Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'and the baby fetus clump of tissue gets a free toy...!'

Abortion Rewards Card

Gruesome. It's a sick world.

Free Wi-Fi, VIP Treatment, and a $50 Abortion Discount (Sundays Only)
by A.W.R. Hawkins

The culture of death is not static. Rather, it constantly permeates those who partake in it, and especially those who promote it. Because of this, the lucid observer can see a continual degradation of human value and a shameless promotion of death-for-hire by abortionists who openly practice in the light what past generations would have done only in the dark of night (if they did it at all).
For example, in Florida, the Orlando Women’s Center (OWC) is currently offering a special $50 discount for abortions performed on Sundays. (Pay attention, folks, the price of killing our preborn children just got cheaper.) And in case the expecting mother would like to surf the Web before or shortly after her preborn child is killed, this same women’s center is “ pleased to announce that [it is] now offering Free Wi-Fi at [the] Orlando Women’s Center.”
Ain’t that great? Now mothers who want to have their preborn children killed can do so without fear of missing out on the score of the big football game, their latest updates on Facebook, or the most up-to-date news coverage available from
This convolution is a direct result of what the culture of death has done to the minds of many 21st century Americans. Those thus impacted seemingly have no compunction over running ads for discounted abortions and free Wi-Fi together as if they were a mom-and-pop store advertising “buy one, get one free” DVDs and free coffee.
And to make it all the more sickening and surreal, the OWC actually advertises a way for women to get around late-term abortion laws, so that now, even women who’ve carried their babies nearly to term can take advantage of the Sunday special and surf the Internet on a laptop while in the clinic.
Currently, Florida law prevents an abortion after 24 weeks if there’s a heartbeat. So the OWC’s solution is to get rid of the heartbeat.
I’m not kidding. Near the top of the OWC home page is a link on which women can click that reads: “Greater than 24 weeks Pregnant? Please click here.” When women click on it, the site opens, which informs women that they can fly to a covert clinic in Washington, D.C., and have their baby’s heart stopped so that they can then fly back to their home states and have the murdered child aborted. (FYI— doesn’t call it “murder.” Rather, they refer to it as an “intra-cardiac injection of medication into the fetal heart” that stops the heartbeat so that the mother can return “to her private physician to complete the induction of labor with delivery of the fetus.”)
By the way, actually describes its “compassionate” intervention to stop a “fetal heart beat” as a “much-needed service.” Moreover, it readily admits it is not more widely available due to “moral values” (as in, the moral values of the majority of the American people).
This isn’t compassionate, nor is it a much-needed service. It is murder by another name. And it’s advertisedshamelessly because the culture of death teaches its perpetrators not to think.

The abortion industry is big business. It's astonishingly lucrative. Kansas late term abortionist Dr. George Tiller performed committed over 60,000 abortions. At at least $1000 bucks a pop-- more likely as much as $2000 for a later term abortion, which was Tiller's specialty-- Tiller grossed $60,000,000 million during his "career". Overhead is low (how much can scissors and garbage bags cost?). And how technically challenging can the procedure be? You don't have to worry about killing someone. In fact, you're supposed to kill someone. 

It's remarkable that abortionists have figured out a way to make their craft even more repulsive. Sunday discounts, free Wi-Fi. My goodness... but don't think that it can't get worse. 

Just wait for the Mother's Day Specials.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jerry's kids

The crimes of which former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is accused are horrendous. And a typical parent will wonder: how is it that these kids were allowed by their families to have such contact with Sandusky? Who in their right mind would let their kid sleep-over at a "coaches" house? Who would approve unchaperoned trips? Who would allow a boy to spend so much time with a man who was not family?

The answer is obvious. The kids were without fathers in their lives, drawn to an organization-- the Second Mile-- specifically created to cater to fatherless children.

Who, exactly, are these kids without fathers, and why are they vulnerable to sexual predators?

It is well known to sociologists that the primary risk factor for being a victim of child sexual abuse is family disintegration. Children from intact families are much less likely to be victims of sexual (or physical) abuse. Most sexual abusers are male, and most abusers are men known to the child who are not the child's biological father.

The disintegration of the two-parent family is relatively recent. Before the 1960's, the vast majority of American children grew up in homes in which their father lived. Divorce rates were low and out-of-wedlock births were rare.

Now 80% of black children are born out of wedlock, and a third of white children are born so. A large percentage of marriages end in divorce. Million of children experience family disintegration. There are two factors responsible: changing societal morals-- sexual promiscuity being the hallmark-- and the replacement of the father by government welfare.

Disintegration of the nuclear family-- and it is disintegrating rapidly-- is shredding our cultural fabric that protects our kids from all manner of evil.

The best protection from child sexual abuse is to have a dad who loves you and protects you and who lives in your home with you. Child abusers do their evil in a milieu of children left vulnerable by adult betrayal.

As marital fidelity becomes more rare and nuclear families disintegrate, our innocents will be left prey to cultural and carnal wolves. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Climategate 2.0

The have more.

The saint(s) who have a trove of UEA climate science e-mails didn't release all that they had a couple of years ago. They've released more over the past week, and it seems there's even more to come. I've not had a chance to look at even the salient ones carefully, but those who have are reporting that "They're real and they're spectacular!"

Anthony Watts here.

Forbes here.

Delingpole at the Telegraph here.

The internet changes everything. Frauds like climate scientists can't operate under cover anymore. The bought-and-paid-for mainstream media can't protect these fake scientists.

The release of this information is work of great courage and integrity. Bless the person or persons who are releasing this information. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Egnorance: The First Sunday of Advent

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world..."

Advent is a very beautiful time in the Christian liturgical year. It is the time of waiting for joy. It begins in solemnity, in quiet music and in readings about the Promise. It's a Promise that no one understood before it happened; even after, we can contemplate for a lifetime what it means and only see a glimmer. God had promised to set things right. People imagined an emissary, a righteous leader, a king. No one dreamed that He would come Himself to do it, and come in utter humility, and set it right the way he did. 

Chesterton wrote that this story of His birth will be told as long as man exists. It is the most beautiful and astonishing story ever told, even more beautiful and astonishing because it is true.

It changed humanity, and sanctified us, and still does.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weekend Egnorance: The Pope took an atheist philosophy professor out fishing...

The Pope took an atheist philosophy professor out fishing on a lake. As they drifted on the still lake, the philosopher accidentally dropped an oar and watched it float away. The pontiff stepped out of the boat, walked across the water to the oar, grabbed it and walked back to the boat. The next day at the university, a colleague asked the philosopher if he had enjoyed fishing with the Pope. "It was okay, but would you believe that guy can't swim?"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Nick Martin is an atheist

P.Z. Myers has a series of posts from folks who explain why they're atheists. It's enlightening to take a look at their reasoning.

Why I am an atheist – Nick Martin
October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am PZ Myers

Part of me wants to give a smart-assed answer to this question, because at my core, I am a smart-ass. Something like “because religion is evil” (which it is)

We're all evil Nick, and everything we do is tainted by this evil.

And no one believes in "religion". People believe in Christ, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Buddha, or themselves, Marx, or science, or money, or drugs, or power, or sex. No one believes in "religion".

We all worship something, Nick. Atheists no less than Christians.

There are two questions:

1) Is one kind of worship more or less evil than another?

2) Is one kind of worship true?

The question isn't whether "religion is evil". The question is whether Christianity (or whatever) is true.

You start with 'shit happened'. I start with Aquinas' Five Ways. You can go first.

And any assessment of "evil" must be comparative. You start with Marx and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot. I start with Jesus and Paul and Augustine and St. Francis. Let's chat.
or “because the Flying Spaghetti Monster told me to be one” (which may also be true).
If you think that the Christian understanding of God is analogous to belief in your witless caricature, you're too stupid to hold an opinion on anything.

