‘These outward manifestations of faith are varied and beautiful. They are not for those outside the religion to judge.’

A sweet little propaganda morsel in the Bennington Banner instructs us that women covered head to toe in black is beautiful. We are to find this beautiful.

Nowhere in her celebration of invisible women does the propagandist remember to add that we are also to find children – just little girls, of course – covered head to toe beautiful; or that we are to find compulsory female covering in Iran and other countries beautiful. Varied, beautiful, and you’re going to jail for a long time if you and your children don’t veil.

“Many modern nuns have abandoned” their black coverings, the author notes, and I wonder why. And I wonder why it doesn’t occur to her that there’s a difference between modern nuns free to abandon old ways and millions of Afghan and Saudi women (ordinary women, not people who have joined religious orders) who face imprisonment and even death if they throw off their robes. Who at the very least face physical attacks on the street from men who see them uncovered.

The author tsk-tsks all the weird unwoke anti-burqa legislation coming out of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, but never inquires about whether that legislation means anything other than (as she believes) visceral hatred and fear.

“Within our own country and around the world, religious garments say, ‘I believe this.”

Sometimes they say that. Sometimes they say I revile what I’m wearing but I can’t do anything about it. Sometimes they say There are places in the world where men can legally fully cover women, or intimidate them into being fully covered, but this secular republic shouldn’t be one of them.

And it matters what this is, doesn’t it? Are we really not allowed to judge people who say “I believe apostates should be killed”? What about people who say “I believe we should bring back burning at the stake”?

One way to avoid writing propaganda is to read a little bit about your subject. The question of veiling is not solved by agreeing to judge something that a lot of people find appalling beautiful. The matter is complex. One might start here.

Myometrium, tis of thee…

[W]hat would the Will-to-Power Conservatives do with state control once acquired? The specifics vary from person to person, but the policy agenda can be characterized as right-wing on social issues (blue laws; crackdowns on pornography) and left-wing on economics (industrial subsidies; generous unemployment insurance). At the nexus of the two are proposals to use the tax code to encourage larger families, in which women preferably work less outside the home.

But this description is too modest! The Catholic version of Will to Power Conservatism will feature burning at the stake.


In anticipation:

Girls, work that muscle! E PLURIBUS UTERI!

Guys … I’m a little concerned about that porn crackdown… It seems at odds with the primary policy goal… But… just try your best.

Haitham al Haddad, meet America’s Catholic Integralists.

It’s always fun to watch dueling religious fanatics. In this corner, impressively featured in a new University of Manchester book, HaH and his followers preach death to apostates, the removal of female genitalia, the right of husbands to beat their wives, and of course the necessity of replacing godless states with caliphates. In this corner, Edmund Waldstein and his followers also preach death to the godless liberal state and the necessity of replacing it with a … cathophate and if people don’t like that idea there’s always burning at the stake. “Rather than enter the fray to persuade citizens, they instead wish to put their citizens under the control of a Catholic administrative state that degrades free association of citizens into the solemn submission of subjects to their spiritual and temporal superiors.”

Because the Church is not a “human power” but a supernatural one, it is permitted to use coercion. And Catholic doctrine on the duty of societies toward Catholicism, as formulated by Pius IX, Leo XIII, and others, is that they must recognize it as the one true religion.


[The dominant theologian of integralism] is a monarchist who argues that the Church has the right to punish baptized heretics (Protestants), including by burning them at the stake... “[We must] recognize the truth of the revealed religion not only as individuals but also corporately, as societies.


It is an internet aesthetic of mostly young men alienated from the public life and consumed with the libido dominandi.


Er let’s see which was that last one? Right, the integralists… And they may be young, but they have a Big Daddy – Harvard’s Adrian Vermeule.



So… you go, girls! Put on your Sunday or Friday best and (pant pant) submit…

‘[Michel] Houellebecq is among a growing number of Western intellectuals flirting with anti-liberalism: Perhaps liberalism is not the unmitigated good most of us are raised to believe it is. In an odd way, though, liberalism’s critics end up saying more about the resilience of liberalism than its demise.’

Here’s an excellent, brief, 2018 essay about the trend – especially among a group of Catholic scholars in America – to dump liberal democracy for theocracy. Shadi Hamid’s focus is fundamentalist Islam, but his argument applies as well to the emergence, here, of intellectual briefs for what UD calls a Cathophate.

Ol’ UD remains truly shocked right down to the ground that respectable American academics openly argue for a future of religious tyranny in this country, of “Christian authoritarianism — muscular paternalism, with government enforcing social solidarity for religious reasons.” I mean to say that the moment I grasped what Adrian Vermeulen and Patrick Deneen and company were about, I was fucking gobsmacked, and I still am. I’m still all of a mucksweat about it. I’m like in permanent Margaret Dumont shock.

Chalk it up to UD‘s naivete + emotional instability if you like, but I actually don’t get why all sentient Americans aren’t shitting themselves over being told by Mariolatric Madoffs that they need only invest in the Edmund Waldstein Radiant Future Fund to realize Total Happiness Now and Forever. God does not want you for an Individual Liberty friend! In Bondage and Submission lies Salvation!


Whew. Hold on. Getting a little hot here…

… Margaret Dumont only pretended to be scandalized by the twisted Marx Brothers; similarly, maybe UD‘s sublimating her actual erotic attraction to The Story of O, Saved by Flagellants… ? To the idea of a total male total priesthood running their switches over her bum… ?


Yet. As Hamid asks, “Is a lack of meaning really worse than a lack of freedom? … What liberalism’s critics appear unable, or unwilling, to address is whether a lack of meaning is a worse problem to have than a lack of freedom.” Maybe liberalism – “the political order that privileges non-negotiable rights, personal freedoms, and individual autonomy” – issues in some degree of conceptual confusion, and maybe even in a difficulty or refusal to commit oneself to clear philosophical/theological convictions – but is this really so unbearable a position to be in that one’s only option is rule by monks who think burning heretics at the stake is key to good governance?

“Endless free choice,” as Deneen disparagingly calls it, is a dead end. Choice needs to be a means to something else, but to what? Legally based religious systems—which only Islam among the largest religions potentially offers—quite consciously seek to restrict choice in the name of virtue and salvation…

And that’s the thing. Deneen can argue all he likes about the disabling side effects of individual liberty, but what he’s really about is damnation or salvation. The Medieval Church wafts you upward; free thought’s an express train to the abyss.

As the doorbell ringers at the beginning of The Book of Mormon put it: Have fun in hell.

You can bring a cult to culture, but you can’t make it think.

The Capitol-Trasher cult; the ultraorthodox cult; the integralist Catholic cult. Their leaders: Marjorie Taylor Greene; primitive authoritarian rabbis; Pater Edmund Waldstein. These groups are violent; they don’t recognize laws and institutions; they are irrational; they are primitive.

Everyone is so surprised that it turns out a significant minority of the Cap-Trash cult didn’t even vote in a presidential election whose result caused them to try to overthrow the government of the United States. They didn’t vote for Trump.

Why are you surprised? Cultists don’t vote. Or if they vote, it’s in robotic blocks, obeying commands from the cult leader.

Get with the program and perceive their world long enough to defend yourself.

They are trying to kill you and kill your world, and you totally need to defend yourself against them.

They’re not cute. Okay? Waldstein thinks burning non-cultists at the stake is a good idea. Greene wants to put a bullet through the head of Nancy Pelosi. Israeli haredim teach fifteen year old boys to burn down city buses and attack police. Why do you cling to the idea that because these people present themselves as god-fearing they deserve your respect?

Read Don DeLillo’s Mao II, his novel about cults, if you’d like to pause and understand the deep reasons people join cults. Or don’t bother learning the deep reasons. The imperative is to fight them with all you’ve got. With all we’ve got.

My Only Objection to Hawley and Cruz being placed on the No Fly List is…

.. the obvious one, which is that if we don’t let them fly they won’t be able to leave. Give each man one free one-way ticket to anywhere outside the US willing to take him. THEN impose the flying ban.


