Roland Dürre
Friday October 17th, 2014

(Deutsch) Moral & Ethik vor Werte & Tugend ???

Not too long ago, there was a huge uproar. A leading decision that said circumcision is unlawful had been handed down. Consequently, circumcisions were now violations of the law. However, this could not be made official policy, because, after all, you had to consider “religious rites” and “religious freedom”. Thus, they quickly made a new circumcision law where circumcisions for religious reasons are again legal in Germany.

And now, nobody says anything. As I see it, too little is said. To be perfectly honest, I do not even know if the new law was actually passed or if now they are only permitted to do what it says in there because everybody thinks it has been passed. One of the reasons is that so many new laws have been introduced and that our “big coalition”, as well as the EU, passes law after law.

For me, however, what matters is not laws. What matters is humanity. Meaning: common sense, philosophy and psychology. They deal with taboos which, as we all know, play an important role in our lives as rules. For instance, sexual activities committed by a father with his own daughter are taboo. Nature did well in this respect. In this case, the taboo is very useful in order to avoid an undesirable sort of reproduction (inbreeding).

Cannibalism is another taboo. The very idea of eating human flesh will usually cause disgust, both individually and collectively. I presume this taboo is because probably none of us would appreciate being eaten.

If I remember correctly, then the new “circumcision bill” was passed at high speed. The reason was: “We all want religious freedom, don’t we?”. I am sure it was another one of those situations where no alternatives existed. The question comes to mind why we still need parliaments and politicians when there is no alternative for social decisions?

Thinking back to the discussion of the time, I can find lots of arguments against this law. It is not in accordance with a developed society and cannot be reconciled with a constitutional democracy. It means a huge regression in terms of enlightenment and humanity. Unfortunately, it seems that most people in our country do not really seem to care. After all, it does not directly concern them. Besides, the archaic rites of religious communities are not something most people are even slightly interested in.

Matters would probably be totally different if circumcision violated a true taboo, rather than just damaging life.

Consequently, I will now come up with an artificial situation. In order to illustrate both the absurdity of our social mentality and of religious circumcision, I will extend the religious circumcision ceremony a little in my mental concept.

Let us assume that there is a totally newly discovered African tribe where all children – both boys and girls – are circumcised. For boys, this means the “totally normal” ceremony as practiced in several religions and cultural circles. Let us take the harmless variant for the girls – in order to minimize brutality (where only the outer labium is removed). Basically, the procedure as such is quite cruel and unreasonable.

Now I will construct my mental concept further and assume that this African tribe takes all the flesh from these circumcisions as ingredients for a celebration soup – which later is consumed by the tribesmen as part of the festival. This is just some superstitiousness they believe in.
And all of a sudden we are disgusted. We would witness an outcry of indignation throughout the entire country. Mind you, this would not be because of the circumcision, because nobody is interested in it. Instead, it would be because of something that everybody considers absolutely “disgusting” and “abnormal”. Totally amoral…

And everybody would be in favour of telling this small African tribe in no uncertain terms that they just cannot do this kind of thing and have to stop it immediately. Even if it is a habit they have been practicing for millennia.

Well, I simply chose this example – which some readers might find tasteless – in order to point out the following:

It is not the cruelty of circumcision practiced on children and the life-long damage for the parties concerned that will activate persons. Disgust, however, would immediately make all the people protest.

And that is something that gives me pause.

And I find it even more appalling if eventually “circumcision” is called moral. Currently, we have almost reached that state of affairs.

Besides:

The “circumcision law” I mentioned before could easily also have been formulated differently. As they used to do formerly with abortion laws. For instance by continuing to consider circumcision illegal, yet not punishing it in religious cases if certain requirements are met. That would have been a clear prohibition with exceptions when it comes to prosecution. At least, it would have guaranteed that the behaviour as such is considered illegal.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Here are some more comments on the subject:
P.S. 1

In Egypt, every other woman between 16 and 30 has been circumcised. What do the “keepers of freedom” in the West do about it?

P.S. 2

As far as I know, the disposal of the results of circumcisions is not explicitly regulated in Germany. It is probably considered medical waste.