Try reading some real theology.

But, when I look at my core, the only answer I have to give is “because it’s the only position a skeptic can have”.
You're no skeptic. You're a dupe for trendy narcissistic gibberish. You fools can't even decide what to call yourselves. Let's see-- you guys are all sciency and stuff. How about... about... Scientologists!

The most gullible people are atheists.  Conservative Christians are the group least likely to believe in UFO's, Bigfoot, etc. You just jumped from the real skeptics (Christians) to the real dupes (atheists).

It’s something relatively recent in my life. I was raised in a conservative Christian household. I had to go to church every week, it was a requirement that I go to at least one service. But at the same time, my parents encouraged my love of astronomy specifically and science in general. And in retrospect, that is where it all started. That love taught me to question everything (which I most certainly did).
It's not "science" that sets your heart atwitter, lover-boy, but nature. And nature is very beautiful.

Question this:

How did something come from nothing?

Where do laws of nature come from?

How can morality be grounded without a Source for moral law?

A real skeptic wouldn't accept 'shit musta' happened'.

Atheists are intellectual poseurs. Dupes.

But getting out of the other side of my upbringing took time. I went off to college, Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State), and hooked up with Chi Alpha (XA) Campus Ministries. This was before they had Skepticon, a FSM church, or really any skeptical movement at all. Again, in hindsight, I feel a bit of shame, because I understand now that prosthelytizing my beliefs had to have done some real harm to people, something I can’t change.

Don't be so hard on yourself. There is an clear evidence that Christians are much happier and healthier than non-believers.
I only hope that by speaking out against religion now can undo some of that.
Yea. We need more atheism.

I was a skeptic with most everything else growing up. I didn’t believe in ghosts, ESP, aliens, or anything else in the pseudo-scientific range, but like so many other “skeptic believers,” I was not willing to turn that same scrutiny on my beliefs.

You're still not.

The reason that you didn't believe in these crazy things is that you were raised in a Christian household and culture. Christianity is the best insulation from crazy.

Atheists are much more likely to believe in crazy stuff.
Of course, like a college student, and to be fair, most human beings, it turns out I was also a fairly bad Christian, and a fairly normal college student, in liking loud music, drinking, sex, and skipping classes.
The usual cause for de-conversion to atheism isn't "rational". Nothing you've said is within a light-year of "rational".

The usual cause of de-conversion to atheism is that Christian faith gets in the way of your genitals.
That all started to change after some a series of bad events pushed me more into that “good Christian” category again. I went to church, went to small groups, and, dangerously enough, started to read my bible. And for some reason, one I still cannot explain, I started to question why I believed what I did. I looked back at myself, and what I had been crediting god for getting me through, and realized that he hadn’t done shit.
He just made everything, made you, and died for you. That's not "shit".
It wasn’t a slow process. I wouldn’t even call myself an atheist until, reading Phil Plaitt’s blog, he mentioned, off-hand, someone named “PZ.” It was some inside joke I wasn’t part of, so I dug. I found out who this “PZ” was… and read enough to understand that, as a skeptic, there is only one position to be had.
P.Z.'s like an atheist Paul.
You cannot dismiss all fairies except the one you like any more than you can deny a color you don’t care for doesn’t exist (otherwise, the world would be rid of mauve by now). I didn’t like facing it at first, but I couldn’t dodge the questions. And when you look at belief the same way you look at ghosts, there is no way you can’t see it for what it is.
Right. When you look at Christian belief the same way you look at ghosts, Christian belief is pretty hard to sustain.

But Christian belief has nothing to do with ghosts. It has to do with a clear-eyed understanding of reason and nature and man, and a clear-hearted gratitude for your life and your redemption. As Chesterton wrote, he came to believe Christianity because it fits life like a key fits a lock.

But you wouldn't know anything about Chesterton. P.Z. Myers never even mentions him.
In the end, it was my own skepticism that forced me to realize the only thing I could be is an atheist.

You're no skeptic. You're a dupe for an idiot ideology that lets you pretend intellectual and moral superiority while freeing you from objective moral constraint. It's sad to see you throw away the Truth for such shabby bilge.

My suggestion: apply your "skepticism" to your own smug atheist beliefs. If you're going to reject Christianity because of its intellectual content, get yourself some familiarity with its intellectual content.

Your soul (or whatever you call it now) will thank you, someday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Norman Rockwell "Thanksgiving 1943"

The is my favorite Rockwell painting; the most beautiful work of America's finest artist. Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover: American soldiers-- our fathers and sons and brothers (and sisters)-- were routing the Fascists in Italy and liberating Europe. Countless American families sat down to Thanksgiving dinner without their loved ones. Their prayers were that they would come home safely. Many would not.

Rockwell reminded us during those dark times why our loved ones were over there. The girl in the Rockwell painting is an Italian refugee seeking warmth from a G.I. jacket and balancing a meager meal on her lap. It must have comforted many families who saw more clearly why, and for whom, their loved ones were in harm's way.

They are still in harm's way, protecting the innocent in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever our soldiers serve. Please remember them in your Thanksgiving prayers today. May God bless them, keep them safe, and bring them home soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roe's 10%

From Joe Carter at First Things:

I have a relative with Down's syndrome, and I care for quite a few patients with Down's. They are beautiful children and sweet gentle people. They are a gift to their families and to all of us.

Ninety percent of them are killed before they are born. Prenatal testing. This new eugenics-- "voluntary unconscious selection" as Darwinist and eugenicist Fredrick Osborne phrased it in the 1950's-- is the spawn of the old eugenics.

Gone are the involuntary sterilizations and the explicit hate. Now we want to expunge our own children, for their own good, you see. They must not suffer a life of imperfection, even if the imperfection is only in our minds.

There can be no more clear example of the difference the Christian and the atheist view of life. In the Christian view, a handicapped child is a gift, made in God's image, to be loved and protected. A cynic may say that it is ridiculous that God would bless such an imperfect recepticle with His image. A Christian would reply that God has always been most strongly present in our imperfections, our weakness. In fact, He blessed our weakness in the most astonishing way. He became one of us.

In the atheist view, a handicapped child is a biological mistake, evolution gone wrong. Even life unworthy of life.

Am I being unfair? Ninety percent of children with Down's syndrome are aborted. I do a lot of pre-natal counseling for parents of children with neurological handicaps. Very few of these parents bring their child to birth. Those who do are almost always serious Christians.

The atheist view of man as an evolved animal is encroaching on our culture. Our widespread embrace of abortion of handicapped children is as clear evidence as you ask for that denial of human exceptionalism-- denial of fact that man is made in God's image. When man is mere evolved animal, there's nothing wrong with culling the herd.

That is not the Christian understanding of man. That is not the truth about man. Each of us is precious and of immeasurable value, from conception to natural death. May God bless all of these gentle people with Down's syndrome, and may He forgive us for what we do to so many of them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why are all of my heroines named "Ann"?

Actually, only two of them are. My wife is my main heroine, and she's not named "Ann".

My two "Ann" heroines are:

1) Ann Coulter

2) Ann Barnhardt

Who, you ask, is Ann Barnhardt?

Ms. Barnhardt is a blogger who takes no prisoners, at least none of the Jihadi sort. She recently shed some light and heat on the Quran in a most appropriate way. Her photo sums up her relationship with Islam:

She recently got some threats from some keyboard jihadi. Ms. Barnhardt understands that the appropriate reply to the Islamist encroachment on Christian civilization is an upraised middle finger.

