Yo! Your chiefness. Not for nuthin’ – but I’m from Jersey, exit 154 off the Parkway if ya really gotta know. (Yeah, I know. I’m a snob. And what are ya gonna do about it?) Yeah, that’s the “New” Jersey. I guess we prahbly lack the “grAHvEEtAHSS” of the old Jersey, which is like… a cow or somethin’. Whatevah.
So, you’re worried about the fucking barbarians? You see any barbarians around, send ‘im our way. We’ll give ‘im a little talkin’ to. Get this barbarian problem straightened out in no time. Trust me on this.
Hobbes, Spinoza, Voltaire, Nietzsche. So, it seems like you prefer your atheists dead. Lots of people like their opponents dead. Let’s see. Voltaire… hmm, you talkin’ about the guy that said that Jews “are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not some day become deadly to the human race.” That Voltaire? I don’t want to be presumptuous, but aren’t you, like, Jewish? I mean being a rabbi and all. That’s kinda weird, no offense. Me, I’m always on the verge of liking Voltaire when I remember that shit, pardon my French, and that crap about Africans being dumber than apes. And Spinoza, you mean old Benedict? The guy that was thrown outta your tribe? And Nietzsche… I dunno what to say about Nietzsche. We hadda read a few of his books back and school and, no disrespect, but I got the feeling he wasn’t too right in the head. And Hobbes, okay, ya got me, I only ever read Leviathan, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we’ve gotta nail down what ya mean when you say “atheist.”
So, ya got yer preferred atheists. Didn’t see my name among them. S’okay. I got my preferred Jews, and I’m not gonna hurt anyone’s feelings by making the list public, but let’s just say, no disrespect, but your name’s not on it. Whatevah, my list of favorite atheists is prahbly diffrent than yer list. S’okay. At least we got that Spinoza fellow in common.
Ya got me on that sub specie aeternitatis thing. I’ll be straight wit you. I hadda look it up. Sorry you feel it’s been dumbed down. Can’t really address your problem unless you can be more ‘pecific. Who dumbed it down? Where? And yeah, I’m tone deaf, so what of it? Letting me sing Christmas carols, that’s my definition of Christian charity. As far as the book of Psalms goes, I understand what ya mean. Me, I always feel bad for people who think Robinson Carusoe is a children’s book, also for people who don’t get the profundity of Wilke Collins’ The Moonstone. As far as transcendence and the miracle of being, I’m not sure if you really want to go there. The first time I got laid, that was fucking transcendent. I kid you not. Really. It was fucking great. To be totally honest wit’ ya, I sometimes suspect that real religious people didn’t get good mind-blowing banging at the right age. But, hey, that’s just an opinion. And as far as that drama stuff goes, just between you and me, I could use a little less drama in my life. I’m just sayin’.
Not bein’ a reader of The Spectator, I s’pose I could leave it like that, like you say. But I’m not gonna, ’cause I’m kinda a pain that way.
So now we’re back to Nietzsche. So, he said that, without the Christian faith, Europeans whose ancestors had for a time been Christians, would cease loving their neighbors as themselves (which I’m glad they did ’cause otherwise they might have had some progroms or crusades or somethin’, just sayin’) and the strong would dominate the weak – good thing that shit never happened. Hallefuckinglujah and praise Jesus for that.
You know what that put me in mind of. The first page to Harvey Kurtzman’s The Jungle Book. A classic. One of my favorites, like the book of Psalms is one of yours. It reads “UP FROM THE APES! / (and right back down) / In Which Are Described / In Words and Pictures / Businessmen, Private Eyes, Cowboys, And Other Heros — ALL EXHIBITING — [THE PROGRESS OF MAN] / From the Darkness of the Cave / INTO THE LIGHT OF CIVILIZATION / by means of Television / WIDE SCREENMOVIES / THE STONE AXE / and other useful arts.” Okay, I’m gonna be honest wit ya. I never really had a favorite Jew list. I nevah even thought about it. But if I had a favorite Jew list, Harvey’d be on it. Which makes me wonder. Why aren’t the New Jews like the old Jews? The old Jews were funny, clever, intellectual-like. They questioned the assumptions of society. They weren’t afraid of barbarians at the gates. They WERE the barbarians at the gates. Why can’t the New Jews be incisive and intellectual like my favorite Jews? Why can’t you, Rabbi, be more like Harvey? Harvey was fuckin’ great. There was some gravitas in Annie’s fucking Fanny. If ya can’t appreciate the wisdom of Harvey, what can I say, some people are tone deaf and maybe I oughtta leave like that. (For the humorless – I’m parodying Mr. Saks’ article. I don’t actually believe there are “New Jews” and “Old Jews,” just like there aren’t really “New Atheists” and “Old Atheists.” However, Harvey Kurtzman was truly one of the greats of the sequential arts – and that’s no joke.)
