Philosophy & Living

Circumcision is primarily a mystic practice that is anti-sexual pleasure

According to Psychology Today (Sept. 2011):

  • America didn’t adopt the practice of circumcision until the 19th century, when anti-sex doctors promoted it as a way to stop kids from masturbating
  • Cleanliness is no longer an issue thanks to modern hygienic standards
  • The foreskin is a natural lubricant, contains millions of nerve endings, and prevents desensitization

There are rare cases where circumcision may be beneficial, but it is the exception and not the rule.

Free Speech and Religion: Interview with Philosopher Onkar Ghate

The Undercurrent has an excellent interview with Onkar Ghate on Free Speech vs. Religion:

Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow and the Chief Content Officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. He has written and lectured extensively on philosophy and serves as Dean for the Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center in Irvine, CA. The Undercurrent’s Jon Glatfelter had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ghate regarding the recent shooting at the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, as well as religion and free speech more broadly.

The Undercurrent: Many of the major U.S. media players, including CNN and FOX, still have not published the cartoon contest’s winning piece. Why do you think that is?

Dr. Ghate: I haven’t kept tabs on which outlets have and have not published that cartoon, but there were similar responses in regard to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and, before that, the Danish cartoons in 2005-2006. Sometimes a media outlet would try to explain why it is not showing its audience a crucial element of the news story, and I think these explanations have revealed a mixture of motives at work.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list: fear, cowardice, appeasement, sympathy. Let me say a word on each. Some media outlets are afraid of violent reprisals and of the ongoing security costs that would be necessary to protect staff. And because the U.S. government refuses to take an unequivocal stand in defense of the right to free speech, the totalitarians are emboldened, which makes violent reprisals more likely. So that’s one reason. But despite this legitimate fear, I do think there is often an element of cowardice. The likelihood of an attack can be overstated, and of course if more news outlets publish the cartoons, it is more and more difficult to intimidate and attack them all, and less and less likely that a particular organization will be singled out. Here there is strength in numbers. A third motive is the appeaser’s false hope that if he gives in and doesn’t publish the cartoons, he will have satisfied the attackers and no further threats or demands will follow. Finally, many are sympathetic: out of deference to the non-rational, faith-based emotions of Muslims, they don’t publish the cartoons, even though those cartoons are news. They view the cartoonists and publishers as the troublemakers and villains. (The roots of this sympathy I think are complex and often ugly.)

The Undercurrent: Some have condemned the contest’s organizer, Pamela Geller, and the winning artist, Bosch Fawstin. They say there’s a world of difference between good-natured free expression and malicious speech intended solely to antagonize. What do you think?

Dr. Ghate: I disagree with many things that I’ve heard Pamela Gellar say but I refuse to discuss her real or alleged flaws when totalitarians are trying to kill her, as though those flaws, even if real, justify or mitigate the actions of the aspiring killers. The New York Times editorial to which you link is a disgrace. After a sanctimonious paragraph saying that we all have the right to publish offensive material and that no matter how offensive that material may be, it does not justify murder, the rest of the editorial goes on to criticize the victim of attempted murder. As my colleague and others have noted, this is like denouncing a rape victim instead of her rapists.

And notice what the editorial glosses over: in the first paragraph stating that offensive material does not justify murder, it concludes with the seemingly innocuous point that “it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.”

This is the actual issue. Why don’t you similarly have to tell a group of biochemists or historians, when they disagree about a theory, that their disagreements don’t justify murdering each other? The answers lies in the difference between reason and faith, as I’m sure we’ll discuss, a difference the editorial dares not discuss.

But contra the editorial, the Garland event had a serious purpose. Look at the winning cartoon: it makes a serious point.

Read the rest of Free Speech vs. Religion: An Interview with Onkar Ghate – The Undercurrent:

BOOKS: Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?

Capitalism Magazine contributor Ron Pisaturo has released a new book called “Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty: The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage.”

According to the book description:

This book presents a theory of heterosexual romantic love. The book argues that heterosexuality enables romantic love in a way that integrates with all aspects of a man and woman, including masculine power and feminine beauty. Author Ronald Pisaturo identifies differences between men and women while recognizing the utmost intellectual ability, rationality, and resultant moral virtue possible in equal measure to each sex. He argues that sexual orientation is the result of volition in the same way that other values pertaining to romantic love are volitional: although we do not directly choose our sexual orientation, as we do not directly choose what personality traits will attract us, we do make more basic choices that cause our sexual orientation.