Her reply is... priceless:

For some reason I am suddenly getting scads of emails asking to confirm my response to a musloid death threat. Yes, that is 100% real and accurate, and yes, that picture of a rosary-wrapped hand grasping a pink AR-15 is me. It is my very real Colt M4 that has been custom DuraCoated. Yes, yes, yes. Here is the original exchange from July 22 via YouTube. This guy is a musloid over in the U.K., hence the driving directions citing the daily direct flights from Heathrow to Denver:
YouTube user mufcadnan123 has sent you a message:
Watch your back.
I'm going to kill you when I find you. Don't think I won't, I know where you and your parents live and I'll need is one phone-call to kil ya'll.
Re: Watch your back.
Hello mufcadnan123!
You don't need to "find" me. My address is 9175 Kornbrust Circle, Lone Tree, CO 80124.
Luckily for you, there are daily DIRECT FLIGHTS from Heathrow to Denver. Here's what you will need to do. After arriving at Denver and passing through customs, you will need to catch the shuttle to the rental car facility. Once in your rental car, take Pena Boulevard to I-225 south. Proceed on I-225 south to I-25 south. Proceed south on I-25 to Lincoln Avenue which is exit 193. Turn right (west) onto Lincoln. Proceed west to the fourth light, and turn left (south) onto Ridgegate Boulevard. Proceed south, through the roundabout to Kornbrust Drive. Turn left onto Kornbrust Drive and then take an immediate right onto Kornbrust Circle. I'm at 9175.
Just do me one favor. PLEASE wear body armor. I have some new ammunition that I want to try out, and frankly, close- quarter body shots without armor would feel almost unsporting from my perspective. That and the fact that I'm probably carrying a good 50 I.Q. points on you makes it morally incumbent upon me to spot you a tactical advantage.
However, being that you are a miserable, trembling coward, I realize that you probably are incapable of actually following up on any of your threats without losing control of your bowels and crapping your pants while simultaneously sobbing yourself into hyperventilation. So, how about this: why don't you contact the main mosque here in Denver and see if some of the local musloids here in town would be willing to carry out your attack for you? After all, this is what your "perfect man" mohamed did (pig excrement be upon him). You see, mohamed, being a miserable coward and a con artist, would send other men into battle to fight on his behalf. Mohamed would stay at the BACK of the pack and let the stupid, ignorant suckers like you that he had conned into his political cult do the actual fighting and dying. Mohamed would then fornicate with the dead men's wives and children. You should follow mohamed's example! Here is the contact info for the main mosque here in Denver:
Masjid Abu Bakr
Imam Karim Abu Zaid
2071 South Parker Road
Denver, CO 80231
Phone: 303-696-9800
I'm sure they would be delighted to hear from you. Frankly, I'm terribly disappointed that not a SINGLE musloid here in the United States has made ANY attempt to rape and behead me. But maybe I haven't made myself clear enough, so let me do that right now.
I will NEVER, EVER, EVER submit to islam. I will fight islam with every fiber of my being for as long as I live because islam is pure satanic evil. If you are really serious about islam dominating the United States and the world, you are going to have to come through me. You are going to have to kill me. Good luck with that. And understand that if you or some of your musloid boyfriends do actually manage to kill me, The Final Crusade will officially commence five minutes later, and then, despite your genetic mental retardation, you will be made to understand with crystal clarity what the word "defeat" means. Either way, I win, so come and get it.
Deo adjuvante non timendum-
Ann Barnhardt

Monday, November 21, 2011

Jerry Coyne sniffs out more theocracy

Jerry Coyne's got his Unterhose in a knot over the latest Act of Theocracy.

Kentucky governor proclaims official Bible Month
When I was in Kentucky, an alert student brought to my attention the fact that the state’s governor, Steven Beshear, had just proclaimed this November “King James Version of the Bible” month in Kentucky. Here’s the official proclamation ...

Note how the language is twisted to emphasize the “secular” contributions of the Bible: how it has entered into American culture and has been the source of many now-familiar phrases. This “secular effect” ploy is often used to defend the placing of the Ten Commandments in courthouses and schoolhouses.
The "secular effect" is because the proclamation is... secular. It's not a "ploy". Each of the 'whereases' is objectively true. Secularly true.

Javert  Jerry furiously sniffs out Christianity. Theocracy is everywhere, even when it's not theocracy. The cognescenti can't be too careful.

Why not just make any statement about religion illegal, Jerry? Saves you all the trouble of distinguishing secular from theocratic. Just ban it all

Except for critical statements, of course. They'll always be zulassig in the godless-Utopie.

This is so clearly unconstitutional that it screams for an ACLU lawsuit and an injunction. Let’s hope the relevant lawyers and organizations (FFRF, are you listening?) get on this one.

The proclamation of the secular importance of the King James Bible is 'so clearly unconstitutional that it... screams'?

What is unconstitutional about the public proclamation of the secular importance of the KJB?

Why does this simple truth make you... scream?

Why be so candid about your hatred of all things Christian, Jerry? I expected at least a shred of public discretion. Raw totalitarianism is so ugly.
Ten to one they’d never proclaim “Qur’an Month” or “Torah Month” in Kentucky.
They would, Jerry, if the Qur'an had contributed substantively to our civilization.

And the Torah, which is (approximately) the first five books of the KJB, is implicitly honored in the proclamation, and rightfully so.

But you don't believe in that either, Jerry. You just hate it all. Even purely secular truths about the importance of our Christian heritage.

And you'll prosecute people in federal court to make them obey.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Egnorance: Sunday Screwtape

The Screwtape Letters is a literary masterpiece, and a pretty eloquent piece of theology. C.S. Lewis' classic was one of my earlier literary brushes with Christianity (George McDonald was my earliest). I read Screwtape Letters in college, and it peeled away my impression that Christian faith was a mindless fervor of the sort I saw (and detested) among televangelists. Over the years, I've re-read it, and each time I see more deeply. Lewis tells the simple truth about Christian life, the good and the bad, the faith and the doubt. And he does so in a way that is absolutely hilarious, and very very clever.

For those of you who haven't read it (you lucky ones-- because you can yet read it for the first time!), the "letters" are letters between demons. Wormwood is a young demon who is assigned to corrupt a young man who has recently become a Christian. Screwtape, who writes the letters, is a senior demon and Wormwood's uncle, and he is assigned the task of coaching his demonic nephew in the fine art of temptation.

This is one of my favorite passages, from Chapter 8, in which Screwtape replies to a letter from Wormwood in which the younger demon notes that the young Christian man seems to be having a period of religious dryness. Screwtape's "Our Father" is the Devil and "the Enemy" is God. The final sentence of the penultimate paragraph is my favorite in the book. It is a beautiful expression of Christian courage and of the true meaning of following Christ.
My dear Wormwood,
So you 'have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away', have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Subgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one every told you about the law of Undulation?
Humans are amphibians-- half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation-- the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life-- his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.
To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He reallydoes want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself-- creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in,, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.
And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs-- to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot 'tempt' to virtual as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them,
You affectionate uncle

In the lives of many Christians, of most perhaps, there comes a time when God seems to have vanished. With mere boredom, or personal setback, or family loss, or loss of faith, or illness or impending death, we may look around us and feel that every trace of Him has vanished. Of course He has not vanished. He is closer to us than ever, but His real presence in us sometimes numbs us. The mystics have called this the dark night of the soul. It is a closeness to God that feels empty, because He is working in us and removing our preconceived notions of Him. It is a purging of obstacles.

It is just at that time that we need to intend to do His will, even if we do not desire to do His will. As Screwtape says, it is at that moment-- the moment that we obey without desire-- that Evil is vanquished. It is in that act of intent-- of freedom and obedience, in our choice against comfort and against evasion, but our choice for God, that He finally has brought us to our destination-- to freely choose Him. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An evil atheist explorer...

An evil Atheist explorer in the deepest Amazon suddenly finds himself surrounded by a bloodthirsty group of natives. Upon surveying the situation, he says quietly to himself "Oh God, I'm screwed!!!!!." There is a ray of light from heaven and a voice booms out: "No, you are NOT screwed. Pick up that stone at your feet and bash in the head of the chief standing in front of you." So the explorer picks up the stone and proceeds to bash the living heck out of the chief.As he stands above the lifeless body, breathing heavily and surrounded by 100 natives with a look of shock on their faces, Gods voice booms out again: "Okay ...
.. NOW you're screwed."

