The UN is Hopeless

Little hurts more than losing long held and strongly felt hopes, such as the hopes most people have for their children and grandchildren. But there comes a time in such despair when, to go on living, the anguished must reject such hopes, replacing them with new hopes, held with less idealism and more realism, with less passion and more wisdom. Yet, in the process one dies a little – or a lot. As Samuel Coleridge wrote in The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner:

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn.

When I memorized that stanza, more than 50 years ago, I was president of my high school’s UN club. At the time, we were full of hopes for the future world, heralded by the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. But now, what a sad depth to which the UN has sunk. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said with dismay about the UN’s former Commission on Human Rights:
We have reached a point at which the Commission’s declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole, and where piecemeal reforms will not be enough.
In an attempt to remove that “shadow”, in 2006 the UN General Assembly attempted to reform the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by replacing it with the Human Rights Council (HRC), but as is illustrated below, it was only a “piecemeal” reform, with the only significant change being a shuffling of the letters in its acronym.

Below is quoted text from pp. 68-73 of a UN document from the Seventh Session of the HRC. To the quotation I’ve added the colored notes in “square brackets” in hopes of prodding readers to consider how ludicrous and even despicable this resolution is. It was introduced by representatives from Pakistan and Egypt and passed by a vote of 21 to 10, with 14 abstentions.
7/19. Combating defamation of religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense]

The Human Rights Council,

Recalling the 2005 World Summit Outcome adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 60/1 of 24 October 2005, in which the Assembly emphasized the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, color, sex, language or religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and acknowledged the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world [note that the statement is about “the importance of respect and understanding for… diversity”, not necessarily respect for religions and cultures!],

Recalling also the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in September 2001…

Recalling further the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 36/55 of 25 November 1981,

Recognizing the valuable contribution of all religions to modern civilization [somebody’s gotta be kidding!] and the contribution that dialogue among civilizations can make to an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind,

Noting the Declaration adopted by the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers at its thirty-fourth session in Islamabad, in May 2007, which condemned the growing trend of Islamophobia [are we “unbelievers” (in nonsense) not to fear an ideology that, in its “holy book”, unrelentingly calls for our murder?!] and systematic discrimination against the adherents of Islam and emphasized the need to take effective measures to combat defamation of religions [how can one “defame” ideologies that are indefensible, being nothing but childish superstitions, scientific speculations by savages, babblings of deranged psychopaths, and legalistic mumbo-jumbo concocted by megalomaniacs?]

Noting also the final communiqué adopted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference [is this an Islamic or a UN document?] at its eleventh summit, in Dakar, in March 2008, in which the Organization expressed concern at the systematically negative stereotyping of Muslims and Islam and other divine religions [and those who believe in Santa Claus, fairy godmothers, elves, witches, and sundry other supernatural silliness, such as ghosts, angels, and gods], and denounced the overall rise in intolerance and discrimination against Muslim minorities [and others who require no evidence to form their strongly held beliefs], which constitute an affront to human dignity [for certainly it’s undignified to hold beliefs more strongly than relevant, reliable evidence can support] and run counter to the international human rights instruments,

Recalling the joint statement of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union and the Secretary-General of 7 February 2006, in which they recognized the need, in all societies, to show sensitivity and responsibility in treating issues of special significance for the adherents of any particular faith, even by those who do not share the belief in question [and in particular, sensitivity to those delusional people who are convinced that they've been abducted by aliens, that angels communicate with people, and/or that Santa Claus really does live at the North Pole, e.g., by sensitively and responsibly getting them psychiatric help],

Reaffirming the call made by the President of the General Assembly in his statement of 15 March 2006 that, in the wake of existing mistrust and tensions, there is a need for dialogue and understanding among civilizations, cultures and religions to commit to working together to prevent provocative or regrettable incidents and to develop better ways of promoting tolerance, respect for and freedom of [and from] religion and belief [including “respect” for all ideas that are patently absurd?],

Welcoming all international and regional initiatives to promote cross-cultural and interfaith harmony, including the Alliance of Civilizations and the International Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation and their valuable efforts [such as?] towards the promotion of a culture of peace and dialogue at all levels,

Welcoming also the report by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the situation of Muslims and Arabs in various parts of the world [when everyone knows that we should be tolerant of people who have made it abundantly clear that they desire to rule the world]…

Welcoming further the reports of the Special Rapporteur submitted to the Council at its fourth and sixth sessions… in which he draws the attention of Member States to the serious nature of the defamation of all religions [and the defamation of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson and others] and to the promotion of the fight against these phenomena by strengthening the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue and promoting reciprocal understanding [of each other’s myths and fairy tales, absurd antihuman laws, and defunct scientific theories] and joint action to meet the fundamental challenges of development, peace and the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as the need to complement legal strategies,

Reiterating the call made by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to Member States to wage a systematic campaign against incitement to racial and religious hatred by maintaining a careful balance between the defense of secularism and respect for freedom of [and from] religion and by acknowledging and respecting the complementarity of all the freedoms embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights…

Emphasizing that States, non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and the media have an important role to play in promoting tolerance and freedom of [and from] religion and belief through education [except, of course, in the case of “the one true religion”, disbelievers of which and apostates from which are to be killed],

Noting with concern that defamation of religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] is among the causes of social disharmony and instability, at the national and international levels, and leads to violations of human rights,

Noting with deep concern the increasing trend in recent years of statements attacking religions, including Islam and Muslims, in human rights forums [when obviously if you’re convinced that any religion is stupid, you have no right to express your opinion]…

1. Expresses deep concern at the negative stereotyping of all religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense], manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief [I mean, after all, just because you cling to stupid ideas, doesn’t mean that you cling to stupid ideas – I guess];

2. Also expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence, and human rights violations [I mean, just because such identification is abundantly clear in Islam’s “holy book”, the Koran, doesn’t mean that it’s true – I guess], and emphasizes that equating any religion with terrorism should be rejected and combated by all at all levels [for after all, people will next be calling a spade a spade, and we can’t have that];

3. Further expresses deep concern at the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001 [because, after all, just because all of the September 11th terrorists were Muslims and behaved in a manner consistent with Islamic teachings doesn’t meant that they were Muslims following Islamic teachings – I guess];

4. Expresses its grave concern at the recent serious instances of deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents, and sacred persons in the media and by political parties and groups in some societies, and at the associated provocation and political exploitation [after all, when you have “sacred persons” such as Sir Isaac Newton defamed by deliberately provocative people such a Einstein, then who will be safe from criticism?!] ;

5. Recognizes that, in the context of the fight against terrorism, defamation of religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] becomes an aggravating factor that contributes to the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms of target groups and their economic and social exclusion;

6. Expresses concern at laws or administrative measures that have been specifically designed to control and monitor Muslim minorities, thereby stigmatizing them and legitimizing the discrimination that they experience [for after all, if people want to be terrorists, they should have the freedom to be terrorists];

7. Strongly deplores physical attacks and assaults on businesses, cultural centers and places of worship of all religions and targeting of religious symbols;

8. Urges States to take actions to prohibit the dissemination, including through political institutions and organizations, of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement to racial and religious hatred, hostility or violence [so, from here on out, everybody, stop distributing the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon, cause they’re all loaded with such crap];

9. Also urges States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from the defamation of any religion [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense], to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] and their value systems [such as: “Kill the infidels”] and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance [certainly we should combat religious hatred and intolerance, such as is promoted in all “holy books”];

10. Emphasizes that respect of religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] and their protection from contempt is an essential element conducive for the exercise by all of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion [yes siree: defunct ideas MUST BE protected – otherwise, for goodness sake, people will start thinking for themselves, and we can’t have that];

11. Urges all States to ensure that all public officials, including members of law enforcement bodies, the military, civil servants and educators, in the course of their official duties, respect all religions and beliefs [and all defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] and do not discriminate against persons on the grounds of their religion or belief [I mean, just because some people are bonkers doesn’t mean you’re to consider them bonkers] and that all necessary and appropriate education or training is provided;

12. Emphasizes that, as stipulated in international human rights law, everyone has the right to freedom of expression [except, of course, those who express their opinions that anyone who believes in any god is bonkers], and that the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities [not to criticize any religion or defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions [e.g., laws of blasphemy against defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] but only those provided by law and necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals [which certainly should be big enough loopholes to permit any theocrat to drive through with columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers];

13. Reaffirms that general comment No. 15 of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in which the Committee stipulates that the prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred [such as are contained in the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon] is compatible with the freedom of opinion and expression, is equally applicable to the question of incitement to religious hatred [except, of course, for one minor detail: people have no control over their ethnicity, but they do have (or should have) control over the stupidity in which they profess “belief”];

14. Deplores the use of printed, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and of any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam or any religion [or any defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense];

15. Invites the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to continue to report on all manifestations of defamation of religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense], and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia, on the enjoyment of all rights to the Council at its ninth session;

16. Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the implementation of the present resolution and to submit a study compiling relevant existing legislations and jurisprudence concerning defamation of and contempt for religions [and defunct scientific theories, superstitions, fairy tales, astrology, and similar nonsense] to the Council at its ninth session.
Believe it or not, the above resolution (for some strange reason, without the red remarks) was adopted by the UN’s Human Rights Council. Nations in favor included: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Wikipedia states: “Of the Council’s members from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 16 of 17 voted for the resolution, along with China, Russia, and South Africa.” That diplomats from China, the Philippines, Russia, and South Africa voted for the resolution is a disgrace to the people that they supposedly represent. Nations voting against the resolution were Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

So now, everybody, take note: according to the above resolution of the UN’s Human Rights Council, religions have “rights”! The Council should rename itself: The UN Council for the Rights of Humans and Religions. Roy W. Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union summarized such stupidity well:
… no-one has a duty to respect any religion. Furthermore, lack of respect for a belief should not be confused with hatred of the believer. It is the believer that merits protection, not the belief.

And how are we to define defamation? Are we no longer to be permitted to condemn misogyny, homophobia, or calls to kill – if they are made in the name of religion? Are we obliged to respect religious practices that we find offensive? Is lack of respect for such practices to be considered a crime? Are ideas, are religions now to be accorded human rights? Surely, when religion invades the public domain it becomes an ideology like any other, and must be open to criticism as such. To deny the claims of religion is neither defamation nor blasphemy.
Again, why protect just religious ideas? Why not all ideas? Shouldn’t all ideas have as many “rights” as religious ideas? So, will the Council entertain its renaming as The UN Council for the Rights of Humans, Religions, and Other Ideas?

But then, what would happen if ideas conflict? Suppose, for example, that someone supports the idea (as strange as it might seem) that all religions are stupid, infantile, holdovers from (as Richard Dawkins said) “the cry-baby phase” of human development. Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Joseph Lewis:
Let me tell you that religion is the cruelest fraud ever perpetrated upon the human race. It is the last of the great schemes of thievery that man must legally prohibit so as to protect himself from the charlatans who prey upon the ignorance and fears of the people. The penalty for this type of extortion should be as severe as it is of other forms of dishonesty.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Henry Mencken:
Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration – courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth… God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Robert Ingersoll:
The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ [or Allah] is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called “faith.”
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Clarence Darrow:
The origin of the absurd idea of immortal life is easy to discover; it is kept alive by hope and fear, by childish faith, and by cowardice.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Mikhail A. Bakunin:
Religion is a collective insanity.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Thomas Edison:
So far as religion of the day is concerned, it’s a damned fake… Religion is all bunk.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by W.K. Clifford:
It’s wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by William Archer:
I suggest that the anthropomorphic god-idea is not a harmless infirmity of human thought, but a very noxious fallacy, which is largely responsible for the calamities the world is at present enduring.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Bertrand Russell:
My own view of religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race… I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney:
Religion does three things quite effectively: Divides people, Controls people, Deludes people.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Gene Roddenberry:
I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will – and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Frank Zappa:
If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and CARES about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Joseph Daleiden:
In the final analysis all theology, whether Christian or otherwise, is a marvelous exercise in logic based on premisses that are no more verifiable – or reasonable – than astrology, palmistry, or belief in the Easter Bunny. Theology pretends to search for truth, but no method could lead a person farther away from the truth than that intellectual charade. The purpose of theology is first and foremost to perpetuate the religious status quo. Religion, in turn, seeks to maintain the social stability necessary for its own preservation.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by President Thomas Jefferson:
Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by President James Madison:
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by President Abraham Lincoln;
My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill;
Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists
in the world.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Albert Einstein:
The Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Richard Dawkins:
If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the difference? Even bad achievements of scientists, the bombs and sonar-guided whaling vessels, *work*! The achievements of theologians don’t do anything, don’t affect anything, don’t mean anything. What makes anyone think that “theology” is a subject at all?
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Sam Harris:
We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them “religious”; otherwise, they are likely to be called “mad”, “psychotic” or “delusional”.
Suppose someone supports the idea expressed by Sunand Tryambak Joshi:
The atheist, agnostic, or secularist… should not be cowed by exaggerated sensitivity to people’s religious beliefs and fail to speak vigorously and pointedly when the devout put forth arguments manifestly contrary to all the acquired knowledge of the past two or three millennia. Those who advocate a piece of folly like the theory of an “intelligent creator” should be held accountable for their folly; they have no right to be offended for being called fools until they establish that they are not in fact fools.
Then tell us, Oh Wise Members of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, will such ideas also be protected – or just the ideas recorded in sundry, ridiculous “holy books”?

No wonder respect for the UN continues to plummet. As Sigmund Freud said about all religious beliefs:
The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.
Maybe Freud was right, but I’m not quite ready to give up on humanity. Instead, I’d urge all readers to ridicule all gods, all religions, and all “holy books” out of existence. Think about it, and if you’re so inclined, consider what Bertrand Russell said:
A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
But as sad as it is for me to say, I’ve lost hope in the UN. Yet, that’s not to suggest that some UN organizations aren’t successful (e.g., UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, WMO, and others), but we need to start over, planning to keep what’s working and to jettison what isn’t (such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Council). Best would be start over “from scratch”, because with the rules of the existing UN, I expect that the members will never agree to needed reforms, since nations almost certainly won’t agree to reduce their representation, privileges, and power.

For example, starting from scratch, let’s invite all nations to join a new organization (maybe call it the Global Congress, GC, or the Global Council, GC, or the Global Cooperative, GC, or similar), with two houses of congress, with passage of any resolution requiring a majority in both houses, and with each participating nation having representation in both houses. In one house, maybe call it “The House of Rights”, the votes of the representatives would be weighted by the number of people that each diplomat represents multiplied by a measure of the people’s freedom, e.g., as a first approximation (until a better measure becomes available) as given by summing columns A (Electoral Process) through G (Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights) from the Table produced by Freedom House, with the goal being to have each vote reflect the freely held opinions of people whom each diplomat represents in reality rather than as claimed by the nation's rulers.

In the other house of the Global Congress, maybe call it “The House of Responsibilities”, the votes of the same nation’s diplomats would be weighted by the financial contributions to the GC made by each representative’s nation, with the goal being to have each vote reflect the willingness of each nation to shoulder the responsibilities associated with each resolution. For example, if funding for the GC were similar to current funding of the UN, then those nations paying “the floor rate” of 0.001% of the total budget would have their votes in The House of Responsibilities multiplied by 0.001%, while (again if current contributions continued) votes of the following nations would be multiplied by the following numbers (reflecting their 2007 percentage contributions to the total UN budget): US 22% (the maximum currently permitted), Japan 16.6%, Germany 8.7%, UK 6.1%, France 6.0%, Italy 4.9%, Canada 2.8%, China 2.7%, Spain 2.5%, Mexico 1.9%, Australia 1.6%, Brazil 1.5%, etc.

Similar weightings of all ballots would occur in all Committees, Councils, Working Groups, etc., established by the GC, although probably not by establishing two subgroups within each group (although the rights and responsibilities associated with every resolution would, of course, need to be thoroughly and separately evaluated), but instead, by weighting each ballot in each group both via “rights” and “responsibilities”. For example, the following table shows the results of the two separate weightings for a GC Human Rights Council vote on the resolution dealing with “Combating defamation of religions”, assuming the votes cast would be the same as were cast in the UN Human Rights Council.

For the calculations shown (click the table to enlarge it), numbers in the “Relative Freedom” column are obtained by summing columns A through G of the 2007 Freedom House figures already referenced (used until a better measure of freedoms becomes available), and numbers in the “Rights-Weighted” column are the products of the nation’s “Population” (in hundreds of millions) and its “Relative Freedom” (divided by 100). The “Responsibilities-Weighted” column is obtained from the 2007 funding for the UN, copied from the relevant UN report (p. 9). As a result, for the same nations voting in the same manner on the same resolution in a GC’s Human Right Council (which passed in the UN’s Human Rights Council by a vote of 21 to 10 - although the representatives from China and Russia might display more responsibility when their votes are more significant), the “Totals” show (if I’ve made no errors copying all those numbers!) that although the resolution would have passed by 7.86 to 3.59 (about 2 to 1) with a rights-based weighting, it would have failed by 32.876 to 5.712 (or about 33 to 6) with a responsibilities-based weighting. Therefore, upon failing to be approved by both measurements, the stupid, antihuman, religious-defamation-nonsense resolution would have been rejected.

As for other details about the proposed Global Congress, they would be worked out by mutual consent. I’d expect agreement that an Administrator would be elected by a majority of both houses for a single term (maybe for six years), that the Administrator (and only the Administrator) would have veto power, which could be over-ridden by a two-thirds majority in both houses, and that the Administrator would be commander-in-chief of the GC’s police forces. Also, I expect that an independent judiciary would be established with lifetime court-appointments of judges by majorities in both houses - all (including the Administrator and all diplomats) of course impeachable by a majority in both houses.

If a few nations started the GC (e.g., the US, Japan, EU nations, Australia, Canada, India…), then I expect that within a few years, the rest of the nations of the world would quickly follow, leading to the simultaneous abandonment of the UN. Good riddance: the UN is UNdermined, UNsuitable, UNsound, UNtenable, UNwise, UNworkable, UNrepresentative, UNdemocratic, UNconscionable, UNscrupulous, UNsuccessful, and UNworthy of further hope.


Some Saudi Odds & Ends

1. For the few readers who might be regulars, not only “thank you” but also: you might remember that this blog carried the “Free Fouad” banner until a few weeks ago, when he (Fouad Al-Farhan, the Saudi blogger who was brave enough to use his own name and who was arrested on 10 December 2007) was released from a Saudi prison on 26 April 2008. According to a 27 April 2008 CNN report, “a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry said al-Farhan was arrested… ‘because he violated the regulations of the kingdom’.” But a 23 May 2008 CNN report, about this week’s arrest by Saudi Secret Police of the Saudi political science professor and human rights activist Dr. Matrook al-Faleh, states that Fouad was arrested in December “after he called for the release [on his blog] of a group of detained peaceful reform [activists].”

What I didn’t realize earlier was that the “Free Fouad” campaign was launched by another Saudi blogger who was also sufficiently brave to use her own name, Hadeel Alhodaif. Now, in the 19 May 2008 issue of Times Online, Michael Theodoulou reports:
The Saudi blogosphere is in mourning after the sudden death of a young female web-diarist and author who battled for a freer media in the restrictive kingdom.

Hadeel Alhodaif died last Friday after failing to emerge from a coma she fell unexpectedly into last month, just two days after her 25th birthday.
More information about Hadeel is available in a story at the English-language Saudi daily, Arab News.

Hadeel’s “unexpected coma” and untimely end seem extremely odd. If Saudi authorities would like to remove suspicion that their Secret Police were involved in her murder, then I’d strongly recommend that they quickly invite a team of internationally respected coroners, toxicologists, and pathologists to thoroughly investigate and fully report on the cause of her death.

2. Regular readers might also remember my “Open Letter to the King of Saudi Arabia”, stimulated by his call for “dialogue [among] representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions… so we can agree on something that guarantees the preservation of humanity against those who tamper with ethics, family systems, and honesty… to [combat] the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world.” As a follow-up, the following information is from a report by Abdul Ghafour in the 22 May 2008 issue of Arab News:
JEDDAH, 22 May 2008 — A three-day international Islamic conference will begin at the Muslim World League (MWL) headquarters in Makkah on May 31 in preparation for the interfaith dialogue called for by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Turki, secretary-general of the MWL, said the conference would discuss the basis for dialogue with other faiths in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. “It will also review past experiences in the field to make use of them,” he added.

The conference, to be attended by leading Islamic scholars from around the world, will focus on four pivotal topics, such as the basis of dialogue in Islam, the methodology and principles of dialogue, parties involved in dialogue, and areas of dialogue…
The planned conference seems quite odd. If the end sought by Islamic clerics were dialogue with other “divine religions”, then doesn’t it thwart that end (destroying the spirit of ‘dialogue’) to first meet to decide on what they’ll mean by ‘dialogue’? Won’t the result be just another muzzled Muslim monologue?

More generally, if the end sought by Islamic clerics were to help their societies rather than themselves, I’d strongly recommend that they abandon plans for their clerical get-together to define their dialogue strategy and, instead, get together with people even in their own societies who see that the clerics are ruining their societies. For example, they’d be well advised to have a dialogue with the brave Saudi anthropologist Sa’d Al-Sowayan.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the following exchange as given at the excellent MEMRI website during an interview with Sa’d Al-Sowayan, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on 25 April 2008.
Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “Our education institutions are very deficient in various respects. First of all, critical philosophical thought hardly exists, and is almost completely forbidden. You are not meant to think, but to memorize and repeat by rote...”

Interviewer: “To spread the prevalent views.”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “Exactly. Secondly, anthropology...”

Interviewer: “Scientifically, speaking, what’s wrong with spreading the prevalent views?”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “First, you are not being innovative, and second, the prevalent views may have been acceptable in the past, but as life changes, everything must change accordingly. It is inconceivable that everything around you changes, yet your ideology remains static. The universe is not static. Change is the law of the universe, the law of life. Since everything is subject to change, ideas must also change, in order to be compatible with the changes in life.”

Interviewer: “Does this include the basic principles [of religion]?”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “I believe that the basic principles remain as they are, but the way we interpret them changes. In fact, there is no such thing as basic principles. There is the understanding of people... Ultimately, everything happens in your mind, as a human being.”

Interviewer: “The Koran and the Sunna do not constitute basic principles?”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “The text is static, but the way people interpret it is not. You can interpret the text in a way that corresponds with the age in which you live.”

Interviewer: “So you have no problem with people interpreting the text differently in each age?”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “As long as it is compatible with the spirit of the text.”

Interviewer: “In other words, the spirit of the text remains, and in each age, there is an adaptation [of the text].”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “For example, I do not think – and I might be going off on a tangent here – that it is in the best interest of the Islamic religion that we insist on continuing to live as if we were in the historical age of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Everything has changed, and I believe that we must inevitably understand this change and respond to it. Otherwise, the physical existence of Muslims as Muslims will ultimately be jeopardized. Isn’t it important for Muslims to continue to exist as a strong nation, which influences the world in which we live? How can this happen if we relate to things as if we were living 1,400 years ago?” [...]

Interviewer: “You are openly calling for secularism?”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “Secularism is not as dangerous as people think. They [the clerics] have instilled... They reduce you to that single word, so that they can classify you more easily.”

Interviewer: “So you are saying that the term ‘secularism’ has been distorted by a group of people.”

Sa’d Al-Sowayan: “The interpretation given to this term is incorrect. For example, the Messenger consulted with other people about worldly issues. In my view, this is secular behavior. In religious matters related to divine revelation, the Prophet was the ultimate authority. But with regard to worldly matters, he turned to the relevant experts.” [...]
Yet, if you consider the ends that the Muslim clerics actually pursue, it really isn’t odd that they reject secularism: it’s not the people that they want to help, it’s themselves; it’s not the people they want to protect, it’s their own turf; their goal, stipulated in their “holy book” (the Koran), is to rule the world.

3. Still another odd report out of Saudi Arabia is in an article in
Arab News entitled “Identify Causes of Decline, Scholar Tells Muslim”. The report by Ebtihal Mubarak starts:
Dr. M. Umer Chapra, an eminent economist, social scientist and the winner of the King Faisal International Prize, has urged Muslims to identify the reasons for their decline. After making vitally important contributions to civilization for several centuries, the Muslim world went into decline and Chapra would like for the lost glory to become a reality once again… Chapra emphasized the need for material as well as spiritual progress for a balanced development of humanity. He said only Islam can present such an equation. [Italics added]
It’s odd that this “eminent… scholar”, Chapra, would come to the conclusion that “only Islam can present such an equation”, when obviously the “lost glory” is relative to societies free of Islam!

It’s also odd that the “eminent… scholar”, Chapra, doesn’t heed advice even of fellow Muslims, such as the “Syrian philosopher” Sadik Jalal Al-’Azm. MEMRI provides excerpts from an interview with Al-’Azm that was published in the Qatari Al-Raya daily. All of his remarks are worth reading; here, I’ll quote just some of them:
In [my] book Critique of Religious Thought I described the thought in those days [between 1969 and 1970] as impoverished. The title of the first essay in the book is “The Scientific Culture and the Impoverishment of Religious Thought.” Now I see that this impoverishment [in the Muslim world] has deepened and grown worse.

In that period… there was [at least] an attempt by Islamic thinkers to deal with the problems and questions of modern science. They tended to base their discussion and argument on reason, reality, and the course of events. Now, I find that the religious thought that has emerged on Islam is in an even deeper state of impoverishment…

In that period, when I discussed the impoverishment of religious thought, I dealt with a number of Islamic thinkers and clerics, such as the Mufti of Tripoli Nadim Al-Jasser, Musa Al-Sadr, and others. At that time I saw that they wanted to deal with modern science, the scientific revolution, and applied science; however, unfortunately, they were ignorant of everything related to modern science: What is the meaning of science? What are the ways of scientific inquiry? Often their only knowledge of physics, chemistry, or anatomy since finishing elementary school came from reading the newspapers. They wanted to oppose the societal influence of scientific development and technological achievements while at the same time acting with an almost complete ignorance in these matters.

In my estimation this has grown even worse today. There is greater ignorance. There are opinions, especially in fundamentalist Islam, that completely reject modern science, the West, and all that it produces. If you take their thinking to its logical conclusion, they will become [like] the Taliban on this issue.

They relate to problems with complete stupidity. For example, I read some of Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini’s fatwas. In one of them, he presents the matter of a Muslim going into space in a space capsule. He discussed how he should pray, and how he should figure out in which direction to pray in outer space… The problem is that Khomeini is not familiar with any of the achievements, the attainments, the sciences, or the technological knowledge relating to space. All that interests him is how a Muslim should bow and pray, and how he should fast when he stays there for a long period of time. After this discussion, Khomeini arrives at the conclusion to permit a Muslim to pray in any of the four directions. Obviously, this way of thinking betrays [his] complete ignorance, as the directions are a matter of convention; there are no four directions in nature...

They are opposed to matters like test-tube babies, or innovations, for example, in the area of the genetic code (DNA) and genetic reproduction as well as other scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. They have no knowledge of the nature of these sciences, how the scientists arrived at them, and what were the experiments that preceded them. They are not in possession of a culture of science and they are radical in this matter. This is regarding the Shi’ites, but [there are examples] also among the Sunnis, [like] Sheikh ‘Abd Al-’Aziz ibn Baz, the senior religious scholar in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia…

In Ibn Baz’s book, published in 1985, he completely rejected the idea that the earth is round. He discussed the question on the basis that the earth is flat. He completely rejected the idea that the earth orbits the sun. I own the book and you can verify what I am saying.

And so, the earth does not orbit the sun, rather it is the sun that goes around the earth. He brought [us] back to ancient astronomy, to the pre-Copernican period. Of course, in this book Ibn Baz declares that all those who say that the earth is round and orbits the sun are apostates. At any rate, he is free to think what he wants. But the great disaster is that not one of the religious scholars or institutions in the Muslim world, from the East to the West, from Al-Azhar to Al-Zaytouna, from Al-Qaradhawi to Al-Turabi and [Sheikh Ahmad] Kaftaro, and the departments for shari’a study – no one dared to tell Ibn Baz what nonsense he clings to in the name of the Islamic religion…

The fact that you tell me that this is a sensitive matter – this means that I cannot reply to the words of Ibn Baz when he says that the Earth is flat and does not go around the sun, but rises and sets, in the ancient manner. This is a disaster. The greatest disaster is that we cannot even answer them…

The official religious institutions, first and foremost Al-Azhar, the faculties of shari’a, the departments of religious rulings, and so on are in a state of complete intellectual barrenness. They produce nothing but rulings like adult breastfeeding, the hadith of the fly, blessing oneself with the Prophet’s urine, and flogging journalists. The field has been abandoned to the jihadist-fundamentalist ideology, as it is the only one that raises thoughts that are worthy of being discussed and rejected. This is because of the barrenness of the major official institutions which are considered to be exemplary.

They are filled with repetitiveness, ossification, regression, protecting [particular] interests, perpetuating the status quo, and submission to the ruling authority. If the state is socialist, the Mufti becomes a socialist; if the rulers are at war, the clerics are pro-war; if the governments pursue peace, the [religious authorities] follow them. This is part of the barrenness of these institutions. This [forms a] vacuum in religious thought that is filled by the [intellectual] descendants and followers of Sayyid Qutb, for example, and that type of violent fundamentalist Islam…

There is no doubt that in Muslim countries the slogan “Islam is the solution” is attractive and brings people in. However I believe that this enlistment is superficial and sentimental, since when people deeply examine the substance of these slogans and the platforms it includes, they will begin to examine and discuss it anew.

Likewise, they will raise pressing questions, for example: Is the meaning of “Islam is the solution” the reestablishment of the Caliphate? And is the reestablishment of the Caliphate a realistic program? And so on.

I think that the Caliphate could return when the Bourbons or Louis XVI return to rule in France, or the czars return to rule in Russia. In Russia there is a Czarist party that wants to establish constitutional czarist rule. If it succeeds, then perhaps the Islamists will succeed in reestablishing the Caliphate.

As for these movements’ understanding of implementation of the shari’a, it could be summed up in the penal code, that is, flogging, stoning, cutting off hands, feet, heads, and so on. But what would happen if [one of the Islamists], for example, or his son or relative, was sentenced to flogging, to having his hands cut off, or whatever? In this situation he would reject this penal code. Perhaps they would agree to a fine, jail, or some other punishment, but he would not agree to flogging, stoning, or the cutting off of a hand. Therein lies the problem.

When the Islamists reach power, as they did in Sudan, for example, they are wary of implementing these punishments. When you carefully examine the slogan “Islam is the solution”, you discover that the people are already apprehensive and have second thoughts about implementation of this slogan…

I believe that the Islamists’ conception of implementing the Muslim shari’a is [really] martial law. When military officers take over the government they declare a state of emergency and martial law. When Islamists come to power they declare the implementation of the shari’a – and in this way they are no different from each other. In my opinion, their most important role is to terrorize people…

I am pessimistic about Arab culture in general… Culture is not the primary mover [that determines] the life of society or what policies are followed. It is not the primary mover in the historic orientation of one Arab country or another. There are those who think this, but there are crises on another level [that are only] reflected in the prevailing culture in [these] societies… It may be that there is a crisis of the rulers, or the economy, or a crisis of the elites, or some other type of crisis. But one cannot say that it is because of our culture that we suffer from all these problems… there are many impediments [to progress] to be found in [various] peoples’ cultures and traditions. At the same time – especially in the current period – there is a reluctance to investigate these impediments, define them, examine them closely, and criticize them in order to overcome them and remove them. The tendency to do so has grown weaker at present, and there is a kind of obsequiousness and deference to traditions and customs, whether they are backward or not.

When we simply look at the Arab world, we see that it consumes everything but that it produces nothing apart from raw materials. What can we expect from the Arabs? Look at the Arab world from one end to the other; there is no true added value to anything. There is a structure that seems not to encourage production and to not be for it. What do we produce? What do we export?

[This is true] whether you are talking about material, economic, scientific, or intellectual production, or any other kind. Look at oil production, for example. What is the Arabs’ relation to the oil industry? They own the oil, but they have nothing to do with its extraction, refinement, marketing, or transport. Look at the huge installations for prospecting oil, extracting it, and refining it. Look at the Arab satellite: what in it is Arab? I doubt the ability of the Arabs to produce a telephone without importing the parts and the technologies it requires, and perhaps even the technicians…

We need to take as our starting point the fact that no society is fundamentally endowed with a natural readiness for democracy. Democracy is a cumulative historical process. It would be a mistake to adopt the opinion that [this is] impossible, and that since we are tribal and sectarian we need to do away entirely with the idea of democracy, say that it is not appropriate for us, and close the door before it. In China they say a thousand-mile journey starts with a single step.

I am in favor of attempts and experiments. There are previous experiences from which we can benefit. I do not despair or throw my up my hands, despite being aware of the difficulty of this issue and the complications it entails. No [society] had a structure that was fundamentally appropriate and fit for democracy.

We, like other people, can learn, and accomplish 20 percent, then 30 percent, then 40, 50, and more. It is a cumulative process that depends on the steps taken to educate people in schools and educational institutions and train them gradually for the practice of democracy.

If we don’t do this, we will be governed by the saying: as you are, so will you be ruled. If you are tribal, you will be ruled by tribes; if you are backward, you will be ruled by the backward; if you are clannish, you will be ruled by clans; and if you are sectarian, you will be ruled by sects, and so on. This is to fall into a cycle from which there is no escape.

Or else there is [another] Arabic saying that would apply to us: the people are of the religion of their rulers. If the ruler is democratic, all of us will become democratic, and if the leader is a dictator, all of us become pro-dictatorship. As though we are condemning ourselves to a position of quiescence from which there is no escape. I reject this…

It is difficult for the Arab mentality in its current structure to produce democracy, but I do not believe that this mentality is an eternal fixed [attribute]. I [would] accept a model that is 30 percent successful, though up to now we have not been able to accomplish this.

There is sectarian democracy in Lebanon, it is a regime of quotas, and not a democracy based on citizenship. The political regime in Lebanon prevents a dictatorship through sectarian balances, but [it] has not achieved true democracy based on citizenship. Likewise, Iraq is going in the same direction…

In my opinion, if the Iraqis want to maintain the unity of their country and avoid a grinding civil war, they must learn historical lessons from what they are going through today. The Shi’ite majority cannot say that the meaning of democracy is majority rule and that’s the end of it. They must say that it means majority rule with protection for the rights of minorities, and by this I mean political minorities, and not necessarily numerical, ethnic, or religious minorities.

They say, We are the majority and therefore we will rule, and democracy is majority rule. But this is to stray from the truth. Democracy is rule by the majority with the protection of minority rights. Otherwise the state will face division, civil war, and ruin.

This is an issue that the Arab mind needs to study: that it must accept the other, and it must accept the possibility of the minority reaching [power] if its alliances make it into the majority – [but this] without [the minority] discriminating against the majority or taking revenge on it after reaching power.

In Iraq there are also many Islamic parties and movements from various schools [of jurisprudence]. Are they capable of implementing the shari’a in accordance with Sunni or Shi’ite belief? Not unless they are prepared to sink into a grinding civil war. What can you learn from this if you are not interested in a civil war or the disintegration of the state? You learn to be wise and build neither a Shi’ite nor Sunni state, but rather a state based on citizenship, truth, law, and social justice.

This belief comes as a result of historical lessons, but there are those who learn quickly and others who never learn. In Lebanon, for example, they didn’t learn, and they experienced a grinding 16-year civil war; but considering what is happening there now, one feels they learned nothing from it, especially regarding the sectarian issue.

Question: “Are you really an atheist or a ‘Damascene heretic’ as some people have described you?”

Answer: (laughs) “Can you imagine a serious, learned intellectual in our Arab countries not being seduced by ideas like a critical attitude towards traditional religious beliefs, doubt and non-determinism, and the idea of using a scientific approach to understand religious phenomena? From the time of Qasim Amin to the present, there have been those who promulgate and publicize their reactions to subjects like these. Naturally the religious institutions and clerics look at this matter in terms of atheism, heresy, and so on. But at the end of the day, there remains something that is a matter of the conscience, and this is part of the freedom of conscience of every man.
In the future, by the way, if ever I get around to updating my list of brave Muslims who are trying to drag Islam out of its clerically-imposed Dark Ages, challenging the backward Islamic clerics at substantial risks to themselves, I’ll add the names of Fouad al-Farhan, Matrook al-Faleh, Hadeel Alhodaif, Sa’d Al-Sowayan and Sadik Jalal Al-’Azm. So long as such heroes have the courage to speak up, I have some hope for the poor Muslim people (especially the children) hamstrung by their horribly ignorant clerics.

But I must admit that my hopes for progress in the Muslim world are held very tenuously: Islamic clerics have brainwashed the people so thoroughly, manipulating them with Muhammad’s oxymoronic madness about life after death, that they may be immune from even considering the liberating ideas of intellectuals such as Al-Sowayan and Al-‘Azm. A similar horrible dynamic is rampant in the West: parents infected with the god meme pass their degeneracy on to their children, who are then immune from critical thinking. In the Epilogue to his brilliant 2004 book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Sam Harris beautifully summarized both the problem and the needed solution:
This world is simply ablaze with bad ideas. There are still places where people are put to death for imaginary crimes – like blasphemy – and where the totality of a child’s education consists of his learning to recite from an ancient book of religious fiction. There are countries where women are denied almost every human liberty, except the liberty to breed. And yet, these same societies are quickly acquiring terrifying arsenals of advanced weaponry. If we cannot inspire the developing world, and the Muslim world in particular, to pursue ends that are compatible with a global civilization, then a dark future awaits all of us…

Religious violence is still with us because our religions are intrinsically hostile to one another. Where they appear otherwise, it is because secular knowledge and secular interests are restraining the most lethal improprieties of faith. It is time we acknowledged that no real foundation exists within the canons of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any of our other faiths for religious tolerance and religious diversity.

If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith. If our tribalism is ever to give way to an extended moral identity, our religious beliefs can no longer be sheltered from the tides of genuine inquiry and genuine criticism. It is time we realized that to presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil. Wherever conviction grows in inverse proportion to its justification, we have lost the very basis of human cooperation. [Italics added] Where we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; where we have no reasons, we have lost both our connection to the world and to one another. People who harbor strong convictions without evidence belong at the margins of our societies, not in our halls of power. [Italics added]
Elsewhere, I’m in the process of posting descriptions of how we may be able to make progress toward the goals described by Harris; I’ll probably review such ideas in future posts; here, I’ll just outline my recommended four-phase plan (the same plan that kids use to “handle” other kids who are “real brats”): 1) Ridicule the theists, 2) Set a better example (viz., scientific humanism), 3) Explain to the theists what they’re doing wrong (i.e., holding beliefs more strongly than relevant evidence warrants), and 4) If they fail to smarten up, then exclude them from cooperative activities (e.g., exclude Muslims from immigrating to Western countries).

But instead of pursuing such a plan, consider what the West is doing. During the previous century, Westerners struggled, fought, and died to defeat both fascist and communist ideologies. For example, Hugh Fitzgerald at Jihad Watch points out that in 70 years of its propaganda campaign against the West, “the Soviet Union spent between eight and nine billion dollars.” In contrast,
The total amount spent by just one Muslim country (admittedly the richest), Saudi Arabia, in furthering the cause of Islam over the past three decades, is close to 100 billion dollars. Think of all the mosques built and maintained, all the imams on the payroll, all the missionaries conducting Da’wa in American and British prisons, all the Western hirelings, in the capital of every Western country, whose full-time job is to explain away the Al-Saud, and the mutawwa of Saudi Arabia, and Islam itself, its texts, its tenets, its attitudes, its atmospherics.
Why are Western governments permitting such propaganda campaigns by a foreign power, which is intent on having their ignorant Wahhabi clerics rule the world?

The ignorance of Muslim clerics is well illustrated by the fatwa mentioned in the above quotation from Al-’Azm and issued in 1993 by the presiding cleric, ‘Abd al-’Aziz Bin (or Ibn Baz), of the Saudi Permanent Committee for Scientific Research (by which they seem to mean, “research” into the craziness of the Koran):
The earth is flat, and anyone who disputes this claim is an atheist who deserves to be punished.
What’s the matter? You think it odd that anyone would suggest that people are atheists (and therefore, according to the Koran, they should be killed) if they accept the evidence that the Earth is more like a sphere than a flat plate?

And if you think it’s odd that we permit the Islamists to promote their stupid propaganda in the West, then perhaps you’ll agree that Westerners better smarten up: wake up, smell the manure, read the Koran. Islam isn’t a “religion of peace”; Islam was never just a religion; since the time of the megalomaniac Muhammad, Islam has been a political movement, complete with its own (barbaric) law code, their shari’a – which includes “almost 70 rules about how to urinate and defecate”, as described by the mentally-challenged Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid. He adds:
In contrast, how do those beasts in the West answer the call of nature? They stand in front of other people, in toilets at airports and other public places. They do not care about covering their private parts. Even their underwear is colored and not white, so it can conceal all that filth. We are a nation that has long known the meaning of cleanliness, what to do when nature calls, and what the rules of hygiene are. The others [i.e., Westerners], to this day, live like beasts.
Again, Islam is an all-encompassing way of life, an ideology, just as were Nazism and Communism, and similar to Nazism and Communism, Islam’s goal (stated clearly in the Koran) is to rule the world. For example, in the same speech the Saudi cleric Al-Munajid stated:
This is a nation of monotheism, and this is the Islam that Allah wants to spread throughout the world, and to rule the land it its entirety. Allah wants this. He sent down the Koran and the hadith for that purpose.
And such craziness isn’t confined to the Sunnis (e.g., the Wahhabis); thus, speaking to a group of his Shi’ite religious students, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:
We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups, and nations… We don’t shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world. We must prepare ourselves to rule the world.
The major difference between Islam and Nazism or Communism is that the end desired by Islamic supremacists is a theocracy – not with any god ruling (of course), but ruled by the most ignorant of people, namely, clerics.