Pisaturo debunks the mainstream theories that “affirm” non-heterosexual orientations, and argues that objective cognition—in particular, the holding of concepts that clearly identify and emphasize sex-specific romantic values—requires that the concept of marriage refer only to man-woman relationships. Moreover, the proper role of government in marriage is as protector of individual rights—of the husband, wife, and their children—not as social engineer for the ‘public good’.

This book offers an objective alternative to the mysticism of religion and the subjectivism of much of modern philosophy, science, and culture.

An overarching theme of the book is that every individual should understand the personal, chosen values that are consistent with his own sexual orientation. The author offers, in good will, this challenge to all readers: “I can explain my sexual orientation. Can you explain yours?”

The book makes many arguments — some we are not sure we agree with — but it looks interesting enough that it deserves a read.

Dr. Peikoff on Environmentalist Fundamentalism

Q: I am concerned about the “global warming” movement, and think that it might be a worse threat than Islamic Fundamentalism. Do you agree?

A: The global-warming movement is one offshoot of today’s mysticism and statism. As many have observed, it represents in essence the onetime pro-industrial Reds changing—with the same purpose, but to be achieved this time by different means—into the anti-industrial Greens. The global-warming call to statism will have harmful effects but, I think, the movement is going to be short-lived; too many people remember how recently we were terrorized by the prospect of an imminent, man-caused ice age, and before that by the doom of over-population, DDT, etc.

The danger to the West is not this kaleidoscope of absurd concrete-bound threats, but the philosophy which makes their common denominator stick. This is the very philosophy (unreason and self-sacrifice) which is the essence of religion.

If and when people do become frightened by all these projections of the Apocalypse, it will not advance the secular or quasi-religious doomsayers, but merely push people more strongly into the arms of their basic teachers, who have taught them their intellectual and moral framework and who promise safety from everything, in the hands of God.

The Greens offer no solution to the disasters they predict but sacrifice for worms and forests, a big and permanent cut in man’s standard of living, and a big increase in government. This is not exactly a platform which will attract a mass base; its adherents will mainly be corrupted intellectuals, with not much national influence. The religionists, by contrast, offer as the solution to all problems a firm code of values, moral principles supposedly provided by God and proved through the ages—and claim to promote the dignity of man and his eternal joy. Which of these contenders do you think people will follow?

To compare ecology and religion in terms of the threat to our future is to fail to understand the power of abstract ideas. No political movement, however popular at the moment, can compete in the long run with a basic philosophy.

 

Being Gay: Born That Way?

By Michael J Hurd

Are homosexuals “born that way”?

There’s no way to answer this question for certain. In order to do so, we would have to know everything there is to know about the psycho-biological development of sexuality in general.

Answering the question, “What causes homosexuality?” presupposes an ability to answer the question, “What causes sexuality?” The study of human sexuality has not yet reached such an advanced state. At best, we are in a state of speculation—speculation which is sometimes rational, but more often irrational and confused.

Here is what we do know, thanks to discoveries in the fields of psychology and philosophy up to this point in time:

  1. Human beings are both mind and body. It’s very unlikely, if not outright impossible, that anyone’s sexuality is entirely determined by biological or genetic factors. Sexuality is too complex a mixture of physiology, emotions, deep value judgments and psychological traits to oversimplify. The most we can hypothesize is that some complex series of genetic factors predispose an individual to be homosexual rather than heterosexual; however, much more research will be required before we can claim to have established any such thing, in my view.
  1. Among people attracted to the same sex, there is typically some level of understanding about this fact from an early age—at least from adolescence and in some cases even earlier. Sexuality is not developed in any sophisticated way prior to adolescence, though I frequently encounter same-sex-attracted individuals who describe a sense from a rather early age “of being somehow different.” This occurs whether or not the child has ever even heard of such a thing as homosexuality, and whether or not he grows up in a very conservative social climate or a more liberal one (e.g., where his parents have openly gay friends).
  1. Sexual orientation cannot be changed. This is not merely a statement of political correctness, though political correctness is sometimes the motive of some individuals who make this claim. It’s also a fact. No psychological method exists that can effect a change in one’s inner sexual orientation. For decades, psychiatrists tried to “treat” homosexuality but finally gave up; less because of political pressure than because they simply saw no reason to try and force such a change, especially when it didn’t work.

