bookmark_borderKleptocracy as secularism

Among some secular people observing events in the Middle East, I run into some worries that secular dictatorships will be replaced with worse—theocracies like what the Muslim Brotherhood has envisioned throughout most of its organizational history.

Maybe. What is going to come out the present upheaval in unpredictable. In the Middle East, often the only opposition that has been allowed to exist has had an Islamic flavor. It is likely that if and when popular rule makes its inroads, cultural and hence religious conservatism will become even more visible.

But what exactly are we secularists defending as an on-the-ground alternative? Miniscule remnants of leftist political groups? Liberals who, as in Turkey, are apologists for neoliberalism and cheerleaders for grassroots Islamization? In practice, the military-linked elites that gave rise to the present authoritarian regimes are the best realistic representatives of secularism.

And secular they are: in places like Egypt, they represent the secularity of kleptocracy. After all, asset-stripping the public realm in the name of liberalizing the economy and turning the wealth of countries over to cliques of a few hundred families respects no religion. No sect of the local monotheisms explicitly endorses kleptocracy. Oh, plenty of Islamic tariqa’s and movements enthusiastically take part in the race to line their leaders’ (and select followers’) pockets. But like the inane “prosperity gospel” of our more local cultural Third World, the fakery of it all is too uncomfortably transparent. Stealing everyone blind is an eminently secular impulse, one that does not discriminate according to creed.

If that’s the sort of secularity we are defending, reluctantly or not, I want no part of it. Even the Muslim Brotherhood might be an improvement. I suspect they would not be, but that’s not so much because of their theocratic or quasi-fascist fantasies as their own tendencies toward neoliberal kleptocracy.

bookmark_borderHow Many Ways to Analyze the Word ‘God’? – Part 4

I’m going to cut to the chase now, for those who have no interest in following the details of my reasoning (“Dear God, please make him stop! I will barf on my keyboard if he mentions ‘criterial conditions’ or ‘range of degrees’ one more time.”): 205, 240 definitions of ‘divine person’ can be generated from four divine attributes (power, knowledge, freedom, and goodness), four degrees of each attribute (resulting in 10 ranges of degrees for each attribute), assuming that at least one of the attributes is relevant to defining this phrase, and making the simplifying assumption that no other attributes are relevant.

I. All Four Attributes are Relevant: 180,000 definitions.
II. Only Three Attributes are Relevant: 24,000 definitions.
III. Only Two Attributes are Relevant: 1,200 definitions.
IV. Only One Attribute is Relevant: 40 definitions.

Details on III and IV will be provided in a future post.