P.S.3

Eating human flesh is a taboo. Regardless, persons who ate the corpses of their comrades in an emergency situation (plane crash) in order to safe their own lives are sometimes described as heroes.

P.S. 4
When I was staying in Peking, I ate duck. Duck brain is considered a big specialty and the prerogative of the oldest person sitting around the table. That was me. Thanks to the friendship of my hosts, it was tolerated that I did not eat the brains.

Roland Dürre
Friday July 4th, 2014

Adam and Eve

AdamundEva-M._v._Heemskerck-Musée_des_Bx-Arts_Strasbourg-Gédéon-Adam_Eve-Ausschnitt_2According to our Western mythology, Adam and Eve were the first humans. And they managed to spoil all our chances for paradise – says the saga. Because they were too greedy and consequently the devil camouflaged as a snake was able to seduce them. As far as I remember, that is how I learned the story at school.

A short time ago, I heard a nice joke about the same topic:

Person A: Where would we be if Adam and Eve had been Chinese?
Person B: Dunno.
Person A: We would still be in paradise!
Person B: Why?
Person A: Because they would have eaten the snake and left the apple to rot 
(Adam would have caught the snake and Eve would have cooked it). …

Unfortunately, the punch line is almost too obvious …

To make up for it, I can actually see something positive in the “Adam and Eve” story from this perspective. Isn’t it a nice metaphor for surprisingly simple and still very effective solutions?
All you have to do is do the right thing at the right time!

And it also tells us that greed is always a bad motivation.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.

I took the picture from the Wikipedia page (Wikipedia-Seite). Here is the note you find there about the picture: Adam and Eve (Maarten van Heemskerck, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg). Note the highlighting of the gender difference through the use of different incarnates.

P.S.1

A good friend of mine (female) in my own age-group told me that, for her, the topic “Adam and Eve” and more of the same religious stuff was finished when she was in second grade in elementary school, i.e. when she was twelve. That is when she told the RE teacher about having heard humans were descended from apes. She then asked very innocently how that could be reconciled with Adam and Eve.

And she was rather surprised when, as a reply, she got a rather intense cuffing. Ever since that day, her interest in Religious Education was gone.
I am better off: after all, I learned as a child in Religious Education that only the New Testament should be taken seriously. The rest is rather doubtful. Intuitively, I then put Adam and Eve into the Old Testament.

Roland Dürre
Friday November 22nd, 2013

Indian Gods

Here is a short follow-up on the Indian trip I returned home from less than two weeks ago.

shiwaTo me, the degree of religiousness – as far as I can judge from our guides and through close observation – seems amazing. Apparently, there are many Gods in India.

Naturally, this means that there are good and evil Gods. There are “utility Gods” used for a certain purpose. For instance in order to be prosperous as a merchant or in order not to be caught thieving.  Some Gods seem to exist for the sole purpose of luxury. You do not need them, but they are quite impressive. For lovers, there are allegedly also very romantic types.

Also, the gods always have some connection or other with animals. For example someone told me that inside a cow’s stomach there are more than three million Gods, all of which, however, are a little different from the next one.

I also got the impression that Indians sometimes create their own God. In my opinion, this is quite an attractive idea – design your “do-it-yourself” God that exactly matches your personal need. After all, we are all individuals and have our very personal “world”, so why not also have our very personal/private God?

More often than not, I got the impression that, in India, there is plenty of religious freedom. However, there are also some Christians and Islamists. In Southern India, for instance, we saw many churches. This was particularly obvious in areas such as GOA, where the Portuguese influence used to be quite strong. Among the Christian Gods, the dominant ones are Jesus and Mary. You will find many images showing them, often pathetically kitschy.

The reason why I noticed Islamists was that I heard the Muezzin calling to prayers everywhere night after night. As I perceived it, there were fewer women on the streets in Islamic areas. And if they were seen, they were mostly wearing Burkas. I saw only few headscarves. Consequently, I am assuming that the Islam in Southern India is a stricter variety. Of course, you will not see images of God.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
On the picture, you can see my office god Ganesh.  He is sitting in my managing director’s office and sees to it that all is well at InterFace.

