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Friday, July 30, 2010

A Criticism of an Idiot Vampire Writer

Vampire genre author, Anne Rice is officially counting herself amongst the heathen again....

"Anne Rice has had a religious conversion: She's no longer a Christian.

The 68-year-old author wrote Wednesday on her Facebook page that she refuses to be "anti-gay ... anti-feminist," and "anti-artificial birth birth control."

She adds that "In the name of ... Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, confirmed Thursday that the posting was by Rice.

Rice is best known for "Interview With a Vampire" and other gothic novels. Raised as a Catholic, she had rejected the church early in her life, but renewed her faith in recent years and in 2008 released the memoir "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession."

I would imagine that her spiritual journey isn't terribly unlike those of some of the online skeptics out there that comment on this forum from time to time. Perhaps raised in a nominally Christian environment, some questions were raised at a later point in life that were not adequately addressed by the practicioners of their religion to their personal satisfaction leading to a quest to find answers from other sources. They might be questionable sources with questionable answers to their inquiries, and for all they know they sound good on the surface anyway and perhaps there is an initial feeling of "freedom" or otherwise hard-to-pin-down emotion with rejecting the belief system of their youth. The only problem is that there actually are legitimate answers out there and oftentimes that person spends the rest of their life trying to justify the decision they made as a young adult, never really seeking the "best possible answers" out there from people that are very learned on the subject they had doubts on. Ms. Rice cites three different topics that seem to bother her about Christianity so let's examine them, shall we?

#1. Christianity is "anti-gay"

This is true. According to THE foundational document of Judeo-Christian belief, homosexuality is a sin. One writer summed it up thusly. "There are loads of evidence that it is not sexual repression, but the absence of sexual repression that is dangerous. Abstinence never killed anyone, but AIDS certainly has. Male homosexuals are the least sexually repressed humans on the planet; they also happen to enjoy the shortest life expectancy."[1] I think that it is important here to differentiate between homosexual acts and the people who practice them. This link has more evidence than you could possibly ever dream of concerning the adverse affects of homosexual sex upon the human body. Don't even get me started on the psychological consequences of such a lifestyle. Lest anyone try to bring up the subject of the non-existant gay gene, even gay gene researcher Dr. Dean Hamer when asked if homosexuality was grounded purely in biological causation replied, "Absolutely not. From twin studies, we already know that half or more of the variability in sexual orientation is not inherited. Our studies try to pinpoint the genetic factors...not negate the psychosocial factors".

I wonder if Ms. Rice thinks that just not being 100% accepting of such a lifestyle choice constitutes simply being "anti-gay". We don't have the particulars so we are left to speculate. If anyone is interested, I came across an excellent defense of traditional marraige this week should anyone like to read up on it. Next up...

Christianity is "anti-feminist"

I can only shake my head and recall the words of Illinois College Professor of Sociology (retired) Alvin J. Schmidt who once said...

"In what countries have women lacked freedom?".... Where Christianity is not present, especially in the Middle East. Were it not for Christianity, Gloria Steinem would still be walking about in a veil." He continued, "Christ was never quoted as saying anything demeaning or derogatory to women. Women in Greek days could hardly leave their homes. When her husband had guests over, she was not even allowed to sit in the same room. Their status was extremely low among the Romans, where the father of the family had the power of life and death, even over his wife. "In [the Gospel of] John, Chapter Four, Jesus was asked what he was doing talking to a woman in public, as you only talked with prostitutes in public. When he taught Mary and Martha in Luke 10, that was a behavior you did not do with women. "Christianity also nullified polygamy, as Jesus made it clear a man has one wife. If a Greek man was walking about outside with a woman, that was his mistress, not his wife. Christianity also made it clear widows were to be taken care of."

Continuing along that same theme, Professor John Carlisle Kilgo of Duke University once wrote...

"The earliest Christian communities met in people's houses; they didn't have churches yet for quite some time, and throughout the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters in the Book of Acts, we find out that women owned the houses in which the early Christians met. This I think is significant because I don't think the women who owned the houses were simply providing coffee and cookies, in effect, for the Christian community. I think that this probably gave them some avenue to power... in the church."

I'm certain that we're not going to hear anything about that anytime soon from Ms. Rice. why confront FACTS when wallowing in your own bias is so completely comfortable? And lastly...

Christianity is "anti-artificial birth control"

Christians consider sex to be something that's best between a married man and woman. It's a bit more serious of a matter in that one should be careful with whom you have it. It's not something to be done whenever and wherever one wants to. The Rhythm Method is 99% effective and it doesnt cost a dime and doesnt come with bad side effects. Or as this writer puts it...

"I chose to revisit this topic after presenting an NFP (Natural Family Planning) class to a new couple last Thursday. When the wife mentioned that her doctor had warned her NFP was the Rhythm Method and a bad idea for women with irregular cycles, I couldn't roll my eyes enough. For the LOVE, how long will doctors keep saying this?? In a day & age where knowledge is pretty much accessible to everyone, how can some of the most educated people still be the most ignorant? I'm walking proof that NFP was made for irregular cycles.

It's time to ask all the right questions:
Why is the most scientifically proven method on the planet still labeled as the Rhythm Method?

Why aren't people being told about something that's 99% effective, 100% natural, and 0% damaging to their bodies & the environment?

Why aren't "green" advocates adding this to their list of favorite things?

What's behind this bizarre widespread ignorance?

Money. If anyone denies that money is the driving force behind everything in this country, sexual ignorance is the least of your problems. And NFP doesn't equal money. (There's your understatement of the year.) Imagine every woman choosing the healthy, free, simple method of NFP. She'd never have to fill another monthly pill or IUD prescription for the rest of her life. (Not to mention avoiding an increased risk for blood clots, stroke, weight gain, depression, and impaired fertility. But that's another blog altogether.) Losing millions of women to NFP would mean the serious crash and burn of pharmaceutical companies everywhere."

And let's not forget that employing the Rhythm Method requires that the participants actually know one another and thus monogamy is encouraged and it discourages anonymous, one night stands. And of course,we can't have that in this day and age now, can we?

[1]Day, Vox; The Irrational Atheist, pgs 173-174

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Authoritative Bent of Science and Scientism

Continuing in our series of what people are using to replace God in their lives, I stumbled upon this article from the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute...

"To see if our suspicions were correct, we decided to do a bit of informal research, checking Lexis Nexis for growth in the use of what we would categorize as “authoritarian” phrasing when it comes to scientific findings. We searched Nexis for the following phrases to see how their use has changed over the last 30 years: "science says we must," "science says we should," "science tells us we must," "science tells us we should," "science commands," "science requires," "science dictates," and "science compels."

