The Idiot

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Is a novel that tells story of a prince[?] who has returned from Switzerland where he was being treated for epilepsy[idiocy?] who knows? Dostoevsky doesn’t say. He has been there four years and now returns to mother Russia to follow up on a letter he has received detailing his inheritance from one of his late benefactors.

Dostoevsky tells us the story of the Epanchin’s lovely girls, their relationship with their eccentric mother, their gentleman father and their many suitors.

Nastasia Philipovna is a strange but beautiful girl. It is hard to determine whether she is insane or just difficult, but a great character all the same.

Rogojin who is in love with Nastasia ends up killing her. Well, one can understand why. Twice, she run away from him just when they were about to wed. She decides to wed our idiot prince from whom he flees to the hands of Rogojin who we have said already kills her.

There are minor characters like Lebeddef, Budorsky, Colia, Varavara, Varia, Adelaide, Alexandra, Prince S, Evgenie and others who contribute to the development of the plot.

The prince is in love with two women, Nastasia and Aglaya. He agrees to wed Nastasia just after proposing to Aglaya in their house in the presence of family and a few members of society. The scandal rocks Pavlofs where they have been residing and the family decides to move away.

There is a little talk about religion and atheism. Dostoevsky through the prince argues that Roman Catholicism is unchristian. He writes

[….]‘It is not a Christian religion, in the first place,’ [..] ‘And in the second place, Roman Catholicism is, in my opinion, worse than Atheism itself. Yes— that is my opinion. Atheism only preaches a negation, but Romanism goes further; it preaches a disfigured, distorted Christ—it preaches Anti-Christ—I assure you, I swear it! This is my own personal conviction, and it has long distressed me. The Roman Catholic believes that the Church on earth cannot stand without universal temporal Power. He cries ‘non possumus!’ In my opinion the Roman Catholic religion is not a faith at all, but simply a continuation of the Roman Empire, and everything is subordinated to this idea—beginning with faith. The Pope has seized territories and an earthly throne, and has held them with the sword. And so the thing has gone on, only that to the sword they have added lying, intrigue, deceit, fanaticism, superstition, swindling;—they have played fast and loose with the most  sacred and sincere feelings of men;—they have exchanged everything—everything for money, for base earthly POWER! And is this not the teaching of Anti-Christ? How could the upshot of all this be other than Atheism? Atheism is the child of Roman Catholicism—it proceeded from these Romans themselves, though perhaps they would not believe it. It grew and fattened on hatred of its parents; it is the progeny of their lies and spiritual feebleness.

And says about atheists

Atheism! In our country it is only among the upper classes that you find unbelievers; men who have lost the root or spirit of their faith; but abroad whole masses of the people are beginning to profess unbelief—at first because of the darkness and lies by which they were surrounded; but now out of fanaticism, out of loathing for the Church and Christianity!’

As the curtain closes on this novel, the prince is back in Switzerland for treatment, Adelaide’s wedding has been postponed, Rogojin is in prison for murder, Hippolyte is dead.

Note: There are those who have written elsewhere that the Idiot as compared to The Brothers Karamozov is a better novel. I disagree with them. The Brothers Karamazov covers the themes of morality, religion, love in much more detail as compared to the Idiot. Both novels however are all well written.

Happy New Year friends and followers

A Christmas present from yours truly

Men who irrationally assent to anything, resemble those who are delighted with jugglers and enchanters. For as most of these are depraved characters, who deceive the vulgar, and persuade them to assent to whatever they please, this also takes place with the Christians. Some of these are not willing either to give or receive a reason for what they believe; but are accustomed to say Do not investigate, but believe, your faith will save you. For the wisdom of the world is bad, but folly is good.

From The Arguments of Celsus against the Christians


Your genial host will be away on holiday beginning tomorrow till 6th of January 2014. In this time we don’t promise we will be able to write any posts, respond to your comments or visit your very lovely blogs. We hope however that you shall still find something worth reading on this blog that you may have overlooked or that for some given reason you have a new interest in. That is the good news.

We celebrate our birthday on the 25th of Dec and towards that end, we shall be receiving presents 😛

We take this opportunity to sincerely thank you, one and all for your continued friendship, visits, comments and likes and most of all for the insights you have shared. If you have felt slighted, we apologize. If you felt your questions were not answered, ask them again, we promise to look at them when time allows.

We wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous new year!

As a bonus, here is a photo of Jean- Pierre Hallet whose story has been the subject of this post.

Jean-Pierre Hallet and the pygmies

Jean-Pierre Hallet and the pygmies

The Garden of Eden was in Congo

My great friend and teacher shared with me a story about the Efe people taken from The Pygmy Kitabu by JEAN-PIERRE HALLET and ALEX PELLE [yours truly is yet to read the book but I will relay the story nonetheless.

One fine day in heaven, God told his chief helper to make the first man. The angel of the moon descended. He modeled the first man from earth, wrapped a skin around the earth, poured blood into the skin, and punched holes for the nostrils, eyes, ears and mouth. He made another hole in the first man’s bottom, and put all the organs in his insides. Then he breathed his own vital force into the little earthen statue. He entered into the body. It moved… It sat up… It stood up… It walked. It was Efé, the first man and father of all who came after.
    “God said to Efé, ‘Beget children to people my forest. I shall give them everything they need to be happy. They will never have to work. They will be lords of the earth. They will live forever. There is only one thing I forbid them. Now — listen well — give my words to your children, and tell them to transmit this commandment to every generation. The tahu tree is absolutely forbidden to man. You must never, for any reason, violate this law.’
    “Efé obeyed these instructions. He, and his children, never went near the tree. Many years passed. Then God called to Efé, ‘Come up to heaven. I need your help!’ So Efé went up to the sky. After he left, the ancestors lived in accordance with his laws and teachings for a long, long time. Then, one terrible day, a pregnant woman said to her husband, ‘Darling, I want to eat the fruit of the tahu tree.’ He said, ‘You know that is wrong.’ She said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘It is against the law.’ She said, ‘That is a silly old law. Which do you care about more — me, or some silly old law?’
    “They argued and argued. Finally, he gave in. His heart pounded with fear as he sneaked into the deep, deep forest. Closer and closer he came. There it was — the forbidden tree of God. The sinner picked a tahu fruit. He peeled the tahu fruit. He hid the peel under a pile of leaves. Then he returned to camp and gave the fruit to his wife. She tasted it. She urged her husband to taste it. He did. All of the other Pygmies had a bite. Everyone ate the forbidden fruit, and everyone thought that God would never find out.
    “Meanwhile, the angel of the moon watched from on high. He rushed a message to his master: ‘The people have eaten the fruit of the tahu tree!’ God was infuriated. ‘You have disobeyed my orders,’ he said to the ancestors. ‘For this you will die!'”
    In another version, god, angered, says to the Man’s wife:     

“‘You broke your promise to me! And you pulled that poor man into sin! Now I’m going to punish you: both of you will find out what it is to work hard and be sick and die. But you, woman, since you made the trouble first, you will suffer the most. Your babies will hurt you when they come, and you will always have to work for the man you betrayed.'”

Celebrating 50 years of [In]dependence

For those of you who have those entertainment boxes connected to some cable, you must have heard that we have been celebrating 50 years since [in]dependence. The top honchos or clowns as I prefer to call them decided that one day wasn’t enough so gave us Friday off too which I must say was a good thing- I left my bed at 1200 noon :-P.

As a great cynic, I don’t see any reason for celebration and I will tell you why in a second.

50 years later, close to 60% of the population have no access to clean water and proper sanitation and this demographic includes those living in the city slums. What is there to celebrate?

50 years after the British left, we have not added a single unit length to the railway. On the contrary, those who were managing it have left it disuse, it’s land grabbed, train service to most parts discontinued. What is this we are celebrating?

When the founding fathers of the nation, such men as Jaramogi, Ramogi Acheing’ Oneko, Kaggia, Ngei fought for independence, they imagined a just society. What happened later is a far cry from their ambitions. We still have Kenyans who are called squatters in their own country while a few families sit on acres of land they don’t know what to do with. What independence is this? They were better of in settlement schemes run by the white overlords!

Most parts of the country are unreachable because of poor roads, roads which donor agencies funded but appears to me to have been built in people’s bellies for we see them nowhere. I must add here that the last regime made an attempt to improve this situation. At least a number of roads are being carpeted and missing links being upgraded. Maybe this is what they are celebrating, I don’t know.

A big population do not have access to proper medical facilities and if there is a medical facility, then there is insufficient staff to attend to the big population. What is there to celebrate?

50 years down the line, the country is divided along tribal lines so severe that in most government offices, one feels like he interupted a village baraza being addressed by the village headman for the lingo is local dialects. How is this anything to celebrate when we can’t live in harmony with one another?

A country that has relatively large tracts of arable land is so food insecure that any major drought in some parts of the country always results in Kenyans for Kenyans initiatives. How do we celebrate such poor governance?

Public transport in our major cities is for lack of a better word non existent. It is a mess run mostly by thieves and would be thieves. It is unreliable, inefficient and most times the crew have little respect for passengers if they have any. How do we celebrate such lack of progress?

Insecurity, especially with proliferation of small arms is on the increase. One is never sure where the robber is. At any place you are a candidate for muggers or armed robbery while parliament and treasury in every consecutive budget allocates millions of money to the defense department and office of the president. How, dear friends, is this something to celebrate?

After several years of struggle for media freedom, we have the vice president saying media freedom is alien to Africa and is being promoted by the west for selfish reasons and the top clown says in Britain the fines that are attached to media laws are higher and prohibitive than what the current parliament has passed. What madness is this? How can we as a people sit and celebrate such mediocrity, such lunacy, such madness without feeling some shame. Am appalled at the type of people who we elected as representatives.

7 or so years ago, we fought because a few stupid clowns we paid to conduct elections bungled it so badly that the then chairman in a later interview declared he doesn’t know who won the elections yet he declared some clown as the winner, a clown who was immediately sworn in as president in moonlight like the rest of the country wasn’t to know. Now we still have internally displaced persons waiting to be resettled by the government. Tell me, what are they to celebrate?

For those Kenyans who think we have a lot to celebrate, please weigh in, I really would want to hear you out.

Happy holidays everyone

New atheists/atheism

You probably have heard a caricature known popularly as new atheism. Yours truly does not know who these are and what this type of atheism is and so when I found an article that states proudly in the opening paragraph that

this whole ‘New Atheism’ movement is only a passing fad-not the cultural watershed its purveyors imagine it to be, but simply one of those occasional and inexplicable marketing vogues that inevitably go the way of pet rocks, disco, prime-time soaps, and The Bridges of Madison County

one must needs know what is here being talked about. I contend I know of one atheism- that which is a lack of belief in [the existence of] gods. There is the old atheism of antiquity where a person was referred to as an atheist if they didn’t believe in the popular/ state gods- whichever your take and I think we have moved beyond this. And am certain when David Hart was writing his critique, he had the first group in mind and so we shall restrict our critique to that only.

For his central thesis, he takes 50 Voices of disbelief: why we are atheists[pdf] as his launch pad of a vapid attack of atheists and in particular a few popular atheists of the 21st century. About that later. We haven’t read the book and will not comment on its contents.

He writes

[..]would seem to dictate that a collection of essays by fifty fairly intelligent and zealous atheists would contain at least one logically compelling, deeply informed, morally profound, or conceptually arresting argument for not believing in God.

Assuming there are no such arguments in the book, one who insists there is a god would first have to say what they believe god to be for the atheist to say anything about it. To say there is no compelling argument for disbelief when the believer hasn’t told us what and why we should believe is to cleverly attempt to shift burden of proof.

I cannot, in the name of all that is reasonable, say what he is getting at when he writes

Michael Tooley does not like the picture of Jesus that emerges from the gospels, at least as he reads them

is that he expected M.T to like a picture he finds appalling? I hope not. This however is not the main issue. However, when he dismisses

 Christine Overall notes that her prayers as a child were never answered; ergo, there is no God

shows a lack of engagement on his part with the issue being raised here. What is the difference between a god who is touted to answer prayers but doesn’t and one that doesn’t exist. It seems to me, he has shifted the portrayal of god as one concerned with our affairs and answers prayers of its believers with a cosmic god who is indifferent to the prayers and appeals of mortals.

He tells us

The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness

Maybe there exists such atheists as he describes but to make a sweeping generalization that this applies across the board is  dishonest in his assessment. I am interested in knowing the timelines  used to differentiate the writings of new atheists and their forefathers. Does he mean books written in the last decade, last 50 years, last century or how many years.

