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Reassurance

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hush
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since 05-27-2001
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0 posted 10-21-2001 02:58 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

I wasn't entirely sure where to post this, but I guess Philosophy will work.

In response to the terrorist attacks, President Bush has been seeking to reassure us. His speeches are full of sentiments about the U.S. being attacked because we are the brightest beacon of freedom by the "evil one". He is promising us that justice (revenge?) will be served... our war effort is called "operation Enduring Freedom". All this is fine and dandy... but it seems very syrupy and Hallmarkish to me. I, personally, am not reassured when Bush says "it's okay, it's okay, the gov. has it all under control" without providing details. I feel like the whole situation is being shoved down under a blanket of patriotism that the US gov. is doing its best to promote...

It doesn't reassure me at all the the leader of our country seems to be out for vengeance... I mean, I can't pinpoint exactly what makes me think this... but it's the little things. He doesn't appeal to our logic by promising peace... he promises "justice". I feel like he's trying to talk us into supporting the war effort... and it just all strikes me the wrong way. I agree with something Ron said in some other thread... words like "evil" should be reserved for fiction writers, not politicians... I feel like there's this big national rally of support for more violence... and it doesn;t reassure me at all. Shouldn't the facts, and the facts alone, be enough to convince us that we need to be over there without having to hear words like evil? Does President Bush feel like he has to talk us into this? I don;t know, it makes me pretty uneasy.

I eat only sleep and air -Nicole Blackman

doreen peri
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1 posted 10-22-2001 09:17 AM       View Profile for doreen peri   Email doreen peri   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for doreen peri

there's a very long thread in the alley called "Eradicating Evil" where we were discussing many of your points, hush.

Interloper
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2 posted 10-22-2001 12:14 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Interesting point.  What is the difference between justice and revenge?  Isn't justice revenge approved by society?

Wouldn't you rather have the President speak in "syrupy" terms than to say "we're gonna go kill those dirty @#&^*#$##%@&?"  After all, he had the dignity of his office to maintain.  

Don't you feel something should be done about what happened on 9/11/01?  What do you think is the way to handle this?

Stephanos
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3 posted 10-22-2001 07:19 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

I feel in some ways the same as you.  The blind patriotism makes me uneasy.  What concerns me is the fact that America has it's own "evils" to deal with.  I cannot however oppose the word evil being used.  Some acts are more than obviously evil.  Killing thousands of people (not government officials) with terrorism is evil.  It is underhanded and cowardly.  What Hitler did to millions of  Jews because of his twisted views was evil, plain and simple.  I know it is not a politically correct term, but like it or not, it exists.  But see, America also participates in evil things... Killing millions of unborn babies is evil.  Thinking we are better than the rest of the world "just because" is evil.  My problem with the blanket of patriotism is that it covers our own evils so we don't have to look at them and deal with them.  

I don't think justice is the same as approved revenge.  I do believe in "justice" as a transcendent concept.  My world view is Christian Theism, where God determines the ultimate standard of right and wrong, good and bad, etc...  If this is true then "justice" can be served.  But if it is true, then we ourselves as a nation (or as individuals) are subject to that same justice.  God is much higher than America, and I don't think he is "on our side".  We had better be on his.    

In short, this is why I am uneasy about the trend of "stars and stripes forever", yet still hold that using terms like evil, right and just is valid.  Our (America's) big problem is hypocrisy.

I am in no way slandering our leaders.  Their job is a difficult one to say the least.  They need our prayers and our committment.  . . but that doesn't mean we have to necessarily agree with them on all points.  

Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (edited 10-22-2001).]

BrightStar
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4 posted 10-23-2001 01:20 PM       View Profile for BrightStar   Email BrightStar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for BrightStar

Stephen and Hush, would you please define "blanket of patriotism" and "blind patrotism?"

Stephen, we are on God's side.  Therefore, He is on our side.  We stand before God and, as a God fearing nation (I hope), He will guide us to a successful conclusion to this problem.  Certainly our President is a God fearing man and let us pray that he is guided by God's hand.

While I disagree with abortion, that evil has nothing to do with patriotism.  T woman that chooses abortion may be committing an act with which we disagree but that does no mean she is not a patriot.  Your religion does not determine patriotism either.

Patriotism is the love of and devotion to one's country and the willingness to sacrifice for it.  That does not mean to sacrifice one's life.  Dying in war is not sacrifice.

So, what is blind patriotism? Is it that which is not based on reason or evidence or the unquestioning loyalty to our government?  If so, then most of our military forces are made up of blind patriots.  

Since I am a civilian, am I a blind patriot bacause I have made a choice without reasoning or evidence?  How would you know if I reasoned or sought and/or found eveidence to support my belief and my subsequent patriotism?  So, name me a few blind patriots if you please.

Hush, is the "blanket of patriotism" a euphonism for "hiding" behind the name patriot?  Does that mean a non-patriot is masquerading as a patriot?  Please explain.
hush
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5 posted 10-24-2001 11:06 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

'I feel like the whole situation is being shoved down under a blanket of patriotism that the US gov. is doing its best to promote... '

Allow me to elaborate. I am in no way indicating that patriotism is a bad thing, or that we shouldn't support our leaders... but we should question them... especially in instances like this, before we give them our full support. And my question is- why does the government have to talk us into beleiving in this cause?

