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How a theologian from the past can help us confront our ‘cultural disintegration …

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“Cultural disintegration” is a useful description of what commentators and publics consistently witness these years. Left and right, liberal and conservative, male and female (etc.), old and young, all observe and chronicle the signs of it. The historian in me prompts the question: are there precedents for such an outlook? The answer, of course, is “yes,” but it becomes interesting only when we turn to specific cases. Here is my favorite analysis, by a theologian who points to four signs.

Breaking news: “First of all [there is] a feeling of fear, or, more exactly, of indefinite anxiety … Not only the economic and political, but also the cultural and religious, security [seems] to be lost.” Anyone who pays attention to current events readily finds documentation.

This feeling of anxiety has a social consequence, experienced as a second mark of cultural disintegration, when there exists “a general uncertainty.“ Mass media, commerce, entertainment, and societal institutions manifest and promote this. Whoever needs supporting documentation need only look and listen.

The third characteristic of cultural disintegration our lecturer describes as “loneliness … Every single unit is lonely in itself, without any direct communication.” He claims that there was once a common world, “[b]ut when the remnants of a common world broke down, the individual was thrown into complete loneliness and the despair connected with it.”

This speaker adds a fourth sign: the “most basic symptom of the cultural disintegration is the feeling of meaninglessness and the resulting cynicism. Not only the religious symbols of earlier centuries [have] lost their power of giving a meaning to life, but also the philosophical and political symbols which were supposed to replace them.”

In such a time, youth, the speaker notes, “looks for religious symbols—and if it cannot find them, for quasi-religious ones.” Thereupon “[s]kepticism and cynicism conquer the spirit and open the hearts for the entrance of ‘demonic symbols,’” and leaders who promise “security and certainty and community and a new meaning of life,” which, in the time and place of the speaker, are being provided “in a demonic and self-destructive way.”

It is time to identify our lecturer, and his time and place. This was theologian Paul Tillich, addressing the Fiftieth Church Congress of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Indianapolis on May 6, 1942. The “demonic and self-destructive” forces he identified, five months after the United States entered World War II, were “Fascist and National Socialist” revolutionaries. It might be hysterical, histrionic, and counter-productive to seek or suggest identities between the historical moments and agents then and now. Still, Tillich was writing with broad and basic issues and challenges in mind, from which later generations can learn.

Tillich called his lecture “The Storms of Our Times.” Serious people are now called and calling others to face the storms and crises of a later day, and to be attentive to what Tillich elsewhere called The New Being, which he depicted and described “as Love,” “as Freedom,” and “as Fulfillment.”

About the author

Martin E. Marty

"Marty" is one of the most prominent interpreters of religion and culture today. Author of more than 50 books, he is also a speaker, columnist, pastor, and teacher, having been a professor of religious history for 35 years at the University of Chicago.

196 Comments

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  • ‘cultural disintegration’

    Norway, Sweden and Finland have for decades been know as the best countries to live in.

    The citizens had enough sense to relegate Religion to the ash-heap of history – where it belongs.

    They knew, and know how to deal with ‘cultural disintegration’….

  • Let’s not ignore the economic issues that lead to cultural disintegration and loneliness. I will go into yhis more later. Most people’s sense of community comes from religious institutions.

  • “Most people’s sense of community comes from religious institutions”

    Depends on what you mean by “sense of community”. If you mean that religious allegiances create a unifying sense of “them-and-us” (where us are usually self-portrayed as underdogs/persecuted etc.) you may well be right.

    In large parts of the world though I suspect that tribalism came first and religion was simply a brand differentiator utilised to maintain the pre-existing antipathetic groupings.

    In addition, in much of the more developed world where religion has been substantially relegated to being a (generally) harmless pastime for an ageing mini-minority, community is about many other factors, location, age, hobbies, football (I’m talking about the world where footballs are spherical), employment etc. etc..

  • You are wrong, sense of community does not come from religion, it comes from nations. The progressive’s desire to eliminate nations and create the one world society, is bringing civilization to an end. You are witnessing the making, of the end of civilization.

  • I agree that religious institutions provide a sense of community but what happens when the specific religion stops making sense.

  • Or, the definition of community will get expanded to include all of humankind, which seems to be a higher form of civilization, not an end. It is only an end if you think civilization requires “an other”.

  • Cultural disintegration is the breakdown of civilization. It required a multitude of nations to keep the world from being a one government world in Hitler’s day. Today, the world is desperately seeking a one world government. You are all insane.

  • Religious groups have used the draw of “community, of like minded believers’ to bring people into their church and to keep them there. This sense has been for better and worse a powerful driving force in keeping religion alive.

  • I think that we can learn from history. What can we learn from what Tillich had to say in the 1940’s and where we are today. Start by asking some questions. has religion helped society become better (as in solve some of the problems Tillich identified) OR has it helped make the problems Tillich identified worse?

  • “Today, the world is desperately seeking a one world government.”

    Really???
    It looks to me like, after BREXIT, the growing irrelevancy of the EU, and the worthless bureaucratic impotence of the UN among other things, that the world is seeing a rise in nationalism and isolationism, not global centralization.
    You almost sound like a pre-tribbie, and trust me, that false teaching will always lead people to wrong conclusions.

  • As opposed to the religious fundamentalists desire to create a one world society, where their particular brand of delusion is the one with the power of life and death, and all others must bend a kneee and acknowledge it.

    One need only look at evangelical support for a serial adulterer and fornicator, their worship of power and money, to see this. Or state religions like North Korea. Or Islamist governments and movements.

