Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Religion

Jordan Peterson is a Garden Variety Christian Existentialist

A few people have asked me lately–what do I think of Jordan Peterson? Peterson is a Canadian psychologist who has written a book called 12 Rules for Life. He’s become very popular on YouTube and generated something of a following. I can see why–the particular kind of philosophy he’s advocating is unfamiliar to many people and feels transgressive in a modern context. But it’s an old kind of philosophy which dates back to the 19th century and takes its inspiration from Soren Kierkegaard. It’s called “Christian Existentialism”. Here’s how it works.

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The Thing Scaramucci Gets Right

From time to time, we get famous speakers at Cambridge. Yesterday brought us Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci–President Trump’s briefly tenured communications director. The Mooch had some low points. When asked about climate change, Scaramucci claimed that the phenomenon is 60% human caused, but 40% caused by “natural cycles” which affect “the earth’s position relative to the sun.” This drew audible laughter from the audience. I learned in middle school about the Milankovitch cycles–the problem for the Mooch is that they take tens of thousands of years and move much too slowly to account in any significant way for changes in the climate that occur over just a couple hundred years. But while the man has his flaws, he did make one point that bears repeating–for some reason, it’s still okay in American politics to pick on Italian-Americans.

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Hillary Clinton Started the Whole “Obama is a Muslim” Thing

Over the last week, republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have been taking a lot of heat–Trump for refusing to deny that Obama is a Muslim foreigner, Carson for explicitly stating that Muslims should not be president. We’ll discuss what both of them said, but I want to remind everyone of something we seem to have forgotten–it was Hillary Clinton who started this, and any person who supports Clinton while criticizing Trump or Carson is at best deeply ignorant of Clinton’s past and at worst a naked hypocrite.

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Kim Davis: When Civil Disobedience is Used for Evil

Kim Davis has just been released from prison. Davis is the infamous Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Clerks are elected (bizarrely, Davis was elected as a democrat), so Davis cannot be summarily fired. Instead, she was taken to court and ordered to issue the licenses. She appealed, but the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. She continued refusing to issue licenses anyway, and was jailed for five days for contempt of court. She vows to continue refusing to issue licenses. So far, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (another democrat) has declined to appoint a special prosecutor to charge Davis with misconduct. When Davis was released from prison, she was greeted by throngs of supporters led by US Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Ted Cruz was also in attendance, but Huckabee’s people succeeded in marginalizing him. The reaction from people to this has been very interesting–nearly everyone is being a hypocrite about Kim Davis (including Kim Davis), on all sides.

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How to be a Good Person Without God

In many western societies, religion seems to be losing influence, particularly among young people. Many religious people argue that this threatens society’s moral frameworks. Without God, on what basis do we distinguish the good from the bad? Secularists often scoff at this question, resenting the implication that only the religious can be moral. And yet, many secularists are also moral subjectivists, who claim not to believe in any absolute sense of right and wrong, arguing that morality is culturally relative or a matter of individual taste. This does seem to imply that as religion weakens, the intellectual foundation of many of our substantive moral beliefs is being eroded, and that to the extent that secularists remain good people, it is often due to socialization and intellectual inertia rather than some truly substantive alternative. But it doesn’t have to be this way–there are excellent secular moral theories that do offer compelling objective alternatives to religious morality.

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