I don't know.... I personally respect the inclusion of God into this, I realize it's a great source of faith for many Americans... but the thing is I really can't buy it... is this to be a war about sticking up for us, or honestly to become a jihad... a holy war, Christianity vs. Muslim? I mean, they think God is on their side.... I truly don't think the hijackers, or even Osama bin Laden are evil... I don't think evil people exist... just what I interpret as horrible misguidance and brainwashing, as well as the warping of a very peaceful religion.... but this is not a new issue. If they are fighting in the name of their God, and we in the name of ours, how much have we really progressed since the crusades and holy wars of the middle ages? I know I'm oversimplifying, but this seems to be a major theme...

I eat only sleep and air -Nicole Blackman

Stephanos
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6 posted 10-24-2001 11:23 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brightstar,

I am not against patriotism, as long as patriotism does not blind us to our faults and blind us to other things...(more on the other things in a moment).  As a principle that is dependent on other principles patriotism is wonderful.  In that sense I am patriotic.  I love my country.  I love my geography, my culture.  I respect and pray for my leaders.  But even the very history and greatness of this nation from it's inception rested on other principles.  I'm sure that most of the pilgrims who left England were loyal to the King right up to the point where certain "inalienable rights" were violated again and again.  Don't get me wrong I am no zealot, and am a pacifist in my heart.  All I am trying to say is that an ardent unconditional devotion to a Government and all it's decisions is not always right.  Ardent devotion should always be conditional...  I am not always in agreement with the policies and practices of the United States.  But I am always "faithful" to the U.S. in the way my conscience dictates.  Sometimes being faithful means saying "This is not right and this is why."  I guess this goes back to my convictions that there are laws above and behind the laws of nations.  

That brings me to my next point.  You are a believer in God I presume from your reply.  You say that "We are on God's side" as a nation, as a whole.  Are we really?  I want to believe this more than anyone else in this country.  But I just don't.  The extreme Muslims also believe that they are "On God's side".  They have even thanked God for the courage of the men who attacked us.  Our devils are their martyrs, our sinners are their saints.  Don't get me wrong, I think the deeds they did are unspeakably evil.  But we often measure ourselves against them to get an idea of how "righteous" we are, instead of looking at the standard of God's laws.  Because their deeds outrage our civility (and because we can't identify on a deep level with religious passion or moral conviction), we can easily believe the illusion that we are alot better.  I'm not here just to bash America,  I am an American.  And I unashamedly love America.   And I am not saying that punishment by our Government shouldn't happen.  But what I am saying is the pride and blindness to our own national faults disturbs me.  Being on God's side is more than printing "in God we trust" on our coins.  Sometimes I think the god we trust IS our coins.  This nation is not a (truly) Christian nation, though many Christians lazily dream that it is... and I can hardly blame them, it is a blissful and idyllic scenario to imagine.  But it is denial.  We do have alot of nominal Christianity which amounts to religious formalism.  But take a survey outside of the Bible-belt about how many people admit to believing in a personal God (with any identifiable attributes), and you may be shocked.  

Another thought I have had.  If you believe in a government higher than Earthly governments... ie the Kingdom of God, then allegience first and foremost to the higher government is necessary.  This for me is where patriotism has it's limits.  The early Christians were faithful to Rome on the whole, good citizens, gentle, faithful, (though a little strange with their love feasts and constant talk of Jesus), but when the Emperors began to demand sacrifce to themselves as God saying  "Throw incense into the fire and say 'Cesar is Lord''", the Christians were not able to oblige.  

Alot of these thoughts do not apply to the present situation with America's war on terrorism.  But situations could arise, and have already, where a quick patriotic pride is not the best response.  In light of all that has happened to us,  I think a self examination in humility might be better than the typical knee-jerk reaction of waving our flags.  Because I think it is certain that God judges nations for their sins (I know, I know, this is so politically incorrect and how archaic!) and have we (on a large scale) even asked him if we have any?  I fear until we do, the tragedies may increase in frequency and severity.

Sorry to be so preachy,

but I had to get that out.

Not meaning disrespect to anyone.
I love my country  so much.

Stephen.
Brad
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7 posted 10-25-2001 02:12 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Blind patriotism is that frenzied, glazed eye look, it is a fever, it is an anger, it is not love of one's country, but the emotional reaction to wounded pride.

It is a form of what used to be call the mob mind.

It makes you do bad things.

It subverts the very things that America stands for by reifying the symbols of America until the colors, the songs, the flag become more important than civil liberty, separation of Church and State, and the freedom to believe what you want.

It is not sacrifice, it is not spiritual, it is not justifiable.

It is bloodlust.

Brad
Brad
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8 posted 10-25-2001 02:39 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Brightstar,

You mentioned that most of the military were blind patriots.

Not by my definition.

The threat is there, it's there because of the need to channel aggression in order to kill people, the need to obey authority without question (provided it's lawful), and the special emphasis on comaraderie, but it is countered by a strong emphasis on discipline and the inculcation of a code of conduct (ethics).

It's an amazing culture and it works in it's own way but it cannot be a model for a free society.  

In a free society, we have to check that blind patriotism because we don't have that discipline.

