The Jewish people

Considerations of religious issues in general

Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 22 Aug 2013, 17:48

Rachel,

Here's my first reply to you. I'll have a look at your second contribution and consider what to do about that.

I'm sorry for any confusion here. It's not true to say I'm "against you because you're Jewish" - I'm not against you at all. I'm not even against Jews - I've already made that point very clear several times in this thread.

I think we should be allowed to subject elements of any religion to calm and reasoned moral criticism, even Judaism, without being accused of being anti-semitic or against all Jews (I'm actually against anti-semiticism!). That's a right we have. If it offends you so deeply, that's a shame.

Why don't you ask a Rabbi or read a book about Jewish theology and the reasons of circumcism, ideas on God etc.


I wouldn't be interested in his views on this, to be honest, because I don't consider any religious reasons adequate for circumcision. For me it's just a medical matter. I can put my view here on the forum, you can put yours too. You know that's how it works.

You're suddenly very obsessive about animal cruelty and strangely not bothered by cruelty during an animal's lifetime.


Well, I do think animals should be treated humanely during their lifetimes, of course. That's partly why I am against ritual slaughter, as I have already explained. But the main reason I am against this slaughter without prestunning is because of halal, which is a sign of the Islamic faith which is spreading at a rapid pace across the UK. It just occurred to me that we are going to have to be consistent and ask Jews to stop shechita if we ask Muslims to stop halal, therefore I was curious to know what our Jewish contingent on the forum think about this issue (particularly since you see and experience the threat of Islam).

FAWC – does have it's own interests. It is probably obsessed with attacking Muslims and Jewish slaughter because it is funded by an atheist society like the "The Secular society".


I'm afraid these are unfounded claims. The FAWC is (was) an independent advisory group established by the government, but being PC, they didn't follow its advice.

On "contradicting myself", I didn't mean to liken Jews to Muslims in any way except over ritual slaughter. I was just saying that these issues can come up with religions and it's going to be increasingly hard I think for largely secular/post-Christian countries to accommodate all the various demands of different faiths (mainly, of course, Islam).

It's strange that early to mid 20th century Britain had Kosher slaughter legal, and they understood where to draw the line about freedom of religion and choice vs integration while you don't.


This does't take into account improved medical testing. Further, just because a certain decision was made in the past that does't necessarily mean it was the right one.

Thank you for the snide comment that coerced me to write an essay on the Jewish people when I was not in the mood for it. I also resented being compared to moderate or extreme Muslims.


Well, I'm sorry about that, Rachel. I just thought I wasn't going to get a reply on this issue and I know people can tend to turn a blind eye to questionable elements of their faiths, or become very angry when they are discussed.

There were rockets fired on my country by them today.


One of the reasons I dislike the BBC is that they tend to sympathise with the Palestinian aggressors so much. I have said a lot of positive things about Jews in this thread which you seem to be ignoring. I have no problem with them per se and that is why I have nearly banned people from the forum who do seem to have such a problem.

Well they do think about it. It was clear from Jonathan's answer that he did. There is even whole Seinfeld episode on the subject. But many chose it as ethically correct after some thought and experience.


Well I may disagree with their conclusions but that's good to know they're thinking about it. Thanks.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 22 Aug 2013, 18:38

Regarding your second post, in addressing Elliott I just meant that racism is commonly understood to mean judging people on their skin colour alone, which I personally don't think is the best way to go. I think we should treat people as individuals and judge on cultural values we find to be compatible with the best of our own. I'm sure we can discuss that some time - I think the thread just got diverted. I didn't "ignore everything else he wrote" either, I did respond to him.

I'm afraid you're so angry you're sometimes not making rational sense in this thread, Rachel. Just because I wanted to discuss ritual slaughter and circumcision.

You were indeed the only one to "stand up to" Daniel, I think everyone else was just ignoring him. I wasn't reading everything he wrote but if I had seen something I thought was in bad taste I would have told him. I did see such things after a while and did tell him.

As for the relevance of this forum to TD, that is something that I think can be valuably discussed. I too have been concerned many times that the views here may not correspond with his own. There's another thread where I have expressed these concerns, as you probably know. If he wanted me to take the forum down, I would. As it is I just try to walk the difficult line of us discussing all the controversial topics we do, within the boundaries of good taste.

On "Jewish contingent", I'm sorry if that was offensive - it wasn't supposed to be. I'm just aware there might well be more than just you and Jonathan reading the forum. Perhaps I should have said "members" or "users" instead.

