Saturday, December 31, 2011

"... and about how cute they are... and the whiskers... and the nose..."

This video is viral, and very funny, whether or not it's real. This is a girl on eHarmony describing what's important to her.

If you want to date her, you'd better like cats.

(HT: my son Scott)

Friday, December 30, 2011

My reply to Doug Indeap on the constitutional separation of church and state; Part 2

Doug Indeap is an atheist and an attorney who disagrees with me about the First Amendment.

The government's inscription of the phrase "In God we trust" on coins and currency, as well as its addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase "In God we trust" as a national motto in 1956, were mistakes, which should be corrected.
No problem, Doug. Next election, vote for the guy who agrees with you. When enough people do this, these guys who agree with you will pass legislation to correct the mistake.
Under our Constitution, the government has no business proclaiming that "we trust" "In God."
We the People (i.e. the government) do have that right.  It's not an establishment of religion, which is the only religious expression the Constitution forbids. There is no compulsion involved-- there are no Trust in God Police knocking on your door making sure that you're trusting in God-- so We the People can use our representative democracy to make any motto we want. 'We Trust in Buddha', 'We Trust in Beyonce', 'We Trust but Verify', 'We Trust No One', 'We Trust Doug'...
Some of us do, and some of us don't; each of us enjoys the freedom to make that choice; the government does not and should not purport to speak for us in this regard.
Right, Doug. The Constitution bars the government from saying anything that 312,529,476 Americans don't all agree on.

Are you sure you're a lawyer, Doug?
Nor does the government have any business calling on its citizens to voice affirmation of a god in any circumstances, let alone in the very pledge the government prescribes for affirming allegiance to the country.
That's your opinion, of course. You are entitled to work through the democratic process to stop the government from doing that.

What you're not entitled to do is fabricate idiotic interpretations of the Constitution to get a federal judge to order the police to enforce your viewpoint.

And are you really saying that the president doesn't have the right to ask us to pray for our soldiers or say "God Bless America"?
The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the pledge puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22:
"Congress shall make no law putting atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22..."

A Catch 22, Doug, involves putting someone in a logical contradiction, i.e. 'You can get out of combat if you're crazy, but if you want to get out of combat, you not crazy...'. You need to bone up on your Joseph Heller. I think that he wrote a letter to Danbury Baptists...

Public officials talking about God despite the fact that a few atheists don't want them to isn't a logical contradiction. It's a pluralist democracy. If you don't like it, you can ignore it.

Do you really spend that much time reading the inscriptions on dollar bills?
Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens.
That's right, Doug. The Constitution has an amendment prohibiting making you feel bad.

Several hundred million Americans believe that our nation is "under God"? Should they recite a godless pledge with rank hypocrisy and accept exclusion? Don't they have recourse to the same 'Doug can't be made to feel bad' clause that protects you?

When you feel bad, Doug, it's not unconstitutional. It's simply something that bothers you. You have several options when you're asked (not forced) to say something (like the pledge) that bothers you:

1) You can say it. Just like we all say "... with liberty and justice for all" when we know that there is some injustice in America. Heck, Doug, I say it anyway. I've never called the police about it.

2) You can say "... One Nation, (mumble... mumble) with liberty and justice for all." Leave out the God part when you recite it. Let other people include the God part if they want to. Free speech, Doug. No one will arrest you. No one will notice. No one cares.

3) You can not say the pledge. Free speech, Doug. No one will arrest you. No one will notice. No one cares.

4) You can mumble "..."One Nation, (Under Doug), with liberty and justice for all."

Show 'em a bit of that atheist wit.

Don't call the police because other people say things you don't like.
The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds,
There's no force, Doug. Force is when you call the police to stop others from saying things.
and it certainly has no business assembling citizens' children in public schools and prescribing their recitation of the pledge--affirmation of a god and all--as a daily routine.
People's children are legally required to attend school, and they are "prescribed" many things. It's called "curriculum".

Saying "under God" in the pledge is one of the few things in their little day that's not curriculum and not required. They have the opportunity to do so, if they wish.

They have to take the math quiz. They have to write the English essay. They have to learn the leftie stuff in the curriculum that lefties like you force them to learn. They don't have to say "Under God".

See the difference, Doug?
But that's just me talking. The courts, on the other hand, have sometimes found ways to excuse such things, for instance with the explanation that they are more about acknowledging tradition than promoting religion per se.
Bull. When most Americans say "God bless America" or "one nation, under God" they mean it. They want God to bless America and they believe we are a nation under God. It is peculiar to your atheist ideology to believe that other people don't hold their own views with the conviction with which you hold yours.

The Constitution was meant to protect this diversity of belief. The whole point of the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause was to get the federal government out of the 'religious referee' business. We were to have no national church, which would interfere with local religious practices, and we were to have no constraints on religious expression. Free expression, Doug. So your bizarre "separation" jurisprudence shoves the federal courts right into the middle of the religious referee business, which is precisely what the Framers wanted to avoid.

But of course the federal courts can't be religious referees in any practical sense. That's why the Framers went to such pains to prohibit the federal government from sifting permitted and forbidden religious expression. How can a few judges micromanage religious speech in our huge American cauldron of beliefs?

So one of the problems with your b.s. unconstitutional "constitutional separation of church and state" jurisprudence is that it forces referees courts to say really stupid things in order to reach conclusions that aren't batshit. The courts can't ban all references to God by public officials. They can't even ban one percent of the references to God by public officials. "You're under arrest, Mr. Lincoln. Put down that Second Inaugural Address... slowly... so we can see your hands... "

So courts are forced to make stuff up to make it look like they're being rational. 'The Court finds that the Ten Commandments are unconstitutional if they're written in purple ink, but if they're in blue ink, they're constitutional'.

But there's no need to go through the referee charade. "Under God" is religion, and it is perfectly Constitutional. All religious expression is Constitutional anywhere by anyone unless it is an Establishment. Voluntary talk about God isn't an Establishment.

A voluntary prayer isn't an Establishment. A voluntary motto isn't an Establishment. "Voluntary" is the anthesis of "Establishment". There has never been an Establishment of religion at the federal level, Doug. Not even close. You're paranoid, Doug.
Draining the government's nominally religious statements or actions of religious meaning (or at least purporting to do so) and discounting them as non-religious ritual--sometimes dubbed "ceremonial deism"--is one way to find them not to conflict with the First Amendment.
Invoking God is not deism. Deism is the belief that God is un-invokable. Deism is the belief that God does not act. Invoking God presupposes that He does act. Asking God to bless America or saying that our nation is under God is asserting that God acts and cares. It is the antithesis of deism. It ain't "ceremonial deism". What a dumb thing to say, Doug.

Invoking God is the free exercise of religion. It's Constitutional.
Ordinary folks, though, commonly see things differently; when they read "[i]n God we trust," they think the Government is actually declaring that "we" as a people actually "trust" the actual "God" they believe in.
Most ordinary folks do trust in God. They are sovereign in America. We're a democracy. We made such references part of our public life.
If they understood it as merely a ritualistic phrase devoid of religious meaning, they would hardly get as exercised as they do about proposals to drop it.
Yep. They understand what you're up to Doug, and it pisses them off. Pisses me off, too.
As you can imagine, those more interested in championing their religion than the constitutional principle of separation of church and state sometimes seek to exploit and expand such "exceptions" even if it requires they fake interest only in tradition.

The  constitutional principle of separation of church and state isn't constitutional. It's your opinion, Doug. Your opinions aren't law. You don't have the right to get courts to enforce your opinions, Doug.

If you don't like "Under God", make the case through the legislative process. Ya know, the process that the people who believe in democracy use. If you win, great for you.

If you lose, you can still mumble "one nation, under Doug...".

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pat Buchanan on the American departure from Iraq

Pat Buchanan has a superb essay on the American draw-down in Iraq.

I originally supported the war, but I believe now that it was unwise. Saddam was a thug, but the world is full of thugs, and it's not our job to depose all of them. The 'weapon of mass destruction' argument was obviously an honest mistake-- it was believed by practically all informed observers and intelligence services that Iraq had them-- but I don't think that there was sufficient reason to think that they would be used against us.

I believe the war was wrong for several reasons:

1) War should be the last option. We had other options.

2) Deposing Saddam greatly strengthened Iran, which is a much more dangerous foe. This was predictable, and was predicted by some opponents of the war.

3) I believe that the overthrow of Saddam served as a catalyst for the revolts in many Arab countries, which have overthrown several dictators. As bad as the dictators are, this provides an opportunity for Islamic radicals to seize power. They will make effective use of the opportunity.

The Muslim Arab world is changing rapidly, in part because of our overthrow of Saddam, and it will not likely be a change for the better.

This of course does nothing to diminish the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, who served with honor and who deserve our deepest gratitude. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dark Star on Christianity, slavery, and atheism

Commentor Dark Star took issue with my assertion that Christianity played a central role in the abolition of slavery:

Dark Star:
[Egnor] "We hold these truths to be self-evident... all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..."
[Dark Star] Of course this was written by the same people who codified the possession of one human by another into their Constitution (in the Enumeration, Importation, and Fugitive Slave clauses).
So Jefferson is your hero who writes letters to Danbury Baptists about "separation of church and state" when it comes to bashing Christianity, but Jefferson (a slave owner himself) recedes into anonymity as one of "the same people who codified the possession of one human by another..." when it comes to... bashing Christianity. Convenient how that works.

How about this formulation: would it then be fair to say that the principle of "separation of church and state" came from "the same people who codified the possession of one human by another"? The principle of "separation of church and state" came from slave owners who were hostile to orthodox Christianity? Maybe that's why the KKK-- who hated Catholicism hardly less than you do-- incorporated "separation of church and state" into their initiation oath. Ask about that at your next Klavern soiree.
 Where exactly in the Bible does it say one person shall not not own another? No, it has rules about slavery that clearly do NOT condemn it, instead you are enjoined to obey your masters.
The New Testament supersedes the Old Testament for Christians, so I won't  comment on Levitical codes, except to point out that Levitical codes were regulations on slavery which delineated the rights of slaves and the obligations of Jews who owned slaves. The codes were an advance in human rights, in much the same way that the Magna Carta was an advance in political liberty, not because it guaranteed liberty as we moderns understand it, but  because it limited a previously unlimited oppression. The Levitical codes limited slavery, and were revolutionary advances for human dignity, as was so much of the Jewish law.

Christ and His apostles and disciples were not 21st century political activists. The Lord showed a remarkable disinterest in politics-- "render unto Caesar...". He was interested in the dignity of the human soul, which shines through the Gospels. He taught a Kingdom in which there wasn't even the possibility of one man enslaving another. In fact, He taught that real dignity was in the willingness to be a slave to express love and to help others. He taught that in the slave-master relationship, it was the slave that had dignity.

"If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest. The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people." (Matthew 20:26-28, CEV)

He turned the institution of slavery on its head. It was the slave who was great and just. Even God Himself was a slave of love who is willing to sacrifice to help others. God identified with slaves, not masters.

Neitzsche understood this. Neitzsche-- the archetypal modern atheist-- worshiped power. He derided Christianity as a "slave religion". He was right. He understood the Christian revolution, which was the ennoblement of sacrifice and humility, and he hated it.

