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Friday, November 21, 2014

"A Point in Time" by David Horowitz. Book Review.

Reading David Horowitz's "A Point in Time: The Search for Redemption in this Life and the Next" is like taking an autumn stroll with a gray-haired elder encountered at a family reunion. You were expecting his usual social, political, and economic rants that sometimes alienated you, and sometimes frightened you. Sometimes you saw some shaft of insight in his words, an insight you defiantly resisted because his worldview was so different from your own. You see the world through rose-colored glasses of universal brotherhood and a brighter tomorrow. This guy insistently reminded you of failed utopias.

Before you set out on your stroll, though, he made sure to bring his three pooches along. The tenderness he showed the dogs gives you pause. You realized that as different as you are in age and worldview, you both love dogs.

As you step out into the gray light, suddenly crepuscular so early in the afternoon, the elder speaks. You're accustomed to clipped who-what-when-where-why-style headlines. Today the rhythm and care of poetry shimmers just under the surface of his prose.

He's talking about death. Well, yes, that would make sense; he is a septuagenarian. He has had a cancer scare and one of his children has pre-deceased him.  

You slow your steps and listen. His words seem, like the moldering leaves, fading light, and the migrating geese overhead, to be arising organically out of the autumnal scene. You'll be pondering what you hear today for a long time.

"A Point in Time" is a meditation on death and mortality, morality, religious faith, and the Utopian urge. Horowitz uses Marcus Aurelius' and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's works as touchstones.

Horowitz's parents had been members of the American Communist Party. Horowitz himself was close to the Black Panthers. In 1974 their bookkeeper, Betty Van Patter, was murdered. Horowitz was convinced that the Panthers were responsible. In 1985, Horowitz publicly broke with the left. My former comrades spoke of Horowitz as if he were the devil incarnate.

I went to heckle Horowitz ten years ago. He said something that silenced me, and that I pondered repeatedly: Camden, Newark, and Paterson have had Democratic leadership for decades. I grew up among people who vividly remember Newark and Paterson as thriving, even enviable cities. That they are now slums breaks many New Jerseyians hearts. Horowitz's comment was a significant paving stone in my own turn away from the left.

Even so I did not expect a book like "A Point in Time" from Horowitz. It is meditative, serene, and stoic. It is not a Christian book, but it treats Christianity and its impact with respect.

Horowitz talks about death using dogs, pet ownership, homes, and writing. Dogs live for about a decade, much shorter than the average human lifespan. We must watch our beloved four-footed friends age and die at a more rapid rate than our own. Homes are our carapace. We experience them almost as extensions of ourselves, renovating them with a sense that our lives might go on forever. Moving into, and then out of a home, also reminds us of mortality.

Horowitz's daughter Sarah was a writer who never married. She died relatively young, and having published relatively little. Horowitz contemplates her one bedroom apartment, and her writings, her most significant material legacy. Medical diagnoses, too, remind us of mortality. If we go on living long enough, eventually we will get cancer, or diabetes, or something. We will fight the illness as long as we can. We lose the fight in increments, as Horowitz has in the amount of walking he can do before fatigue reels him back home.

We turn to bookcases. Marcus Aurelius provides a stoic model; Dostoyevsky a Christian one. Horowitz's selection of quotes from Dostoyevsky convinces me that I need to read more of him, or at least about him. The quotes Horowitz selects are stunningly apropos to American college campuses today. Horowitz positions Dostoyevsky as the antidote to atheist nihilists and Utopians.

Horowitz considers faith, but acknowledges that he is an agnostic. He briefly describes a few unspeakable crimes from current headlines. With a few spare sentences, he describes the kind of sadism that occurs every day. How do we believe in God in a world in which not just children, but even dogs, are subject to cruel and meaningless tortures? If God is omnipotent, how do we avoid assigning responsibility to God for horrible events?

Rejection of God has been for many a sort of religion of its own. Horowitz's father did not believe in God, but he did have a myth and a telos. "When he read his morning paper it was not to gather tidings of events that actually affected him – prices rising, weather brewing, wars approaching – but to parse the script of a global drama that would one day bring history and its miseries to an end."

Similarly, Dostoyevsky's fellow conspirator Nikolay Speshnev said that his political hope "is also a religion only a different one. It makes a divinity out of a new and different object, but there is nothing new about the deification itself." The difference between Dostoyevsky and men like Speshnev is acted out on college campuses in America every day, and on the international stage. Dostoyevsky describes how radicals justify "wading through blood." One need only look to the former cradle of civilization to find examples.

The book's intimacy is typified by a lovely passage on page 22. Horowitz lays awake at night, "haunted by reflections of death." Kissing his wife, or petting "the small bodies curled like furry slippers at my feet" provides him with a reprieve from "this emptiness."

The book's cover by Bosch Fawstin depicts the scene at Dostoyevsky's mock execution by czarist police: three erect stakes. I cannot help but think of the anachronistic reference to Christ – "three pale figures led forth and bound to three posts driven upright in the ground" – in W.H. Auden's poem "Shield of Achilles." Horowitz's book, like Auden's poem, like Marcus Aurelius, recognizes that each generation must confront, struggle with, and then lose, "The mass and majesty of this world, all that carries weight and always weighs the same," whether we live under the House of Atreus, or the Pax Romana, or the reign of Obama.

Death gave us this David Horowitz. If mortality were not knocking on his door, I don't think he would have written this book; if it were not knocking on ours, however faint the sound, we could not resonate to it. Death "focuses the mind" and awakens the heart. The myth of, or perhaps the evidence for, immortality gives us the determination to apply death's lessons. 

Washington National Cathedral Hosts Muslim Jummah Prayer: It's About Tolerance, People!

The looks of hostility and contempt directed at a Christian woman in a Christian house of worship.
I wrote the essay, below, in response to the holding of Muslim Friday jummah prayer at the Washington National Cathedral on November 14, 2014.

Beliefnet posted it, but I don't think they read it first. I say that because the photos they use to accompany the essay don't mesh with the essay's content.

You can see it at Beliefnet here.

National Cathedral Hosts Muslim Prayer on Friday, November 14, 2014: It's About Tolerance, People!

On November 14, 2014, Washington DC's National Cathedral hosted Muslim Friday prayer for the first time. The National Cathedral is an Episcopalian church, site of the funerals of US presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford, and memorial services for Harry Truman and Richard Nixon. President George Bush spoke there after the 9-11 terror attacks. Moon rock is displayed in a stained glass window in the cathedral. The Cathedral has received federal funds.

The midday, "jummah" prayer, followed by a sermon, was attended by approximately one hundred invited guests only. Non-invitees were barred. Muslim leaders supplied prayer carpets, which were strategically located on the floor to avoid any view of a cross. Muslims may not pray within sight of crosses. Organizer Ebrahim Rasool said that the event would discourage "Islamophobia" and allow "a world in which all are free to believe."

Sponsors of the event include CAIR, ISNA, and the ADAMS Center.