I'll just finish by saying I'm not "stealing anybody's name" and I have never been to TD's house or played him any music! You are welcome to stick around if you want to, Rachel. As I have said, I certainly have nothing in particular against Jews - in fact I think they are some of the best and highest achieving of all religious people, although I tend to share Pat Condell's view of religion, that's true. I was just hoping to discuss some specific controversial aspects of Jewish culture and thought if we are going to talk about multiculturalism we had better talk about all of it.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 22 Aug 2013, 19:18

Gavin wrote:Well, I do think animals should be treated humanely during their lifetimes, of course. That's partly why I am against ritual slaughter, as I have already explained. But the main reason I am against this slaughter without prestunning is because of halal, which is a sign of the Islamic faith which is spreading at a rapid pace across the UK. It just occurred to me that we are going to have to be consistent and ask Jews to stop shechita if we ask Muslims to stop halal, therefore I was curious to know what our Jewish contingent on the forum think about this issue (particularly since you see and experience the threat of Islam).



I was going to log off for good after editing. Then I saw your answer. You're fast! :)
If it's just a reason to get at Muslim dominance, then, like I said earlier, I believe countries should have the right to ban Kosher slaughtering if the majority want it. I don't like it and it would be a huge disadvantage in that Kosher meat is already expensive and hard to get in Britain, (unlike Halal meat) but the majority has to decide. Saying that I think a better way to achieve what you want is to change the immigration laws, ban cousin marriages from certain countries and just stand up a bit more to the real issue.

If you want medical evidence of some of the reasons I and Orthodox Jews think Kosher slaughtering is humane, below are links to medical and factual things from Orthodox Jewish websites. It took me 2 minutes to find them but I already read some of them before. I think it's humane. You think it isn't. Regarding Circumcism, I think it is ethical and you don't. I think it has been well discussed now. I think that a parent should think about it and even in Israel it is 100% voluntary. If a Jewish person decided not to have it done, I don't think anyone would care. An ultra orthodox person who refused to do it could join the moderate orthodox or my community who don't care. Or they can convert to another religion entirely. We aren't exactly Iran here.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_c ... Humane.htm

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_c ... echita.htm


Thank you for the snide comment that coerced me to write an essay on the Jewish people when I was not in the mood for it. I also resented being compared to moderate or extreme Muslims.


Well, I'm sorry about that, Rachel. I just thought I wasn't going to get a reply on this issue and I know people can tend to turn a blind eye to questionable elements of their faiths, or become very angry when they are discussed.

Gavin wrote: One of the reasons I dislike the BBC is that they tend to sympathise with the Palestinian aggressors so much. I have said a lot of positive things about Jews in this thread which you seem to be ignoring. I have no problem with them per se and that is why I have nearly banned people from the forum who do seem to have such a problem.

Well it was a bit nasty to make a snide comment in order to get a reaction. But it doesn't matter anymore. Thank you for questioning the BBC on that as I know so many people don't. I also question the BBC on many other countries outside Israel and have always agreed with all the views expressed here about the BBC including yours.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 22 Aug 2013, 19:36

You made quite a lot of assertions about me which I hope we've cleared up now, Rachel, and that wasn't supposed to me "snide comment". I just thought maybe there was a deliberate silence on this topic.

Anyway, yes, I agree that we've had a good discussion of it now and accepted that we differ on some things and agree on others. It does cross my mind though that if a discussion just between us on this forum goes this way, how's it going to go if the government want to legislate on these kinds of issues in the future?! Maybe this explains their reluctance. I am, after all, just discussing this with westernised Jewish people. The government would be looking to restrict devoted Muslims.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 22 Aug 2013, 19:51

I tried to find the thread discussing the change of name for the forum some time ago but I could not find it. So I had no choice but to say it here after getting angry.

I clearly remember you writing here that you played music to TD and met him. I am definitely not imagining it or lying. I was quite surprised by that too at the time.
Well I'll take your word for it if you say you haven't. It really does not matter.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 22 Aug 2013, 20:11

Hi again. The only time I've had the pleasure of meeting TD was at an event organised by Monday Books at the Conservative Club in Chelsea. It was the one where he chatted with Daniel Hannan. It was all very civilised. He had a glass of red wine and I did approach him and tell him what a great writer I thought he was and that he's not alone - I see many of the same things in society that he does!

I had not been reading TD for long at that point and was really hit by the sheer breadth of his learning and quality of his writing. Also, the unflinching truth, unvarnished by PC and conveyed with such eloquence is, as we know, something to behold. I don't think I had yet started this forum.

Apparently Ed West was also at that event, but I didn't know him, or know of him, then. I think I started reading his columns very soon after.

As for music, I think you're thinking of this post - I've never played him any music. Probably just as well!
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 22 Aug 2013, 20:44

Oh that was where I got the idea from.
I was wrong.
I am sorry that I thought you met him and played him music. Now I know where I got the wrong idea.
I was beginning to think I had gone mad, because I clearly remembered you saying you had met him and then something about you playing him music. Thank you for claryfying and putting me right.