Because that discipline also creates rigid conformity.

So, I don't think soldiers are blind patriots (I was on the base yesterday, and the atmosphere is not one of frenzy but of subdued determination, even quiet introspection), I believe they're patriots trained to do their duty.

No, it's the civilians I'm worried about.

Brad
Local Rebel
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9 posted 10-25-2001 03:37 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Stephanos,

I found your post to be eloquently penned and I can identify with your sentiments almost 100%.  I feel the sting of tears in the back of my throat at the invocation of the National Anthem or America the Beautiful -- Just to say the words 'O beautiful for spacious skies' prompts an emotional response.

But, you are right, hush is right, and Brad is right -- that we have to be careful not to worship the symbols instead of the spirit they represent.

Blind patriotism has a word -- fascism.  We stood at the brink of it before with Huey Long during the great depression-- we could have lost it all then between American Nationalism and Hitler -- they were very precarious times.  As are these.  

I watched Bill Maher tonite calling for Muslims in the United States to take an 'oath' -- to be put to the same litmus test as the foriegn powers Bush admonished were either 'with us' or 'against us'.

People are afraid -- so we turn to the fundamentals for reassurance -- to use hush's word.  

The one part though, Stephanos, where I'd draw distinction is in regards to our spiritual status as a nation.  We indeed, are not, a Christian nation and have not been one for quite some time -- even though about 80% of the population purports belief in Christianity -- it was Bloom, in his work 'The American Religion' around 92ish who characterized us as a 'Post Christian' nation that by and large has a greater faith in the pre-Christian notions of Gnosticism rather than the institutionalized 'religion' of Christianity -- so what you'll find, inside and oustide the Bible Belt, is that people do indeed believe in personal God... which is why more and more are finding the Church experience irrelevent -- not to mention the contortions of logic required to transpose the faith language of anachronistic rituals of 'flat earth' ideology and paradigms into what has obviously, not, been a flat earth for some time now.

In order for a society to become unchurched it really requires a greater inner spirituality -- not a weaker one.  People have indeed taken it to a more personal level.

In terms of religious war though -- if we are to truly reduce the current conflict -- the collective 'scripture' of America is the Constitution, our 'Saints' are founding fathers -- that's what patriotism is, after all -- worship.

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 10-25-2001).]

Interloper
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10 posted 10-25-2001 07:11 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Gee, Reb, just whenI thought you and I thought a lot alike you espouse "New Age" religion.  Golly! I'm truly disappointed.

Bloom's book was a lie.  Furthermore, Christianity is not an institutionalized religion.  Rather, it is a very personal belief system with the Word of God and the Holy Trinity at its core.  We believe that God created all that is.  We believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died to give us salvation.  He was the "ultimate sacrifice" in order that there need be no more sacrifice.  We believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside us when we invite Him.

Earlier you and Brad were denouncing labels and putting people in boxes.  What have you just done in your response to Stephanos?

You said "...the contortions of logic required to transpose the faith language of anachronistic rituals of 'flat earth' ideology and paradigms ...).

Well, my sole contortion is to get on my knees in faith.  Accepting what cannot be seen.  Knowing it is right.

That excerpt of your response to Stephanos really should be visited in another thread.  we could spend a lot of time on that  

With regard to "blind patriotism" I'd like to offer that the definition of patriotism is "Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country; the virtues and actions of a patriot; the passion which inspires one to serve one's country. --Berkley."

Therefore, blind patriotism would be to do as Berkley defines without question.  I do not see frenzy in that.  I certainly do not see fascism (A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism) in that.

Was that just rhetoric to ilicit response?

Brad, many soldiers are patriots.  Most soldiers follow orders without question. Most soldiers serve their country without question, so, by definition, they are blind patriots or ... practicing "blind patriotism."

Your description of "blind patriotism" is probably better defined as Reb said, neo-facism.



[This message has been edited by Interloper (edited 10-25-2001).]

Local Rebel
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11 posted 10-26-2001 01:45 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

  
quote:
Gee, Reb, just whenI thought you and I thought a lot alike you espouse "New Age" religion.  Golly! I'm truly disappointed.




I haven't 'espoused' anything.  I haven't proselytized anything -- merely reported.

quote:

Bloom's book was a lie.  Furthermore, Christianity is not an institutionalized religion.  Rather, it is a very personal belief system with the Word of God and the Holy Trinity at its core.  We believe that God created all that is.  We believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died to give us salvation.  He was the "ultimate sacrifice" in order that there need be no more sacrifice.  We believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside us when we invite Him.




You just made Bloom's point for him.  If it's still in print you may want to read the book -- it may be in your local library if it's not.

quote:

Earlier you and Brad were denouncing labels and putting people in boxes.  What have you just done in your response to Stephanos?




Um... responded to him... unless you're referring to labeling blind patriotism Fascism... to which I plead guilty as charged -- because that's what it is... single party rule -- subjugation of the individual to state control -- censorship --

but you said:
quote:

With regard to "blind patriotism" I'd like to offer that the definition of patriotism is "Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country; the virtues and actions of a patriot; the passion which inspires one to serve one's country. --Berkley."

Therefore, blind patriotism would be to do as Berkley defines without question.  