Contemporary psychologists who claim to have a method of “curing” homosexuality are operating on the false premise of behaviorism, which is the view that simply changing behaviors (with no reference whatsoever to consciousness: that is, thoughts, feelings, ideas) is sufficient for “change.” This would be like a very sad or suicidal person saying, “I’m going to act like I’m not feeling low. Then I will be all better.” It’s preposterous.

It is possible for a same-sex-attracted person to simply lie to himself and to change his behaviors in the heterosexual direction (at least for a limited period of time); but changing behaviors and changing one’s basic sexual attraction (which is an inner experience) are not one and the same. Any attempt to do so leads to a life of hypocrisy, pain and profound mind-body warfare. It would be just as senseless for a homosexual to pretend he is heterosexual as it would be for a heterosexual to begin pretending he is attracted to the same sex. It can’t be done.

There is no rational reason to conclude that individuals attracted to the same sex cannot lead happy, fulfilled lives just as people attracted to the opposite sex. Being abnormal—that is, outside of the mainstream—does not automatically constitute being irrational or unhealthy.

Two major psychological factors do contribute to emotional problems in individuals with same-sex orientations: (1) widespread social disapproval from others who are frightened or confused by their sexual orientation; and (2) an internalized belief along the lines of, “I am flawed and can never be happy, at least romantically”— a view which is internalized at an early age and never seriously challenged by the individual.

What about the controversial 2001 Columbia University study claiming that homosexuals can convert to heterosexuality?

Let’s identify exactly what the study found. The study found that two hundred homosexuals (143 of them men) claimed that they were able to change their behaviors from homosexual to heterosexual. This is well and good—and potentially interesting—but there are numerous problems with a study such as this one:

  1. There is no guarantee the respondents were honest. The interviews were conducted by telephone. Like a lot of psychological research, it was essentially an anecdotal study. The interviewer has to take the participant’s word for it. Consequently, you must keep in mind two things: One, it is very easy to have casual sex with other men, if you are either an openly gay man or a man struggling to be married and secretly satisfying your desires at the same time. Second, people who attempt sexual orientation change (because of its psychologically repressive nature) are often heard to slip back to the prior gay lifestyle with some regularity, even if they do marry. I encounter such individuals in my practice. Heterosexual spouses, for their own psychological reasons and issues (e.g., needing to “heal” or “fix” the partner), will often tolerate this behavior if they learn of it.
  1. The sample is very small. Even conservative estimates suggest that 3-4 percent of the population is homosexual (gay activists say it’s closer to 10 percent). Either way, 200 out of millions of gay/lesbian Americans is not a very good sample. Even within this small sample, only 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had achieved what the researchers considered “good heterosexual functioning” (e.g., being married to someone of the opposite sex for a sustained period of time). These are not especially encouraging numbers for people who want there to be such a thing as sexual orientation change, particularly for the women.
  1. The sample was heavily skewed towards religious conservatives. This is significant, because religious conservatives generally believe that homosexuality is not an internal/psychological orientation, but simply a behavior. They completely separate mind and body—consciousness and action (on this issue and many other issues). If you act in a homosexual way, they assume, then you are homosexual. If you change your behaviors, then you are heterosexual. On this logic, if a man who is only attracted to women forced himself to start having sex with men instead, we would now have to consider him a homosexual. It clearly makes no sense.
  1. The skewing of the sample towards religious conservatives is significant in another respect. Members of religious groups encouraging conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality advocate suppression of one’s personal desires in favor of “Godliness”—i.e., either celibacy or simply forcing oneself to have sex with the opposite sex whether one wants to or not. In objective psychological terms, this is nothing more than emotional repression. A truly interesting finding would be one in which individuals found a psychological method to change their mind-body-emotional response—that is, their very orientation—as opposed to mere behavioral change. (I very much doubt one exists or could exist, but that’s the only sort of finding that would be of any importance.)

Emotional repression in the name of surrendering to God’s will is hardly science. It’s simply dogmatic, religious intimidation.