Thanks too for sharing the memory. It sounds lovely.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Caleb » 23 Aug 2013, 03:56

Before I add my own thoughts, I'd like to ask Jonathan a question. You mentioned that some of the religious schools in Israel do not teach much English, mathematics or science. Clearly, that's going to put Israel at a disadvantage in the future. It seems to me that really small countries need to have smart or rich people (or both, and increasingly, people get rich through being tech savvy) if they're going to be viable. That must be doubly true in Israel where there are real defence concerns also (Singapore or Switzerland do not have to worry about hostile neighbours, for instance). Surely a large part of Israel's survival rests on being better equipped, better trained and better organised than its neighbours. How is Israel going to operate the advanced weapons technology necessary to counteract the advantage of numbers of its hostile neighbours, let alone manage a twenty first century economy, if it goes backwards educationally?

A few of my own thoughts.

My father grew up in a neighbourhood that had a lot of Jews and still does. My parents now live in a neighbouring suburb that also has a lot of Jews, as well as Jewish private schools. On Saturdays it's impossible not to see lots of Orthodox Jews walking to or from the synagogue.

My father knows a lot of secular Jews and did business with at least one Orthodox Jew before my father sold his business and retired.

When I lived in London, one area I lived in was Golders Green (which has a lot of Orthodox Jews).

By and large, my interactions with Orthodox Jews have been pretty limited. About the worst thing I can say about them though is that they can sometimes be a bit selfish in public places (driving, being a bit pushy in the supermarket, etc.). I don't think they are in any way even remotely comparable to most Muslims. They largely just want to be left alone from what I can tell and they do seem pretty smart and value education and achievement.

As to how they support themselves, the secular Jews seem to do whatever anyone else does, though they may be slightly over represented in small business. From what I have been told, the Orthodox Jews all work for themselves in various types of business, including in the professions. The man my father used to do business with ran his own envelope supply company.

In terms of growing in numbers, I once asked my father about this because it's hard not to notice the size of their families. His reply to me was that a lot of the children do not go on to become Orthodox themselves, at least around where my parents live. I imagine that it would be a difficult path to go down and there are probably more modern distractions than ever before tempting people away from it.

In terms of the slaughter of animals, I think they should not be allowed to continue that. That said, I think a very good point was raised regarding the factory farming of animals in the West. It might be a case of getting our own house in order first.

As for circumcision, I'm not really sure what to think about that. Likewise about religious schools. I think Jonathan made a very good point about the contradiction at the heart of what he thinks and feels on the matter.

We in the West might very well have cooked our goose in giving up many of our own rituals and practices. On the face of it, there is no good reason to discriminate against people of different races, religions, sexual persuasions, etc. Nor do a lot of the things our ancestors did make much sense. Yet getting beyond that superficial level, it's clear to me that it's not that simple. It's not clear to me that humanity is marching towards some sort of ultra-rational and ethical end point.

Group identity is, in many ways, completely stupid and entails a lot of really stupid rituals and practices. Yesterday, lots of people in Taiwan were out in force burning ghost money, though lots also weren't. It's a stupid ritual that is both wasteful and polluting, yet it ties people together. The alternative either seems to be a complete free for all or else one group taking advantage of another that lacks cohesion. There seems to be a point all of the developed world -- from the West to East Asia -- is hurtling towards where everything is all very wonderful and civilised, but where everyone is so modern and into their own lifestyle choices (even things as mainstream as women having a career or people travelling overseas every year) that they've forgotten to get married and have kids. In the past day or so, I've travelled through three large cities -- Melbourne, Singapore and Taipei -- and the feeling I always get in those places is that they're like airports: they all look exactly the same, you can get almost anything you want there, but no one really has any connection to the place or their past. Everyone there is either making money off someone else or on their way to somewhere else and there is absolutely no group cohesion in such places. It's also interesting to note that in none of those cities is the total fertility rate at replacement level or above. In some countries (e.g. much of Europe, Singapore, Australia), there's third world immigration and the attendant birthrates or there's no immigration (e.g. Japan, Taiwan) and the country is rapidly getting old and dying. Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Mormons, etc. might engage in what looks like a lot of wacky stuff to us, but it probably does bind them together and produce the next generation. I suspect that 200 years from now, they'll probably still be around doing the same wacky stuff. I can't necessarily say the same for the rest of us.

Tyrannosaurus Rex may have been a magnificent beast, but your garden variety lizard is still around today, so who is the evolutionary winner? This is the circle I just can't square. If the West is so fantastic, why is it where it is today? Why don't Muslims see how much more logical it is and integrate? If East Asians are so smart and successful, why don't they have kids? They might be getting into medical school now, but there won't be any of them left to get into medical school in two generations. I don't even think it's just multiculturalism or socialism anymore (those certainly accelerate the decline). East Asia doesn't do multiculturalism or socialism in the main, yet if anything, their birthrates are even more dire than in the West. With the exception of Singapore, they don't have Muslims with a battering ram at their door, but they're still hitting the self destruct button in a big way. There seems to be something utterly nihilistic about modernity, yet obviously no one wants to step back in time and become a peasant on the land again and have an arranged marriage. Anyway, that's all way off topic, but in another way it's not.