Christine Weick, a fifty-year-old woman from Michigan, interrupted the Muslim service by entering the designated area and saying loudly, "Jesus Christ died on that cross. It is the reason we are to worship only him. Jesus Christ is our lord and savior. We have built enough of your mosques in this country. Why don't you worship in your mosques and leave our churches alone?" Weick was immediately and forcibly ejected from the cathedral by two men.

DCist, a news site devoted to Washington, DC, condemned Weick's intolerance. "Because love, respect and understanding is too much of a concept for some people to understand, a person interrupted the service. Of course," DCist reported, with disgust.

Other commentators echoed DCist. The National Cathedral hosting jummah prayer is a sign of "tolerance." Anyone objecting is "intolerant." After all, as many pointed out, the National Cathedral is meant to be just that – national. In its own words it is to be "a house of prayer for all people."

In fact, Muslim prayer at the National Cathedral is part of a growing trend in tolerance. Truly, those who first espoused the theory of universal human progress were correct. We are all evolving into a more peaceful, civilized breed of humanity. Other news items suggesting that we as a species are advancing towards perfection include the following.

Recently Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education voiced support for the discussion and teaching of Intelligent Design alongside Darwinian Evolution. This is a surprising turnaround. Back in 2005, Dr. Richard Sternberg, an editor of a scientific journal affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, accepted for publication a peer-reviewed article written by a proponent of Intelligent Design. Given that Sternberg himself is not a supporter of Intelligent Design, National Public Radio asked him why he allowed the article to be published in a journal he edited. He replied, "Because evolutionary biologists are thinking about this. So I thought that by putting this on the table, there could be some reasoned discourse. That's what I thought, and I was dead wrong."

Alas, Sternberg was subjected to harassment. His colleagues circulated career-destroying rumors about him. They took away his master key and denied him access to research materials. According to the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal employees from reprisals, Eugenie Scott's National Center for Science Education helped the Smithsonian to "outline a strategy to have [Sternberg] investigated and discredited." When questioned about her participation in this witch hunt, Eugenie Scott told NPR that "Life is not fair."

That Scott is now in favor of the discussion of Intelligent Design in high school and college classrooms, in faculty lounges and in the pages of scientific journals is a sign of increasing tolerance.

Yet another sign that we are entering a New Age of human perfection. Planned Parenthood has recently announced that it will allow pro-life campaigners into its offices. Those supporting Muslim prayer at the National Cathedral often argue, "Both Christians and Muslims pray to the same God." Well, both abortion opponents and supporters address the same demographic – pregnant women. Perhaps Planned Parenthood has decided that women really should have access to full information before they make one of the most important decisions of their lives. Perhaps women really should be able to see ultrasound images of the fetuses that they carry, and perhaps they should be fully informed about adoption and other options.

No, the progress doesn't stop there. In the past, organized Atheists made headlines by opposing the placement of the Ground Zero Cross at the World Trade Center Memorial. The cross was indisputably a central artifact of the 9-11 terror attacks. Firefighters, police officers, and other rescue workers congregated around the cross, attended mass under it, and carved significant messages into its surface. You can't tell the story of 9-11 without including the Ground Zero Cross. But that's exactly what organized Atheists demanded that America do. Atheists went to court again and again to demand that the Memorial simply erase the Ground Zero Cross, in the same way that Stalin erased Trotsky from photographs after Trotsky fell out of favor. But now, in a new move for tolerance, Atheists have announced that representatives Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher will travel to the 9-11 Memorial and lay flowers at the foot of the cross.

Tolerance is breaking out all over, it seems. In summer, 2014, Kathleen Hermsmeyer, Superintendent of Springs Charter School in California, became embroiled in controversy. A school employee told a parent to remove from school shelves "all books with a Christian message, authored by Christians, or published by a Christian publishing company." Expunged books included "The Hiding Place," the memoir of Corrie ten Boom, a woman who rescued Jews and was imprisoned in a concentration camp for doing so. Her father died after arrest and her sister died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Ten Boom is typical of rescuers who acted on Christian beliefs. Others include Maximilian Kolbe, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, and hundreds of Polish nuns. Theirs is an essential part of Holocaust history. Even so, the books telling their story needed to be removed from school shelves – until now. Suddenly it's okay to read "The Hiding Place" at Springs Charter School.

The most stunning evidence of the new tolerance sweeping the globe comes from a belt of nations stretching from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east. Suddenly nations that had previously tortured people for mere possession of a Bible are inviting open discussion of Christianity. Lands where Christians have not been allowed to hold Sunday services for over a millennium now host Catholic mass. Where marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman had been outlawed, suddenly, there are joyful open displays of affection.

The alert reader recognizes that, of the above listed accounts of tolerance, only one is a report of a true event. The only true event is that the National Cathedral did hold Muslim services on Friday, November 14. The other listed events are unthinkable. That they are unthinkable reveals that the word "tolerance" used in reference to jummah prayers at the National Cathedral is Orwellian doublespeak. Those calling for Christian tolerance desire neither Christians nor tolerance. Rather, they want Christianity to commit a physician's assisted suicide administered by Political Correctness. Islam, to them, is a useful tool to achieve this end. Archimedes famously said, "Give me where to stand and I will move the earth." He could move it, he insisted, with the right lever. Islam is the lever that Christophobes would use to eliminate Christianity. One might scoff, until one remembers that Syria, Turkey, and Egypt were once central to the Christian world.

Of the world's dominant religious systems: Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Islam, Islam is unique in its relationship to Christianity. Mohammed died six hundred years after Jesus. Mohammed appropriated garbled, popular elements of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity into his new book – the Koran – and his new system – Islam. Mohammed altered these elements to suit his own needs. These alteration might change; once Muslims worshipped facing Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews and Christians. Later they faced Mecca, a Pagan holy site. Moses and Mary are both characters in the Koran, but highly distorted ones. Moses, who lived over a thousand years before Mary, becomes Mary's brother. Islam's distorted picture of Jesus is of great consequence. Christianity insists that Jesus is the son of God, and that he died on a cross. Islam insists that "Isa ibn Maryam" – that is, son of Mary, a mere woman – is not the son of God, and that he did not die on a cross. In fact, Isa ibn Maryam will someday return to destroy all crosses, kill all pigs, and wipe out Christianity. The Christian Bible contains material that contradicts Mohammed's teachings. For this reason, Islam must denigrate the Christian Bible as "corrupt." In their daily prayers, Muslims repeatedly petition God not to be like "those who have gone astray," i.e., Christians.

Those arguing for Muslim prayer in the National Cathedral argue for nothing less than the eclipse of Christianity and its replacement in the minds, hearts and souls of its adherents with something entirely other. Given that Christianity is one of the foundations of Western Civilization, this matter is of concern to all.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The National Cathedral: A Poor Pilgrim Encounters Episcopalian Snobs

The Darth Vader Gargoyle at the National Cathedral. Source: Wikipedia 
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Above: Exterior. Below: Interior. Source 
Ten years ago I made a retreat to Holy Cross Monastery in Berryville, Virginia.

