On Ranking the World Religions

In Fuck it: Let’s Rank the Religions, Clickhole serves up the usual satire, ranking the world religions as follows:

1. Hinduism
2. Bahá’í
3. Judaism
4. Islam
5. Mormonism
6. Buddhism
7. Christianity
8. Sikhism
9. Shintoism
10. All the others

Here’s my more serious attempt at the exercise, though with tongue-in-cheek elements too. Sue me, I couldn’t resist.

1. Unitarian Universalism. 5 stars. I became a UU because I agree with its seven core principles: (1) the inherent worth and dignity of every person; (2) justice, equity and compassion in human relations; (3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in congregations; (4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; (5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within congregations and in society at large; (6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; (7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. As UUs we ground these principles in humanistic teachings, science, nature and philosophy, personal experience, and sometimes even elements of the world religions.

Cons: Some UU’s are the greatest spiritual con-artists you’ll ever meet. We pretend that we’re religious (we’re actually more a social club), feign spirituality (whatever new-agism is in vogue), and cherish all religions (or at least pretend to) as having more or less equivalent worth, even knowing that it’s bullshit and that our secular values are far superior. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that UU’s are naturally humble and open-minded. We have egos the size of mountains.

2. Buddhism. 4 ½ stars. With its emphasis on meditation and mindfulness, Buddhism is a psychology as much as a religion, and in fact some of the spirituality of Buddhism is accessible in purely secular terms. Transformation through meditation doesn’t depend on the Buddhist faith, though they can go hand in hand. Even doctrines like reincarnation and rebirth have been easily discarded by many Buddhists without being seen as damaging the integrity of the religion. Though many scriptures have been preserved (the Pali Canon), there is no single holy book, which also helps account for its less dogmatic nature.

Cons: The lure of Buddhism is its philosophical maturity and benign tolerance that makes it stand out among the world religions. The cost is that Buddhism isn’t about a neat set of principles. You don’t “believe in the Buddha” for some benefit. Buddhism is about practice much more than belief, and it takes sustained effort to bring about enlightenment — if that comes at all — and it’s not easy.

3. Christianity. 4 stars. If the Buddha showed how to avoid suffering by rising above it (through detachment from the material world), the Christ reversed the cycle of suffering by rising from the dead. Christianity is arguably the religion which most strongly takes on the problem of suffering. The disciples considered persecution a badge of honor, which they were expected to go through without retaliating in violence. Even in the book of Revelation, the faithful don’t engage in holy war and are specifically told not to; they are to conquer the the Beast through witnessing and pacifist martyrdom. The concern for suffering accounts for Christianity’s attention to social justice, strong ethic of charity, and promises of the last being first. At the apocalypse wrongs will be righted and the dead will rise, and even if that’s a fantasy, it has yielded practical theologies about justice and mercy.

Cons: For all its ethic of charity and forgiveness and loving enemies, Christianity has some toxic ideas, the most virulent being homophobia. Unlike other transgressions, sodomy is seen less as a sin and more an indication that one is a reprobate beyond the pale. There has also been a heavy strain of anti-Semitism in Christianity, thanks primarily to the gospel passion narratives, though this has been reformed.

4. Judaism. 4 stars. What intrigues me most about Judaism is its tradition of arguing with and challenging God. Abraham bargained with God for the sake of decent citizens in Sodom and Gomorrah; Job protested the sufferings God dumped on him; etc. Arguments can even get physical, as when Jacob wrestled with an angel at the Jabbok River, and got his name changed to Israel (which means “one who wrestles with God”). The other two Abrahamic faiths (Christianity and Islam) require a complete surrender to faith/God, but there’s a lot more room for push-back in Judaism. God-wrestling is quite a different idea than being a slave to Christ or wholly submissive to the will of Allah. No doubt this tradition was strengthened over the centuries as the Jewish people kept getting the shaft.

Cons: Judaism has its toxic ideas like Christianity, but also that of sacred warfare which has made Zionism possible. While holy war has never been essential to Judaism (unlike Islam), and doesn’t command warfare to be waged beyond Israel’s borders, the injunction to “keep the land pure” is an ingredient that has been taken seriously in even the most dormant periods of the faith. In the medieval period, taking back the land of Israel remained theoretically possible, and the midrash practically shouts that “if the rabbis could have, they would have”. This is unlike the Christian crusades which grew out of many improbable factors and had no basis at all in Christian thought.