  • Facts disagree with your premise.

    Community is often much more local than nations and communities commonly straddle national borders.

    Start with facts rather than the conclusion – it gets better results.

  • Yes. I’d say that the original motivation for creating churches was to repeatedly reinforce preposterous religious beliefs at least once a week. And then the sense of “community” developed from there to further the reinforcement, and instill hostility toward outsiders who refuse to accept those beliefs.

  • North Korea does not have a state religion, it is atheist.

    That, of course, leads to cults of personality.

  • Do you mean like trumpelthinskin? But at least, finally, you admit that it is not atheism, but cults of personality in those countries that are the problem

  • Atheism is the groundwork, which is why it happened in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, China, and so on.

    The fact that the same things happen over, and over, and over seem to support the conclusion that it is how the tail is on the cat.

  • I think the original motivation for creating religion and thus church/religious groups was to provide a sense of security and comfort via explanations about how the world works and what people needed to do to keep it working. Part of this function was eventually taken over by science. The part of explaining how the world works. But the need for security and comfort was and is not part of Science and remained a prime factor for religion.

  • Just as obnoxious. I was being partly sarcastic in my comment but as idealistic as it may seem, it is no less ridiculous than the Bruce Patterson’s claim that it is based on nations. I disagree with that limited definition of community and his assumption that it is also the basis of civilization.

  • Sort of like one would hear on K-Love or other Christian radio stations? Bit of an ironic statement when much of contemporary Christianity is built sentimentality.

  • I forgot the topic… So are you agreeing with Bruce’s definition of community and that they are the bedrock of civilization?

  • I know atheists that go to synagogue most weeks. They go for lots of reasons. They love the melodies and the singing. They like the people. Yes, you can meet interesting and intelligent people at a synagouge. It connects them to a Jewish past and future and other reasons. I’m not an atheist, but I reinterpret the prayers in a way that makes sense to me.

  • Well, I’m a progressive. Please stop telling me what progressives believe because you’re wrong. I have no desire to eliminate nations. As a matter of fact, even in 2018 if you don’t have a nation, you’re screwed. Yes, I’m a progressive and a Zionist. It is possible.

  • What about Russia where Putin is now collaborating with the Russian Orthodox Church. He’s not a Communist. He’s a fascist.

  • What about Putin?

    I did not state that all bad guys are atheists. I simply pointed out that one can’t find a single nation in which atheists came into power that did not turn out badly.

    There is quite the debate about a definition for fascism, which has degenerated into a one-size-fits-all term of derision.

    Using this definition:

    “Fascism is a belief that liberal democracy is obsolete and the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarian one-party state is necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflicts and as an effective response to economic challenge. Such a state is led by a strong leader to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society. Fascism rejects the belief that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation. Fascism advocates a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.”

    I would tend to agree that Putin is a fascist.

    His contacts with the Russian Orthodox Church are political theater for advantage.

  • Fascism is quite compatible with religion which is really necessary to install and maintain it. The autarky would be a goal of the state, but a dictatorial oligarchy is the usual domestic organization.

    Is easy to see how evangelicalism is helping to form an autocratic state in the United States. This is very possibly the road to fascism.

  • That is certainly the spiel from your side of the discussion.

    In fact the only compatible religion is a state religion.

    Hitler tried unsuccessfully to achieve that, but failed.

    So, as an alternative, in 1940 a dedicated clergy barracks was established at Dachau. Of the 2,720 clergy imprisoned at Dachau, 94.88% were Catholic – among them 400 German priests. Catholic schools in Germany were closed by 1939 and Catholic press by 1941. With the war in the East in1941, monasteries and convents were targeted and expropriation of Church properties surged.

    In the Polish areas annexed by the Nazis set about systematically dismantling the Church – arresting its leaders, exiling its clergymen, closing its churches, monasteries and convents. Many clergymen were murdered. At least 1,811 Polish clergy died in Nazi concentration camps. Hitler’s plans saw no place for the Christian Churches.

    In Austria under the Gauleiter of Vienna, Odilo Globocnik, property was confiscated, Catholic organisations closed, and many priests to Dachau; in Czechoslovakia religious orders were suppressed, schools closed, religious instruction forbidden and priests sent to concentration camps.

    The Confessing Church suffered much the same fate.

    I do understand you do not like Christians, particularly “evangelical” Christians.

    How do you feel about Muslims and Jews?

  • You realize, of course, you’re describing a cultural experience, not a religion?

    There’s nothing wrong with that, but accuracy requires I note it.

  • Well, you never know when something will hit someone with a deeper meaning. At least for me it’s a spiritual experience. Jews are an ethnic group and a culture as well as a religion.

  • No, the commonality at the NRA is defense of the Second Amendment.

    It is more or less the same glue that used to hold the ACLU when it still was a bona-fide civil rights advocate and not a shill for left wing agendae.

    The communist cells looked like gnostic cults, hidden knowledge that only the elect comprehended.

  • Like the man said, you described a cultural experience.

    It certainly cannot be a religion for an atheist.

  • In some places, though they aren’t (I’d think) organized around Atheism. They are more likely organized around other issues/programs that are non-religious. For example I was a Master Gardener for 15 years. This is a program for the University Extension Service. The friends I made there were valuable and friends for life. Some of them have now died. Some friends and I started and operated a “free store” for 5 years. Everything was donated and given away, household items, clothing, toys, books etc. Again the friends I made there are valuable and friends for life even though we closed the store and have gone our separate ways and one member has now died. Some of those folks were religious, some nominally religious and I was a confirmed Atheist. Yet our sense of community surpassed our differences.