I took a bus to Washington, DC, and hitchhiked to Berryville.

After my retreat ended, I visited two sights in Washington, DC: the National Cathedral, an Episcopalian church, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic church.

The National Cathedral is much in the news lately for having hosted Muslim Friday jummah prayer on November 14, 2014.

Below is my diary account of my experience at the National Cathedral, and my subsequent visit to the Basilica.

The Simon I mention is my friend Simon Stern.

Fair warning: This is raw text from my diary and there is lots of swearing. I didn't edit this account.


I walked from Simon's to the National Cathedral. Though Simon's neighborhood is ritzy, the neighborhoods I walked through showed even more wealth. It was a neighborhood of embassies and expansive, wealthy looking homes. I thought, Shit, this isn't the neighborhood that deserves a gothic cathedral; these rich bastards' homes and lawns are paradise enough. Shouldn't a gothic cathedral be placed in a slum, where people need beauty?

Yeah, but, I realized, people need beauty cause they destroy the beauty God gives them. Paterson, NJ, is a little piece of minor hell exactly because of the behaviors of the Patersonians. It's not like we are placed on a geologic geyser that spews garbage and meanness; Paterson's citizens spew that up themselves.

Yeah, but, Sacred Heart cathedral is in Newark. I remember Daddy taking me there; God bless him. I loved it.

There is an expensive housing development across from the National Cathedral, and it advertises itself as offering views of the cathedral. And that does irk. They should have low cost housing there for the deserving poor. But don't get me started on how we need to resurrect the concept of the deserving poor. But we should.

The National Cathedral is all that. It is a replica of a gothic cathedral. That it is primarily Episcopal is beyond ironic; I wonder if it is ever mentioned in any of its official literature that Henry VIII, in founding that church, encouraged desecration and destruction of gothic cathedrals? Or at least that's what I've heard; heard it in English class, where I was told that there may have been other Beowulfs; Henry's reformation ransacked Catholic monastery libraries. I don't know the facts here. In any case! Ironic, ironic.

Yeah, the National Cathedral is just perfect. Like a fucking gingerbread house is perfect.


I mean, Chartres cathedral. I couldn't bring myself to leave Chartres cathedral. Part of me is still there. What is Chartres doing that the National Cathedral is not? Geomancers claim that Chartres is on a key ley line. I don't buy that, but I thought about it at the National Cathedral. Chartres sucked me in; the National Cathedral left me cold.

Encounters: a well-dressed, WASPy looking woman with a snide voice, in the ladies room, told me that my backpack strap was hitching my dress up. (Again, the damn backpack.) That was true, but I was still washing my hands; I'd be fixing my hem in a moment. She was too quick to correct.

Again, a well-dressed, WASPy looking woman chased me into the sanctuary, and ordered me not to "wander around." I was behaving entirely quietly and reverently; I was still moving as if on retreat. She had zero reason to behave so meanly. "Are you a guide? Do you work here?" I asked, quietly.

"No, but you should not be wandering around this church."

I was wearing a denim dress I bought in a secondhand store, and carrying a backpack. This woman was wearing white pantyhose. She turned and began to stalk, huffily, away.

"Shame on you," I whispered, but loudly, I hope, enough for her to hear.

As the time passed, began to panic. Knew I had to find a computer to buy my Greyhound ticket home. Simon didn't have computer access at his apartment. I began to ask people in official garb if they knew of a nearby public library with internet access.

At one point, I asked a priest. He looked like he had stepped out of a Masterpiece Theater production: he was tall, very white, slim; his priestly garb was spiffy and fresh; he was handsome; though on in years – he was maybe in his fifties or sixties? – he looked entirely unscarred by life. I asked if he knew about nearby libraries. He said no, he was not local; he was about to drive home to New York. I thought, golly, has God just sent me a ride home? "Do you need a passenger?" I asked, eagerly.

He looked me up and down and laughed at me, out loud, and moved away.

Esprit d'escalier; wish I had said, "Excuse me for mistaking you for a Christian."

That was just my feel of the place. Chilly, ice box people in pantyhose and designer dresses and unscarred skins. The majority of stained glass windows or stone carvings I paid any attention to bragged of the accomplishments, and, often, the generosity, of this or that benefactor. I found nothing spiritual or inspiring in these artifacts, no matter their technical qualities as art.

The space window, containing a piece of moon rock, was lovely. Blue and black images are outlined in red; with the sun coming through, the red outline was vivid and beautiful.

Outside, I scanned the gargoyles to find the Darth Vader gargoyle. A docent walked by; I asked her for help. She had a French accent, and said you needed binoculars to really see him. I said, "J'ai mes jumelles avec moi," and she said, "You speak better French than I do." I get those compliments from the French, and I like it.

There were shadberries growing on the property; I ate some; they were good. Haven't had shadberries since Bloomington. I saw a black squirrel. I didn't even know that there were such things. An internet site claims that they are variants of gray squirrels.

Walked toward the Georgetown Library, keeping my fingers crossed. Did find a public computer; did buy a Greyhound ticket. A beautiful young African American reference librarian gave me great directions to a metro stop from which I could get a train to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Her directions were really good, in that they were accurate, and when I said I'd as soon walk a bit to get to a good public transportation stop, she directed me to that exactly. Most people are incapable of doing that. They can't conceive of walking to get to a better public transport stop, one that will take you directly where you want to go without changing buses or trains.

I emerged from the subway and came across a scruffy, skinny young man in cut off jeans and oversize shoes. He was headed into the subway. Asked him where the basilica was. He spat something dark (chaw?) He then turned around and escorted me to the basilica. Then he turned around and went back to the subway.

The basilica is very kitschy. It was done in the early 1960's and it screams that era. In fact, I was flashing back to visiting the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing with Daddy and some of my siblings; forget which. (I remember we phoned someone at home through a special phone.)

The gigantic mosaic Jesus on the ceiling at the end of the main aisle has blond hair.

Kitsch. A blond haired Jesus. Bad, no?

And yet I felt a profound spirituality here that I did not feel at the National Cathedral. I spent as long in this church as at the other, and not once did anyone make a crack about my poor clothes, or my backpack. I wasn't the poorest looking person there. The neighborhood is godawful. You ride through slums to get there, not through expansive ambassadorial mansions.

The center aisle is lined by chapels devoted to Mary as she is revered in various countries. These aren't rich countries and the people who revere her are pathetic. There is Our Lady of Częstochowa, Our Lady of Sorrows from Slovakia, Our Lady of Siluva from Lithuania, Guadalupe from Mexico, Our Lady of Antipolo from the Philippines, Our Lady of China. Yes, Jesus is blond in this church, but there are at least two black Marys – Częstochowa and Antipolo, and one Indian Mary – Guadalupe, and Our Lady of China has Chinese features and wears a Chinese costume.

