Personal reflections on the evolution of my religious progress; what does being Jewish mean to me, anyway?

nooooote to self and world: this post is a rough draft written roughly a year ago; I don’t remember writing it, and guess what, I don’t know why I’m posting it either. Needs some serious editing, my friend(s). My tight circle of readers has disappeared here in the last 2-3 years since I’ve been posting, anyway. What’s the point, you might well ask? Alas, I might well lash out at you with my pen, or scoff in your general direction. Writing blog posts is fun and fun things need no justification.

Anyway, it’s time to rebuild and be reborn, me thinks. I shall return to you at some point, O Jerusalem. And, as David the Psalmist once famously noted- if I forget thee, let my right hand wither away. The intensity! Hey, does it count if I’m a leftie? More importantly, did you know that out of the last 7 presidents of this fine fine union, 5 of them were left handed? But that is neither here nor there because this post is not about politics. Politics is my true passion, yes, but this post is about God above. Now, I used to get a few comments here every once in a while — maybe I can pimp this place out and return to that point in time. Except these days I’m older and better looking and I could write better if I put my mind to it and on rainy days like these I’m modest as a sinner in the hands of an angry god.


Sometime within the last week I was having a friendly, candid discussion with someone I’d met just a few hours earlier, while strolling leisurely through one of the more beautiful lawns on campus. Those are the best kinds of conversations; interesting how the most lively ones always seem to take place while walking. Maybe it’s just me, though, given my tendency to pace feverishly up and down my room whenever I’m lost in thought (which is often… you should feel sorry for my dad, whose room is located directly below mine).

Anywayyyy, this particular walking conversation was devoted mostly to the subject of modern Judaism, namely, which form of Judaism is “purest” and most “legitimate.” My new-found friend was and is an orthodox Jew. Both of us were raised in relatively orthodox households, attended relatively orthodox schools, and up until the last few years associated almost exclusively with what’s known as the “modern orthodox” community. He has retained both his ostensibly religious lifestyle, and the belief in God/the divine revelation of religious texts that almost always comes with it. For better or worse, his religious views and lifestyle, and I guess his general outlook on life, haven’t changed much since he was a kid. (I’m not being disparaging when I say this- he admitted as much to me right off the bat.) Mine, however, most certainly have, and in the last 5 or so years have shifted rapidly back and forth quicker and more dramatically than anyone’s religious outlook possibly can. That might be somewhat of an exaggeration, but the point is that I went from what I then considered to be one end of the spectrum, to somewhere in between, to the opposite end of the spectrum, and finally to a sort of weird but unique middle ground arguably off the spectrum in its entirety. It’s a ground that I’m finally comfortable with. Yes, my friends, it’s been a wild ride, a rollercoaster of faith and doubt and everything in between.

After we were done playing Jewish geography and marveling at how we’d never really known each other despite the vast amount of mutual friends which we share, the conversation soon reached a slightly more contentious tone. Basically, I summed up briefly the history of my religious evolution: from your standard modern orthodox (conservadox, maybe? I don’t know) Jewish kid, to a 13 year old obsessed with everything related to Jewish spirituality and intent on, and I quote from something I wrote at the time, “spending my life with God,” to a hardcore atheist and angry anti-theist at the age of 15-16, to a sort of mellowed out agnostic still more or less unaffiliated with the faith (except in social circles) and set on the belief that religion’s effects in the world are primarily dangerous and adverse. And finally, we reach the ground upon which I stand today. I won’t quite give my views away right now — I’ll keep you guessing so as to retain interest and viewership (aren’t I devious?) — but I will tell you the following: my views on religion and its place in the world are far more balanced, nuanced, and level headed than they’ve ever been before.

Granted… I still believe that religion has and continues to cause/threaten some of the most severe crises which humanity faces today. I maintain that one the greatest threats to mankind is the potential for religious fanatics to get hold of, and use, nuclear weapons. And I resent the push for subservience to a totalitarian ideology ruled ultimately by some invisible deity in the sky who watches your every move… think the NSA spying controversy except all powerful, eternal, and the ability – nay, the desire to punish you with some kind of eternal retribution if you disobey His infallible list of demands. (Oh, but he is also your heavenly Father and he loves you very, very much. Harumph. Talk about daddy issues.)