Christ ripped the institution of slavery at its foundation, in an astonishing way that was much more radical and much more effective than any political protest. He didn't incite a Sparticus revolt, which would merely have ended with a mountain of corpses. He identified Himself--God-- with the slave, not with the master. He insisted that what was done to the least among us, was done to Him. He destroyed any coherent justification for oppression and chattel slavery by pointing out that God Himself was the slave. He ultimately ended slavery by a spiritual revolution, not a political one.

Man being man, the ultimate consequence of the Christian revolution would take centuries to work itself out. His spiritual revolution-- His Kingdom-- ripped up oppression by the roots, and is still at work. It is the central revolution of human history-- the only genuine radical revolution in human history. His revolution is the insistence on the inviolable dignity of man. That is one reason His enemies hate Him so.

The supposition that He should have condemned the political institution of slavery (or excessive taxation or war or deficit spending) in the Roman Empire betrays ignorance of Christ's message.

The Lord's agenda was spiritual, not political. His message of the incomparable worth of each human being changed the world. For the entire existence of homo sapiens-- tens of thousands of years of civilizations and hundreds of thousands of years of existence of the species-- slavery was as intrinsic and unexceptional to man as was the family unit and obtaining food and shelter. No one questioned chattel slavery as a significant moral issue. It was the consensus that some men were by nature slaves (Aristotle), and that slavery was simply part of the natural order.

For hundreds of thousands of years, humanity kept chattel slaves. Within a few hundred years of the spread of Christianity, slavery began to wane, in England, in France, in Scandanavia, and eventually throughout all of Christian Europe. In 1537 Pope Paul III issued Sublimus Dei, which banned Catholic participation in slavery in the New World (it was already extinguished in the Old World). Slavery continued in non-Catholic regions in the New World until it was ended by Christian abolitionists (Wilberforce) and by a Christian nation going to war against it.

The only parts of the world in which slavery survives into this century are some Muslim and pagan enclaves in Africa and Asia and in atheist countries (China, North Korea) in which political prisoners-- the one thing that atheist governments don't seem to produce a shortage of-- are used essentially as slaves.

The other kind of slavery today is sex slavery. As in all of history, Christian organizations are the mainstay in efforts to abolish it.

Can you name for me, Dark Star, the atheist organizations today that are devoted to ending modern slavery? Can you name for me any atheist-- from Democritus to Epicurus to Lucretius to Knutzen to de Sade to Marx to Lenin to Stalin to O'Hare to Mao to Pol Pot to Kim Jung Il to Dawkins-- who did anything of substance to end slavery? Where are atheists' great contributions to manumission? Christian organizations have been and are very active in legal challenges, political action, and even purchasing the freedom of slaves. Name the atheist organizations devoted to ending slavery.

Atheist legal action is restricted to censorship of prayers and removal of creches, when not facilitating the construction of gulags and Lubyankas.
If you are a Christian and you believe that Slavery is morally wrong then you are in exactly the same position I am in...
No, Dark Star we're not in the same position. Our positions differ radically.

I believe that slavery is morally abhorrent because it violates God's law and degrades the dignity of both slave and master, who are made in God's image. I believe that all men are Created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.

As an atheist, you deny objective morality. You deny that men were created at all. You deny that they are endowed by their Creator with any rights. You deny that there is a Source of moral law that is objective, that transcends human opinion.

Your metaphysics-- that moral law is a human invention-- is a basis for slavery and for every sort of injustice. If moral law is a human invention, and there is no God and no transcendent moral law and no ultimate accountability, then power is the final arbiter of human affairs.

Slavery is the last full measure, short of murder, of the power of one man over another. It is inherent to a materialistic understanding of man. It is antithetical to the Christian understanding of man.

More to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vox Day on the secular war on Christmas

Internet Superintelligence Vox Day has a superb post on the war on Christianity:

Merry Christmas
On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.
- Mark Steyn, Silent Night, December 24, 2011

The secular War on Christmas throughout the West presently serves as a lightweight bookend for the religious War on Christians throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. In the West, the persecution is still petty, tentative, and small-minded, elsewhere, it is purposeful, murderous and systematic. One cannot equate the banning of Merry Christmas wishes by elected politicians to the banning of Christians from holding elected office, or pretend that atheists co-opting public parks in order to promote nasty anti-holiday messages is the equivalent of violent attacks on Christian church celebrants.

But if the actions are different, the motivations stem from the same source, which is the desire to eliminate Christianity from the world. This is not a new desire; it was already hundreds of years old when the Emperor Diocletian issued the first of his four “Edicts against the Christians” in the year 303. Like the Western anti-Christians, Diocletian did not initially intend for there to be any bloodshed, but hoped that political and legal pressure would be sufficient to cause Christians to apostatize, but his hopes were dashed by the stalwart faith of the empire's Christians. His fourth Edict, therefore, demanded summary execution of all men, women, and children who were unwilling to offer sacrifice to any of the pagan gods.

Secular culture is no more intrinsically tolerant than Diocletian. Those who consciously adhere to “secular values” understand that they are fundamentally different than, and inherently opposed to, Christian values. While far too many Christians and non-Christians alike believe that it is still possible to arrange society in such a manner that secular values are given primacy in the public while still respecting Christian values in private, both ancient and recent history indicate otherwise. This is particularly true in any society with an activist government that uses fiscal policy and administrative law as tools for social engineering.

Many of the accomplishments of Christendom are being unwound, often by the unworthy heirs of Christendom itself. The increasingly secular British people bitterly complain about the continental subjugation of their once-independent isle even as they simultaneously continue to support the societal secularization that made that subjugation possible. Slaves are being bought and sold in numbers that have not been seen since William Wilberforce led the evangelical charge against the slave trade. As the concepts of individual rights and human liberty arose under Christendom, it is both logically and empirically apparent that they will decline in tandem with the decline of Christianity across the West.