Friday, November 18, 2011

The millions billions trillions of dollars that fund climate denialism alarmism

Global warming hysterics continually claim that the 'denialism industry' is a lavishly-funded arm of the petroleum industry and that climate scientists are objective seekers of scientific truth trying to warn the world of an impending apocalypse.

JoNova has a nice corrective to that lie:
For the first time, the numbers from government documents have been compiled in one place. It’s time to start talking of “Monopolistic Science”. It’s time to expose the lie that those who claim “to save the planet” are the underdogs. And it’s time to get serious about auditing science, especially when it comes to pronouncements that are used to justify giant government programs and massive movements of money. Who audits the IPCC?
The Summary
The US government has provided over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, foreign aid, and tax breaks.
Despite the billions: “audits” of the science are left to unpaid volunteers. A dedicated but largely uncoordinated grassroots movement of scientists has sprung up around the globe to test the integrity of the theory and compete with a well funded highly organized climate monopoly. They have exposed major errors.
Carbon trading worldwide reached $126 billion in 2008. Banks are calling for more carbon-trading. And experts are predicting the carbon market will reach $2 – $10 trillion making carbon the largest single commodity traded.
Meanwhile in a distracting sideshow, Exxon-Mobil Corp is repeatedly attacked for paying a grand total of $23 million to skeptics—less than a thousandth of what the US government has put in, and less than one five-thousandth of the value of carbon trading in just the single year of 2008.
The large expenditure in search of a connection between carbon and climate creates enormous momentum and a powerful set of vested interests. By pouring so much money into one theory, have we inadvertently created a self-fulfilling prophesy instead of an unbiased investigation?
By setting up trading networks, tax concessions, and international bureaucracies before the evidence was in, have we ensured that our understanding of the role of carbon in climate science would be sped up, but that our knowledge of every other aspect of climate science would be slowed down to an equal and opposite extent?
The truth will come out in the end, but how much damage will accrue while we wait for volunteers to audit the claims of the financially well-fed?Monopolistic funding creates a ratchet effect where even the most insignificant pro-AGW findings are reported, repeated, trumpeted and asserted, while any anti-AGW results lie unstudied, ignored and delayed. Auditing AGW research is so underfunded that for the most part it is left to unpaid bloggers who collect donations from concerned citizens online. These auditors, often retired scientists, are providing a valuable free service to society, and yet, in return they are attacked, abused, and insulted.
The stealthy mass entry of bankers and traders into the background of the scientific “debate” poses grave threats to the scientific process. The promise of “trillions of dollars” on commodity markets—with all of that potential money hinging on finding that human emissions of carbon dioxide have a significant role in the climate—surely acts like blanket of mud over open dispassionate analysis.
All of this means we must be extra diligent in only focusing on just the evidence, the science, the empirical data. Illogic and unreason cloud a debate already loaded with bias. When there are so many incentives encouraging unclarity and overcomplexity, the simple truths need help to rise to the top. But who funds the counter-PR campaign—now that even Exxon has been howled out of the theater of science. There is hardly any money promoting Natural Causes of Climate Change, while billions upon trillions promote Unnatural Forces.
In this scientific debate, one side is gagged while the other side has a government-funded media campaign.
The bottom line
Even if monopolistic funding has affected science, the total amount of money paid to each side won’t tell us whether The Planet’s climate is warming or whether that warming is due to carbon-dioxide. The point of this report is to show how the process of science can be distorted (like any human endeavor) by a massive one-sided input of money. What use would money be, if it didn’t have some impact?
The massive amounts of money involved only makes it more imperative that we look hard at the empirical evidence.

"[T]he empirical evidence...". Ya know, the stuff that you paid for that the climate scientists keep hiding, deleting, manipulating. If you ask for the data (your data), they fight you for years, and email their buddies telling them to delete it rather than give to you. If you ask for their email communications, they take you to court to hide their conversations.

Global warming 'science' has all of the integrity and objectivity that you'd expect from an un-audited multi- million billion trillion dollar monopoly.

It's time to get serious about auditing science. Just like we audit the financial industry. Because science is a financial industry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Genuine compassion in dying

As I've noted in an earlier post, I strongly oppose active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. The medical profession should never participate in killing. Killing is the antithesis of medical care. Physicians should never participate in capital punishment, active euthanasia, or abortion, or in any act which intentionally ends a person's life.

There is a long ugly history of medical homicide, and it was (and is) invariably justified as necessary for the relief of suffering. The German T4 program comes to mind, and even Joseph Mengele's sadistic experiments at Auschwitz were justified at the time as being necessary to advance medical science.

But there is no excuse, then or now. Medical killing is killing, not medical.

What then is the ethical role of a physician in the care of people who are dying? Do people have to suffer? There is in fact much that physicians appropriately do to alleviate suffering.

First, patients have autonomy over a broad range of options for medical care. Patients may decline medical treatments in most situations, and there are many situations, such as treatment of a severe infection in the terminal states of cancer or connection to a ventilator at the end of life, when refusal of heroic medical intervention is ethically appropriate by universal agreement. There is no ethical requirement to continue heroic medical care which is merely prolonging the process of dying.

For patients who are experiencing pain or anxiety, there is an enormous armamentarium of narcotics and tranquilizers and even procedures that doctors can use to alleviate suffering. All pain of dying persons can be controlled, with competent and conscientious medical care. Hospices do this especially well, but pain can be relieved in intensive care units, on hospital wards, and at home. The euthanasia proponents' argument that physician-assisted suicide killing is necessary to alleviate pain is a lie.

Some unnecessary confusion arises when large doses of narcotics are necessary, because the narcotics may hasten death. It is agreed by all ethicists, including those who are most strongly pro-life, that administration to terminally ill people of large doses of medications necessary to alleviate pain is entirely ethical, even if the medication (unintentionally) accelerates the process of death. The intention is to alleviate pain, not to kill, and that is entirely ethical.

There are many more things that can be done to ease suffering. Most people want loved ones to be with them, and modification of visiting rules can allow the person dying in a hospital to be with their family. Spiritual support is also very helpful for many dying people.

The issue of feeding tubes is perhaps the most contentious issue we routinely face. Is it ethical to withdraw (or never place) feeding tubes for people who are terminally ill? I believe that it is not ethical to remove feeding tubes. Here's why.

There are two kinds of care provided in medicine. One kind of care is extraordinary care, which includes surgery, the administration of drugs such as antibiotics and medications to support blood pressure, and ventilatory support on a respirator.

The other kind of care is ordinary care, which is the provision of nourishment, hygiene, clothing, and shelter.

There is no obligation to provide extraordinary care if it is against the patient's wishes, or if the care is merely prolonging the dying process. Under the appropriate circumstances, it is perfectly ethical to withdraw support of a ventilator if the respiratory support is serving merely to prolong death. I have done it hundreds of times.

There is, however, an obligation to provide people with nourishment, shelter and clothing. These are basic necessities we all need. Starving someone to death is very different from discontinuing a drug or disconnecting a ventilator. Starving someone to death is morally equivalent to leaving them without clothing and shelter to freeze to death or letting them lay in their waste. It is never ethical. There are rare exceptions to this, such as when, in the last hours or days of a terminal illness, the ingestion of food and water causes pain, and it is ethical to withhold it under that circumstance.

What about the patient's autonomy? Doesn't he (or his proxy) have the right to refuse even ordinary care?

No. Patient autonomy is not unlimited. If a person comes into my office and asks me to perform an operation that they do not need, I am under no obligation to do so. In fact, performing an unnecessary operation or providing any sort of unnecessary care is unethical regardless of whether the patient requests it. Doctors are not under any obligation to do unethical things just because a patient requests it. Autonomy has limits.

Intentional death by starvation when done at the request of a patient is suicide, and no physician is under any obligation to facilitate suicide. In fact, physicians are under an obligation to prevent suicide if possible. If an 18 year-old comes into an emergency room declaring that he wants to kill himself because his girlfriend left him, doctors are under an obligation to stop him. He will be admitted to a locked psychiatric ward involuntarily to protect him, if necessary.

So what happens in real life when I am asked by a patient (or a family) to remove a feeding tube and allow a person to starve to death? I meet with the patient/family, tell them that I ethically cannot do that, and I explain why. Actually, most patients/family end up agreeing with me; it's very common that they feel pressure from the others on the medical staff to withdraw feedings, and many are relieved to hear that they don't have to.

For those patients/families who do wish to discontinue feedings, the hospital assigns another physician to write the order.

The bottom line is that there is no reason for anyone who is dying to suffer. In my professional life I have seen thousands of people die, and the vast majority have passed with dignity and in comfort. A very important part of my job is to alleviate their suffering, and provision of ordinary human needs-- nourishment, hygiene, clothing and shelter-- is part of the alleviation of suffering.

There is never any role for killing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spanky Rosenau sniffs out misogyny-- again!

Josh Spanky Rosenau over at Thoughts from Kansas:

More misogyny from the Disco. 'tute

Category: Creationism • Culture Wars • Policy and Politics
Posted on: November 10, 2011 10:19 AM, by Josh Rosenau
Disco. 'tute president Bruce Chapman is upset. There are ladies with their bloomers in a twist over something or other that they claim Herman Cain said. Let's read Chapman and see if we can guess what Cain is supposed to have done:
A number of significant insights are emerging from the charges of sex harassment lodged against Herman Cain. It may be wise to withhold judgement [sic] about the particulars so far. There are a number of groups operating behind the scenes to drive the story one way or another. 
Aha! Charges of sexual harassment were filed, but we should be dubious because shadowy groups are trying to destroy this innocent man.
Ummm, yea. There are a lot of political factions that would like to see Cain go away, and there is a track record of dubious charges of sexual misconduct against black men by Democrats that goes back a long way.
However, it's not too soon to note the way job problems in our times are converted into legal problems. I have commented on the tendency of lawyers for businesses and even governments to discount charges of sex discrimination and sexual harassment by settling out of court--the supposedly "cheaper" outcome for otherwise costly lawsuits. Obviously, if there really has been an illegal action or pattern of behavior the business or agency should settle, and effectively admit wrongdoing. If not, the "cheaper" outcome may become an expensive one--at least in terms of publicity.
Oh, it's a job problem. Like when Stephen Meyer doesn't make a new pot of coffee after he finish the old one, or when David Klinghoffer writes another essay blaming Charles Darwin for his hangnail. Sure, someone can sue over it, but it's not a real issue, so businesses might decide, foolishly, to settle this frivolous claim. Fortunately, while Cain has had charged lodged against him, it isn't like his former company already settled these charges over a decade ago, "effectively admitting wrongdoing."
There are all sorts of dynamics at play in accusations of this sort. Obviously some are real, some are lies, some are misunderstandings. Some are exaggerated, some are understated. Some people have less than upstanding motives.

It's a complex issue. And we know very little about the substance of the claims, and very little about the accusers and their motives.
In The American Spectator, Lisa Fabrisio [sic] makes another relevant arguement [sic]: that the Cain issue reeks of hypocrisy. Here is a modern media/entertainment culture steeped in soft porn, where new breakthroughs in lowered standards are accomplished [sic] constantly. And yet it is this same debased culture that acts offended by some official's conversational gaffe or unintended double entendre!
Excellent point. Much of our culture-- from network television to mainstream movies to rap "music"-- is barely more than soft porn. While this obviously doesn't excuse genuine sexual misconduct, the silence on the part of leftists like Rosenau leads one to wonder about whether he's using his faux-sense of outrage to score political points. Rap musicians commonly describe women using obscenities, compare them to whores and animals, and glorify rape. Bruce Chapman suggests we examine evidence carefully on sexual harassment accusations. Rosenau is outraged at... rap musicians Chapman.

What a selective sense of outrage you have, Josh.
The problem isn't what Cain did (or if Chapman's to be believed, didn't do). The problem is that there's cleavage on display at supermarket checkout lines. Hypocrisy! Women are allowed to wear revealing outfits, but an employer can't grope an employee? (Allegedly!) Besides, I bet this "sexual harassment" is just a slip of the tongue, or a joke that was taken the wrong way. You know how women are.
Of course, those of us who've read the newspapers in the last week (without being distracted by the bra ads), know a few things that Chapman doesn't.
First, we know that Cain isn't just charged with sexual harassment, he and his company settled those charges over a decade ago. And his company added a gag rule to the settlement, so that he and his former company can talk about the charges, but the women he assaulted cannot speak publicly. Politico explains what we know about those cases:
The sources — including the recollections of close associates and other documentation — describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.
Rosenau exalts in unsourced unconfirmable accusations of sexual impropriety against a black man by white women. The black man is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for the presidency, and has huge powerful well-funded organizations that would like to see him destroyed.

But Rosenau is content to believe the hearsay, content to demand no genuine evidence, and content to see Cain figuratively lynched.
In addition to the three women (we know of) whose suits were settled, a fourth woman came forward and discussed a similar incident she experienced. She had been fired by Cain's National Restaurant Association, and asked to meet Mr. Cain to get help finding a new job:
Settlement by a corporation in a situation like this does not imply admission of guilt.

And if the fourth woman was genuinely assaulted (15 years ago) why did she not go to the police? What she described was a criminal act. Why didn't any of them go to the police? Why did they just take the money?

How can Cain defend himself against crap like this? No evidence, decades-old accusations, secret claims by anonymous accusers...
After taking her out for a night on the town in Washington, she said, he suggested she engage with him sexually in return for his assistance — seizing her inappropriately when they were alone in a car and running his hand up her skirt.…
As she described it, Mr. Cain ran his hand up her skirt, “reached for my genitals” and pulled her head toward his crotch. “I said, ‘What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend; this isn’t what I came here for,’ ” Ms. Bialek said, her voice cracking. “Mr. Cain said, ‘You want a job, right?’”
Joel P. Bennett, a lawyer for another of Mr. Cain’s accusers, called Ms. Bialek’s description of the encounter “very similar” to Mr. Cain’s interaction with his client, who he has said received several inappropriate advances from him. Without going in details [as forbidden by their settlement], Mr. Bennett said, “It corroborates the claim.”
To dismiss crotch-grabbing, threats of forced oral sex, and offer to exchange sexual favors for employment as a "job problem," "a conversational gaffe," or "unintentional double entendre" stretches the legitimate meanings of any of those terms. Chapman is either clueless about the actual circumstances at hand, or doesn't understand sexual power dynamics and sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment claims are a major job problem. That does not mean that many aren't valid-- many are-- but such claims are common, sometimes are groundless or fraudulent, and constitute a major problem for managers. Chapman is just telling the truth.
Mr. Chapman runs a multi-million dollar organization, handling administrative matters and a large staff. He seems to genuinely not know what sexual harassment is and why it matters.
Chapman ran the U.S. Census Bureau as well, and did a fine job, as he has done with the DI. I am unaware of any complaints of sexual harassment during his tenure, and what I know of the DI is that it is superbly led and managed.

Rosenau can't run a credible blog.
Clearly, sexism infects the Discovery Institute from the top down. Not many women work at the 'tute, so maybe the issue hasn't come up, or maybe this misogynist attitude has simply created an environment where few women are comfortable working.
Want to see something really funny? Josh "misogyny sniffer" Rosenau is (of course) a lefty who is apparently a bit of a political groupie. In his photo album on his blog he has nice photos of his hero Bill Clinton and his hero John Edwards.

