July 14, 2008


Midnight in the kindergarten of good and evil (Spengler, 7/14/08, Asia Times)

Is morality possible without religion? Since German philosopher Immanuel Kant offered a "what-if-everybody-did" rule in 1788, modern philosophers have cracked their skulls against the problem without success. Kant's rule requires you to tell the truth at all times, for example, when a pederast inquires as to your child's route home from grade school. It was not a popular idea. Twentieth century secular philosophers declared the problem irrelevant. According to existentialists like Martin Heidegger, another German philosopher, authenticity rather than virtue is what is important, even if leads to Nazi party membership, while pragmatists like the just-deceased American philosopher Richard Rorty assert that we cannot make objectively true statements about anything.

Most atheists still want to know how to tell right from wrong, however. They are alarmed by the return of religious wars and the violence associated with religious fanaticism. Sadly, the withdrawal of the philosophers has put the secular morality project into the hands of mere mechanics, the so-called brain scientists. Those who think abstractly about thought, the metaphysicians, can offer no secular solution, and the matter has gone by default to the lab technicians.

Call it the kindergarten of good and evil.

...and tell them to craft their replacement for God and they keep handing you back God-shaped bits.

In Japan, Buddhism may be dying out (Norimitsu Onishi, July 14, 2008, IHT)

When it comes to funerals, though, the Japanese have traditionally been inflexibly Buddhist — so much so that Buddhism in Japan is often called "funeral Buddhism," a reference to the religion's former near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services.

But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.

"That's the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn't meet people's spiritual needs," said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. "In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that."

Mori, 48, the 21st head priest of the temple, was unsure whether it would survive into the tenure of a 22nd.

"If Japanese Buddhism doesn't act now, it will die out," he said. "We can't afford to wait. We have to do something."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2008 9:21 AM

Well, the Japanese people are dying out, so of course their religion is as well.

Posted by: b at July 14, 2008 11:08 AM

A couple of points on the Buddhism story: 1) It's hard to beat the Good News with no news; 2) Failed civilizations and cultures collapse when their core idea are overturned, when their icons are smashed, so to speak. Europe has not survived its catastrophes, and we would not recognize ourselves should we lose our "God, guns and guts" frontier spirit.

Now on the Spengler bit, that's all about the weak-willed trying to snivel up a value system which would not make the witches and queers, the poor dears, feel so bad about being outside the folk, looking in. It never works, because whether the values are rooted in scripture, the mos maiorum or natural law, effective values will bring discontent to the disordered.

Made-up systems of so-called "values" not so rooted, simply do not work. As a matter of empirical, historical reality, folkways not in accordance with nature fail, they go under, to use the real Spengler's word.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 14, 2008 3:57 PM

Who is "Spengler"?
Everybody knows he's 90%+ spot on columnist, but, nobody knows who he is!
Somebody has to tear open the Asia Times curtain.

Posted by: Mike at July 14, 2008 9:40 PM

He's commented once or twice and I emailed the address he used because I'd like to have my publisher bring out his collected essays. But no answer.

He's a more Germanic Mark Steyn, but I don't know that is.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2008 7:47 AM

I thought that Wretchard more or less outed him last year as some Australian commentator (and a doctor?) of European background?

Posted by: b at July 15, 2008 10:39 AM
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