As to where they should go: Hawley’s a no-brainer: Heiligenkreuz Abbey, a twelfth-century monastery near Vienna, and home to

Pater Edmund Waldstein, a 35-year-old Cistercian monk… By any conventional standard, his views are extreme: in addition to rejecting the separation of church and state, he is a monarchist who argues that the Church has the right to punish baptized heretics (Protestants), including by burning them at the stake.

Burning individual heretics at the stake can’t hold a candle, as it were, to violently bringing down the most powerful democracy in the world; but it’ll be a way for Josh to cool his heels while hatching the next assault on the Capitol.

Cruz? The Northern Lights look spectacular from Murmansk.

Yes. Murmansk.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm Scathes through an Opinion Piece that Perfectly Expresses What Must, Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, be Called the Suicidal Acceptance of Any Mindless Cult that Calls Itself a Religion.

“You can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you’ll just get yourself called Reverend” remarked Christopher Hitchens of the founder of the only university in America that’s about to reopen. In an extraordinary opinion piece about perverse pockets of resistance to self-isolating, Candida Moss duly notes this country’s raving reverends, its potted pastors, the flagellants at the journal First Things; she mentions too the South Korean cult at the heart of that country’s epidemic… She fails to mention the sometimes violent ultraorthodox cults in Israel, Europe, and the United States, but we need to throw them in…

She lists all of these disease-spreaders with respect, with the understanding that of course all such people and groups qualify as upstanding Christians and Jews, our brethren, part of the beautiful world (as a word in her headline puts it), of “faith.”


Since we need to stop fanatics from killing us, let us examine precisely how ethically dense people like Moss help make this life-saving goal unreachable.

This week, as stores, restaurants and other businesses shuttered their doors to help stem the spread of coronavirus, a number of conservative Christians chose to frame their response to the pandemic in a different way: as an opportunity to choose “faith over fear.”

The rhetoric of that last phrase – an opportunity to choose – recalls Jack Gladney’s response to his wife’s choice, amid the “airborne toxic event” in White Noise, to regard the disaster as “a good time to cut down on fatty things.” To which Gladney responds:

I think it’s interesting that you regard a possible disaster for yourself, your family and thousands of other people as an opportunity to cut down on fatty foods.

Of course, the people Moss has in mind don’t really choose anything; they are proud submissives, majorly into suffering and dying for the lord or the chief rabbi or whatever. To them, the virus represents an opportunity to manifest submission. They’re not like hedonistic spring breakers; they’re compelled to prove something.

We’re talking snake-handlers here, many of whom die venomously while under the protection of the holy spirit – and I’m pretty sure Moss would extend the same ecumenical courtesy to snake-handlers that she extends to the Falwells.

Hers is a category error, not to mention a catastrophic mistake for humankind.

While religious activity may be an essential part of people’s lives, the assumption that social distancing equates to spiritual estrangement is up for debate. Should religious freedom be allowed to put the lives of the many at risk?

Religious; religious; spiritual; freedom – how kind of Moss to honor the kinkiest among us with these epithets. How kind of her to frame the problem of what to do with destructive masochists as a “debate.” Here are some better word choice suggestions from SOS: cultic; criminally negligent (I mean, let’s also honor with words like faith Christian Scientists who kill their kids: Or is Moss reserving judgment of isolation-resisters until they too kill family members?); stupid; socially toxic.

In her last paragraphs (how many readers will get to these?) Moss finally says the right stuff:

What is most frightening about these latest expressions of “religious freedom” is not just that they threaten to place others at risk, but that religious conservatives form a substantial part of Donald Trump’s voter base — his plan to reopen by Easter may be well timed to speak to them.

Now the phrase religious freedom gets the quotation marks it deserves; but Moss still considers fringe groups (think here of the Mormon church’s endless efforts to disaffiliate itself from backwoods polygamists fucking fourteen year olds for the lord) “conservative Christians.” Call them what they are, lady – disturbed reactionaries who damage the legitimate religions they parasitize, and who now threaten the health of nations.