Roland Dürre
Thursday November 7th, 2013

Philosophical Exercises in India

On my journey through India, I see my daughter preparing for an exam in philosophy. In order to test my competence, she asks me questions out of her textbook. Here are a few examples:

”What use is Philosophy?“

I cannot spontaneously think of a proper answer. Rather than saying something wrong, I tell her I do not know. Consequently, she tells me the correct reply her textbook offers:

”Philosophy teaches us where we come from, where we are headed and who we are“.

But that is not true, I think. If you read this definition precisely and literally, it is actually totally wrong. After all, philosophy will not give any meaningful answers to these questions. To me, this definition looks at least “pre-Darwin”. Let me take a closer look at the three factors mentioned.

”Where do we come from?“
Don’t we have sciences, such as anthropology, biology or the evolutionary sciences, that describe the development of humans from “humanoids”? Would it not be better to lean on archaeology or the research into human history, rather than philosophy, when trying to answer that question?  Even “religious history” might be helpful. And, if you look at it in absolute terms, even physics – when dealing with the Big Bang. Along with her natural partner: mathematics.

”Who are we?“
This is another area where I see little room for philosophy. I would rather try to find my answer in psychology, neurology and perhaps sociology when we are talking society.

“Where are we headed?“
When I was an adolescent, there was a time when I wanted to research the future. Those were the days when I was an enthusiastic reader of science fiction. I believed it might be very exciting to at least come up with potential future scenarios in the form of possible variants from the “cybernetic” understanding of complex processes in the present and past. Later, however, I ended up studying mathematics.

Allegedly, today we have such a thing as futurologist science and management. Mind you, a short time ago, a “futurologist manager” (who, incidentally, earns good money on the job) told me that futurologist science is basically a misunderstanding, because the future is something you cannot research. But you can certainly “manage” it. I cannot comment on that, except that I know “futurologist scientists” who also earn (quite) good money with it.

As you can see, we have lots of scientific disciplines dealing with us humans and our lives. I like calling them the “life sciences”. And as always, I believe they should cooperate with and supplement each other.

But then, what is the mandate of philosophy? In my opinion, it should sharpen the human mind. And it should teach us how to question everything in a wise way.

Philosophy should be an applied science. The professors should wish it to be so. They must manage to equip as many people as possible with the tools they need for developing their own, high competence in judgement.

With this in mind, I see philosophy, above all, as a science that needs to educate humans. We need it in order to be able to find a reasonable balance between our individual and the collective needs. In order to give us the competence for more often judging correctly than wrong and thus make our behaviour and decisions more often good than bad.

In recent years, at least in Europe, philosophy was the carrier of enlightenment. For me, this is one of its most important tasks. In the future, philosophy must continue to strive for enlightenment. It should teach us to ask questions. Because enlightenment can and will never be finished.

:-) On the internet, they would say that we in Europe are currently living through “enlightenment 4.0″.

Philosophy is about striving for insights through thinking. Consequently, philosophy will also always be about morals and ethics. Perhaps it can push the negative sides we currently find in the religions a little to the background. It is possible that philosophy can help humans to find their own and human God, or else the divine element in themselves.

If philosophy managed to achieve this, it would be a wonderfully useful science. A science which can leave the ivory tower it locked itself into. Consequently, I get angry when I see how thoughtlessly philosophy is defined in Bavarian school simply as the science of the “where do we come from, where are we headed and who are we?”. That is oversimplified.

Even if this almost religious definition of philosophy in the textbook is only meant metaphorically, it does not make any sense. Stupid sentences are far too often excused with the statement that, after all, they were meant “only metaphorically”.

Because you cannot develop absolute truths and morals from stories created through the collective thinking of humans and their hair-splitting and one-sided interpretation. That is what happens in religion and it is exactly what philosophy should avoid.

RMD
(Translated of EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday October 10th, 2013

Rupert Lay, Ethics and Constructivism

After a time out, Rupert now gave another long presentation. It was on September, 7th, 2013 in Frankfurt. He had prepared it for his friends and the “Ronneburger Kreis”. I was truly happy to be part of it.

Eilika Emmerlich organized the recording of the presentation. She also realized the production, along with Studio Pieper.

