Book Review: The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray

If you want to learn about the migrant crisis in Europe, read The Strange Death of Europe by the British journalist and Spectator contributor Douglas Murray. From its origins in the continent’s post-World War II desire for cheap labor, to the short-sightedness of European leaders as to the effects of such a massive influx to the curious European sense of self-loathing and cultural exhaustion, Murray coolly and convincingly diagnoses Europe’s impending cause of death, what could be done about it, and what will probably happen.

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Douglas K. Murray

Murray writes with a dispassionate, though incisive edge that strikes the perfect balance between the historian, the social critic, and the European aghast at what has been done to his continent. As an American, his analysis explains more of the story than we typically get on this side of the Atlantic.

Yet Murray does that rare thing in a popular history: He straddles the line between being accessible and academic, instructive without revealing too much bias. His preference for a European Europe is clear, yet while pessimistic he never seems hectoring or completely biased.

As a homosexual who is, I am pretty sure an atheist, Murray recognizes, for example, that Western civilization is the most tolerant in the world, and that this tolerance, as well as the other blessings of European culture, stem from the combination of Christianity with the Greco-Roman legacy.

And yet Murray is not unsympathetic to the plight of peoples fleeing their awful countries for a better life in Europe. Far form it. In fact, he’s very understanding of the reasons why people have been flooding into Europe, and he does what few journalists seem to: He talks to migrants.

But he balances this with something most mainstream journalists neglect through unconscious bias or by design: He also takes the legitimate concerns of European citizens seriously as well.

Unlike the elites in most European countries, and these countries’ leaders, Murray discusses the fact that the European nations have a right to exist and control their own borders how they see fit. Instead, European leaders are more concerned with shutting their own citizens up, even if this means lying about them and denying their rights.

Europe has succumbed to America Disease: The belief that their countries, unique among other countries across the globe, belong to the rest of the world just as much, if no more, than to their own citizens. And the majority Europe’s people do not agree with this. So few writers, especially European writers, touch this issue, but not Murray. He is fearless He meticulously cites his sources and provides the evidence for you to do your own follow-up homework. And he does it all without sounding preachy or snarky.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray”

You Can’t Fool God

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Why bother with religious belief in the modern world? Isn’t it just superstition? Hasn’t it been disproven?

I write a lot of these posts to explore this question, not just for readers, but also for myself. Because modern humans like to think we’re at the top of the food chain and have figured everything out, while simultaneously reducing human existence to being merely just another animal that’s little more than a collection of chemical and electrical impulses that reacts to the material world. This seems contradictory and unsatisfactory to me, which is why I can’t stop thinking about it. 

* * *

You’ve got to answer for everything eventually. Even when you die. I don’t know why, but this never bothered me.

I mean it scares me, which is the point, right? But it doesn’t annoy me. I don’t feel like it’s unfair that I’ll eventually face a final reckoning at the awesome judgment seat of the Lord, when that day finally arrives.

Because it makes sense. There are consequences to everything in life. Why would God be any different?

This seems cruel to some. This is yet another reason why non-believers seem to enjoy non-belief. “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” It’s easier, right?

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In other words, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” “Every man and every woman is a star.” 

Do whatever you want because, ultimately, there are no consequences.

Words cannot describe how terrible a philosophy this is. I know some will throw the “slippery slope” fallacy at me, but I’m not so sure that it’s always a fallacy. Think of it more like the law of unintended consequences: one small transgression that’s “not really a big deal, so stop being such a square” will eventually turn into real, officially sanctioned horrors later on.

I mean, writers at top journalistic publications are trying to normalize, or at least destigmatize, pedophelia, for crying out loud.

But even at a personal and not societal level, the fact remains that you can’t fool God.

This isn’t a commandment or even an informal tenet of Christianity, but it always seemed implicit to me. You can’t fool GodHe is omniscient, and no amount of rationalization is going to make the wrong thing actually be right, even though you can convince yourself and others that it is.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Galatians, 6:7

From the little transgression to the big, from what you do to what’s in your heart, God knows. And I am fine with this.  Continue reading “You Can’t Fool God”

Stay Alive

I really don’t like to be topical, but celebrity suicides make me sad. Any suicide makes me sad. And this isn’t just “Alex hopping on the anti-suicide bandwagon to make himself seem sympathetic.” No, I’ve been banging this drum for a while.

Mental illness is terrible. Depression is terrible. I liken it to a demon (maybe the demon?) getting his hooks into you and poisoning your mind with the sweet song of self-destruction. And it is an alluring message, one that we tend to romanticize in our art.

Whether it’s cultural (I think it partly is) or something else, everybody in America lately has suicide on the mind.