5. Taoism. 4 stars. Taoism values inwardness and non-action, which at first blush seems to be a great religion for those of us who believe there is no free will. Wu-Wei is “natural action” that doesn’t involve struggle or excessive effort, and produces a mental state in which human action is effortlessly aligned with whatever course life is taking. On the other hand, that somewhat misunderstands free will, which has nothing to do with activity vs. passivity; the option to be passive involves just as much a “choice” as that to be strenuously active. (It’s simply that these “choices” don’t involve free will.) Taoism emphasizes health and healing as goals to long life or even immortality, and not being hostage to petty fears. Then too the yin-yang principle of polarity — good and evil being part of one and the same system — commends itself against a more dualistic view.

Cons: At its worst or misguided, Taoism implies that people can’t make a difference (which again misunderstands our lack of free will) and encourages too much passivity. Being detached from our feelings can also be a problem when taken to extremes.

6. Shintoism. 3 ½ stars. The laid-back religion is animistic and centered around kami, or sacred spirits that take the form of animals, plants, rivers, lakes, whatever. People become kami when they die and are honored as such, which is nifty. Shintoism is a highly ethnic religion rooted in Japanese culture and bases most of its beliefs on four ancient tomes: (1) the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), (2) the Shoku Nihongi and its Nihon Shoki (Continuing Chronicles of Japan), (3) the Rikkokushi (Six National Histories), and (4) the Jinnō Shōtōki (a study of Shinto and Japanese politics and history). There’s no clear-cut right or wrong in Shintoism and so things are pretty grey. Shinto rituals are designed to keep away evil kami, on which see below.

Cons: The worst thing about Shintoism is those evil kami. People who die holding a grudge strong enough to keep them attached to the physical world become vengeful spirits (as portrayed in The Grudge and other Japanese horror films), and it’s nigh impossible to escape them, or bargain with them, if they want to tear you apart. Just watching The Grudge damn near gave me a heart-attack.

7. Jainism. 3 ½ stars. A religion that teaches the supremacy of non-violence (the opposite of Islam) has a lot going for it. Whenever people tell you that all religions are equally malleable and prone to violent permutations, you can refute that claim with many examples, but Jainism is Exhibit A. It is impossible to derive violence out of Jainism, which is why it’s never happened. The swastika symbol may cause a double-take, but until Hitler perverted it, the swastika was a positive symbol. In Jainism it stands for the four states of existence: heavenly beings, human beings, hellish beings, and flora/fauna. The Five Great Vows of Jainism require the renunciation of (1) killing anything living, (2) lying, (3) greed, (4) sexual pleasure and (5) worldly attachments.

Cons: Pacifism is a huge plus, but at their extreme the Jains are pacifist to the point of dysfunction. Some of them watch where they place their feet every moment for fear of stepping on bugs, insisting on devices such as mosquito nets instead of insect repellent, smoke, or liquid traps. The stringent asceticism of Jainism is also a bit much for me. Sexual and worldly pleasures are a good part of life.

8. Hinduism. 3 stars. Hinduism is so diverse in its theoretical premises and actual expressions that I hardly know how to rank it. Yes, all religions are diverse in certain ways, but Hinduism is an extraordinary pastiche of monism, theism, monotheism, polytheism, and pantheism — all of these are built into the Hindu worldview. It doesn’t have a founder, it’s based on an impersonal Supreme Reality (Brahman), and the multiple personal manifestations of that reality as God (as Vishnu, Shiva, or Kali, etc). Basically take your theology of choice, and chances are it will find some legitimate basis in Hinduism. There has been a strong tradition of freedom of belief and practice in the religion, and that’s its greatest plus. (In this entry I would include Sikhism, the fifth largest world religion, which grew out of the Bhakti Hindu movement and has elements of Sufi Islam.)

Cons: The tradition of tolerance is great but isn’t anchored in a coherent system. And there’s the flip side: because the Hindu pantheon is so diverse, it has evil deities who demand nasty shit. Like the goddess Kali. The Thuggee (where we get the word “thug”), for example, were a brotherhood of thieves and assassins who pretended friendship with travelers in India before killing them. They were Muslim in origin, but later became associated with the Hindu death cult of Kali. Forget the cartoon portrayal of the Kali cult in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For a realistic and thoroughly unpleasant portrayal of Hindu sacrifice read The Song of Kali.

9. Islam. 1 star. Muhammad wasn’t anything like the Buddha or Jesus. He was a warlord, and all the Islamic sources (the Qur’an, Sira, and Hadith) require believers to follow the jihad example. The only ambiguities in the Qur’an are the few passages advocating peace, but they are (a) all too few, (b) subordinate to the many passages which supersede them (the doctrine of abrogation), and (c) are understood to apply only when Muslims are outnumbered and have no chance of winning a war (reflecting the early time of Muhammad’s career). The precept of Islam is clear: perpetual war against all who deny the prophet, the subjugation of infidels (and women) under rule of a caliphate and oppressive sharia law. This has always been the historical norm for Islam and it remains obligatory in all schools of Sunni and Shia thought. There are obviously moderate Muslims, but no form of moderate Islam.

Cons: See above. Islam is saturated with dangerous and toxic ideas. Of all the religions it has done the most damage throughout history, yes, even in Umayyad Spain, which supposedly saw a “golden age” for Islam, but which is a myth.

10. Scientology. 1 star. How anyone takes it seriously is beyond me. It’s science fiction dressed up as religion, but a mentally abusive religion that robs you blind. The #1 goal of the church is to become filthy rich — richer than the goddamn pope. There is no top level in the religion as claimed; when you reach the top of the Bridge (OTP 8) you find out there are more levels after all, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Psychology and psychiatry are condemned, because there is no such thing as mental illness. Church leaders stop their followers from getting proper medical help, and in some cases have caused suicides because of it. Scientology teaches that the individual is responsible for everything and has the power to heal him or herself with church “technology”. Seriously.

Cons: See above. Everything about this religion is a con.

Piss Against the Wall, Take 2

Three years ago, Pastor Steven Anderson infamously explained why men should urinate standing up, based on the passage of I Kings 14:10 and five other Deuteronomist texts. I’ve only now become aware of a sequel diatribe he delivered last year, Pisseth Against the Wall, Take 2, in which our beloved pastor continues railroading effeminate Germans, modern “sissified” versions of the Bible which censor manly images of those who “piss against the wall”, and — above all — women who micromanage the lives of their husbands in the bathroom. Unbelievable.

This segment comes from the tail end of the sermon, Show Thyself a Man.

For perhaps a more reasonable defense of why men should resist the trend in Germany (and France, and Holland) and continue to urinate standing up, see The Naked Scientists.

Biblical Cranks: A Review

(A Guest Review by Leonard Ridge.)

Before I describe my own vital contribution to the achievement, simple modesty requires me to point out that Biblical Cranks, by Loren Rosson, for all its flaws, merits more attention than would normally be granted to a scholar-wannabe’s attempt to prove himself in the middle of a mid-life crisis. My own role in the book’s creation simply owed to being in the right place at the right time.

In the summer of 2008 I arrived unannounced at Loren’s apartment, passing through New Hampshire and wanting to catch up on arthouse flicks, not having seen my friend in months. Three full minutes after ringing the bell I looked in on a stranger: a bleary-eyed, emaciated skeleton out of Edgar Allen’s Poetry. More stunning was the phantom’s speech, incorporating obscenities every other phrase, as in, “Fuck, Leonard, like where the fuck you been, man, shit, man, thought you’d blown me off for good.” I squinted; yes, this was Loren — hideously distorted under bloodshot eyes, puffed cheeks, four-day stubble, and unkept hair that bore a passing resemblance to the mophead used on my kitchen floor.

Scarcely able to contain my shock, I allowed myself to be pulled through the doorway and pounded jovially on the back, when came the overpowering reek from his breath, the odor of which I judged to be gasohol. “Sit the fuck down, man, I’ll get you some.” I fell into a sofa stained by pizza sauce and various bodily fluids, and as Loren proceeded to mix a ghastly concoction of liquors (the “gasohol”), I wondered how in the nine hells he’d reached this state of affairs.

Serving me the gasohol in a filthy glass — and knocking back what must have been his own eighth or ninth shot of the poison — Loren confided that his latest project was a treatise on scholarly cranks of the bible. The unfamiliar names of Yuri Kuchinsky, Andrew Tempelman, Geoff Hudson, Eric Zuesse, Leon Zitzer, Robert Conner, James Tabor, and Ben Witherington III floated from his slurred speech, barely comprehensible around his bitter grievances against a world that failed to appreciate his talents. At the time I had only a vague notion of the scholarly crimes which could be laid at the feet of these people, not only because I don’t read much in the field, but because Loren wasn’t putting two sentences together around his self-pity: “Lenny, man, I can hardly blow my horn anymore, ya know, like shit man, just wanna get something done, man, but like, can’t find my fuckin’ voice, ya know…” He wasn’t working on this book, just dreaming about it while his liver put in the overtime.

After tolerating forty-five minutes of this “speech”, I gave it to him both barrels. What I said to Loren must remain forever confidential, but suffice to say that from that day to this he has managed to conduct himself like a responsible citizen and not a denizen of seedy brothels. Nor does he drench his conversation with vulgarity. He respects his liver. I only wish I had succeeded in deterring him from writing a tediously cheap diatribe against “scholars” who merit little if any attention. The world would be better served by Loren’s ideas on the New Perspective instead of knocking down straw men. But at least he applied himself in front of the keyboard, and this book is the end result.

And despite its haughty tone and frequent lapses into ad hominems, ad hoc arguments, and ad nauseum exaltations of the Context Group, Biblical Cranks manages to keep its head above water at least some of the time. The sour vindictive chapter about Leon Zitzer should have been edited out of the book completely. No one has the right to treat another human being that way in print. That accepted, Loren’s effort to show the dangers of a little knowledge is sobering: with “scholars” such as these, the world is in no short supply of conspiracy theories and apologetics — and comic relief.

Jesus in an Age of Terror

51Tq4fIiyuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_(A Guest Review by Leonard Ridge)

What’s there to say about James Crossley’s new book? Not much. Misguided in every aspect of its intention, actually misguided at its core, this resolute display of polemic masks ambitions the author will never realize. His targets? Media hounds, bloggers, and academics, all who supposedly share a lot in common despite their opposite politics. If you’re a biblioblogger who has stereotyped or attacked Arabs in any way, if your reporting of hot-button items (like the Temple Mount) even remotely smacks of partisanship, or if you’ve refused to openly condemn Anglo-American foreign policy given half a chance, then you’ve probably taken a hit or two in this book.

Take the insufferable Loren Rosson. You can get a pretty good idea as to how he is critiqued in his own review for the Nashua Public Library. Loren’s review is kind enough, but then why shouldn’t it be? His politics are almost as bad as Crossley’s, so it’s hard to understand the fuss between them. Crossley doesn’t like stereotypes? Too bad. If he spent a considerable amount of time living abroad in various areas he’d feel differently. Loren respects those he stereotypes? Good. He can go back to Africa and stay there.

It burns me to see liberal multiculturalists set apart in debate, when underneath the smoke-and-mirrors they’re essentially on the same page. I’ve complained about Loren and the Context Group in the past. Crossley is no better. He shoves reality into the dirt and pounds it to within an inch of its life. When the screed is over, we’re left feeling raped, having endured 199 pages, ultimately, for what? A crash course in Political Correctness 101? How to be good little anti-Zionists? To be impressed by the way Crossley scores points against countless bloggers, while going to bat for (of all people) Jim West? To learn that the “Jewish Jesus” isn’t so Jewish that he doesn’t feed supersessionist interests? (Bill Arnal already taught us that.) Patronizing nonsense, all of it, but bound to find favor in circles that send me running to the nearest office of the Euston Manifesto.

Skip this crazed monstrosity and read a cheap spy novel instead. I couldn’t get through it without interludes of exercise and fresh air, and I’m still feeling soiled.

To Piss Against the Wall or Not

This video-clip gave me more laughs in four and a half minutes than I’ve had all week. Pastor Steven Anderson (Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona) sermonizes on the phrase “him that pisseth against the wall” in I Kings 14:10. The phrase is also found in I Sam 25:22, 25:34; I Kings 16:11, 21:21; and II Kings 9:8, and is the Deuteronomist’s contemptuous way of referring to males destined to be slaughtered on account of “evil done in the sight of the Lord”, usually by Israel’s own king. “Those who piss against the wall” are simply translated “males” in most bibles, but the former is what the Hebrew text really says. As Tyler Williams notes, the Deuteronomist is “contemptuously comparing males to dogs who piss against the wall”.