  • It is more than just defense of the 2nd amendment. At least it started out as more than that! I do admit it has degenerated in the last few years. BUT then many groups degenerate over time which has happened to many religious groups.

  • Just as religions lead to cults of personality. Look at what is in the news this week, the death of Billy Graham, a cult of personality if ever there was one!

  • The NRA is focused on the Second Amendment.

    Since the purpose of the Second Amendment is proficiency in arms (well-regulated), it supports shooting events, training, and marksmanship. It is the largest firearms training provider in the US, works closely with law enforcement including specialized training, and supports gun safety, e.g., the Eddie Eagle program for children.

  • I think you are showing that the experience can mean different things to different people. For some it is a cultural experience. For others it is part that, but that is only a small part of the experience, the spiritual connection for some is very strong and more important than the cultural aspect, though they admit that is still a part of the experience.

  • Given that (at least in the US) church attendance is at an all-time low..I’m not seeing church as a source. I mean it is for some of my friends and neighbors..but most of us find this in a cluster of self-created groups..online, book clubs, pub buddies, local service organizations, work buddies..etc.

  • I’ve always wanted to attend 2 things — a Jewish service and an old school pre-Vatican 2 Catholic mass (with the Latin and the chanting and the incense).

    I have found some interesting things in Universalist meetings as well.

  • ..let me give you this free personality test and tell you about an amazing book by L Ron Hubbard.

  • Hmm…let’s visit the mostly atheist states of Denmark, Iceland and Sweden…then we’ll talk.

  • I tend to see all the push by evangelicals as a last gasp rather than a path to autocracy..I hope you’re wrong.

  • This one has. But..my groups (except one humanist group sort of kind of) are not based on anything specific about atheism. Atheism is just a part of how my brain works. It would be like being in a basketball league that met for the purpose of not playing golf.

  • Oh, indeed it does.

    Your project, if you agree to accept it, is to find a country which became officially atheistic that did not within a short period become a massive human rights violator.

  • The only man to fail to sink a Mexican island – well – as far as is known the only one to try – and fail.

  • “…. I reinterpret the prayers in a way that makes sense to me. ”
    I think that’s wonderful.
    As you well know, once-upon-a-time, that was enough to brand you (plural) a heretic with rather severe consequences – like death.
    All the Abrahamic Religions split into groups which found alternative interpretations to the “sacred” writings/dogma.
    Many of these rebellious “free thinkers” brought about the religious pluralism we know today.
    Many others eschewed religion entirely.
    They were always the most dangerous to the power structure of the day/location, and the first killed.

  • The state religion was necessary to originally gain power and then to maintain it until fear of the state made in unnecessary.

    There are many Christians that I like, including some Evangelicals. I don’t like religious ideologies that wrongly claim to know the truth. I have a real problem with Christian Nationalism, which is a political ideology striving for autocratic authority. Most of its supporters are Republican members of the religious right. They include right wing Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Zionists.

    I respect Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and those of other beliefs. I realize that most people have a religious belief. The propensity for this is biological. All religions are based on faith. To have faith is to pretend to know what you do not. Those that claim that unreasonable things are true, have done, and do, evil things. I hate what they do but understand they are probably not responsible for their irrational beliefs They do have the potential to overcome them.

  • The Second Amendment is a rallying cry for the arming of Christian Nationalists. Similar to the German Brown Shirts.

  • Well, no it wasn’t. At least not in Judaism. All the other Abrahamic religions split off from Judaism. That’s why I always put “Old Testament” and New Testament” in quotes. Spinoza was excommunicated, but he was the only one and that was partly done to appease the Dutch state which tolerated Jews. Of course, Jews were never in power and were always a minority in the past.

  • There are a wide array of Jewish services to attend. It depends on where you live. I don’t know about Catholic masses.

  • I’ve met people from all religions whose faith has made them better people. Nor more tribal or more prone to an us and them. Of course, I’m Jewish and Jews have always been persecuted and that’s not imagined.

  • Christian Zionists are not Zionists. Most of them want Jews to convert before the Second Coming. The ones that doen’t convert wil go to Hell. They want a Jewish state with no Jews in it.

  • The NRA is not that organization anymore. Wayne LaPierre just called 5 Americans, all Jews, enemies of America. I is more a supporter of gun manufacturers than gun owners. It oppose laws that most gun owners support.

  • I want to go back to the disintergration of communities as a result of economics. What would have happened if you had to move because you lost your job? Or you couldn’t get a new job that paid as well?

  • LaPierre’s speech never mentioned the word “Jew.”

    I agree that George Soros, Micheal Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, Charles Schumer, and Saul Alinsky are or were dedicated to working against my interests.

    The gun manufacturers have their own organization.

    Most gun owners vote with the NRA.

  • On the other hand, I don’t like religions that wrongly claim the truth doesn’t matter.

    “They include right wing Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Zionists.” sounds like the hate list of the John Birch Society’s alter ego.

  • He didn’t need to. It was an antisemitic dog whistle. He didn’t describe these Jews as working against his interests. He described them as enemies of America. Most gun owners support raising the age limit to 21, banning bump stocks, and support background checks.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaPBhxXhprg

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean folks aren’t following me.

    Whether or not these folks are Jews, I would agree with him that one way or another they are working against the NRA.

    Micheal Bloomberg – the father of the large soft drink ban in NYC, for example, is THE single largest funder of gun control propaganda in the USA.

    Facts are facts without regard to individuals’ ethnic or religious characteristics.