So, you say, “Lose the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life and there will be nothing to contain the evil men do when given the chance and the provocation.” Nice sleight of hand there. First we’re talking about Christian ethics which has suddenly become the Judeo-Christian “sanctity of life.” I’m not really sure what that means. Do you mean that people who do not, and perhaps never did, worship the tribal god of Abraham’s people do not have the concept of the “sanctity of life” and there is “nothing to contain the evil men do when given the change and the provocation.” I mean really. What the fuck am I supposed to say to that? Have you ever read Bartolemé de las Casas? Do you know anything about any culture that existed beyond Europe and parts of the Middle East? Do you truly believe that in the Americas, in Africa, in Asia there was more evil than there was in Christian Europe? Really, ya gotta get outta the house more. Jerry Coyne gives you far too much credit when he says, “Sacks could have been a scholar, a surgeon, or any number of professions that are actually useful.” Personally, I’m glad you’re not gonna be operating on me anytime soon.
As far as where morality comes from, well, other people have addressed it. Honestly, from my point of view, it isn’t my problem. Here’s a problem for you. If the tribal god of Abraham is the source of all morality, what is the source of morality for people belonging to other cultures? Or do they not have morality?
Personally, I don’t believe we should worship anything at all, certainly not the market. However, do you believe that coddling of the banks by governments around the world after the financial crisis was a result of atheism? Do you believe that failure to understand the work of Keynes and respond to the crisis with sufficient stimulus was a result of atheism? Do you believe that atheists have caused the crony capitalism which is spreading through our governments? Is this all the work of atheists? Are there no Jews and Christians working at those banks or numbered among those CEOs?
Being from Jersey, the new one, I don’t know about the “mild Christian Britain.” Here, we used to have something called “genteel anti-Semitism.” As someone who can pass for Wasp, let me tell you, there’s nothing genteel about it. It just throws me for a loop when Jews wax romantic about the past. Really? You want to bring back the days when Jews were excluded from certain occupations, from certain schools, certain clubs. Damn! I don’t want to bring that back and I’m not even Jewish.
Humanity hasn’t been here before. Take a look at the growth of the material well-being of the average person over the past couple of centuries. Only the comfortable and insulated can deplore this as materialism. For most people this means decent food, decent housing, medication, education and many practical things. It is individualism that brought Jews out of the ghetto, that made slavery undefendable, that allowed women to choose their own future, to make hereditary rule inexplicable. My own struggle with the liberalism promoted by the Enlightenment is why, without leftists and radicals, it has been so weak on the questions of social justice where I feel it should be stronger.
Rabbi, you and I will never see eye to eye on a simple fact. I do not believe that people should be chained to the group to which they were born. I believe that people should have the freedom to live the life they feel called to live. I believe this for the reason that I want this for myself. Your beliefs, if they were followed to their logical extreme, would send Jews back to the ghetto where you could be prince of the paupers. The segregationists in the U.S. tried to promote the idea that separate can be equal. It can’t be.
Finally, at the end, you mention the barbarians you first named in your title. It was a long time coming. You are so vague, I would have had no idea about whom you are speaking except that other people have identified these barbarians as Muslims. After many paragraphs complaining about atheists, it seems that the real threat is another group who also worship the tribal god of the people who trace their lineage to the mythical figure of Abraham, specifically, those among them who are most fervent in their worship and who most believe in the absolute truth of their holy book. This is… how do I say this… odd. You denigrate atheists at length because… Muslims.
Honestly, at this point I can only guess at what you’re trying to say. Enlightenment Liberalism will not defeat Islamism? Is that your argument? Rabbi Saks, I’m afraid you wrote the most incoherent mess of nonsense and I’m not sure why I spent so long responding to it. The only reason I’m publishing it is because I am already behind on my posts.