Yesterday Liza and I biked to Tervuren to visit the Musee Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, otherwise known more simply as the Africa Museum. In terms of sheer aesthetic creepiness, this museum is second only to Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, but in moral terms it may be far worse because of what it says about the history of Belgium, colonialism, and science. Briefly, for those of my readers who don’t know, the Africa Museum was established by King Leopold II to showcase the Congo Free State, but which was in reality an active act of apologetic for, if not even deception about, the horrible brutalization of the Congo’s native peoples. Much of the Africa Museum today remains relatively unchanged since its start, revealing much about the mindset that constituted it.
I’ve been reading Paul Berman‘s The Flight of the Intellectuals (many thanks to my boss here at RFE/RL, Jay Tolson, for lending me a copy). Although the book’s primary goal is to unearth the true ideology of Tariq Ramadan, a man whom both fans and opponents alike acknowledge is difficult to pin down, its elucidations of the links between Islamism and Nazism, located roughly speaking in the first half of the book, are extremely valuable. Berman not only provides an excellent summary of the most recent and important scholarly research into the topic, but he accomplishes the goal of making an intimate call to arms within the reader to face up to the true horrific countenance of certain ideologies.
This theme of avoidance, in Berman’s words, “the multi-motivated disinclination to discuss or even think about the very largest of crimes,” on the part of Western intellectuals, “The urge to look somewhere else — to look anywhere at all, except at the main thing,” is central to his book, and serves as the diving board for this reflection. You see, this little blog of mine is saturated by Transhumanist themes, and insofar as it reflects my mind (as close friends and sharp readers have noted, I’m not entirely candid in this digital space) it can be said to be an expression of a worldview that is, although not exclusively Transhumanist, is nevertheless deeply informed by such an outlook.
So, you’ll understand the depth of my concern when I say that Transhumanism, or at least some varieities of it, may be the Nazism, Communism, and Islamism of the future. Specifically, I fear that, if so, then it may one day be looked upon by distant generations from now as the twenty-first century’s equivalent of the antisemitism and eugenicism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries — in other words, a belief system that promotes horrifying goals via terrible means, yet somehow is espoused by otherwise perfectly rational and decent people.
Somehow, until now, I missed the news of Terry Jones‘ intention to burn the Qur’an on the anniversary of the 11 September attacks. I’m not certain whether this is a misguided pursuit of publicity or a misguided act of fanaticism, but I am certain that it is the antithesis of Christianity and thoroughly, wantonly destructive.
Spiritually-speaking, burning the Qur’an is gross sacrilege to Holy Writ and a gross offense against humanity. Practically-speaking, it can only serve to incite the rage of other fanatics and invite more violence upon the world.
I am speechless in the face of such hatred. Hence, I shall let Abdu’l-Baha speak for me. In his Tablet to the Hague, he writes, “And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. If it becomes the cause of estrangement then it is not needed, for religion is like a remedy; if it aggravates the disease then it becomes unnecessary.”
As a member of the Baha’i Faith, I add my voice to the global condemnation of this decision and implore Jones not to make a mockery of his faith and of faith in general! And if Jones will not hear us, then I pray law enforcement authorities in the United States will stop him before he can do untold damage.
Was Averroes right: do the activities of science and religion somehow ontologically resonate? In my last post I lightly explored what this might mean for the content of scientific theory and religious belief vis-à-vis each other. Therein I tentatively proposed a “quantum religion”, which solicited responses both positive and negative, including comparisons to Deepak Chopra and Roger Penrose. I’m taking a controversial stance for sure, but also a dangerous one.