“This is David. He’s the most right-wing person I know.”
— Howard Bloom introducing me to others before his talk, immediately blowing my cover. #DangIt #FacePalm
I didn’t know what to expect a few weeks ago when my friend Howard Bloom — author of science books The Lucifer Principle, Genius of the Beast, Global Brain, The God Problem, and the new e-book The Mohammed Code — invited me to hear him present his new proposal for space colonization to a small group. Howard has been one of my major intellectual influences for years. All of his books are included in my counterculture conservative reading list and I’ve focused on studying his most recent two on Saturdays for the “Radical Reading Regimen” I’ve started developing to try to organize my research. I already knew what to expect from Howard, both in content and delivery. He had sent me the visual outline he was to present many months ago. And I knew his infectious, enthusiastic delivery style. The big mystery that perplexed me: who exactly might I encounter at this gathering? (Hopefully not anyone in the counterculture community I had already offended — and I could think of a few in Howard’s circle…)
I knew the spectrum of Bloom enthusiasts. Over the past few decades since retiring from a wildly successful career in the music PR business to transition to full-time science author and public intellectual, Bloom had attracted a number of different followings as varying demographics connected with the VERY WIDE range of postions he articulated. Initially Howard attracted varieties of countercultural, secularist, and futurist audiences from his first two books. Many people first connected with Howard’s work as I did a decade ago when Richard Metzger’s Disinformation Company was at its peak and showcased him in books and a legendary TV show. He still has that legion of fans and acquaintances — who make themselves known on his Facebook page. I’m the rare one among this fan base who after graduating from college in 2006 as a secular progressive drifted toward political conservatism by 2009 and *gasp* the dreaded social conservatism and Bible-based religion by 2011. By this time Howard had released a third book, The Genius of the Beast, that I connected with, as it provided a new, innovative defense of my newfound radical capitalist creed.
As I got to know Howard personally after reviewing Beast, I found other views which synched with my unapologetic Tea Party conservatism. Howard was raised by secular Zionists and had spent decades studying Islam, arriving at an analysis in The Mohammed Code comparable to Robert Spencer’s in indicting the faith of Mohammed as an inherently violent, totalitarian, desert death cult.
But I was going to keep my mouth shut about all my nonsense. Three years now living out in Los Angeles as a full-time, professional conservative new media editor I’ve learned very well how to downplay my profession or to spin it in ways that sound harmless so as not to draw attention to myself at social gatherings. When I’m at a dinner party with my wife’s art colleagues and grad school friends, it doesn’t do me (or her) any favors to get detailed about how I spend my days editing ex-Marxists, former Soviet spymasters, and both dissident Muslim mystics and polemical ex-Muslim anti-jihad activists. And I’ve been calling the president an evil, antisemitic criminal who needs to be impeached and go to jail since before the election…
But there Howard went and did it as we stood talking with a retired music executive, a documentary filmmaker, and a music video director: “Most right-wing person I know!” I think Howard “outed” me for two reasons, first to signal that I could be myself and second to demonstrate the point that he then made explicitly to the others there, that his ideas had a broad appeal and could be appreciated by people across the political and religious spectrums.
Or he was probably just not thinking, just being off-the-top-of-his-head-himself, following his first rule of science: the Truth at any price, even the price of your life.
I was quick to follow up to my much hipper companions, confessing my conservatism but stressing that I found the whole Left/Right paradigm largely BS and that it was time to transcend beyond the massive failures of both baby-boomer liberalism and its wimpy counterpart, baby-boomer corporatist neoconservatism. Then I gave my usual counterculture conservative spiel, and then played my minority card by mentioning my Judeo-Christian Hermetic religious practice. Thus I was able to conclude by explaining how it was my goal to integrate together various religious, cultural, and political traditions — bringing together the Pagans, Christians, Jews, secularists, and mystic-occultist oddballs through recognizing the universal Enlightenment values that created America. And that’s why I was there.
