Saturday, August 29, 2015

25 years ago: The death of occultist Manly P. Hall

On August 29, 1990, Manly P. Hall died at the age of 89. Mr. Hall, a native of Peterborough, Ontario, moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19, and quickly became immersed in mysiticism and esoteric philosophies. He began preaching at Church of the People in 1919, and became permanent pastor in 1923. Mr. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society in 1934, which continues today.

Mr. Hall is perhaps best known as the author of books such as The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (1923) and The Secret Teachings of All Ages (1928). Oddly, despite Mr. Hall's many years of interest in Freemasonry, he wasn't actually initiated into the order until 1954; he was awarded the 33rd degree--Scottish Rite Freemasonry's highest honour--in 1973. Anyone reading about the history of the New Age Movement is likely to come across the name Manly P. Hall; his dubious spiritual descendants include Marianne Williamson, the most prominent promoter of the demonic A Course in Miracles. Ms. Williamson's career as a lecturer began in 1983 when she went to work with the Philosophical Research Society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

25 years ago: The death of B.F. Skinner

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalms 14:1a (also Psalms 53:1a)

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22

On August 18, 1990, Dr. Skinner, one of the 20th century's most prominent psychologists, went to his own place. He became an atheist in the typical way--as the result of an emotional reaction in his youth, and not as a result of a rigorous intellectual pursuit of truth. In Dr. Skinner's case, he reportedly became an atheist after receiving conflicting views on hell. His atheistic views influenced Dr. Skinner to become a "radical behaviourist," believing that human will was an illusion and that people behaved on the basis of reinforcement, which he called operant conditioning. His best known books were the utopian novel Walden Two (1948) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971).

I won't go into detail about Dr. Skinner's theories; the reader may use his Wikipedia entry as a starting point, and his name can be found in almost any psychology textbook. Herbert Schlossberg, in his book Idols for Destruction (1983), makes mention of Dr. Skinner a few times, and offers an excellent critique:

B.F. Skinner advocates a science of human behavior as the means of solving social problems that otherwise remain intractable and says that it must adopt the strategies of physics and biology. This is consistent with his view, and that of many other psychologists, that psychology is a biological science. Human beings are simply a part of nature, in that conception, and a science of human behavior must study them in that light. Such a science produces the technology that will enable people to control human behavior and therefore permit humanity to survive...

...When Skinner says that the science of human behavior must follow the strategies of natural science, he means that it must be wholly materialist. He sees no hope of ever solving the old philosophical problem of how mind and matter interact and follows the common practice of assuming that one of them does not exist, the monist position. For behaviorists, everything is material, and therefore qualities we have been accustomed to attribute to mind or spirit are merely epiphenomena of material origin. They are successions of mental events that find coherence only in their identification with the nervous tissue of a particular organism...That is why Skinner insists that to speak of human behavior in terms of aims, purposes, intuitions, or goals is to betray an understanding of man which is "prescientific..."

...There can be no free choice in the world of behaviorism because there is no human faculty that may be said to "choose." The organism simply acts as the prior contingencies have programmed it (him) to act. Moral categories, therefore, are superfluous in understanding human behavior...The moral life, in short, is a delusion, and it often functions only as a hindrance to the survival of the human race...If man cannot be distinguished ontologically from other forms of matter, then materialist determinisms are logical inferences from the observed facts of nature. But empirical observations alone yield no information about ontology. Skinner tells us repeatedly that human beings may not survive if they do not accept behavioral engineering, but nowhere does he explain why that should bother us. Human survival--the sanctity of human life--is a value, and there is no way he or anyone else can derive value from material facts. Materialists almost invariably use language that is value-laden, even though their avowed epistemology does not allow for values. Mystification covers the logical gaps. The only ethical framework compatible with materialism is nihilism, defined as living without values. (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, pp. 146-147, 149-150).
A 2002 survey revealed Dr. Skinner as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, which speaks volumes about psychology (and the 20th century). Dr. Skinner is presumably no longer an atheist. The best comment on the death of an atheist--if one is to look at it from a purely materialistic point of view--that I've seen is from blogger Vox Day, on the death of "New Atheist" Christopher Hitchens on December 16, 2011:

The conglomeration of atoms that were, for a very brief moment in history, collectively known by the name Christopher Hitchens, have begun to disperse.

The universe continues as before, uncaring and unaware.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

10 years ago: The death of Islamic apologist Ahmed Deedat

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

On August 8, 2005, Indian-born South African Islamic missionary and apologist Ahmed Deedat died at the age of 87. Mr. Deedat began his missionary work in 1942 and co-founded the Islamic Propaganda Centre International (IPCI) in 1957. He became known for debating Christians in South Africa and throughout the world. A prominent example was his debate before 4,000 people at West Ridge Park Stadium in Durban, South Africa in August 1981 with Campus Crusade for Christ apologist Josh McDowell on the topic Was Christ Crucified? Click on the link for a free download of the book The Islam Debate (1983) by Mr. McDowell and John Gilchrist, which includes the entire text of the debate. Click on the link for a free download of the book Mr. Deedat wrote in response, Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction. It hardly needs to be said (but I'll say it, anyway) that the issue of whether or not Jesus Christ was crucified isn't a minor point of contention between Christianity and Islam, but a life-or-death difference:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; I Corinthians 1:23

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah"; - but they did not kill him, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they did not kill him: - The Qur'an, Surah 4:157

Mr. Deedat was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in 1986 for his 50 years of missionary work, but began to attract increasing criticism when he increased his own criticism of other religions. It was said that Christians in South Africa warned Mr. Deedat that if he didn't stop his attacks on Christianity, God would strike him down. I don't know if South African Christians issued such warnings--that may be an urban legend--but Mr. Deedat was indeed struck down by a severe stroke on May 3, 1996, leaving him with "locked-in" syndrome, bedridden and unable to communicate except through moving his eyes. This may very well have been the Lord's way of getting Mr. Deedat's attention in order to encourage him to repent; tragically, Mr. Deedat continued to promote the false gospel of Islam during the remaining nine years of his life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

75 years ago: The death of Ze'ev Jabotinsky

On August 4, 1940, Russian-born Zionist activist Ze'ev Jabotinsky died at the age of 59. Born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky, he co-founded the Zion Mule Corps in Egypt during World War I, and moved to England, where his efforts resulted in the creation of the Jewish Legion. In the 1920s, Mr. Jabotinsky became the key figure in a movement known as Revisionist Zionism and began advocating for a liberal, democratic Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River. He supported moving Arab populations if necessary to accomodate the influx of Jews, but he didn't want Arabs ejected from Palestine, and supported the rights of minorities in the proposed Jewish state.

While visiting South Africa in 1930, the British Colonial Office informed Mr. Jabotinsky that he would not be allowed to return to Palestine. During the 1930s he warned of increasing violence against Jews in Europe. When the British government enacted the McDonald White Paper, restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate for the next five years, Mr. Jabotinsky protested by supporting an armed Jewish revolt in Palestine, involving the Irgun terrorist organization. He died of a heart attack in New York City while attempting to raise financial support for a Jewish army.

Although he didn't live to see the establishment of the state of Israel, Mr. Jabotinsky played a key role in events that led to the nation's founding. The Likud party--the party of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu--can trace its history back to the activities of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.