We in the West beat the Christian, fascist, and communist supremacists, but now we’re permitting infiltration by Saudi Wahhabis who want to rule the entire, flat-plate world, complete with 70 rules for how to urinate and defecate. Permitting such craziness is not only extremely odd; it’s extremely foolish. In fact, permitting Saudi propaganda to continue to pollute the West is not only odd and foolish; it’s treason against humanity. It must end.

To end it, since most of our politicians seem to have been bought-off by the Saudis (using money gouged from us via their oil-cartel), then “we the people” will probably need to stop the Muslim madness by ourselves. Maybe someday we’ll be able to elect politicians who will enforce laws prohibiting foreign political parties from interfering with our domestic policies (barring Islam in the West, just as we barred the Communist and Nazi Parties). Until then, we can make progress by diminishing Saudi money supply, by riding bicycles, joining car pools, using public transportation, communicating more electronically and less personally, picketing against oil-burning power plants and in support of coal-fired and nuclear plants, promoting the development of our own oil resources (e.g., our huge oil-shale reserves, which contain more oil than Saudi Arabia), participating in the use of renewable energy, such as biofuels and solar, geothermal, wind, wave, and tidal energy, and supporting international fusion-research programs (which if successful, will provide unlimited electrical energy from fusing the heavy hydrogen isotopes found in abundance in the oceans).

In the end, the choice is between embarking into the future with the help of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists or being enslaved in the past by the world’s most ignorant clerics.


Being and Time from Nothing

Maybe I’m losin’ it. During a phone call last week, my daughter said she was reading something by Heidegger. I didn’t remember him. I asked if he was the guy in the mid-1800s who said: “I stick my finger into existence…” She said she didn’t think so; that Heidegger published in the 1900s. Then worse for my ego: she informed me that she had my copy of Heidegger’s book!

So this week, I spent some time on the internet trying to refresh my memory about the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1880–1976), “counted among the main exponents of 20th century Existentialism.” And so, at least I got the existentialist-link right by remembering Kierkegaard, i.e., the fellow who said:
I stick my finger into existence and it smells of nothing. Where am I? What is this thing called the world? Who is it that has lured me into the thing, and now leaves me here? Who am I? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted?
Wikipedia states: “[Heidegger’s] best known book, Being and Time, is generally considered to be one of the key philosophical works of the 20th Century.” That’s probably the book that my daughter has, but since it wasn’t easy to retrieve (she lives in a different city), I searched on the web and found excerpts of his essay with the similar title: “On Time and Being”.

Upon reading that essay, maybe I got a hint about why I didn’t remember him. For me, Heidegger is similar to Kant: his writing is damn near impenetrable, awash in speculative ruminations (“chewing the cud”). While reading Heidegger, I find myself frequently saying to myself: “Spit it out, fella’! What are you trying to say?!”

So, feeling a little better about my memory but wondering if I might have missed something, I looked up some of his “famous quotations”. I thank those who hoed through Heidegger’s rows and rows of verbiage (similar to Kant’s) to find a few morsels that others might be able to finally sink their teeth into!

For this post, my plan is go through a few Heidegger quotes, try to respond to some of his dangling questions, and try to point out where I think he went wrong, starting with his:
Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.
What a crazy attitude for a philosopher to take! Yet, my experience with his and Kant’s writings suggests that at least they chose to avoid suicide, opting instead for long, slow, drawn-out deaths!

In his 1935 book What is Metaphysics? Heidegger asks:
Warum ist überhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts? Das ist die Frage.
Wikiquote gives the translation:
Why is there Being at all, and not much rather Nothing? That is the question.
But a translation that’s more common on the web is:
Why are there beings at all, instead of nothing? That is the question.
By ‘Being’ apparently Heidegger means essentially ‘existence’; so, another translation could be: “Why does anything exist, rather than nothing?”

Well, since elsewhere I’ve addressed that (very old) question in some detail (and by the way, certainly it’s not a “Heidegger original”), therefore, here I’ll try to be brief. And the briefest answer is that the question is wrong: in fact, there’s nothing here!

If that answer seems silly, then I’d encourage you to go through a detailed inventory: you’ll probably quickly agree that the net electrical charge in the universe is zero (from Coulomb’s “law” also known as the principle of the conservation of electrical charge), you’ll probably also agree that the net linear (and angular) momentum in the universe is zero (from Newton’s second “law”, also known as the principle of conservation of momentum, applied to a closed system with no net momentum initially), and if you’ll think about it for a bit, you’ll see that the total energy in the universe is also zero (from the first “law” of thermodynamics, again applied to a closed system that before the Big Bang had no energy, and with Einstein’s recognition that mass is a form of energy, i.e., E = mc^2, and with Dirac’s recognition that space, itself, is “brim full” with negative energy). Below, I’ll comment a little on the possibility that the total entropy of the universe is also zero.

Now, if the idea that there’s nothing in this universe seems to make some sense but not much (because it sure feels like there’s something here), then welcome to the club! Below, I’ll sketch a resolution to that dilemma and suggest how what-we-perceive as something might have come into existence. Then, I’ll use that “resolution” to address the above quotation from Heidegger as well as some of his other quotes.

To start the resolution, surely the reason why we have the impression that there’s something here in this universe (when in reality there’s nothing) is because we’re accustomed to recognizing only what we commonly call ‘positive’ energy, especially mass but also all the other forms of positive energy, including heat (or thermal energy), mechanical energy, gravitational energy, electromagnetic energy, chemical energy, nuclear energy, and so on. Simultaneously, though, we ignore (unless someone calls our attention to it!) all the negative energy that’s everywhere around us (and even inside us – even inside every atom and nucleus), namely, space, itself. Worse, not only are we normally oblivious to all the negative energy around us (and even in us), we have the audacity to call it empty space!

When Dirac first saw that space was “brim full” of negative energy (when he modified the Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics so that it would be invariant under the Lorentz transformation), he wrote that he didn’t understand what the result (for a free electron) meant; i.e., that he didn’t understand the meaning of ‘negative energy’. Actually, though, that shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, because if you’ll think about it for a bit, I expect you’ll conclude that we also don’t know what ‘positive energy’ is!

In reality (and about reality), the statement ‘energy exists’ is probably the most foundational statement that can be made: it can’t be rephrased in more fundamental terms. Maybe in a thousand-or-more years from now people will be able to say ‘gluck glicks’ (or similar) and show how ‘gluck glicks’ implies ‘energy exists’, but for now, ‘energy exists’ must be taken as an irreducible, base statement – meaning, that’s all we know about it; so, get over it!

Still, Dirac discovered something new, namely, that whatever energy is, it can be both positive and negative – whatever that means! For his discovery, he shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics (with Schrödinger) – in particular, for his prediction (subsequently confirmed) that if a hole were to appear in the sea of negative energy that we call ‘space’ (or ‘the vacuum’), then the hole would appear as what has subsequently been called an ‘antiparticle’.

For example, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dirac wrote:
We now make the assumptions that in the world [or universe] as we know it, nearly all the states of negative energy for the electrons are occupied, with just one electron in each state, and that a uniform filling of all the negative-energy states is completely unobservable to us. [Italics added] Further, any unoccupied negative-energy state, being a departure from uniformity, is observable and is just a positron.
Subsequently, Dirac’s result has been generalized for other ‘negative-energy states’ (not just for electrons), and data supporting his idea that if a hole develops in space, then we observe the hole as an antiparticle has been overwhelming confirmed for a huge variety of antiparticles.

If it’s then appreciated that space (or the vacuum) is brim full of negative energy (and as Dirac said, all the negative-energy states are then unobservable to us, because they’re filled uniformly), then returning to the old question (repeated by Heidegger) about how something could have been created from nothing (viz., ex nihilo), we can see the answer using the simplest possible mathematics. Thus, Something, say S, could have been created from Nothing (say, Zero) via 0 = S – S. That is, Nothing (Zero) can yield any type of Something (e.g., energy) – provided that it’s exactly balanced by the negative of that Something.