Doing it without question is exactly what we're talking about here interloper -- loving one's country is fine -- to not question our government -- well -- that's just not American -- and we're pretty close to being back to Mcarthyism here.

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 10-26-2001).]

Interloper
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12 posted 10-26-2001 11:24 AM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Reb

Ok, if your definition of "blind patriotism" is never questioning your country then I will not debate that.

Someone once said "my country, right or wrong, my country."  I agree, yet you should know that I question my governments (Federal, State, and local) regularly.  I do not blindly accept their votes, proposals or even their laws.  I do, however, obey their laws while working to get them changed or removed.  I can't do much to support my family or contribute to PACs if I am sitting in jail.

Furthermore, while I may not agree with my government, if my President tells me to put on a uniform and follow the orders of the officers superior to me, I will do it and I will do it to the very best of my ability. I will give it 100% because that is the proper thing to do because I live in a Republic and I believe in the system.

Our political system surely is not perfect but it's probably the best one around.  

Our criminal justice system has many problems and desperately needs modification, yet it is arguably the best system going.

Finally you said "You just made Bloom's point for him."    No, I did not make his point.  He says each person is a god and makes their own devine decisions.

I said God lives in me.  There is a world of difference.  An eternity of difference.

Maybe we can start another thread on that in the near future.  It should be an interesting and educating time
Local Rebel
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13 posted 10-26-2001 03:18 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

interloper -- this is what Bloom says;

quote:

"Freedom, in the context of the American Religion, means being alone with God or with Jesus, the American God or the American Christ.  In social reality, this translates as solitude, at least in the inmost sense.  The soul stands apart, and something deeper than the soul, the Real Me or self or spark, thus is made free to be utterly alone with a God who is also quite separate and solitary, that is, a free God or God of freedom.  What makes it possible for the self and God to commune so freely is that the self already is of God; unlike body and even soul, the American self is no part of the Creation, or of evolution through the ages.... Whatever the social and political consequences of this vision, its imaginative strength is extraordinary.  No American pragmatically feels free if she is not alone, and no American ultimately concedes that she is part of nature....

"Nothing could be further from the American Religion than the famous and beautiful remark by Spinoza in his Ethics: that whoever loved God truly should not expect to be loved by God in return.  The essence of the American is the belief that God loves her or him, a conviction shared by nearly nine out of ten of us, according to a Gallup poll.  To live in a country where the vast majority so enjoys God's affection is deeply moving, and perhaps an entire society can sustain being the object of so sublime a regard, which after all was granted only to King David in the whole of the Hebrew Bible."



The American Religion is an analysis of what Bloom defines as the American Religion (above) as it permeates  through all faiths -- Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehova's Witnesses -- or anything else.

I don't know what book you read that said

quote:

each person is a god and makes their own devine decisions.




But it wasn't Bloom or his American Religion
Interloper
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14 posted 10-26-2001 04:30 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Reb, you can post that tripe if you wish.  You can even believe it if yow want.  You can espouse it, preach it, or publish it but that doesn't make it the truth.

American Christ indeed! Balderdash!  Christ is for all people, therefore ALL nations.

American religion, hah!  Born in Jerusalem, it is a real stretch to come up with that label.

"something deeper than the soul, the Real Me or self" ... Right.  Deeper than the soul ... bull!

American Self ... ludicrous!  Better not let the Canadians in on this.  After all, It is the American Religion, the American Christ, the American Self.


Then we throw in the Spinosa quote which is patently ridiculous.  I guess he never read Ezekiel ... or maybe tht book has been removed from the Hebrew Bible, not to mention the American Bible.  

And, of course, while spouting off about the "American Christ" he quotes something that totally ignores the New Testament and God's love of Christ and Christ's love of man and the teaching of God's love to and for all mankind.

Pick up that other book and read it ... slowly.  I'm not a very good reader and I did it in 40 days.  Yup 40 days.  Ain't that amazing?

You could to it in 25 days, probably, from In to Amen.

Then talk to me of God and Christ and let me know if you want to put adjectives before their names and if so, which ones.

Patton read Rommel before confronting him and defeating him.  I've read Bloom and Spinosa.  If you want to argue intelligently, read THE book.  It shouldn't be hard to find and, unlike Bloom's works, it is NOT out of print.

I love ya Reb  
Local Rebel
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15 posted 10-27-2001 02:40 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Well interloper,

It's so very hard to argue against such logic as 'balderdash', 'ludicrous', and 'bull' -- why don't we just save our energy and you go ahead and declare yourself the 'winner' now...?

he he  

I'd get into the whole chapter and verse scripture thing with you but -- it's really very pointless since you don't even make any cursory attempts to understand what is being written and just lash out at words.

If this WAS a debate -- you'd already be on the ropes since you didn't and can't justify your original remarks -- "He says each person is a god and makes their own devine decisions."


But I'm not going to debate you about Bloom or anyone else -- I'm not his apologist .. but I will ask one question...

It is a lie to say that Americans think God loves them?

I'll take it at face value that you've actually read Bloom but it's pretty clear you have a gross misunderstanding of what he said.


Brad
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16 posted 10-27-2001 06:28 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

After reading Stephen's post, I wonder if half the confusion here is based on the admittedly vague definition of gnosticism.

Perhaps Bloom used the wrong word.

