Tuesday, 9/11/18

Orthodoxy

1

As I’ve said before, it is my opinion that the collapse of religion is THE fundamental problem of Western Civilisation and without the restoration of religion we’re going nowhere. However unlike the Trads it is my opinion that an attempt to turn the clock back, and practice religion like it was practiced in the 1650’s is not going to work. Rather, the Christian religion is going to have to transform itself in someway if it is to successfully combat Modernity.

As for Christianity, Western Civilisation is really the civilisation built on basis of the Protestant and Catholic religions. Eastern Orthodoxy, while Christian is not of the West, and I would advise the Trads, those looking to turn the clock back to look at it, as it lacks the ability to change: It’s all tradition.

The Social Pathologist, a blog subtitled The Diseases of Modern Life as seen through the Secular Confessional.

I never really have comprehended the secularist case for the social importance of religion. I suppose it’s right, as secularists confessing it are making something of a declaration against interest. But whether I understand it or not, I appreciate people who don’t personally believe nevertheless giving Christianity its due.

So although I fault his word choice, “It’s all tradition” (we would say “it’s the faith once delivered to the Saints“), I especially appreciate his commendation of Orthodoxy to those not minded to (shudder) “innovate.”

We do consider “unchanging” a feature, not a bug.

I am skeptical, though, of the author’s claim that Protestantism is “a dying religion.” From “spiritual but not religious” to nuda scriptura, the desire to roll-your-own religion is powerful, and what earthly authority can pontificate that the rough beast, its hour come round at last, is not “Protestant,” strange fire and all?

When this somewhat wrong-headed fellow turns to Roman Cathoicism, I think he worth reading and considering, and that’s all I’m saying as I keep getting too deeply into the weeds of the current crisis in that tradition.

 

Shout-Out to an Adversary

2

I was unaware that a gay California legislator, who wants to outlaw “paid ‘conversion therapy,’ which purports to change a person’s sexual orientation,” pulled his own Bill at the last minute, though he had plenty of votes to pass it, because he seemed to think that the very vocal critics might be onto something and that he might make the Bill better (and, perhaps not incidentally, more resistant to First amendment challenge).

Perhaps the message is finally getting through: Wrongthink has some rights, and that it is justly embarrassing to pass a Bill, over objections of unconstitutionality, and then see it struck down as unconstitutional.

Kudos to Assemblyman Evan Low and to the Los Angeles Times for what reportedly was very fine coverage of the story.

 

SCOTUS

3

Not all California (or other) politicians are capable of the class Evan Low exhibited:

During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, [Kamala Harris] demanded to know whether the judge thought the president could legally politicize the Justice Department, for example by prosecuting his political enemies while going easy on his friends. Senator Harris would know more than a little about that: She wasted a great deal of time and a fair sum of Californians’ tax dollars illegally using her position as attorney general of California to attempt to bully nonprofits into giving up their donors lists. It was a transparent effort to target them for harassment and retaliation. That little jihad ultimately was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment by the federal courts. Harris and her opposite number in New York State, Eric Schneiderman, did nothing but misuse their offices to harass their political rivals. (Well, in fairness, Schneiderman did take some time to beat women, if The New Yorker is to be believed, and resigned his office after three women accused him of abuse.) She misused her job like that was her job.

You know how this works: Liars think everybody is lying, cheaters think everybody else is a cheat, and self-serving political hacks who misuse their offices think that that’s just how the game is played, that everybody does it.

Kevin D. Williamson, The Caste System. He is absolutely right about abuse of the legal system for political purposes by Kamala Harris and Eric Schneiderman.

 

4

Whereas Trump is populist, intentionally divisive, anti-establishment, immoderate, and contemptuous of many of traditional norms of comity and civility, Kavanaugh is a product of the establishment, gets along with colleagues across the spectrum, respects precedent and plays by the rules. Any Republican president would have placed Kavanaugh on his short list. He has no associations with the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Trump nominated him in deference to the legal elite of the party, including the Federalist Society, many of whom are as concerned about Trump’s character and disposition as any Democrat.

The notion that any Trump nominee is illegitimate because he would shield Trump from hypothetical future subpoenas or prosecutions is belied by history. Nixon’s appointments voted against him in United States vs. Nixon, and Clinton’s appointments voted against him in Clinton vs. Jones. Kavanaugh has no closer relationship to Trump that those appointees did to the presidents who appointed them.

Michael W. McConnell. Eugene Volokh concurs.