  • You are right again. I have a real problem both with the actions of the Israeli’s like Netanyahu and the Evangelicals like Mike Pence.

  • “I was in the secret army..the Qarmy!’ — comedian Andy Daly playing Hubbard in a VERY hilarious podcast episode called Dead Authors Podcast

    Give it a listen….HI-LAR-EE-OUS

  • Actually, there are few times in history during which people haven’t lamented the apparent breakdown of culture or civilization. People tend to find signs of “decline” almost constantly. 

    One of those occasions was during classical times. Romans in the first century, for example, complained about the collapse of the Republic and its transition to an authoritarian empire. Later on, there was another wave of such laments, when their descendants complained about the end of what they viewed as the Pax Romana … a string of regimes run by a sequence of emperors … and Rome’s collapse into a series of crises in the second and especially the third centuries. 

    This repeated itself many more times, as western Rome fell completely and what we call “the Middle Ages” dawned. And it happened during the Middle Ages too. 

    Human beings largely have a better eye for seeing what seems — to them — to be going wrong, than they do for seeing what’s going right. This tendency leaves them repeatedly doing the same thing … i.e. whining and kvetching about the horrors of the changes that go on around them. For better or worse, history is change. Nothing stays the same … nothing, no matter how much effort one expends to keep everything the same. Preventing change is a fool’s errand; it can’t be done, and only an idiot would pretend it’s a good idea to try. 

    The only rational, and mature, tactic is to watch the changes that go on and discern which of them is beneficial (some changes will be, inevitably) and which are detrimental, then react to them accordingly and specifically — instead of simply bracing the door of history and barring anything and everything from ever getting through. 

  • Actually, there are few times in history during which people haven’t lamented the apparent breakdown of culture or civilization. People tend to find signs of “decline” almost constantly.

    One of those occasions was during classical times. Romans in the first century, for example, complained about the collapse of the Republic and its transition to an authoritarian empire. Later on, there was another wave of such laments, when their descendants complained about the end of what they viewed as the Pax Romana … a string of regimes run by a sequence of emperors … and Rome’s collapse into a series of crises in the second and especially the third centuries.

    This repeated itself many more times, as western Rome fell completely and what we call “the Middle Ages” dawned. And it happened during the Middle Ages too.

    Human beings largely have a better eye for seeing what seems — to them — to be going wrong, than they do for seeing what’s going right. This tendency leaves them repeatedly doing the same thing … i.e. bellyaching about the horrors of the changes that go on around them. For better or worse, history is change. Nothing stays the same … nothing, no matter how much effort one expends to keep everything the same. Preventing change is a fool’s errand; it can’t be done, and only an idiot would pretend it’s a good idea to try.

    The only rational, and mature, tactic is to watch the changes that go on and discern which of them is beneficial (some changes will be, inevitably) and which are detrimental, then react to them accordingly and specifically — instead of simply bracing the door of history and barring anything and everything from ever getting through.

  • There is no such thing as a nation built exclusively on atheism. There are nations where the govt basis their doctrine on Marxism that in some forms includes no god beliefs. But that’s it.

    Find a country whose leader had a mustache and killed millions that did not within a short period become a massive human rights violator.

    Mustaches must therefore lead to genocide. QED

  • I don’t smoke

    Your moving the goal posts….just because they have state churches (which perform purely ceremonial services) does not change the fact that they are largely per capita atheist.

    Nice try though…smoke your own damn cigar, bubby

  • “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

    “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter… In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple.”

    Theist

    ” But since we set as the central point of this perception and of this profession of belief the maintenance and hence the security for the future of a being formed by God, we thus serve the maintenance of a divine work and fulfill a divine will – not in the secret twilight of a new house of worship, but openly before the face of the Lord.”

    Nuff said.

  • it represents them in lobbying efforts to keep them financially successful Perhaps subsidize is not the most precise word but comes closest

  • I have a problem with Netanyahu too. Also, Israel has a parliamentary system, so a small religious party can make a big difference.

  • I think working against the NRA’s interests is a good thing to do. Besides that, there wasn’t a single non-Jew he could have mentioned. I live in Philadelphia where a sugary drink tax pays for pre-school for parents who can’t afford it. You also ignored that he said they were enemies of America. That is vastly different from saying they are working against the NRA.

  • The 90’s called, they want their paranoid fantasy back..

    Out of curiosity, do you think Star Trek is satanic for its depiction of a government spanning many words?

  • Funny thing is we were more “globalist” when 70% of the world was being dominated by European imperialism.

  • If you oppose the Bill of Rights, I would consider you an enemy of America.

    He could have mentioned Dianne Feinstein. She was raised Russian Orthodox. I don’t think he realized what ethnic or religious affiliation any of the folks he named had.

    A number of my friends belong to:

    http://jpfo.org/

  • Nope.

    You can’t exercise Second Amendment rights if there are no firearms.

    At best they have some common interests.

  • That was a political speech early in his reign.

    His personal beliefs were inconsistent with it.

    Nuff said.

  • No, you’re moving the goal posts.

    The Soviet Union and China, for example, were and China remains officially atheist.

    The fact that some portion of the population is agnostic or something else doesn’t change the parameters of the government under which they live, or the principles upon which it acts.

    You’re conflating two different things.

  • No, the former Soviet Union was, and North Korea and China remain, officially atheist, opposed to religion, and in fact persecutors of those with religious beliefs.

  • Susan, I respect the Jewish culture and am quite comfortable with moderate religious Jews. The policies of the Israeli’s against the Palestinians is atrocious. Years ago a group of youth from a kibbutz in Israel formed a collective and ran a restaurant that provided Jewish cooking in Washington D.C. I was in a group of anarchists that helped out sometimes. They had left Israel because the adults were not treating the Arabs with dignity. They felt this made the teachings of the kibbutz hypocritical. They taught me to make kosher flafale.

  • Nothing changes the fact that the European nations I mentioned are highly atheist. I really do not care what a nation’s official policy is. The question is…how many people have no god beliefs. What an “officially atheist” nation does or does not do says nothing about atheism per se.

    By the same token…just because a Papal State in past history kills its citizens does not mean all Christians want to kill their citizens. Your reliance on what some dictatorship may or may not do is just a red herring.

    Per capita — atheists commit fewer violent crimes,

  • Your fallacy is No True Scotsman.

    If you can produce any disputing evidence that he was not a theist….I’m all ears.

  • Bob you really are ignorant. Personality cults extend the gamut from extreme to moderate. Religions lead to cults of personality in many ways your failure to acknowledge that is a serious fault on your part. Look at Jim Jones, Jim and Tammy Baker, Pat Robertson, more recently Rick Warren.

  • That’s a bit simplistic. Israel isn’t perfect, but Israeli Arabs vote and serve in the Kneset. Israel has been at war it’s entire existence. How long after Pearl Harbor did we put Japanese Americans in internment camps?

  • I don’t share your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, but that doesn’t mean I oppose the Bill of Rights. I’m sure he knew. The far right has been obsessed with George Soros for a long time.

  • This was begun tens of thousands of years ago. Evolutionary neuroscience has discovered that our brains are now “wired” to favor these beliefs.

  • I’m sorry, Susan. but I can’t agree with you on this. It’s not only the government, but the discrimination against Arabs by the Israeli people.
    Desmond Tutu said that Israel was guilty of apartheid. I actually support the economic boycott of Israel.

  • Susan, you really are ignorant.

    To put celebrity status – Billy Graham or Clark Gable – on the same plane as a personality cult indicates you have no idea what the phrase “personality cult” means.

  • No, this was not a “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    However, I after “Then maybe shut the hell up…now you just have verbal diarrhea” I am not inclined to explain why.

  • Since I made no issue of this or that nation being “highly atheist” what you’re saying is irrelevant to the point I was making, and you make that clear with “I really do not care what a nation’s official policy is”.

    You may want to bring your topic up to someone who wishes to jawbone it with you.

    A quick Google shows zero support for “Per capita — atheists commit fewer violent crimes”.

  • To me, the most interesting part is the notion that Rome ever fell. People who don’t know their history say things like that. Constantine was not stupid, by any means. He could see which way the wind was blowing, what with the rise of Christianity and the gaulish attacks on Rome throughout the empire. He saw that it was time to get out of dodge, and did so, moving the empire to Byzantium, and Rome itself to be ruled by its Christian rulers until they handed it over to the goths, 150 years later.
    New Rome survived for another 800 years or so, until it was severely weakened by the Catholic forces of the crusades, and eventually, fell to the ottomans. Meanwhile, Rome didn’t fall, but remains where it always was.

  • Having gotten my degree in medieval history, I’m aware that “Rome” per se did not fall. It was, as you point out, succeeded in the eastern part of the the Greco-Roman world by what is now called the Byzantine Empire. After that fell to the Ottomans in 1453, it was succeeded by a couple of small rump states (e.g. Trebizond) led by various members of the Palaiologos family. When those were overwhelmed, it was — at least theoretically — succeeded by the rulers of Muscovy (via the marriage of Sophia Palaialogina, niece of the last Byzantine emperor, to Grand Duke Ivan III). 

    For this reason Russia was sometimes called “the Third Rome.” While nothing of consequence came from this, Catherine the Great did concoct a plan (which never was put into place) to recreate the Byzantine Empire with her grandson (whom she’d conveniently named “Konstantin”) at its head. 

    So yeah, I got all that. And more. Much more! I could go on all day about it, if I wanted to, but I won’t bore you. I’ll just say, this is why I referred only to the fall of “western Rome.” 

    Oh, and you’re right about the Latin Christians of the Fourth Crusade having set the stage for Byzantium’s demolition. Although, I have to point out, there were many other problems festering within the Byzantine world, combined with the relentlessly-growing Ottoman menace, so it’s not accurate to think Byzantium could have survived had the Fourth Crusade not occurred. In fact, had the regime reconstituted itself differently when it recovered from the Crusaders’ hack-job, it might have stood a better chance of resisting the Ottomans. 

    (As it was, Constantinople might have fallen a few decades earlier, had Timur the Lame not arrived on the Ottomans’ back door, diverted their attention, then defeated them at the Battle of Ankara in 1402.) 

    It is safe to say the Fourth Crusade hastened Byzantium’s fall, both due to the damage done by their having (effectively) broken it up briefly into a collection of smaller states, as well as having exposed it as a relatively weak regime and thus made it more of a target than it already was. 

    It’s all very complicated, though. The eastern Mediterranean world was unstable for a very long time (and in many ways it still is). There are few easy answers as to how things turned out the way they did. 

  • I know that you are far more expert IIn these matters than I am. You’ve certainly educated me on this one. I had no idea that Russia was “the third Rome”. Positively putinesque!!!

    I always considered the first Rome to be Rome, the second Rome to be Byzantium, the third Rome to be the Holy Roman Empire, and the fourth (and final) Rome to be Mussolini,s Italy. Mussolini will now have to go to number 5.