Like many academics, he takes words with the right 'feel' to them and then proceeds to redefine it in his own way.

A quick example might be Fukuyama's idea of trust. He argues that Americans have an explicit idea of trust, we trust each other in the fulfillment of contracts and in everyday social relations. South Koreans, on the other hand, do not.

Contracts are seen as initial agreements that are flexible and partial as the case may be. They aren't binding. As a result, business relations can be quite chaotic at times.

But one could just as easily argue the opposite. That South Koreans trust other people to understand contingency and change and not to be too picky in the attention to the written word. Americans do not.

That's why we say Trust in Fukuyama's sense or Fukuyamian Trust or something like that.

But that doesn't help if you haven't read the book, does it?

In this way, we probably have to say something like Gnosticism in Bloom's sense or Bloomian Gnosticism because he doesn't mean it quite like the dictionary would describe it.

But isn't it just a big word to describe a shift of emphasis? The shift from a public/social centered religion to a private/personal one? He probably limits this to America because that's all he studied (an empirical distinction rather than an essential one).

In the Middle Ages, average people weren't allowed to read the Bible (that is, even if they could) so had to rely on a specific priesthood to relay the information to them. How does this create a personal relationship with God?

More later,
Brad

Brad
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17 posted 10-27-2001 06:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ah shoot! I think I just used the wrong word.

By empirical I don't mean statistical (I'm not sure statistical analysis would be appropriate here) but that he's not being exclusive, he's not saying that Americans, only Americans,  believe this. He's just saying that given the American emphasis on individualism, the practice of worshiping Jesus, God, or whoever, will take on a more private relationship.

So, when he says American Christ, what he really means is American ways of looking at Christ and/or American ways of worshiping Christ.

So, he's not saying that Christ, the person, the Son of God, is connected to America but that living and being brought up in America will create a different way of "seeing" Christ -- that we will focus on different things.

How many Americans believe in a jealous or vengeful God for example?

Whether this is a good thing or not, I think, is a different question.

I'm not sure it is.

Brad
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18 posted 10-29-2001 10:25 AM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Reb,

Heh, heh, okay, I will declare myself the winner and undisputed champion of ... whut?

I would apologise for the terms I used except I find I cannot.  While Bloom may not be the "father" of New Age religion, he certainly gave fuel for the fire.  

I do, however, apologize for being offputting.  Sorry.

Interloper
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19 posted 10-29-2001 11:14 AM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Brad,

Harold Bloom called himself a Gnostic.  He is called "a Jewish gnostic intellectual."
I always thought having a Jew write on Christianity was interesting so I have read as much as I could get my hands on.

He calls himself "a religious critic by explaining that he is an “unbelieving Jew of strong Gnostic tendencies.”

You see, the term "gnostic" can mean just about anything the persone wearing that label (here we go again) wants it to mean.
______________________________________
Ioan Culianu writes:

Once I believed that Gnosticism was a well-defined phenomenon belonging to the religious history of Late Antiquity. Of course, I was ready to accept the idea of different prolongations of ancient Gnosis, and even that of spontaneous generation of views of the world in which, at different times, the distinctive features of Gnosticism occur again.

I was soon to learn however, that I was a naïf indeed. Not only Gnosis was gnostic, but the Catholic authors were gnostic, the Neoplatonic too, Reformation was gnostic, Communism was gnostic, Nazism was gnostic, liberalism, existentialism and psychoanalysis were gnostic too, modern biology was gnostic, Blake, Yeats, Kafka were gnostic…. I learned further that science is gnostic and superstition is gnostic…Hegel is gnostic and Marx is gnostic; all things and their opposite are equally gnostic.
__________________________________________

Whew!

_________________________________________
It is evident that a word used in such contradictory ways has lost its meaning. No wonder GNOSIS writer Charles Coulombe despairs over the situation when writing recently in a Catholic publication:

In reality, "Gnosticism," like "Protestantism," is a word that has lost most of its meaning. Just as we would need to know whether a "Protestant" writer is Calvinist, Lutheran, Anabaptist, or whatever in order to evaluate him properly, so too the "Gnostic" must be identified.
____________________________________________

Now, you put the word "gnostic" with the words "Jewish" and "intellectual" and you can have a heyday with what it may mean, without using the term "unbelieving" at all.

Reb,

Do I think it is a lie that Americans think God loves them?  I think it is a partial lie because not all Americans believe in the existence of God. I do believe that all of the Judeo-Christian faith believe that God loves them and they love God.

What do you think?

[This message has been edited by Interloper (edited 10-29-2001).]

Local Rebel
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20 posted 10-30-2001 01:58 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I'll have to admit this has certainly been an interesting exercise in obfuscation.

To quote Ronald Reagan, with whom I'm sure you would be reluctant to argue interloper, 'there you go again'.  You continue to lead the trail further and further from your theses (or dare I say accusations);

A;  "Gee, Reb, just when I thought you and I thought a lot alike you espouse "New Age" religion."

B;  "Bloom's book was a lie."

Of course, 'A' was not provable because the mere mention of Bloom's work cannot be construed to be an espousal of Gnosticism (which you imply is a New Age religion).  Nowhere have I suggested that anyone should become a member of any particular belief pattern or suggested one religion is better than another one.  