And there were Filipinos praying there, and Black people…nothing like the hoards of undifferentiated WASPs at the National Cathedral. I like that about Catholicism. And I like it that you can always hear babies crying in Catholic churches. We don't have special soundproof rooms we put them in.

I wanted to stay longer, much longer, but I had bought a Greyhound ticket for six, so I did something atypical for me – bought the souvenir booklet – and left. Ran into the skinny kid with the chaw; he was coming out of the subway as I was going in. I smiled and waved; so did he.

Last minute panic – I had miscalculated space and time (nothing new) and had to run to get to the bus station. Walked beside a Jamaican man in a red fur cap (in DC? In summer? One must suffer to be beautiful.) He was skinny and young so he kept me at a quick pace. Got to the station just in time. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

National Cathedral Hosts Muslim Prayer Friday, November 14, 2014

The National Cathedral will host Muslim Friday prayers for the first time on Friday, November 14, 2014. The event is being called "unprecedented."

The National Cathedral is an Episcopalian Church that often hosts events like presidential funerals. The National Cathedral does receive federal funds.

The National Cathedral and organizer Ebrahim Rasool are selling the prayer service as a gesture against "Islamophobia."

In fact Muslim prayer in the National Cathedral has nothing to do with any fight against Islamophobia or for freedom of religion.

Muslim prayer in the National Cathedral is a flagrant provocation that has already increased hostility against Muslims, including the majority of innocent Muslims who had nothing to do with this abomination.

Muslim prayer in the National Cathedral obscures the raison d'etre of a Christian Church, and replaces that very reason for its existence with the Politically Correct dogma that Christianity must obscure its message and debase its mission to display fealty to Islam.

Christian houses of worship exist in order to spread the most vital message humanity has ever received: you – no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter how beautiful, ugly, intelligent, powerful or weak, loved or alone – you are so beloved of the greatest single force in the universe that that force, that God, that Word, took on human form, suffered and died for you. For YOU. If you were the only person who had ever existed, God – the same God who created the stars and planets, the hummingbirds and the crickets, the waterfalls, gravity and time itself – would have lived and died for you. Your life – no matter how painful, how dark, how muddled, how blessed, how fleeting– your life has ultimate meaning and purpose.

Humanity needs that message. That message is what Christian churches exist to share.

Inviting clergy of any other faith to perform services in a Christian house of worship erases that message and puts another in its place. The teaching honored by the Muslim Friday prayer at the National Cathedral is not Christianity at all, nor is it Islam. Rather, it is Political Correctness.

Of all the world's faiths, Islam is exceptional in its relationship to Christianity.

Judaism is believed to be between three and four thousand years old. Christianity is two thousand years old. Mohammed died in the seventh century, six hundred years after Christ died, and over a thousand years after King David reigned. There were Jews, Christians, and Pagans in Arabia when Mohammed lived, and garbled variations of all three traditions were incorporated into the Koran.

Mohammed co-opted elements of Paganism. Mecca and its Kaaba were Pagan holy places; they are now the center of Muslim worship. Arab Pagans worshipped the moon and Islam adopted the crescent moon as its symbol. Pagans prayed, facing Mecca, five times a day, as do Muslims today. Pagan Arabs fasted, performed ritual circumambulation of mythological sites and ritual ablutions adopted by Muslims.

Mohammed and his followers who composed and compiled the Koran were not Jews themselves. They did not speak any Jewish language like Hebrew or Aramaic. They did not study or understand Jewish or Christian scripture. They merely appropriated word-of-mouth retellings of Jewish and Christian folktales, the kind of popular summaries one might hear in a market or in a long caravan, and included them in the Koran.

In the Koran, Moses, the man who liberated Jewish slaves in Egypt, is the brother of Jesus' mother Mary, who lived over a thousand years after Moses. In the Koran, Jesus brings clay birds to life. This was a non-Biblical folktale circulating in the Middle East. In the Koran, Jews worship Ezra, which they have never done. In the Koran, the trinity is God the Father, Jesus, and Mary, which of course is a bungle of the real trinity.

The Koran's error-ridden co-option and distortion of Jewish and Christian scripture is not always so innocent.

The Koran states that Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs; Muslim religious leaders regularly preach today that Jews are sons of apes and pigs. The Koran quotes its version of Jesus, "Isa ibn Maryam," as saying that he is not God's son. The Koranic Isa is given the title "ibn Maryam," son of Mary, as a way of emphasizing that he was the son of a lowly woman, not God.

Isa never died on a cross. God supplied a substitute who died in Isa's place. In the hadith, Isa returns to destroy all crosses, kill all pigs, and abolish Christianity.

"Allahu Akbar" does not mean "God is great." Rather, it means "Allah (the God Muslims worship) is greatest" – that is, superior to the Gods worshipped by non-Muslims. Mohammed was the first to use "Allahu Akbar" as a battle cry. These words are intimately connected with murder, looting, and dominance of non-Muslims.

Muslims pray five times a day. When doing so, they repeat phrases asking Allah not to make them like those who anger God and those who go astray, that is, Christians and Jews.

Muslims are ordered in the Koran not to take Christians or Jews as friends.

Islam, alone among world faiths, fashioned itself in direct competition with Christianity, and demands that it be treated as Christianity's superior. In fact, Muslims cannot pray within sight of Christian symbols like crosses, and the Muslims who pray in the National Cathedral today have been given a carefully chosen spot from which no cross is visible.

Many Muslims today claim that Christians and Jews consciously corrupted the text of the Bible. Ibn Hazm, a medieval Muslim theologian who lived in what is today Spain, made the "Bible is corrupt" argument. The Koran tells Muslims to respect the Bible. The Bible contradicts the Koran. Ibn Hazm reconciled these contradictory facts by arguing that Jews and Christians altered the texts of the original Bible. Ibn Hazm's reasoning runs as follows, "Since the Qur'an must be true, it must be the conflicting Gospel texts that are false. But Muhammad tells us to respect the Gospel. Therefore, the present text must have been falsified by the Christians."

Differences between Islam and Christianity aren't just about words on a page. These differences aren't just about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The differences between Islam and Christianity can be counted in dead bodies, looted churches, trails of refugees, centuries of warfare, and shattered lives. That was true in the seventh century, and that is true today.

Jesus ordered his followers to walk through the world humbly, healing the sick, and telling the good news to all men. Thus Christianity spread for three hundred years, even as it was outlawed by the Roman Empire. Thus Christianity spreads today, even in prison nations like North Korea. Jesus said,

"Heal the sick, raise the dead…Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; no wallet for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff … And into whatsoever city or village ye shall enter, search out who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go forth. And as ye enter into the house, salute it…And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet…Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Mohammed had a totally different program.  "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah."

Mohammed fought and his followers fought. Mohammed expelled all Christians and Jews from the Arabian Peninsula; to this day, Christians and Jews cannot live or worship in Arabia. Islam spread by the sword, not the word. That spread continues today, under ISIS in Iraq, where Christians and other non-Muslims like Yazidis have no right to life or property.