I’ve had my own struggles with this, believe me. But I don’t want to get into my life story here. I want to underscore yet again how this is a silent killer. Many who kill themselves seem outwardly to be fine, to have it all. They don’t always mope around wearing black, talking about how they’re going to do the deed. Often, they seem like regular, stable members of society.

Some depression can be situational, alleviating when the extreme stressors have been removed or overcome. Others are chemical or spiritual or I don’t know. I don’t know why it happens. I don’t know how it happens. All I know is that it’s a terrible thing.

At our cores is a deep yearning for oblivion. Many of us chalk it up to the fall of man in the long ago days when the first humans disobeyed God and were cast out of paradise. Our ultimate ancestors had the free will to decide between the human or divine, and we all know how that turned out because we’re living with the consequences.

Maybe that’s not your style. Maybe you don’t believe in anything save for what you see here in front of you. Maybe you don’t think there’s anything when you die and existence is a waste of time. Even so, something is keeping you from doing the deed. Don’t discount this! Maybe it’s evolution or chemicals or whatever. Don’t let go of it.

Find that one thing that keeps you going. It could be spite, it could be your pet, it could be that thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

Turn this depression, this burning passion for self-destruction into fuel.

Talk to people–not necessarily doctors, just people you know and love. If you don’t have anyone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They’re great people who care. Trust me.

Go to church and talk to a priest, even if you’re not a Christian. They’re there to listen.

Talk to people you know from on-line. The Internet is a wonderful tool for connection. Use it!

Don’t give in to your existential despair. That’s what the enemy wants you to do. Fuck the devil. Spit in his face. He’s a bastard and nothing he wants for you is any good.

How do I know? I just know. Because only pure evil could convince someone that taking their own life is a good thing.

Stay safe everyone, and stay alive. God bless, and I want the best for you (even if you hate me).

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

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American Blasphemy

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing irreverence to God, or any other deity if that’s how you roll. But it also applies to anything considered sacred. And while we’ve abolished blasphemy laws in the West, at least as applied to Christianity (yay, I guess?), we still have blasphemy laws up the wazoo and don’t kid yourselves.

Sacred cows are alive and well in these United States. I’m going to speak blasphemously here, but let’s just say that your personal feelings and attitudes towards sodomy and it’s practitioners or baby killing, or even firearms ownership, can make you a persona non grata here in America . . . if they’re the wrong decision.

If you are of a certain chromatic disposition, saying the exact same thing as another can either be a-okay or complete verboten, enough to remove you from polite society.

You don’t even have to say anything mean or hateful. Just “wrong.”

Meanwhile, it seems like the only religions that have any sort of protection against verbal assault, no matter how mild, are either of the indigenous variety, or the one whose adherents get rather stabby/bomby at the merest hint of criticism.

So essentially, blasphemy laws, the current state of which in America is a weird and deadly combination of the hecklers’ and assassins’ veto. Continue reading “American Blasphemy”

Book Review: Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

My foray into the works of the early pulp masters continues with my first brush with a Conan story, Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard. Having recently read and deeply enjoying some Edgar Rice Burroughs, I was eager to sink my teeth into Conan.

Metaphorically, you understand.

Howard is best known for creating the enduringly popular Cimmerian, as well as Solomon Kane, among other characters in his 30 short years of life. Although first appearing in the pages of Weird Tales in 1932 in a story called The Phoenix on the Sword, I decided to first read Queen of the Black Coast because I found it on Gutenberg.org and I liked the title.

Robert E. Howard

Queen of the Black Coast was published in the May 1934 issue of Weird Tales. It tells the tale of Conan, on the run from soldiers in the port city of Argos, taking passage on a south-bound trading vessel called the Argus bearing goods to trade with the kingdom of Kush.

It only takes a few sentences for Howard to suck the reader in:

Hoofs drummed down the street that slopes to the wharfs. The folk that yelled and scattered had only a fleeting glimpse of a mailed figure on a black stallion, a wide scarlet cloak flowing out on the wind.

Reading that, and the images it conjured in my mind, I was hooked.

Of course, the Argus doesn’t have an easy trip to Kush. In fact, it never makes, being waylaid by the fearsome pirate woman Bêlit as it hits the coast. The Argus‘ captain is killed, and Conan boards the pirate ship Tigress intending to take as many of Bêlit’s strong, black warriors down with him, but he and Bêlit soon fall for each other, and Conan joins their crew, ravaging the Coast.

Eventually, they journey to the mystical and cursed ruined jungle kingdom up the river Zarkheba in search of more treasure. And that’s where things get really freaky.

I was impressed with Howard’s writing. You won’t find deep characterization, internal conflict, or excursions into socio-political issues. This is pulp, baby!

What you get is a story and prose that grabs you by the gut. Conan’s world is brutal, like the man himself. But this world also has a savage beauty that Howard conveys in his descriptions of the jungle and the spoiled grandeur of the ruined city.