 

5

I think I saw just once a passing reference to SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s high opinion of Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee whose “seat” the Republicans “stole” as the common trope has it.

Walter Olson confirms that it’s true and explains why the reference was fleeting.

I have no need of any other hypothesis.

 

6

Beyond wanting to restore its place as Asia’s dominant nation, China is seeking to become the most powerful and influential country in the world. Moreover, its economic success is allowing its authoritarian political system and mixed economic system to become a model for other countries. For the first time in decades, there is a worldwide debate about the best form of government and economic system.

Michael Morel. The authoritarianism of China’s government should not be underestimated. Two chilling stories, here and here.

 

Miscellany

7

Daniel Drezner satirizes the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed.


Are major social media biased against conservatives?

I think maybe they are, functionally if not ideologically. But government regulation to eradicate bias is a cure worse than the disease.

That’s all I wanted to say.


I feel rather sorry for any prominent person named “T.J. McCarrick” even if the disgraced Cardinal‘s middle initial is “E.”

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Observations on Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church might be called a little stingy in its acknowledging of anyone as a theologian. Strictly speaking, our church recognizes but three—just three saints whose names include that epithet. They are Saint John the Theologian (also called John the Evangelist), Saint Gregory the Theologian (also called Gregory of Nazianzus, and one of the Cappadocian Fathers), and Saint Symeon the New Theologian. As it happens, each of these men wrote their theologies in poetry, highlighting to some degree the rabbinic understanding that true theology is always parabolic, as the One of whom we speak extends beyond comprehension, irreducible.

One of the discoveries that led me finally to embrace the eastern church was its disposition toward biblical scripture. The church of my youth approached the scriptures as if they were both knowable and reducible to proposition; each verse was approached as a fixed utterance, dictated, word by word, by God to certain men; the scriptures were understood to be God’s words precisely, and they were understood to be the revelation, as such. On the other hand, Orthodoxy observes that what God revealed to these men was but a glimpse of himself, and that those men thereafter employed their own words to offer up what might be better understood as a witness to the revelation. That is to say, these writers beheld a mystical vision, and sought to share it by whatever means they could muster. What we make of their textual witness is, of course, another matter.

Poet Scott Cairns, in Image Journal.

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Monday Mélange 9/3/18

 

1

The narrator provides us with one final parcel of information that he has learned about Bartleby, a rumor he has heard that before the young man entered his employ, he worked in the dead letter office in Washington, D.C.:

Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames? For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:—the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank-note sent in swiftest charity:—he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death.

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!

James Gardner, in a “Masterpiece” review of Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener.

2

[E]ven a silent and secluded Benedict sends a message. Italian friends have told me that The Benedict Option has become for many in Italy a refuge from the Francis stuff. I find that discouraging, to be honest, because I did not write the book with an anti-Francis agenda in mind, and don’t want it to be taken as anti-Francis. Nevertheless, Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, a major Francis mouthpiece, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago have both publicly denounced the book and the idea as counter to Pope Francis’s vision, so what can I say? My book is certainly infused with the spirit of Ratzinger, who I think of as the second Benedict of the Benedict Option.

An interesting blog of Rod Dreher, drawing parallels between the first Benedict’s retreat from a “dangerous and godless gulf” and the reported motivation behind Benedict XVI’s resignation — the loss of a Vatican battle over cracking down on the likes of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

However his resignation came about, there’s reason for hope in his continued relevance:

Years ago, when I was in college, I read Thomas Merton’s great autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. In it, Merton, who wrote it as a new Trappist monk, talked about the World War II years, and said that maybe the entire world was held together by the prayers of monks hidden away in monasteries.

3

Since the authorities announced on Aug. 22 that Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a farmworker from Mexico, was charged with first-degree murder in her death, politicians and pundits have used the arrest to push for stronger immigration laws.

In a column in The Des Moines Register on Saturday, her father, Rob Tibbetts, encouraged the debate on immigration. “But,” he added, “do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist.”

The Register on Friday published a column by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in which he blamed Democrats for Ms. Tibbetts’s death and said claims that conservatives and Republicans were politicizing her death were “absurd.”

Melissa Gomez, New York Times.

You might as well ask bears not to shit in the woods, Mr. Tibbetts. And that steaming pile? “Fake news!” “Absurd.”

4

Oh, the horror!

Rolling Stone accuses the Education Secretary of ‘listening to the men’s rights groups she’s met with’.

Cockburn at Spectator USA.

