Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Godless Liberals and Compassionate Conservatives

Robert Godwin, a.k.a. "Gagdad Bob," is a clinical psychologist, author of One Cosmos Under God, and self-described "extreme seeker and off-road spiritual aspirant who has spent no less than one lifetime looking for the damn key to the world enigma." He is also a blogger whose popular blog One Cosmos is a formidable amalgam of psychoanalysis, Vedantist-Christian theology, Neoplatonic metaphysics, and conservative political philosophy articulated with mesmerizingly eloquent prose exhibiting a flair for "Joycean" wordplay.

In other words, Dr. Godwin is an erudite, brilliant, and fascinating man. Yet, he is also a "walking, talking contradiction" whose grand spiritual "vision" of seeking God while preaching hatred of our "enemies" and despising and ridiculing "Leftist moonbats" with monomaniacal focus seems a prime example of "partly truth and partly fiction," and almost certainly constitutes more fiction than truth.

One of his key arguments is that so-called "liberals" or "leftists" pathologically deny the existence of the divine or "vertical" axis of Being and the possibility of spiritual transcendence but nevertheless seek them in malignant social activism misguidedly bent on creating heaven on earth when what it would actually produce and has produced--in nations such as the former Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, and North Korea-- is the grimmest communist hell.

In a post yesterday that was actually unusually mild, for Gagdad Bob, in its criticism of "illiberal Leftists," Dr. Godwin wrote the folllowing:

Leftists are activists. And they are socially aware. And they are committed. But their frenetic activity is a substitute for being, “the restless and disappointing turmoil of superfluous things”; their social awareness is a substitute for vertical awareness; and their commitment is an ersatz replacement for faith--a false absolute and graven image for purposes of idol worship. This is why leftism generates such emotionality in its adherents--it is religious emotion in the absence of religion.

In other words, as Dr. Godwin asserts virtually every day in one way or another, people on the "left" side of the political spectrum believe and do what they do in the way of social activism because they are godless heathens who worship the godforsaken idols of "Big Government," Marxist egalitarianism, "multiculturalism," "ethical relativism," and, of course, "political correctness." If they only knew God--and the only way one can really hope to do this is by means of formal religion, preferably the supreme religion of traditional Christianity--they would love the free market, embrace the rugged individualism that made this country great, shout "America right or wrong" from the mountaintops, re-elect God's chosen president George W. Bush until he died of natural causes at a very advanced age, and torture and kill every Islamofascist they could get their righteous hands on. Of course, Gagdad doesn't say all of this in the passage quoted above, but it can all be reasonably inferred from reading as many of Dr. Godwin's posts as I have over the past few months and which I invite you to read and confirm for yourself.

This is how I responded to his passage:

There are people who believe that government should do far more than it does now to ensure that no human being suffers needlessly from poverty, homelessness, and illness and that human beings working together, with government involvement, can help to make this nation and this world a far more hospitable place for humans and other life forms. They believe that President Bush is unqualified intellectually and emotionally to have the power that he does, and that his Republican controlled administration and Congress have implemented policies disastrous or potentially so to the world at large and to the disadvataged in this country while aggrandanzing the already wealthy to an obscene extent.

Yet some of these same people are committed Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and members of other religious persuasions or adherents of other profoundly spiritual paths and believe every bit as much in the "vertical" as you do and work every bit as hard, if not harder, to fully realize it in themselves and to help others to realize it as you do.

Would you call them "leftists" too? If not, then is it not simplistic to suggest, as you seem to, that those who reject your conservative political and economic beliefs are necessarily godless heathens and that this godlessness underlies their "social awareness" and "activism" and their corresponding efforts to change the "material" world for the better?

Dr. Godwin, under the interesting nom de plume Cousin Dupree, responded in his characteristic fashion by saying: "Another review brought to you by the deaf music critic."