  • Isn’t the fact that Israel has “been at war it’s entire existence” tell you that perhaps it is doing something wrong? That is no way for people to live their lives. I agree with Bob Harrison, the treatment of the majority of Palestinians is unacceptable. There was nothing acceptable about the US putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps. Are you implying that was acceptable and therefore putting the Palestinian people in what is in essence internment camps is therefore acceptable? Israel will never live in peace until it treats the Palestinians fairly and honestly and that includes making reparations for the land they stole.

  • I didn’t include Clark Gable! You don’t understand the control Billy Graham held over his followers. As I pointed out not as extreme as Jim Jones but it was still a personality cult.

  • I think they get wired that way by early teaching in that direction. Otherwise how do you explain Atheists that never were religious? Our brains are wired to seek safety and security, and to find comfort in community. In other words our brains are wired to seek things that religious groups have turned to their advantage. It isn’t the religion they are wired to accept but the other aspects that lead to a religious impulse. Those researchers didn’t distinguish between the two.

  • A true community of friends will survive the move. They may no longer be actively involved together but the memories and friendships survive.

    Economics is a serious problem in our society. The rich have gotten richer, the poor are getting poorer. It is hard for parents to give the attention needed to their children if both parents are working two jobs just to meet basic expenses.

    Some people when forced to move will have no problems making new friends, creating new support groups wherever their lives take them. Other folks will never be comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

    Minimum wage jobs were never meant to support a person let alone a person with children. They were originally entry level jobs.

    Along with economic policies, racial and sex discrimination is still a major part of the problem with people of color and women getting paid lower wages than white men. That needs to change.

    It also appears in where people can live. There is still discrimination in housing, in where they can buy a house, in getting a loan to buy a house in a nicer neighborhood. AND that also affects job opportunities, schools for kids and for adults (access to colleges or further job improvement training), transportation getting to and from work (getting a loan for a car) etc.

    Lots of complex intertwined problems.

  • It was never about proficiency. Bob Harrison is right it was about making the South safer from slave rebellion. And it was about having a well regulated local militia to turn to rather than maintaining a standing army. Since we now maintain a standing army, and the well regulated militia part has been taken over by state national guard groups that purpose is no longer valid.

    Besides even assault rifles are no match for helicopter gun ships, drones with bombs, rocket launched grenades etc. OR haven’t you been paying any attention to what is happening in the Middle East?

  • And what about the Koch brothers? Or have you chosen to ignore them and their far right leanings?

  • The identity of any “Third Rome” is open to question. There are a number of claimants, not just Russia. The German Empire under the Kaisers claimed it, as did the Austrians under the Hapsburgs, after the Holy Roman Empire ended (both claimed to be its successors, with the HRE being “the Second Rome”). I believe France under Napoleon claimed to be “the Third Rome,” because … well, because Napoleon, I guess. The medieval states of Bulgaria and Serbia claimed this status (for different, obscure, reasons). 

  • Those further claimants are just trying to be difficult.

    Speaking of Rome, if you get there, I’d highly recommend I Leoni D’Abruzzo near the train station. Fabulous!

  • Thanks – saving part two for tomorrow.

    Been following Tony Ortega for years – never heard this mentioned.

  • From the NRA’s perspective it is.

    Would you like a sampling of similar comments from national leaders of the Democratic Party aimed at people who oppose its platform and/or legislation?

  • No, Bob Harrison picked up his notion about the Second Amendment on the bounce from an article that the url I provided pointed to.

    From 1789 until that article – over 200 years – NO ONE suggested that the Second Amendment was about making the South safer from slave rebellion because the idea is NUTS and contrary to the facts.

    It is interesting, though, the first concerted attacks AGAINST the Second Amendment occurred when the KKK was trying to disarm blacks to make them easy prey.

    No, the Second Amendment is not about the state or local militias. That was specifically rejected by the Supreme Court and the facts laid out neatly and logically.

  • Babies are already wired to accept an agency behind things. A large percentage of children have imaginary friends. There is much more to this. You are correct that nurture or indoctrination by respected adults is usually also necessary. Our brains are continually being “rewired” especially during early childhood. A person can become an atheist through reason. This is much easier if not indoctrinated.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg

  • I hope you realize that among the other things George Soros uses his money for is to help George Soros, to spread the ideas of George Soros, and as noted to interfere in other countrys’ politics.

    I am sure he can do that, but that does make him open game in the political arena, especially for those he opposes.

    I am sure he’s a big boy and can handle it.

  • I don’t support the present government, but israel has been at war because Palestinians have refused to accept Israel’s existence. No, I don’t think putting Japanese Americans in camps was acceptable. I was just comparing the two countries. American was in much less danger and we behaved worse than the Israelis have.

    There are more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than Palestinian refugees from israel. They were not permitted to take anything with them. They couldn’t even have toothbrushes. What about reparations for them too? That would make it fair. I will not debate Israel’s existence. That is demeaning. Both sides need to treat each fairly and honestly and that includes ending the antisemitic hate on the Arab side. I think some Arabs hate Israel more than they want to help the Palestiniians.

  • I don’t have the time to go into Dsmond’s history of antisemitic statements. They are not just critical of Israel. He has talked about the power of the “Jewish lobby”, for example. He didn’t even try to disguise it. He said Jewish. He didn’t camoflage it by saying Israeli or Zionist.

    BDS won’t end the occupation one day sooner. It just makes it’s supporters fell smug and self-righteous. Israel is not South Africa. You can’t even always tell the difference a Jew and an Arab. I will go into this further later. It also gives an excuse for the harassment of Jews who don’t support BDS.