I like to think that after teenage years defined in large part by the turmoil of my religious identity or lack thereof, I’ve finally found my place in the Jewish culture. Notice how I used the word culture and not religion. This was a deliberate move and will go on to form the focal point of what I’m trying to impart upon the world, and by that I mean the handful of facebook friends that are actually still reading this. Thanks, guys, you make me feel oh so loved and special and generally worthwhile. Glad to know I’m not just writing for myself. More in the future on where I stand in the grand scheme of cultural Jewishness. Wherever I am, something tells me I’ll always be shifting – that my identity isn’t quite fluid; that the grounds on which I stand, if not quite shakily founded, are at the very least not set in stone. Who knows – maybe I’ll flip out and go all out Rabbinic on the world. I wouldn’t be the first in my family and I damn well wouldn’t be the last. But ideologically I’m just too far gone right now. Yes, I may have forged a heretical pact with the secular devil, but all that really means is that I admire Freud, Marx, and Einstein instead of a set of ancient Rabbis. Freud, Marx, Einstein – all atheists, you know. And incidentally, all 3 of them are Jewish. Perhaps I’ve got a path to emulate after all.

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The Arrogance Of Theism Vs. That Of Atheism: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Head

I hear frequently about the arrogance and presumptuousness of atheism/atheists from friends, rabbis, and teachers alike. After all, it is suggested, the vast majority of human beings throughout history have believed in some kind of God. Who are atheists to assert that they know better than the vast majority of mankind? This is, in all honesty, a childishly silly argument that irks me to no end, and not just because it is so blatantly wrong, but because the truth is precisely the other way around.

In the first place, proponents of the arrogance of atheism for the reason that most of mankind has believed in at least one God make a fatal flaw in their logic – they don’t factor in the arrogance that they possess by their own argument. By this I mean to say that we are all atheists in regards to Zeus and Jupiter and Osiris and Ba’al. Think about that for a moment. The famous journalist H.L. Mencken once drew up a list of very nearly 10,000 Gods that used to be worshiped and aren’t today. Writes Mencken in his short funeral oration to the gods of men past, entitled Memorial Service:

“You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not… They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshiped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.”

Why is it only atheists who are perceived as arrogant for rejecting god(s), when theists are also atheists when it comes to the thousands and thousands of gods that have been worshiped throughout history? And why is it that they reject those gods in the first place? Perhaps when theists understand why they don’t worship any of those thousands of now extinct but once revered gods, they’ll understand why atheists say to just be more consistent and reject one more. Say theists reject 10,000 gods. All atheists do is reject 10,001. I can’t stress this enough: we are all atheists in respect to the gods worshiped throughout most of mans history that only full fledged atheists are seen as arrogant for rejecting.

And now, to the crux of my argument. Is it not far more arrogant for a theist to believe something along the lines of “there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe. I personally know this creator’s most important thoughts and feelings. He cares about me like a son, listens to all my prayers, and watches me throughout every second of my life. Further, he loves my people 1000x more than he loves any other peoples – because I belong to his chosen ones.”

On the other hand, I find that it’s the atheists who are humble enough to admit that there are certain things we just don’t know yet as a species. Religion, however, claims to have literally all the answers. Literally, without exception. And the answer to everything is ultimately this – God did it. My God, who loves me and cares about my problems and hears my prayers. If this is not arrogance, I don’t quite know what is. Certainly it is significantly less arrogant for atheists to suggest that the universe is basically indifferent to our needs, and that we are really just another species of animals, more intelligent than the others though we may be.

According to the faithful, the most crucial developments in the history of mankind were developed thousands of years ago when their holy books were revealed; the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin (which many theists ignorantly reject and the other ones pathetically try to squeeze into an ancient, primitive creation narrative that no religion had a problem taking literally for hundreds and hundreds of years), Einstein’s theory of relativity, Freud’s advancements in psychology, Franklin’s groundbreaking research into electricity… This all pales in comparison to their ancient and primitive texts which contradict science, history, morality, and common sense left and right. Even a cure for cancer wouldn’t come close.

Why? Because the Bible is God’s word, and that’s all there is to it. Quite simply, religious people already have all the answers. All the important ones, anyway. Is this not the height of arrogance, as opposed to the atheist who is perfectly content saying “maybe we just don’t know yet”? Is it not sheer chutzpah to suggest that you know the innermost thoughts and feelings of the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all that exists – and who knows yours too, because he cares so darn much about every single one of them? Does it not reek of self-importance to believe with every essence of your being that this deity – supposedly the father of all mankind – loves you and those who have been born into your faith considerably more than he cares about anyone else…. If he cares about them at all?

Not incidentally, up until very, very recently, almost all theists believed as a rule that God simply doesn’t care about those people not fortunate enough to be born into the “right” faith; this ever just and merciful God sends them to burn in hell as eternal punishment. Or at the very least, according to the kinder theists, they will never reap the rewards that the lucky chosen ones will after death, when all the real fun begins.

Belief systems such as these are not just the epitome of arrogance. They are evil, they are pernicious, and what’s more, there’s not a shred of solid evidence to lend them credence. And it is my belief, based on everything I have put forth here and much, much more, that we should be overwhelmingly glad about this lack of evidence. We should thank goodness that the arrogance of theism reflects at most a deep psychological yearning for an all powerful father and a way to evade death – not the actual conditions of our universe as a whole, which are far more beautiful and complex and mysterious than anything a holy book could ever offer.

