Category: Bruce W. Davidson

Sex Obsession and Psychotherapism: The Culprit Is Not the Cure



Our modern sex mania comes at least in part from a phalanx of weirdos in the psych profession.



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'Imagine': John's and Yoko's Hymn to Progressive Utopia


For the last 15 years, I have been making good educational use of Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.”  In one of my classes, analyzing the song helps Japanese students think critically about song lyrics.  The song is very well known and popular in Japan, in part because Lennon’s wife was Japanese.  Yoko Ono’s leftist beliefs also left their mark on the content of the song, a fact that will probably soon receive official recognition by the National Music Publishers Association.

The song’s doubtful assumptions and internal contradictions make it an instructive instance of the sloppy, shallow thinking we often find in the world of mass entertainment, which unfortunately then goes unfiltered into the minds of countless consumers.  Eventually, my students do an assignment in which they critique songs of their own choosing in short presentations.  Not long ago, one student offered us her own critique of a Japanese pop song titled “World Peace,” which calls for the extermination of the human race in order to achieve true peace on planet Earth in view of humanity’s crimes against the environment.  The student remarked on the strange notion of a peaceful world with no humans around to enjoy it.  She had evidently not yet heard of some strains of extreme environmentalism.

So much irrationality and falsehood are packed into Lennon’s simple song that it is hard to deconstruct it adequately.  Others have written good critiques, including Mark Steyn and Kurt Schlichter, who dubbed it “The Worst Song of All Time.”  Adding my own perspective to their observations, this article will focus on the song’s anti-religious animus, which really vitiates its own plea for peace.



John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono.

The song asks us to “imagine there’s no heaven … No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people living for today … Imagine there’s no countries … Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too.”  Along with national boundaries and private property, the song holds religion largely to blame for the problem of war.

Historical facts like the Crusades and the Muslim holy wars lend superficial credence to this notion, until one recalls that a certain atheistic, globalist ideology by the name of Marxist-Leninist communism provoked numerous wars as well as the politically motivated elimination of more than a hundred million people.  In regard to war’s existence, the song makes scapegoats out of religious believers, which can hardly induce non-believers to bear friendly feelings toward them.  Bigotry and animosity will certainly be the result – a new breeding ground for violence or at least hostility.

Naturally, a religious suicide-bomber’s expectation of heavenly rewards can be a strong motivation for violence, but Lennon and his wife failed to understand that a belief in heaven and hell can also be a strong incentive to curtail killing people.  That partly explains why atheistic revolutionaries have had little compunction about murdering thousands or even millions in the name of creating a this-worldly paradise.

In his novel The Possessed, the Russian writer Dostoevsky foresaw Russia’s descent into political killing by religion-repudiating visionaries for the sake of remaking Russian society.  A secular utopian ideology tends to generate violent conflict precisely because its adherents cannot put off the redress of earthly injustices until a day of divine judgment.

Interestingly, few ever comment on the song’s obvious implication that humanity ought to abolish or at least abandon all religions, including Islam.  Nowadays, the song could even be considered an insidious form of hate speech.  However, Lennon mastered the art of cloaking his animosity with moralistic cant.  This has now become a staple of the progressive playbook.  Belligerent demonstrators chanting about love or peace employ the same tactic.

Yet ironically, the song only replaces traditional religion with its wistful utopian yearning.  The visionary dream world of “Imagine” resembles an otherworldly heaven a lot more than its fans would care to admit.  No one could ever create and maintain such a world except God; angels; or sinless, perfected humans.  Secular sainthood has been conferred on Lennon as a prophet of this hoped-for millennium.

The song continues to serve as an anthem for progressive utopians at many events such as the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.  The aftermaths of terrorist crimes have also sometimes become occasions for invoking Lennon’s dream of a peaceful, harmonious world.

Are those who sing this song in response to such tragedies hoping the song’s utopia will magically appear to deliver them from peril?  Countless renditions of the song’s vain hope will never materialize its dream.  More concrete, courageous measures are called for in the face of civilizational threat.  Now more than ever, many in the U.K., the U.S., and Europe need to wake up from John’s and Yoko’s dream.

Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to the forthcoming Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.

For the last 15 years, I have been making good educational use of Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.”  In one of my classes, analyzing the song helps Japanese students think critically about song lyrics.  The song is very well known and popular in Japan, in part because Lennon’s wife was Japanese.  Yoko Ono’s leftist beliefs also left their mark on the content of the song, a fact that will probably soon receive official recognition by the National Music Publishers Association.