The other issue in all of this is that I realise that in certain very important ways, I am completely out of sync with society, and so I can sympathise with other groups that want to have nothing to do with it either. Do I think faith schools probably teach a lot of rubbish? Undoubtedly. Yet I plan to home school my own children because, like some religious people, I also think that much of modern culture and the modern education system is awful. I would never live in Sweden or Germany simply because of their laws against home schooling. I would consider it indoctrination to put my children through the state, socialist system in either place.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Jonathan » 27 Aug 2013, 20:27

Sorry for being able to post only intermittently - I hope this post will not turn out to be irrelevant to the discussion.


Gavin, I can understand that Circumcision appears baffling to those who have lived without it since time immemorial. But consider also that the Jews have survived as a people with it for three thousand years when all their neighbors are long since gone. Which traditions and rituals held them together, and which were just superfluous baggage? Which will prove vital in the next hundred, or next thousand years? These are not questions to be answered lightly.


It may prove interesting to you to consider the question from a very different perspective - that of a Jewish male infant who is not circumcised at birth. He grows up in a Jewish state, speaking the Hebrew tongue, surrounded by the ancient landscape and relics of its history - yet he is set apart from it. He grows up knowing that he is different from all the other boys; he will doubtless endure teasing as a result, and attempting to keep such a secret will be just as trying for him. When he grows up he faces a daunting choice - undergo circumcision as an adult (scary) or stay as he is. As most teenagers are still desperately trying to fit in, he will most likely find himself cursing his parents for forcing him to face an unnecessary ordeal which his friends have been spared.

This is why in Israel, omitting to circumcise a male infant is considered even by the non-religious (though not by the law) as a form of child abuse, in which the parents sacrifice their son's well-being on the altar of their moral vanity.

However, there is a small minority which does not circumcise its sons. Several times a year a lauditory article is dedicated to them in Ha'aretz, Israel's equivalent of The Guardian. They all come from the same stock - self-hating leftists, who nod sagely at every criticism of their own people, and recoil in horror at any criticism of foreigners; wooly-headed multiculturalists who advocate admitting millions of muslim immigrants as a form of moral expiation, and who protest self-rightously whenever their country acts to protect its own interests instead of kowtowing to the EU or UN.

In other words, the same type of people who have brought Britain to its current state!



[quote]I wouldn't tell Jews in Israel that they should live in any different way. They have their culture and their sovereignty. But in the UK an effort at integration would help/[quote]

I should make clear that at no point did I think that you were prescribing behavior for Jews in Israel. But apart from that, why do you suggest that circumcision hampers integration to such an extent that it needs to be addressed by the law? Every Jewish scientist, doctor, writer or academic has contributed his share to the common civilization unhampered by his circumcision.

You address infant circumcision as a moral issue. But let us attempt to precisely describe the moral failing. Is the child made to suffer unnecessarily? Not significantly - I've heard louder cries when removing him fromt he bath. Is the child exposed to unnecessary risk? Not significantly, if proper precautions are taken - and the law may very well require these precautions. Is the child crippled in the sexual function, either in procreation or in pleasure? Not at all.

Yet there is a basis to your disquiet, and I suspect that it is in the abstract moral principle. Permitting circumcision seems to suggest that any parent should be allowed to cut off any part of his child's body, so long as some religious pretext can be found. It is as if the Law, having permitted a Jew to circumcise his son, is constrained to allow a Satanist to cut off his daughter's ears.

This, I think, is a result of a modern idea on which Dalrymple has written on more than one occasion - the notion that everything we permit or forbid must be justifiable on abstract principles, and that the antiquity of a practice is of no relevance whatsoever (please note that I am not espousing the opposite notion of fundamentalism, in which the antiquity of a practice is the sole legitimate justification).

This seems to me to be the basis of your disquiet. Whereas circumcision is an ancient practice, which does very little harm and is considered valuable by those who practice it, it still conflicts with an abstract moral argument (the sanctity of the person of a minor), therefore it must be scuttled. Other abstract principles which might oppose it (e.g. parental authority over their children) are nowadays hardly given any weight at all.

Now, I do not dispute the value of the abstract moral argument (it is right and proper to stop that Satanist, after all). For the sake of argument, I will pretend that you are willing to accept my description of the minimal damages of circumcision (and I do hope you may give them some thought).

What I would hope to reconsider at this point is the all-or-nothing idea; that if the law gives way an inch, it must crumble completely (incidentally, this is the description Dalrymple gives of Islamic law, and the reason he considers it brittle). Is there no room for human judgement of each practice, and compromise for those which are harmless? Furthermore, having read a little bit about the formation of English Common Law, I must ask - is a rigid adherence to abstract principles truly an English legal tradition? Or has it been imported from the continent?
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 27 Aug 2013, 22:21

Thanks for replying, Jonathan. I think this is a very interesting discussion - it tells us a lot about our different perspectives - so I'm glad you did reply. It's a relief to be able to discuss the matters calmly and politely but honestly too (something not usually possible with our leftist friends).