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Why Ending Foreign Aid To Israel Is The Only Zionist, Pro-Israel Option

In 2011, the United States will supply Israel with approximately 3 billion dollars in military aid. The practice of giving foreign aid to Israel is nothing new for America; it gives Israel more or less the same amount of money each year. In 2005, Israel topped the list of 16 countries who receive American foreign aid, with 2.58 billion dollars. Since the inception of Israel’s close diplomatic relationship with the U.S. , Israel has received over $100 billion in American aid. Of course, it’s natural to assume that Israel benefits from these billions of relatively free dollars year after year. After all, doesn’t it make sense that having more money is superior to having less of it? That sounds logical enough, but the reality is not so simple.

American foreign aid actually harms Israel in just about every way possible, and it is imperative that anyone who cares about Israel’s sovereignty and well-being soon begins to recognize this.

One important detail that Zionist supporters of foreign aid to Israel tend to ignore is the increased role in any given Israeli policy that the United States can play, if they so please, as long as they keep doling out the cash. Simply put, the more money a country gives to Israel, the more influence that country may seize in whatever Israel wants to do. Our current foreign aid system only serves to weaken Israel’s sovereignty – it severely handicaps the Israelis in anything that may be in their best interest… if America deems it to be otherwise.

This isn’t just some theoretical situation where the U.S. could potentially prevent Israel from a course of action which Israel feels is in its best interest. It has happened before and it continues to happen today. Perhaps the most prominent example in recent history is when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forced the Israelis to postpone the bombing of a possible nuclear facility in Syria. Israel clearly saw quick action as being imperative to their national security. However, Rice feared that the bombing would destabilize the region, and she “persuaded” the Israelis to delay their operation. Say what you will about this event, it can’t be denied that it constituted a serious drawback to Israel’s safety, or at least how Israel views its safety. Foreign aid traps Israel into a situation where it must seek American approval before undertaking any serious action.

Several prominent thinkers and economists within Israel itself have echoed the view that American foreign aid does far more harm than good to Israel’s sovereignty. Individuals including Israeli economists Ran Dagoni, Yoel Bainerman, Alvin Rabushka, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups including the Jewish Task Force, the Zionist Freedom Alliance, and the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud Party have long advocated for an end to U.S. foreign aid to Israel. These groups insist that Israel must develop its own economic strength and move towards more free-market economic reforms as a means of boosting national prosperity and strength. Manhigut Yehudit member Shmuel Ben-Gad, also librarian at George Washington University, in 2007 wrote an editorial in Israel National News,

“The US puts pressure on Israel to surrender parts of the homeland. Even worse, this relationship seems to foster a mentality of dependence amongst many Israelis who, it seems, cannot imagine Israel defying the United States in any major way… Cutting the apron strings to the US would, I think, make Israel become more maturely self-confident, because it would be more self-reliant.”

Similarly, the late and infamous Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the right-wing Kach Party in Israel until his death, once stated that foreign aid “turns Israel into a junkie looking for her fix.” And even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has stated that foreign aid may do more harm than good, and proposed efforts to wean Israel off of American military aid payments. In 1996, Bibi addressed Congress and received a standing ovation for his promise to reduce Israel’s reliance on American aid. Said Netanyahu, “I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance… We are going to achieve economic independence.”

It is thus clear that in addition to the detrimental effects on Israel’s sovereignty that comes under the guise of seemingly generous foreign aid, some of the most influential Israeli thinkers and economists – and even its current Prime Minister – see the current foreign aid package for what it truly is.

Since even from the most strictly pro-Israel point of view it is clear that Israel would benefit from kissing American foreign aid goodbye, how much more so should this benefit those who support both America and Israel? The costs that foreign aid packages pose to the American economy certainly have to be considered. Granted, in total they account for about 1% of the entire budget (around 30 billion dollars per year), but that’s a whole lot of money that could be used at home in America. Since foreign aid is funded by the American taxpayer, those tax dollars must rightfully be spent to help America first and its allies second – not vice versa.

From any point of view, be it pro-American, pro-Israel, or both, the only rational position on American foreign aid to Israel is that it has to end. In short, it creates an environment where Israel becomes dependent on American cash and thus allows America to undermine its sovereignty in order to keep the checks flowing. And from the American’s point of view, the money should be best spent helping revitalize the economy at home. Surely, those who consider themselves both pro-American and pro-Israel should be the biggest advocates of the complete end of this silly and failed practice.