But someone else did come forth with an eloquent and thought-provoking response that, I think, neatly summarizes the intelligent (and possibly compassionate) conservative's position:

Yes, I would because (as good liberals must) they believe that the solutions to problems always involve government; conservatives believe that the private sector (i.e. individuals, churches, synagogues, private charities etc.) is best suited to deal with social issues. Until you grasp this basic fact, you will never “get” what is being discussed here.

By making “government” the vehicle through which poverty, homelessness and hunger are addressed, you take out personal responsibility to do what one can on an individual level to help our fellow man as we are commanded to do by God. When government is ultimately responsible for taking care of those less fortunate, the individual is (or at least feels he is) absolved of actually thinking about or seeing the condition of those around him/herself and ACTIVELY working to help their fellow man. When government is in charge of charity, all one must do is be gainfully employed and be willing to vote in politicians who have no compunction about taking a big wet bite out of your paycheck and voila you have done your part to help.

But that isn’t real charity; that is simply wealth transference. Real charity requires not only feeds the body but also feeds the soul by showing love and compassion. Real charity not only feeds the soul of the receiver but also the giver. You do not have to have any love or compassion for your fellow man when charity is a passive act of just letting the government take money out of your check each pay period. Can you really say that liberals feel themselves uplifted spiritually when they look at their pay stub and see what the government has taken out on behalf of the needy?

The difference between welfare and charity is the difference between a hand out and a hand UP. There is nothing more demoralizing and soul killing than being just another faceless, nameless case number, sitting in a government office filling out endless forms. But when an individual consciously reaches out a hand of love and compassion to a fellow human being, nothing could be more soul nourishing and brings both nearer to God.

The writer, using the nickname Eeeevil Right Wing Nut, seems to have missed the point of my question. I was questioning Dr. Godwin's incessant insistence that left-leaning people are not and cannot be religious. If Dr. Godwin had chosen to reply to me with something more substantive than a typical insult, he would have probably said words to the effect that these "Leftists" may call themselves "religious," but they're really not. However, I think ERWN realistically acknowledges that such people can be religious. It's just that their religious love and compassion for their fellow man must be realized through individuals and private sector organizations rather than through cold government bureaucracies.

I agree with ERWN that in a better world than this one, everyone who needed and deserved help would receive it in the charitable manner he (or she?) describes. But in THIS world, relying SOLELY on the compassion of private individuals and organizations seems like a recipe for disastrous deprivation of the needs of literally millions of men, women, and children throughout this nation, and if ERWN desperately needed food, housing, medical care, or other vital assistance for himself or his family that he was unable to provide, I'm quite certain he would rather be a "faceless, nameless case number" receiving welfare from an uncaring government bureaucracy than be lying with his children, starving and diseased, in Caluctta-like streets while more rugged and fortunate individuals like Gagdad Bob blithely stepped over him on their way home to regale their fellow Republican admirers with their grand spiritual "vision" on the Internet.

And if ERWN were to protest that I've exaggerated the consequences of ending all government assistance, I think that he need look only at the aforementioned Calcutta to see solid disproof of that. I also think he might want to actually sit down and talk with people who are alive today, healthy, and prospering only because of the government assistance that fed, housed, healed, and trained them so that they could improve their lives and the lives of their families to realize that government assistance is not the ineffectual evil he seems to think.

And if he talked with social workers and others involved in rendering this assistance, he might discover that they aren't all the heartless bureaucrats just dutifully going through the motions that he suggests they are. Many actually care about their clients and do wonderful jobs. And if ERWN had bothered to ask ME if I felt uplifted by seeing money taken out of my taxes to help the needy, I would have truthfully told him, "Yes, I do."

Would I love to see more people do more on an individual and private organizational level to help the needy? Of course. But do I have any belief or reason to believe that this can effectively take the place of all government assistance now or in the foreseeable future? Not on your life. And a truly compassionate and spiritually informed vision for our nation grounded in realism understands this. Too bad the likes of Gagdad Bob and his fawning "bobbleheads" at One Cosmos do not, and not only refuse to listen to but also contemptuously mock those who do.

(Cross-posted to Thoughts Chase Thoughts)


Seven Star Hand said...

Hello Nagarjuna and all,

Why do religious leaders and followers so often participate in and support blatant evil?

The time is long past to stop focusing on symptoms and myriad details and finally seek lasting solutions. Until we address the core causes of the millennia of struggle and suffering that have bedeviled humanity, these repeating cycles of evil will never end.

History is replete with examples of religious leaders and followers advocating, supporting, and participating in blatant evil. Regardless of attempts to shift or deny blame, history clearly records the widespread crimes of Christianity. Whether we're talking about the abominations of the Inquisition, Crusades, the greed and genocide of colonizers, slavery in the Americas, or the Bush administration's recent deeds and results, Christianity has always spawned great evil. The deeds of many Muslims and the state of Israel are also prime examples.

The paradox of adherents who speak of peace and good deeds contrasted with leaders and willing cohorts knowingly using religion for evil keeps the cycle of violence spinning through time. Why does religion seem to represent good while always serving as a constant source of deception, conflict, and the chosen tool of great deceivers? The answer is simple. The combination of faith and religion is a strong delusion purposely designed to affect one's ability to reason clearly. Regardless of the current pope's duplicitous talk about reason, faith and religion are the opposite of truth, wisdom, and justice and completely incompatible with logic.

Religion, like politics and money, creates a spiritual, conceptual, and karmic endless loop. By their very nature, they always create opponents and losers which leads to a never ending cycle of losers striving to become winners again, ad infinitum. This purposeful logic trap always creates myriad sources of conflict and injustice, regardless of often-stated ideals, which are always diluted by ignorance and delusion. The only way to stop the cycle is to convert or kill off all opponents or to end the systems and concepts that drive it.

Think it through, would the Creator of all knowledge and wisdom insist that you remain ignorant by simply believing what you have been told by obviously duplicitous religious founders and leaders? Would a compassionate Creator want you to participate in a system that guarantees injustice and suffering to your fellow souls? Isn’t it far more likely that religion is a tool of greedy men seeking to profit from the ignorance of followers and the strife it constantly foments? When you mix religion with the equally destructive delusions of money and politics, injustice, chaos, and the profits they generate are guaranteed.


...and here...


copithorne said...

Personally, I wouldn't say that Bob represents partly truth, partly fiction.

I wrote of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's treatment of people in the Deva realm who achieve mystical union with their own ego. This achievement seems to resemble religious tranquility and the language may have a similar structure to religious language. But Trungpa Rinpoche writes that the tradition understand such people to be spinning ropes of confusion and bondage.

Even though Gagdad talks in a format consistent with the spiritual life, he is MORE confused than an ordinary consumer. Just as we would say that even though Osama Bin Laden has dedicated his life to spiritual practice, he is more confused than an ordinary consumer. Such confusion becomes hard, dense, impenetrable.

Trungpa Rinpoche also suggests that the Deva state always devolves into anger.

Nagarjuna said...

I would put it this way, Copithorne. Some very smart people read a lot of books and do a lot of thinking about religion and spirituality, and they come to believe that they understand far more about these things than they actually do, and that anyone who disagrees with their indubitable vision is not only flat-out wrong, but probably also too stupid or otherwise defective to ever "get it."

copithorne said...

Ouch, your sword of Manjusri cuts both ways, Nagarjuna.

I am still going to lean on the biblical distinction that "by their fruits shall ye know them." Bob's religious statements are oriented towards supporting his hatred and violence. Even though they share a grammatical structure with religious faith, I would propose an understanding that their meaning within Bob's experience is confused and that his attachment to them deepens his bondage rather than facilitating his liberation.

For some, spiritual growth is a matter of addition. For others, spiritual growth is a matter of subtraction. If your cup is full, there isn't anybody who can empty it for you.

Nagarjuna said...

Copithorne, my former comment was not referring to you, in case you believed otherwise.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that if Bob's conduct on his blog and the thoughts and feelings they seem to reflect are the fruits of his religious or spiritual development, he has a long, long way to go, and that he needs to 'empty his cup.'