I would like to begin by asking you straight: do you think legal exemptions should continue to be made for Jews and Muslims to allow them to conduct ritual animal slaughter in the UK, despite there being much higher pain levels measured for the animals and this leading to a duality of law? Further, we are facing Islam in the UK and I think it's going to be difficult for us to ever ban halal if we can't ban kosher too.

This is the crux of the matter, in my view: I'm not against traditions binding a group together in principle, but what I am analysing here is the degree to which that should be allowed against the dominant culture, and to what degree it should be allowed in spite of moral and medical advances. Not very far, I would argue. As you know, we have a much more multicultural society here in the UK than you enjoy in Israel. I think we need to not shy away from any area of it, even with regard to Jews, who are doubtless benign and - to the extent they don't shut themselves away - are our friends.

On circumcision, I can appreciate what you say about uncircumcised children being bullied - that is, assuming the boy has to show his private parts to other children. To this I would reply that bullying is wrong and bullies should not be pandered to. That's easy to say, I know, but furthermore perhaps the parents of uncircumcised children might in time be considered "forward-thinking". Here's my point: "progressive" change for the sake of it is wrong, I'm sure we would agree, but not necessarily all change is wrong, and it is good that some traditions and rituals evolve. I appreciate this probably has to happen slowly. Something that concerns me from my perspective here in Britain is that on your line of reasoning, perhaps we would be compelled to also excuse female circumcision and voodoo here in the UK, in that they are important rituals of minority groups?

I had no idea that Jews were pro-circumcision to such a degree that omitting to do it was considered child abuse. I must admit I find that quite disturbing, but it does show me how differently Jewish people think about this. I'm slightly staggered, as Jews seem so advanced in so many ways (and as I have said many times, I have not default "dislike" of them - that would be idiotic). To consider omitting circumcision a form of child abuse seems to me a very strong judgement to make on something that is based merely upon ritual and is medically controversial. Jews must have an extremely strong sense of identity based on circumcision.

I agree that my objection is mainly on the principle that such a permanent change to a person's body should not be made by the parent, especially when the medical grounds for it are inconclusive. Some say it helps prevent disease (arguably this is not true with good hygiene), some say it desensitises the glans of the penis (arguably true). It is indeed similar, for me, to cutting off part of the child's ear for no good reason (if ritual is the only reason).

I don't think that circumcising children prevents them to integrate - at least not here - if it even comes to light we accept both kinds without any fuss (after all, it was not their decision). Rather I just questioned how civilised it really is. What do you think about parents tattooing their children or giving them permanent piercings? That doesn't seem very civilised to me, either, yet it may become the norm here, for reasons of ritual.

Dalrymple has made the kind of objections you note, but he has also on occasion said that the slippery slope argument is misplaced.

I think your best argument above is that the circumcised individual probably wouldn't care - we might even say "wouldn't know what they are missing"! In which case this is reduced to a matter of principle. But I would still like to hear your replies to my points above.

You and I can probably just agree to disagree on this, but I would like to get some perspective on how this practice can have developed at all among very devout people, since it does seem to suggest that God routinely "gets it wrong" when it comes to the male form - the rabbi needs to step in and "improve" on what has been delivered by cutting off the foreskin. Perhaps you would agree that this is indeed incoherent and the act is merely ritual, though you consider it not harmful and the parent's right to do this to the child. I can appreciate the strength of ritual, I just think it should always be open to review.

Finally, if you want to answer, I am curious to know if you think Orthodox Jews in the UK (and indeed Muslims and other devout groups) ought to be allowed to teach children their metaphysical beliefs in their schools as if they are facts. Or, do you think the education ought to be more along the lines of "We believe this, but not because of evidence - in fact in spite of evidence - and there are other opposing points of view"?

Thanks again for replying. It cannot be easy to subject one's own culture to scrutiny. I'm happy to do the same for mine, and I think I do on this forum.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Elliott » 27 Aug 2013, 22:48

I don't want to drag this thread off-topic, but, just to clear up a misunderstanding...
Elliott wrote:I think part of it is skin colour; Jews tend to be white so I don't feel an instinctual divide between them and myself, and I don't feel that they will be feeling such a divide either.

Gavin wrote:Isn't this what classic racism is? To dislike people because of their skin colour?