The song’s doubtful assumptions and internal contradictions make it an instructive instance of the sloppy, shallow thinking we often find in the world of mass entertainment, which unfortunately then goes unfiltered into the minds of countless consumers.  Eventually, my students do an assignment in which they critique songs of their own choosing in short presentations.  Not long ago, one student offered us her own critique of a Japanese pop song titled “World Peace,” which calls for the extermination of the human race in order to achieve true peace on planet Earth in view of humanity’s crimes against the environment.  The student remarked on the strange notion of a peaceful world with no humans around to enjoy it.  She had evidently not yet heard of some strains of extreme environmentalism.

So much irrationality and falsehood are packed into Lennon’s simple song that it is hard to deconstruct it adequately.  Others have written good critiques, including Mark Steyn and Kurt Schlichter, who dubbed it “The Worst Song of All Time.”  Adding my own perspective to their observations, this article will focus on the song’s anti-religious animus, which really vitiates its own plea for peace.



John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono.

The song asks us to “imagine there’s no heaven … No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people living for today … Imagine there’s no countries … Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too.”  Along with national boundaries and private property, the song holds religion largely to blame for the problem of war.

Historical facts like the Crusades and the Muslim holy wars lend superficial credence to this notion, until one recalls that a certain atheistic, globalist ideology by the name of Marxist-Leninist communism provoked numerous wars as well as the politically motivated elimination of more than a hundred million people.  In regard to war’s existence, the song makes scapegoats out of religious believers, which can hardly induce non-believers to bear friendly feelings toward them.  Bigotry and animosity will certainly be the result – a new breeding ground for violence or at least hostility.

Naturally, a religious suicide-bomber’s expectation of heavenly rewards can be a strong motivation for violence, but Lennon and his wife failed to understand that a belief in heaven and hell can also be a strong incentive to curtail killing people.  That partly explains why atheistic revolutionaries have had little compunction about murdering thousands or even millions in the name of creating a this-worldly paradise.

In his novel The Possessed, the Russian writer Dostoevsky foresaw Russia’s descent into political killing by religion-repudiating visionaries for the sake of remaking Russian society.  A secular utopian ideology tends to generate violent conflict precisely because its adherents cannot put off the redress of earthly injustices until a day of divine judgment.

Interestingly, few ever comment on the song’s obvious implication that humanity ought to abolish or at least abandon all religions, including Islam.  Nowadays, the song could even be considered an insidious form of hate speech.  However, Lennon mastered the art of cloaking his animosity with moralistic cant.  This has now become a staple of the progressive playbook.  Belligerent demonstrators chanting about love or peace employ the same tactic.

Yet ironically, the song only replaces traditional religion with its wistful utopian yearning.  The visionary dream world of “Imagine” resembles an otherworldly heaven a lot more than its fans would care to admit.  No one could ever create and maintain such a world except God; angels; or sinless, perfected humans.  Secular sainthood has been conferred on Lennon as a prophet of this hoped-for millennium.

The song continues to serve as an anthem for progressive utopians at many events such as the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.  The aftermaths of terrorist crimes have also sometimes become occasions for invoking Lennon’s dream of a peaceful, harmonious world.

Are those who sing this song in response to such tragedies hoping the song’s utopia will magically appear to deliver them from peril?  Countless renditions of the song’s vain hope will never materialize its dream.  More concrete, courageous measures are called for in the face of civilizational threat.  Now more than ever, many in the U.K., the U.S., and Europe need to wake up from John’s and Yoko’s dream.

Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to the forthcoming Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.



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The Zen Cult of Death in Wartime Japan


In my university student days, I had a professor of Japanese Buddhist literature who often contrasted the peaceable, broad-minded nature of Japanese Buddhism with the intolerance of Christianity.  I wish I could have acquainted him with the work of Brian Victoria, a Zen priest who has exposed the overwhelming support for the Japanese war machine among prominent Zen leaders in the years leading up to the Second World War.  His book Zen at War sent shock waves through the world of Zen Buddhism, especially among Western fans of Zen.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Victoria at the Asian Conference on Literature 2017 in Kobe, Japan.  The moderator introduced him as a “controversial scholar,” probably because he challenges the conventional wisdom of contemporary academia.  His work has helped to shatter the myth that somehow Western religion is uniquely culpable for promoting war, nationalism, and imperialism.

Eastern religions have at times shown themselves very willing to endorse war.  Warrior-priests in some medieval Buddhist sects in Japan engaged in armed conflicts.  Moreover, the Hindu classic the Bhagavad Gita justifies killing in war on the basis of its own pantheistic worldview.

Not many in the West these days seem drawn to Hinduism, but Zen has been a fashionable religion among many for some time now, including California governor Jerry Brown and the writer J.D. Salinger.  Bestselling books introduce Zen thinking to non-Japanese, and some even promote zazen meditation techniques in Christian circles.

