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Faith, Reason, Fanaticism, and the Deeper Meaning of “The Donald”

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em Perhaps the greatest historical archetype when we think about religious fanaticism and intolerance is the Spanish Inquisition, in particular the fearsome figure of Tomás de Torquemada, the first Grand Inquisitor. The historical backdrop is that, in the wake of the Reconquista, centuries of back-and-forth conflict between Muslims and Christians, the Christians eventually regained control of all of Spain; the last Muslim stronghold, Granada fell in 1492. As Christianity gained the upper hand, many people who were formerly Muslims or Jews decided to become Christians. However, it was widely believed that many (most?) of these conversions were not sincere, but rather, made for reasons of expediency. Now, when you look at this problem in a more…

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The Show Must Go On

A Night at the Theater One evening a gentleman decides to go to the theater. There is a play showing that is reputed to be a very funny comedy. It’s hilarious, people are raving about it. At various points in the middle of the performance, hecklers disrupt the play, shouting disparaging insults at the actors on stage. At first, the actors on stage ignore this and carry on in their roles, but then, at some point, some of them lose patience with this, and respond to the hecklers. Let’s say it begins when an actress on the stage, who is portraying a very prim, proper lady in the play, goes completely out of character and responds to the hecklers with…

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A Framework for Reclaiming Reality

I believe I first read George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, as part of the reading list for an English 101 college class. I was a teenager at the time and I don’t believe I really understood what Orwell was getting at. I think my understanding was at the superficial level. I mostly just took it to be a screed against crappy writing — which it is, of course. But it is much more than that. Some of the ideas in that essay were later developed in his magnum opus, the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, wherein the government of Oceania are designing a new language called Newspeak, which brings to mind the current-day scourge of “political correctness”. Come to think…

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Battling the Matrix and Freeing Oneself from the Roger Rabbit Mental World

In 1999, a big hit movie was The Matrix. I went and saw it but I don’t recall it making much of an impression on me. At the time, my understanding of the world was pretty conventional. I believed the things I was told — for example, that a lone nut by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald had shot President Kennedy, and another lone gunman named James Earl Ray later shot Martin Luther King. Of course 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, but, when it did, a couple of years later, I assumed that the official story was broadly true. In retrospect, I am not sure whether, at the time, I even knew the term “false flag terrorism”. Probably not. In…

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