And yet, Christians need have no fear for the future of their faith in the coming years. The Church has survived every persecution, every attempt to stamp it out for nearly two thousand years. It will survive the current secular assault just as it survived the historical Soviet assault. Kim Jong-Il is dead, while the Christians struggling to survive in the concentration camps he established throughout North Korea have not only outlived him, but celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior today. We pray that their faith will be rewarded and their suffering will be eased; may they pray that our faith will survive our wealth and comfort.

The Truth is. It does not depend upon one man, or seven billion men, women, and children, acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord. All the powers and principalities of the world will exert their fury in vain, all the Gates of Hell will announce their lethal edicts to no avail, as they have already been defeated by the birth of the boy child who is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless us all, every one.

Hatred of Christianity and the passion to eradicate it is 2000 years old, and will never end. Christianity is a denial of the claims of the world, and obedience to the Source of the world. We will worship no pagan gods, not Baal nor  Mithras nor materialist science nor prosperity nor ourselves. Our allegiance is to Jesus Christ.

Forces as diverse and passionate as the Roman Empire and the Caliphate and the Cult of Reason and the Politburo and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have tried to eliminate us, and all have failed. All will fail.

Christ's body lives, and flourishes, despite two thousand years of organized hate flung against us.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why Brian Raiter is an atheist

Brian Raiter has a guest post on Pharyngula on why he's an atheist. Here's his post, with my commentary:

Why I am an atheist – Brian Raiter
December 2, 2011 at 8:53 am PZ Myers

As best as I can remember, I was eight or nine years old, and I was looking through one of my parents’ books that I liked. It was almost an accidental find, or at least I don’t remember anyone showing it to me. I had discovered it on my own. I occasionally went through the large bookshelf my parents had, looking for something that didn’t look terminally boring. On one such occasion I had discovered a Time-Life science book, titled simply “The Stars”. The first time I ever looked at it, it was of course largely over my head, but every now and then I returned to it, and found more and more of it comprehensible, and more and more of it interesting. This early-sixties era Time-Life book introduced me to such marvels as galaxies, globular clusters and supernovae. (In later years it taught me about the Main Sequence, the carbon fusion chain, and the predicted fate of our own sun.)
Beautiful fascinating stuff. Virtually all of the great enlightenment astronomers who pioneered this wonderful science were passionate Christians.
One day, after admiring the artist’s conception of colliding galaxies near the back, I was paging through it looking for more to read about, and I hit upon a two-page spread that described the early formation of the solar system. It showed a cloud of interstellar dust slowly collapsing from its own gravity, spinning faster as it became denser, until there was enough matter crammed into the center to be a sun, at which point it started to heat up. When pretty much everything had collapsed into a single ball, it was spinning fast enough that it threw off a bunch of extra matter at the equator, where the speeds were fastest (and gravitational attraction was weakest). The ejected matter began repeating the original process in miniature, with several different areas forming their own local balls of matter that eventually drew in everything nearby. Many of them even repeated the part where at the point of maximum rotational speed they threw off a bit of matter from the equator before stabilizing, which in turn eventually collapsed into other balls. Voila: sun, planets, and moons, with the last straggling bits of matter winding up as asteroids or comets.
The modern science of astronomy flourished only in Western civilization, which is grounded in Christian theology and philosophy.
Pretty typical as explanations go at that age, in that it seemed to raise a bunch of really obvious followup questions, like for example if it just formed out of a bunch of preexisting matter then where the heck did THAT come from? Still, it was very likely easier to explain where a formless cloud of dust came from than a fully formed solar system, so even at that age I could see where this explanation was helpful. It wasn’t trying to do everything, but was just one piece of the puzzle.
Good sorting out of primary and secondary causes. Smart nine year-old.
I had read these pages before, of course, but on this one day something struck me about it. A light bulb went on within my head. I reread the text to make sure, even though I already knew full well there was no mistake. Here was a description of the formation of the solar system (complete, for the part that it described) that made no reference to God.
There's no reason to refer to primary cause (God) in a discussion of secondary cause (natural science).
None. Not even to suggest that God had nudged the cloud into position, or had given some chunk of matter a bit of a backspin in order to get things started, or even that he had carefully watched over it without interfering.
Many of the Enlightenment scientists did refer to God in their work-- e.g. Copernicus, Newton, Kepler.... Most modern ones don't. The reason is professional and cultural. There has not been any "scientific discovery" that has rendered God extraneous to nature.
Not even to apologize for not mentioning God. It was that irrelevant.
One need not refer to primary cause in a discussion of secondary causes.
There were people, I realized, who didn’t believe in God.
Nine-year old Brian never heard of Stalin or Mao or the Marquis de Sade? Outrageous. Children should be taught about atheists at a young age. (Well, we can leave de Sade until later...)
There were holes in my logic, I saw (if not immediately, then not long after).
Just because these people contradicted the first chapter of Genesis didn’t mean they didn’t believe in God.
They didn't contradict the first chapter of Genesis. The first chapter of Genesis is not a science textbook. It's an allegorical description of Creation. It's like saying that Hamlet doesn't tell important things about life because Shakespeare didn't mention physiology.

And there are aspects of Genesis that are eerily accurate- that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was a burst of light, that it evolved in stages, etc.
They might still believe other parts of the Bible were right. Or they might believe that God created the interstellar dust, knowing that it would lead to the solar system and human beings. They might believe in a God I wasn’t familiar with.
But none of those objections really mattered, I realized. This explanation for the formation of the solar system was printed in a regular book, after all, and meant for kids to read. Clearly it wasn’t the work of a handful of lunatics trying to push their wild-eyed beliefs onto children before they were old enough to know better. No, this theory of the solar system’s formation had to be pretty widely accepted. Or even if it wasn’t, they at least were comfortable with the idea that it wasn’t God just stepping in and doing it by hand.
The idea that God works in nature through rational laws that can be discovered by man is a distinctly Christian idea. Christianity is the foundation of modern science. Modern science only emerged in Christian culture.