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Saturday Sundries 9/1/18

 

1

Postmodern theory may be the most loathed concept ever to have emerged from academia. Developed within literature and philosophy departments in the 1970s, it supposedly told us that facts were debatable, that individual perspectives mattered most, that shared meaning was an illusion and that universal truth was a myth.

The right quickly identified these notions as a danger to the very foundations of society and spent decades flogging the university lefties who promoted them …

Later, centrists and liberals searching for a culprit behind the ascent of Donald Trump and the war on fact that surrounds him joined the conservative crusade …

These challenges to postmodern theory did identify an important crisis: Losing a shared vocabulary for the world’s problems, for the way we relate to one another and for current events may be the greatest threat to American society …

Yet these problems were exactly what worried postmodern theorists. Their project was an attempt to understand why people had begun to interpret material facts so differently ….

Aaron Hanlon, Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.

Hanlon is easy to excerpt, since each paragraph seems to be structured Thesis/Illustations. I disagree with some of the illustrations, but appreciate a refresher on postmodernism which “wasn’t a thing” yet during my formal education.

2

We know that many conservatives voted for Trump because he promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. We also know that Trump ran away with the evangelical Christian vote.

But one must ask these men and women of the cloth: Is it really more important to hope for a Supreme Court that might reverse (or, more realistically, erode) Roe v. Wade than it is to have a president of whom we can be proud? In whom we can trust to be thoughtful, honest and impervious to every little slight?

… Trump was surely serious when he spoke about the darkness that would descend upon the land if Republicans lose the House. One would have thought he was speaking of the Islamic State or the Taliban, not fellow Americans with a different point of view. Even stranger, he mentioned violence in the context of antifa, a loose group of anti-fascists militant in their protest of the white supremacists who have celebrated Trump’s presidency as a giant step for white mankind.

Kathleen Parker

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Sundries 8/31/18

 

1

The fetish we have developed for focusing on how small we are vis-a-vis really big things, a la Stephen Hawking and others (“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies”) has a history and, furthermore, it is completely and utterly arbitrary when one could write a similar sentence about the comparative sizes of, say, a cell nucleus and a quark, or hypothesize on the intelligent life and modes of travel that exist on a particle (unobserved as of yet) the size of a yoctometer.

I have an Ivy educated gardener friend who, when I mention the biodynamic farmers who plant according to the position of the moon, the stars, and signs, lets out a big guffaw. But I tease him back by saying that, for a much larger mind and frame of reference and consciousness, the space between Sirius the Dog Star and our little cucumber seeds seems no bigger than the distance between a cell wall and a nucleus.

The Russian polymath Pavel Floresnki, in his study of icons, showed that perspective in art was not, as so many think, “discovered” in the Renaissance. Many of the laws of perspective had been used in stage sets in Ancient Greece but, apart from that, were apparently found quite uninteresting. Iconographers, instead, aware of their tools but more conscious of how they used space in their attempts to portray a higher reality, ’wrote’ one-dimensional Icons that transformed the space around them. They had a different and, to them, nobler goal in mind.

When you look at something only in terms of how it can serve you, you might be able to control it, but you also might not, in fact, be seeing that thing accurately.

[Jordan] Peterson, references the great observation from The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions:

What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.

Michael J. Sauter. 10 minutes to read Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris and the Problem of Bigness, but one could chew it all day. It’s befitting that it appeared at the newly-redesigned Front Porch Republic website, where the tagline remains “Place. Limits. Liberty.”

Small is Beautiful, y’all.

2

Shame is not the same as guilt – or perhaps it would be better to say that there are several kinds of shame.

To hide one’s sins from others really is the shame of guilt. But to practice modesty is the shame of innocence.

Even as to the shame of guilt, a distinction must be made. One might conceal his sins to escape the punishment he deserves. But he might also conceal them to spare others exposure to his taint.

I wouldn’t condemn a man for that.

J Budziszewski. I look forward to few things in my RSS feed more than another entry by Budziszewski in his Underground Thomist blog.

3

It is said by some that God has no boundaries regarding us, that He is God and may do with us (and to us) whatever He wills. This, of course, is true in an abstract sense. However, it is not true of God as He has made Himself known in Christ. Christ is a God who “asks.” He is the God who allows a freedom so great that it can kill Him.

… It is the love of God that surrounds us and calls us to be His friends. It seeks us, face to face, even searching for us when we hide. But it is a love that stands weakly at the border of our freedom, and waits for our invitation.