In your attempt to prove 'B' with the statement ' We believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside us when we invite Him.' -- you then unwittingly actually proved Bloom's thesis which I posted (above).

You attempted to prove 'A' again and disprove your own proof of 'B' by shifting to the specious argument ''No, I did not make his point.  He says each person is a god and makes their own divine decisions.' -- which Bloom never said or even implied  -- it's either a premise without a conclusion or an inference without a premise, both, or perhaps neither and merely a red herring.  If he said it the burden of proof is upon you to point out where -- which, can't be done with the book -- so you attempted to regale me with the fallacy of  
Argumentum ad Antiquitatem by appealing to the simple fact that the Bible has been around longer than Bloom's book and has sold more copies-- which might have some meaning if anyone ever suggested Bloom should be a substitute or replacement for the Bible -- but no one has or does -- but this strategy also puts your position (of Christianity) in the precarious position of being younger than Gnosticism.  But again -- this is not a debate over which is better, Gnosticism or Christianity.

And now you've come back to " While Bloom may not be the "father" of New Age religion, he certainly gave fuel for the fire. "  Which again, is totally specious.  Of the New Age movement in particular on page 46 Bloom calls it "orange squash" and his book came far too late to have had an impact on that fad even if he'd intended it to.

But I'm not going to be put into the position of defending your assumption either that there is something wrong with New Age religion or that Gnosticism even is a New Age religion.  You are merely incorrect in your proposition that Bloom supports it or attempts to proselytize it.  He doesn't even attempt the proselytizing of his own study and on page 50 says "..I scarcely intend this book to be either a Gnostic manifesto or a treatise upon conversion."

In fact, even though Bloom is fascinated by the 'American Religion' phenomenon he has studied and finds himself as much a part of it as the Southern Baptists or Mormons -- he doesn't particularly like it or the political consequences it implies.

And in your most recent post to Brad you've fallen back into Argumentum ad Hominem by railing against Bloom because he is a Gnostic leaning Jew and (heaven forbid) an intellectual -- which is really sort of humorous because you continue to unwittingly prove Bloom's points.  (See the subsequent post to Brad below.)

But once again -- I'm not sure where your information is coming from because your statement; " He calls himself  'a religious critic by explaining that he is an “unbelieving Jew of strong Gnostic tendencies.' -- is at best misconstrued, although at least much closer to reality than your other comments.  What Bloom said on page 30 of Chapter one 'What is Religious Criticism?' was, " I myself am an unbelieving Jew of strong Gnostic tendencies, and a literary critic by profession."

He has called his work 'The American Religion' an experiment in religious criticism by applying the techniques he has learned in the practice of literary criticism of seeking the irreducibly aesthetic dimension in plays, poems, and narratives by seeking the irreducibly spiritual dimension analogously in religious matters.


Brad,

Your take on Bloom's intent of his study is correct.  His book was, as the title implicitly states, a study of the American Religion.  But he has not confiscated the word Gnosticism to fit his own definitions.  He's merely taken -- as said above -- what he proposes are the irreducible spiritual elements of Gnosticism, which has been easily defined for the last 50 odd years since the discovery of significant Gnostic texts at Naj Hammadi for which the Encarta entry shall suffice ( http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?ti=03189000  ), and that of American invented religions of Southern Baptistism, Mormonism, or any of the other home grown varieties,  and found the two have a strikingly similar core.  

I don't want to (nor did Bloom) get into the whole epic of the battle between Pistic Christianity (which would evolve into Catholicism) and the Gnostic Christianity (which would be wiped out by the Catholic Church as a heresy)- but prior to the establishment of the Church proper they were of pretty much equal footing in terms of membership and political strength (or weakness).  

The common thread Bloom finds is a kind of sociological and philosophical religious melancholy --lamenting the physical universe as a corruption and an affliction along with a longing for the inherently spiritual God -- Bloom says on page 32;

quote:

"I argue in this book that the American Religion, which is so prevalent among us, masks itself as Protestant Christianity yet has ceased to be Christian.  It has kept the figure of Jesus, a very solitary and personal American Jesus, who is also the resurrected Jesus rather than the crucified Jesus (ostensibly of Euro-Catholicism) or the Jesus who ascended to the Father.  I do not think that the Christian god has been retained by us, though he is invoked endlessly by our leaders, and by our flag-waving President (Bush, Sr.) in particular, with especial fervor in the context of war.  But this invoked force appears to be the American destiny, the God of our national faith.  The most Gnostic element in the American Religion is an astonishing reversal of ancient Gnosticism: we worship the Demiurge as God, more often than not under the name of manifest Necessity.  As for the alien God of the Gnostics, he has vanished, except for his fragments or sparks scattered among our few elitists of the spirit, or for his shadow in the solitary figure of the American Jesus."

(parenthetic comments mine)



At Cane Ridge Kentucky in 1801 he says the American Religion got its start with the emphasis on 'enthusiasm' or the experienced Jesus -- even the knowing of God.  Not belief in -- but actual personal Knowing of (ergo Gnosticism).  The Evangelical insists to truly be a Christian there must have been a moment of 'knowing' -- a point of salvataion -- the time when we found Jesus in us.

