Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Camille Paglia, On Atheism, Jon Stewart, and Snark Atheism

I'm surprised that Salon published this:
Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Sanders: “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!”

Trump's a carnival barker, but funnier than Stewart. Richard Dawkins is a joke. Sanders and Drudge earn approval

Salon: "You’re an atheist, and yet I don’t ever see you sneer at religion in the way that the very aggressive atheist class right now often will. What do you make of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the religion critics who seem not to have respect for religions for faith?
I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.” It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. Richard Dawkins was the only high-profile atheist out there when I began publicly saying “I am an atheist,” on my book tours in the early 1990s. I started the fad for it in the U.S, because all of a sudden people, including leftist journalists, started coming out of the closet to publicly claim their atheist identities, which they weren’t bold enough to do before. But the point is that I felt it was perfectly legitimate for me to do that because of my great respect for religion in general–from the iconography to the sacred architecture and so forth. I was arguing that religion should be put at the center of any kind of multicultural curriculum.

I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

The real problem is a lack of knowledge of religion as well as a lack of respect for religion. I find it completely hypocritical for people in academe or the media to demand understanding of Muslim beliefs and yet be so derisive and dismissive of the devout Christian beliefs of Southern conservatives.

But yes, the sneering is ridiculous! Exactly what are these people offering in place of religion? In my system, I offer art–and the whole history of spiritual commentary on the universe. There’s a tremendous body of nondenominational insight into human life that used to be called cosmic consciousness. It has to be remembered that my generation in college during the 1960s was suffused with Buddhism, which came from the 1950s beatniks. Hinduism was in the air from every direction–you had the Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Ravi Shankar at Monterey, and there were sitars everywhere in rock music. So I really thought we were entering this great period of religious syncretism, where the religions of the world were going to merge. But all of a sudden, it disappeared! The Asian religions vanished–and I really feel sorry for young people growing up in this very shallow environment where they’re peppered with images from mass media at a particularly debased stage.

There are no truly major stars left, and I don’t think there’s much profound work being done in pop culture right now. Young people have nothing to enlighten them, which is why they’re clinging so much to politicized concepts, which give them a sense of meaning and direction.

But this sneering thing! I despise snark. Snark is a disease that started with David Letterman and jumped to Jon Stewart and has proliferated since. I think it’s horrible for young people! And this kind of snark atheism–let’s just invent that term right now–is stupid, and people who act like that are stupid. Christopher Hitchens’ book “God is Not Great” was a travesty. He sold that book on the basis of the brilliant chapter titles. If he had actually done the research and the work, where each chapter had the substance of those wonderful chapter titles, then that would have been a permanent book. Instead, he sold the book and then didn’t write one–he talked it. It was an appalling performance, demonstrating that that man was an absolute fraud to be talking about religion. He appears to have done very little scholarly study. Hitchens didn’t even know Judeo-Christianity well, much less the other world religions. He had that glib Oxbridge debater style in person, but you’re remembered by your written work, and Hitchens’ written work was weak and won’t last.

Dawkins also seems to be an obsessive on some sort of personal vendetta, and again, he’s someone who has never taken the time to do the necessary research into religion. Now my entire career has been based on the pre-Christian religions. My first book, “Sexual Personae,” was about the pagan cults that still influence us, and it began with the earliest religious artifacts, like the Venus of Willendorf in 35,000 B.C. In the last few years, I’ve been studying Native American culture, in particular the Paleo-Indian period at the close of the Ice Age. In the early 1990s, when I first arrived on the scene, I got several letters from Native Americans saying my view of religion, women, and sexuality resembled the traditional Native American view. I’m not surprised, because my orientation is so fixed in the pre-Christian era.
You mentioned Jon Stewart, who leaves the “Daily Show” in two weeks. There’s handwringing from folks who think that he elevated or even transcended snark, that he utilized irony very effectively during the Bush years. And that he did the work of critiquing and fact-checking Fox and others on the right who helped create this debased media culture? What’s your sense of his influence?
I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark. Comedy, to me, is one of the major modern genres, and the big influences on my generation were Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Then Joan Rivers had an enormous impact on me–she’s one of my major role models. It’s the old caustic, confrontational style of Jewish comedy. It was Jewish comedians who turned stand-up from the old gag-meister shtick of vaudeville into a biting analysis of current social issues, and they really pushed the envelope. Lenny Bruce used stand-up to produce gasps and silence from the audience. And that’s my standard–a comedy of personal risk. And by that standard, I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse. I find nothing incisive in his work. As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.