The attitude of religion to medicine, like the attitude of religion to science, is always necessarily problematic and very often necessarily hostile. A modern believer can say and even believe that his faith is quite compatible with science and medicine, but the awkward fact will always be that both things have a tendency to break religion’s monopoly, and have often been fiercely resisted for that reason. What happens to the faith healer and the shaman when any poor citizen can see the full effect of drugs and surgeries, administered without ceremonies or mystifications? Roughly the same thing as happens to the rainmaker when the climatologist turns up, or to the diviner from the heavens when schoolteachers get hold of elementary telescopes. Plagues of antiquity were held to be punishment from the gods, which did much to strengthen the hold of the priesthood and much to encourage the burning of infidels and heretics who were thought—in an alternative explanation—to be spreading disease by witchcraft or else poisoning the wells. We may make allowances for the orgies of stupidity and cruelty that were indulged in before humanity had a clear concept of the germ theory of disease. Most of the “miracles” of the New Testament have to do with healing, which was of such great importance in a time when even minor illness was often the end. (Saint Augustine himself said that he would not have believed in Christianity if it were not for the miracles.) Scientific critics of religion such as Daniel Dennett have been generous enough to point out that apparently useless healing rituals may even have helped people get better, in that we know how important morale can be in aiding the body to fight injury and infection. But that would be an excuse only available in retrospect. By the time Dr. Jenner had discovered that a cowpox vaccine could ward off smallpox, this excuse had become void. Yet Timothy Dwight, a president of Yale University and to this day one of America’s most respected “divines,” was opposed to the smallpox vaccination because he regarded it as an interference with god’s design. And this mentality is still heavily present, long after its pretext and justification in human ignorance has vanished.

Sentences that Make UD Laugh

The author of “Integralism in Three Sentences” is a man who, according to the integralists I spoke with, has done more than anyone to revive both the term and the philosophy: Pater Edmund Waldstein, a 35-year-old Cistercian monk who lives in Heiligenkreuz Abbey, a twelfth-century monastery a few miles south of Vienna. The son of two theologians, one American and one Austrian, Pater Edmund was raised in an intellectual Catholic household and educated at California’s Thomas Aquinas College. By any conventional standard, his views are extreme: in addition to rejecting the separation of church and state, he is a monarchist who argues that the Church has the right to punish baptized heretics (Protestants), including by burning them at the stake. Yet he’s gracious and warm …

Scathing Online Schoolmarm…

… always appreciates fine writing. Here’s some. Let’s see how John Kass of the Chicago Tribune does his thing.

If there were any doubts that Illinois is the diseased poster child of political corruption, those doubts are long gone. [Such a fresh, strong opening sentence, in the context of such an absurdly over the top story of statewide corruption, that SOS laughed out loud. Great start.]

Friday’s story in the Tribune exposes a widening pattern of corruption at the University of Illinois. This time, with the trading of law school admission for patronage-style jobs. [Sentence fragment! Yes, the second sentence isn’t a sentence. But that’s okay, right? The guy’s pissed, and his clipped approach fits his anger.]

So any doubts about where this state stands should be erased. What remains is the smell. [Maybe he’s heading into a bit too much figurative language — poster child, disease, smell. We might ask him to polish this by finding one metaphor — stench would certainly do it — and sticking with it.]

The state stinks, from Rich Daley’s City Hall to Springfield, and now all that’s left, for taxpayers, is the smell and the stain. [Smell, stain, stink — I guess we’re basically into liquid doodoo here. And that’s fine. If the shit fits, wear it.] Corruption and patronage, once thought to be [Drop to be.] the exclusive province of greasy politicians, now reach into the law school of the state’s premier public university. [Not sure about greasy, though greasy-palmed is I guess the referent. If you wanted to stay with flowing manure, you might say malodorous or something.]

Friday’s story details how University Chancellor Richard Herman forced the university’s law school to accept an unqualified student. That student had the backing of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The student’s relative dropped wads of campaign money on ex-Gov. Dead Meat. [Laughed again on dead meat. Though again, if you wanted to keep the primary metaphor you might say ex-Gov. Fertilizer.]

In exchange for corrupting his law school’s admissions policy, Herman wanted to get jobs for five of his law school graduates. University officials considered the law grads so far at bottom of their class that they needed political clout to get a decent salary at a good law firm. If that wasn’t possible, the U. of I. was willing to place them in government jobs.

“Yeah, I’m betting the Governorship will be open,” Heidi M. Hurd, then dean of the university’s College of Law, wrote in an e-mail to Herman on April 29, 2006, perhaps joking that Blagojevich’s time in public life was coming to an end.

What followed in her e-mail was worse.

“Other jobs in Government are fine, since kids who don’t pass the bar and can’t think are close enough for government work,” Hurd wrote. In another e-mail to other U. of I. officials, Hurd wrote:

“FYI: The deal is supposed to be that WE get to pick the students — and they are supposed to be bottom-of-the-class students who face a hell of a time passing the Bar and otherwise getting jobs!”

That’s law school the Chicago Way. If they can’t pass the bar on the first or second try, they’re qualified to become mayor.

The latest e-mails from Herman, Hurd and other U. of I. officials were released Thursday. The Tribune had asked for all such e-mails in April. But these somehow were forgotten, until U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald issued subpoenas. Then, magically, that which was lost was found. A miracle!

Did the U. of I. search by the light of Batman’s beacon, Diogenes’ lantern or some other powerful lamp of truth? [Once again, funny. Remember: Writing is all about control. If you’re angry, don’t spew. Find some other way to convey your rage. Humor is a fantastic way.]

Thomas Hardy, spokesman for the University and a former Tribune colleague whom I know and respect, dismisses my skepticism and deserves his say.

“We’ve made a good-faith effort to respond to the Tribune’s Freedom of Information requests, and others,” Hardy said. “Some documents were not produced that apparently should have been. We don’t know right now the reason for that, but the fact of the matter is that in collecting documents and doing interviews for the Quinn commission, we’ve come across these new e-mails and made them publicly available.”

Within days, perhaps sooner, you’ll hear a few thudding sounds, like lonely bowling balls tossed down a dark alley, and you’ll realize you’re listening to the political heads of Chancellor Herman and his crew rolling into history. [Well, we’ve switched figures bigtime, and I’m not sure how fresh and lovely the bowling ball thing is. I mean, not that shit’s fresh and lovely qua metaphor, but somehow people always like it. And yes — He could rewrite with an eye to maintaining his dominant metaphor by saying That sucking sound you hear is the head of Chancellor Herman being flushed down the toilet of history.]

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that lopping a few heads and burning the stumps will clean things up.

Not in the state where our boss Democrats in the state legislature — guys like state Senate President John Cullerton (D-DeLeo) — are still slapping themselves on the back for stopping the Illinois Reform Commission led by former assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick Collins.

Not in the state where Mayor Daley can pretend not to know that his nephew received $68 million in city pension money to invest, and then, without telling his taxpayers, puts them on the hook for likely cost overruns in his 2016 Olympic dream.

Not in the state where — just before the patronage abuse trial of Daley’s top aides a few years ago — mayoral mouthpiece David Axelrod, now the media wizard for President Barack Obama, defended political patronage by arguing it is the grease that helps government run smoothly. [Yeah, ye olde start every paragraph with the same words — Not in the state… Fine. Works well here.]

Think about your taxes. And all the fine students denied admission to the U. of I., though they have the grades.

Think of the clout that’s been reported by this newspaper. Consider the thousands of excellent, hardworking students at the U. of I. who’ve been dishonored by the corruption of adults who are [Drop who are.] supposed to protect them.

If you’ve read carefully here and elsewhere, you know about corrupt politicians, corrupt cops, corrupt businesses. But the last line of defense for the corrupt are kinky judges.

How do you get such judges? You begin in law school, with university officials establishing corrupt practices, leveraging unqualified lawyers into jobs.

Lawyers become judges, don’t they? [Terrific conclusion, in which he clarifies the food chain by which judges become just as corrupt as everyone else in Illinois government.]

The Surprise of Dusk Come Early

Deborah Digges, a poet and Tufts University professor of English, jumped off the top of the University of Massachusetts stadium while the Temple University women’s lacrosse team was practicing there. The team noticed her, “in the upper reaches of the stadium,” but thought little of it, and then they found her body.

