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Blessed are The Free
January/February 2011

The American Founding Fathers knew which rights their republic was intended to protect: "...the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Many of this month's articles are variations on these themes: Nigel Lawson's defence of free markets and free trade; Nick Cohen's indictment of artistic censorship in the name of religion; Douglas Murray's warning that free societies, such as the US, must stop appeasing political Islam. In their Dialogue, Necla Kelek and Karen Horn consider how Germans of Turkish origin can be liberated from the petty tyrants of their communities to pursue happiness as individuals in a Western democracy. And in his Cosmos column, Neil Scolding reflects on the preservation of life: how our preoccupation with the prevention of suffering has led us to neglect the rights of the unborn and the dying. 

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: these are our Western values in a nutshell. They are framed to include those of all faiths and none, and they presuppose the separation of church and state, to preclude any attempt to deny individuals the freedom to pursue happiness in their own ways. But the notion of "happiness" should not be interpreted as hedonism or materialism: it should, rather, be seen as closer to what the Bible means by "blessedness".

In one of the most justly celebrated passages of St Matthew's Gospel, Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount by invoking God's blessings upon those who are righteous but not self-righteous: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus was speaking here in the Jewish prophetic tradition; his sermon is saturated with scriptural references. The Hebrew term for "blessed" is "Baruch" — also used as a name. The Greeks had no exact equivalent for the Jewish concept of blessing, so the evangelists used the word "makarios", meaning divine favour. In the Latin Vulgate, the term is "beati", hence "Beatitudes", the term by which this passage is still known. Tyndale's translation of the Beatitudes published in 1526 was adopted verbatim by the authors of the King James Bible. Modern translators usually substitute "happy" for "blessed", perhaps because a secular vocabulary seems to suit a secularised world. But we need to rediscover the deeper meaning of "happiness". The word implies good fortune, in contrast to its synonym "bliss", which conveys something sublime, even divine. The Judaeo-Christian God is not the pagan Fortuna or Fate.

All this is by way of a reminder that the pursuit of happiness is by no means identical with materialism or hedonism, but is intimately bound up with the other two inalienable rights, life and liberty. Enlightenment figures certainly saw happiness as something more than materialism. In one of their favourite books, Spinoza's Ethics, the philosopher (whose given name was Baruch, or Benedict in Latin, both meaning "blessed") proposes that "our salvation, blessedness or liberty" consists in the "intellectual love of God". In some ways, modern Western culture is closer to Spinoza, who identified God with Nature, than to the Biblical tradition, which emphasises our individual relationship with a personal Creator. Spinoza, however, is clear that "blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but virtue itself". Happiness consists in doing as we would be done by. Judaeo-Christian morality is integral to Enlightenment ethics.

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Skeptic
January 21st, 2011
7:01 AM
>>>>>Meanwhile the Arizona State legislature has banned the teaching of "ethic studies" or any and every perspective that dares to challenge the dominant white "christian" version of his-story. The reason is pedagogical: So-called ethnic "studies" are not studies in any real sense. Traditionally, the humanities taught that objectivity and dispassionate search for truth is imortant, if always an unachievable ideal. The "ethnic studies" departments teach that the most important goal of research is to promote politically correct opinions, and that the most important quality of a researcher is perpetual (and fake) righteous anger. Banning "ethnic studies" from taxpayer-funded public universities is no more a blow to the education system than banning creationism from taxpayer-funded schools is. Proponents of both care nothing for truth or objectivity and only care about "challanging the acceptable dogma" -- that is, brainwashing students with their fantasies.

Sue
December 29th, 2010
3:12 AM
Meanwhile the Arizona State legislature has banned the teaching of "ethic studies" or any and every perspective that dares to challenge the dominant white "christian" version of his-story. Arizona is of course the epicenter of USA cowboy "culture" where the freedom loving Tea-Party zealots have been most successful. They want to "take back their country" from who or what?

John
December 29th, 2010
2:12 AM
The world is an indefinable psycho-physical realm. We all transform the world by our presumptions about what is real. Jesus for instance had no worldly power, nor did he in any sense whatsoever advocate or give his blessings to any worldly power, either in his own time and place, or in the future. And yet the kind of civilization that Daniel celebrates is supposed to be based on the life and teaching of Jesus, as described in the Bible. Western Civilization is, and always has been about the exercise of sheer naked power and the drive to gain control over everyone and everything. It is essentially a Civilization based on the power of cities. It is a Civilization created in the image of Scientism which now patterns and controls the entire world. Scientism a "religion" created by the left-brain and left-brained reason. The modern city, in particular is a form of consciousness. It reflects an attitude, a way of life altogether. It is a dogma, a psychological force-field. A "vision" of life that is fundamentally hostile to a Spiritually informed religious Consciousness and Way of life.And thus by extension to living-breathing-felling human beings, and the non-humans too. Notice that none of the various commentators who write for Standpoint, especially those who presume to be religious, never ever use or refer to the word Consciousness. The Western mind always pursues knowledge of a certain kind and then uses it in certain ways. The Western mind is always in confrontation with matter, or Nature, assuming power over natural laws and events, and thus by extension over masses of human beings. Such a process seems natural, but it is not. It is based entirely on a narrowly defined presumption about Reality and by extension what we are as human beings The destruction of the natural world, and of human culture altogether is just a social extension of the misapplication of knowledge. Western Man, in particular, has always misapplied knowledge, either by preventing it through its half-baked religions, or exploiting it via a false persuasion to the point of destruction. Which is the situation the entire world is now in. There was no Wisdom then, and no Wisdom now. World history has always been a horror story, but our current crisis is largely an extension of scientism, the extension of Western consciousness dramatized all over the planet. The Western mind in itself is just insane.

Sue
December 29th, 2010
12:12 AM
Yes the American founding fathers were interested in the pursuit and preservation of the white mans life, liberty and happiness, as long as those pesky Indians stayed out of the way. Which of course they did not because their land and resources were being systematically stolen from them. So they had to be either eliminated altogether or shunted off into reservations. Applied "manifest destiny" or part of "God's" plan for the world altogether. These self-righteous dudes signed many treaties with the various tribal groups. And then broke most of them. So much for the "rule of law". The white man always spoke with a forked tongue. The same scenario was dramatized all over the planet. It is still occurring.

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