  • The Qarmy thing was a joke Daly made up…but you can also tell — he did a lot of research. Andy Daly is a treasure and I wish he had more leading comedic roles. One of the best improv players I’ve ever seen.

    The great thing about that podcast is that Paul F. Tompkins as HG Wells tries his best to rattle his improv guests off their role. Daly always wins!

  • Could it be that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s existence because Israel refuses to recognize their existence (as in recognize their rights to the land and to their freedoms)?

  • Susan, I didn’t know about Tutu being antisemitic . I am not antisemitic. My father in-law escaped Germany in 1938. He joined the British Navy. While going through the Panama Canal he received a letter from his mother who was in Auschwitz saying she was going to go to the shower. He never heard from her again.

    What I consider appalling is the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and the unequal treatment of Arabs in Israel. Considering the horrible treatment that the Jews had in Germany, I can’t understand how they can treat Arabs that way. I think I could tell the difference between a Jew and an Arab, and so can Israelis.

    If what you say about the culture there were true, then a one state solution would be viable, I am also concerned about the power of the Zionist lobby in this country.

    For an impression of Jewish-Arab relations.in Tel Aviv here is a short video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFoxL3sOAio

  • That is precisely my point. Who is to blame? The Israelis that stole the land from the Palestinians? Or the Palestinians for objecting to having their land taken from them? Who will be the BIG Guy in the room and say enough is enough?

  • Tillich and Marty are about as relevant to understanding the 21st century as a 3.5 inch floppy drive.

  • The results of weak boundary systems (whether national boundaries or ethical boundaries) that in the name of diversity creates a mush of no substance or identity where anything goes, where people stand for nothing but self-interest, and fall for anything.

  • It is more complicated than Israelis stole the land. The UN created Israel, but Arabs attacked the new state. Palestinians could have stayed.

  • The Holocaust should not be used as a cudgel to beat up Jews with. Auschwitz wasn’t a university or a seminary. Most of the Jews who entered Auschwitz were dead in 48 hours and didn’t get a chance to learn much. It takes away the humanity of Jews if they aren’t allowed to be fully human. British writer Howard Jacobson said that Europe will never forgive Jews for the Holocaust. The lesson of the Holocaust is that assimilation didn’t work. German Jews were the most assimilated in Europe. They thought they were German citizens, but rest of Germany didn’t agree. Jews needed a state where Jews can control their own destiny because they can’t depend on anyone else. America didn’t take any Jews in the 1940s. The new republic of Ireland outlawed Jews from entering Ireland. Jews needed and still need a sanctuary. You get screwed if you don’t have a state. That’s why I think Palestinians need a state too.

    Really, you could tell the difference between a Yemenite Israeli Jew and an Arab if they were both dressed the same way? I don’t think so. Half of all Israeli Jews are from Arab countries or from Iran or Turkey. They come from Morocco, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other Arab countries.

    I never said that Israel is perfect and can’t be criticized, but I think it should be fair. Israel is not a perfect democracy, but Arabs can vote and can work to change their circumstances. I don’t need to be lectured about Jewish-Arab relations. I know the problems.

    The example I used of Tutu’s antisemitism was his belief in the “power of the Jewish lobby.” Thinking that the Zionist lobby is too powerful is just more of the same. It’s just old wine in a new bottle. It doesn’t matter what happened to your father-in-law. He isn’t even your father. Yes, Jews can be antisemites too.

  • It’s mostly the Republicans, the supporters of what they call “family values”, that are creating this economy. They don’t care that the best way for the government to support families is to give people decent paying jobs. Unemployment breaks up families. You can’t take your family with you when you move. I live in Philadelphia and a lot of people have traditionally grown up and still live in the same neighborhood as their parents. Even Skype can’t improve on that.

  • George Soros has good ideas. He doesn’t interfere in other country’s politics. He promotes democracy and democratic values. As I read more of your comments, I am getting worried. You’re the one who is dogmatic and calls people unAmerican when they don’t agree with you. That’s more dangerous than anything Soros has done.

  • Well, yes, from the NRA’s fair and balanced perspective I would guess so. I’ve never heard anyone call Paul Ryan unAmerican.

  • Beyond disliking some or all of the NRA’s positions, I am not getting any sense you have much of a case going.

  • He actually does interfere in other countries’ politics.

    I already noted his interference in Hungary and that country’s reaction. Someone following along sent me some material on the Catholic League’s (the Catholic equivalent of the ADL) complaints about Soros’ funding a March for Choice in Dublin, Ireland, to force repeal of Ireland’s Eighth Amendment that bans abortion.

    Of course he also labels Israel a “racist” nation.

    He apparently also funded a front (letterhead) organization called “Catholics for Choice”, which is rabidly pro-abortion. Jon O’Brien, its president, blew up at Rep. Nancy Pelosi for having the temerity to say that pro-life Democrats were welcome in the Party.

    I see no problems in attacking George Soros as a menace by a variety of churches, countries, and organizations he opposes.

    The fact that he happens to be Jewish (non-practicing) doesn’t provide a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

    Now, if he is attacked BECAUSE he is Jewish, that’s another matter. But I am not seeing that.

  • He doesn’t interfere. You just don’t like the causes he supports. I think abortion should be left up to the individual women to decide. Hungary has been slipping into facsism and antisemitism. Opposing that is a good thing too. The Catholic League is in no way equivalent to the ADL. I have no problem with his support for Catholics for Choice. They are pro-Choice, but I wound’t call them rabidly anything. Soros supports causes that most Jews support. Jews are the most pro-Choice of any religious or ethnic group for example. Soros is not a menace for anyone who doesn’t hold your rabid right wing beliefs.