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Why Drug Prohibition Of Any Sort Is Inherently Immoral, Totalitarian, and Profoundly Un-American

Drug prohibition of any sort infringes on personal freedom. That should serve as good enough proof that the American government should end the War On Drugs and repeal federal drug prohibitions of all kinds. (To most people it’s not quite that simple, hence the necessity of this argument in the first place.) Personal freedoms are, according to an online definition I stumbled upon: “rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state. Civil liberties (synonymous with personal freedoms) set limits on the government so that its agents cannot… interfere unduly with the lives of private citizens”.

One of the most fundamental ideas upon which America was founded is that each citizen should have the right to do what they want with their body and property, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. One infringes on another’s rights by harming them or stealing what that person rightfully owns. Quite simply, if you’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights, on what basis does anyone have a right to stop you? Because doing certain drugs will inevitably lead to the usage of heavier ones? Because it’s “bad for you”? Well, 1) who gets to decide what’s good and what’s bad for every citizen, 2) who says they know better than you about what should go in your body, and 3) how do they have the right to dictate your own personal health choices?

Smoking is pretty darn bad for you but nobody would stand for it if it was against the law to buy, sell, or use cigarettes. And rightfully so. Because as individuals, we have the right to our life, and thus we have the right to make crappy choices – even dangerous ones! It’s not the government’s job to legislate morality or what a bunch of respected officials decide is a good kind of lifestyle. For one thing, not everybody agrees on what is a good choice of lifestyle… Even if smoking pot were unequivocally the most disgusting, unhealthy practice on the planet, I’m sure there would still be plenty of people who’d choose to smoke it even with a guaranteed shortened lifespan. The government might say that being a total pothead will shorten your life, but so might being an alcoholic, smoking cigarettes, eating too much food, and being anorexic. Why does the government not outlaw those things, if like pot they are harmful in excess? If somebody feels like the obesity that comes with food addiction is a worthy price to pay for the enjoyment they feel when they “binge eat”, that is rightfully their choice; it may be a ridiculously stupid one, but on what moral grounds can anyone or anything force you to stop eating as much food as you’d like?

The same argument applies to outlandish regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration that forbid Americans from consuming certain foods, drinks, and medicines that it has deemed unhealthy. One current regulation: the interstate sale of raw milk. I’m actually not kidding. Yes, the government will seriously arrest you for selling milk that the FDA rules is not up to its standards. As strange as it may sound, the common sense argument that people should be able to drink whatever milk they want is the very same one I’m making in favor of drug legalization. The concept and the logic are no different: we all own our bodies, so if our bodies are our property, how can a government justly deny us full usage of that property? And when government is afforded the ability to do just that, and can fully dictate our health choices and our diets, are we not all just property of the government? That’s a scary thought, but it’s an even scarier reality. Scarier still is not just that the current government really upholds laws that view citizens as government property, but that a majority of Americans seem to be so complacent with that.

Life is full of choices – sometimes we make good ones and sometimes we mess up. But it’s our right to mess up, and not the government’s job to parent and “baby” us the way it sees fit. Unless of course we live in a country where each citizen is the government’s property, and I don’t think many Americans believe that’s how individuals should exist in a just society. (Oh wait, I forgot about the liberals.) But again, how is living under drug prohibition anything but living as the government’s property? Think about it. Individuals have the right to make dangerous choices (though it should be noted that drugs like marijuana are substantially less dangerous and far more beneficial than legal drugs like alcohol). This is one of the most basic principles of American freedom. America’s Founding Fathers, though hardly in agreement on every major issue, would at least all readily agree on this.

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How Military Adventurism and Policing The World Allow For Big Government Gone Wild

Today, Ron Paul made headlines for his apparently bold and controversial assertion that Al Qaeda figure and U.S. Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki deserved his constitutional right to a fair trial, instead of the murder by drone strike he received in Yemen this Friday. Is Ron Paul wrong in yet again refusing to bend on his consistent support of the Constitution? Obviously not. Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen, and each American is by law entitled to a fair trial, no matter how heinous a crime he or she committed. Says Paul, there is something seriously wrong with this country if we aren’t bothered by the fact that an American citizen was murdered today simply because Barack Obama demanded it. If we allow one man the power to violate the law and take away the life of an American citizen because that man deems him a terrorist without ever proving it in a court of law (what happened to innocent until proven guilty), I shudder to think of one simple question: what’s next?

Anyone who says Ron Paul is wrong on this issue is thinking purely with emotion and disregarding any semblance of rationality. However, the neoconservatives, who have thoroughly hijacked the Tea Party that Ron Paul started and who still unfortunately make up the majority of the Republican base, will predictably blast Paul for siding with Al Qaeda and denying “American exceptionalism”.

