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Reza Aslan’s History of God Is Aggressive Atheism for the 21st Century

Dec. 21 2017

Reviewing Reza Aslan’s God: A Human History, Emma Green describes its intended reader as the “spiritual seeker . . . who hopes to answer deep questions on the divine with study data and tidbits about evolution.” But even for this audience, Aslan, a much praised, self-appointed religion expert, doesn’t present much that is new:

The idea of the book is fairly simple: human spirituality can be explained in one cohesive, linear story about our universal desire to see ourselves in God. Aslan is skeptical of religion, which he sees as “little more than a ‘language’ made up of symbols and metaphors.” He’s more interested in “the ineffable experience of faith,” which for him is “too expansive to be defined by any one religious tradition.” . . .

This mix of humanism and pantheism guides Aslan’s narrative choices. He structures the book as a linear progression of faith, moving from animism, or the attribution of a soul to all objects, to monotheism, or the belief in one God. . . . He goes on to summarize the first 600 years of Christianity in seventeen pages, bringing religious history to its culmination in Islam, “a kind of doubling down on the very concept of monotheism.”

It’s a convenient story for an author arguing that a single, universal theory can adequately summarize thousands of years of contested history, text, and myth. Aslan shows little interest in religious traditions that don’t fit this pattern, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which are mentioned only in passing. His history of God barely travels east of the Arabian Sea. . . . Instead, Aslan bushwhacks his way through intellectual history in pursuit of his point. Emile Durkheim, one of the most important early sociologists of religion, is taken down in two paragraphs. . . .

God: A Human History is [in fact] aggressive atheism tempered and remodeled for the millennial age: doggedly universalistic, obligation-free, and relentlessly focused on self-revelation. While Aslan claims to walk alongside the seeker, his orientation is actually the opposite, forgoing humility and spiritual hunger in favor of simplicity and self-righteousness.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Atheism, Idiocy, Religion & Holidays, Reza Aslan, Spirituality

 

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy