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Many years ago, Sir Isaiah Berlin and I started a correspondence that had to do with his ancestry. In Jewish terms, he came from a very distinguished ancestry. He was a direct descendant of the founder of the Chabad movement. In the course of the years, I had the honour and the joy of meeting Sir Isaiah several times, both in England and in Jerusalem. Isaiah Berlin was one of the last intellectuals in England. An intellectual is not necessarily a university professor: he can also be a shoemaker. An intellectual is a person of boundless curiosity, who has the desire and the ability to discuss everything and the spark that can make something new out of anything. There are very few people of this kind nowadays. Neither England nor the world seems to grow enough of this breed anymore.

Western culture can be said to have begun with ancient Greece. Its real beginning, though, seems to be approximately the second century CE. It was then that Greek ideas and systems of thought blended with Jewish concepts to create the Greco-Christian culture that prevailed for almost two millennia. While there have been both major historical and cultural shifts and continuities over time, Western culture can be perceived as one culture that had a fair number of important unifying elements. Even though it is difficult to define a single clear point of change, contemporary Western culture can be seen as a different culture, which has to be defined and described.

One of contemporary Western culture's most salient features is its enormous and unprecedented technological ability. Technology is no longer an additional feature of the culture, but an essential part of it. In fact, advanced technology is now one of the most important factors in the culture, in addition to defining it.

Technology serves many purposes: it may hasten certain processes and delay others, but mostly it makes life more comfortable and also makes so many things more accessible. Advanced technology was the result of progress in science and more efficient social structures. It began as a tool for Western civilisation, but became in itself a factor in shaping and changing the culture. From a tool of society, it became one of its masters. Technology has become a very powerful cultural agent. To cite one example: the contraceptive pill, while based on major scientific discoveries, is a minor technological event. From the perspective of pure science, there is no great novelty about it. But the change it created is enormous. It created a behavioural change. It has changed the lives of boys and girls in every part of the Western world — and it affects the future of Western society.

Communication is another example. In the new world in which we live, reaching from one part of the world to another is so much faster and easier than ever. As a result, languages are changing all over the world. Radio and television cause local dialects to die and even some national entities are becoming blurred. The internet, with its many tools and accessories, is a recent development in communication. Its power in the political, scientific and moral spheres cannot be overestimated. In this case, the content of the internet is secondary to the enormous power it has due to the very existence of the ability to create super-communication. Technology itself does not dictate any specific behaviour but it changes the parameters of our behaviour.

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August 25th, 2014
3:08 PM
The hard truth is not as the Rabbi says. Western culture started with the greeks, not much to do with the judeochristian god. What judeochristianity has done is to stop the clock of human progress for nearly 2000 years. Only when the Renaissance arrived in the 14th century did things start to change. The job is not fully done. It will be done when the idea of god just naturally dies out. The whole contents of the Torah and the Christian Bible are obviously product of the imagination of people unable to try to tackle life and the world using reason. The Greeks had advanced in that direction because while they still had gods they had cut them to human size, nothing of that all powerful god creator and master of everything. In fact, we reconnected with greek reason in spite of the church. The jews did not present similar resistance because they had no power but at heart the rabbis were as antisience as the church. The judeochridtian god dehumanizes humans, he considers them unable to figure out life, nature, morality, etc., by themselves. This is why the greeks advanced human knowledge and morality far beyond the israelites. The Bible is a seductive story because it dove tails with the fears and anxiety of most people, not because its stories have any basis in fact. Most human weres not equipped to use philosophy, reason. The greeks accomplished far and away more than the jews in all areas of knowledge and morality. Math, geometry, pride in the human body (instead of covering it in shame), architecture, literature, philosophy, astronomy, theater, sculpture, shipbuilding, the beginning of science, various mechanical devices. Of course they invented democracy. Few things rank higher in moral human achievement. Sure, only free men could vote while women could not. But is obvious that every family had a say on who would be the ruler. In ancient israel there was democracy for anyone, the priests ruled, not unlike the pope in past times. Greeks had rejected polygamy us "ungreek" while the jewish god allowed it. The west did not allow polygamy because of thd greek and roman tradition. No wonder when the greeks conquered ancient israel the jewish god did not impress them, nor jewish culture, what did the jews offer that was impressive. A god who talk to one of them in the mountain and handed him the rules to live by? Nonsensical must have been the notion for the greeks. In terms of human knowledge, what did the jews offer the greeks, nothing! Nothing about math, medicine, the universe, nature, government and on and on. How could jewish sculpture and architecture compared to the greek counterparts? If the judeo christian idea had not been so "successful", galileo, modern science, pennicillin, space exploration, water treatment, modern medicine, etc., would arrived centuries sooner. When did the jews had the freedom the greeks had to discuss anything, they did not because the jewish and christian god had the answers for everything. Everything is in the book, predigested. If it is not in the book it is false or blasphemous. The only thing jews and christian were allowed to think is about god himself. The accomplishments of so many jews in the west happen because of the grecoeuropean culture, not because of jewish culture stimulates curiosity. Jews achieve because judaism tells them they must succeed because they are special so they work very hsrd for it. But it has nothing to do with cultural superiority. If jewish culture was superior long ago the jews would have created a peaceful highly ethical country, instead of fighting each other to death because for jews there is only one truth and its known, so if another jew disagrees he is either evil or ignorant, in either case an inferior being who should be put away. That is why ancient jeeish sects fought to death against each other, until they lost the country and were unable to have one because of the progroms and the nazis, and the inquisition, and... it never ends. If you visit israel you quickly see how israelis do not have that drive to get ahead european diaspora jews have. Certainly you can see israelis do not have that urge disspora jews have to outhink non jews. The paganization of western culture, more than paganization I would say degeneration and decay is the result of science finally discreding the judeochristian god. No longer the idea makes sense to more and more people. People are abandoning god, not becausd of the behaviour of church or rabbis but because the very idea of god himself is obsolete, god is going the way of the ancient god of the volcano... Unfortunately,people who have been told "you must behave in this and that way because god says so", once they throw god overboard are left with no rules for self control. Serial sex fof sex sake, drunkedness, make money with your body (hollywood actresses are equivalent in many ways to prostitutes because they live off showing their body, and often a bitmore to land roles in movies.... Uneducated to behave morally though deep ethical and philosophical reflection, because society needs rules to survive, not because god says so. The worse is yet to come, including massive antisemitism, because more and more people do not give a damn about anything. We urgently need phylosophy back in school so that young people reach moral conclusions guided by themselves, through reason, not because god says so and you must obey. So dear Rabbi, I believe you should look at paganization under a quite different perspective...

October 15th, 2009
10:10 AM
Western culture especially via Christianity has always been pagan while simultaneously calling everyone else pagan. Pagan because it has always and systematically reduced everything to the meat-body level only. Being identified with a meat-body is a situation that is characterized by chronic boredom doubt and discomfort. Therefore people inevitably crave for things, substances and experiences that will relieve them of these three afflictions. Providing means for relieving the stress of these chronic afflictions is ALL that our "culture" is about, and nothing more. We now live in a world which combines the nightmare visions described by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World AND George Orwell in 1984. A quote from a Spiritual Philosopher. "What could be more naive than identifying with the body, or gross matter only? What could be less sophisticated? Less intelligent?".

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