Because to truly insure human life we can’t tolerate an authoritarian government that believes it has the right and moral authority to make copies of ALL OF OUR EMAILS AND INTERNET ACTIVITY. The urge to colonize the stars is most often articulated in the romantic explorer and brilliant capitalist personas. But the importance of developing sustainable colonies throughout the solar system and ultimately the entire galaxy and universe is much more important. Those who first escaped to the North American colonies from the kingdoms and theocracies of tribal Europe were religious dissidents and radical idealists wanting to create better societies away from those wanting to oppress them.
I guess it’s time to put my cards on the table.
As a counterculture crusader I assert that within the next 100 years — and I do plan to live that long, I am a Singularitarian — we should all possess the technology to leave planet earth and colonize the cosmos.
Bringing life to lifeless planets and a barren moon is not as radical as it sounds. It’s just a continuation of life’s perpetual journey to grow, evolve, reproduce, and ultimately conquer the natural universe. Howard began his talk with a theme that he’d expounded upon at length in Genius of the Beast, that the earth was once an uninhabitable rock and through tenacity and toughness life crept up out of the seas and transformed the planet. Here’s one of the first slides from the presentation. I’ll present parts of 6 more slides to highlight a few concepts for further discussion and consideration. I imagine as Howard continues to develop these concepts the talk will continue to evolve and change. But here are a few from this version.
That’s an illustration of a terraformed moon. If given the opportunity to be a colonist, would you take it?
Howard proposes more than just colonizing other planets. Humans will be able to create their own self-sustaining ecosystems within giant, orbiting space stations.But of course we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First the cost of launching material into space has to dramatically go down in price. And it’s getting there:
There are many problems with transporting humans and their stuff into outer space and then safely down again. Howard highlighted entrepreneurs who were developing solutions:
I wonder how future generations will look back on the past decades and assess how and why we have not already gotten to this point of entrepreneurs — Capitalist Wizards — developing competing space-travel formats. Is this Blu Ray vs HD DVD with rockets?
It’s not that space doesn’t have great value. We just haven’t figured out how to utilize it yet. But we will soon. Unfortunately there are some who are primarily interested in just that. Is the fact that there’s money to be made in developing the space industry really the way to promote the need for space exploration and colonization? As the question and answer session began, that was the call from many of Howard’s secular fans. Weren’t there ways he could emphasize more the money-making opportunities in space?
It became apparent again that I was the odd man out in the room. Most of the questions were phrased in explicitly secular terms.
Afterwards as Howard and a group of us sat around discussing, I raised my objection to the soulless, materialist focus. I drew a parallel between the groups who had sought to explore and settle the North American continent in the 1600s and those who should now seek to place their mark on the Moon, Mars, and the earth’s orbit.
I reminded Howard and the others that people came to the New World for varying reasons — capitalists eager to make money, the Crown eager to maintain power (primordial corporatists), science-minded explorers eager to discover what was out there, and one group unrepresented at the talk tonight, save for yours truly: the fanatical religious radicals wanting to live free of persecution as they built a godly, happy, counterculture community. It was this mix together that enabled the American experiment to begin and succeed.
People of faith — whether they interpret the Bible through Jewish, Christian, or mystic lenses — are called by God to transcend nature and rise upwards. The earth is not holy; it’s not our mother. As I’ve blogged about before, inspired by Glenn Reynolds’s An Army of Davids, the earth is just a rocky death trap. We can grow a better one ourselves.
Earlier this month I quoted from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s The Lonely Man of Faith on how space colonization was consistent with Biblical principles:
This has been done before in history. A bunch of religious counterculturalists got tired of being persecuted so they went and founded their own country. The results are the two freest countries on the planet, the United States and Israel.
As David Gelertner has demonstrated in his book Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion, the American colonists saw themselves as ancient Israelites fleeing the oppression of an idolatrous, tribal culture. Americans forward-minded enough to imagine how technology will advance in just a few decades should consider embracing comparable attitudes.
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“We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, ‘may the Lord make it like that of New England.’ For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.” — John Winthrop, the First Great American according to Paul Johnson.
In Conclusion: an open letter to Howard urging that in looking forward to a future of colonies in the sky we look backwards to discover which ideas enabled tiny colonies to grow into today’s super powers, the guarantors of our liberty.