In short, the study doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It simply shows us that a number of individuals claim they can change their sexual orientation, based upon what they say in a phone interview and based primarily on religion and repression. No new insights have been gained into what causes homosexuality—or indeed, sexuality in general. Neither left-wing activists, nor right-wing social conservatives, seem to recognize that the burden of proof for any assertion rests on the person making the assertion. All either side seems to want to do is to find facts to fit his politically desired conclusion. Neither dares to indulge in an “I don’t know what causes this,” because to do so would threaten their respective political agendas. Rational people, in contrast, would claim certainty when certainty was earned, but not when so much still needed to be understood.

I can’t help but wonder if the Columbia University study was funded by government dollars. Note that the study took place at an Ivy League school in the humanities field, making federal funding likely. If so, it’s a good example of chickens coming home to roost. For years, left-wing activists have indignantly demanded government research dollars as a moral right—when the research suited their purposes, of course. Sooner or later, the right-wing social conservatives would no doubt make the same demand. Maybe now, with enough bad or mediocre studies in our midst, the two can cancel each other out and we’ll eventually shut down the politicized research industry altogether.

Instead of trying to please the latest political pressure group, researchers might instead seek after the truth. Imagine that!

The above was published several years ago in my booklet, Human Relationships in Plain English. Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)” and “Grow Up America!” Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

CROSS: Rioters, Media and Protestors In Ferguson Motivated By Racism?

Fred Siegel has a culturally relevant essay “Ferguson fury: Activists, journalists stuck in 1960s racial resentments” on why the riots and protests in Ferguson have little to do with the death of Michael Brown and the “sad drama of resentment and revenge” that “cultivate[s] a community that excels in resentment.”

Quoting from Ferguson fury: Activists, journalists stuck in 1960s racial resentments | Fox News:

The American understanding of riots and racial violence was shaped a half-century ago, during the insurrections of the 1960s. To judge by the responses to the current rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, little has changed since then.

After riots have wrought their physical and psychic damage, some invariably declare that the unrest was constructive.

Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson, rationalized that the events in Ferguson would benefit the entire metropolitan area because, she said, “St. Louis never has had its true race moment, where they had to confront this.”

A “race moment” is where people group together by their race to riot against other races.

She was topped by Missouri Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson, who has been leading the police response in Ferguson. Speaking to a unity rally at a local church, Johnson suggested that, somehow, Brown’s death was “going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

Bear in mind that 90% plus of Black killings are by other “black men.”

[…] The virtue of disruption, academics and observers argue, is that it gives African-Americans a crisis with which to bargain. But after 50 years, what has this bargain achieved, except to cultivate a community that excels in resentment?

It’s not just African-Americans who are stuck in the sixties. Reporters are still seeking out the Kerner Commission’s white racists, who are ultimately to blame for all racial problems.

Historians and sociologists are offering structural explanations for the violence; whites in general, and small businesses in particular, have little to say but simply flee to safer climes.

In Ferguson, after a week of unrest that included looting and rioting, we know very little about the incident that resulted in Michael Brown’s death, despite the release of the first pathology report. The officer involved is in seclusion and has given no public statements. The Grand Jury, should one be convened, will likely have only a vague picture of what happened.

When Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, the media constructed a racial narrative around the case—especially NBC news, which doctored tapes of George Zimmerman’s 911 call. It wasn’t until much later that pictures were shown of Zimmerman’s dark-skinned, Peruvian mother. Had those pictures been publicized earlier, the public might have understood that Trayvon Martin’s tragic death was not an example of a Klan-like murder.

In Ferguson, the media’s preferred narrative—a “gentle giant” of a young black man gunned down for no reason by a racist cop—was short-circuited by a videotape, taken minutes before his death, depicting Michael Brown strong-arming a diminutive store clerk who’d caught him stealing a box of cigarillos.

Deflated, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer described the video as a “smear.” Does he think the tape should have been suppressed?

[…]

Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs. Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. […]

The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.

Siegel concludes that it “persists in part because so many journalists and academics, not to mention black activists, have so much invested in it. It’s the conceptual air that they breathe.” [emphasis added]

Siegel goes to on to elaborate and provide clues to what that concept, or philosophical principle is, but he does not explicitly identify it.

The “conceptual air” they breathe, the philosophy that the rioters, community activists, and CNN-MSNBC media clan cling to and hold dear, is racism.

Violence Against Women and Islam

by Michael  Hurd

Should courts excuse Muslim men who beat up their wives on account of freedom of religious practices and beliefs? Do religious and cultural “sensitivity” count more than individual rights?