Oh, and also the monsters. You didn’t think Conan was getting out of this without tussling with some freaky monsters, did you?

I shall say no more about the plot save that Queen of the Black Coast is fast-paced without feeling rushed, and short enough to be read in one sitting.

It’s fortuitous that I picked this story, as I just finished playing an old computer game called Quest for Glory III: Wages of War for a chronogaming blog I occasionally contribute to. Quest for Glory III takes place in a jungle realm based on both Egyptian society and more traditional sub-Saharan African cultures, and has an incredibly pulpy vibe, complete with lost cities, romance, demons, and a sense of the eerie and mysterious.

That’s what I appreciated the most from Howard’s writing–the way he was so economically able to put you in his world, feeling the unsettling ancient horrors facing Conan.

The jungle was a black colossus that locked the ruin-littered glade in ebony arms. The moon had not risen; the stars were flecks of hot amber in a breathless sky that reeked of death.

Is it a little over-wrought? Maybe. But to hell with what creative writing professors think; this is effective. Continue reading “Book Review: Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard”

My Conversion Story

People have asked me for my “Easter conversion story” before, and since today is Holy Wednesday*, it seems like as good a time as any to talk about this.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find it interesting. Or inspiring. Or crazy. I’m sure some “rational skeptic” will tell me it’s a “chemical phenomena akin to insanity that shouldn’t be viewed as proving anything other than the delusion-holder’s personal subjective experience,” and so on.

(Boy, wait until I tell the story about when I had an honest-to-God prophetic vision . . .)

Whatever. All I know is what I’ve experienced and you can take it or leave it. The important starting point for this particular story is that, from the ages of about fifteen to seventeen, I was an atheist.

Or thought I was. Things changed on Good Friday when I was 17.

Let’s back up a little bit though. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Both of my parents are 100% Greek with either parents or grandparents from the old country. On my mother’s side, my grandfather is a priest, and so was his father. There were more in the family, but I don’t know how far back it goes.

My experiences with the church were generally positive. I rather enjoyed seeing my pappou up there doing the service and giving communion, and we always went out to breakfast afterwards. Orthodoxy focus a lot on the mystical, the afterlife, the resurrection, and the love of Christ . . . as well as the wages of sin. This didn’t bother me, nor was it prohibitively frightening. In fact, it made sense: Disobeying your own parents and ignoring tradition and common sense lead to big trouble. Why wouldn’t ignoring your heavenly Father lead to the same?

And the fact that there was a Creator didn’t bother me at all either. Everything has to come from something, I thought. And even to this day, “Everything spontaneously came into being in perfect order for no reason and with no cause whatsoever” remains an unsatisfying leap of faith to make.

No, what first got me as I got older was the idea of the Resurrection.

I remember on my way to church with the family when I was 14. It might have been Easter; I can’t remember. What I do remember is expressing skepticism that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead. “I get all the other stuff,” I said, “but how do we know he didn’t just die?”

My family didn’t quite know how to answer. Continue reading “My Conversion Story”

Five Interesting Points from The Mystery of Death by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis

“An explanation of what happens to you when you die” is sort of the lazy man’s answer to the question of “What is the purpose of religion?” This is true, but it is only a part of it.

The question of what happens after death has enthralled, and indeed scared the hell out, of human beings since we first became aware, unique to all other creatures, that we will, in fact, die at some point, and that this death is inevitable.

This is what author and theologian Nikolaos P. Vassilidis attempts to shed some light on in The Mystery of Death, at least from an Orthodox Christian perspective. Published in Greek in 1993 and later translated by Father Peter A. Chamberas, Vassilidis, a member of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Theologians has taken Scripture and the teachings of the Holy Fathers and compiled them in a lengthy tomb big on what Scripture and logical analysis tells us and light on speculation.

It’s heavy reading, as you can imagine.

Religion, most religions at least, deal with more than just what happens when you die. But questions surrounding the end of life are obviously incredibly important, questions such as:

  • Why do human beings know they will die?
  • Why do we die?
  • Why are we here if we’re destined to die?
  • And of course, what happens next?

Vassiliadis relies heavily on the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Symeon, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Nikodemos, and other luminaries of the pre-Schism Church, as well as more recent Orthodox scholars like Georges Florovsky and Justin Popovic. It’s a well-researched book that offered a lot of eye-opening revelations about what death is, why we die, sin and repentance, and what comes after.

It’s tough to do a typical review of this book other than to say I highly recommend it to any Christian, Orthodox or not (although Catholics will probably have an easier time with it than most other denominations). So as with my discussion of Moses Maimonides’s The Guide for the Perplexed, I think it’d be more useful to go over a few of the more interesting points Vassiliadis makes:

Continue reading “Five Interesting Points from The Mystery of Death by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis”