Twilight of the Idols, or,
How to Philosophize With a Hammer

The four great errors

§5 The psychological explanation: to extract something familiar from something unknown relieves, comforts, and satisfies us, besides giving us a feeling of power. With the unknown, one is confronted with danger, discomfort, and care; the first instinct is to abolish these painful states. First principle: any explanation is better than none. Because it is fundamentally just our desire to be rid of an unpleasant uncertainty, we are not very particular about how we get rid of it: the first interpretation that explains the unknown in familiar terms feels so good that one “accepts it as true.” We use the feeling of pleasure (“of strength”) as our criterion for truth.

A causal explanation is thus contingent on (and aroused by) a feeling of fear. The “why?” shall, if at all possible, result not in identifying the cause for its own sake, but in identifying a cause that is comforting, liberating, and relieving. A second consequence of this need is that we identify as a cause something already familiar or experienced, something already inscribed in memory. Whatever is novel or strange or never before experienced is excluded. Thus one searches not just for any explanation to serve as a cause, but for a specific and preferred type of explanation: that which has most quickly and most frequently abolished the feeling of the strange, new, and hitherto unexperienced in the past — our most habitual explanations. Result: one type of causal explanation predominates more and more, is concentrated into a system and finally emerges as dominant — that is, as simply precluding other causes and explanations. The banker immediately thinks of “business,” the Christian of “sin,” and the girl of her love.

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What are the flaming nutcases up to?

They’ve been busy, for sure.

  • Just so’s you know, Bill Donohue denies that the Catholic Church has, or has ever had, a pedophilia problem.

    In her column today, Dowd rails against the canonization of Pope John Paul II, saying, “he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up.”

    Dowd ought to get her facts straight: there was no pedophilia scandal — less than five percent of molesting priests were pedophiles—it was homosexuals who accounted for 81 percent of the sexual abuse cases.

    Donohue’s claim rests upon a distinction without a difference; most of the abusive priests were pederasts — that is, they preferred victims who had entered puberty.

    So, from now on, I guess we should all refer to pervert priests instead of pedophile priests.

  • The Southern Baptists — Get ready! — are piously complaining that overcoming the movement toward same-sex marriage is just like being an abolitionist before the Civil War.


    The punchline here is that the Southern Baptists organized around opposition to abolition, and lost that fight also.

What’s to say? The clueless loony right are becoming their own best satirists.

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Twilight of the Idols, or,
How to Philosophize With a Hammer

The four great errors

§4 The error of imaginary causes. To begin with dreams: a cause is slipped after the fact under a particular sensation (for example, the sensation following a far-off cannon shot) — often a whole little novel is fabricated in which the dreamer appears as the protagonist who experiences the stimulus. The sensation endures meanwhile as a kind of resonance: it waits, so to speak, until the causal interpretation permits it to step into the foreground — not as a random occurrence but as a “meaningful event.” The cannon shot appears in a causal mode, in an apparent reversal of time. What is really later (the causal interpretation) is experienced first — often with a hundred details that pass like lightning before the shot is heard. What has happened? The representations which were produced in reaction to certain stimulus have been misinterpreted as its causes.

In fact, we do the same thing when awake. Most of our general feelings — every kind of inhibition, pressure, tension, and impulsion in the ebb and flow of our physiology, and particularly in the state of the nervous system –excites our causal instinct: we want to have a reason for feeling this way or that — for feeling bad or good. We are never satisfied merely to state the fact that we feel this way or that: we admit this fact only — become conscious of it only — when we have fabricated some kind of explanation for it. Memory, which swings into action in such cases without our awareness, brings up earlier states of the same kind, together with the causal interpretations associated with them — not their actual causes. Of course, the faith that such representations or accompanying conscious processes are the causes is also brought forth by memory. Thus originates a habitual acceptance of a particular causal interpretation, which, as a matter of fact, inhibits any investigation into the real cause — it even excludes it.

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Saint Albert confronts the gay peril

This is fun: Albert Mohler has decided it’s time to wake-up the Godly and force them to confront the menace which now lies before them.

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision. While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question.

The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over two thousand years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

For some mysterious reason, as I read that I was transported in memory to those old World War II movies where the good guys’ submarine lies deep in the water as enemy destroyers circle overhead and the captain, with dramatically sweat-soaked armpits, nudges the periscope upwards.

Never mind; I’m sure that Mohler would sooner liken himself to Horatius at the Bridge.

Meanwhile the Tuscan army, right glorious to behold,
Came flashing back the noonday light,
Rank behind rank, like surges bright of a broad sea of gold.
Four hundred trumpets sounded a peal of warlike glee,
As that great host, with measured tread, and spears advanced, and ensigns spread,
Rolled slowly towards the bridge’s head where stood the dauntless Three.

The Three stood calm and silent, and looked upon the foes,
And a great shout of laughter from all the vanguard rose:
And forth three chiefs came spurring before that deep array;
To earth they sprang, their swords they drew, and lifted high their shields, and flew
To win the narrow way;

The cause of all this quavery-jowled indignation, you should know, is a soon-to-be-published book by Matthew Vines which argues that Christians have misread the Bible, that the Big Guy is just fine with gays.

Since Christian theology holds that Our Invisible Friend loathes all of humankind, who are innately wicked and born inherently deserving of eternal torture, and the Bible emphatically condemns gays, I’m finding Vines’ argument a bit much to swallow. Nevertheless, I wish Vines success, and I wish Pious Albert effective blood pressure medications.

I will tell you right now exactly how all of this is going to play out. The public at large has realized that, in Thomas Jefferson’s imperishable phrase, same-sex marriage “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” so … fine, leave gays alone to live their lives. That is happening now, and happening rapidly, and it’s a good thing. Church business departments will realize that full-throated hostility toward gays is very bad for business and urge a softer tone, and when that isn’t enough to eradicate the hard feelings they’ll start recommending special Rainbow Sunday services.

Mohler is going to be left standing in a remote corner of the parking lot, glowering and stamping his feet — and, fifty years from now, some Southern Baptist preacher will unembarrassedly claim credit for Christianity for the progress of gay rights. Seriously.

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Feel-the-love department

Is there any one story that has had so much malign influence over the ethical thought of the West as the (probably apocryphal) tale of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac?


“I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.”

E. M. Forster


The story is told today, every Sunday morning, at churches throughout the world, and rehearsed as a sort of gold standard; Abraham exhibits the obedience to Our Invisible Friend that is expected of all of us. “Are y-o-o-o-u that faithful?”, the pastor will croon. So deeply is the ready betrayal of family and friends embedded in Western ethical thought that the Inquisition required it of defendants as evidence of rehabilitation.

The point, of course, is the complete eradication of distracting corporeal loyalties, the breaking of the bonds of family and community, for only then does the church and its officers truly ‘own’ its flock.

I’m reminded of all that by this nugget from Uganda, unearthed by Michael Hamar.

The Bishop of the Jinja Diocese of the Catholic Church, Bishop Rt. Rev. Fr. Charles Wamika, in today’s Easter Message delivered at St. Chalres Lwanga Catholic Church, praised the Members of Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Act that provides life in prison for gay (LGBTI) people in Uganda. The Bishop called for a blessing for Uganda’s Christians who worked so hard to ‘free the land of gays.’ The Bishop also asked for parents to hand over their gay children to authorities, so they would be rewarded in heaven.

Well. That’s an uplifting message, don’t you think?

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