Joseph Lewis writing in 1928  writes

the belief in god is still generally accepted, not because the existence of one, but for the reason that it is the easiest way to account for our condition. But in light of the scientific discoveries and demonstrations, such a belief is unfounded and utterly untenable today.

d’Holbach writing in 1771, writes this about man

Man has always deceived himself when he abandoned experience to follow imaginary systems. He is the work of Nature. He exists in nature. He is submitted to the laws of nature. He cannot deliver himself from them, cannot step beyond them even in thought.[..] The beings his fancy pictures as above nature or distinguished from her are always chimeras formed after which he has already seen but of which is utterly impossible he should ever form any finished idea, either as to the place they occupy or their manner of acting- for him there is not, there can be nothing out of that Nature that includes all beings.

and in good sense, d’Holbach writes

Religion is handed down from fathers to children as the property of a family with the burdens. Very few people in the world would have a God if care had not been taken to give them one. Each one receives from his parents and his instructors the God which they have received from theirs; only, according to his own temperament, each one arranges, modifies, and paints Him agreeably to his taste.

Where is the difference between these early writers and us when we say, except for indoctrination with religious ideas, very few men would be with gods, or that gods only exist in the mind and beyond that a definite conception of the term is impossible unless one gives divinities human attributes or as Lewis said the existence of god hasn’t been demonstrated, only asserted. In what way are we thoughtless, in what way do we lack courage-moral or otherwise- we demand an answer or an apology!

There is no truth in his statement that

 their childishly Manichean view of history, their lack of any tragic sense, their indifference to the cultural contingency of moral “truths,” their wanton incuriosity, their vague babblings about “religion” in the abstract, and their absurd optimism regarding the future they long for?

since this is a strawman he has created form where anything he says will pass as true. There is nothing absurd in hoping for a world free of religious wars, where every man is his own priest and king. It is a future to long for, a future where all men are reasonable- a time when myth is treated as such and not as sacred just because it has the stamp of antiquity printed on the cover. If he means we lack a sense of the tragic in the Dionysian sense, he is far from the truth. I don’t know in what sense we are not curious and why he has scare quotes around words such as truths and religion unless he is implying that he recognizes the fluidity of the words.

One would think that every critic of atheist would not fall in the trap of saying you haven’t read the religious sophisticates to say anything about what we believe. He tells us, by committing the No True Scotsman fallacy, that

A truly profound atheist is someone who has taken the trouble to understand, in its most sophisticated forms, the belief he or she rejects, and to understand the consequences of that rejection.

Unless one has read the sophisticated arguments for belief in Santa or playing golf should one have an opinion. It is pretending here that the sophisticates in our case such as Platinga have something totally revolutionary to tell us about god that we should hold our horses. How incredible! How outrageous! What nonsense!

I don’t know who or what he has read. I don’t see how he could write without batting an eyelid in shame that

No matter how patiently I read, though, and no matter how Herculean the efforts I made at sympathy, I simply could not find many intellectually serious arguments in their pages, and I came finally to believe that their authors were not much concerned to make any.

He lies when he writes

the New Atheists’ concept of God is simply that of some very immense and powerful being among other beings, who serves as the first cause of all other things only in the sense that he is prior to and larger than all other causes

especially so since I have no conception of the word god.

He writes

These claims start, rather, from the fairly elementary observation that nothing contingent, composite, finite, temporal, complex, and mutable can account for its own existence, and that even an infinite series of such things can never be the source or ground of its own being, but must depend on some source of actuality beyond itself

but this ignores a major point that a thing that is is necessarily so. A thing is both necessary- that is there is an explanation for its cause- and contingent- a reason that doesn’t explain its being. If we are to get to anything beyond the phenomena, we are left only with Ideas in the Platonic sense or Will in the language of Schopenhauer or thing in itself in the language of Kant and nothing beyond that.

He has praise for Nietzsche whom he says and I agree had immense courage and foresight. A man I truly admire. But it is not true when he writes that

In their moral contentment, their ease of conscience, he sees an essential oafishness; they do not dread the death of God because they do not grasp that humanity’s heroic and insane act of repudiation has sponged away the horizon, torn down the heavens, left us with only the uncertain resources of our will with which to combat the infinity of meaninglessness that the universe now threatens to become

for the universe has always been meaningless, only, we were under some illusion created by ourselves that we had a cosmic overlord who minded our business. Our will, when trained on this life, on making it livable for all will do better than when trained in the hereafter, a life that makes this present one meaningless. And in the words of Nietzsche

The concept of “God” invented as a counter-concept of life — everything harmful, poisonous, slanderous, the whole hostility unto death against life synthesized in this concept in a gruesome unity! The concept of the “beyond,” the “true world” invented in order to devaluate the only world there is — in order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality! The concept of the “soul,” the “spirit,” finally even “immortal soul,” invented in order to despise the body, to make it sick — “holy”; to oppose with a ghastly levity everything that deserves to be taken seriously in life, the questions of nourishment, abode, spiritual diet, treatment of the sick, cleanliness, and weather! In place of health, the “salvation of the soul” — that is, a folie circulaire [manic-depressive insanity] between penitential convulsions and
hysteria about redemption! The concept of “sin” invented along with the torture instrument that belongs with it, the concept of “free will,” in order to confuse the instincts, to make mistrust of the instincts second nature!

How can one think Christianity is a beautiful thing, that world will become worse off when we lose it. No, the world will and can only get better. A crime such as blasphemy will have no place in our language for to blaspheme is to oppose the priest.

As we conclude, we would like to say we don’t know the New Atheists and would like to be pointed to where they could be reached. I intend to have a word with them. I have not read Hitchens’ God is not great and so I didn’t comment on the observations made by David Hart. I contend here that he creates a caricature of atheists and proceeds from there. His polemic against atheism tells us nothing worthy of our time.

To end this long essay, allow me to quote Jean Messlier, the one person I grant is the first atheist in the true meaning of the word- that is without the belief in [existence of] gods.

Know, then, my friends, that everything that is recited and practiced in the world for the cult and adoration of gods is nothing but errors, abuses, illusions, and impostures. All the laws and orders that are issued in the name and authority of God or the gods are really only human inventions….
“And what I say here in general about the vanity and falsity of the religions of the world, I don’t say only about the foreign and pagan religions, which you already regard as false, but I say it as well about your Christian religion because, as a matter of fact, it is no less vain or less false than any other.”

David Hart’s article is found here

You can be killed by the state for being an atheist, well not everywhere

Some of you I guess have seen this report that documents treatment of atheists, apostates and blasphemers in several countries around the world. Read it see how you fare.

Kenya, the cradle of mankind, and the current home of yours truly is a not a bad place for freethinkers. It says in the report

A new constitution adopted in 2010 guarantees freedom or thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, and the freedoms of assembly and association. However, some laws
and government policies restrict these rights in practice.

The constitution provides for kadhis courts to adjudicate certain types of civil cases based on Islamic
law, including questions relating to personal status, marriage, divorce, or inheritance in cases in which “all
the parties profess the Muslim religion.” About ten percent of Kenyans are Muslim. The secular High Court has jurisdiction over civil or criminal proceedings, including those in the kadhis courts, and will consider appeals of any khadhis court decision.

Even the second paragraph that deals with kadhis courts I don’t see as really bad for it deals with cases where both persons are Muslims.

Well, I have a problem with


since I don’t think students cover African Traditional Religions and so on. They are limited to Christianity and Islam for those in Christian and Muslim sponsored schools respectively.

That’s all about it folks.

How can atheists say anything about god

Well because we can. I don’t watch football but I can say one or two things about it.

Enquiries on Atheism

There are questions or comments that I feel do not call for a proper response because they have not been well thought out. An example of such questions is

How can atheists say [essentially anything about God]?  If a person does not believe in God, then they cannot rightfully define him.  The atheist, therefore, must look to authoritative sources for the definition of God.

First I want to begin by saying if ever a coherent definition of a god will be arrived at, the theists will have the atheists to thank. This does not in any way suggest that I believe  any gods, no,  I don’t. What I mean here is that with continuous criticism of the definitions being offered for the word god, the theists get help in trying to clarify the idea of a god but not demonstrating the existence of such a being.

I guess as one regular visitor…

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