  • Of course he interferes.

    https://spectator.org/macedonia-to-george-soros-and-usaid-go-away/

    http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/international/331026-why-is-the-state-department-refusing-to-disclose-soros

    The question is not whether you have a problem or not with his interference, or whether you think this person or that person’s beliefs are “rabid right wing” – which I take to mean anything right of your own – or whether you think folks attacking the positions of another religious belief are “rabidly anything”.

    The question is whether antisemitism is involved.

    It quite obviously is not.

  • No, I don’t think most mainstream Republicans are rabidly right wing. It’s not obvious at all. The Catholic League is a Conservative, religiuslty conservative, organization that wants to go back to pre-Vatican II Catholicism which is a bad idea for Jews.

  • Basically anyone who disagrees with you is “right wing”.

    Nor is everyone who thinks George Soros is a problem an anti-semite. That goes for opposing Michael Bloomberg.

    No, the Catholic League is not an organization that wants to go back to pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

    It is the Catholic counterpart of the ADL.

  • It is more complicated than that! There are two sides to every story. You seem to be looking at the issue from only the Israeli perspective. Try looking at it from a Palestinians point of view.

  • Ask Andres Brevik, He specifically targeted youth leaders of the Norwegian leftish party for assassination. The right-wing movement has from the beginning been a fascist movement.

  • come to their senses…..and elect a nationalist government that will deport all 3rd world immigrants and phony refugees back to their nation’s of origin.

    Police interview: All outdoor rapes in Oslo are committed by immigrants (muslims) [subtitled] https://youtu.be/SekSsdTUy40

  • https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/jul/02/russia.lukeharding1
    Of the seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish: Berezovsky, Vladimir Guzinsky, Alexander Smolensky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Friedman and Valery Malkin.

    President Putin unleashed Russia’s law enforcement authorities on some of these criminal oligarchs. Berezovsky fled to London where he later died, Guzinsky fled to Israel, Khodorovsky was arrested as his plane was taking off from an airport in Russia in a botched escape attempt, jailed for several years, then allowed to go to Switzerland after agreeing that he would not engage in propaganda against Putin’s administration.
    Khodorovsky did not keep his promise.

    This is why the Zionist neocons who run America don’t like President Putin, he is too independent for their liking. They wanted a total pawn like Yeltsin, a buffoon that would do Israel’s bidding and the bidding of internationalist Zionist billionaires. Time’s Magazine cover: YANKS TO THE RESCUE. The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win. http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19960715,00.html

    President Putin is a nationalist, who wants to make Russia strong and prosperous, the Zionist neocons hate him for that. Read: Is Putin the ‘Preeminent Statesman’ of Our Times? By Patrick J. Buchanan – March 30, 2017 http://buchanan.org/blog/putin-preeminent-statesman-times-126734

  • Orthodoxy, Putin and the West.
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-john-chryssavgis/orthodoxy-putin-and-the-w_b_5302368.html

    Buchanan, a proponent of the religious right, of course knows. Like Putin, he is convinced, that God is not on the side of the West’s debauchery — by which they may in fact mean the West’s emphasis on freedom and objection to discrimination of any sort. Buchanan must have had more than a bad day at the office when he wrote: “Putin is tapping into the worldwide revulsion of and resistance to the sewage of a hedonistic, secular and social revolution coming out of the West.” He believes that “Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

  • Matthew 7:16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” — Here are the blessed fruits of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    The number of Russians who identify as atheists has fallen by 50 percent in just three years, according to a June 2017 poll by the Levada research center. http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/07/27/report-atheism-in-russia-falls-by-50-percent-in-three-years/

    According to a recent major Pew Research Center study conducted in 2017, over 70 percent of Russians identify as Orthodox Christians, up from just over a third in 1991, and Orthodox-majority countries tend to believe women should hold traditional roles. In Russia, 36 percent of those polled said women should obey their husbands and have a social responsibility to bear children. [which aligns with Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1]. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/

    http://www.monomakhos.com/eu-orthodoxy-is-the-enemy/
    “The new anti-west and anti-decadent line [of conduct] of Putin is based on the deep conservatism of Eastern Orthodox ideas,” Carl Bildt is convinced.

  • I’ve read about Bill Donohue. He has extremely conservaive views on what the Catholic Church should be. Yes, they do want to drag Catholocism back in time. Right now, I’ll surprise by saying I think the Catholic Church has done a best job of repairing the relations between Jews and Christians than any other branch of Christianity. BTW, isn’t the Catholic League interfering in other countries’s politics on issues like abortion?

  • They are not phony refugees. Don’t you understand what’s happening in Syria or in some African countries like Sudan? The vast majority of Muslims live ordinary lives and go to work and come home like everybody else.

  • It do look at it from a Palestinian point of view. That’s why I oppose the settlements and support a two-state solution. It isn’t obvious because I have tried to counter your hostility. I don’t think anyone should be living the way the Palestinians are living. I’ve been supporting groups in Israel that are trying to change the situation. There is Women Wage Peace, and organiazation of Israeli Jewish women and Palestinian women on both side of the border. There is also the New Israel Fund.

  • You have read the usual dreck from enemies of the Catholic Church about Bill Donohue.

    No, the Catholic League is in no way a partisan in either liturgical or doctrinal matters.

    No, the Catholic League is 100% American.

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