Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Time For A Muslim Reformation.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Here’s What I Would Have Said at Brandeis – WSJ.com

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy—punishable by death—to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era? Both Christianity and Judaism have had their eras of reform. I would argue that the time has come for a Muslim Reformation.

Muslim “Blasphemy” vs Katy Perry’s Free Speech

From Muslims charge Katy Perry with blasphemy:

For some Muslims, the silly pop video is deeply offensive to their fragile religious sensibilities. A petition at change.org  demanding YouTube remove the video has already received over 48,000 signatures.

The petition hopes to win major support to show “that people from different walks of life, different religions and from different parts of the world, agree that the video promotes blasphemy, using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion.”

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The attempt to censor any artistic expression is always a morally dubious activity. The fact that Muslims would attempt to censor Perry’s video is a ridiculous and juvenile response to what is quite frankly a harmless pop video. To think these imbeciles believe their imaginary god would take offence to a Katy Perry video of all things staggers the imagination. It would be a shame if YouTube caved to pressure coming from some silly religious extremists, and removed the video.

Dark Horse is Perry’s third single off her new album “Prism” and is currently sitting at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 list.

The supposed “blasphemy,” the episode with the Allah pendant, can be seen at 1:15 of the video.

Religious Belief Exemptions Do Not Apply To Public Servants

The Kansas legislature has just passed a law that protects private businesses and individuals from having to provide service to same sex couples if provision such service would violate the religious beliefs of the private business/individual. Thus, the wedding cake and wedding photography cases would not happen in Kansas.

So far, so good.

But Republicans also insisted that the law allow government officials to use the same religious objection to refuse to provide government services to same sex couples.

News flash to Republicans: justice must be blind, government must not discriminate, and government workers are not entitled to their jobs if their religious beliefs are offended by any part of “equal justice under law.”

If your religious beliefs are opposed to same sex marriage, that’s your right – but then you don’t have a *right* to a job in the city clerk’s office. — Ed Mazlish

 

Is Submission To Their Husbands Good for Women?

by Michael J. Hurd Ph.D.

Candace Cameron Bure, a former child star on the ’80s/’90s television series Full House, recently set off a firestorm when she suggested while promoting her book that the secret to her marital happiness was the fact that she let her husband take control.

“I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work,” the actress writes in her book.

During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Cameron Bure tried to explain herself.

“The definition I’m using with the word ‘submissive’ is the biblical definition of that,” she said. “So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”

“And, listen, I love that my man is a leader,” she said. “I want him to lead and be the head of our family. And those major decisions do fall on him. … It doesn’t mean I don’t voice my opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I absolutely do, but it is very difficult to have two heads of authority.”

“In my marriage we are equal … in our importance, but we are just different in our performances within our marriage,” she said.

It sounds to me like she’s confused.

On the one hand, she says her husband is the leader. This suggests he has the final say. A leader is someone who knows more than you do, who is (by definition) wiser and more authoritative than you. A leader is not your equal. If we were all absolutely equal in character, development, knowledge and ability we would not need leaders.

Then, in total contradiction, she says that they’re equal. She qualifies it by saying in marriage they are equal. But they’re married. What other context do they exist with each other, aside from in marriage? How can they simultaneously be equal and unequal (as the concept “leader” suggets) at the same time?

She’s trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, she wants to follow the notions of the Bible. On the other hand, she wants the satisfaction of having a spouse who considers her an equal partner.

The solution to this conundrum is neither angry, anti-male feminism nor reversion to Biblical literalism, where women are instructed to submit to their men. The solution is individualism. I don’t mean this politically so much as (primarily) psychologically. Psychologically, if you’re an individualist, you take responsibility for knowing yourself, along with shaping yourself into the person you wish to be.

Each individual woman, like any individual man, has strengths and weaknesses, and also faces choices about which strengths to develop. It’s a challenge and responsibility for every human being to become his — or her — own individual. When one lacks the confidence or certainty required to engage in such a task, the tendency is to revert to social roles. “Well, I’m a woman. This is what others say a woman should do. So I’m going to be that.”