No other world religion contains, in its foundational scriptures, direct, specific attacks on and condemnation of Christianity. No other world religion was founded by a man who made war on Christians. No other world religion is currently making war on Christians.

Christians face theft, imprisonment, sex slavery, persecution, restriction, and death in Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Those persecuting Christians follow and cite Muslim scripture and history.

Given the reality of Islam's treatment of Christians, The National Cathedral's choice to host Muslim prayer has aroused agony and outrage among Americans. This agony and outrage is obvious in internet posts. There is even, sadly, hatred of Muslims expressed in these posts. This hatred directly contradicts Christian teachings.

Christians must continue to obey the command of the man who died on a cross for us: love one another, as I have loved you. We must love our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Christian love is nothing like the simulacrum of the Politically Correct. Christian love must be based in truth. It is Political Correctness, but not love, to close our eyes to the horrors that Islam imposes on its adherents: clitoredectomy, dancing boys, imprisoned and illiterate women, stoning, flogging, amputation, dictatorial governments, the bombing of schools and the murder of students, imposed backwardness, suicide bombings that are little more than child sacrifice, and constant warfare in the name of Allah.

It is Political Correctness, but not love, to claim that we in the West, inheritors of the Judeo-Christian tradition, must denigrate our heritage of science, democracy, self-criticism, and human rights in order not to cause Muslims to feel bad. It is love, real Christian love, to love our Muslim brothers and sisters, while at the same time speaking the truth to them. And the truth is that Muslim prayer has no place in a Christian church.

To our Muslim brothers and sisters, we must extend welcome: welcome into our lives and into our homes and into our hearts. Welcome into our workplaces and welcome into our nation. This welcome is warm and it is inclusive. Our warm welcome includes this: welcome into the truth we speak. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Jian Ghomeshi, Sexual Harassment, Sadomasochism, and the Progressive Left

Jian Ghomeshi. Source: Youtube video. 
He was charming, powerful, and beloved. The progressive, leftist, cultural-political-arts scene worshipped him. He was a male feminist. He opposed the patriarchy. He was exotic and multicultural. He achieved sexual satisfaction by forcing a young, vulnerable woman to kneel before him and by beating her about the head till she could no longer see straight. He also liked choking and violent penetration. At least once, he grabbed his male employee's genitals by force and fondled them against his employee's wishes. When the employee complained, he accused the employee of being "homophobic."

He sang, "All my fans make me sick / all my fans are thick / I'd like to beat them with a fucking stick. This is my shtick." He said that snubbing unworthy fans is comparable to stepping on insects.

And he's from … Canada. Nice, boring, Canada.

His name is Jian Ghomeshi. No, I'd never heard of him, either.

I was listening to NPR on October 30, 2014, and Audie Cornish said "This next story may be upsetting to some listeners."

Jian Ghomeshi, until October, 2014, was the 47-year-old host of the CBC, or publicly funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's talk show "Q." (Yes, it is a pretentious name.) His program was famous for interviewing pop culture, left-leaning darlings like Julian Assange, Lena Dunham, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Maya Angelou, Billy Bob Thornton, Leonard Cohen, and Margaret Atwood.

In Slate Magazine, Carl Wilson says that he and everyone else in the progressive, leftist, feminist, pacifist, multicultural, artsy-fartsy Toronto "scene" knew about Jian Ghomeshi's taste for beating up young, thin, beautiful, vulnerable girls, but never did anything about it. Wilson's article is entitled, "I Knew about Jian Ghomeshi…Are We Complicit in His Alleged Abuse?" The answer is, of course, yes, you are complicit.

In the Macleans article "How He Got Away With It," Anne Kingston says "Jian Ghomeshi's behavior was an open secret going back to his university days. Not that anyone took action. The CBC made him a star."

I am following the Ghomeshi story for several reasons.

I was harassed by a college professor for whom I worked when I was a graduate student at Indiana University. I was asked to testify against this professor and I did. My testimony lasted the entire semester after the harassment took place. I testified to a series of campus higher-ups including Patrick O'Meara and Deborah Anne Freund. The experience was a nightmare and I hated every second of it.

Why did I testify?

When I first told a dean what the professor I worked for was doing to me, the dean said to me that this professor had been harming people for years, and that no one would do anything to stop her, because she was a woman and she was African American. People were afraid to speak up because they didn't want to be accused of being racist or sexist.

I, as a graduate student with "nothing to lose" was well-positioned to stop the reign of terror caused by this "sociopathic" professor.

I testified because I felt it was my duty. I wanted to protect others from being hurt.

Apparently that person was missing in Jian Ghomeshi's career of choking, punching, and molesting.

Yes, you are complicit. Yes, the women he harmed should have come forward sooner, and come forward by name. Yes, when a powerless person testifies against a powerful one, it is a nightmare. I know. I lived it.

Ghomeshi's executive producer, Arif Noorani, is accused of enabling Ghomeshi's abuse. According to The Toronto Sun, "One woman who worked with Ghomeshi at the CBC says he groped her, and told her he’d like to 'hate fuck' her…when she complained to Arif Noorani, the CBC executive in charge of Ghomeshi’s show, 'Arif's comment to me was, "He's never going to change, you're a malleable person, let's talk about how you can make this a less toxic work environment for you.'"

Ghomeshi is the son of Iranian immigrants, and online accounts say he has publicly identified as Muslim. No, no one is saying that only Muslims harass. We know about Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.

Rather, I wonder this: did Ghomeshi's and Noorani's status as Muslims serve as some protection in his leftist, progressive "scene"? In the same way that the professor who harassed me was protected because people were afraid to blow the whistle on her for fear of being labeled racist and sexist, did progressive Canadians grant Ghomeshi a free pass because they were afraid of being labeled xenophobic or Islamophobic?

Ghomeshi's fans did celebrate his status as an exotic. A June 16, 2008 blog post by Lawrence Hunt hails Ghomeshi as an "enlightened and literate pacifist … in fact an unassuming Iranian Muslim."

I'm following this story because I wonder if my former comrades on the left will ever get it. Leftist identifiers shout from everything I read about Ghomeshi. His condemnation of "patriarchy." The guest list for his talk show. His vocabulary.

After the October 22 jihad shooting at the Canadian Parliament, Ghomeshi went on air to comfort his adopted homeland.

On October 23, he read an essay. Anne Kingston, in MacLean's, wrote that Ghomeshi said,

"'This is not what we do, who we are,' he said. He referenced Canada as CBC listeners want to believe it – an open, progressive, inclusive 'land of peace and order.' He warned of political finger-pointing: 'We believe too strongly in this country, this culture, this collective.' He addressed Ottawa: 'A nation is grateful. A nation is thinking of you. I’m Jian Ghomeshi. This is Q.'"

Collective? Collective??? COLLECTIVE?

The word that was meant to reassure and comfort Canadians in the wake of a jihad shooting was "collective"? Not "security" not "investigation" not "protect our culture" but rather "collective"? The kind of word that Stalin would love?

