Friday, August 17, 2007
Before air conditioning, British diplomats in Washington received the
same "hardship pay" as those serving in Calcutta. With Congress out of
town and the heat index in the triple digits, the whole country slows
down. If it weren't for bad news, there would be no news at all in August.
I got an angry e-mail from a reader this week complaining that religion
now shows up in every issue of WN. Well, maybe not every issue, but he's
got a point. WN is about science and politics. In happier times WN gave
religion almost no mention. What changed? The cover story in the August
19 issue of the New York Times Magazine tells us. "The Politics of God"
by Mark Lilla, is adapted from his book "The Stillborn God: Religion,
Politics and the Modern West," which will be published next month. We in
the West have our own fundamentalists, Lilla acknowledges, but we "find it
incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions,
leaving societies in ruin." He goes on to quote from an open letter
President Ahmadinejad of Iran sent to President Bush last year. It closes
with: "Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith
in the Almighty, and justice and the will of God will prevail over all
A frequent theme in mail I get from fundamentalists is that without
religion there would be no reason for people to be good. I find this
shocking. Do these people long to rape and pillage, but refrain only
because God is watching? The Wall Street Journal today has an article by
Robert Lee Hotz on the discovery of "mirror" cells in the motor cortex
that reflect the actions and intentions of others as if they were our
own. They cause us to identify with the characters in a novel, or suffer
when we watch others suffer on the evening news. If we are good, it is
because we see ourselves as part of the human race and the happiness of
others makes us happy.
1984 is not in the past, but in our future. A newly disclosed plan will
put the nation's most-powerful spy satellites at the disposal of domestic
agencies as early as this fall. Homeland Security is funneling millions
of dollars to local governments for surveillance street cameras. We seem
to have already achieved Orwell's state of permanent war - "war is peace".