Category Archives: Philosophy

The poet’s expression of joy conceals his despair at not having found the reality of joy. — Max Jacob

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When the news broke on July 20th of the death by suicide of Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park, my immediate thought was “surely this is another hoax, like the recent bogus announcements over the internet of the deaths of Clint Eastwood and William H. Macy.” Sadly, it is true. Chester Bennington took his own life at the age of forty-one. This came as a horrible shock to his family, friends, band mates and millions of adoring fans. He was in the prime of his life, at the top of his game as a professional performer and in between tours with his band in promoting their new album One More Light. It seemed he had everything to live for, yet he decided to end his life. This is, undoubtedly, hard for many to understand and who are left wondering why. I can only surmise that in spite of the fame and success he enjoyed in life, despair got the better of him and he decided he could not go on living. Despair is part of being human and how human beings cope with it or not varies according the individual. Continue reading

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It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge. — Voltaire

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“Virginity is like a balloon; one prick and it’s all over.” So went the punchline of a joke I remember from my high school days in the latter half of the 1970s. At the time virginity was largely associated with the virtue of teenage girls and young, unmarried women; it was something they were expected to safeguard until marriage. It was an issue for teenage boys and young bachelors too, but in a different way. For a boy during adolescence and a young man, generally, he wanted to give up his virginity very much, and before marriage if possible. The sexual revolution was in full swing at the time. The period between the 1960s through the 1980s saw the legalization of abortion and birth control, the decriminalization of gay sex and gradual acceptance of people engaging in sex outside of marriage.  Nevertheless, I remember a degree of discomfort experienced by some of my classmates in grade ten health class when the sex education portion of the curriculum was presented. Despite the liberalized attitudes toward sex that emerged in the West during the sexual revolution, the age one chooses to give up their virginity (if at all) and to whom remains a delicate issue. Continue reading

The Christian does no harm even to his foe. — Tertullian

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In Christianity what is the appropriate response to aggression backed by force? There are, of course, the familiar precepts found in the gospels to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but does this necessarily rule out the use of force to deter such an act of aggression? On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis addressed this question in commenting on attacks perpetrated by ISIS against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He endorsed the prospect of a United Nations intervention, noting:

In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor […] I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated. […] After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss, ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”(Business Insider)

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, clarified the Pope’s comment, stating, “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.” (Business Insider) Is this standpoint consistent with Christian teachings?

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Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane. — Theodor Adorno

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The religious and the secular came to a head at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris when Saïd Kouachi and Chérif Kouachi, French citizens of North African ancestry, armed with Kalashnikov rifles opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 11 in an Islamist terror attack. The attackers were heard shouting “Allahu akbar,” and “the Prophet has been avenged.” Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper published weekly, produces satire in the form of caricatures, scrappy opinion pieces and jokes from a left-wing perspective. Among the targets of its brand of satire are the three Abrahamic faiths: Roman Catholicism (Christianity), Islam and Judaism. The caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo quite often consist of crude representations of religious figures such as Pope Benedict and Mohammed. Not surprisingly, this offends many people and generates controversy. The publishers of Charlie Hebdo were prepared to die to defend their right to freedom of expression; whereas, the Islamist attackers were prepared to kill to defend their faith. In the aftermath of the terror attack, differences of opinion concerning the right of freedom of expression and of religious liberty came to the fore. What was it that motivated the publishers of Charlie Hebdo and the Islamist attackers that resulted in this atrocity? Continue reading

I love to be individual, to step beyond gender. — Annie Lennox

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The suicide of Joshua Alcorn on December 28, 2014 marked the tragic end of his young life. He was seventeen years old. His suicide attracted world wild attention as he published a suicide note on Tumblr in which he related the stress of suffering gender dysphoria (he felt he was a girl living in a boy’s body). This stress was too much for him to bear so he opted for suicide. He adopted the name Leelah in his suicide note. He leaves behind his grieving parents, younger siblings and the rest of those who knew and loved him. Details are emerging as to the stress he endured and a degree of dysfunction in his family. He came from Christian family; his parents (Doug and Carla Alcorn) did not understand what he was experiencing and essentially told him to “pray it away.” He said in his suicide note that his parents sent him to conversion therapy for treatment. Compounding this tragedy was the lynch mob mentality that took hold. Doug and Carla Alcorn experienced harassment, even a call from activist Dan Savage that they face prosecution. Is this warranted? Continue reading

True Islam taught me that it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete. — Malcolm X

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Imam  Syed Soharwardy is  a respected Muslim cleric and scholar, chairman of the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly and founder and president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. His research interests in Islam consist of “Islamic beliefs, challenges for Muslims in the western world, conflicts within the Muslim community and interreligious conflict.” (Wikipedia) On August 22, 2014, Soharwardy drew attention to himself in announcing he was embarking on a 48 hour fast to protest the killing of James Foley, an American journalist, by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earlier in the week. In condemning the killing of James Foley, Soharwardy also made a bold statement declaring there is nothing Islamic in what ISIS represents, asserting:

I want to create awareness about the nature of their work — they are using Islam, they are quoting Qur’an, they look like Muslims, they pray like Muslims but they are not Muslim. They are deviant people, and they are doing exactly everything which goes against Islam. (CBC News Calgary)

In making this assertion, Soharwardy raises an interesting question. Do the actions of ISIS really have nothing to do with Islam? Continue reading

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement. — John Stuart Mill

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The publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 was a landmark in the movement that led to the destigmatization of homosexuality across the Western world in that it brought about the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. This was accomplished with the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c.69). Section 11 of the Act, in particular the clause known as the Labouchere Amendment, applied to male homosexuality. In short, the clause provided for a term of imprisonment “not exceeding two years”, with or without hard labour, for any man found guilty of “gross indecency” with another male, whether “in public or in private”. In 1953 the Home Secretary, David Maxwell Fyffe, referred to male homosexuality as a “plague over England,” and vowed to wipe it out. In 1954, the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was convened with John Wolfenden appointed chairman. Continue reading