I don’t demonize Fox News. At what point will liberals wake up to realize the stranglehold that they had on the media for so long? They controlled the major newspapers and weekly newsmagazines and T.V. networks. It’s no coincidence that all of the great liberal forums have been slowly fading. They once had such incredible power. Since the rise of the Web, the nightly network newscasts have become peripheral, and the New York Times and the Washington Post have been slowly fading and are struggling to survive."
Go there for much more: LINK.Paglia is that rarest of Atheists: willing to look at Atheism with an honesty grounded in the truths of historical rational processes. She seems to ebb and flow; here she is definitely flowing.
"Now let me give you a recent example of the persisting insularity of liberal thought in the media. When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released. But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television. It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media. That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional. The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it. Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights. But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials. But here’s my point: it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day. You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world."
If you go first to the Leftist media and then to the conservative media, you find that the conservative media publishes twice as much news, because it publishes all the news censored by the leftists.


Hugo Pelland said...


Not showing the same opinions is not the same as censorship. All so-called Leftist media outlets discussed the Planned Parenthood videos for instance, but the coverage instantly included the correct interpretation of: it's a dishonest attempt at de-funding PP using false claims of profits from sale of fetal tissues.

Just 3 examples, and calling CNN 'liberal' is stretch imho but, anyway:

They all covered the videos; there is no censorship. What's different from conservative blogs is that it does not use the emotional language that anti-abortion activists utilize to try to convince people that PP is an evil force.

Regarding the rest of the post though: interesting interview with Paglia! I would certainly agree with the notion that we should look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day. That's the #1 reason why I like to follow 'Atheism Analyzed' after all :)

Stan said...

You are correct, I stand corrected: those outlets did respond... with conspiracy theories immediately. However, the video maker released the entire 3 hour video for examination; where is the evidence of fraud?

"What's different from conservative blogs is that it does not use the emotional language that anti-abortion activists utilize to try to convince people that PP is an evil force."

Interestingly, you do not consider that slow-killing a human which is full of marketable functioning organs to be any sort of moral issue. That implies strongly that your moral system does not include any concept of a human's right to live through all stages of development (and decay) without being killed for convenience and in a slow-manner in order to take the human's organs without the human's permission.

In fact, you decry the concept that such behavior could be considered evil. It is Planned Parenthood's and abortionista's position that such killing is not only moral, it is righteous under their own rules for morality.

Righteous killing of defenseless innocents is, in most civilizations up until 1973, an immoral and obscene crime. It is still considered that way, but only for favored classes of humans, these days. The favored classes which currently are not to be killed, like all class designations, are not fixed in their specifications, and do not derive from either nature or natural law/natural rights, but are the fabrications of a single self-designated class which is self-anointed, self-righteous and self-empowered to declare where the class boundaries lie for acceptable killing of defenseless innocents.

That sort of presumptive self-empowerment is the definition of tyrannical, dictatorial, amoral Atheistic hegemony. And that mind-set, that worldview, is evil by any non-Atheistic understanding of the term.

Stan said...

I failed to respond to your intitial point, which I will do here:

"Not showing the same opinions is not the same as censorship."

So you admit that MSM "journalism" consists of one-sided opinion mongering then? Journalism should be investigation of all the facts surrounding an issue, especially if those facts are purposefully hidden and secret; then those facts should ALL be revealed, as facts, not as leftist opinions as to why they should be kept secret and not investigated, period.

Hugo Pelland said...

"However, the video maker released the entire 3 hour video for examination; where is the evidence of fraud?"

1 example: the full footage shows the PP director mentioning no less than 5 times that they do not profit from the tissue donation. Clearly they were trying to catch some sort of admission on tape, but failed, and then excluded these 5+ mentions.