Pastor Anderson favors the accurate translation over the sanitized versions but — astoundingly — takes it as a positive image for men in general: “God said that a man is somebody who pisses against the wall.” He then railroads Germany for policies which forbid men to urinate standing up in public restrooms, and laments that “this is where we’re headed in America today… We got pastors who pee sitting down. We got the President of the United States who probably pees sitting down. We got a bunch of preachers, we got a bunch of leaders who don’t stand up and piss against the wall like a man!”

If you don’t believe it, watch it right here. I laughed so hard I was pissing my own pants — and sitting down, which according to our God-fearing pastor leaves much to be desired in the eyes of the Lord.

UPDATE: Don’t miss the hilarious comments under Paul Martin’s post.

UPDATE (II): And certainly don’t miss Pastor Anderson’s sequel diatribe on the same subject, delivered two years later (April 2010).

Shame on Rosson and the Context Group

In the spirit referenced here, I welcome guest critic Leonard Ridge to speak about the honor-shame culture of the bible and contemporary multiculturalism. Leonard hasn’t been pleased with the things I’ve been saying over the past year and wants to set the record straight. So without further ado, I’ll give him the floor.

Shame on Rosson and the Context Group: The Fallacy of Multiculturalism
by Leonard Ridge

Thus speak two members of The Context Group:

“The awareness of multiculturalism would require us to be sensitive to differences among cultures… If we wish to understand the persons of the ancient Mediterranean world, persons from the world of Jesus and Paul, we should be prepared to learn entirely new ways of perceiving so as to assess those persons on their own terms. Otherwise, we will be perpetuating the long-standing problem of being “Ugly Americans”, a phrase coined to describe the utter failure of U.S. personnel at the beginning of the Vietcong insurgency to understand the ways of that mysterious culture.” (Bruce Malina, Portraits of Paul, pp 2, 4)

“To comprehend [the New Testament authors] is an exercise in intercultural understanding. We wish to understand them in their otherness, perceiving their horizon to be situated where it should be, separate from ours, with a separation that persists in spite of our conversation… For an “I” to dialogue with a “You” entails a respect for the alterity, the radical otherness, of the other; there is no need to try to reach agreement. It is our attitude to the other that produces genuine dialogue and communion.” (Philip Esler, New Testament Theology: Communion and Community, pp 86-87)

… and thus speak those who rightly decry the above multiculturalist agenda:

“The multiculturalist “preservation impulse” is identical to the fascist one, except that it’s addressed to members of non-dominant, often oppressed, groups… [But] the logic and rhetoric of multiculturalism actually undermines its stated goals. We should reject the preservation impulse, along with the notion that a culture can even have an authentic identity. The only truly emancipatory move is to instead embrace the relentless force of cosmopolitanism (pejoratively called “cultural genocide”) — which takes place in the world’s racially and culturally integrated urban centers.” (Nick Woomer)

“Safety demands that religions be put in cages when absolutely necessary… A faith, like a species, must evolve or go extinct when the environment changes… Many Muslims agree with this, and we must not only listen to them, but do what we can to protect and support them, for they are bravely trying, from the inside, to reshape the tradition they cherish into something better, something ethically defensible. That is — or, rather, ought to be — the message of multiculturalism, not the patronizing and subtly racist hypertolerance that “respects” vicious and ignorant doctrines when they are propounded by officials of non-European states and religions.” (Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, pp 515-517)

Loren Rosson is practically a walking advertisement for the Context Group, the body of biblical scholars who have devoted a Herculean amount of labor to help us understand — and more importantly, “appreciate” — the honor-shame culture of the bible. In that culture what other people believe about you, and how they perceive you, is far more important than what is actually true. Questions of innocence and guilt are sidelined, and concerns for truth and the preservation of individual rights take a back seat. But if this world seems primitive and barbaric to us, then, according to Loren and these scholars, it is we who need to readjust our perspective, not vice-versa. Their wisdom fits in with the wider multiculturalist agenda which has been dividing the liberal left for some time.