Odd. I couldn't find any posts from misogyny-sniffer Rosenau decrying serial sexual assault and a credible allegation of rape by a senior government official and infidelity against a wife dying of cancer that led to indictment for felony misuse of federal campaign funds by a politician who came within one state of becoming Vice President of the United States. In fact, Rosenau seems to be quite a booster.

In Rosenau's left field, misogyny and sexual misconduct is only worth public comment when it consists of poorly sourced poorly evidenced accusations against a black Republican, or when a highly accomplished leader of an institute that doesn't share Rosenau's infatuation with Darwin dares to suggest that we try harder to find the truth. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ed Feser on the cosmological argument and 'What caused God?'

Ed Feser has a great post on absurd atheist objections to the cosmological argument for God's existence. He takes them on one by one, and I'll post on each one.

My own discussion of Aquinas' First Way, in which I discuss the argument in a bit of detail, is here


2. “What caused God?” is not a serious objection to the argument.

Part of the reason this is not a serious objection is that it usually rests on the assumption that the cosmological argument is committed to the premise that “Everything has a cause,” and as I’ve just said, this is simply not the case. But there is another and perhaps deeper reason.

The cosmological argument in its historically most influential versions is not concerned to show that there is a cause of things which justhappens not to have a cause. It is not interested in “brute facts” – if it were, then yes, positing the world as the ultimate brute fact might arguably be as defensible as taking God to be. On the contrary, the cosmological argument – again, at least as its most prominent defenders (Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, et al.) present it – is concerned with trying to show that not everything can be a “brute fact.” What it seeks to show is that if there is to be an ultimate explanation of things, then there must be a cause of everything else which not onlyhappens to exist, but which could not even in principle have failed to exist. And that is why it is said to be uncaused – not because it is an arbitrary exception to a general rule, not because it merely happensto be uncaused, but rather because it is not the sort of thing that can even in principle be said to have had a cause, precisely because it could not even in principle have failed to exist in the first place. And the argument doesn’t merely assume or stipulate that the first cause is like this; on the contrary, the whole point of the argument is to try to show that there must be something like this.

Different versions of the cosmological argument approach this task in different ways. Aristotelian versions argue that change – the actualization of the potentials inherent in things – cannot in principle occur unless there is a cause that is “pure actuality,” and thus can actualize other things without itself having to be actualized. Neo-Platonic versions argue that composite things cannot in principle exist unless there is a cause of things that is absolutely unified or non-composite. Thomists not only defend the Aristotelian versions, but also argue that whatever has an essence or nature distinct from its existence – so that it must derive existence from something outside it – must ultimately be caused by something whose essence just isexistence, and which qua existence or being itself need not derive its existence from another. Leibnizian versions argue that whatever does not have the sufficient reason for its existence in itself must ultimately derive its existence from something which does have within itself a sufficient reason for its existence, and which is in that sense necessary rather than contingent. And so forth. (Note that I am not defending or even stating the arguments here, but merely giving single sentence summaries of the general approach several versions of the arguments take.)

So, to ask “What caused God?” really amounts to asking “What caused the thing that cannot in principle have had a cause?”, or “What actualized the potentials in that thing which is pure actuality and thus never had any potentials of any sort needing to be actualized in the first place?”, or “What imparted a sufficient reason for existence to that thing which has its sufficient reason for existence within itself and did not derive it from something else?” And none of these questions makes any sense. Of course, the atheist might say that he isn’t convinced that the cosmological argument succeeds in showing that there really is something that could not in principle have had a cause, or that is purely actual, or that has a sufficient reason for its existence within itself. He might even try to argue that there is some sort of hidden incoherence in these notions. But merely to ask “What caused God?” – as if the defender of the cosmological argument had overlooked the most obvious of objections – simply misses the whole point. A serious critic has to grapple with the details of the arguments. He cannot short-circuit them with a single smart-ass question. (If some anonymous doofus in a combox can think up such an objection, then you can be certain that Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, et al. already thought of it too.)

The most famous (infamous) 'retort' to the cosmological argument is Hume's. He asked (paraphrasing): 'why can't the universe itself, rather than God, be the uncaused thing, the ground for existence?' He wrongly asserted that the recourse to God as First Cause was a mere stipulation, an arbitrary presumption. But, as Feser points out, the cosmological argument concludes (rather than arbitrarily stipulates) that the First Cause must be something outside of contingent nature. It must be something that must exist. The universe can't be the First Cause, because it is contingent, and it lacks the properties necessary for a First Cause.

The First Cause must, by logic, transcend nature.

The retort 'what caused God' isn't an argument. It's merely an admission of ignorance about what the argument actually is. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

"does [free speech] also allow a school administration to express a preference for a certain race...?"

Commentor RickK has some good questions about Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. To what extent do they apply to school administrators?


If your definition of free speech includes allowing a school adminstration to express a preference for a particular religion, does it also allow a school administration to express a preference for a certain race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, ancestry or other personal attribute?
Heck, RickK, let's not waste our time on school administrators. Let's consider the bigger government officials-- presidents, senators, congressmen. And remember that we're talking about Constitutional rights, not about whether it's morally right to do something, or whether it's legal under statutory law, or whether it's permitted by regulatory diktat.

So let's consider:

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a certain race...


Have you ever heard, RickK, of affirmative action?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a gender...

Have you ever heard, RickK, of the Department of Health and Human Services' support of the Women's Health Initiative?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a sexual orientation... 
Have you ever heard, RickK, of innumerable municipalities' sponsorship for Gay Pride Parades and of health clinics provided for gay men?

Does the Constitution allow a president/senator/congressman/school administrator to express a preference for a culture...
 Have you ever heard, RickK, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?

You get the point, RickK. "Expression of preference for _________" is one of the most common things that the government does, from the president down to the homeroom teacher. It's inevitable in a huge pluralistic society.

And countless government officials express preference for religion: "God Bless America", which every politician says at the end of every speech, expresses preference for religions that call the Deity "God" rather than Allah, Thor, Nature, Me (atheism), etc.

And ya' know, RickK, it's all perfectly Constitutional. The purpose of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause is not to separate government from religion. The Framers were smart enough to understand that the government can't be separated from religion, because in our country We the People are the government and We the People are a diverse mostly religious people.

So the purpose of the First Amendment religion clauses is to get government out of the business of censoring religion. That's the obvious purpose of the Free Exercise Clause, and it is the purpose of the Establishment Clause as well, because an official national Church would tend to suppress the expression of religious beliefs.

The purpose of the First Amendment is freedom, not censorship.

If the school can post a prayer, does a teacher have the right, by your rules, to post the 10 Commandments in their classroom?
Yep. The Supreme Court has the Decalogue on its frieze. Why can't Ms. Perry's 3rd grade class have it on their wall?
Does a science teacher have the right to post the Genesis creation story on the wall behind their desk?
Sure. Unless I missed the "Congress shall make no law allowing a science teacher to post Genesis... " clause to the First Amendment.
Do that teacher have the right to jot under the text of Genesis "This is the TRUE story of human origins, whatever we may discuss in class."
Probably, yes. What the teacher may not do is mandate assent to Genesis. The teacher may not take points off on the final exam if the student contradicts Genesis. The reason is that compulsory assent to a religious doctrine is a hallmark of an Establishment of Religion, which is the one aspect of religious expression-- and Establishment is the only one-- that the Constitution prohibits.
Just how far does your noble defense of free speech in public schools extend?
Good question. I hate censorship. Let me elaborate: I hate censorship. I don't like being told to 'shut up or else', and I don't tell other people to 'shut up or else'. Fortunately, the Founders hated censorship as much as I do, so they wrote the First Amendment. It got the federal government out of the censorship business. That was the whole point.