Consequently, I now proudly present two brand-new videos with this Rupert Lay presentation. Due to the total length of the presentation, we have two videos, because on this day, Rupert squeezed a lot of insights from his life into one presentation.

Here we go:

Part 1

and

Part 2

Enjoy as you watch!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
And on March, 29th, 2014, Rupert Lay again plans to talk to us.

Roland Dürre
Thursday May 9th, 2013

Central Virtues of the Future

;-) Please forgive me for writing this article on Ascension Day – nowadays better known as “All Father’s Day”. I just experience, once again, how people have been traumatized because other persons (and their social systems) think they own the absolute “truth”. That hurts. Consequently, here I am again, trying to make a statement about virtues and vices. Even at the risk of talking beyond my own competence.

I doubt if such as thing as “the truth” even exists. We with the all the limits of our human existence only have certainties. They have nothing to do with the radical term “truth”.

Yet it is those certainties of ours we torture each other and ourselves only too often with. Consequently, I hope that the time for these truth claims will someday be a thing of the past. Just as I believe that words like guilt, morals or even revenge should become something we no longer need.

Unfortunately, it still happens that so-called truth is used for dogmatic purposes and then demanded of as many persons as possible, often using psychological force. And the subsequent moralizing makes us suffer and causes unhappiness and illness in many of us. That is bad!

The important virtues for a life lived with responsibility and social conscience are tolerance, ethical behaviour in the sense of humane decisions made according to shared and ethically responsible values, transparency and civil courage!

For instance, I believe humans basically wish to live autonomously and yet socially acceptable in communities. And that human happiness is nothing other than succeeding in making the opposing ends individuality and collectiveness meet in a healthy way. And the rest should be manageable autonomously with respect, ratio and common sense!

If we can do that, we will also re-discover our courage and joy in life.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Ethics and enlightenment, too, are some kind of belief.

This sentence was something that really was hard to digest for me.
I used to believe that I am a non-believer. After all, I question everything and follow the principles of enlightenment and reason. I try to behave “ethically” – meaning that my decisions are based on a balance of values following a value system I myself worked out in a very responsible way. That would be a value system I consciously strived hard to achieve, having taken pains to finally arrive at a formula that is compatible with the world consensus which, for instance, can be found in the Golden Rule or in the UNO Charta. We are talking a value system where tolerance and civil courage are extremely important.

And then it dawned on me that this certainty of mine is also just a belief. It means that I, too, believe in something like the Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in a personalized God, or like other religions believe in their deities or just something higher in general. Or like the atheists happen to believe that there is no God. And they will probably soon come up with the foundation of a religion of their own. To be sure, this sounds logical, but then it seems to be a contradiction in itself.

Incidentally, I never asked myself the question whether or not there is a God. At least not as long as I can remember. Simply because I know I am not good at these kinds of topics. After all, it would mean that I know I know nothing.

Today, I would say: “I think I know nothing”. Well, I do not know anything and neither can I know anything… It all happens just between the ears. And how should I know if something we humans ourselves invented actually exists?

It is also part of my belief that there is no absolute truth. This is also because truth happens between the ears only. Besides the fact that “between the ears” is often a very chaotic place. As I see it, the head is capable of a lot of fantasy, but it is probably too small for reality. So how could the result be some absolute truth – if it was we ourselves who invented or felt everything?

Consequently, I now believe that all we think we know is just belief – some kind of religion. And the only hope that remains for me is that my own belief – in enlightenment and reason (which probably do not exist either, because they, too, are only our experience) – will be more help to me than the belief of others. Especially when they want to force their belief onto me (and others) – and threaten to punish us when and if we do not convert.

My second hope is that my belief in enlightenment, ethics and reason is probably a little more humane and ethical than all the varieties of believes you come across in this world.

However, I kissed the illusion that enlightenment, reason and ethics are absolute truths good-bye.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Well, this is one of those texts you can only write during a lonely train trip – in this case it was from Munich to Stuttgart.

