On vice and virtue

On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.

Albert Camus, The Plague

Quotes about war

The man from Mars who saw how men suffered in the last war and how frantically they are preparing for the next war, which they know will be worse, would come to the conclusion that he was looking at the denizens of a lunatic asylum.

Norman Thomas, 1935

And I think he would be forgiven if he came from his grave today and saw how countries are building their armies in the name of self defence. The next war, when it happens( it’s a question of when not if), will be a great war and I don’t know who will be left to write about it.

On religion

by Kurt Vonnegut

Palm Sunday is a collection of some interesting essays by Kurt Vonnegut that I would recommend to any one as summer, winter or whatever season reading. They are full of humour and every once in a while something to make you think. One of the essays is titled religion and I want to just share some passages that I found to be quite good.

His uncle Clemens, he tells us wrote

whoever entertains liberal views and chooses a consort that is captured by superstition risks his happiness

and I think this is true for both men and women.

The portion I liked best is this farewell from the same uncle addressed to friends and opponents & to next of kin present to deliver his body to the earth

Do not mourn! I have now arrived at the end of the course of life, as you will eventually arrive at your. I am at rest and nothing will ever disturb my deep slumber.

I am disturbed by no worries, no grief, no fear, no wishes, no passions, no pains, no reproaches from others. All is infinitely well with me.

I departed from life with loving, affectionate feelings for mankind; and I admonish you: Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally, and if they would contribute mutually to each others’ welfare.

This world is not a vale of sorrows if you will recognize discriminatingly what is truly excellent in it; and if you will avail yourself of it for mutual happiness ad well being. Therefore, let us explain as possible, and particularly at the departure from life, that we base our faith on firm foundations, on Truth for putting into action our ideas which do not depend on fables and ideas which science has long ago proven as false.

We also wish knowledge, goodness, sympathy, mercy, wisdom, justice and truthfulness. We also strive for and venerate all of those attributes from which the fantasy of man has created a God. We also strive for the virtues of temperance, industriousness, friendship, and peace. We believe in pure ideas based on truth and justice.

Therefore, however, we do not believe, cannot believe, that a thinking being existed for millions and millions of years, and eventually and finally out of nothing – through a word- created this world, or rather this earth with its firmament, its sun and moon and stars.

We cannot believe that this being formed a human being from clay and breathed into it an immortal soul, and then allowed this human being to procreate millions, and then delivered them all into unspeakable misery, wretchedness and pain for all eternity. Nor can we believe that the descendants of one or two human beings will inevitably become sinners; nor do we believe that through the criminal executions of an innocent one may we be redeemed.

Quoting Bertrand Russell famous declaration that in case he met god, he would say to him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information” that he would, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”

On the White House prayer breakfasts (and now we have our own version of national prayer days) he writes the

lethal ingredient in those breakfasts wasn’t prayer. It was a virulent new strain of hypocrisy which did everyone in.

And I agree with him when he writes

I don’t think anybody ever dreaded hell as much as most of us dread the contempt of our fellow men.

To end this already long post, I will add one last thing, about community. He says if you are going to be a leader with a mission to help us find an amazing future, then you should consider helping us find an intelligent and imaginative way back to some of the more humane and comforting institutions of the past. Say extended families for example. He argues the nuclear family doesn’t provide nearly enough companionship.

So, my friends, go and be lonesome no more.

Happy weekend everyone.


and while we are still here, I hope no one who reads this blog also believes in this

In thus spoke Zarathustra

Nietzsche is very playful. I think he must have laughed as he wrote the very playful sections of that book.

Take for instance the part where Zarathustra says laughter killed the gods when one of them said there’s no gods but god.

In part four in conversation with the retired pope, Zarathustra says pity for man killed god, that is, god could not stand the man on the cross and died out of pity. In the same place he says

He was a concealed god, addicted to secrecy. Verily, even a son he got himself in a sneaky way. At the door of his faith stands adultery.

Elsewhere he writes about god this

When he was young, this god out of the Orient, he was harsh and vengeful and he built himself a hell to amuse his favorites. Eventually, however, he became old and soft and mellow and pitying, more like a grandfather, but most like a shaky grandmother. Then he sat in his nook by the hearth, wilted, grieving over his weak legs, weary of the world, and one day he choked on his all too great pity.

And finally on love( especially the way Christians and religious people don’t tire to tell us god is love, Zarathustra says

Whoever praises him as a god of love does not have a high enough opinion of love itself. Did this god not want to be a judge too? But the lover loves beyond reward and retribution.

Have yourselves a humorous day, won’t you!

On Christianity

When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: is it really possible! this for a Jew, crucified 2000 y.a, who said he was God’s son. The proof of such a claim is lacking. Certainly the Christian religion is an antiquity projected into our times from remote prehistory; and the fact that the claim is believed- whereas one is otherwise so strict in examining pretensions- is perhaps the most ancient piece of this heritage. A god who begets children with a mortal woman; a sage who bids men work no more, have no more courts, but look for the signs of the impending end of the world; a justice that accepts the innocent as a vicarious sacrifice; someone who orders his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins perpetrated against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of a beyond to which death is the portal; the form of the cross as a symbol in a time that no longer knows the ignominy of the cross- how ghoulishly all this touches us, as from the tomb of the primeval past! Can one believe that such things are still believed?

Nietzsche.

On the possibility of moral progress

Odera Oruka notes

….in matters of morals, man appears to be several centuries behind scientific and technological progress, in spite of the fact that great religions such as Christianity and Islam have existed since antiquity. The lag in moral progress must partly be blamed on these religions. Perhaps if in their place we had had the systems more oriented to earthly and worldly progress right from the beginning, the world would have been more positively different.

Science and philosophy

Philosophers should be scientists and scientists philosophers. The current rigid separation of science from philosophy is dangerous, for it encourages acquiescence in partial knowledge, leaving the ultimate and all embracing concern with truth only to faith and ideological and racist obscurantism. The separation denies scientists human wisdom and philosophers the sober knowledge of nature. Science without philosophy is wrongly authoritative, while philosophy without science is seriously limited.

Odera Oruka