It's important to state that I am not talking about "disliking" people because of their skin colour. I do not "dislike" black people or Asians. Liking them, meaning them well, disliking them, meaning them harm, is not the point. The point is simple irrational mistrust and even loathing that I believe can and does spring up between different ethnicities, for the sole reason that they are different. I think this is a very natural (however irrational) part of human nature, and I think it's un-eliminatable in the majority of people. In fact I think most people who do not have this natural distrust of other groups tend to be the ones who are naturally inclined to despise their own group. I am certainly not suggesting that you are one of those people, Gavin, but I think when people advocate race-mixing they are usually secretly advocating the destruction of their own race, for reasons of profound self-hate.

I don't dislike people because of their skin colour. I don't care about that and I judge them only on "the content of their character". Thus I don't mind what colour someone is as long as they "buy into" our culture.

I also do not dislike people because of their skin colour. That would be ridiculous. I just think that, pragmatically, it is better if different ethnicities keep to their separate lands or, where they do co-exist in one place, one of the groups is acknowledged as undisputedly the dominant group, so as to prevent ethno-based civil war. (What's going on now in the West is that whites haven't been dominant enough, so certain minorities are beginning to try to take over, for now only within their ghettos but eventually, once their numbers grow, they will try to take over government, using violence if necessary.)

Again, I don't mind if they want to say "We believe this". Then an inquisitive child might say "Why? Is it because all the evidence leads that way?" Then they could say "No, it's not really to do with evidence. Other religious people believe other things just as strongly. In fact it's belief without, or in the face of, evidence - it's called 'faith'. We probably believe it just because it was handed down to us". That would be true, and I like the idea of the truth being given top priority in a child's education, and thereafter for that matter.

It would indeed be true IMHO, but it would also be the death knell for that religion, that culture, and that people existing as a distinct people. This comes back to what I said earlier. I think that what you really want is for all religions to cease to exist. And, as I said earlier, I can understand that desire (though I do not share it) but I think you should be honest about it, not pretend that you can see parents presenting their religion to their children as a mere option (and an unattractive one at that) and the religion somehow surviving.

Without wishing to be patronising, Gavin, I think this is perhaps the one thing that you are naive about. I think you believe that, if everyone was rational and only believed things based on evidence, life would be better. For all I know, maybe life would be better if people lived like that, but I personally don't think it would be, and in any case I can't see it happening. What would happen is that the particular religious group which adopted that approach would eventually die out and/or be overcome by a much more vicious religion that hadn't adopted that laissez-faire approach to its inculcation in the young.

It's a matter of group dynamics, and the irrational things that are necessary in order for a group to survive. You and I have a particular attachment to British culture, but a similarly-minded French guy probably thinks French culture is the best in the world, and so on. At any rate, each of us desires our group identity to survive even if it is not objectively the best identity in the world. Of course we can point to evidence that British culture has been practically successful, with real-world results, but the Italian or the Japanese or the Chinese or the Norwegian could find similar evidence to defend his own culture - and the evidence would merely be token; we really just want our identities to survive no matter what. We have faith in them. It might be supported by real-world evidence but the urge which requests that evidence is no more rational than the religious impulse.

Now, onto something even more contentious...

Jonathan wrote:When you consider how the West has drifted away from its core values, how society is splitting apart at the seams, how Truth is considered relative, and nothing matters any more - the problem is precisely this - that such similar ancient, binding rituals have been ridiculed and cast away as outdated and illogical.

I would hardly advise other societies to adopt this particular ritual to keep themselves together. But if you discard every unifying ritual which is found wanting under the harsh light of logic and science, you will find yourselves a mass of disorganized individuals, not a People. I am a Jewish man, with Jewish sons. For me, circumcision is terrifying, illogical, ancient, barbaric - and vitally necessary.


I thought this post was very interesting indeed. For personal medical reasons not worth going into, I have in the past had cause to learn about circumcision - at first it was a medical interest but I also read about its effects, its cultural prevalence, etc.

We also learned about it briefly in RE at school. I recall one of the things we were told was that it was partly intended to give a Jewish man a sense of "incompleteness" so as to spur him to build himself in life. (I doubt this works. Things lost as a newborn baby are unlikely to be missed, I would have thought.)

Jonathan's comparison with RP is very apt, perhaps much more than he realises. Circumcision was very prevalent among Europe's aristocracies up until about 50 years ago. (Prince Charles was the last British Royal to be circumcised as a baby - Diana didn't want it for her own sons, but I imagine she would have thought different later on after dating a string of Muslim men.) Circumcision was seen as a civilising ritual, a way to differentiate oneself from the plebs, the rabble, the unclean masses.

It was promulgated in America, rapidly taking hold throughout the 20th century and peaking around 1975. It became part of American identity, a sign that a man was "American". In the 1970s 90% of American boys were circumcised at birth, which gives some indication of how much a part of American identity it was.

It was also popular in Australia and Canada for similar reasons.