The catch is that in the eyes of (most of) the GOP, being exceptional means that America gets to do whatever the hell it wants around the world, that it can and should start endless, bloody, costly, unconstitutional wars in the name of “democracy”, and that we can safely ignore the logical consequences of those actions. Then, when Ron Paul points out that people who live in these countries view us not as liberators but as murderers, and that they might just be a little bit resentful of an endless, murderous American presence there, it’s because he hates America and he’s siding with the terrorists. In fact, Mitt Romney snidely told Ron Paul in a 2007 debate that he should “stop taking his marching orders from Al Qaeda.”

I am filled with sadness when I reflect that Ron Paul, who has for 30 years been Washington’s only consistent advocate of liberty, freedom, and the Constitution, a feat truly worthy of America’s Founding Fathers, is portrayed by most of the Republican party as a terrorist sympathizer because he doesn’t give America carte blanche to police the world and disregard the inevitable consequences of doing so. I mean, you seriously don’t want to know how many times I’ve heard “I agree with Ron Paul on everything except his foreign policy” from the average Republican voter. Ron Paul must get tired of explaining to people, time and time again, that true conservatism doesn’t advocate a jingoistic, “Go America, f*ck yeah!”, good guys vs. bad guys mentality where the American military is some infallible force of goodness that can do no wrong in its noble quest for worldwide democracy. Contrary to the childishly naive and historically blind views of notorious war hawks John McCain and Rick Santorum, who have both criticized Ron Paul for denying American exceptionalism, hating America, and blaming America for the 9/11 attacks.

It stuns me that Republicans like McCain and Santorum who proudly trumpet small government values at home – low taxes, balanced budgets, deregulation, laissez-faire economics – can be so unbelievably blind to the fact that throughout American history and to this very day, war has proven to be a springboard for big government to violate the Constitution and strip away the individual rights of its citizens.

Take the example of World War One, when Woodrow Wilson created an unprecedented propagandist machine known as the Committee On Public Information which had one sole purpose: to brainwash Americans into supporting the war. And worse still were the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, which literally permitted the government to deem anyone who spoke out against it’s brainwashing war efforts as a terroristic threat to American security. These acts forbade the use of disloyal, profane, or abusive language about the US government, and both gave the government essentially unrestricted power to punish those that simply disagreed with it. We see in the case of “Wilson’s War” that war allowed for a huge, propagandist government with a blatant disregard for our right to free speech as guaranteed under the Constitution’s first amendment.

Still not convinced that war serves as a catalyst for big government gone wild? Consider the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks nearly 100 years after World War One, when Congress readily approved the Patriot Act one month after the attacks. The Patriot Act is literally the destruction of the Fourth Amendment, which says that government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime. It also violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide any notice to people whose privacy has been compromised. In the words of Dr. Paul himself,

“Certainly the Patriot Act would have never been passed, because it wasn’t available to us… It was almost 400 pages long, and became available less than an hour before it was debated on the House floor… The congressmembers were intimidated… And the people are frightened. When they are frightened, they are much more willing to give us their liberties. But giving up their liberties won’t make them safer, that’s the real sad part of it.”

Yet again in the case of the Patriot Act, as in Wilson’s Espionage and Sedition Acts, we can observe government using terrorism and war as an excuse for people to give up their constitutional liberties for a false sense of safety from the government. Of course, the “safety” is nothing but massive government expansion and actually makes American citizens significantly less safe than they were before.

The greatest irony is that the one group who most pushes the wars and “terrorist prevention” that serve only as springboards for government expansion and loss of civil liberties are those who most profess the need for the government to stay out of peoples’ personal lives: the neoconservatives. Indeed, these are the same people that will inevitable deride Paul for his supposed “alliance” with terrorists such as Anwar al-Awlaki. It should be quite clear that in reality, Paul correctly understands liberty as an indivisible whole – not something that can be applied only to economic policy but disregarded when it comes to foreign policy. It also proves that Paul is one of the few, if not the only Republican(s) that understand the history of war and “terrorist” prevention in America. Said Paul on Friday,

“If the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the President assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.”

Is Paul saying that al-Awlaki isn’t actually a bad guy? Of course not. What he is saying is that we as Americans should never stand for the murder of another American, no matter how evil, who was killed without a fair trial and solely because the President said so. History indicates that if we so complacently accept the fear mongering that the government spins for us, and let the President violate the law because of it, then we do so at the jeopardy of our own civil liberties.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Not only is Franklin correct in saying that they don’t deserve liberty nor safety, but furthermore, all the historical evidence proves that they won’t get them, either.