Much of this Zen boom can be attributed to the efforts of D.T. Suzuki, who is lionized by many Western intellectuals.  Victoria has devoted much effort to unearthing Suzuki’s active role in weaponizing Zen for imperial Japan.  Suzuki described Japan’s war in Asia as a “selfless war” and “the holiest spiritual war.”  Furthermore, he urged Japanese soldiers to count their lives “as light as goose feathers.”  Victoria characterized such statements as “no different from an ISIS imam in Mosul.”  On top of that, Suzuki viewed Japan’s hegemony over the Koreans as an act of unselfish compassion.

However, Suzuki showed some common sense in cautioning against waging war with the U.S.  Since he had spent years living in America, he understood well that Japan was no match militarily for the industrial power of the U.S.  After Japan’s defeat, he became an advocate of peace, yet without really owning up to his active role in promoting war.

Suzuki is not an isolated case, since the great majority of Buddhist organizations – Zen in particular – in Japan aggressively stood behind the war effort.  Zen leaders even supported the terrorism that led to the overthrow of Japan’s civilian democratic government.  In court testimony in 1934, one prominent Zen leader named Yamamoto defended the killing of civilian Japanese government leaders by the “Blood Oath Corps.”  Yamamoto argued, “The Buddha, being absolute, has stated that when there are those who destroy social harmony and injure the polity of the state, then killing them is not a crime.”

Zen undergirded not only a willingness to kill, but also a willingness to be killed.  Nakane Kando, president of Sōtō Zen-connected Komazawa University, put it this way in March 1940: “The spirit of the soldier is that of Bushidō [the samurai honor code]… Thus, if we were to sum up Zen in a word, it would be that it is training for death.  When you become one with death and are selfless, you are in the realm of enlightenment[.]”

Suzuki concurred:

The Japanese may not have any specific philosophy of life, but they have decidedly one of death which may sometimes appear to be that of recklessness.  The spirit of the samurai deeply breathing Zen into itself propagated its philosophy even among the masses.  The latter, even when they are not particularly trained in the way of the warrior, have imbibed his spirit and are ready to sacrifice their lives for any cause they think worthy.

Nevertheless, it would be unfair and inaccurate to brand traditional Buddhism as violent.  In general, traditional Buddhism is highly moral and forbids the taking of human life.  Victoria himself shows a strong sense of moral responsibility.  However, Zen has tended to be more mystical than moral.  It mainly focuses on the attainment of a personal enlightenment experience.  In that regard, Victoria acknowledges a strong antinomian element in Zen that encourages adherents to view life and death, killing and being killed, indifferently.  In fact, Victoria considers it no exaggeration to call the Zen that predominated in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century a “cult of death.”

Interestingly, a number of Nazis were strongly drawn to Zen.  In Mein Kampf, Hitler had written, “All force which does not spring from a firm spiritual foundation will be hesitating and uncertain,” so many Nazis wanted to supply a new religious basis for their movement in place of traditional Christianity.  A number of Nazi leaders visited Japan to observe Zen in practice, no doubt hoping to glean some insights for a death cult of their own.  They included leaders of the Hitler Youth, shown seated in the front row in the below photograph of their visit to a Zen temple in December 1940.  With regard to Suzuki’s work, the influential philosopher and former Nazi Martin Heidegger stated, “This is what I’ve been trying to say in all my writings.”

During his lecture, Victoria seemed genuinely puzzled by the inability of many scholars in both Japan and the West to acknowledge the role of Zen Buddhism in Japan’s militarism.  In fact, his talk was titled “D.T. Suzuki: How Did Scholars Get It So Wrong?”  He attributes some of this problem to putting people like Suzuki on pedestals, but it is also probably due to contemporary academia’s knee-jerk inclination to blame the West (and hence exonerate the East) for all the problems of mankind.

Victoria has done conscientious scholarship about a little-known subject.  My small area of disagreement concerns his conclusions that “all religions have holy war” and that “we are all children of our times.”  Some religions seem more prone to generating violent conflict than others.  One that still officially espouses a doctrine of holy war comes especially to mind.

Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to the forthcoming Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.

In my university student days, I had a professor of Japanese Buddhist literature who often contrasted the peaceable, broad-minded nature of Japanese Buddhism with the intolerance of Christianity.  I wish I could have acquainted him with the work of Brian Victoria, a Zen priest who has exposed the overwhelming support for the Japanese war machine among prominent Zen leaders in the years leading up to the Second World War.  His book Zen at War sent shock waves through the world of Zen Buddhism, especially among Western fans of Zen.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Victoria at the Asian Conference on Literature 2017 in Kobe, Japan.  The moderator introduced him as a “controversial scholar,” probably because he challenges the conventional wisdom of contemporary academia.  His work has helped to shatter the myth that somehow Western religion is uniquely culpable for promoting war, nationalism, and imperialism.