Now, I can't help noticing that circumcision in the West - whether in Europe, America, Australia or Canada - has declined at precisely the same rate as the West has lost confidence in itself. As Western identity became verboten, became something we are encouraged to claim doesn't exist, circumcision has fallen out of favour. A third trend mirrors this as well: the decline of RP in Britain, of Mid-Atlantic in America, and, I fully expect, the standard ideal accents in other Western countries.

I don't know whether it is a coincidence that circumcision is least favoured (especially in America) among liberals, the group most likely to have a thing against Jews and Israel, but also the group most likely to despise nationhood.

Exactly as Jonathan says with regard to the Jewish identity, circumcision helped to foment the identities of Christian peoples at their strongest, most prosperous and most confident phases. It will be, I'm sure, no coincidence that Islam insists on circumcision - Mohammed knew what he was doing.

None of this is to suggest that circumcision, in and of itself, is a good thing. (Personally I think it must be more hygienic, but that's by the by.) My point is that it does seem to be a fact that successful and enduring peoples practice routine circumcision, certainly among their elites. If we want to foment solidarity among our peoples and ensure their survival, perhaps the ethical considerations have to come second. And let's remember that those ethical considerations are small; there is little doubt that circumcision reduces physical sensitivity but it is far from a debilitating operation. To a people like the British who do not practice it routinely, it understandably seems barbaric, exotic and extreme, but the fact is that millions of men the world over are circumcised and not feeling wronged; on the contrary, they tend to be more resilient, both at the individual level (I'm thinking of rugged American individualism and resourcefulness) and at the group level.

I actually suspect that circumcision is something that really plugs into male psychology and galvanises it. Just look at the groups that practice it routinely: they do not tend to lose, they do not tend to surrender, and, with the marked exception of Muslims, they do not tend to stagnate.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Caleb » 28 Aug 2013, 02:00

Elliott wrote:Without wishing to be patronising, Gavin, I think this is perhaps the one thing that you are naive about. I think you believe that, if everyone was rational and only believed things based on evidence, life would be better. For all I know, maybe life would be better if people lived like that, but I personally don't think it would be, and in any case I can't see it happening. What would happen is that the particular religious group which adopted that approach would eventually die out and/or be overcome by a much more vicious religion that hadn't adopted that laissez-faire approach to its inculcation in the young.


I also don't think people are rational.

That said, I don't think religion necessarily needs to play any role. For a society to be cohesive and successful there probably does need to be an overarching societal philosophy, but that doesn't need to be religious. Over 1.5 billion East Asians would suggest that's quite possible. The Chinese, Koreans and Japanese are not about to be supplanted by anyone. The answer to a wolf in your living room is not to go to the gym and learn jujutsu. The answer is to not let the wolf into your house to begin with or to kick it out.

People might point to TFR (Total Fertility Rate) as an indication that religion is necessary (since both the West and East Asia are in demographic free fall). However, there are quite a few Muslim nations now that are at sub-replacement levels, and the trend elsewhere points towards many others getting there soon.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 28 Aug 2013, 10:04

I'm hoping Jonathan will be able to go back and answer my questions when he has time, but in the meantime I'll reply to Elliott.

First on the racial issues, from what I can gather, you're against people of different ethnicities (or races) occupying he same country, but you are not against multiculturalism, unless it is of the Muslim variety.

If I have this right then that's the opposite of my own position. There are in fact plenty of people of different ethnicities who have integrated just fine into the west. It's when they don't that I think it presents a problem. Likewise, if a caucasian person decided to become a Muslim this is also a problem even though they're white.

In the age of air travel you are just not going to keep your country 100% white and I don't think there's any need to do so. People are going to meet, fall in love, work together, marry. The enormous problems we now have are a result of mass immigration (precluding assimilation), the welfare state, cultural relativism and western feminism.

Elliott wrote:I think when people advocate race-mixing they are usually secretly advocating the destruction of their own race, for reasons of profound self-hate.


There is a middle way, whereby many people don't have any problem with "race mixing" when it occurs for genuine reasons, but don't particularly "advocate" it. I take that position. I think without PC it would't occur that much, but when it does I don't mind - I don't see how it's my place to mind.

Elliott wrote:I think you believe that, if everyone was rational and only believed things based on evidence, life would be better


Like Hume (and Caleb), I also think people are irrational - this is obvious. But like Hume I also think they can become aware of this and can moderate irrational behaviour when it conflicts with moral behaviour (as often happens in religious belief, as you know, partly because religious belief, as in the case of Islam, is unable to evolve).

On the demise of religion, I'm just not as sure as you (or perhaps even TD) that religion is essential, and I recognise the conflict that people like Douglas Murray highlight, that it seems wrong to teach what you believe to be untruths to other people. I'm undecided about this, but I think there is a middle way: the choice does not have to be between "religious believer" or "nihilist socialist". There is no reason I can see why one could not be a reasonable humanist with conservative politics, and indeed a whole society could conceivably operate on this basis (at least as well as the religious ones operate - look at them - they are not without their problems). Even if not this, then we could at least ask religions to consider revising their more more barbaric aspects. What is wrong with that?