The distinctly atheist contribution to science is that things in nature just happen, like, ya know, stuff comes from nothing, shit happens, no reason for it all....
And I knew that, even if all those people actually still believed that God existed, they couldn’t speak for everybody.
Actually, forcing everybody to accept official doctrine is a characteristic of state atheism.
I mean, taking this idea to its logical conclusion was simply too obvious, too compelling. If you could come up with a plausible notion of how the solar system formed just by leaving a bunch of interstellar dust alone for millions of years, then surely the formation of everything else could be explained similarly.
Yea. Shit happened, then some more shit happened. Atheism is a trove of wisdom.
So even if everyone who worked on this book believed in God, there were definitely other people out there who didn’t.
And if it truly turned out that there weren’t any other such people, well, there was one now.
Brian's Desiderata. "Even if there aren't other people dumb enough to think that everything just happened, I will persevere..."
If it had turned out that every adult I ever met believed in the Bible, then I wasn’t about to rebel against that.
Brian was going to wait until he grew up, became an adult atheist, and then sue Christians in federal court.
Those are long odds, stupid odds. But something within me, even at that age, didn’t find the Bible stories particularly compelling.
Therefore God doesn't exist. But if Moses had written better stories...
They were just too strangely skewed while at the same time trying to be too pat. (Pat in a way that real explanations never seemed to succeed in being.)
Brian's odd example of "not too pat":
"If you could come up with a plausible notion of how the solar system formed just by leaving a bunch of interstellar dust alone for millions of years, then surely the formation of everything else could be explained similarly..." 
All I had needed was reassurance that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.
You aren't.
The moment I deduced the existence of atheists, I knew that I was one too.
You didn't deduce anything, Brian. You just made some prepubescent inferences from a science book that you liked. They don't make much sense. They're a pitiful excuse for philosophy.

Time to move on.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Nativity

The Nativity is the most beautiful story ever told.

In a pagan world of idols and emperors and worship of power and violence a small nation kept insisting that there was a promise. A transcendent promise. A promise of justice and of redemption, not merely for Jews, but for all men. The redemption was something about a young woman, perhaps a virgin. About David's City and Galilee. Something about God-with-us. The Creator was going to set things right. Perhaps a great king. Perhaps a wise prophet. No one knew how.

And then it happened-- with beauty and utter humility that takes our breath away-- and the world is still reeling.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"A Child, a Child, shivers in the cold, let us bring him silver and gold..."

This night is magic. When I was a kid, I would go outside each Christmas eve and walk down my street, just to look at the stars (if it wasn't cloudy) and imagine what it was like in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

I know-- I know-- Jesus probably wasn't born on December 25.

But the joy of this night transcends such mundane considerations, such cynicism. In fact, the uncertainty about the date of the Lord's birth is part of the joy of this night.

So much of the beauty of Christmas is in the humility of the Lord's birth, in a grotto. The Word became flesh-- the poorest of children, a homeless infant in a feed-trough. Christmas is the celebration of the moment He took on our body and our joy and suffering. It was the moment Love Himself entered history. The date wasn't recorded, because no one but a few knew what had happened. The King of Kings came among us as a helpless infant born in a barn amid animals on a date not deemed important enough to even note. The fact that we don't know the date He was born is part of what we celebrate. The Lord became the least among us. Not even a birthday. 

Christmas is the celebration of this pivot of the world, and of this paradox. The most important event in human history went unnoticed, for a while. No one even marked a calendar.

It is the most beautiful story ever told. It will be told as long as man exists. On one night, twenty centuries ago, God came into the world, a tiny newborn born to a teenaged mother and astonished father in a barn, because there was no room in the inn. It is almost too beautiful to be true, yet it is true. I love Him not only for what He taught us and what He did on the cross. I love Him for His breath-taking humility. I still go for a walk, now with my family, and contemplate these things, and we all go to Christmas Eve Mass, even my extended family, who are not Christians.

We all know, inside, what this night means. 

To help get in the spirit, here's a video of a beautiful performance of Do You Hear What I Hear by Susan Boyle. 

May God bless you all on this joyous night. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

"I don't want an onion!"

Jimmy Kimmel has a great clip on his challenge to parents to video their kids getting early Christmas gifts that are... terrible.

Very funny.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leil Leibovitz on Hitchens and Festivus

Leil Leibovitz quoting Leonard Cohen, whose work comforted Hitchens in his last days:

“As I grew older,” Cohen wrote, “I understood that instructions came with this voice. And the instructions were these: … Never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.”

Fascinating essay, about "about nothing".

Mark Steyn on the War on Christmas

Crucified skeleton Santa Claus erected as a holiday display outside a courthouse in Virginia.
Merry Christmas.  

Mark Steyn understands.

The cultural transformation-- cultural suicide really-- is continuing apace, accelerating really, and it's not pretty. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christians in Texas fight back against atheist bigots

Christians protesting against an earlier form of legally-enforced bigotry in the 1960's

Christians in a small Texas town are standing up to atheist bigots who are using legal threats to force removal of a manger scene that has been displayed on the courthouse lawn for decades.