“Others” in this context can refer to one’s family, the Bible, or any people or forces you consider significant — other than yourself. Playing out roles prescribed by others can arise from traditionalism, as it does with this actress, or from neo-feminism, in which you attempt to be some kind of a contradictory mix, such as a “supermom” whereby you run a giant corporation and be a stay-at-home mother at the same time.

The error in all of these scenarios is the same: Sacrificing individualism for the sake of playing out a script you have allowed another (or others) to write for you.

Meekness–not weakness…and Bure claims that’s a good thing? The concept meekness clearly implies underrating yourself, minimizing or ignoring your strengths — as a matter of principle. Religions teach meekness and submission to an all-powerful supernatural being. After all, what is any low human in comparison to an omnipotent and omnipresent God or Allah?

When you apply the concept meekness to your marriage, by definition you’re treating yourself as low and inferior. I find this statement of Bure’s especially revealing: “I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.” It sounds like she’s saying, “I have to be meek in order to get along with my husband.”

What kind of husband, wife, or any romantic partner wants his or her spouse to be inferior in stature? It’s not exactly something to be proud of, or write about in a book. It’s certainly nothing to parade about as an ideal.

Meek submission for women is simply another example of selfless role-playing, to fill the void where a conscious individualist might — and should — have been.

The Ten Commandments Rationally Examined

by Edward Cline

One of the most infuriating things about conservatives who claim that the U.S. was founded on Biblical morality and the Ten Commandments is that, like Muslims, their minds are closed to any arguments to the contrary. They slam shut so hard you can feel the draft.  So, let’s examine the Ten Commandments and see if any one of them has anything to do with our vanishing freedoms. I have used the Commandments as published by the ultra religious conservative group, Politichicks, in Lydia Goodman’s December 18th column, “How Many Laws Does One Country Need? God Says Ten.”  Their exact wording is not as I remember them, my having been exposed to them in the Catholic Church in the 1950′s, but that is a minor point.

The 10 Commandments

1 –  And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.

No problem. There are no other gods before him. Not even God. There’s no queue outside my door.

So,  Moses parted the Red Sea and talked to a burning bush, and suddenly hefted a pair of very heavy stone tablets on which were chiseled the Ten Commandments and which he had to lug back down the mountain. These are apocryphal fairy tales akin to Mohammad riding a winged horse to have a personal huddle with Allah and having an angel whisper into his ear Allah’s own fifty dozen commandments.  There really isn’t any reason why any rational person should take this Commandment literally. Especially if he doesn’t subscribe to the notion of the existence of a supernatural entity that knows all and can do all, and knew what you would do billions of years before you were even born, but still imbues you with the “freedom” of choice. Which doctrine should believers believe in: Predestination, or volition? I’ve never heard an argument that made any sense, because, among their other faults, fast-talking preachers and priests all try to reconcile man the hapless pawn of God, with man the being of volitional consciousness.

But, theologians and believers will retort: God is above human understanding, beyond reason, except in his heart, and in his faith. To know God, one must suspend one’s mind, because an inquiring mind is an obstacle to belief. And that retort is largely a legacy of Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, who wrote reams and reams of paragraphs in an attempt to save religion from the Enlightenment. (Kant wasn’t the only one, just the best known.) Trying to defend religion from reason, he invented a “pure” reason that would explain and justify the unreasonableness of religion, or why it was so reason-proof and rebuffed the evidence of our senses in his Critique of Pure Reason, by which we have an a priori grasp of God that has nothing to do with mere, mundane reason. Here it is from the horse’s mouth:

HUMAN reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.

That’s just in Kant’s 1781 preface. It more or less encapsulates his theme and subject. He could be brief when he wanted to. Read the balance at your own risk, but be sure to have a bottle of Tylenol handy. His oft-interminable sentences are sure to give you a throbbing headache.