I want to thank you again for inviting me to your talk and being so encouraging, even when you don’t agree with all of my “right-wing” nonsense and Bible thumpery. As you continue to develop the proposal and present it to new audiences around the world, I will make the case to you publicly that I’ve already made privately.
Consider the two most successful colonies of history, the ones that survived against odds: the United States and Israel.
I submit this thesis for your consideration. The reason for the success of the American people and the Jewish people is because their countries were founded on Bible-based values. They were founded on the premise that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Human life is sacred — of infinite value — only because we have been created in the image of God. A people that understands life as sacred will do what Americans and Israelis did — transform deserts into gardens, barren lands into tourist destinations.
But you remain a “stone-cold” atheist. And indeed that’s fine with me. You have a secular theology and a secular lifestyle, but by means of the secular Zionism and traditional liberal political ethics ingrained since your childhood a solid spine of Biblical values permeates your work, giving it a guiding moral clarity. One can live according to Judeo-Christian values and a secular theology. You are a living example. Values and theology are not synonyms. This is an important intellectual distinction too many fail to appreciate, but one that we all need to begin to grasp more as the disturbing political developments of the day will continue to shake up the existing coalitions and remake our politics and culture in unpredictable ways.
One of my favorite thinkers, talk radio host Dennis Prager, wrote about this difference between values and theology in 2007 in response to some Republican Christians refusing to vote for a Mormon, Mitt Romney:
It is not for this Jew to define a Christian. I only explain evangelical Christian opposition to Mormons calling themselves Christians to make the point that even as I understand their opposition to Mormons calling themselves Christian, I equally oppose voting for anyone based on his theology. Evangelicals have the right to proclaim Mormons as non-Christians, but they hurt themselves and their country if they measure a candidate’s theology. They should concern themselves with a man’s theology only when choosing a religious leader. When choosing a political leader, theology should not count.
The reason is — and I have come to this conclusion after a lifetime of interaction with people of almost all faiths and writing about and studying religion — theology does not appear to have much impact on people’s values.
I have written 24 columns explicating the meaning of Judeo-Christian values, yet never once used the term “Judeo-Christian theology” because there isn’t a Judeo-Christian theology. Judaism and Christianity differ on most of the major beliefs of Christianity — the Trinity, the place of Jesus, whether the Messiah has come, the nature of salvation, and more. But they share almost every important social and moral value. Once again, the relationship between shared theology and shared values is next to nil.
How can we define Judeo-Christian values in a way that can unify together people across cultures and borders?
Howard, I’ve nudged you to consider some of Prager’s ideas in the past. (His books on happiness, American values, and antisemitism are well worth everyone’s time.) I hope you’ll keep in mind the themes of an ongoing project he has developed with the hard work and ingenuity of my friend R.J. Moeller. At the end of the month there will be the third “Ask a Jew” interfaith dialogue featuring Hugh Hewitt and and Prager.
Back in March I interviewed R.J. about the first of his “Ask a Jew” events featuring Prager and Hewitt talking about Jewish and Christian values. It took place on March 17 and I enjoyed attending and seeing the great, professional presentation R.J. produced. Since then I’ve had my notes and plans describing the important points from the event but I haven’t finished the article. I’ve been stuck in trying to figure out the best angle to present my favorite points. But now you’ve inspired me. I’ll finish writing the piece with the goal of communicating Biblical values to you and your secular, futurist audience — just as I have advocated today for people of faith to embrace your scientific ideas.
Given that the third “Ask a Jew” event is now scheduled for June 30 in Pasadena, California (Tickets Still Available), now’s the time for me to finally focus. Next Sunday I’m going to publish an article titled “Judeo-Christian Values For Secularists And Space Travelers: 7 Key Ideas For Understanding the Bible Like a Grown-Up.”
I look forward to continuing our discussion then.
Warmest regards and much respect,
P.S. My article will also further develop themes from the article I wrote last week which you might find alternately horrifying and illuminating for understanding my recent embarrassing turn to social conservatism: “The 2 Most Important Reasons Why I Hate Game of Thrones.”