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Why Modern Liberalism Is An Ideology Of Inherent Closed-Mindedness and Intolerance

After an in depth exploration of some key modern liberal ideas over the past few weeks, I’ve been led to the conclusion that liberalism at its core is an ideology of pure, unadulterated close-mindedness and intolerance. Let’s first contrast liberalism with classical liberalism, otherwise known as libertarianism, the ideology of most of America’s Founding Fathers. Libertarianism is, very simply put, an ideology based upon the moral rule that every human being is entitled to his life and property, and assuming they don’t infringe upon this right of others, no one has a right to take it away from them, no matter what. All else in libertarian thought flows more or less from that simple but powerful idea. In other words, libertarianism emphasizes tolerance. Liberalism as we know it today is the antithesis of libertarianism. In other words: intolerance. As I will demonstrate, it’s really that simple. While old school – and I mean old school, like, Founding Fathers old school – liberals believed in free markets, free speech, and free ideas, liberals today emphatically reject such tolerance.

Before I move on, I’d like to quickly clear up a misconception that liberals have consistently raised when I debate liberal intolerance. All too often they entirely miss the point and remind me that there exist many intolerant conservatives, libertarians, religious people, etc. My argument is solely that true modern liberals who live and think in consistency with their ideology are intolerant because intolerance is fundamental to that ideology; that there are some or even many intolerant libertarian people says nothing of the libertarian ideology as a whole. So, disclaimer: I never said that I think that liberals are the only group consistently capable of being intolerant. Now let’s get this show on the road.

Let’s start our analysis of liberalism with some characteristics evident among many liberals in America today. Admittedly this will not in and of itself prove that liberalism is intolerant, just that there is certain intolerant behavior prevalent in a vast majority of liberals. One thing I’ve found in dealing with liberals is that doubting the validity of man-made global warming is akin to denying the existence of the Holocaust, if not even worse. Liberals will consider you automatically scientifically retarded and jump to the conclusion that questioning or even denying the harmful effects of man-made global warming must mean that you want to destroy the environment. Questioning the racial fairness of affirmative action in the presence of a hardcore liberal will lead the liberal to promptly shut down his mind to intellectual honesty, thus forcing him to think in the black and white terms of “good” or “bad”, “pro-racial equality” or “pro-racism.” Needless to say, questioning affirmative action makes you a racist and subsequent reasonable debate is next to impossible. Conservatives and libertarians are generally not allowed to speak on liberal campuses. Indeed, liberals openly desire a totalitarian-like regulation of the media to silence free speech and broadcast only what they perceive to be desirable, and this has been a staple of liberalism for hundreds of years.

And on the subject of totalitarianism, consider George Orwell’s 1984 – Big Brother is always watching you, in every way possible. You watch what he thinks you should watch, you hear what he thinks you should hear, and you think what he thinks you should think – the parallels between Big Brother’s government and what modern liberals consider desirable in an ideal society are striking indeed!

In a liberal society, the state regulates so much of the individual’s life to the point that anything your 5 senses come into contact with must be deemed acceptable by the state beforehand. Be it through what you’re allowed to eat, what you’re allowed to see or hear, or what you’re allowed to say, you have no freedom or individual rights. Surely this is the opposite of tolerance. Want some proof?

What you’re tolerated to eat – refer to the Food and Drug Administration’s recent ban on the interstate sale of raw milk – yes, seriously, milk – aka milk that has not been pasteurized. Liberals and “progressives” have a long history of food regulation of course – look at the well intentioned but extremely misguided attempts at the beginning of the 20th century for the federal government to decide and dictate what the average American citizen is allowed to produce, eat, and drink, and how, when, and where he is allowed to do those things. As Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President and author of its Declaration of Independence, once said, “If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” It’s almost as if TJ had 21st century liberalism and the FDA in mind.

What you’re tolerated to see/hear/say: in other words, free speech. I highlight this because the utter destruction of the First Amendment and the right to free speech is crucial in liberal ideology. From a historical point of view, consider the Alien and Sedition Acts perpetrated by big government liberals of the Federalist Party, and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. Of course, the acts were “intended” solely to “protect America from foreign enemies,” but it nonetheless involved silencing any healthy critique of the all mighty government in the process. It is noteworthy that prominent libertarian Thomas Jefferson, also co-founder of the Democratic-Republican Party and one of the most influential philosophers in libertarian thought, staunchly opposed these horribly INTOLERANT actions, as did his largely libertarian, anti-big government, pro-tolerance party.

Now consider modern liberals, to whom my arguments are primarily directed. Is the philosophy behind the Alien and Sedition Acts not totally apparent in what modern liberals deem “hate speech”? The Alien and Sedition Acts are clearly in line with liberalist advocacy of highly regulated communications media, like TV show programs or talk radio, so that the only messages allowed to be broadcasted are the ones in line with their ideas. Conservative ideas are, needless to say, not allowed. But not only should conservative ideas not be allowed to be expressed in the media – liberals routinely defend speech codes in universities, thus disregarding the profoundly American right to free speech as protected under the First Amendment. As I said earlier, conservative speakers are often not allowed to come to speak at these predominantly liberal campuses and certainly would not be granted any respect if they did. For example, just recently I read of the case of a liberal audience shouting down a black speaker who dared raise an argument against affirmative action, and that liberal college students literally cut libertarian media personality John Stossel’s microphone when he suggested that having sex while drunk should not be qualified as rape. These examples of intolerance make perfect sense given the broader context of liberal ideology.