2-  You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

First off, this sounds too much like the Islamic prohibition on representations of Mohammad. However, artists of the Judeo-Christian creeds have played fast and loose with representations of God. Witness Michelangelo’s rendering of God. It’s an old fellow with an untrimmed beard and garbed in a nightgown.

Secondly, I’m guessing that God exempted himself from his own Commandments, because jealousy is a venial sin, a minor misdemeanor, and forgivable. Very big of him. “Do as I say, not as I do”? This Commandment is particularly extortionate, because reads like a Mafia curse. His iniquity will be visited on the guilty, and on the guilty’s descendents. The notion fits right in with the doctrine of Original Sin, in which one is burdened with sin before one is even born. Adam originated the sin, and we’re his heirs. Spiffing.

When I was a young, ignorant kid, I thought that a sin manifested itself as a black spot on one’s belly. I was continually looking for one, or what resembled an ink stain, because I was constantly sinning. One never appeared. I have a mole there, but it’s brown. It’s just a collection of chemicals.

Now, was God “born” old, or did he “age”? Has anyone ever attempted an image of God as a Young Man? But, how could he “age” before he invented time? According to the Big Bang theory, it was just him and that dimensionless ball of glop that he caused to explode. Was that the beginning of eternity, or the end of infinity? Go figure. Picture a consciousness, form and gender unknown – or was there a gender? – floating in a void in immeasurable time, with only the ball of glop for company. It’s a prospect and a premise that puts all the recent CGI-rich science fiction films to shame.

And whoever said God was male? The feminists have had problems with that presumption. They have been busy subjecting the Bible to Critical Theory analysis, trying either to find a semantic or linguistic loophole in Genesis which claims that God made man in his own image and likeness, or to deconstruct it to shreds in a revolt against patriarchic sexism and producing some very vitriolic screeds.

Finally, to return to Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, what has God got against art, that is, against making likenesses of things on earth and in the sea? Some of the greatest art was created in his glory. Surely he couldn’t object to that? (Off-hand remarks here about Michelangelo, or “Big Mike,” are not meant to be deprecatory of his greatness as an artist.)

3 - You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Well, why not? It’s just about the only time an atheist or even a steadfast Christian will remember God, by taking his name in vain, or in anger, or in frustration, and curse like a sailor. Further, unlike God, I wouldn’t be offended if people began taking my name in vain. If anything, I’d be flattered. Please, take my name in vain, as often as you wish.

4 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

I remember the Sabbath only because my bank and favorite restaurants are closed.

5 - Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

I can’t honor my parents. They always voted the straight Democratic ticket, and for Obama, twice. Further, it’s a confusingly worded Commandment. What exactly had God given me? Democratic parents, or the land and the long days? Will honoring my parents add years to my life?

6 – You shall not murder.

Well, why not? Give me a reason. Is it because another person’s life isn’t another’s to take – that is, the person owns his own life – or is it because it’s assumed he’s God’s property, and taking his life would amount to really serious larceny and put the kibosh on God’s own plans for the person?  God notoriously does not tolerate interference with his divine plans. He can be very, very wrathful.

7 – You shall not commit adultery.

Again, why not? If your spouse has turned into a prune-faced anchorite utterly hostile to divorce and about as romantically exciting as Norman Bates’ mummified mother or Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera, where else is there to turn?

8 – You shall not steal.

And not steal what? The limelight? The scene? The ball? Someone else’s real property? Commit plagiarism? Please, someone give me a reason other than God’s officious, persnickety say-so. This and the other Commandments come out of literal nowhere, from the void of faith and belief. Has the Federal government heard of this Commandment?

9 -You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I guess this is God’s dictat against lying. But why limit it to neighbors? How about unneighborly tax collectors, criminals, and feminists? I say bear as much false witness against them as the traffic will carry. Has Barack Obama heard of this Commandment? There are forms of this Commandment in the Koran, but maybe he just skipped over them in Indonesia.