Eastern religions have at times shown themselves very willing to endorse war.  Warrior-priests in some medieval Buddhist sects in Japan engaged in armed conflicts.  Moreover, the Hindu classic the Bhagavad Gita justifies killing in war on the basis of its own pantheistic worldview.

Not many in the West these days seem drawn to Hinduism, but Zen has been a fashionable religion among many for some time now, including California governor Jerry Brown and the writer J.D. Salinger.  Bestselling books introduce Zen thinking to non-Japanese, and some even promote zazen meditation techniques in Christian circles.

Much of this Zen boom can be attributed to the efforts of D.T. Suzuki, who is lionized by many Western intellectuals.  Victoria has devoted much effort to unearthing Suzuki’s active role in weaponizing Zen for imperial Japan.  Suzuki described Japan’s war in Asia as a “selfless war” and “the holiest spiritual war.”  Furthermore, he urged Japanese soldiers to count their lives “as light as goose feathers.”  Victoria characterized such statements as “no different from an ISIS imam in Mosul.”  On top of that, Suzuki viewed Japan’s hegemony over the Koreans as an act of unselfish compassion.

However, Suzuki showed some common sense in cautioning against waging war with the U.S.  Since he had spent years living in America, he understood well that Japan was no match militarily for the industrial power of the U.S.  After Japan’s defeat, he became an advocate of peace, yet without really owning up to his active role in promoting war.

Suzuki is not an isolated case, since the great majority of Buddhist organizations – Zen in particular – in Japan aggressively stood behind the war effort.  Zen leaders even supported the terrorism that led to the overthrow of Japan’s civilian democratic government.  In court testimony in 1934, one prominent Zen leader named Yamamoto defended the killing of civilian Japanese government leaders by the “Blood Oath Corps.”  Yamamoto argued, “The Buddha, being absolute, has stated that when there are those who destroy social harmony and injure the polity of the state, then killing them is not a crime.”

Zen undergirded not only a willingness to kill, but also a willingness to be killed.  Nakane Kando, president of Sōtō Zen-connected Komazawa University, put it this way in March 1940: “The spirit of the soldier is that of Bushidō [the samurai honor code]… Thus, if we were to sum up Zen in a word, it would be that it is training for death.  When you become one with death and are selfless, you are in the realm of enlightenment[.]”

Suzuki concurred:

The Japanese may not have any specific philosophy of life, but they have decidedly one of death which may sometimes appear to be that of recklessness.  The spirit of the samurai deeply breathing Zen into itself propagated its philosophy even among the masses.  The latter, even when they are not particularly trained in the way of the warrior, have imbibed his spirit and are ready to sacrifice their lives for any cause they think worthy.

Nevertheless, it would be unfair and inaccurate to brand traditional Buddhism as violent.  In general, traditional Buddhism is highly moral and forbids the taking of human life.  Victoria himself shows a strong sense of moral responsibility.  However, Zen has tended to be more mystical than moral.  It mainly focuses on the attainment of a personal enlightenment experience.  In that regard, Victoria acknowledges a strong antinomian element in Zen that encourages adherents to view life and death, killing and being killed, indifferently.  In fact, Victoria considers it no exaggeration to call the Zen that predominated in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century a “cult of death.”

Interestingly, a number of Nazis were strongly drawn to Zen.  In Mein Kampf, Hitler had written, “All force which does not spring from a firm spiritual foundation will be hesitating and uncertain,” so many Nazis wanted to supply a new religious basis for their movement in place of traditional Christianity.  A number of Nazi leaders visited Japan to observe Zen in practice, no doubt hoping to glean some insights for a death cult of their own.  They included leaders of the Hitler Youth, shown seated in the front row in the below photograph of their visit to a Zen temple in December 1940.  With regard to Suzuki’s work, the influential philosopher and former Nazi Martin Heidegger stated, “This is what I’ve been trying to say in all my writings.”

During his lecture, Victoria seemed genuinely puzzled by the inability of many scholars in both Japan and the West to acknowledge the role of Zen Buddhism in Japan’s militarism.  In fact, his talk was titled “D.T. Suzuki: How Did Scholars Get It So Wrong?”  He attributes some of this problem to putting people like Suzuki on pedestals, but it is also probably due to contemporary academia’s knee-jerk inclination to blame the West (and hence exonerate the East) for all the problems of mankind.

Victoria has done conscientious scholarship about a little-known subject.  My small area of disagreement concerns his conclusions that “all religions have holy war” and that “we are all children of our times.”  Some religions seem more prone to generating violent conflict than others.  One that still officially espouses a doctrine of holy war comes especially to mind.

Bruce W. Davidson is a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan and a contributor to the forthcoming Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia.



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