Indeed, it is becoming increasingly obvious that liberalism is synonymous with intolerance, what with the plethora of freedoms of expression (or just about any kind of freedoms) that the left has subtly taken from us in the guise of political correctness. Hatred and intolerance are fundamental to leftism. But of course it is only a one way street of intolerance – while signs that depict Obama with a Hitler mustache drawn on his face have come to symbolize the entire Tea Party movement, “Kill Bush” signs at leftist demonstrations were completely ignored by the mainstream media. “What Kill Bush signs”, you might ask? Exactly. You probably don’t even know about them, and if not, now you know why you haven’t.

So far, I have addressed liberal intolerance and how it is undeniably rooted in their often totalitarian views which make no room for the rights of the individual, and how they characteristically shut out any opposition to their opinions. I shall now briefly addresses the liberal characteristics which I believe lead to the conclusion that liberals are immature and juvenile to the point that a liberal adult almost seems to me like an oxy-moron.

Babies, toddlers, and children of all ages rely on another party of some sort throughout their entire childhood; they need to be fully taken care of by someone else in order to survive. Similarly, liberals rebel against individual responsibility and obligations that come with a normal human being’s adulthood. Instead, they demand that the “parental” government take care of their each and every need from cradle to grave. Liberals, like small children, fail to understand the train of thought of anyone but their own. They immediately close down their minds to contrary opinion when presented with sound, rational argument that might threaten their extremely limited point of view. As such, it is quite clear that liberals share distinct characteristics with immature young children: their reliance on other parties and desired lack of self sufficiency, their shirking of obligations that come with life as a normal citizen in the real world, and their apparent inability to respect or understand ideas that do not coincide with their own.

To conclude, as Ole Bill Shakespeare might say, the fault, ye liberals, lies in your too strenuously professed adoration of complete servility, your utter inability to produce but a mere cogitation sans some furtherance on behalf of the government, or within your ideology’s inherent eagerness to stifle any contrariety or perceived “heresy” against your own peevish suppositions. Alas, my liberal friends verily the aforementioned liberal characteristics be problems of mountainous proportions for any ideology.

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Harry Potter and Political Philosophy: Is Dumbledore A Libertarian?

An admittedly extreme amount of nerdiness coupled with way too much time to think about nothing important has led me to evaluate the political leanings of famous characters in literature. I started with a character from one of the most popular and successful book series’ of all time, and a personal favorite of mine: Albus Dumbledore of the Harry Potter series.

I’m not interested in the political views of the three main protagonists of the series (partly because I don’t think they’re really developed, partly because not enough information is available, and partly because they’d be downright boring) so much as I am in the views of the embodiments of “good” and “evil” throughout the series: Dumbledore and Voldemort. To uncover their political and philosophical views is essentially to uncover J.K. Rowling’s own extremely influential views on the definitions of good and evil. For now, I’ll analyze the political philosophy of Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts and a continual agent of justice and voice of reason throughout much of the series.

To start off, Albus Dumbledore is without a doubt a socially liberal character, like almost all the “good” characters of the series are (beyond just the three young protagonists). Among other things, social liberals support equality for same-sex couples, and equal treatment of individuals regardless of race or religion. For starters, Dumbledore is homosexual, as is hinted at numerous times throughout the book and can be observed in his overall demeanor. Rowling has confirmed Dumbledore’s sexual orientation in a “real world” interview. Regardless of whether or not this has had any influence on his other social views, Dumbledore thinks that pure-bloods should have no special treatments over half-bloods or muggles (“mud-bloods” as the racial purists would have you say) and adamantly insists that they should all be given the same fair treatment in just about every aspect of life. It follows that he is profoundly anti-racist.

A major part of libertarianism is social liberalism, the idea that people, at very least, have the right to do as they please with themselves and with their bodies and not be treated unfairly or discriminated against because of it (assuming this same right is not infringed upon against others). So in that regard alone, Dumbledore is certainly on track to being considered libertarian.

However, social liberalism is only half of libertarianism’s unofficial “slogan”: socially liberal, fiscally conservative. Libertarians and liberals, though generally on the same page on social policies, vehemently disagree on fiscal policies, with liberalism advocating a “big government” role in the economy and thus in personal economic lives, and libertarianism advocating a government that only interferes with personal lives when one’s natural rights have been intruded upon, and thus for a generally “small government.”