Roland Dürre
Sunday March 31st, 2013

Easter Holidays on the Internet

Tonight, I woke up twice from the ringing of church bells. It was during the time frame that actually did not exist: between two and three in the morning. In Germany, this is possible, because it is Easter time and due to a very old tradition, you are permitted to make noises for everybody to hear in the middle of the night.

This morning, I browse through the internet and find in Google+ a citation published by Marcus Raitner which he found in the blog die ennomane:
“Freedom of faith is the freedom to even believe in absurdities. Freedom of opinion is the freedom to call precisely those things absurd. In this spirit: Happy Easter to You!”
There is nothing Marcus wants to add to this sentence and I, too, can only agree.

Here is the rest of the story:
In her blog, “die Ennomane” informed us about a sarcastically written text on the Christian Easter Cult. Said text had appeared on Good Friday in Der Postillon. It seems that the author was reprimanded for what she wrote in the article and felt she had to justify her words. This also led to a few comments. In my eyes, the comments were quite interesting, because they revealed a few patterns of thought that are typical for “believers”.

I copied some short phrases from the comments and will then relate my own ideas on those words I marked “bold”:

  1. Antje Schrupp
    Comment by Antje Schruppp | March, 30, 2013 at 22:55:28
    I started associating the sarcastic, anti-religious jokes currently published all over the place with… a long time ago…

    However, the manner in which it is exposed to ridicule adds up to being a mere power struggle, that is: to the question who will finally win against whom.    
Of course, being a Good Christian, I could decide to remain totally untouched and just turn the other cheek.    
With respect to the global perspectives, however, I dare to predict that “you” (that is: those who consider religion “gaga per se”) will be the losers in this power struggle. And that is something that gives me a little pause, because there actually are quite a few things about religions, especially their institutionalized forms, which badly need criticism and reform.
  2. Enno
    Comment by Enno | March, 30, 2013 at 23:06:19

    Hmm… well, threatening that we are going to be the losers in a global power struggle is really a great argument, isn’t it?
  3. Antje Schrupp
    Comment by Antje Schrupppp | March, 30, 2013 at 23:23:25
    You do not really believe that I was threatening you with anything, do you?
  4. ….

Of course, the entire stream of comments can be read here: die ennomane » Blog Archive » Es hat einen Grund.

So here are my comments:

Personally, I found the article in Der Postillon rather negligible. All it did was re-kindle some well-known facts that had already been better formulated in a sarcastic and humorous but original way. The only novelty (and perhaps this was actually worth criticism) about the article was that he called religious rituals mostly “gaga”.

I am sure one could argue about when or under what conditions something is “gaga” or simply appears to be so. But then, who is to decide what is “gaga” today and what is not? To me, plenty of what I experience today seems “gaga”.

But what I find particularly noticeable is the choice of words in the arguments of the commentator Antje. Apparently, she represents the position of a Good Christian.
The first term I find worth noting is “Good Christian”. That is what Antje calls herself.

Basically, I can only excuse the “Good Christian” as a manner of speech, or else as some “thoughtlessly spoken flowery phrase”.  As soon as I take a closer look at the term, questions come up:

What exactly does it mean to be a “Good Christian”? Does it mean you have to have given up your autonomy and willingly submitted to rules set by someone else? Is it even possible for a human to give up his or her autonomy autonomously? Or is a Good Christian someone who just adheres strictly to the Christian rules while having kept his or her autonomy? But then, is that possible?

Or is a “Good Christian” just meant as the opposite of a “Bad Christian”? And then, what makes a Bad Christian – from whom Antje distances herself?
Linguistically spoken I find the “Good Christian” at least better than the “Believing Christian”. That is a term I often hear: I am a Believing Christian. So what would an “Unbelieving Christian” be?

And secondly, I am always personally concerned when I hear someone mention that a power struggle will be lost or won. It is what I hear quasi automatically from people who admit to a religious belief.

Incidentally, tolerance means that “everyone may believe in what he chooses to believe”. Why do the “believers” – who need this tolerance and claim it for themselves – keep talking about a power struggle that will have to be “lost” or “won”?

Incidentally, I would include all those in my definition of “believer” who think they know the truth, including the atheists. And how can mammals, even though basically capable of reason, but otherwise equipped with rather limited characteristics, think they know all the truth? What is God except a special metaphor for a special higher meaning, a term invented by humans?

And finally, it annoys me to read that believers who talk about winning or losing a power struggle show complete incomprehension when their words are perceived as threatening.

But here are a few personal thoughts:

When I was a small child, Easter was just great. We were allowed to seek Easter Eggs. Our joy was immense when we found some. The Easter Bunny symbolized the coming spring. I must have been five years old when I was given a second-hand children’s bike. The joy about this was of a very long duration.

Once I remember from my childhood that Easter was cold and snowy. We had no Easter-Eggs-Seeking in the garden. But we made the best of it: we carried the snow into or house with bowls, poured hot chocolate into moulds and let the figures get hard in the cold snow bowls. That was nice.

Then school started and that was the end of my joy. Easter became similar to pain, a symbol of human cruelty, of guilt and atonement. You had to fast in order to become clean. We learned about the Holy Grave. And that we are bad and someone else had atoned for all of it.

Today, we have another white and cold Easter. And since it is no fun to go out and there is no Easter-Eggs-Seeking either, I browse through the internet. Where I am confronted with enlightenment that never happened.

On the radio, I hear about the religious super festival as it is celebrated with a huge amount of ego-centrism. Including great patter. Except: that is not what reality is like. Yesterday, the agreement on weapons transfer failed, the environmental facts get more depressing each day and today they again talk about love and humility.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Klaus-Jürgen Grün
Saturday February 16th, 2013

It Feels Like Being Struck by Lightning!

A pope gave notice, lightning struck, and a Meteorite (Meteorit) explodes in Central Russia – this cannot be a coincidence! It is high time that zoo directors, along with leaders of states and their advisors all over the place remember their central competence: the carefree happiness of the animals entrusted to them.

It borders on the irresponsible if we leave humans in particular totally in the lurch when it comes to finding causal connections. What we need is a definite, official declaration. Why don’t we have a state religion that explains how the unpredictable coincidences and accidents of the universe are a prudent and planned destiny of the all-encompassing logic?

Instead, every individual person is left alone with his or her small and error-prone understanding.

The average citizen is overstrained, which makes him unhappy. How is he – probably equipped with only a G8 graduation diploma – supposed to come to terms with the number 13, which incidentally is made up of the last two digits of the year 2013? Hardly anyone takes the pain to actually take a closer look at the digit 2. Because it, too, like the 13, is a prime number.

The Zero between the two prime numbers probably indicates the nullity the world – exposed between two primes one of which even is the 13 – will have to accept as its future destiny.

Consequently, we can under no circumstances ignore the cosmic events that happened during the last few days. They are just harbingers of the approaching apocalypse. Some among us have foreseen this for a long time already.

The least we can expect from our government is that it protects us against all harm. But that is exactly what it fails to do. The meteorite could just as easily have hit the nuclear power plants of Biblis or Schweinfurt. A few thousand kilometres between Russia and Mid-Germany are less than a stone’s throw if you think in cosmic dimensions. Nobody is prepared to deal with this kind of scenario. Our governments failed.

Now it almost happened and the media distract from the problem. People like the astronaut and physics professor Ulrich Walter of Munich are cited, saying shamelessly: “It was pure coincidence”. But every human being not narrow-mindedly thinking in terms of physics or other precise sciences knows that this cannot be a coincidence.

It is providence, that is what it is. And there is a moral quality to it, because it is the punishment of justice that will never permit for humans to just live in the here and now and perform the routines of their daily work. Because everyone only thinks of him- or herself, living just in his or her small world. Obviously, there had to come a time of reckoning for this.

So where are the zoo directors telling us in the face of these cosmic powers that it feels basically small-time slutty if there are still people on strike because they want more income at Hamburg airport; if some people are still worried about saving both Greece and the Euro – and, yes, how irresponsible politicians behave if they now start thinking about winning or losing in the coming Federal Elections?

In the hour of misery, the truth will come out: politicians, too, only think of their own well-being. Consequently, every one of us will have to deal with the unpredictability of cosmic events and accept what little consolation the zookeepers will hand out.

kjg
(Translated by EG)