By Todd Starnes/TWITTER

The Texas Attorney General has offered to defend a Texas county under attack by a group of Wisconsin atheists who are demanding that a Nativity located on the lawn of the Henderson County courthouse be torn down.
Atheists in Wisconsin are outraged by the presence of a manger scene in a small town in East Texas. The display-- 1000 miles from the Freedom From Christians Religion Foundation headquarters-- is intolerable to the godless.
“Our message to the atheists is don’t mess with Texas and our Nativity scenes or the Ten Commandments,” Attorney General Greg Abbott told Fox News & Commentary. “I want the Freedom From Religion Foundation to know that our office has a history of defending religious displays in this state.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an anti-Christian hate group operating under a patina of legal advocacy, routinely sues organizations and municipalities to remove reference to Christianity from public spaces. The organization's website proclaims "Reason's Greetings!" and "The Winter Solstice is the Reason for the Season", and brags of the use of legal force to censor Christians.

Bravo for Mr. Abbott for standing up to these brownshirts.
Abbott sent a letter to Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders offering whatever help he could provide in the event the county is sued. He also assured the judge that the county has no legal obligation to remove the Nativity scene from the courthouse grounds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group based in Wisconsin, sent a letter to Henderson County explaining that a local resident had complained and they wanted the Nativity removed.
If I write a letter Madison, Wisconsin officials demanding removal of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, do you think they'd do it?
“It sends a message of intimidation and exclusion to non-Christians and non-believers this time of year,” FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor told television station KFDW.

She said the location of the Nativity — on the lawn of the courthouse in Athens, made non-Christians feel unwelcome.
“Anybody walking by that is going to say, ‘Hmmm. This is a Christian government building. I’m not welcome here if I’m not Christian,’” she told the television station.

'The donkey frightened me' complained the local atheist. 'I'm terrified of lambs too'.

One has the sense that it's really the baby that they hate.

To fight the Plastic Baby Jesus intimidation, FFRF sends a letter threatening litigation and forceful removal of the manger. Of course that's not intimidation. It's not like a plastic sheep on the lawn.

Here's the intimidating/excluding offense from which the atheist(s) needs legal protection. Note that the plastic cow does have horns...

Yep. Non-Christians have avoided the center-of-town courthouse for decades while the manger scene is there.

Actually, the way to keep atheists out of the lawn would be to post a copy of the actual First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religious expression. Atheists wouldn't be caught dead near it.
Attorney General Abbott said the organization is trying to “bully local governmental bodies” and he said he wanted to make sure Henderson County knows “there is a person, a lawyer and an organization in this state that has their back, that has the law, that has the muscle and firepower to go toe-to-toe with these organizations that come from out of state trying to bully governmental bodies into tearing down things like Nativity scenes.”

Many residents and ministers in this east Texas community have vowed to fight back. Hundreds of people are expected to attend a rally on Saturday to show their support for the Nativity. Nathan Lorick, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff is one of the organizers of the rally. He called on residents to gather peacefully and in a spirit of love.

“It’s time that Americans stand up and take America back for the faith that we were founded upon,” Lorick told Fox News & Commentary last week. “We’re going to stand up and fight for this.”

Henderson County Commissioner Joe Hall called the attack “stupid” and said he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop the group from removing the Nativity.

The attack isn't stupid, anymore than the vandalism of synagogues or black churches is stupid. The attack is just intimidation and hate. The FFRF uses lawyers instead of spray paint and kerosine.

“I’ll tell you this — I’m going to fight this until hell freezes over,” Hall told Fox News & Commentary. “I hope and pray that we leave it up.”

Hall said he’s lived in the community for 35 years and as long as he can remember the Nativity has been erected on the courthouse lawn.

“It’s been up there for decades without any complaints,” he said.

Pastor Lorick said it’s time to draw a line in the sand — and start standing up for the Christian faith.

“Christianity is under attack in America,” he told Fox News & Commentary. “Our country is quickly heading down a direction which the Christian faith is taking a hit — it’s quickly becoming suppressed.”

The attorney general agreed with that sentiment.

“There has been an ongoing battle between the forces of atheism and the forces of those who are antagonistic to all things religious against those who recognize the religious heritage of this country,” Abbott said. “And by defending Nativity scenes, by defending the Ten Commandments and by defending students who try to say a prayer at a graduation ceremony, we’re trying to preserve, protect and defend what we know is perfectly legal.”
The FFRF website has this statement under "Our Legal Work":
The national Foundation has brought more than 40 First Amendment lawsuits since 1977, and keeps several Establishment law challenges in the courts at all times.
Anti-Christian bigotry is a full-time job.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sounded the alarm bell on a multitude of other First Amendment violations. We act on countless violations of separation of state and church on behalf of our membership and the public, successfully correcting many violations through persuasion and education.
"Successfully correcting many violations..." is a nice touch. Threats, intimidation, harassment, shakedowns. Sometimes they don't even have to sue you.

And "violations of separation of state and church" reverses the boilerplate "church and state". Wonder why the new word order? Maybe the old one reminded people of the Klux Klux Klan initiation oath that used the same motto-- "separation of church and state". FFRF donations would dry up if people made the rather obvious connection between the FFRF and better established hate groups.

We need to understand that Christians are under attack from atheist bigots. They hate us. It is organized and malevolent, and it needs to be fought. Bravo to the good folks in Henderson County for standing up for freedom and against the haters. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Atheists in mourning around the world

(Dissociated Press) The worldwide atheist community is reeling from the deaths of two atheist icons.

Author and public intellectual Christopher Hitches died Thursday from cancer at the age of 62. Author and political intellectual/leader Kim Jung Il died Saturday from heart failure at the age of 69.

Each man represented to millions of adoring atheists the incarnation of atheist integrity and wisdom.

Many Christians have asked the obvious question: how is it that two men so apparently different in their political views could share the same core metaphysical view? What is it that links Hitchens to Kim? How is it, this reporter wondered, that sectors of the atheist community can embrace such different opinions on political liberty?