See, I used to be a leftist. I used to be part of the "scene" in towns like Berkeley. And nothing about the hypocritical rift between Ghomeshi's progressive talk and his misogynist, brutal actions surprises me. This is how the left works. Misogyny is as much a part of the leftist scene as hand-painted protest signs.

This is the progressive left that is saving the world, ya know? Liberating women. Sharing the wealth. Bringing on world peace with every bumper sticker, every streetside "take one leave one" free box, every friendly potluck cum orgy. Every time the vocabulary words "patriarchy" or "rape culture" or "humanist" is used, the world becomes a better place.

Will leftists get it that they produce and protect abusive monsters no less than we Catholics did, in the case of the priestly sexual abuse crisis?

I am fascinated by this story for another reason.

Why is Jian Ghomeshi famous? Canadians apparently loved him. I see a short, flabby, fat-faced, double-chinned, long-nosed, unkempt, no-talent with a slight edge of smarm about him.

Bill Clinton. I totally get Bill Clinton. I think he was a peerless political animal. Brilliant, seductive, charming. I wasn't seduced by him – I never believed his press. But I could see why others were seduced by him. I do think Clinton had a political mind like a steel trap. I completely understand how Bill Clinton could be a complete jerk when it comes to women, but a political success nonetheless.

I really don't get how Ghomeshi was able to be a psycho serial abuser and also become so successful.

I also really don't understand how people lead double lives. I'm constitutionally honest. It's just my nature. As hard as I try, I can't get into the skin of someone who mouths "patriarchy feminism peace and love" in public and in private orgasms by beating women in the head.

Finally, I'm fascinated by this story because of the mainstream acceptance of eroticized brutalization of women. See "Fifty Shades of Grey." I think there is such a thing as doing sex wrong. Yes, that's a very judgmental thing to say. Yes, I think if you get an orgasm by forcing a woman to kneel in front of you and beating her head, you are missing the best of what sex has to offer, and, yes, there is something wrong with you. And we live in a world where one is not allowed to say that because it's "judgmental." And being judgmental is the worst thing you can be. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kaci Hickox: Humanitarian Saint? Swaggering Do-Gooder? Menace to Society?

True story.

Years ago I was driving home from working the night shift. It was midnight. I came to a four-way traffic light. The light was red.

I grew up in a small town. I knew this road like the back of my hand and I knew it was completely deserted. I knew there was no one to my left; it was a road leading to a mine and the mine was shut down for the night. I knew there was no one to my right; I had a clear line of vision and there was no one for the next mile at least. There was no one in the road along the large pond in front of me.

It was summer. I could hear nothing but crickets out the open window.

I could just drive right through this red light and get home to bed that much quicker and no one would ever know.

I considered.

I was going to college full-time, studying to be a teacher. I was working the three-to-eleven shift as a nurse's aide to fund college.

I was responsible for ten patients a night. My patients included stroke victims who suffered from aphasia, a quadriplegic in his early twenties whose fate broke my heart, a schizophrenic convinced that her TV was communicating nefarious commands. I fed, bathed, exercised, and diapered ten patients a night. I ministered to fist-deep bed sores that exposed raw muscle and bled vile-smelling pus. I sponged up vomit and had human feces up to my elbows. We didn't even use gloves in those days.

I earned minimum wage and drove a ten-year-old Plymouth Duster that broke down every time it rained. No mechanic was ever able to fix this handicap. The Automobile Club rejected my membership.

I was doing good things for society! I earned the right to go through that red light! I could see that there was no traffic!

I floored it.

The first part of the above story is true. I did work as a nurse's aide, I did work the night shift, I did drive a Plymouth Duster, and I did come to that very four-way traffic light around midnight.

The rest of the story is not true. I did not sit there thinking about what a special person I was, what a gift to society.

I did run that red light once. I didn't do it on purpose. I did it because I was exhausted. A police officer stopped me. I was so flustered and teary that he let me off with just a warning, because he was too nice a guy to give a teary teenage girl the ticket she deserved.

I have known people who were convinced that they were so much better than everyone else that they were above the rules.

John was my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal. At a conference, our country director asked us to sit in a circle and report on our progress. John said that he was helping his family with their "profitable agricultural endeavors." Everyone smirked. John was growing marijuana, smuggling and selling it.

Bill was my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. After he left his post to return to the US, his village headman said, "Bill a ete mechant" – I remember that word exactly, "mechant." Villain. Bill left his bastard, half-white children in the village to grow up without their American father, who had impregnated their African mothers and then flown home, never to return.

Peace Corps Volunteers, far from being scandalized by this, joked about it. They told this joke: "The village headman confronted Bill with his bastard children. Bill looked at a passing herd of goats. Some of the goats were speckled black and white. Bill said to the village headman, 'If you don't tell on me, I won't tell on you.'"

The punchline of the joke depends on one understanding the African village headman as impregnating goats.

Greg was a Peace Corps Volunteer whose job it was to instruct African health workers in modern medicine. They saw him resuscitate someone and concluded that he had semi-divine powers. Greg liked that, and he never corrected the Africans he was assigned to educate. He just swaggered through his term of service letting it be known that he was semi-divine.

Jeff was held up to us by our superiors as being the near perfect Peace Corps Volunteer. I remember him as always having a huge, shared stash of every imaginable drug and a similar stash of women of various ethnicities and availabilities. He was a moving party / orgy.

There are people who do real service and do it humbly.

There are also people who exploit their status as humanitarians to lord it over lesser mortals.

I think that these people teach us something about how some people assess service work. In this interpretation of service, you assume the mantle of helper because it elevates you. The folks who see service work this way sometimes do do very good work. Jeff, whom I mentioned, above, did bring specially designed outhouses to his village. That's a good thing. Before Jeff, the village had had no outhouses. Villagers lived in a very unsanitary environment where dysentery killed many whenever the monsoon flooded old waste into water supplies.

The status of outhouse-bringer lifted Jeff above ordinary criticism. That he was a drug addict and whoremonger was a mere footnote. The good he did canceled out his failings.

Shelby Steele talks about this in "White Guilt." Some whites chose to be part of black liberation because being part of black liberation elevated their status.

I don't know Kaci Hickox, but I do see her behavior.

She insists that she can break rules that lesser mortals must follow. She insists that she can break those rules because her thought processes are superior to ours. She is guided by SCIENCE she insists, while the rest of us act on FEAR and IGNORANCE and POLITICS. I'm using all caps in an attempt to mirror, on the page, her stridency.

Her arrogance is a horrific public example. Would you want everyone in America to make similar decisions? "I am smarter and better; others are stupider and worse; therefore, I need not follow the rules that the little people must follow."

Maybe Hickox is correct. If she is, there are avenues she can follow to change rules. She could approach leaders respectfully. She has fame on her side. Even from quarantine, she could have been interviewed by CNN. That's not what she chose to do.