Multiculturalism may sound progressive, but it’s not. It celebrates ethnic diversity simply because it is diversity, uncritically approving ethnic pride, groupthink, honor-shame codes, and all so that people can “comfortably be themselves”. By-products of this agenda include moral relativism, hypertolerance, and a patronizing racism that end up doing far more damage than good. On top of that, there is the irony observed by Nick Woomer, that while “multiculturalism looks very enlightened and liberating, it is being expropriated to serve a reactionary right-wing agenda”.

Well guess what? That’s exactly what’s happening in biblical studies. Evangelicals like Ben Witherington, David de Silva, and J.P. Holding have taken turns championing the work of the Context Group, and no surprise. What better apologetic tool for eliciting sympathy for primitive biblical teachings? If Jesus condemned divorce in order to protect the honor of families (as Context Group members say), that plays right into the hands of modern Republican “family values”. (Contrast with the claims of John Dominic Crossan and Elizabeth Fiorenza that Jesus was an egalitarian who criticized divorce in order to empower women.) If we can sympathize with the way a culture uses invective and polemic (as in Rom 1:18-32), then we can perhaps get even more comfortable with our own religious bigotry. That a group of scholarly rebels (the Context Group) has found wide favor amongst conservatives — rather than, say, their liberal cousins on the Jesus Seminar — should be a cause for concern.

An insightful scholar named Chris Heard — clearly one of Loren’s betters on the biblioblogs — has noticed the same thing. He says:

“I run into a lot of conservative Christians, especially among my students, who act like cultural relativists with respect to ancient Israel alone, or the ancient Near East generally, but not with respect to contemporary cultures — yet I can find no consistent basis for this. Might an honor-shame culture operate in such a way that it socialized its members to believe that honoring one’s adult male guest took precedence over ensuring your children’s wellbeing? Yes, and if that’s the case, it should be well understood when evaluating relevant texts and stories from that culture. But that does not mean that it should be endorsed any more than slavery, polygamy, or pogroms should be endorsed. Cultural moral relativism really bugs me, but selective cultural moral relativism bugs me even more.”

And that’s the irony. Liberals have embraced relativism for the sake of oppressed groups whose voices tend to go unheard, and conservatives have done so more narrowly for the sake of their own creed. The bible just happens to be relevant to both — to the former in terms of its origins, the latter in terms of contemporary interpretation. Is this lost on Context Group members? Does history teach them nothing? Once the minority voices of the early Christians became co-opted by the state in the fourth century, they became lethal, and Jewish people suffered for centuries because of it. Do we really want to be so wonderfully open-minded about minority groups and third-world cultures who speak the language of intolerance and outdated virtue as much as their oppressors — just because it’s fashionable to be “culturally sensitive”?

Loren — the Context-Group stooge of the biblioblogs — appears to think we should. He lends an alarmingly sympathetic ear to things which should horrify anyone in their right mind. He says, for instance, that the honor-shame code only seems oppressive to those of us who live in the west, implying that our indignant reactions to honor-rapes/killings are misplaced. He uses safety-disclaimers, of course — he doesn’t want “to excuse what’s going on in India and Pakistan, rather to understand the rape-phenomenon and the values from which it derives” — but the underlying message is loud and clear. What Loren really wants, like Malina and Co., is for us to loathe ourselves more than anyone or anything else — that is, our cultural imperialism; our western arrogance.

It’s because of people like Loren and the Context-Group members that the Euston Manifesto has been recently drawn up, for truly progressive democrats who:

• decline to make excuses for, or to indulgently “understand”, reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy… and draw a firm line between themselves and other left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces

• hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone; violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context

• reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser violations of human rights which are closer to home more deplorable than foreign violations that are flagrantly worse

If putting such a manifesto into practice would make us “Ugly Americans” — as Bruce Malina worries about in the opening citation of this post — then, Christ-on-crutches, we need to be ugly about this. Dennett and Woomer are right. It’s time to call out multiculturalism for what it is, an inverted fascism that exacerbates problems relating to intolerance and the violation of human rights. It’s time to recognize honor-shame cultures as inherently inferior — and say so, damn it, without piling on sweetness and disclaimers. It’s time for those cultures to evolve. And it’s high time to view the people of the bible — even the occasionally counter-cultural Jesus — for what they were: primitive and wrong about most things, part of a world whose passing should be our goal.