Such seems to be what occurred to create our universe. It’s proposed that “originally” there was “totally nothing”. [I put those words in double quotation marks, because if you’ll think about them for a while, you’ll conclude (correctly) that they can’t be defined, since we have no experience with such “things”.] It’s assumed that the “original total-nothingness” could engage in fluctuations (similar to well-known fluctuations of quantum-mechanical systems). The original “total-nothingness” could fluctuate as much as “it wanted”, provided that, in all such fluctuations, equal positive and negative “things” that were created were exactly balanced, so that in total, there was “always” still nothing present.

It’s assumed that in one such fluctuation, however, some symmetry was broken. Possibly the fluctuation was in some “unknown stuff” that we now call ‘energy’, which not only led to a positive and negative energy pair but also, for some unknown reason, what we would now call ‘the positive-energy fluctuation’ somehow ‘congealed’ or ‘got tied in a knot’ (maybe as the first particle or maybe as the first string of positive energy), “refusing” to rejoin with its negative-energy counterpart. Once the symmetry was broken, “all hell broke lose”, leading to the Big Bang. And now, ~13.73 billion years later, here we are pleased with our existence on this ‘positive side of existence’ (as blobs of positive energy), while all about us (and even within us) is the ‘negative side of existence’, i.e., the negative energy, which we call ‘space’ or ‘the vacuum’.

Incidentally, for all we know, similar symmetry-breaking fluctuations in “total nothingness” might be quite common (and not just symmetry-breaking energy fluctuations). If so, then “outside our universe”, many other ‘verses’ (meaning ‘turns’) could exist – which needn’t be made of the same “stuff” (energy) or have the same number or even the same type of dimensions, and so on. But since humans will almost certainly never know if that’s so (although, maybe in a million-or-more years from now, someone will see how to get communications outside our universe!), then speculations about ‘multiverses’ seem rather pointless.

Anyway, with the above “resolution” (which, of course, may be wrong), maybe the following four statements will make some sense.

1) Alan Guth (of MIT, famous for his Inflationary Theory of the universe) stated: “It’s said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch” – in the sense that we got a whole lot (i.e., the universe!) for nothing – or better, from nothing.

2) Edward Tryon (of the City College of New York, who in 1973 published the first estimate, from data, that the total energy of the universe is zero) wrote the following [to which I’ve added the notes in “square brackets” and the italics]:
If it is true that our Universe has a zero net value for all conserved quantities [such as electrical charge, momentum, and total energy], then it [our Universe] may simply be a fluctuation of the vacuum [i.e., the original “zero” or “total nothingness”], the vacuum of some larger space [which stretches the meanings of the words ‘vacuum’ and ‘space’] in which our Universe is imbedded. In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things [that] happen from time to time.
3) Sung Kyu Kim (Physics Dept., Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota) entertainingly summarized with:
In the beginning, there was nothing – but nothing is unstable. And nothing borrowed nothing from nothing, within the limits of uncertainty, and became something. The rest is just math.
And then 4), there’s the famous statement by Einstein:
Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, [then] wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.
In fact, such ideas can be found in Ancient Chinese philosophy. On the one hand, there’s the idea of yin and yang (“the principle of polarity in Chinese cosmology, in which the opposite poles eventually blend and become one another in cosmic connectedness”), and on the other hand, there’s the Tao (described by Lao-tzu in ~600 BCE as: “The Tao that can be spoken of, is not the true Tao; the name that can be named, is not the true Name”). Thus, if Einstein had been asked, “What is the ‘nothing that is something’ into which the universe is expanding?”, perhaps he would have answered, “The Tao.”

And I admit that one reason that I added the previous paragraph is because it really “gets to me” to have the dumb clerics of monotheism repeat the familiar line from Robert Jastrow (astronomer, author, and founder of Goddard Institute for Space Studies):
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
It’s somewhat unfortunate that Jastrow used the phrase “faith in the power of reason”, since any scientist’s faith is not in reason but in the scientific method (which is much, much, more powerful than reason!), but it’s even more unfortunate that Jastrow used the word ‘theologians’. It wasn’t theologians (i.e., those who study “theo” = “god”) who were sitting at the top of the mountain; the clerics of monotheistic religions, in particular, are still tangled in thorny thickets, back in the jungle at the base of the mountain; instead, those sitting quietly at the top were Zen masters. And another reason for the previous paragraph is to mention that perhaps the interested reader will begin to understand why this blog and my book use the term “Zen of Zero”.

But that aside, let me get back to Heidegger (who started out studying theology, then switched to philosophy, and who seems never to have studied any science – although I saw that he did go for some walks with Heisenberg). Two other (connected) quotations from him are:
Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former – Being – be addressed as something temporal nor can the latter – time – be addressed as a being.

Time is not a thing, thus nothing which is, and yet it remains constant in its passing away without being something temporal like the beings in time.
Those two statements contain quite a few misunderstanding about ‘time’ and ‘being’ (or better than the word ‘being’, I’ll use the word ‘energy’). Below, I’ll comment on and try to straighten out some of his misunderstandings.

First, consider Heidegger’s statement “time is not a thing, thus nothing which is…” That’s a weird way to put it, leading to my first response: “Well, yes and no.” Time is usually considered to be a coordinate, a locator, as is position. So, what response would be appropriate to the statement: “Position is not a thing, thus nothing which is…”? In some sense the statement is correct, but in other ways, it’s not. For example, if I told you that my daughter is in Detroit, that locates her (at least fairly well) for you, but then, where are you – and relative to what: lines of latitude and longitude on the Earth? But the location of the Earth is what and relative to what? So, maybe the best response to Heidegger’s “time is not a thing, thus nothing which is…” is to say: “So what?”

But going further into the above statements by Heidegger, it becomes apparent that he has some fundamental misunderstandings both about ‘time’ and ‘energy’. To try to show you what I mean, since in the above quotations he’s now talking about not just ‘existence’ but also ‘change’ (implied with his introduction of ‘time’), I’ll start by extending what I claim to be the fundamental principle of reality: not only that ‘energy exists’ but even ‘energy exists and can change’. (Maybe all of that will someday be contained in ‘gluck glicks’!) In any case, starting from that fundamental principle and realizing that we commonly describe ‘change’ by using ‘time’, now consider Heidegger’s statements, starting with
Time is not a thing, thus nothing which is, and yet it remains constant in its passing away without being something temporal like the beings in time.
It would have helped if he had mentioned what ‘time’ he was referring to, there being at least three different meanings for ‘time’, sketched below.

1. Every-day Time. Not much need be said about every-day (household-variety) time, since we use it “all the time”, but bear with me for a bit, to remind yourself what we do. Although the fundamental feature of reality seems to be that ‘energy changes’, many other things change as well, and we use ‘time’ as a convenient tool for quantifying and comparing such changes. To that end, we characterize any change by comparing it to some standard, such as the number of swings of the pendulum of a grandfather clock, the number of times the Earth spins on its axis, the frequency of vibration of some electromagnetic energy, etc. We can play lots of games with the resulting comparisons of changes. For example, if the digits of my age (in years) are added together, then the sum is always the same as the sum of the digits in my daughter’s age. Behind such usage is Newton’s (outmoded) idea that “absolute, true, and mathematical time, of itself and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external, and by another name is called duration”, and it’s generated a lot of stimulating poetry, such as Ralph Hodgson’s:
Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?
2. Time in Applied Science. Associated with attempts to change thermal energy into mechanical energy, a second meaning of ‘time’ was developed especially by many 19th century engineers and scientists (Watt, Fourier, Poisson, Carnot, Mayer, Thompson, Joule, Helmholtz, Kelvin, Clausius, and many others, including Boltzmann and Gibbs). Although no doubt the first caveman who handled a burning stick quickly learned that heat flows from hot to cold, Fourier was the first to describe the idea quantitatively, and Carnot was the first to see some of the resulting limitations of changing thermal into mechanical energy. Cutting an amazingly difficult, century-long intellectual achievement down to a few words, I’d put it this way: time is not just a convenient tool for quantifying and comparing changes, it provides an indication of the usual direction of most changes.

Thus, in our macroscopic world (in contrast to the microscopic world currently described by quantum mechanics), things usually change in a preferred direction: heat normally flows from hot to cold, and typically because of friction, energy is usually lost (in the sense that the energy, as electromagnetic thermal-energy, goes roaring off toward the edge of the universe, at the speed of light). More formally, the normal direction of change is that all available states (both locations and energy states) become populated as uniformly as is consistent with applied constraints, or stated more concisely, the entropy of any closed system always increases. As Eddington said: “Entropy is time’s arrow.”