Next, you are partially correct regarding my views; I think it's wrong to be against abortion; it's bad for individuals, violates personnal freedom, and harm society as a whole. But your representation shown here is inaccurate, as it's not that I think it's 'ok' to kill a human, it's that I don't consider that a human is being killed. That's why we cannot debate the issue, as each of our own starting point is too different. You think we're evil to kill for convenience; we dont think there is any killing happening. I have to agree to disagree with your labelling, and you can call me names all day if you want; the emotional slurs are meaningless.

Also, abortion itself is not 'good', not at all, but banning it is just much worse. That's why organizations like PP are essential as they help 'reduce' the number of abortions, while still providing them (3% of PP visits...) That's another reason why the anti-abortion crowd is so disturbing, as they don't realize that PP actually helps their cause more than it hurts it.

Also #2, there is a difference between fetal tissue and fully functioning organs. Did you think they were doing organ transplant...? It's for stem cell research only afaik.

Hugo Pelland said...

Regarding that second commment, I agree with you that when opinions are inserted it is not good journalism, regardless of the side. I don't think leftist news is worse than right wing news in that respect, probably better in my opinion but obviously it's hard not be be biased, I admit. I try to evaluate what's opinion vs fact, I am sure you do too, but it's not always obvious.

In the case of the PP video for instance, it is a fact that nothing illegal was discovered, but it looks like an opinion from the anti-abortion side because it looks horrific to them, and they think it 'should' be illegal.

Less screts is better, you are absolutely right, and the point with PP is that none of what the videos "revealed" is secret. It's mostly emotional manipulation to make people "think" some secrets were revealed.

Stan said...

The second video shows definitively that they haggle for profit.

”Next, you are partially correct regarding my views; I think it's wrong to be against abortion; it's bad for individuals…

The tradeoff is a full 9 month pregnancy vs. killing: permanent death/denial of life.

Let’s be totally honest about what supporting abortion entails:

1. A class of individuated, unique humans at a normal and required state of human development is designated as a “Killable Class”. The species of these humans is undeniable.

2. This particular “Killable Class” contains humans who are innocent of any crime, and unable to defend themselves.

3. This “Killable Class” does not require any legal conviction; killing is purely for convenience.

4. This designation requires the denial of humanity to the human being placed in the “Killable Class”.

5. The denial of humanity requires the presupposition of Moral Authority to decide who is or is not human, and therefore who can be killed.

6. The presupposition of Moral Authority to designate humans for the “Killable Class” places the designator into a Morally Superior Class, which assumes for itself the moral capacity to dictate whatever behaviors that they choose to call “moral”. Having designated their position as “moral”, contrary positions become “immoral”. The existence of “immorality” requires moral effort to stifle it. Any given effort to stifle immorality is therefore “moral”.

7. The Morally Superior Class is self-imaged as the moral elite; therefore the rest of humanity is not elite; the rest of humanity is morally inferior.

8. This Class-based worldview, then, contains the elite Morally Superior Class which is capable of inventing morality for the other classes, and is self-endowed with the responsibility for managing the universality of morality as they define it; regarding abortion, the pertinent Protected Victimhood Class is women who wish to destroy their progeny; the pertinent Oppressor Class is twofold, containing the oppressive unborn progeny, and the oppressive anti-kill segment of the population, which is by definition, immoral.

9. The invention of morality by an elite class is historically the beginning of totalitarianism.

10. The US government supports abortion and forces the taxpayer to support Planned Parenthood, an ultra-secret organization which it’s supporters claim is open and transparent, yet which uses the US government to preserve its secrets, including “slow death” and negotiating prices for baby parts.

I hold that these are demonstrable facts, not opinions; they are factually and historically supported, and universally apply.

Now. If any of this is false, then it must be demonstrated to be so. Opinions do not matter, especially not moralizing opinions.

I haven’t the time to read and respond to the rest of your comment right now; perhaps later – perhaps not.

Phoenix said...

It's quite uncommon nowadays to come across an Atheist who despises militant Anti-theism.One the one hand we have nothing but praise for these rare individuals who dare to go against the grain.
On the other hand,it's quite common for theists,especially Christians,to despise religious fanaticism.Yet,they are not met with the same hurrah.
IMO,it all comes back to the different standards we set for Theists and Atheists.When an Atheist does something considered reasonably good,he/she deserves an award.When the theist does the same,it's like "what else is new?"