10 – You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Envy doesn’t necessarily lead to covetousness, or even to theft or illegal appropriation or pilferage or shoplifting. Some dyed-in-the-wool Christians argue that this particular Commandment is the sole foundation of capitalism. No wonder Karl Marx was dead set against it. He was wrong, too. The foundations of capitalism – indeed, of freedom of speech and of thought and of property – can hardly be the arbitrary assertion of a ghost or even of a genuine mortal.

Of course, Christians won’t give up trying to wed freedom and religion. A case in point is a column, “Ayn Rand and Jesus: Do they teach opposing viewpoints about economy?” on BeliefNet, in which, incredibly, the writer asserts that there can be a moral “overlap between an atheist and a Christian.”

Among other things, there can be overlap between an atheist and a Christ follower in discovering truth.  Jesus would disagree with Ayn Rand that there is any morality outside of God. He might tell her that she hasn’t traced her absolutes back far enough to an objective reality.

I would like to have seen Jesus say that to Rand’s face and leave the room in one piece. On the other hand, she was such a formidable and persuasive debater that perhaps Jesus might have wound up an atheist.

Religion, she noted, was (and remains) a primitive form of philosophy. In her March 1964 Playboy interview, she said:

Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.

By way of illustration, religion can be compared with the stick men children first learn to draw; a fully rational philosophy, absent any form of mysticism and reliance on unsupportable assertions, should then lead them to create the likes of Michelangelo’s “David.” But modern philosophy has so failed men in their search for a “coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values,” that they are doubling back to the primitive form of it because it seems to make more sense than, say, Existentialism or Nihilism or Marxism. One can’t really blame them. Look at what Existentialism has produced in the way of a representation of man: there’s Rodin’s “Walking Man,” and Giacometti’s. Not much of a choice. One can sympathize with them, but not ally oneself with them, except on an ad hoc basis.

Faith in the existence of the supernatural, and even in the “extra-rational,” has been a stumbling block all throughout man’s history. And it has proven dangerous. Faith in a supernatural giver of laws has become faith in a statist and totalitarian system that promises paradise on earth. But it can only attempt to deliver that paradise by employing faith’s necessary partner: force. And, as Rand so well put it:

I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible….And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: “It’s so, because I say so,” will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later.

No, there is no “overlapping” possible between reason and faith. Any attempt at it will result in the triumph of faith, as exemplified in the porous, virtually tongue-in-cheek rationalizations one can read on BeliefNet, which is no defense of freedom at all. Faith can give one the illusory comfort of a comprehensible universe – or, more often than not, lead to the horrors in history and those taking place in our own time.

Ayn Rand on the Secular Nature of Christmas

“The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.” – Ayn Rand

“The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .” – Ayn Rand

Capitalism Without God: Freedom Is A Secular But Absolute Value

Harry Binswanger has a great piece at Forbes

Do you share the widespread assumption that morality has to be based on  religion? If so, are you willing to check that assumption?

Both those on the Left and those on the Right, both the foes and friends of capitalism, take it to be axiomatic that only an external authority–God or “Society”–can ground morality.

I’m going to show you that’s wrong. I’m going to show the objective, absolute, secular reason why capitalism is the only moral social system. And the evidence that I’m right about this, the evidence that morality is absolute but secular, is contained, under the surface, in the positions of those on the Right, even when religious, and those on the Left, even when multiculturalist/relativist. In actual practice–pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding–both sides appeal to and use secular morality to justify their political positions.

Read the rest:Capitalism Without God: Freedom Is A Secular But Absolute Value –

Video: Richard Dawkins & Ricky Gervais on Religion

“Here’s in interesting video of Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais discussing God and religion, and in a church, yet.  Worth watching because it’s one of the few intelligent and unscripted discussions of religion I’ve ever seen. I especially liked Gervais’s saying he doesn’t go around wearing his atheism on his sleeve, which has been my policy for as long as I can remember. They also conclude that it’s futile arguing with a dedicated Christian with the purpose of persuading him of the foolishness of believing in any God, because it’s all he’s got, even though he may suspect that you’re right.” — Ed Cline

Letter to Peter Carr: “Fix Reason Firmly In Her Seat…”

Jefferson’s letter to his nephew Peter Carr, from Paris, August 10, 1787.

