Saturday, August 12, 2006

Spinoza revisited: A response to a letter to the editor of the Globe

With all due respect to Rev. Joseph M. Hennessey's critique of the great Jewish philosopher Spinoza in his letter to the editor July 31, 2006, I believe Rev. Hennessey is in significant error. Among others, Spinoza ushered in the 17th century ideas of the Age of Reason. It is said he "prepared the way for the 18th century Enlightenment." Rev. Hennessey's criticism claimed that Spinoza was responsible for the undermining of religion and indeed he even unbelievably says he can see why Islamic Fundamentalists "do not wish this same poison to infect their faith-filled world." Emphatically, it is certainly not reason or the Enlightenment (profoundly influencing our Founding Fathers and the construction of our own Constitution) which is at fault for worldly chaos. Rather, it is man's inability to escape the shackles of irrational religious superstition and intolerance which has sentenced mankind to a life of perpetual conflict. Religion for thousands of years has been at the root of bestial barbaric killings everywhere. If more people understood Spinoza and developed more rational thought, think how many lives would have been saved. Really, Rev. Hennessey, look to fundamentalist religious orthodoxy for the cause of the instability and horror of the world. The elders of Spinoza's community who eschewed and excommunicated him did not know him at all. Their ostracism of him was, in my opinion, a stain on all mankind. The fault dear Rev. Hennessey is not in Spinoza it is in uncompromising and irrational religious beliefs.

Uniterally Alone: I have been so disappointed so often that I simply do not have any enthusiasm for politics any more. When I think of what I experienced in the sixties and who has assumed leadership in this country since then, I wonder what happened. What became of all the hope I had during those times? I suppose the answer lies in part, through assassination we lost great leaders before their time. JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, I believe, would have achieved more greatness had they lived. They were hugely important leaders with more progressive political agendas. JFK could have won another term and I believe the quagmire and eventual loss of Vietnam never would have occurred. RFK could have assumed the presidency as well. Insted paranoid Nixon, and then the mediocrities of Reagan, H.W. Bush, and now the worst blunderer of epic proportions George Bush assumed the presidency. Those leaders implemented and implement, in my opinion, despicable policies that dupe the American public and support generally the wealthy. They made everyone else irrelevant and have, I believe, been responsible for our country's descent into madness. It is surely not the nation I thought, as a young adult, it was.

Now those mad forces control everything -- the presidency, the Congress, the courts and in many ways even the press. The US is divided worse than ever before. If that isn't bad enough, I believe, the Republicans control the voting machines. The elections, especially, are, I am convinced, fixed. The fix is in for generations and the Democratic party has been rendered impotent. The Democratic party appears weak and not united. Something must be done to reverse this perception of Democrats and fast because, in fact, I believe the Democratic party, while not perfect, is the best opportunity the majority of the people in this country have for a more positive change of direction.

I fear I will never live to see a country which again cares for its poor and dispossessed, conducts a sane and intelligent international foreign policy and provides hope for millions. It now is a country that conducts inane never-ending wars based on lies, kills thousands, alienates people around the globe, ruins the world's environment, shreds our magnificent Constitution, creates a theocracy, does not believe in science or academics, raises our national deficit, makes wealthy people wealthier and "elects" an uncurious president who cannot read nor speak well extemporaneously. Without a teleprompter our president is verbally and grammatically inept and, ashamedly, most around the globe know it.

Presently, especially, we must rely on the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates of the world not our US government to make humanity its priority. It is obvious if we rely on our own government to provide help we will get Katrina-like assistance. It is clear if leadership in the House, the Senate and the Executive does not change we will be and currently are in this alone.
Solutions to the Middle East: I try to be a rational person. I try to look at both sides of the issues; many sides of the issues. I will admit to a side that wants revenge but I also have a side that looks for more sagacious ways out. This requires much understanding, knowledge of all history and most especially Middle East history. It requires us to ask the question why is this happening. The revenge side of me thinks, as some people on this blog do, that force is the only way; that no matter if there were no Jews in Israel, if there were no Israel, if we did not need oil, if those in the west were nowhere to be found in the Middle East, I suspect the Middle East would still be explosive. I think to a degree nothing in the long run will matter because this radical brand of Islam, this kind of quasi Marxist ends-justifies-the-means kind of Islam has grabbed on to a population that does not and will not let it go. Man Western or Middle Eastern can be a violent beast that we know. I would love to find the better angels of our nature, if that is even indeed possible, in these perilous times. I would rather the Middle East be turned into a progressive flourishing oasis rather than into a parking lot as some would advocate. This will take a Solomon-like effort. So far I see no Solomons on the horizon. I am trusting that amid six billion people on this planet there must be one!

Bill Moyers Faith and Reason: Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to view two of Bill Moyer's interviews on his PBS show called "Faith and Reason." One interview was of Jeanette Winterson who, I believe, has written much and who as it says on the PBS web site "Winterson's works explore themes of desire, fantasy, sexuality, feminism, gender identification, love, and power in lyrical and imaginative prose, frequently mixing myth and history in settings ranging from 17th-century England to cyberspace."

I emailed Ms. Winterson and said the following:

Your quote shown on the PBS web site said:

"More than sex. More than money. You know, life is not endless is it? Cash, cars, cocaine, and girls. It's more than that. And there is a spiritual dimension to people...we are driven to want something more."

Indeed, as you say life seems to be more than what is tangible. However, we really do not know that for sure. All we know for sure is what we can see through provable science. An atheist friend of mine -- when I would say man needs to believe in something more, something beyond himself and all his superficial accoutrements -- would say to me just because man wants it to be so does not make it so.

To me until the mystical can be seen or proven, each person's mysticism remains, I believe, unique to him/herself. What is the truth unless we can see it even microscopically, or hear it, or prove it in some way? I cannot believe in anything mystical or supernatural until science tells me it is so and I have definitive proof or if I can see it in form or hear it in substance through my own senses . Otherwise, to me it's just pure supposition.

I have never been able to make that leap of mystical faith like others do. I wish I could because life would be so much nicer and less difficult to contend with its adversities.