The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee


Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. — Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. — Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)


The “pseudo-theology” of ISIS

Dabiq is a town of roughly 3,300 people located in what is present-day northern Syria, six miles south of the Turkish border, but it holds disproportionate significance to a large subset of the world's population.  Quoting from Wikipedia:

In Islamic eschatology as found in the Hadith, the area of Dabiq is mentioned as a place of some of the events of the Muslim Malahim (which would equate to the Christian apocalypse, or Armageddon)."  ISIS uses "Dabiq" as the title of its propaganda magazine for this reason.

Today (July 27, 2015), the U.S. government announced that it will be working with the Turkish government to try to "clear" roughly 1,500 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) of Syria of ISIS militants to create an "ISIS-free zone", which would presumably then be occupied by some armed force or forces other than ISIS.  (Surely not coincidentally, this would also break the contiguity of proto-Kurdistan, which would be a happy event for the present Turkish government.)

On today's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Maddow made a puzzling comment.  She noted that this 1,500 square miles includes "Dabiq, the geographic heart of what ISIS claims as its radical, pseudo-theological, end-of-the-world reason-for-being."

First off, this sentence is hopelessly broken.  ISIS is not claiming a "pseudo-theological" raison d'être.  It is claiming a theological one.  I've been trying to figure out what that qualification "pseudo-" is supposed to convey.  I've only come up with three possibilities:

  1. That Maddow is trying to say that theological claims are simply a smokescreen for the real goals of ISIS
  2. That Maddow is opining that any religious beliefs held by ISIS are not systematic or scholarly enough to be considered "theology"
  3. That it's a dog-whistle that says "Wink wink, you and I both know that ISIS' beliefs are not the real word of god, and definitely most Muslims know they're not."

As much as I respect Rachel Maddow, I'm inclined to think it is number three, which is disturbing for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it plays directly into ISIS' hands.

More than anything, though, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a stranger one hot summer day in Hardwick, Vermont.  We started talking about religion, and the conversation turned to Wiccans.  She scoffed.

"Wicca is just a cult," she said.  "None of them has ever held a piece of rowan wood and felt its real magic."

Can you make sense of it?


Posers and Republicans


This is a Nirvana T-shirt

If you:
Don't own any Nirvana albums
Hate women, gays, or minorities
Detest rock music
And call yourself a Nirvana fan anyway…

Then fuck you, poser

This is a Christian Cross

If you:
Deny rights to the vulnerable
Ignore the sick and needy
Despise immigrants
And call yourself a Christian anyway…

Then fuck you, Republican


Bob McDonnell on the importance of being a Christian elected official

It is such a joy to watch this guy crash and burn.


I understand the real importance of being Christian elected official, that it's not just what you say but it's also the style of how you say it, and acting in a degree of civility.

From the Garden of Eden… we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and other forms of relationships are just not gonna be recognized in Virginia. 

— Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, convicted of 11 counts of corruption after his "I have a broken marriage" defense failed.


Would YOU do something?

A deity without the power to act is not worthy of worship.  A deity without the interest to act is not worthy of respect.  A deity without the evidence of action is not worthy of belief.

Given the means and opportunity, would you intervene?  Wouldn't anyone?