Of course he also admits the term 'post Christian' is a bit of a misnomer in his attempt to define the American Religion -- but suggests that Post Protestant may be closer to the mark.  In his defining of the American Religion he also refers to it as 'American Orphism' which -- Orphism has within it's own pessimistic disdain for the physical  ( http://encarta.msn.com/find/Concise.asp?ti=03EEC000  ).

Other influences on the American Religion are Know-Nothings (whose ideas we still find in the xenophobic flag waving of the pseudo patriotism) which he claims masquerades as 'fundamentalism' and the American distrust for 'intellectualism' is a direct by-product of Gnosticism as well -- since the root self or inner spark ascends beyond thinking or intellect which is a mechanical creation of the physical realm -- and the sin of Sophia (or wisdom) was the cause of the creation of Demiurge and the hapless creation of .. well.. creation.

Bloom also notes this is not totally unique to America and on page 36 asks;

quote:


Why is it that the American Religion exports so well aboad, not just in Asia and Africa and Latin America but in Western and Eastern Europe as ell?  Jehovah's Witnesses, Penecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, as well as the Mormons and the Southern Baptists, convert many millions of people to their idosyncratic American visions of God, death, and judgement, and yet these are people who more often than not do not speak English, American or otherwise, and know of the United States only what television and the missionaries have brought them.  What is the appeal of the American Religion abroad?



[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 10-30-2001).]

Brad
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21 posted 10-30-2001 04:54 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Reading this in conjunction with some of the comments on ritual in Stephen's thread, I find that the tangent on gnosticism has lead us back to the target of Hush's original point.

Is my definition of 'blind' patriotism a form of gnostic patriotism?

As long as we use the stipped down version that LR points out and, at the same time, the expansion that Interloper has expressed, is it possible to see the experience of patriotic fervor as, if not equatable, at least in similar terms to what Bloom refers to as gnosticism?

More later,
Brad
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22 posted 10-30-2001 01:47 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Reb,

First, let's talk about Gnosticism. Marc M. Arkin said that Gnosticism flourished as a species of arcane religious teaching in the Hellenized Near East from about A.D. 80 to 200 and for a time appeared to be giving the nascent Christian churches a serious run for their money. A composite of Christianity, neo-Platonism, and Eastern ideas, Gnosticism (from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”) reveled in an extraordinarily baroque cosmology replete with complex hierarchies of divine beings and a radically dualistic outlook.

There are great differences between the surviving teachings of the Gnostic sages, and the surviving Gnostic texts are wildly contradictory. At its most general level, however, Gnosticism tended to teach that the key to salvation rested in a secret knowledge revealed only to the initiated few. Typically, this secret knowledge included the contention that the division separating the human from the divine was an illusion that evaporated with the enlightenment that gnosis brings. Thus, the gnostic adept was invited to believe in his own divinity.

Notice that last sentence and tell me why YOU think Bloom never said it or implied it.

Arkin goes on to say that here is the connection to Bloomian “gnosticism,” which describes little more than a general belief that there is a god within and that the essence of religion rests in the direct experience of that divine spark.

We should go back to the beginning of Blooms book where he admits that he is not “a historian or a sociologist or a psychologist of religion, let alone a theologian,” Bloom instead qualifies himself as a religious critic by explaining that he is an “unbelieving Jew of strong Gnostic tendencies.” Even while likening religious criticism to literary criticism—both are said to be based on a core aesthetic element—Bloom points out that religious criticism is freed from such limiting concerns as texts or the relations between texts.

Actually, Bloom attempts to do for American religion what he once did for literature: rewrite it with himself as the hero. In pursuit of this Romantic calling, Professor Bloom argues that there is such a thing as an American Religion and that it transcends all denominational barriers. According to Bloom, American Religion is defined not by a distinctive theology but by the unmediated experience of the self as God. The “American finds God in herself or himself,” he writes, a feat accomplished “only after finding the freedom to know God by experiencing a total inward solitude.” In this solitary freedom, the American is liberated both from other selves and from the created world. He comes to recognize that his spirit is itself uncreated. Knowing that he is the equal of God, the American Religionist can then achieve his true desideratum, mystical communion with his friend, the godhead.

I have just begun, Reb.  As I told you, I read this trash.  Actually, studied it and wrote a paper on it and it's author.

. K. Chesterton once said that “America is a nation with the soul of a church.” We are, to use Bloom’s phrase, a “religion-soaked, even religion-mad” society. Statistics show, we are told, that 88 percent of Americans believe that God loves them personally, approximately 20 percent that God speaks directly to them. At least since the time of Alexis de Tocqueville, foreign visitors have been fascinated by the role that religion plays in our public life despite the absence of an established church. The American Religion is a domestic manifestation of this same fascination with the religious life of Americans. But its author might have been well advised to heed the advice of Niebuhr. Speaking of the kingdom of God in America, Niebuhr told his readers, “we need to seek the pattern within it, not to superimpose some other pattern upon it. The ideal needs to be looked for in the real, not imported from without.”

If you care to continue, please stick to the facts and don't try to turn things around to fit your stand or beliefs.

Oh, and please use words this pore ole Texan can understand and refrain from phrases  like "Argumentum ad Antiquitatem."