It seems incredible that we even must consider such questions, but the indiscriminate, unthinking tolerance of our times has brought us here.

Consider this most recent news headline:

NYC Muslim Beats Wife to Death, Lawyer says Beating Women is “Customary” in his Culture.

The story reports:

A Pakistani immigrant beat his wife to death in their Brooklyn home after she made the mistake of cooking him lentils for dinner instead of the hearty meal of goat meat that he craved, according to court papers.

Noor Hussain, 75, was so outraged over the vegetarian fare that he pummeled his wife, Nazar Hussain, 66, with a stick until she was a “bloody mess,” according to prosecutors and court papers.

Defense attorney Julie Clark admitted Hussain beat his wife — but argued that he is guilty of only manslaughter because he didn’t intend to kill her. In Pakistan, Clark said, beating one’s wife is customary.

“He comes from a culture where he thinks this is appropriate conduct, where he can hit his wife,” Clark said in her opening statements at the Brooklyn Supreme Court bench trial. “He culturally believed he had the right to hit his wife and discipline his wife.” [Source: Daniel Greenfield, FrontPageMag.com 5-23-14]

This is what happens when you erase the concepts “right,” “wrong” and objective from your conceptual vocabulary.

If it’s true that there’s no such thing as right or wrong, then we have no standard for making a law in the first place. You cannot protect people’s “rights” unless you first establish — and choose to stand by — some concept of “right” (and “wrong”) in the first place.

The defense attorney in this case is saying, “There’s no legitimate or objective basis for claiming this man’s religion or cultural tradition is any better or worse than any other.” If his religion says it’s OK to beat up his wife, rape her, hold her hostage, or anything else he feels like doing — well, who are we to judge otherwise? And if his religion teaches this is OK, then we have to change the law because it’s his religion. So we’ll have a double standard for people who practice this irrational religion in favor of those who do not. Oops — we’re not supposed to call one’s religion (at least not a politically correct one, such as Islam) “irrational,” because that’s rude, mean and judgmental.

By the way, what does it mean to “culturally believe” something as opposed to merely “believe” it? Are we so divorced from responsibility for the content of our own minds, thoughts and emotions that we can now claim (at least if we’re Muslim) that our culture (i.e. millions of other people) literally do our thinking for us?

Sooner or later, rotten ideas come home to roost. Subjectivists in psychology and its parent field, philosophy, have made this claim for decades: What’s true for you isn’t true for me. They’re not just talking about legitimate options and preferences; they’re talking about everything. Physical abuse, rape, torture, initiation of violence? Well, if that’s all you know, or if that’s how you were raised, it’s an excuse for whatever you do.

According to this ideological view: The fact that each of us has our own mind proves that there’s no one reality, no provably correct right or wrong, not in any context. Here you have it, now playing out in courts we’re counting on to protect us from brute force initiated by others.

You can laugh at philosophy as well as psychology, and claim these fields have no relevance to your daily life. But conclusions in these areas have life or death meaning for what government will do or not do to you; or permit done to you.

Oddly silent in all this are the feminists and other opponents of domestic violence against women. Will Hillary Clinton come out against this? Not if it offends Muslims. Will our current president, Barack Obama? This man loves Islam. This is the man who once said, “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Seriously, Barack? Try living for five minutes under Sharia (Islamic) law, and see how much overlap you will find between that and America.

OK, you’ve got your cultural sensitivity. You’ve got your diversity for its own sake, and you’ve got the emotional sense that, “I’m compassionate, I don’t judge anybody else ever, not for any reason. Now people can like me. Look at what a sensitive, gentle and completely non-judgmental human being I am.” It has been my observation that people who claim to uphold these views don’t necessarily mean them, but badly want to be seen as meaning them. A tiny number of intellectuals and judicial officials actually do hold these incredibly insane viewpoints, and they’re paving the way to death and destruction throughout the free world, so long as the rest of us remain silent and/or stupid.

You can’t have your justice and eat it too. You can’t claim that Sharia law — the Muslim approach to “justice” which upholds such atrocities as this Brooklyn defense — is morally equivalent to, or “overlaps” the American, individual rights-based approach to justice. In areas of differing principles, you have to choose one, or the other, but not both.

So what’s your choice?