But Hickox is not correct. It's not just that Hickox refuses to follow rules the rest of us must follow. It's that she is also wrong. The quarantine is reasonable. Hickox says that only symptomatic people need quarantine themselves. In fact people can be symptomatic and make bad decisions, as did the nurse Amber Vinson, who developed a fever and then got on a plane. In fact hospital staff can make bad decisions about symptomatic people, as happened with Thomas Eric Duncan. He reported a fever and travel in Africa and was sent home. In fact people can rapidly become symptomatic after appearing to be asymptomatic. Craig Spencer, the doctor who went bowling and used the subway, became symptomatic shortly after his public peregrinations. There is no guarantee that Ebola sufferers can quarantine themselves rapidly after becoming symptomatic. If Spencer had started vomiting on the subway, which easily could have happened, more lives would have been at risk. In fact people can take antipyretics and disguise symptoms. In other words, yes, there are good reasons for the quarantine. And, no, Kaci Hickox, you are not the arbiter of what constitutes science. Or, as you would say it, SCIENCE. And, no, we are not all ignorant peasants over whom you can reign.

And, no, Kaci Hickox, your service does not make you better than I or anyone else.

I served in Africa, too. I served about two hundred miles from the Ebola River. I almost died twice when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I've had some health problems since directly related to my Peace Corps service.

And I never, ever, felt that my service, my near fatal experiences, or my continued health challenges made me better than anyone.

It isn't your service that makes you different from me, Kaci Hickox. It is, rather, your arrogance, and your eagerness to exploit your contact with Africans to make you better than Americans.
This essay appears at the American Thinker

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Interview in FrontPage Magazine

From Clipartpanda
Mark Tapson recently interviewed me for FrontPage Magazine. FrontPage posted an edited version of our interview. The full transcript, without edits, is below.

Mark Tapson: Professor Goska, you wrote that you decided to leave the left when you decided that, instead of hating, you "wanted to spend time with people building, cultivating, and establishing, something that they loved." Can you elaborate on that?

Danusha Goska: At the risk of appearing petty I want to answer this big, philosophical question with a personal account about a drink of cold water and … well … vomit. It is through the concrete, intimate details of our day-to-day real lives that we best understand abstract truths.

When I was a grad student, I was stricken with a crippling illness, a vestibular disorder, for which there is little proven treatment. I spent whole days functionally paralyzed and unable to stop vomiting.

My social world then was utterly left-wing: former Peace Corps volunteers, university students and professors, artists and writers.

A subset of my left-wing friends repeatedly hammered into me how much they hated America on my behalf. "Oh, I hate America because we don't have socialized medicine. Oh, I hate America because there's so much capitalist pollution and that's probably why you are sick."

I can't tell you how freakishly weird these interactions were. I used to want to shout at people: "Why do you think that telling me how much you hate America is helping me? It's not helping me. Please do something positive. I have an illness that makes me vomit and paralyzes me and I can't go to the grocery store. I could use some seltzer water. Am I asking too much?"

And they could not do that small thing – bring a friend who can't stop puking some seltzer water. But they could rage against the Catholic Church for – what – not selling Vatican artwork and funding my surgery.

I am still friends with some of these folks. They are still banging the same drum: how imperialistic America is. How hypocritical Christianity is. How life-destroying capitalism is. They never talk about doing anything positive for anyone because I don't think they ever do. Their entire political and ethical stance consists of loudly denigrating capitalism, Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition. Islamic gender apartheid, systematic abortion of female fetuses in China, India's caste system that reduces over a hundred million human beings to the status of pariah dogs: none of these ever receive a peep of criticism.

I'm not saying that no left-wingers helped me; many did. I'm saying that you don't know whom you can rely on in a foxhole. The people who were helpful to me included some right-wingers who talked hard-ass talk about self-reliance and not wanting to fund bloated and corrupt government programs. The people who abandoned me included many left-wingers who displayed publicly bleeding hearts and broadcast lots of mushy rhetoric about helping the poor and unfortunate.

It is my unscientific impression that devout Christians and Jews, including secular Jews, are the people most likely to be consciously and regularly doing something concrete, however small, to make the world a better place.

I stumbled across a Facebook meme about a 99-year-old Iowa seamstress who creates one dress every day for children in Africa. I immediately thought, "She's got to be a Christian." I googled the story and discovered that she sews for a Christian charity.

"If not me, who? If not now, when?" are words that many of my Jewish acquaintances live by, whether they know Rabbi Hillel or not. This includes secular Jews, who, in my own unscientific, subjective experience, are disproportionately represented among those who do concrete things, however small, to make the world a better place.

On October 6, 2014, the Washington Post, citing a report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, pointed out that relatively high charitable giving is correlated with a relatively large population of churchgoers. Jews also donate more than comparable, non-Jewish demographics.

MT: What has been the reaction among your university colleagues to your conservative conversion and your support of Israel? Has there been any reaction from your students?

DG: I'm unemployable. I work as an adjunct, which means part time, no security, no benefits, and low pay.

MT: You mentioned to me that, as a teacher, you see what your former comrades on the left have done to young minds. What have they done?

DG: Before class begins, I try to warm up the class, and my own voice, by chatting with students in a casual way. Usually I'll talk about the latest film or celebrity gossip.

Two years ago, during one of these sessions, one of my students said, "I wish we had been taught to feel proud of something. To feel part of something. To love our country and to feel that we were part of some big thing, like they did back during World War Two. I guess that kind of patriotism, of being part of something, is just not popular anymore."

Mind: I did not steer the conversation this way at all. This yearning was voiced, spontaneously, by my student. And there's more: this student is a Muslim. This young, Muslim American student was hungering to be encouraged to esteem her own country, and American teachers denied her that.

Students are taught about America's failures. That's a good thing. I'm glad I teach my students about Jim Crow. Context is everything. Two months after graduating from college, my first job was teaching in a remote village in Africa. I discovered that Arabs have an ongoing slave trade in Africa. This one fact rocked my world. I had been lead to believe that the Atlantic Slave Trade was the alpha and omega of slavery, and that if only we could wrest control from these inherently oppressive white males we'd be one step closer to Utopia.

"Where there is no vision the people perish." There is a hole in young people that can be filled only by transcendent ideals. Those ideals should be formed in response to neutral facts, not ideological indoctrination. Vulnerable young minds should be cherished, not exploited as recruits.

I am a teacher, not a minister or counselor. I don't try to sell students on any one point of view. I do try to introduce them to the tools and methods of inquiry: peer review scholarship, the formation of research questions, the testing of hypotheses, investigating alternative points of view.

There are too many professors who don't do that. There are too many professors who use the power they have – the power of grades, yes, but also the power of funding, humiliation, intimidation, flattery and inclusion into the in-crowd – to pressure students to adopt a given point of view as the route to success. That point of view is all too often a nihilistic, scorched earth cynicism that, as mentioned above, tears down but builds nothing to replace the targets of its destruction, and that encourages academic elites to assume an unearned status as above the common man.

MT: Elsewhere you've written that we must overcome the stultifying effects of political correctness, and that "free speech is the best friend Muslims have." Can you describe what you mean by that?