This is how school administrators' "expression of preference" should be handled:

It almost never has anything to do with the Constitution. It's simply a matter of local decisions made by local school boards elected by local people. The normal process of curriculum development and school administration are the appropriate processes for determining such matters. Not federal judges and federal lawsuits that financially devastate schools and harm kids and fill the coffers of the ACLU with taxpayers' money that parents paid to educate their kids not pay @*!##!! lawyers.

There should be a spectrum of expression in schools. Schools in San Francisco probably wouldn't have any prayers. Schools in Atlanta probably would. Schools in a heavily Orthodox Jewish community might have a prayer that has a bit of a Jewish spin. Schools in Louisville might have a tiny Catholic spin. Schools in Dearborn might have a little Islamic spin.

Fine with me. As long as there's no compulsion. As long as there's no Establishment.

I'm not afraid of a little prayer, mine or someone else's. I like freedom, and I don't mind other people's freedom. And I really like the First Amendment.

And I think it's execrable to use that succinct work of wisdom and genius-- the charter of our freedom-- as a pretext for censorship.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Egnorance: Caravaggio: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Caravaggio. The Sacrifice of Isaac. 1601

I love Caravaggio. The people in his paintings seem closer to life than any other artist of his era. He brings the late 16th century to life, and the themes (usually Biblical) take on a realism not often evoked by other artists.

The subject of this painting-- God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac-- is one of the enigmas of of Judaism and Christianity. God's command is easy enough to understand, at least on the surface- He tested Abraham's faith, and in sparing Isaac, vanquished human sacrifice among those who obey Him. He never had any intention of allowing Abraham to harm Isaac. Rene Girard sees this substitution for a human victim as a sea change in the affirmation of human dignity and the pivot of the Judeo-Christian faith.

But what of Abraham? How could he have accepted God's command? How could he have been sure that it was indeed God who commanded him? How could he even begin to act in accordance with a command to kill his son?

It tormented Kierkegaard. He saw the pericope as central to the Christian struggle.

He said it beautifully:

"... For he who struggled with the world became great by conquering the world, and he who struggled with himself became great by conquering himself, but he who struggled with God became greatest of all."
Faith is not merely an acquiescence to God, but a struggle with God. All who seek Him know the struggle. It is the central struggle of human existence. It's the purpose of human existence.


Faith is the highest passion in a person. There perhaps are many in every generation who do not come to faith, but no one goes further. Whether there are also many in our day who do not find it, I do not decide. I dare to refer only to myself, without concealing that he has a long way to go, without therefore wishing to deceive himself of what is great by making a trifle of it, a childhood disease one may wish to get over as soon as possible. But life has tasks enough also for the person who does not come to faith, and if he loves these honestly, his life will not be wasted, even if it is never comparable to the lives of those who perceived and grasped the highest. But the person who has come to faith (whether he is extraordinarily gifted or plain and simple does not matter) does not come to a standstill in faith. Indeed, he would be indignant if anyone said to him, just as the lover resents it if someone said that he came to a standstill in love; for, he would answer, I am by no means standing still. I have my whole life in it. Yet he does not go further, does not go on to something else, for when he finds this, then he has another explanation.

Faith in God is a leap. It can only be grounded in evidence to a certain extent. At some point, one must simply decide "I believe". It is, as Kierkegaaard says so eloquently, another explanation. It transcends the explanations to which we are accustomed. A Christian friend once explained it to me quite well: "It's not first person "I" or third person "it". It's second person-- you and Him. An exchange of Love."

And that is the beginning of the real explanation, the beginning of wisdom.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend Egnorance: Namath vs. Unitas, September 24, 1972

One of the greatest NFL games ever played.

I was a huge Joe Namath fan as a kid. He was an astonishingly elegant quarterback. It seems an odd word to use for an athlete, but his dropback, his footwork, his release, and his passing were like ballet. My dream was to play football like Namath. I had all of the ingredients except the talent!

Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath

A nice short video on his 6 touchdowns in that legendary game against Johnny Unitas and the Colts. Probably the greatest passing game ever played!

Friday, November 11, 2011

She's right.

From James Delingpole.

A note to Occupy Wall Streeters from the wife of an oil worker:

Guess which two (ir)religions are the world's worst persecutors of religion...

Why are we not surprised:

Targeting The World's Worst Religious Persecutors

Doug Bandow, Contributor

The most important test of a government’s legitimacy is whether it protects basic human rights, most obviously life and liberty. The foundation is freedom conscience, including religious liberty. Governments unwilling to respect their citizen’s faith in God and view of the transcendent are not likely to treat people with dignity in other ways.

The imperfections of the American political system are obvious. Many foreign governments are far worse, leaving Washington policymakers permanently tempted to try to fix other states. Alas, the U.S. rarely can do much to transform authoritarian regimes. Even war offers little hope of creating free and just societies, at least at reasonable cost. Iraq demonstrates the price of supposedly humanitarian military intervention, especially to the people supposedly being liberated. And it is still far from clear how much freedom Iraqis will ultimately enjoy.

Nevertheless, the American president possesses a great bully pulpit and can name and shame foreign malefactors. Equally important are private people and organizations in highlighting abuses and aiding victims. Often individual people and families can be saved even in the midst of brutal persecution.

Unfortunately, the picture of religious liberty around the world is not pretty. While there have been instances of progress over the last year, most of the news is bad. In its latest annual assessment the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom finds “severe violations of religious freedom and related human rights over the past year.” Common is official state persecution as well as pervasive social discrimination and violence unconstrained by and sometimes aided by government.

Brutalizing religious minorities often further destabilizes already fragile systems, with sometimes important foreign policy implications. Observes the USCIRF: “many of the countries where there are serious challenges to freedom of religion or belief are strategically vital to their neighbors, our own nation, and the world.”

Although there is great variety among persecuting states, two characteristics stand out: Islamic national or regional majorities and Communist or former Communist ideologies. Of the 25 nations singled out as the worst abusers by the Commission, 11 are majority Muslim and 10 are Communist/former Communist.

The Commission recommended that 14 countries be designated as a Country of Particular Concern, which requires the State Department to act—by, for instance, imposing sanctions—or formally waive the penalty. CPC, explains the USCIRF, is used for “governments that have engaged in or tolerated ‘particularly severe’ violations of religious freedom.” Despite previous Commission recommendations, the State Department currently only invokes the label in eight cases, and in two of those has issued waivers. Politics still reigns supreme.

Burma is the only majority Buddhist nation on the list, though Sri Lanka is a lesser Buddhist offender. The so-called State Peace and Development Council, nominally replaced by a new civilian government, is not so much pro-Buddhist as anti-any person of faith who challenges the junta. Burma, explains the Commission, “remains one of the world’s worst human rights violators.” At particular risk are largely Christian ethnic groups, such as the Karen, which long have been fighting for autonomy. Such minorities suffer from the military’s systematic brutality, which includes conscripting civilians as porters and destroying homes and villages, as well as widespread rape and murder. However, the regime also has targeted Buddhist monks for supporting peaceful democracy protests in 2007.

Potential superpower China is growing economically but appears to be regressing in terms of human rights. In some regions there is more space for religious faith, but the authorities continue to target the genuine (as opposed to “patriotic”) Catholic Church and evangelical house churches. Moreover, notes the USCIRF: “Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute as the government broadened its efforts to discredit and imprison religious leaders.”

Eritrea’s population is closely divided between Muslims and Christians. The government resembles that of Burma, focused on maintaining absolute power at all costs. Thus, reports the Commission, “systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations continue,” including arbitrary arrest, torture, and death. The regime also interferes with worship activities, especially of groups which lack official recognition.

Theocratic Iran is noted for the ruthlessness with which Muslim clerics and their allies hold onto power. Over the last year, says the USCIRF, “religious freedom conditions continued to deteriorate, especially for religious minorities such as Baha’is, Christians and Sufi Muslims.” Members of disfavored faiths face “prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religious of the accused.”

North Korea may be the worst government on earth, a continuing example of the poverty and brutality of Communism. With its rulers (the so-called Great and Dear Leaders) accorded near-divine status, the regime unsurprisingly attempts to suppress religious belief. The government engages in “discrimination and harassment of both authorized and unauthorized religious activity; the arrest, torture, and possible execution of those conducting clandestine religious activity;” and much more.

American ally Saudi Arabia may be as totalitarian as North Korea, though with Islam replacing Communism. Notes the Commission, the House of Saud bans “all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government’s own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam.” Other believers are not even safe worshipping in their homes, and “Almost 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Saudi government has failed to implement a number of promised reforms related to religious practice and tolerance.” Indeed, Riyadh is actively promoting extremist and intolerant views in madrassas and mosques around the world.

Sudan suffered through one of the longest internal conflicts, which for years placed the Islamic national government against Christians and animists who sought regional autonomy. Although that conflict was seemingly settled with the creation of a separate southern state, boundary skirmishes have begun. Moreover, the USCIRF warns that Khartoum government continues to impose sharia law, criminalize conversion away from Islam, and deny “the rights of non-Muslims to public religious expression and persuasion.”

Uzbekistan is one of the many pieces of the former Soviet Union and an equal opportunity oppressor. Notes the Commission: “The Uzbek government violates the full range of human rights and harshly penalizes individuals for independent religious activity, regardless of their religious affiliation.” Muslims, too, suffer from persecution.

The “Arab spring” came to Egypt, but a winter gale hit Coptic Christians. Discrimination and violence have been problems for years. However, notes the Commission: “The Egyptian government has failed to protect religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians, from violent attacks, including during the transitional period when minority communities are increasingly vulnerable.” The situation may further deteriorate as the nation moves through an uncertain political transition.

Iraq is freer without Saddam Hussein as dictator, but that also means Islamic extremists are much freer to attack religious minorities. Notes the USCIRF: “members of the country’s smallest religious minorities suffer from targeted violence, threats, and intimidation, against which the government does not provide effective protection.” Perhaps half of the original Christian community has fled the country. Few of these “Assyrian” Christians, whose ancestors predate the arrival of Islam, are likely to return.

Nigeria is another divided country. The northern Muslim majority provinces exploded into violence after the recent election of the Christian president, who took over when his Muslim predecessor died. Unfortunately, notes the Commission, “Years of inaction by Nigeria’s federal and state governments have created a climate of impunity, resulting in thousands of deaths.” The panel cites other concerns, including the expansion of sharia into criminal law and “discrimination against minority communities of Christians and Muslims.”

Pakistan is not yet a Muslim theocracy, but the public space for Christians and other religious minorities is closing rapidly. This state, says the USCIRF, “continues to be responsible for systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.” A federal minister (Christian) and state governor (Muslim) were murdered earlier this year for opposing the blasphemy laws, which are routinely abused to victimize Christians and others. Indeed, the Commission warns, “Sectarian and religiously-motivated violence is chronic,” with perpetrators rarely punished for their crimes. Pakistan increasingly looks like an unstable bomb with a shrinking fuse.

Turkmenistan is another Central Asian state which won its independence when the U.S.S.R. broke up. Despite some relaxation of controls after the death of the long-time dictator in 2007, notes the panel, “Police raids and other harassment of registered and unregistered religious groups continue.”

Vietnam remains avowedly Communist in politics despite Hanoi’s discovery of the market. Although shamed by its official designation as a CPC, the regime, explains the USCIRF, “continues to control religious communities, severely restrict and penalize independent religious practice, and brutally repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging its authority.” Activity by non-approved organizations is prohibited and the government mimics Islamic states in strongly discouraging conversion.

Unfortunately, these countries are not alone. The USCIRF placed another 11 nations on its Watch List, which is for “countries where the serious violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments do not meet the CPC threshold but require close monitoring.”

These discreditable states are: Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela. Afghanistan, Indonesia, Somalia, and Turkey are Muslim. Belarus, Cuba, Laos, Russia, and Tajikistan are Communist/former Communist, with Venezuela a fellow traveler moving in a more authoritarian direction. India is the standout as a majority Hindu nation with frequent attacks on Muslims as well as Christians.

Many other nations actively persecute or tolerate private intimidation and violence, just not as egregiously. Even in Canada and Europe both left-wing political correctness and fear of retaliation by Islamic extremists have begun to limit the freedom of Christians to proselytize and preach. France has banned women from wearing the burqa.

The freedom to believe, or not believe, in God and respond accordingly—as individuals, families, and communities—is precious. Sadly, much of humankind is denied this most fundamental right.

While Washington cannot make the world free, Americans can reach out and help their oppressed brothers and sisters around the globe. Persecution should be highlighted and denounced; victims of intolerance, hate, and violence should be comforted and supported. Finally, if America is to remain free, Americans must tenaciously defend religious liberty at home. [emphasis mine]

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's findings on international religious freedom are remarkable for four explicit (and implicit) observations:

1) Nearly all of the nations that severely persecute religious expression are either Islamic or atheist (Communist) countries. Of course, Islamic persecution of other faiths is self-evident; Islam decrees death for apostates, and countries with Sharia law prohibit religious expression other than Islam. No non-Muslims are even permitted to enter Mecca or Medina.

2) Religious persecution is even more severe in atheist (Communist) nations. Atheism is the most intolerant and violent governing ideology, without rival. All atheist governments (e.g. governments in which Marxism/state atheism is the dominant ideology) have been totalitarian, and the number of religious people (mainly Christians) murdered by atheist governments in the 20th century runs from 20 million to 45 million by many estimates. The imprecision reflects the logistical difficulties inherent to counting corpses in atheist nations.

3) Christian nations are missing from the list of persecutors. Christian nations-- nations with established Christian churches or long traditions of cultural Christianity-- are the most tolerant. Respect for human rights is characteristic of governments with deep roots in Christianity.

4) The victims of violent religious persecution are mostly Christian and Jewish. There have been between 20 and 45 million Christian martyrs in the 20th century, and 6 million Jews have been murdered for their faith.

There is no evidence for any anti-atheist persecution of any magnitude anywhere ever. Despite incessant whining, atheists are never violently systematically persecuted and are invariably brutal persecutors when they grasp power. Some faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Zooastrianism, etc) are persecuted in specific regions, and Judaism, although small in number of adherents, is very widely persecuted. By sheer numbers, Christians are the most persecuted faith, and Jews have suffered horrendous persecution as well. Persecution of Muslims is rare, and persecution of atheists is non-existent.

Of course atheists will complain that their numbers are too small to have been the object of widespread systematic persecution. However, consider that there are 280 million explicit atheists in the world (4% of 7 billion), while there are only about 12 million Jews. Yet while atheists-- who are more that 20 times more numerous than Jews-- are never the object of violent persecution, Jews have been systematically murdered throughout history, recently in horrendous numbers.

All atheist governments have been totalitarian, and the only Jewish government in 2000 years is a liberal democracy. Atheist complaints about persecution are risible. Atheist perpetration of persecution is anything but risible.

The Commission's findings are obvious to any honest observer of our time. Islam and especially atheism are brutally intolerant ideologies, and Christianity and Judaism are quite tolerant.

It's ironic that the adherents most prone to claim "persecution" in the United States are Muslims and atheists. The reality is that Islam and atheism are the most prolific systematic persecutors of other faiths in the world, with atheism exceeding Islam by orders of magnitude in terms of actual violence against Christians.

The atheist penchant for imposing government censorship on Christians in the United States in but a glimmer of the atheist penchant for totalitarianism around the world.