Elliott wrote:Of course we can point to evidence that British culture has been practically successful, with real-world results, but the Italian or the Japanese or the Chinese or the Norwegian could find similar evidence to defend his own culture - and the evidence would merely be token; we really just want our identities to survive no matter what. We have faith in them.


Well, I just like the variety. But there are harmless differences and there are harmful differences. It is surely important here not to become cultural relativists. After all, I think you are against Islam as a cultural ideology.

On circumcision, first I want to say that this wasn't even my main point, but it's the one that people seem to want to talk about. I was mainly addressing the dichotomy in law excusing Jews and Muslims from another thing they have in common: ritual animal slaughter. But I'm happy to talk about circumcision anyway.

I think you make your case that circumcision makes for a people who "do not tend to lose, they do not tend to surrender" on inadequate evidence. Circumcised people can quite well lose and surrender, and to my knowledge neither the Russians, the Asians, the Vikings, the Spartans nor the Romans practiced circumcision. These were quite influential and successful people. Indeed, ancient Greek aesthetics of the human form considered circumcision a mutilation of a previously perfectly shaped organ.

You seem to be operating on an semi-Freudian principle that a circumcised man is somehow "missing" something that he then strives to regain throughout his life, but even if that were true it doesn't seem to be a very nice thing to do to someone (to traumatise them, in a sense!). I don't think there is any evidence it is true, though, I just think people ought to have autonomy over their own bodies.

May I ask if you would have no objection to tattooing and piercing babies or toddlers becoming common culture here in the UK? We're probably not far away from that, for reasons of ritual and identity.

Also, do you agree with the exemptions to slaughter laws made for Muslims and Jews? Would you only ban it only for Muslims? You clearly have a lot of respect for religion, while not believing it yourself. I think that religions do provide a functional role of binding people together and are one way of inspiring a much needed humility in society, but in doing so they also bind believers away from other people, and in a multiculture this can be a problem. As I mentioned, earlier, and as Caleb mentioned, a religion is not all of a culture, and I do hope that one day strong beliefs on scant evidence will not be as widely held. Evidence helps solve disagreements and perhaps people could instead find sufficient identity in their common language, food, music, harmless customs and their history without engaging in superstitious beliefs. Jews in particular are now in many respects so advanced, I can't help thinking that in their case this is starting to look rather incongruous.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Jonathan » 29 Aug 2013, 14:17

Caleb wrote:You mentioned that some of the religious schools in Israel do not teach much English, mathematics or science


Yes, that is true of Ultra-Orthodox schools, not merely Religious schools (this distinction is important). Yes, it is a serious problem in the long term, not just scientifically (as you described correctly) but also socially and economically. The Ultra-Orthodox communities are willing participants in a double-bind, whose origins I will explain briefly, as it might be more than you were interested in hearing.

Back in 1948 a small exemption from military service was given to a few hundred ultra-orthodox students of Jewish Law. The exemption was granted on the grounds that all they did was study, and not work. This has ballooned to tens of thousands of exemptions. The men receiving them study so as not to be drafted, which will expose them to secular life. They do not work, as this will expose them to the draft. This lifestyle is funded by working wives, unreported labor - and social benefits extracted by religious parties in exchange for political support in coalition governments. Thus a system of patronage is formed - political parties divert funds to these schools, whose students vote for the parties to keep the funds flowing. Some of these students are 26 years old, married, with 5 children.

It's a long-term time bomb, which is driving much of Israeli politics behind the scenes, and which gets little air time on the BBC. There is a delicate balance between religious sensibilities and personal liberties in Israel, and even a small suggested change to the status quo can excite a lot of vehement rhetoric.

I should note that this problem only exists in Israel.

Gavin wrote:I would like to begin by asking you straight: do you think legal exemptions should continue to be made for Jews and Muslims to allow them to conduct ritual animal slaughter in the UK


The short and honest answer is that I do think so, but your posts on the subject have forced me to think very carefully about a subject which I had pretty much ignored until now, and about which I knew little. I've read the separate thread on the subject, and followed and read quite a few of the links, but I did not want to post hastily on a subject on which other people have done so much research and to which they have given so much thought. I hope to find some time soon to think about it some more (and re-read those links) before I post anything on the matter, or reconsider my initial conclusion.


Thanks again for replying. It cannot be easy to subject one's own culture to scrutiny. I'm happy to do the same for mine, and I think I do on this forum.


It is, in fact, much more difficult for me than I thought it would be - I appreciate your appreciation of this delicate point. There are many other worthy questions and ideas on this thread, and I hope to have the chance to go over them more carefully and reply.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Caleb » 30 Aug 2013, 02:13

Jonathan: Thanks for that. I just found this article with links and comments today that explains some of that. Crazy welfare system.
Caleb
 
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