You say Bloom has nothing to do with New Age Religion.  Well, this from Chris Lehmann, "Gnosticism takes up entire sections in New Age bookstores; it also suffuses mainstream self-help and spirituality literature -- major publishing houses have issued handsomely packaged translations of gnostic scripture, and, in one case, even a helpful calendar of meditations called "A Gnostic Book of Days.'' Among gnosticism's more celebrated highbrow adherents were British novelist Lawrence Durrell and Carl Jung -- whose loopy gnostic outlook, in turn, has furnished inspiration for many a latter-day spiritual-cum-psychological best-selling author, from James Hillman to Thomas Moore to Clara Pinkola Estes to Bill Moyers. Just last year, renowned literary critic Harold Bloom published Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection, half a gnostic spiritual autobiography, and half an interpretation of gnostic themes in American religious history and New Age spirituality."

Oh, yes, Lehmann also defines gnosticism thusly, "What, then, is gnosticism, exactly? It is, first and foremost, a fiercely world-denying faith. The original gnostics, who reached their peak of influence in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, held that the creation of our world was a colossal, cosmic mistake -- the handiwork of a pseudodeity called Ialdabaoth, a deceitful (if clumsy) demiurge. The true God had retreated far beyond the reach of the created universe -- which in gnostic mythology is commonly described as an abortion -- and into a realm of unconditioned repose and nonbeing, known as the Pleroma. Believers could only gain access to this rarefied state through the esoteric lore of gnosis, or knowledge, which taught, among other things, that the body, sexuality, and all institutions of the human social order were repugnant, decaying affronts to the higher soul (or pneuma) of the gnostic elite -- so much metaphysical deadwood that the heroic, solitary believer had to clear away to enact his or her own salvation."

I believe I have punched enough holes in your bucket for now

You know, Reb, you are quite a learned man and there is absolutely nothing personal in my remarks.  I hope you do not take them as such.  If you have, I apologize and ask your forgiveness.  I love ya man    Gotta Bud?

Forgive the typos, just washed my hands and can't do a think with 'em

Carolina
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23 posted 10-30-2001 05:11 PM       View Profile for Carolina   Email Carolina   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Carolina

*entering the room with a dry towel to wipe the brows*  Water, anyone?   I have to honestly say that I've enjoyed watching this thread unfold.
LR, yanno what this does to me  

Live today as if it's your last.  Love today as if it's your first.   Lisa

Brad
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24 posted 10-30-2001 08:03 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Interloper,
I hope you finished washing quickly because you've got me interested now.

At its most general level, however, Gnosticism tended to teach that the key to salvation rested in a secret knowledge revealed only to the initiated few.

--change initiated few to the acceptance of Christ and what do you get?


Typically, this secret knowledge included the contention that the division separating the human from the divine was an illusion that evaporated with the enlightenment that gnosis brings.

--Yeah, and a ticket to Heaven is guaranteed by the acceptance of Christ.

Thus, the gnostic adept was invited to believe in his own divinity.

--Here's a real difference. Perhaps that's why Bloom left it out.  

Arkin goes on to say that here is the connection to Bloomian “gnosticism,” which describes little more than a general belief that there is a god within and that the essence of religion rests in the direct experience of that divine spark.

--Are you arguing something different? Perhaps change this from a god to the God within us?

Even while likening religious criticism to literary criticism—both are said to be based on a core aesthetic element—Bloom points out that religious criticism is freed from such limiting concerns as texts or the relations between texts.

--You disagree with this?  

Actually, Bloom attempts to do for American religion what he once did for literature: rewrite it with himself as the hero.

--Bloom wants students to read the authors he thinks are important. Don't we all? He was fighting the influence of Eliot (who also wanted students to read what he thought was most important). This is a different thread.

In pursuit of this Romantic calling, Professor Bloom argues that there is such a thing as an American Religion and that it transcends all denominational barriers.

--Okay, you don't think that this generalization can be made.

According to Bloom, American Religion is defined not by a distinctive theology but by the unmediated experience of the self as God.

--But isn't that what many Americans say?

The “American finds God in herself or himself,” he writes, a feat accomplished “only after finding the freedom to know God by experiencing a total inward solitude.” In this solitary freedom, the American is liberated both from other selves and from the created world. He comes to recognize that his spirit is itself uncreated. Knowing that he is the equal of God, the American Religionist can then achieve his true desideratum, mystical communion with his friend, the godhead.

--Okay, I don't know any American who would say this.

that 88 percent of Americans believe that God loves them personally, approximately 20 percent that God speaks directly to them.

--isn't that scary? The 20% part.

But its author might have been well advised to heed the advice of Niebuhr. Speaking of the kingdom of God in America, Niebuhr told his readers, “we need to seek the pattern within it, not to superimpose some other pattern upon it. The ideal needs to be looked for in the real, not imported from without.”

--What within pattern are we talking about?

I'm not going to takes sides here because I don't really understand the arguments being presented. I still think Bloom would have been better off not using the word. It seems to cause more confusion than clarity.

But a couple more questions:

1. Can we speak of a distinctive American approach to religion?

2. If not, in what ways do Americans, individually, differ in their approach to religion when they are asked what they really believe?

--In other words, what do they say when it feels like they're confiding something to
you -- "I really think . . ."

Damn it, guys, you've got me interested now.  

Brad
 
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