So this reporter traveled to the Madison, Wisconsin headquarters of the Freedom From Christianity and Stuff We Don't Like Foundation. I was ushered in to meet Mr. Reale Dupe, prominent atheist and the executive director of FFCSWDLF.

I asked him: what is atheism? What do atheists really believe? How can the belief that God does not exist give rise to such extraordinary and different individuals?

Executive director Dupe:
Atheism is the belief that the universe has no purpose, and that moral law is mere subjective opinion. It can accommodate any viewpoint-- libertarian, totalitarian, or anything in between. Hitchens and Kim are-- I mean were-- members of the club in equal standing. Heck, Hitch was a Trotskyite, don't forget. He loved the thug. And Hitch was a libertarian, too. Kim was the hero of his people. And the butcher of his people. And a servant of his nation. And a delusional autocrat with a golf handicap of 38-under-par who didn't defecate. No contradiction. Atheism denies meaning in the world and denies objective standards of right or wrong. No consistency required. The door to the atheist clubhouse is wide open. Being godless means never having to apologize, in the end. Not even to yourself.
But surely, this reporter asked, the denial of God entails certain conclusions. It has some characteristics of an ideology-- there is no objective moral law, there is no ultimate accountability, there is no ultimate purpose in life, human beings are not qualitatively different from lower animals. It would seem that atheism means a lot, ideologically.

We atheists believe that atheism isn't itself an ideology, but it is consistent with all sorts of ideologies. Consumerism, totalitarianism, nihilism, as well as democracy and political liberty.
I can understand how atheism is consistent with consumerism, totalitarianism, and nihilism, I said. If one denies ultimate purpose in life, gluttony, power, and despair are logical pursuits.

But how is atheism consistent with democracy and  political liberty? Don't these ideals presuppose human rights that transcend mere human opinion, which atheism denies? Human rights are endowed by a Source higher than man, or they're not really rights, but merely things permitted to men by men.

Ummm... gee... aaaa... ummmm... but... yaaaa... well... you see... mmmmm.......

OK, we'll go on to the next question. Isn't the assertion that there is no transcendent right or wrong an ideology in itself, and a dangerous one at that?
Our ideology is... any ideology. Whatever floats your boat. You choose. Atheism's a big tent. Christopher Hitchens, Marquis de Sade, Michael Ruse, Kim Jung Il, Woody Allen, Stalin, Jodie Foster, Pol Pot, Katharine Hepburn. A human animal doing whatever it wants in a universe without purpose leaves a lot of room for creativity. It's part of the vitality of atheism. 
So atheism is freedom?

A certain kind of freedom. Christians have defined freedom as the liberty to do what is right. We atheists define freedom as the liberty to do. We decide what is right. Since there are no transcendent moral laws, what is right can be whatever we want.

But people want different things, and often the same thing that all can't have. Doesn't the atheist kind of liberty presuppose a hierarchy of power?

Sure. Freedom is slavery, so to speak. No rules, 'cept the ones I make, if I can.

Dupe brought his hands together as if to pray, then laughed and put his hand on my shoulder.

Don't like my rules? Who ya' gonna complain to?

He showed me to the door.

He had a wake to attend, he said. He did not say if it was for Hitchens or for Kim, and did not act as if it mattered.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Anna is an atheist

Guest post on Pharyngula by Anna Yeung on why she's an atheist:

Why I am an atheist – Anna Yeung
December 5, 2011 at 6:36 am PZ Myers
I was 12. Attempting to rebel, I declared that I didn’t believe in God. My parents didn’t really care, given that we were only Buddhist at funerals. I went through a New Age-y phase where I believed in astrology, the paranormal and spirits. But as I got older, I got wiser. I was a voracious reader, and came upon the multitude of crimes against humanity committed in the name of religion – its effects on women, sexuality and science. However, my turning point came in a grade 12 biology class. A girl who I couldn’t stand, who became brainwashed when her parents accidentally sent her to Christian camp, got up to do a project on evolution. She prefaced her presentation by saying she didn’t believe in evolution because of her religion, and then proceeded to talk about Australopithecus afarensis. That kind of dichotomy astounded me. Partially because I hated her, and partially because it was the only conclusion based on reason and logic, I became non-religious. But it wasn’t until I stumbled onto Pharyngula, that I realized that there was a name for it. Atheist.
Anna Yeung
I'm hesitant to snark here. Anna sounds young, and her post is kind of pitiful. Her "multitude of crimes against humanity committed in the name of religion" is true, of course. But there are two provisos:

1) The anti-human religions have been paganism in its myriad forms, some aspects of Hinduism (e.g. the caste system), and Islam. Christianity has been the most humane moral revolution in history. The very concept of "crime against humanity" is derived from the Christian view that human beings have an inalienable dignity and that it is a crime to violate that dignity. Democracy and human rights have flourished in the Christian West, and only in the Christian West and in cultures influenced by it (India, South Korea).

2) The crimes against humanity perpetrated by non-Christian religions pale in comparison to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by state atheism. No ideology has butchered human beings on the assembly line like atheism-in-power. Anna stiff-armed the Christian camp girl and snuggled up to Pol Pot.

But it doesn't seem that Anna gave it that much thought. She didn't like that Christian camp girl. Can you believe it! That girl-- for real-- talked about Australopithecus afarensis but didn't believe in evolution! Such...such... di...di... dichotomy! Of course Anna didn't like her, partially, hated her actually, and the only conclusion she could reach based on ya'--know--like reason and logic was... that she had to become non-religious. Then like later she stumbled on Pharyngula and learned that there was a name for not liking that Christian camp girl not liking religion.