In fact, it then makes sense to talk of different ‘times’ for different systems. In closed systems, for example (i.e., those that don’t interact with their environments), entropy increases (or better, it never decreases) and time advances until such systems reach their equilibrium state, i.e., when change no longer occurs – which then means, for them, ‘time’ stops. In open systems, in contrast (i.e., those that can exchange, e.g., energy, with their environments), their ‘time’ can either increase (increasing entropy by, e.g., adding energy) or decrease (decreasing entropy by, e.g., decreasing their energy or, e.g., by increasing their ‘order’). Thus in some cases (e.g., when a youngster is sent to clean up his room), an open system’s entropy can decrease, as if its ‘time’ goes backwards – but rest assured that in a while, its ‘time’ will again increase and the room will be just as messy as it ever was, only to reach equilibrium when it’s in a maximum state of disorder, maximum entropy – which usually takes a kid no more than a few hours!

Thus, we normally find that the entropy of most systems (and their ‘time’) increases. For example, we get old, deteriorate, and have less energy. As another example: because of the tides on Earth caused by the Moon (and the resulting loss of thermal radiation to space), the Earth’s rate of spin is slowly decreasing (and since in a few billion years the Earth will stop spinning, it’s recommended that, before then, humans should find a better place to live). Many poets have summarized such entropy increases, for example, there’s T.S. Eliot’s: “This is the way the world ends… not with a bang but a whimper.” When there are no more changes, when everything is uniform, when the system attains equilibrium, then its ‘time’ stops.

3. Time in Modern Physics. In physics, time has always been “just” another coordinate (similar to the usual spatial coordinates). As the physicist John Wheeler reportedly said (although the source isn’t certain; it might have been Woody Allen!):
Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once. 
Space is what prevents everything from happening to me.
In any case, ever since Einstein and Schrödinger, such coordinates locating ‘events’ in space-time have become quite weird – maybe especially the time coordinate. Thus, as Einstein showed, observers traveling at different speeds won’t agree on time durations (nor on spatial differences), and time-durations change with changing locations near any mass.

Yet, the idea continues that if a system reaches a state of equilibrium, then for it, its ‘time’ stops. For example, if you could ask an electron that’s whizzing around its nucleus, “What time is it?”, his meaningful response (or hers, as the case may be) would be: “Whaddya mean by ‘time’? I’ve gone round and round that stupid nucleus down there umpteen quadzillion times, and nothing ever changes.”

In fact, that’s 'doubly weird', because although an electron seems to be accelerated as it 'goes around' a nucleus (its centripetal acceleration resulting from the force between the positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electron), it doesn’t radiate energy. Yet, when an electron is accelerated in the macroscopic world (e.g., accelerated in an antenna), then the electron produces an electromagnetic wave that goes roaring off toward the edge of the universe. So, something is wrong about the extrapolation of our macroscopic model to the microscopic world: either the electron isn't accelerated as it 'goes around' a nucleus or in some cases (some energy states), an accelerated electron needn't radiate energy.

To get an electron in an atom or molecule to radiate energy, the first step is to bounce it up to a higher energy state, e.g., via a collision with another atom or molecule or with a photon of light. Interestingly relative to links between energy and time, uncertainties (δ) in the lifetime (τ) and energy (E) of the ‘excited state’ are related via δE δτ ≥ h/2π, where h is Plank’s constant, similar to the familiar uncertainty in the momentum (p) and position (q) as given by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (δp δq ≥ h/2π). And when the electron does terminate its uncertain lifetime in an excited state by emitting electromagnetic energy, then for the emitted photon (heading off toward the edge of the universe at the speed of light), time stands still. That is, whereas ‘time’ (or any information) can’t travel faster than the speed of light, then in the 'rest frame' of the photon, there's no such thing as 'time', i.e., for light (viz., electromagnetic energy), there is no past or future, it’s always ‘now’.

For nondissipative systems (e.g., frictionless systems such as all quantum mechanical systems), time is merely a convenient ‘marker’ whose origin and even whose direction is immaterial: Schrödinger’s equation is invariant under time reversal - meaning that its predictions are the same no mater if 'the parameter time' runs backwards or forwards. In fact, Noether’s theorem states that, for energy to be conserved, then time must have translational symmetry (i.e., there’s no meaningful origin of time), which then intimately links time to energy.

Further, if energy is negative (e.g., in ‘the vacuum’), then there are suggestions that time goes in the opposite direction from the direction with which we’re familiar. For example, rather than interpret a positron as a hole in negative-energy space, it can be interpreted as an electron going backwards in time. Further still, if the interpretation is correct that time in ‘the vacuum’ goes backward, then it might finally resolve some of the many perplexing features of quantum mechanics (e.g., as Einstein complained, quantum mechanics seems to permit information to travel faster than the speed of light).

Time going backward in space would be consistent with the entropy of the universe being a constant (namely, zero), if space (or the vacuum) has not only negative entropy but also increasingly more negative entropy as the universe expands. And if the entropy of the universe is zero, then there is no such thing as ‘time’ for the universe (maybe that’s what Einstein meant when he said “time is an illusion”) – but we who are stuck in ‘the positive side of reality’ (i.e., we positive-energy beings) apparently are stuck with entropy usually increasing (e.g., our aging).

So, then, what’s to be made of Heidegger’s: “Time is not a thing, thus nothing which is, and yet it remains constant in its passing away without being something temporal like the beings [energy] in time”? I don’t know! His statement doesn’t conform to the ideas of Eddington or Einstein. Thus, Heidegger’s statement “Time is not a thing” is incorrect, if change is considered to be a fundamental feature of the universe and, in particular, if time is related to entropy increase. As for his “yet it [time] remains constant in its passing away”, that’s inconsistent with both Einstein’s and Eddington's ideas, suggesting that Heidegger is stuck with Newton's idea about time.

Next, adding his proposed distinction between time and ‘being’ (or ‘energy’, including the mass-energy known as humans) consider Heidegger’s:
Being and time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former – Being – be addressed as something temporal nor can the latter – time – be addressed as a being.
In some sense, he’s correct that “being [energy] and time determine each other reciprocally” (in the sense of Noether’s theorem, which is applicable only to nondissipative systems), but his statement that “neither can the former [energy] be addressed as something temporal” is wrong, as is his “nor can the latter – time – be addressed as [energy]”, not only in the sense that energy degradation is the most common form of entropy increase (which is the fundamental concept of time in our macroscopic world) but also in the sense that without energy (e.g., “before” the Big Bang) there would be no time. Therefore, by the way (trying to “clean up” what I wrote earlier), the concept of “before” the Big Bang is meaningless: without energy there was no time; therefore, there was no “before” (and similarly, without momentum, there is no meaning for location, so if there’s no momentum in the “nothing” that’s “outside” our universe, than there’s no meaning to “outside”).

So anyway, maybe I’m not losing it! Maybe I don’t remember Heidegger, because for me, he said nothing memorable. Yet, I wholeheartedly agree with his:
If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself.
But since Heidegger was a student of Greek philosophy, I think he should have credited Epicurus (341–270 BCE), who said essentially the same:
[It follows that] death is nothing to us. For all good and evil consist in sensation, but death is deprivation of sensation. And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living… [Death should not] concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.
I’d even add: would that all Christians, Muslims, and Mormons would consider what Epicurus said. If they understood it, they’d immediately junk their religions in the trash and put a lid on their clerics!

Yet, even Heidegger apparently didn’t understand it, since in his interview with Der Spiegel on 23 September 1966, published posthumously on 31 May 1976, he’s quoted as saying:
...philosophy will not be able to effect an immediate transformation of the present condition of the world. This is not only true of philosophy, but of all merely human thought and endeavor. Only a god can save us. The sole possibility that is left for us is to prepare a sort of readiness, through thinking and poeticizing, for the appearance of the god or for the absence of the god in the time of foundering Untergang [downfall] for in the face of the god who is absent, we founder. Only a God Can Save Us.
Of course it’s easy to agree that “philosophy will not be able to effect an immediate transformation of the present condition of the world.” Perhaps the only thing that could “effect an immediate transformation” would be communications from extraterrestrial beings (or if another 'verse' bumped into ours!). But for Heidegger to say that “only a god can save us” displays a horrible lack of faith – in humanity and in the scientific method.

And with that thought, maybe I see why I couldn’t remember who Heidegger was. I wouldn’t be surprised if, years ago, I said to myself: “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about; forget about him.”