What we found surprised us. One phrase, in particular, has become dramatically more frequent in recent years: “Science tells us we should.” Increased usage of this phrase leads to a chart resembling a steep mountain climb (or, for those with a mischievous bent, a “hockey stick”). The use of the phrase “science requires” also increases sharply over time. The chart (below) vividly shows the increasing use of those particular phrases. Some of this may simply reflect the general growth of media output and the growth of new media, but if that were the case, we would expect all of the terms to have shown similar growth, which they do not."

Vox Day has an interesting term he uses from time to time known as the "science fetishists". A science fetish is defined as "1) the belief that any statement by a scientist is a) inherently credible, and b) science; 2) the belief that science is the only reliable method of determining facts; 3) the belief that the truth of a statement is dependent upon how many scientists agree it is true."

Such thinking leads to "scientism" and as Fr. Longenecker (who I link to on the right) puts it...

"When scientism holds hands with utilitarianism the human person is reduced to a biological machine. The human mind is reduced to a complex series of chemical reactions, and human society is reduced to complicated, but explainable interactions. All meaning is reduced to scientific facts and humanity has no other destiny than its evolutionary destiny.

When taken to the logical extreme scientism, hand in hand with utilitarianism and progressivism contributes to the atheistic assumptions on which totalitarian states takes control....and you know the rest."

One almost shudders when considering what the future will bring.

On Atheism and Infanticide

While even secular sources give credit to the early Christian Church for inventing the word "foundling" modern criticisms of Christianity rarely mention that it was that institution that first sensitized the world to such a problem where as standards now would make child abandonment something that would make the six o'clock news rather than merely an uneventful, everyday occurance. The economist Adam Smith gives us insight in his landmark, 1776 epic The Wealth of Nations of what life would be in a land that is absent the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

"In all great towns, infants are every night exposed in the street, or drowned like puppies in the water. The performance of this horrid office is even said to be the business by which some people earn their subsistence."

In a recent article by David Brog, we are again reminded of how cheap life was before the influence of Christianity took hold upon Western Civilization...

"Recently it was reported that archeologists had arrived at some startling conclusions regarding the fossils of 97 human babies found buried around a Roman ruin in southern England. After examining the skeletons, they observed that, “The infants almost all died around the time of birth, suggesting this may be an example of deliberate infanticide.”

It seems that this site was once a Roman brothel, and unwanted pregnancies a hazard of the trade.

The fact that mass infanticide was committed at this site should surprise no one. The Romans were proud practitioners of infanticide. So were the Greeks before them. Both Plato and Aristotle recommended that the state embrace a policy of killing deformed infants....

These ancient bones should help debunk a deeply flawed conventional wisdom about the West. We tend to view our culture as the direct heir of that of the Romans. In between, it is often claimed, there was a centuries-long “dark age” when Christianity stunted European development...

These infant bones should also help debunk a deeply flawed conventional wisdom about ourselves. Intelligent adults increasingly maintain that they have little use for Judeo-Christian morality because they happen to be “good people” all on their own. The assumption is that they were born good or that they reasoned their way to goodness.

Yet this begs the question: If so many of us are inherently good, then were generation after generation of Romans inherently bad? And what of generations of Fijian cannibals or Southern slave-holders? Were these and so many other millions throughout history missing our gene for goodness? Or is it our moral genius that they lacked?

Let’s stop flattering ourselves. We are not genetically or intellectually superior to other peoples. We share the same equipment. And just like them, we learn our morality from the culture that surrounds us. Whether there are absolute truths written on our hearts or inherent in nature, we come to knowledge of such truths – to the extent we do so at all – through the culture in which we’re raised...

Yes, recent studies have demonstrated, rather convincingly, that we humans enter this world with a shared set of moral instincts. No matter what our background, we all tend to have similar reactions when confronted with certain basic moral dilemmas.

Yet there is widespread consensus that these moral instincts provide little more than a structure devoid of specifics. Culture comes in to fill in the blanks.

Experts make an illuminating analogy between our moral instincts and our linguistic ones. Linguists have long observed that all humans are born with the same set of linguistic predispositions. This is why all languages tend to share the same basic structure and logic. Yet despite these similarities, the actual languages we humans have developed are dramatically different from one another.

In a similar fashion, our shared moral predispositions are overwhelmed by the actual moral codes we have developed. As a result, we can be repulsed by what other cultures accept as admirable. As evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser has put it, “Once an individual acquires his specific moral grammar, other moral grammars may be as incomprehensible to him as Chinese is to a native English speaker.”

It is thus time we got over ourselves and our “new atheists” such as English imports Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The problem with such religion bashers is not just that they’re wrong; it’s that their fundamental premise is laughable.

These men had the benefit of being raised in the heart of Judeo-Christian culture. They have drunk in Judeo-Christian morality and ethics their entire lives. And now they use the language and ideals of the Judeo-Christian tradition to sit in judgment of that tradition and find it wanting...

We can certainly debate Western morality, and even seek to improve it. But denying and ridiculing its source is an exercise in hubris, not humanity.

It turns out that a pile of ancient bones from England can teach us much more than some of that island’s more contemporary relics."

Mr Brog is absolutely right. Dawkins and Hitchins criticize the moral code of the society they were brought up in while all the time they never make a comparison between the Christianized West and the commonly accepted societal ills and practices in areas of the world in which the Gospel has not taken hold. Such myopia could could only be selective as they appear to be otherwise intelligent men.

Does anyone doubt that as the West becomes increasingly secular, that the most vulnerable members of humanity, at both ends of life, will subsequently be at greater risk of being snuffed out like a candle due to a perceived convenience on somebody's part or some, heartless cost-benefit analysis? To doubt as much would be to fly in the face of established human history and experience in a pre-Christian world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Main Reason for Leftist Hatred

Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota, a/k/a Stuart Smalley) recently declared that "If Republicans take back Congress they’ll implement a truly dangerous agenda". Hyperbole side, in today's article, columnist Larry Prager examines the root cause of intense dislike of the Right by those on the Left...

"From its inception, leftism has been a secular utopian religion. As Ted Kennedy, famously quoting his brother Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Some (people) see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?" That exemplifies left-wing idealism – imagining a utopian future. There will be no poor, no war, no conflict, no inequality. That future is only a few more government programs away from reality. And who stands in the way of such perfection? Conservatives. How could a utopian not hate a conservative?

To put in another way, the famous '60s left-wing motto "Make love, not war" embodies the problem as the left sees it: The left makes love in the world and the right makes war in the world. How could you not hate the right? The right, with its beliefs in a strong military; in individuals, not the state; taking care of themselves, their families and their neighbors; and in punishing criminals, is the anti-Love, a figure as reviled on the left as the antichrist is to Christians."

I agree with Prager's asessment. It almost seems that those on the Left would lke to replace the Judeo-Christian ethic with a statist model in which the government is seen as the ultimate source of good and provision in people's lives. This gives one some fresh perspective when considering why the US Justice Department is being accused of providing a less than vigorous defense of legal challenges to the National Day of Prayer...

"A coalition of legal and pro-family groups says the Obama Justice Department is putting forward an inadequate legal defense of the National Day of Prayer, and they are asking a circuit court to allow them to participate in oral arguments.

At issue is an April ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and tantamount to a government establishment of religion. The Justice Department appealed the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and filed its brief in early July, but the groups say the government's brief -- while at 73 pages -- is lacking in certain areas.

In short, the groups say the Justice Department failed to cite three specific Seventh Circuit cases, all from 2007 and 2008, that are binding precedent on the three-judge panel and would lead to a quick dismissal of the case. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed the lawsuit, lacked standing to sue, the groups say....

The groups' argument focuses on a technical legal question at the heart of the three Seventh Circuit cases and a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court case, Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. Those three Seventh Circuit cases -- citing the Supreme Court decision -- ruled that an Establishment Clause challenge could not be brought if Congress did not appropriate any funding in the challenged statute. Because Congress did not set aside any money for the National Day of Prayer when it passed the Day of Prayer statute, the lawsuit should be dismissed, the groups say. The Justice Department's brief does not make that argument. Crabb's decision overturned the Day of Prayer statute.

The three cases are Hinrichs v. Speaker of the House of Representatives (2007), Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Nicholson (2008), and Laskowski v. Spellings (2008).

Asked if he thought the Justice Department's failure to cite the cases was intentional or simply an oversight, Klukowski said, "At this point, I would want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They did present an argument that would result in a win in this case. But, nonetheless, the argument that we put forward in our brief would be a much broader and robust victory to protect the First Amendment rights of Christians and people of all faiths going forward."

A wise man recently said that "Christianity in the United States is about 2000 miles wide... and about half-an-inch deep" and I concur. There is still a remnant of the Christian ideals and values that this country was founded upon in American culture and to stamp it out completely might prove to be difficult at this point in time. We live in times in which the only thing that can help society is a fundamental change in the human heart. Government offers nothing like that and to subsidize irresponsible behavior and decisions that people make will only make matters worse for generations yet to come.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doubting the Gospel of Thomas

While involved in internet argumentation in another forum over the weekend, the subject of the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" came up. Usually such canards as this are propagated by skeptics and unbelievers in a vain attempt to discredit Holy Scripture in sort of an "Ah-hah, Gotcha!" moment by suggesting that other written gospels exist that are in some way comparable to the widely accepted Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The story usually goes that such writings were on the same par as the synoptic Gospels along with that of John, however due to some sort of "embarrasing information" contained in them, they were later suppressed in order to maintain the uniformity of the other gospel accounts.

When Wayne Jackson of the Christian Courier was presented with the idea that the Gospel of Thomas was somehow "authentic", he had this to say about it...

"Authentic”? In what sense? Certainly not “authentic” in the sense that the “Gospel of Thomas” carries the same credibility as the canonical Gospel records Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is considerable evidence that the document that is called the “Gospel of Thomas” was not authored by the apostle who bore that name.

What are the facts relative to this ancient text that has caused such a sensation in recent years?"

Compiled in the Second Century

"In 1945, an archaeological excavation at Nag Hammadi in Central Egypt yielded a collection of 13 papyrus codices (books) totaling over 1,100 pages. One of these contained the “Gospel of Thomas” in the Coptic language. In this form it dates from about A.D. 350.

However, the original work apparently is older since three Greek papyri from the Oxyrhynchus collection (c. A.D. 150) contain fragments of the narrative. It is thus believed that the original “Gospel of Thomas” was compiled about A.D. 140, probably in Edessa, Syria. Some scholars push the date a little later (A.D. 150-200).

There is no evidence that this work existed in the first century, even though those associated with the bogus “Jesus Seminar” so allege."

Yes indeed Mr Jackson. And in support of this information, Dr. Craig Evans (PhD) of Acadia University had this to say about the later dating of Thomas. When told that "John Dominic Crossan says that the current text emerged about 60 or 70 [A.D.], but that an earlier edition goes back as far as the 50's. If they're right, that means that Thomas has really early material. Are they wrong?" Dr. Evans replied...

"They're wrong for several reasons," he said.... Thomas has too much New Testament in it. Not only that, Thomas doesn't have any early pre-Synoptic material. Thomas has forms that reflect the later developments in Luke and Matthew... Matthew and Luke sometimes improve upon Mark's grammer and word choice. Mark is not real polished in Greek grammer and style, while Matthew and Luke are much more so. And in the Gospel of Thomas we find these more polished Matthew and Luke forms of the sayings of Jesus. So Thomas isnt referring to earlier Mark, but to the later Matthew and Luke. We also find references to the special material that's found only in Matthew and only in Luke, both of which scholars think is later, not earlier.

And Thomas has material from the Gospel of John. How can Thomas be written in the 50's and 60's but still have Johannine material that doesn't get written down till the 90's?"

And this is just the beginning of the problems for Thomas. Mr. Jackson next brings up...

Beware of “secret sayings”

“Thomas” consists of a collection of 114 “sayings of Jesus,” that are supposed to be a “secret” revelation the Lord gave to the apostle Thomas. That “secret” business itself ought to be a red flag!

Some of these sayings repeat the words of Christ from the canonical Gospel accounts. About 40 of them are entirely new. Most scholars believe that the “Gospel of Thomas” is significantly contaminated with the ancient heretical philosophy known as Gnosticism (Cameron, p. 539)."

Dr. Evans describes the concept of salvation in Thomas thusly...

"Salvation is not perhaps exactly the way it is in the other Gnostic texts, but it's pretty close... It comes from self-knowledge, from understanding oneself authentically, and recognizing where one fits into the cosmos, as well as repudiating and not getting caught up with this world. So it's slightly Christian, slightly Old Testament, slightly Gnostic."

Anybody with even a passing familiarity with the New Testament knows that this is not the process of salvation described there.

Next, Jackson moves on to...


"Occasionally, some very absurd language is put into the Lord’s mouth by means of this document. Here is an example:

Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary (Magdalene) go out from among us, because women are not worthy of the Life.”

Jesus said: “See I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Saying 114, Funk, p. 532; see also Yamauchi, p. 186).

Does that even remotely resemble the dignified status that women are afforded in the New Testament?"

Could a skeptic cite a reference in any of the four Gospels that resembles this? Of course not! The whole thing is a sham. Jackson goes on to state..

The “Gospel of Thomas” — An Apparent Fraud

R.K. Harrison has well noted that this apocryphal work “cannot in any sense be called a ‘fifth gospel’” (Blaiklock & Harrison, p. 450). It is readily apparent that the so-called Gospel of Thomas has no place in the inspired canon, and history has been correct in rejecting it – some modern “scholars” to the contrary notwithstanding.

There are, however, two important points to be made in this connection.

1. The dependence of the “Thomas” upon the canonical Gospel records clearly indicates that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were recognized as the authoritative sources of information regarding Jesus of Nazareth.

2. The fact that the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were available to a writer in Syria, in the mid-second century A.D., is dramatic evidence of the widespread distribution of the sacred documents in the early years of Christian history.

Let's back up for a minute. Dr. Evans gives us some background information concerning the "Syria" reference.

"If you read Thomas in Greek or Coptic, it looks like the sayings arent in any particular order. It appears to be just a random collection of of what Jesus supposedly said. But if you translate it into Syriac, something extremely interesting emerges. Suddenly, you discover more than 500 Syrian catchwords that link virtually all the 114 sayings in order to help people memorize the gospel. In other words, Saying 2 is followed by Saying 3 because Saying 2 refers to a certain word that's then contained in Saying 3. And Saying 3 contains a certain word that leads you into Saying 4. It was a memorization aid."

Why is this significant? Dr. Evans explains...

"There was a guy named Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, who created a written harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the year 175. It's called the Diatessaron which means, "through the four". What he did was blend all four Gospels together and present it in Syriac. So the first time Syrian-speaking Christians had access to the Gospels was not as seperate Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but as the blended, harmonized form. In blending together the sayings of the four Gospels, Tatian created created some new forms, because it was part Matthew, part Luke and so forth. Here's the clincher, those distinctive Syrian forms show up in the Gospel of Thomas."

Ding-ding-ding-ding! And on it goes. The next time someone brings up this little hodgepodge of Gnosticism and absudities and tries to present it as anything other than the complete theological disaster that it is, just hit them up with the FACTS. Anyone who would argue from positions advanced by the Jesus Seminar purposefully begins from a starting point that accepts their agenda which is driven by personal biases, not real evidence.

Note: all occurances of emphasis above appear in the text that is cited.

The interview with Dr. Evans is from The Case For The Real Jesus by Lee Strobel, (2007), Zondervan

Friday, July 23, 2010

On Homosexuality and Catholicism-UPDATE

I recently linked a story on this blog regarding the firing of Professor Ken Howell by the University of Illinois. Mr Howell was let go by the university apparently because, in the process of explaining the Catholic stance on the topic of homosexuality, Professor Howell, gasp!, actually taught the stance of the Roman Catholic church on the topic of homosexuality. This of course was in conjunction with teaching courses at the university on "Modern Catholic Thought" and "Introduction to Catholicism". It now appears that the university is reconsidering it's dismissal as reported in this article by CNS News....

"Threats of legal action persist after the University of Illinois responded to demands by the Alliance Defense Fund to fully reinstate a professor relieved of duty for teaching Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in a Catholic doctrine class.

The university said that the professor had not been “fired” -- and “there is no case or controversy” at this time.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, Dr. Kenneth Howell claimed that the head of the religion department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) informed him last May that he would no longer be teaching on campus due to complaints of “hate speech” over teaching Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in an Introduction to Catholicism class.

In a letter to the Alliance Defense Fund, Steven Veazie, deputy counsel for the University of Illinois, said that Howell is still on staff.

“(C)ontrary to some reports, Prof. Howell has not been ‘fired.’ He held, and continues to hold, the appointment of adjunct professor,” Veazie wrote.

According to Veazie, Howell’s teaching assignment for the fall semester “is as yet undetermined pending a review of this matter by the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.”

Wait, do you mean that just because one goofball student who wasn't even in Professor Howell's class, characterized Howell's defense of the Catholic teachings on the subject as "hate speech", that it does not necessarily make it so? I'm just a bum sitting around in my undershirt in SoFLA and even I could tell you that. Don't these people who are running this university have any education whatsoever? Isn't it the least bit incredible that I even have to ask such a question?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Attack of the Young Earth Creationists

Quick honey! Turn off the lights and hide underneath the table, the Young Earth Creationists are coming! - Anon.

It's interesting to me that internet skeptics are often quite quick to be dismissive of Christians and their belief system while lumping the vast majority of them together as, quote "Young Earth Creationists". Young Earth Creationism can be described as "the belief that the age of the Earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old" and is sometimes posited as a competing, alternative origin of life theory to that of Evolution.

What I find interesting about such dismissal out-of-hand by internet skeptics is that many Christians do not believe in a so-called "young earth". For example, neither William Lane Craig nor Stephen C. Meyer adhere to the idea that the earth is that young and instead subscribe to the guesstimates put forward by many geologists and others that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.

I found the above picture in my inbox yesterday because that I am on the mailing list of Coast to Coast AM, an internationally syndicated radio talk show on late at night here in the states. The guest that was on a couple of nights ago was Michael Cremo who spoke on the topic of "Forbidden Archeology" which can be described as the act of "exploring the artifacts and discoveries that don't fit into conventional timelines and theories.". Cremo apparently has some questions concerning Darwinian evolutionary theory and rather than arguing for a "young earth", he instead attempts to provide information on, what he terms, "extreme human antiquity". The provided link states,

"In 1968, 43 miles northwest of Delta, Utah, William J. Meister found apparent human shoe prints inside a 2-inch-thick slab of rock. Also in that slab were obvious trilobite fossils, one of which was squashed under the “heel.” (The 10-inch-long shoe print is at the left, and its rock mold is to its right. Notice how the back of the heel is worn, just as most of our shoes wear today. The heel was indented in the rock about an eighth of an inch deeper than the sole.)

According to evolutionists, trilobytes are among the oldest living organisms on earth. Trilobites were a Paleozoic marine animals living 600 to 280 million years ago, and have been extinct for at least 200 million years. Further validating this dating, the shale rock of the area is from the carboniferous period (290 to 355 million years ago).

Cremo stated that the above picture was from "William Meister's discovery of an apparent human shoe print in a slab of rock in Utah which also contained a crushed trilobite fossil in the bottom of the print.... Even more ancient are metallic balls with grooved sides found in an African mine, which are over 2 billion years old, he said." (Note: I don't have the link for the "metallic balls" example, but if anyone is aware of one, feel free to post it in the discussion thread).

Let me just say that none of the above is actually central to my faith. I am of the opinion that if a discovery were to be made in the near future that throws the entire, commonly accepted timeline of the planet's history into doubt, that scientific knowledge would continue to develop on much like it is today. An acid would still be an acid. A base would still be a base. Water would still boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and life would go on pretty much like it is right now.

I guess what I'm trying to gt at here is that I do not understand the unusual amount of venom hurled at YEC'ers, (usually from skeptics who believe they are the renegade defenders of "good science") due to their profoundly held beliefs. Nor do I think that the issue is the most important topic out there while there are people suffering in this world and there are numerous threats to the freedoms that we in the West typically enjoy.

So I guess the question is, "Why all the venom out there on this topic?". Your thoughts on the matter please...

UPDATE: Froggie, in order to expedite your response, I took your patented first step in responding to an entry of this type and I will link it here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Obama, Pending Doom in Curacao and Basic Human Nature

Columnist Mike Adams reported yesterday about a group of university professors who met recently to formulate a solution to the problem of their students skipping exams...

"The problem was so serious that the handful of intellectuals who first noticed the problem – and noticed others noticing the problem – sent out a mass email inviting others to attend a “brown bag” luncheon to brainstorm. They were searching for “solutions”, which would stop short of actually punishing students for missing their examinations.

I certainly have no problem with professors getting together to find “solutions” to difficult “problems.” But I do have a “problem” with the way these professors were characterizing their “problem.”

A better description of their “problem” – one that better reflects its magnitude – would sound something like this: How can we retain the secular/ progressive view of human nature, which is needed to justify secular/ progressive policies, in light of a wealth of evidence to the contrary?

The thoughts of the professors responding to the mass email were enlightening. One complained that she wanted to give her students the benefit of the doubt, but they constantly pushed and tested her. The more she withheld punishment, the more prevalent the undesirable behavior.

Another observed that the more often she does nice things for students, the more often they take advantage of her. She seemed perplexed by the fact that rewarding a missed exam with another administration, thus giving the student more time to prepare, led to more missed exams."

Gee, imagine that. Witholding any threat or consequences for irresponsible academic behavior actually increased incidences of students skipping exams and taking advantage of lenient college professors. And they are shocked at this?

When the executive leadership of a nation shares much the same "secular/progressive" worldview as the aforementioned university professors, the results can be disasterous. The world is a dangerous place, fraught with thugs in positions of leadership, and such a "nothing but carrots" approach is a recipe for complete, diplomatic failure if ever there was one.

This segues neatly into today's article by Austin Bay in which he relates the following concerning Comrade Chavez and his latest attempt at focusing an increasingly unhappy citizenry of his country due to his failed socialist economic policies onto an invented external threat...

"Chavez rattles sabers and threatens war in order to divert increasing domestic opposition. At the moment, Colombia isn't his primary target -- its military is too strong. The Caribbean island of Curacao, however, lying just off the Venezuelan coast, provides Chavez with a convenient enemy both geographically and politically.

Thus far the bully's threats have been gunboat hype and showboat hoopla. The question is, will bluster give way to bombs? An expansionary ideology propels Chavez, one that inflates his already explosive ego. He bills himself as the new Simon Bolivar, who will reunite the South American continent while cowing the United States and other imperialists -- like the Dutch.

Which is where Curacao enters Hugo's gunsights. Though the Dutch West Indies no longer formerly exists as a political entity, Holland retains responsibility for Curacao's defense and other foreign policy-related matters...

Recently, he accused the U.S. of planning an attack on Venezuelan using the base at Curacao...

A border war to recover allegedly lost territory is a classic tyrant's tactic. In 1982, the Argentine military regime saw its grip on power in Buenos Aires slipping, so it invaded the Malvinas Islands (the Falklands). However, that gambit failed when the Royal Navy and British Army counterattacked. Following a swift and embarrassing defeat, the Argentine dictatorship toppled.

An expanse of open sea separated the Falklands from Argentina. In a February 2007 article, StrategyPage.com concluded geographic proximity, oil power and military hardware give Venezuela a huge advantage over Dutch defenses in the Caribbean. StrategyPage said Venezuela could take the nearby islands, and the Dutch "lack the ability to retake the islands on their own should the "Greater Venezuela" rhetoric from the Venezuelan dictator turn out to be for real."..

To counterattack, however, would mean American leaders are willing to ignore the condemnations of Chavez's fellow anti-American sympathizers in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Chavez, when he rattled sabers in 2007, knew President George W. Bush would respond vigorously to an actual attack. The cowboy would pull his gun. President Barack Obama, however, portrays himself as the anti-Bush. Does the desperate dictator see an opportunity emerging?...

I have always been a fan of former President Teddy Roosevelt's "Big Stick" policy and I cannot comprehend why an American president would not wish to subscribe to such a mindset. But what would one expect coming an administration that is much more inclined to expound upon the doctrines of Marx and is probably completely ignorant of the Doctrine of Monroe?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Re: Miracles and the Miraculous

miracle: noun
1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of god.

miraculous: adjective
1. Of the nature of a miracle; preternatural.

2. So astounding as to suggest a miracle; phenomenal: a miraculous recovery; a miraculous escape.

I think that everyone can agree on these definitions from dictionary.com.

On this blog and on at least one other recently, several questions have been raised about the topic of miracles and if it is possible that they have ever occurred. I suppose that this is only natural being that miracles, by definition, surpass " all known human or natural powers" and thus are "ascribed to a supernatural cause" which could at the very least be reasonably described as an outside, supernatural force or agent working upon something here in our plane of existance. It wouldn't be wise to ascribe every highly unlikely event as a miracle and nobody is suggesting any such thing. Such occurances should be tightly scrutinized to eliminate the possibility of a natural explanation to the occurance of such unlikely and highly improbable events in order to ascertain that what happened could be explained by strictly natural, materialistic processes.

"The real problem of believing in miracles is that it forces us to deal with a supernatural God-a being powerful beyond our wildest dreams who will one day judge us righteously and in holiness. For skeptics, miracles remind them of an intimidating God. As a result, people will go to great lengths to avoid the plainly supernatural elements of the Bible." [1]

The belief in the Christian God and miracles pretty much come part and parcel with one another. The Bible would indicate that God is a decidedly different creature than we humans are so to not expand upon the claimed power of God would not fit His description as found in the foundational document of Judeo-Christian belief. One could ask, if "God had the power to create the world and set all of its natural laws in motion, wouldn't that same God have the ability to perform a miracle-that is, to do something outside of what can be explained by natural laws?"[2] The ability to perform such miracles would be consistent with the claimed abilities of God. If one could create the world, then a floating axe head should be a piece of cake by comparison.

But the Bible isnt the only place where "miracles" are claimed to have happened. I'm not referring to great upsets in sports history or certain elections in which a lowly underdog actually achieves victory against an opponent that was clearly favored to win. One example of this is the so-called Miracle on Ice 1980 US Olympic hockey team's victory over the dominant team of that era from the former USSR (pictured above). Using the term in this way seems to water it down and it loses its meaning. I'm referring to very real events occurring in people's lives that defy a logical explanation and when critically examined with an open mind, little else explains how a particular occurance happened and one might indeed consider it a miracle.

Through no special process of elimination, I have come up with two different examples of what one may consider "miracles" for consideration. These examples were randomly selected in that they recently have come up in my personal life experiences and they are each in some small way representive of the overall catagory of that which can be considered "miracles". One could further delve into the subject should they be so interested. The first example would pertain to what I heard at church yesterday...

While attending the early (traditional) service at First Church West yesterday, Dr Norman Wise remarked upon something that caught my attention given recent discussions regarding miracles. Dr. Wise related to the congregation a peculiar occurance that happened the day before, peculiar in light of the circumstances of it's occurance. The church I attend also has a counseling ministry in which certified Christian counselors help people with their counseling needs. Marital, abuse issues, drug and alcohol, you name it, they do it. Numerous area churches refer their members to this counseling center in the event that a local pastor runs into a level of need that might be a little out of their depth to effectively deal with.

As it turns out, early in the week, last week, there was an important need for funding for both the church and the counseling center. Money was needed right away and Dr. Wise let this be known in very general terms to a couple of people. These few people were involved in fervent prayer for the past week, asking God for assistance in this manner. Then last Saturday, a bit of a suprise came to pass. There were donations made in the amount of $3000 USD each to both the church and the counseling center. Dr. Wise remarked that this was akin to "winning the lottery" insofar as he was concerned because neither ministry is large enough in that donations of this size are anywhere near a commonplace occurance. Furthermore, nobody else in the entire world was aware of the specific dollar amount needed by the church and counseling center except for Dr. Wise. One might try to rationalize the timing and specific amount of said donations, but I will leave it to your own personal consideration and reflection on the matter to sort it out for yourself.

The next example I would like to offer is from an article that I came across last week about a young lady named Rachel Lozano.

"Rachel Lozano didn't die of cancer as the doctors predicted, and she says it's a miracle.

Not a miracle like a last-minute goal or winning the lottery. The real deal: the work of God through the intercession of a saint.

Other Roman Catholics in St. Louis believe, too, and on Friday, the St. Louis Archdiocese officially wrapped up its investigation into the claimed miracle with a prayer service to mark the occasion. Boxes of testimony generated by the investigative tribunal — about 3,000 pages — will be sent to Rome, where the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints will examine the evidence.

Lozano said she doesn't really have to wait. She already knows the answer to how her cancer was cured, and "medicine can't explain it. "There's just a peacefulness inside me," she said, "whether the church declares it a miracle or not."...

Lozano had survived several bouts with cancer, and even underwent a stem cell transplant, but in 2002, doctors found a tumor growing near her heart, lungs and spine.

The news from doctors was all bad: Surgery would kill her. So would the cancer, in weeks or months, depending on which organ the cancer struck first. No one had survived a recurrence of this cancer after a stem cell transplant.

But she lived weeks, months, a year. Scans showed her tumor, which she named Spanky, wasn't growing as expected.

Eventually a surgeon removed the tumor and found it was dead.

"It was pretty astounding," her oncologist told the Post-Dispatch last year.

The Marianists order of Catholic brothers and priests found Lozano's case compelling and presented her story to the archdiocese as a miracle attributable to Chaminade, the order's founder. An archdiocese tribunal investigated, interviewing Lozano, her family, her doctors, and Tobin, among others.

The tribunal doesn't make a judgment, just gathers evidence. But Monsignor John Shamleffer, judicial vicar who served on the tribunal, said God picked up where doctors couldn't succeed.

"I believe in God's ability to do things we can't do," he said. "I have no reason to believe this is not a miracle."

Let me first mention that this is not the appropriate time to discuss the pros and cons of praying for the intersession of saints or for arguing the finer points concerning Marianism in that these topics warrant their own thread and can be discussed at a later time. If one were to do so and try to change the topic, then I could just as easily counter that had Ms. Lozano been Pentecostal instead, that the occurance would still be valid even though there are differing opinions concerning Pentecostalism's adherence to such things as speaking in tongues and Arminianism. It would only obfuscate the discussion.

Suffice it to say that numerous baptised, Trinitarian Christians were involved in praying for this young lady and her recovery certainly fits the definition of the word "miraculous".

I accept that one's worldview can affect how somebody can rationalize such occurances as those cited above. No less a source than Jesus Christ Himself was able to foresee such skepticism when he said...

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Luke 16:19-31

[1] Kennedy, D. James; Skeptics Answered, Chapter 3, (1997), Random House
[2] Ibid

Sunday, July 18, 2010

South Carolina Gripped by "Alvin Greene Fever"

Or as Byron York so aptly put it....

"This sign is from US 521, near Greene’s hometown, and hotbed of support, in Manning, SC. No signs for Republican Sen. Jim DeMint were spotted anywhere near the area, suggesting that Greene has opened an imposing lead in the early-advertising race."

I know, I'm terrible. It might have been wrong, but laughed my butt off over it anyway. Democrats have nobody to blame for this one except for themselves. Indeed, just how can a guy that has a felony arrest but has "no job, no house, no campaign website, no campaign headquarters -- indeed, no campaign" actually qualify as a legitimate candidate for US Senator for the Democrat party? Ann Coulter sums up the prevailing democrat mindset thusly...

"MSNBC's Keith Olbermann interviewed Greene as if he had Lee Harvey Oswald in the dock. Chris Matthews asked guests: "Do you think this has the look of a dirty trick -- sort of a Watergate number?" Watergate, you'll recall, involved the Nixon White House trying to persuade a mildly retarded black man to run for the Senate.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Greene was not a "legitimate" candidate and called his victory "a mysterious deal." (Yes, how could a young African-American man with strange origins, suspicious funding, shady associations, no experience, no qualifications, and no demonstrable work history come out of nowhere and win an election?)

They're hopping mad, these liberals, but it's not clear what their theory of the crime is. Before accusing Republicans of committing a dirty trick, apparently no one asked the question: "OK, but what was the trick?"

The key to Greene's victory (in the primary), you see, is that he got more votes. How do liberals imagine Republicans pulled that off? Mesmerize the Democrats into voting for an idiot? If they could do that, John McCain would be president."

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Napoleon and Gay Samoans

While perusing the web yesterday, I came across this article which caught my attention and I had intended to make an entry about it. It's regarding a very real, recent story out of Montana that reports upon the efforts by the Pink Hand to indoctrinate our kids, beginning with 5 year olds in the public school system. Quote, "beginning in kindergarten, school nurses will teach students proper terms such as "nipple, breast, penis, scrotum and uterus." Once they are promoted to first grade, children will learn that sexual relations could happen between two men or two women. By the time students are 10 years old, instruction will include the various ways people can have intercourse, be it vaginally, orally or through "anal penetration," according to the proposal".

It turns out that columnist Sandy Rios put together an article that is much more intersting than anything I ever could have come up with. A certain mother of a 2010 high school graduate recently wrote...

"Today I asked my son what country Napoleon was from. He said Rome.

He just finished 12 years of public schooling in what has been called one of the top high schools in the nation. Although he’s not a bookworm, he is a decent student. He has better than a B average.

He doesn’t know which country Napoleon was from – let alone what he did. I don’t think he was sick that day.

On the other hand, I’m going through his Social Study papers and see that he did learn that homosexual men in Samoa may perpetuate gay genes by being good uncles…

Twelve years. If education were a product we would be suing

Is it just me? This is getting out of hand! But wait, Rios continues to document more hair-raising accounts from our nation's schools that will make you want to grab your monitor and throw it out the window...

"In Deerfield, Illinois, a required Freshman orientation class features gay, straight, lesbian and bi-sexual students telling 14 year olds the ins and outs of homosexual sex with their young audience strictly forbidden to tell their parents. In schools across the nation homosexuality is taught in every discipline from the use of math word problems related to same gender sex to the science of non-existent gay genes to history claiming Abraham Lincoln had a love affair with his law partner, Billy Herndon.

Massachusetts, Vermont and California have blazed the trail on these matters…providing co-ed bathrooms in schools and allowing students even in some grade schools to alter their gender if so led.

After the legalization of Civil Unions in Vermont, Outright Vermont, a homosexual advocacy organization hosted a weekend seminar funded by tax dollars that taught middle schoolers about a violent homosexual act called “fisting” and girls how to remove healthy breasts if they preferred to be boys…complete with photos and live demonstrations."

No wonder our schools are failing miserably in comparson to other countries where efforts are made to concentrate on Math, Science and Social Studies. PARENTS should decide what age is appropriate their kids should learn about sex, not gay activists who are pushing a slanted agenda. I heartily concur with Rios's closing sentence about our children's cirriculum. "Away with the gay Samoans and up with Napoleon!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On David and Goliath

No, not THAT Davey and Goliath, the children's show brought to us each Sunday by the Lutheran Church, I'm talking about the Biblical account concerning a certain Philistine giant of a man and his claimed encounter with the future King of Isreal.

"Early in the morning David left the flock with a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. 1st Samuel 17:20-24

With the latest news from archeologists coming out of Isreal, it would appear the Goliath's hometown of Gath (or Gat) has been uncovered at last...

"An ongoing archaeological excavation in Tel Tzafit continues to unearth the ruins of what was once the city of Gat – described in the Bible as the hometown of Goliath.

Recent finds from the Tel Tzafit excavation are “fascinating,” Maeir said. The site, inhabited at times by Canaanites and at other times by Philistines, has remnants from many periods of history. “We are focusing on the Canaanite period, the Philistine period, and the Israelite period, and for now we're primarily in the Philistine period,” he said.

One of the most interesting finds was a piece of writing containing, among other things, Philistine names, some of which were similar to the name “Goliath.”

"We've found a rich variety of artifacts” showing that Gat was a major city at that time, he continued. “We are now discovering remnants from metal craft and bronze, and from the destruction of the city at the hands of King Chazel of Aram as described in the second books of Kings.”

Findings show that Chazel and his army laid siege to the city until its residents had exhausted their food supply, then attacked. Dozens of buildings were found that were demolished by the invading army.

Other buildings appear to have collapsed in an earthquake, possibly the one mentioned at the beginning of the book of Amos, he said."

Skeptics often cite "Science" as their main rejection of a Book of supposed "fairy-tales" and yet they fall suddenly silent when confronted with the fact that "science" (in this case archeology) is proving the Bible to be accurate every day.

Such a finding as this falls into the category of Proven True by the Bible as such finds as the recent discovery of Nehemiah's Wall, along with the historical existances of King Saul and King David, the city of Ninevah, the supposedly "non-existant" Hittite Empire and Sodom and Gomorrah . All of which only give credence to a Book so often maligned by skeptics.

But getting back to David, perhaps one of Christian visitors might care to comment on who actually killed Goliath. Was it David or Elhanan?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

Another July 14th has come and we are reminded take pause to remember of the horrific differences between the French and American Revolutions. One major difference between the two was that in the case of the American Revolution, Christianity (and more specifically, Calvinism) was central to the beliefs of it's leaders. France on the other hand, attempted to drive out any religious influences from the republic by replacing Christianity with the Cult of Reason.

Thousands were slaughtered in the ensuing tyranny. Much of it at the hands of the oddly named Committee for Public Safety. As one author aptly put it, "Now, it must be kept in mind that the French Revolution was not a purely atheist enterprise; only two of the members of the Committee for Public Safety, d'Herbois and Billaud-Varenne, were confirmed atheists. It is also true that the massacres may not have been a genocide proper, but rather the vicious aftermath of a civil war triggered by religious oppression and persecution by the Revolutionary French regime. But both the Committee and the Revolution were avowedly anti-clerical, and there is no question that the Revolutionary slaughter of 170,000 Vendéeans was primarily driven by anti-religious sentiment. So, the war in Vendée not only demonstrates the falsehood of the "religion causes war" theme, but also underlines the tendency of anti-religious regimes to commit large-scale atrocities." Link

Charitable giving all but disappeared after the fall of the Ancien Regime and to this day France is still ranked among the lowest in charitible contributions among industrialized nations.

French historian and politician Alexis de Tocqueville had this to say about post-revolutionary America...

"Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention .... In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united. ”

De Tocqueville further wrote:

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other .... They brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion."

It is important to keep such facts in mind as we live in an age where historical revisionism is prevelant. I would only add that I find it interesting that the French press is divided concerning the participation of African forces in this years Bastille day parade. Contrast this to the press corps here in the US that unquestioningly accepts having an African usurper in the seat of executive power while according to a recent poll, less than 4 in 10 Americans believe what is most recent version of Obama's nativity story. Link

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Author: Atheists less likely to be sentimental

Now David Hume, tell us something that we don't already know...

"Just listened o Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, on a podcast (mp3). He notes that the chain of possession of items impacts how much pleasure we gain out of ownership, or at least our attachment to them. As an example, it is not unknown for people to be attached to the clothes and other personal items of a loved one who has passed away. The attachment may not derive from any sensory empirical rationale; rather, it is knowing the chain of possession and a sentiment that an essence of the loved one has been imparted (yes, I know that clothes may sometimes retain distinctive scents, but discount those details. The example holds true for objects such as pens which retain no sensory trace).

The strength of this sentiment varies from person to person. Bloom observes that there are individuals who have no sentimental attachment to objects at all. That is, individuals for whom objects are simply means to a bundle of ends, pure utility. So long as the bundle of elements remains invariant objects can be substituted at will. Bloom contends two demographic variables seem to common among this set of individuals who lack any sentiment toward objects:

1) Overwhelmingly male

2) Invariably atheist

(note that this does not entail that most males or atheists are circumscribed by this set!)

As someone who believes that the deep neurobiological root of theism is rooted in sentiment I find this eminently plausible. Perhaps one reason that atheists are unpopular in American society is that atheists are often so psychologically abnormal, and lacking in conventional sentiment and emotional response."

All of this is highly consistent and give further support to the the writings of one famous author who stated..."It is no wonder that the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey reported that atheists are one-third as likely to be married as the average American; these are the sort of men who believe that boring a woman with lengthy explanations of why her opinions are incorrect is the best way to her heart."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Freedom of "Worship"?

In yet another development in the culture war here in the US, Mark Hemingway points out a little noticed example of how the creep of relativism is affecting the policies of the current administration.

"As we learned earlier this week, even NASA's "foremost" mission is now Muslim engagement. The problem is that the Obama administration doesn't seem to know the difference between Muslim engagement and Muslim appeasement.

With little fanfare, the administration has quietly changed its religion rhetoric. Administration officials no longer speak of supporting "freedom of religion." Instead, they now speak of "freedom of worship."

It should be noted with bitter irony that the president first used the phrase at the memorial service for victims of the Muslim terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have used the phrase many times since then.

The change is of enormous significance. "[Freedom of worship] excludes the right to raise your children in your faith; the right to have religious literature; the right to meet with co-religionists; the right to raise funds; the right to appoint or elect your religious leaders, and to carry out charitable activities, to evangelize, [and] to have religious education or seminary training," Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom, told Christianity Today.

Even Saudi Arabia could be said to have "freedom of worship," as the government allegedly guarantees the right to worship in private. Yet, proselytizing there is illegal, and Muslims who convert to Christianity face the death penalty.

Your government is now sending a signal to the world it is OK with this state of affairs. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, of which Shea is a member, worried in its annual report that the shift in rhetoric could have "concrete policy implications."

I first heard of this subtle yet important shift in policy a couple of months ago when Fr. Longenecker linked this article by George Weigel who wrote...

"... speaking at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a similarly diminished view of religious freedom when she declined to use that term, substituting “freedom to worship” in a catalogue of fundamental human rights that included a striking innovation. Asserting that people must be free to “choose laws and leaders, to share and access information, to speak, criticize and debate,” the secretary of state then averred that people “must be free … to love in the way they choose.” For those with ears to hear in Gaston Hall that day, the promotion of the so-called LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgendered) agenda had just been declared a human rights priority of the United States, in the same sentence in which the secretary of state had offered an anorexic description of religious freedom that even the Saudis could accept (so long as the worshipping was done behind closed doors in a U.S. embassy).

One has to wonder if there is a connection here....

Religious freedom, rightly understood, cannot be reduced to freedom of worship. Religious freedom includes the right to preach and evangelize, to make religiously informed moral arguments in the public square and to conduct the affairs of one’s religious community without undue interference from the state. If religious freedom only involves the freedom to worship, then, as noted above, there is “religious freedom” in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles and evangelism are forbidden but expatriate Filipino laborers can attend Mass in the U.S. embassy compound in Riyadh."

They are right. Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Religion are not the same thing. Next, they will be telling Christians something akin to "Look, you have the Freedom to Worship, don't you? Just keep it in church Pilgrim". Or as Matthew Warner wrote last week...

"... practicing a religion is not just something we do in a worship service on Sunday. It’s not a string of trivial ceremonies we do out of respect for our culture or family tradition. It’s not something that is (reasonably) done half-way. It’s something that permeates every aspect of our lives. It effects how we run our businesses, hospitals, charities and organizations. It effects what we will and will not do in our employment. It effects our local communities, civil laws and political positions. It effects what we say, what we buy, what kinds of behavior are acceptable and healthy, how our children are educated and how we engage in the public debate to control all of these things. It effects everything.

The idea that we can separate the role our religion plays in all of these things is ignorant nonsense. Yet, that is precisely what Obama and his ilk expect you to do.

Many people at this point will disagree with me and insist on a “separation of Church and State.” First, these people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what is meant by the “separation of Church and State.” Second, every communal or collective aspect of society involves competing interests. My interests (religiously motivated or not) are just as valid as anybody else’s. It’s illogical absurdity that a point of view backed up by thousands of years of reasoned wisdom is confined to private “worship” and unwelcome at the public table, but the drivel of a malformed conscience fueled by self-absorption and a sensationalist media is just one of the many wonderfully diverse inputs."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On Homosexuality and Catholicism

In a stunning development, a University of Illinois professor that taught on the subject of Roman Catholicism was fired from his position due to the fact that he actually taught the Catholic position concerning the subject of homosexuality.

"URBANA — The University of Illinois has fired an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism after a student accused the instructor of engaging in hate speech by saying he agrees with the church’s teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

The professor, Ken Howell of Champaign, said his firing violates his academic freedom. He also lost his job at an on-campus Catholic center.

Howell, who taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought, says he was fired at the end of the spring semester after sending an e-mail explaining some Catholic beliefs to his students preparing for an exam....

The email offered homosexuality and other sexual behaviors that are against church teaching (everything from the use of contraception in marriage to sex with children) as examples of things that a consequentialist might approve of under the right circumstances, whereas a Catholic cannot approve under any circumstances.
Unfortunately, this conversation about the class’s subject matter is verboten. Someone who apparently doesn’t even take the class or understand the subject matter decided to report this academic conversation to the campus gestapo. This is what we call the Dictatorship of Moral Relativism. We live in America, where only Islam receives such deference."

The News-Gazette has published the entire email that was sent out by Professor Howell. I have read it a couple of times and to equate what Howell has written to anything approaching so-called "hate speech" is to stretch credulity. Howell wrote (in part)...

"One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the "woman" while the other acts as the "man." In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don't want to be too graphic so I won't go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body...

Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.

I know this doesn't answer all the questions in many of your minds. All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality."

I think the first paragraph contains what some found to be offensive. However, Howell appears to be discussing the act of homosexual sex in a clinical manner and he does not use a single hateful word in his entire email, at least in my opinion anyway.

The administration at the University of Illinois is exchanging a temporary, false peace with the homosexual community by throwing Professor Howell under the bus. If research conducted by undergraduates at the university indicated that the homosexual lifestyle is even more injurious than previous studies have indicated, would they then suppress such findings to save their sorry butts? The magnitude of such stupidity staggers the mind.

I would be willing to wager that not a single member of the univerity's administration that made the decision to fire Professor Howell could not formulate a meaningful response to his arguments if a million dolars was riding on it. If they could, they would have advanced such an argument already instead of a tight-lipped, refusal to comment being that Howell will probably sue them, and rightfully so.