Roger Scruton on icons (super-thoughtful piece in Prospect)
The growth of the advertising industry and of the marketable image has been greeted from the very beginning by protests from social commentators, fearing what Marx called “commodity fetishism”—in other words, the diversion of our energies from those free activities that are “ends in themselves” towards the world of addictive desires. Marx took the idea of fetishism from Feuerbach, who believed that all religion involves this state of mind, in which we animate the world with our own emotions, so placing our life “outside” of ourselves, and becoming enslaved to the puppets of our own imagination.
Pankaj Mishra on 9/11 (long reflective piece in the Guardian)
The sense of mad overkill, intellectual as well as military, grows more oppressive when you realise that, though al-Qaida murdered many people on 9/11 and undermined American self-esteem, the capacity of a few homicidal fanatics to seriously harm a large and powerful country such as the US was always limited. There is nothing surprising about their spectacular lack of success in rousing Muslim masses anywhere (as distinct from inciting a few no-hopers into suicidal terrorism). Their fantasy of a universal caliphate was always more likely to provoke fierce Muslim resistance than the globalising project of the west. Over-reaction to al-Qaida was by far the bigger danger to the west throughout the last decade; and, as it happened, groups of rootless conspirators, initially cultishly small and marginal, quickly proliferated around the world as a direct result of western military and ideological excesses after 9/11.
George Steiner on proofs for God (review of the arguments in the TLS, noting recent new developments)
The existence of our universe, its physical characteristics, the biological evolution of organic life make it inherently and cumulatively more plausible, more likely that God exists than the opposite… Swinburne argues eloquently that atheism offers no adequate counter-explanation. Any argument for possibility and the probable does nevertheless remain unquantifiable and impressionistic.
Incidentally, Steiner includes man-of-the-moment William Lane Craig, the philosopher no new atheist, apparently, wants to debate.
Recuperating a line of argument crucial to medieval Islam, W.L. Craig affirms the necessary causal foundation of the cosmos. This ultimate is itself without natural basis. The Big Bang and the laws of entropy, moreover, prove that our cosmos has its origins in time (Augustine would have concurred). This, again, legitimizes the assumption of a divine builder. But does it point to a personal God accessible to human apprehension?
(Image: Christ Acheiropoietos)