She was an accomplished writer. Much of her poetry and prose chronicles the despair behind her suicide. Disillusionment, every reflective person’s experience, undid her.

In a memoir about her troubled son she writes, “I have been a snob, a bohemian snob who believed that the arts, music, poetry were religion enough . . . and that somehow, above all the groups in culture – rich and poor alike – we were superior in our passionate pursuits.”

Reading her, you get the sense of a person extraordinarily bifurcated, unable to overcome the gap between the beliefs and passions upon which she set her life, and the failure of those beliefs and passions.

Here’s one of her strongest poems. Read it first here, without my commentary:


Little left of me that year [The poet recalls a terrible year of despair, which almost did her in.]—I had a vision
I was strata, atmosphere. [Little left of her. Mere air.]
Or it was that the host entire coded in my blood
found voice and shrieked, for instance,
at what we now call roads
and I must maneuver freeways, bridges with these inside me
falling to their knees beating the ground howling. [The self-eviscerating despair was so great that her very reality as a self was taken over by a “host” of shrieking creatures.]
One might well ask why they’d come forward—
fugitives flushed from a burning house,
converts fed down the aisles, [Should this be “led” down the aisles? UD isn’t sure – thinks maybe this is a typo…]
bumping and blubbering their way into revival light,
light so eroding, the human face is aberration,
the upright stance a freak
with no means otherwise. [How do I even stay upright under this despair?]

Some things won’t translate backwards.
Some things can’t be undone,
though it takes years to learn this, years. [The pain of recognizing that you’ve made unalterable mistakes in your life.]
Such were the serial exhaustions of my beliefs, [One by one, the convictions on which I grounded my life wore out.]
whatever drug worn off that must belong to youth,
or to the feminine, or simply to the genes begun a wintering.
Then I knew the purest bitterness,
as if my heart were a wrecking ball,
my love for the man an iron bell used of the wind,
calling to task a population,
calling them in, as from these fields,
before the stone wheel became speech,
before fire dropped from the sky to be caged and carried into the caves. [The fire of youthful romantic passion transmutes into an embittering, imprisoning flame.]
And so they came to be with me,

whom I suspect was nothing more to them than shelter,
a ransomed hall, a shipwreck among dead trees,
the fallen branches lichen-studded,
which they dragged into my rooms. [The host again; the sense of her self taken over by morbid aggressive forces of misery.]
And when the lights burned out they wept,
and when the heat was gone they gathered my rugs around them. [Again, even the flame of bitterness burns out eventually, and one is left with cold emptiness.]
I’d never known how quickly a house
can be taken back, taken down,
nor will I grant myself the balm—
though it’s been centuries—
that I was “blessed” to see it turned inside out,
the furniture thrown through the windows, and the books
to lie face up, riffling, swelling, until the pages
emptied into a thousand seasons, [An honest person, she won’t console herself with the facile notion that the total destruction of everything you’ve stood for and the end of your love affair is somehow purgative, clarifying, an energizing challenge to begin anew. She knows better. No pathetic “revival light” for her.]

books that once possessed the magnet pull of stars!
In the end I let them keep the house
the way they wanted, wash from the toilet,
hang yew boughs from the eaves,
my sturdy doors fallen from the hinges,
even my hair commingling with theirs— [She gives herself over to despair, lets everything go. The hosts take her over.]
huge animal clumps a-swirl in the eddies
of spiders’ eggs and broken teeth and cemetery moss and pine needles— [Great list here. Note how good poets can toss together a set of images and have them carry a theme — here, the theme of the dessication of her youthful fertility.]
until not one ornament was left that said I lived,  [Preparing the Christmas theme with which she’ll end here.]
not even a drinking glass
I might have toasted with just as the clouds
shifted, my shadow disappeared,  [Again the ‘little left of me’ theme.]
O, drink from once before my leaving, leaving.
With any luck, I sang, I’ll be in hell by Christmas. [Sardonic final line, anticipating a holiday release of suicide.]

The surprise of dusk come early is from her poem Lilacs.

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