 

Dear Peter, — I have received your two letters of December 30 and April 18, and am very happy to find by them, as well as by letters from Mr. Wythe, that you have been so fortunate as to attract his notice & good will; I am sure you will find this to have been one of the most fortunate events of your life, as I have ever been sensible it was of mine. I enclose you a sketch of the sciences to which I would wish you to apply, in such order as Mr. Wythe shall advise; I mention, also, the books in them worth your reading, which submit to his correction. Many of these are among your father’s books, which you should have brought to you. As I do not recollect those of them not in his library, you must write to me for them, making out a catalogue of such as you think you shall have occasion for, in 18 months from the date of your letter, & consulting Mr. Wythe on the subject. To this sketch, I will add a few particular observations.

1. Italian. I fear the learning of this language will confound your French and Spanish. Being all of them degenerated dialects of the Latin, they are apt to mix in conversation. I have never seen a person speaking the three languages, who did not mix them. It is a delightful language, but late events having rendered the Spanish more useful, lay it aside to prosecute that.

2. Spanish. Bestow great attention on this, and endeavor to acquire an accurate knowledge of it. Our future connections with Spain and Spanish America, will render that language a valuable acquisition. The ancient history of that part of America, too, is written in that language. I send you a dictionary.

3. Moral Philosophy. I think it lost time to attend lectures on this branch. He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if he had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. For one man of science, there are thousands who are not. What would have become of them? Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong, merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality, and not the to kalon [beautiful], truth, &c., as fanciful writers have imagined. The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted, indeed, in some degree, to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, & often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules. In this branch, therefore, read good books, because they will encourage, as well as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne, particularly, form the best course of morality that ever was written. Besides these, read the books mentioned in the enclosed paper; and, above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c. Consider every act of this kind, as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties & increase your worth.

4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature, you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor, in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature, does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong, as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature, in the case he relates. For example, in the book of Joshua, we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c. But it is said, that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine, therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand, you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis, as the earth does, should have stopped, should not, by that sudden stoppage, have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities? You will next read the New Testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions: 1, of those who say he was begotten by God, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven; and 2, of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition, by being gibbeted, according to the Roman law, which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile, or death in fureâ. See this law in the Digest Lib. 48. tit. 19. §. 28. 3. & Lipsius Lib 2. de cruce. cap. 2. These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all.

Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. In fine, I repeat, you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision. I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some, however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get & send you.

5. Travelling. This makes men wiser, but less happy. When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge, which they may apply usefully for their country; but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret; their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects; & they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. Young men, who travel, are exposed to all these inconveniences in a higher degree, to others still more serious, and do not acquire that wisdom for which a previous foundation is requisite, by repeated and just observations at home. The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the motion of the blood; it absorbs all their affection and attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile & condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, & its recollection poisons the residue of their lives. Their first & most delicate passions are hackneyed on unworthy objects here, & they carry home the dregs, insufficient to make themselves or anybody else happy. Add to this, that a habit of idleness, an inability to apply themselves to business is acquired, & renders them useless to themselves & their country. These observations are founded in experience. There is no place where your pursuit of knowledge will be so little obstructed by foreign objects, as in your own country, nor any, wherein the virtues of the heart will be less exposed to be weakened. Be good, be learned, & be industrious, & you will not want the aid of travelling, to render you precious to your country, dear to your friends, happy within yourself. I repeat my advice, to take a great deal of exercise, & on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. Write to me often, & be assured of the interest I take in your success, as well as the warmth of those sentiments of attachment with which I am, dear Peter, your affectionate friend.

P.S. Let me know your age in your next letter. Your cousins here are well & desire to be remembered to you.