Fr. Stephen Freeman.

4

For the first time, a … non-Christian will lead this group that thinks government is too involved in religion.

Washington Post headline on Rachel Laser being named executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Millions beg to differ with “first non-Christian” on some sort of “No True Scotsman” theory.

5

Tossing, hiding or being shunned for ‘stinky’ school lunches: 8 Canadians on the ethnic food they were embarrassed to eat in class. Via Sameer Vasta and micro.blog.

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Google bias

The reality is that progressives and left-leaning news outfits tend to build better sites. They do more customization and put more thought and energy into unique sites. They use less tracking and scripts.

So progressive sites play better in Google.

And this is largely a result of the progressive donor class versus the conservative donor class. A progressive donor does not want to make a profit on a left leaning news or activist site. That donor wants a return in public policy or politics.

Too many conservative donors want an actual return on investment in the form of monetary profit or they want a 501(c)(3) to give to so they can take a tax write off. A major progressive donor will gladly cut a $200,000.00 check to a for profit progressive news site knowing they’ll be funding the cause. It is hard to find those donors on the right.

Erick Erickson. I sort of suspected something like this. My WordPress site with free theme won’t rise high in Google — which is fine by me.

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Note to readers

I have just changed the template or theme that gives this blog its visual style. Twice, actually. It may change again as I seek a theme that will preserve the fonts I use — italicizing part of a block quote now, for instance, does nothing as the block quotes are always italicized anyway.

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Potpourri

My micro.blog is experiencing technical difficulties, with more than a day’s worth backed up. (I can see them in one manner only, useless to others.) And today, I vowed yet again to forsake Facebook:

Okay, Facebook, what the heck is up?

For a few months, I’ve been puzzled by images that flash on the screen as I scroll down and then disappear. I’ve now concluded that it’s probably some attempt at subliminal advertising. Blechhhhhh!

Now, I get a new suggested friend, an attractive 50-something blond I’ve never heard of, who is NOT suggested because we have mutual friends, and whose profile is virtually blank except for a larger version of the head shot that confirms that, yes, she is indeed an attractive 50-something blond.

This is getting genuinely creepy. I suspect I shall become even scarcer around here. I’ve already posted about where you can find me on the Indie Web.

So I’m going to resort to my old aggregation, except I’ll be aggregating mostly me.

1

Urban Meyer at Ohio State “may have known of domestic-violence allegations against an assistant coach but continued to employ him on the Buckeyes’ staff,” so he’s in deep trouble. What’s this got to do with sports? Why, Title IX, of course. #Over-regulated.

2

Joseph M. Bessette notes that Pope Francis branded the death penalty “inadmissible”: “Unless the death penalty is intrinsically evil—and the pope has made no such claim—then its advisability is a matter for citizens and legitimate public authority.” Argues that it deters, too.

3

I’m not a big John Prine fan, but his “don’t forget to pack this” list is endearing.

4

The Nation Magazine Betrays a Poet — and Itself

I was the magazine’s poetry editor for 35 years. Never once did we apologize for publishing a poem.

By Grace Schulman

NYT

5

 My party assigned at birth is Republican, but I now consider myself party-fluid.

6

A national organization I’ve reflexively supported for years, I notice, has scheduled seven fundraisers. Three keynoters unknown to me, three dubious celebrities, and one Dinesh D’Souza, who has sunk to trolling. Time to reconsider support.

7

One of my friends likes to joke that the only improvement to the 1983 Code of Canon Law is that it is no longer an excommunicable offense for a layman to deck a cleric. Perhaps this improvement was providentially ordained by God as an additional tool in the box for responding to crises such as these.

Michael P. Foley (H/T @ayjay)

[I expanded this one beyond 280 characters — a soft micro.blog limit beyond which things display differently.]

8

Toppling Qaddafi without building a new order may go down as the single dumbest action the NATO alliance ever took.

Thomas Friedman. “Dumb” as in “Hey! Watch this!” suicidal.

[If you haven’t been paying attention to the stresses in Europe — and I confess more than slight sympathy for Hungary and other nations who, in sloppy journalese, are becoming “nationalistic” in response — Friedman’s column is not a bad primer.]

9

We’ve ended up with a large number of “supposed evangelicals” who … think that because they watch Fox News, respect religion, and vote Republican, they must be evangelicals.

Kristin Du Mez, Evangelicalism is an Imagined Religious Community. “Conservatism” is likewise confused.