DG: First, thank you for asking me this. This matter is very urgent and close to my heart. I grew up, and currently live, in Passaic County, New Jersey, which is said to have the second largest Muslim population in the US. (I don't know if this is true; I have just read this factoid online.) I grew up with Arabs and with Muslims. I have had Muslim friends, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, and students. I love many Muslims. I feel for them the kind of love you feel for any close friend. When I was a girl, one day, a Muslim friend turned to me and said, "When the time for jihad comes, if you don't accept Islam, I will have to kill you."

The simple truth is that Islam is different from the other world belief systems: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. None of these includes anything like the call to jihad. Islam does. No, most Muslims are not active jihadis, but a critical mass are, and we cannot predict which Muslim will become an active jihadi. We need free speech about jihad in order to solve the dilemma we all face: peaceful integration of existing Muslim populations into American life, a rational foreign policy, and our own security.

We need this free speech from professionals for whom speech is their sharpest tool: journalists, political, military and religious leaders, academics, and creative artists.

Right now we are not hearing free speech. Rather, we hear dogma fashioned to forfend free speech. This dogma is so predictable we could all chant its creed in unison: "Islam means peace. Not all Muslims are terrorists. The Bible contains shocking verses. Christians do bad things."

We recently heard Ben Affleck and Nick Kristof mouthing these Orwellian bromides on the October 3 episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher."

In the absence of the free flow of ideas, the average Joe, who is not as stupid or as docile as the Ben Afflecks and Nick Kristofs of the world thinks he is, is becoming fearful and concluding that our culture is not addressing jihad. Many average Joes are deciding that they are free agents, and must go it alone. You can see it in internet discussions. People – nice people – average people – are talking about what kind of ammunition they are stockpiling.

What is better for Muslims in the US? A frank conversation about our best response to jihad, or our cultural leaders mouthing bromides that demonize free inquiry, while millions of average people plan to be vigilantes? Can we please have the conversation we need to have about, say radical mosques and how petro-dependency steers public policy before we start shooting innocent people?

If Americans felt that they could openly express their fears about jihad and receive honest and informed replies, if they felt that their leaders had their best interests at heart and were addressing radical mosques, petro-dependency and the threat of free agent jihadis, I don't think as many people would be talking about stockpiling ammo.

I think of one Muslim man I know. He is a mechanic. He interacts with Americans all day long. He is liked and respected by his customers. He's an older guy who has lived in this country most of his life. He sacrificed much to leave his Muslim-majority homeland and come here to enjoy the fruits of democracy. I think the chances of his ever hurting anyone are near zero. He has expressed to me his hatred and rejection of terrorism. I think this man would be totally open to America having a frank conversation about addressing extremism in our country. But we are afraid to have that conversation. I think my Muslim friend believes more in American ideals like free speech than someone like Ben Affleck. I think the Ben Afflecks of the world fail my Muslim friends.

I think, too, of some teenage Muslims I recently chatted with in Paterson. They have been in this country for less than a year. They don't speak English well. They are experiencing profound culture shock. Believe me, many Americans would experience culture shock if they suddenly moved to Paterson, NJ.

These innocent, young Muslims are often teased at school, or even menaced. To them America is just a big blur. The overwhelming difference they notice between America and their natal culture is America's apparent lawlessness and lewdness. Given the puritanical rigidity of their own culture, America feels unattractive. I asked these young people who was mentoring them. Were there teachers guiding them? Helping them to see something of value in America, helping them to find their place? Not really, they said. So, lost and confused, they turn to the mosque, the one stable constant in their lives.

Plenty of young American Muslims would like to feel more connected and accepted here, but we have at least to talk to them about why we think the American way of life is worth preserving, and what place we'd like to see them occupy in our culture.

My mother had that when she came to this country. In those days, America said to new immigrants, "You sacrificed much to come here, and here is worth it. You belong here, and we will help you to fit in." The message was coercive, but even a coercive message of informed inclusion is better than setting immigrants adrift and implying that there is something shameful about American identity.

Free speech needs to fill in that space between the Ben Afflecks and the Reza Aslans on one side, and on the other side, the internet posters who talk about stockpiling weapons and who use dehumanizing terms like "Muslime" to talk about Muslims.

MT: Tell us a little about your novel Save, Send, Delete, a debate between a Catholic and an atheist. Was that written before or after your political conversion? Without giving anything away, what's the philosophical thrust of that debate, and why was it important enough to you to write a book about it?

DG: "Save Send Delete" is a true story. My interlocutor is a real atheist spokesman whose identity I disguise in the book. Several years back I was wrestling with the big, hard questions: Is there a God? Why is there suffering? I saw an atheist on TV and I sent him an email. To my great surprise, he wrote back. We corresponded for a year, debating the existence of God, and we fell in love.

My conversion from "eat-the-rich," red-diaper-baby leftist was like making a three-point-turn with a Maersk container ship during a typhoon. There were many herky-jerky swerves, jammed brakes, and men overboard.

"Save Send Delete" isn't a left-wing book or a right-wing book. It's about confronting God and love and trying to dig down as deeply as possible for worthy, livable truth. I "inhale as a believer; exhale as an atheist."

My sister Antoinette, whom I love as much as I've ever loved anyone, has received a dreadful diagnosis. Watching her suffer, my view of God is blocked. Exactly because I have studied the world's great myths – the world's great stories – I know there is no story quite like that of the man on the cross. As close as I get to absolute atheism, I can't walk away from him. He knows what my sister is going through.

But even if I were not a believing Christian, I would shudder at the message of capital A Atheists. Recently Salon made waves by publishing Jeffrey Tayler's criticism of Islam. Here's the thing – Jeffrey Tayler is a proselytizer who exploits discomfort with Islam to peddle capital A Atheist tracts. "If you don't like suicide bombings you should agree with me that all religion is evil," is his main idea. Religion, he says, is like pestilence-spreading rats in the sewer. We must eradicate it. This has long been the thinking of mass murderers from the French Terror to the Khmer Rouge.

Capital A Atheists use their "Flying Spaghetti Monster" concept to sell total relativism. All religions are the same; Mother Teresa is just as bad as Osama bin Laden. We may as well believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster as in anything else.

This extreme relativism is deadly. Our inability to differentiate between cultures is comparable to being unable to differentiate between nourishment and poison. View a world map that charts differences in sex ratio. Western countries influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition have more women. Women and girls die quicker in Muslim countries – even in wealthy Muslim countries. Fewer women than men learn to read – even in wealthy Muslim countries.

The Ancient Greeks gave us geometry, democracy, theater, "man is the measure of all things." Their culture was different. Their culture was better than that of other ancients. "Save Send Delete" makes the case not only for faith, but for civilization, in the face of the absolute relativism, the scorched earth, of the capital A Atheist Flying Spaghetti Monster mentality. In "Save Send Delete" I write about being a teacher who communicates to her students that Western Civilization, for all its flaws, is worth it.