This is where things get more complicated, because Dumbledore’s fiscal views are less obvious and far less discussed, if they are discussed at all. However, there are several instances in which snippets of his views of government can be gleaned. To reiterate, libertarianism is opposed to the idea of government intruding on people’s natural rights to life and property. Throughout the Harry Potter books, it is mentioned that on numerous occasions, Dumbledore refused the job of Minister of Magic (essentially, the wizarding President or Prime Minister) despite being a favorite of the wizarding community. This is probably because Dumbledore, just as libertarian wizards doubtlessly would, views the Ministry of Magic as generally corrupt and self-serving and actually quite inefficient at sorting things out. He knows that the more power given to the government, the worse it is for everyone else not in the government, and he isn’t shy about his opinion that the government generally stinks at solving problems that would best be left in the hands of those they directly concern.

He displays this “anti-government intrusion” attitude when he is absolutely outraged that Dementors are allowed, on Ministry orders, to situate themselves around and inside Hogwarts in order to enhance the search for Sirius Black, an escaped convict from Azkaban. Dumbledore correctly identifies this Ministry intrusion into his school and thus the personal lives of his students as counter-intuitive and something that will ultimately create far more harm than good. He recognizes that it isn’t the Ministry’s place to make decisions of this nature regarding his school, and that furthermore, the decision will only foster more fear, tension, and discomfort among Hogwarts students instead of helping to find Black or even keeping him out. This is a profoundly libertarian attitude and is one held by most libertarians today, just without magic and dementors and all that stuff us muggles believe doesn’t exist – erroneously of course.

Dumbledore displays this same libertarian attitude when the Ministry appoints a new teacher named Dolores Umbridge to the Hogwarts staff while Dumbledore, yet again, realizes that this appointment will create far more harm than good for Hogwarts and its students. The Ministry’s appointment is motivated by its own corrupt agenda and desire to force the usual government propaganda down students’ throats and prevent various important truths from being taught. It starts out slowly in implementing its crooked plan, because it is smart enough to know that not even young students are naïve and unassuming enough to believe that Umbridge’s appointment is really for their own good; it starts off slowly, first letting Umbridge serve as a normal teacher and soon promoting her to “Hogwarts High Inquisitor,” an unprecedented, outwardly dictatorial position created solely by the Ministry to implement its corrupt, brainwashing agenda. Needless to say, Dumbledore and all the staff (aside from Filch of course – my fellow Harry Potter nerds will understand why) are rightfully pissed off at this pathetic governmental power grab and recognize that the Ministry should stay out of people’s private affairs unless they do something that really necessitates punishment, or someone else’s protection, etc.  (Ah, if only teachers in America today would be so concerned about the federal government deciding what is and what is not acceptable to teach to students.)

To start wrapping up my first political evaluation of influential literary characters, I’ll say again that I think there is good reason to assume that Albus Dumbledore is indeed socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and thus, a libertarian. Now, did J.K. Rowling intend to portray him as such? I don’t know if the word “libertarian” specifically came to mind when creating the character, but I imagine she intended to portray him as a social liberal who values giving equally fair treatment and opportunities to all of his students, regardless of race or any other kind of background.

I’m less sure that Rowling intended to portray him as even the least bit fiscally conservative – first of all, Dumbledore detests certain kinds of unhealthy government intrusion and definitely recognizes that the wizarding government is overall ineffective at solving big problems (even succeeding in creating some themselves), and that would doubtlessly give him some striking parallels to real world libertarians, but if the similarities stop there it’s doubtful that he’s really “fiscally conservative.” Fiscal conservatism also entails the belief that a free-market economy with as few government regulations as possible is ideal and will be more prosperous than one with maximum government control and regulations of all sorts. Sure, Dumbledore hasn’t had the best attitude/relationship with government in the past, but who knows what he thinks about the economy and how it best thrives? Nobody, perhaps aside from J.K. Rowling herself. Using probable implications, we can assume that he thinks government should stay the heck out of it, due to the self-serving motives that the government tends to acquire when allowed excess power, and Dumbledore’s awareness of those motives.

 But perhaps his belief that everybody should be equal trumps his belief that government has a knack for messing things up when it gets heavily involved in them. Equality for all students is something that, as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Dumbledore is always concerned with throughout the books, so maybe he values the “redistribution of wealth” so as to create some kind of equality (regardless of whether or not it’s been rightfully earned – hello, liberalism) more so than he values small government. Implications are just that: implications. But the fact remains that Dumbledore is an adamant social liberal who has also a)  refused to take an active role in the government b) actively fought against almost every instance on which the government has interfered with his personal life, and who has c) been one of the few men wise enough to notice that most of the Ministry’s agenda is corrupt and seriously ineffective at addressing the issues that actually matter.

If Albus Dumbledore is not a libertarian, he certainly has profoundly libertarian streaks in whatever philosophy he does adhere to.

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