vandalism.  Unfortunately, the reality is that Islam becomes more and more of a problem the greater the percentage of Muslims there are in a community, and when Islam is the majority faith a nation falls into theocracy, and human rights and secular values disappear.

The recent “Reclaim Australia” rallies directed against Islam were led by ultra-conservative Christian preacher Danny Nalliah, were attended by neo-Nazis and Pauline Hanson predictably made an appearance and gave a speech at the local Queensland rally.  I would personally never wish to be associated with such figures, yet I wish to be able to critique Islam and consider at least the possibility that we may potentially need to resort to some action in restricting Islam in Western nations; though I shudder at many of the suggestions offered to the latter, and I would urge extreme caution when considering such things.

We New Age spiritual types are supposed to focus on the positive end of every issue, and so I can kind of understand that progressives are trying to do the right thing by deflecting criticism of Islam, and trying to avoid perpetuating a cycle of retribution.  I suggest that we can do that without being wrong about Islam (or any other religion for that matter).  We can recommend that Islam follow the lead of western countries in becoming separated from political and social life.  We can recommend that Muslims follow liberal Christians in reforming their faith.  Obviously we cannot expect the Islamic world to instantly change from one pole to another.  As with Christianity it is only natural that reform takes place in stages. However, we ourselves must continue to show the way and inspire (fellow) liberals to keep moving and take the reform of their faiths to the inevitable conclusion, in which they distance themselves from many of the core features of their orthodox mother faiths.

I am unsure as to what the best approach is for the future, whether Christians and Muslims should seek to create highly liberal, reformed Perennial versions of their faiths, or simply abandon them altogether for the Perennial Philosophy.  The latter is certainly the harder option, and for many it is practically impossible.  However, if the former is to be the case then we have to ensure that reform goes far enough, as currently liberal forms of these faiths stop well short of the evolution that will be necessary for them to fulfil their ideals.  A truly enlightened person can be honest about what is, but perhaps may attempt to keep their focus upon a solution rather than getting caught up in fear.  However, passivism in the face of evil is not the same as what I am idealizing.  Likewise, taking sides with Islamic terrorists and joining in hatred against the west is the opposite of enlightened action.  We could have a difficult time ahead of us in cohabitating with Islam.  It certainly isn’t going to disappear or reform over night, and the potential exists for it to get much worse.  We will continue to have a problem with Islam regardless of whether or not Muslims (and others) have legitimate reasons to be upset with the West.  Even if we were to stay out of Middle Eastern affairs and correct any perceived injustices against Muslims in our own nations, Islam would continue to present problems.

Islam has a long history of taking advantage of progressive governments leniency, by attempting to secure greater and greater liberties.  Muslim activists do not simply push for an end to discrimination, but rather they push for special privileges, whereby Islam and the Koran are immune to criticism, whereby we cannot make images of Mohammad, and where they attempt to practice Sharia law in our countries.  ISIL is currently showing us the horrors of radical Islam, and it is difficult to imagine a true solution for this scenario.  Fortunately there are some reasonable conservative voices on this issue that recognize the seriousness of the situation and the need for us to do what is possible to prevent further atrocities in the Middle East.  However, whatever we choose to do there is no easy way out, and we could potentially make matters worse again.

As for how to deal with civil unrest back home, terrorist attacks and plots and Muslim activists who attempt to overturn western secular values, I personally cannot at this stage offer a solution or support any specific form of action to prevent further issues.  However, it is clear that my fellow progressives (remembering that I personally lean left) need to educate themselves as to the complexities of religion and its influence on politics and current affairs, and stop making excuses for Islam and blaming ourselves. The left seriously needs to get real, and perhaps integrate into its worldview some of the perspectives offered by modern atheists, who have given many well-reasoned and informed critiques of religion in recent years.

Having said all this, it is important that we don’t spend all of our time and energy focussing on fighting against Islam.  Rather, we need to actively seek to cultivate real lasting peace, by approaching the topic with the necessary depth that it demands.  Let us lead by example in finding peace within ourselves, forgiving others and reaching out to each other, whilst standing strong for the great ideals that we are privileged to benefit from in the modern world.

1)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vln9D81eO60