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Ayjay’s Second Law: The least valuable Christian writers to read are those for whom the log is always in someone else’s eye.

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In pursuit, but barely

As I told you previously the more I see how other societies (d)evolve, the more I’m glad to be French, at least for now. But is that really “other” societies, or just some of them? The Sexual Revolution, the LGBT cult and other niceties were mostly born in the Anglosphere and that’s where they are most virulent …

I understand that you’re clinging to your “secularization = Sexual Revolution” thesis and it certainly has some merit, but you can’t deny that France, for instance, is much more secularized than the United States and as much as the UK and yet is much more conservative on social matters — just check our abortion laws or the resistance to the LGBT agenda. Same goes for Eastern Europe. I think thus there is something rotten in the Anglosphere….

As Del Noce pointed out, Wilhelm Reich was brilliantly prescient when he identified America (and the English-speaking more generally) as the culture where the sexual revolution would triumph most thoroughly.

In hindsight, the reason is obvious: the sexual revolution is a philosophical by-product of scientistic positivism (the denial that anything, including sexuality, has a symbolic-sacramental value) and extreme “bourgeois happiness” utilitarianism (faith that happiness can be reached without any reference to the transcendent). Both trends were and are far more advanced in countries with a Puritan-empiricist-utilitarian cultural tradition like the UK and the USA. The results show.

Rod Dreher, updating a bit of gender madness from the U.K. with comments by a French reader and by Carlo Lancellotti, who has been hitting the nail on the head quite a bit lately. (Emphasis added)

I don’t think these comments are off the mark when it comes to the Anglosphere nexus with the craziest parts of the sexual revolution and LGBetc. stuff. Which means, as Rod says:

I think this is a point worth pondering. So I am going to ponder it, and invite others to think of it too, and add their thoughts. My instinct tells me it has something to do with the radical individualism of the Anglosphere.

But if we get no further than picking “scientistic positivism,” “bourgeois happiness utilitarianism” or “radical individualism” out of the police lineup, we’ll not have gotten very far.

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The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes. Where I glean stuff.

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Religious tribalism

As a prefatory matter, I have long believed that one’s guiding philosophy is functionally religious. That has ramifications beyond what follows, but those are for another day. For now, think of it as “atheist Stephen Hawking had a religion of sorts.” It’s the sort of thing “scientism” was coined for.

In an episode of “The Briefing,” yesterday Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary reflected on the death of the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. You can read a full transcript of the eight minute segment on Hawking using the link above.

Here is how the episode was summarized on Mohler’s Facebook page, which I think is broadly representative of what Dr. Mohler said on the show:

We believe that Stephen Hawking and all of his brilliance was simply evidence of the fact that he was a human being made in God’s image but a human being who died without God. That’s the great tragedy but that’s not what you’re likely to read in the obituaries.

Instead what you’re going to see is a secular world trying to find a secular reason to celebrate a secular thinker and to say something significant about the meaning of his life. At the end of the day, the secular worldview can provide no argument for why the life of Stephen Hawking was ever significant nor your life nor my life. Only the biblical worldview can answer that question and it does profoundly answer that question.

The thing that struck me when a friend showed the post to me is this: If you swapped “Oppenheimer” for “Hawking” and, on the Facebook post, changed the name and photo from Mohler to Francis Schaeffer you could show the entire post to someone, say that Schaeffer wrote it on the occasion of Oppenheimer’s death in 1967 and… it’d be believable.

I love Schaeffer so I don’t mean that purely as criticism of Dr. Mohler. If we must talk like an evangelical from the 1960s, Schaeffer is a very good one to choose. And yet when you read that take on Hawking’s death, the tedium of it still comes across.

Earlier this week I got coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. Like me, he grew up in an abusive fundamentalist church which left him with plenty of baggage to work through over a number of years. As we talked, the conversation turned to the work of Jordan Peterson and to a debate that my friend had seen in which Peterson and William Lane Craig, the renowned Christian apologist, argued over the possibility of meaning in human life. I said to my friend that several Christian friends of mine watched the debate and were far more impressed by Peterson than they were Craig. My friend nodded. “Peterson doesn’t care about winning,” he said. “Craig wanted to a win a debate. Peterson wanted to pursue truth.”

If there is a defining problem with a certain brand of reformed evangelicalism, it is that we care more about winning—winning debates, winning political campaigns, winning institutional battles—than we do about simply pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful.

(Jake Meador, The Tedium of Worldview Analysis at Mere Orthodoxy)

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It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.