Anna will find herself in the company of many other atheists who arrived at godlessness with even less logic and reason.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nice rock rendition of Little Drummer Boy

A young fellow in Canada has a viral You Tube rendition of Little Drummer Boy- one of my favorite Christmas carols.


Here's a nice article about Sean Quigley

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ed Feser on Christopher Hitchens

Ed Feser gives his take on Christopher Hitchens, who passed away Thursday from cancer. Feser expresses my views quite precisely, although I find it difficult (and strangely so) to be critical of Hitchens.

Feser is more candid:

Of the four horsemen of the New Atheism, Hitchens was the only one I found likable, and the only one possessed of a modicum of wisdom about the human condition, or at least as much wisdom about the human condition as one can have while remaining essentially a man of the Left.

There was no doubt much-- very much-- to criticize in Hitchens' polemics, but much to admire in the man's intellect and style. Feser is right, in his brief reprise.

Hitchens also seemed to me to be the kind of guy who would have been a friend, had I known him personally. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P.

Sadly Christopher Hitchens passed away yesterday. He lost his battle with cancer, which he fought with much courage. He was 62. Much too young.

He was a brilliant writer. His pieces in Vanity Fair were astonighingly well-written; erudite, entertaining, and honest. I disagreed with him on some matters, obviously, but I respect him greatly. He was by all accounts a passionate and loyal friend and wonderful husband and father.

Please remember him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

The real problem isn't global warming...

Mark Landsbaum from the Orange County Register has a fine essay on the second round of Climategate emails and the rapid unraveling of the global warming hoax:

Global warming alarmists try again
Global warming devotees gather for U.N. conference to demand money from developed nations, even as more and more countries defect from “the cause.”
By MARK LANDSBAUM / Register columnist
It's a good thing the world's economy is going into the toilet. Otherwise, global warming extremists would have done some real damage.
It's ironic that as evidence mounted exposing the shaky science and duplicitous scheming behind global warming alarmism, it wasn't these truths that undermined the movement to tax and regulate your carbon footprint.
Science, as alarmists inadvertently confirmed from the onset, essentially is irrelevant in deciding whether the Earth is heating dangerously, and whether that requires regulations and taxes at monumental cost – and huge profits to warmist profiteers. Think Al Gore.
It wasn't the trumped-up science that drove this movement. It's always been about control and money. Their control of your money.
It's interesting that rather than the emerging true science slowing the rush to global conformism, instead it has been a deteriorating economic climate that put the skids to the climate change movement. Thank goodness for bad economic times
Regardless of who is right about the next 100 years of temperatures, it has been declining sales, job losses, foreclosures and bankruptcies that ultimately slowed the global warming movement's momentum. Average Joes and pretentious potentates alike increasingly determined their own economic self-interests make it unwise to redistribute their wealth to stave off another almost undetectable 0.8 degree of temperature increase like the one we've experienced over the past 150 years. By the way, can you feel the difference of 0.8 degree Celsius?
Thousands of attendees, the "usual suspects," as contrarian environmental scientist S. Fred Singer puts it, have gathered again under the auspices of the United Nations for "two weeks of feasting, partying, living it up in luxury hotels" at someone else's expense in Durban, South Africa, (oh, the carbon footprint) to get worldwide consensus to impose Draconian regulations and punitive taxes. Fat chance.
Maybe the best news out of Durban last week was this pronouncement by Seyni Nafo of Mali, who whined: "Developed countries as a whole are not taking climate change seriously as a global issue. Look at the U.S."
It's times like this that make you proud to be an American...

Landsbaum notes the impact of the recent new email release from climate scientists that documents the scope of the fraud:

As global warming faded amid worldwide financial cooling, it didn't help "the cause" that thousands of emails authored by the leading IPCC grant- and tax-funded researchers provided a damaging look behind the scenes. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Marlo Lewis describes this alarmist cabal as, "schemers colluding to manipulate public opinion, downplay inconvenient data, bias the peer review process, marginalize skeptical critics and flout freedom of information laws." We think Marlo's a bit soft in his criticism.
The latest leaked emails show internal bickering apparently revealing some of their own reaching their tolerance limits, such as this email to Keith Briffa of the British Climate Research Unit: "Keith, See the last item. Why don't you just give these people the raw data? Are you hiding something – your apparent refusal to be forthcoming sure makes it look as though you are. Tom."
These candid confessions, obviously never meant to be made public, include admissions like one from Briffa's CRU colleague, climatologist Phil Jones: "Basic problem is that all the models are wrong – not got enough middle and low-level clouds."
It's the warmists' touted computer models that assured us for nearly two decades how intolerable global warming will make our future. They have no other way of knowing.
The warmists' snow job is based on gathering ground temperature records, but not to use all of them, and then to "adjust" many of those they do use. For example, numerous stations located in cold Siberia disappeared in the 1990s. And isn't it fascinating that original data is unavailable for critics to review?
As even some of their supporters are beginning to acknowledge, the vast majority of U.S. ground temperature stations are improperly located, often adjacent to heat-generating sources. Richard Muller, the UC Berkeley professor who got a lot of press when he released a study essentially confirming temperature readings used by alarmists, also conceded that 70 percent of U.S. stations are badly sited. Garbage in, garbage out.
Incidentally, the U.S. stations are far superior to those in the rest of the world.
Not so incidentally, Muller's report, lauded by the media, took no position on whether the less-than-trustworthy warming he found is caused by humans.
But the IPCC faithful have no qualms about blaming warming, however much may or may not be happening, on mankind. Just don't ask too many questions.
"Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of research grants we get – and has to be well hidden," CRU's Jones wrote in another email. "I've discussed this with the main funder in the past, and they are happy about not releasing the original station data."
Lest we jump to conclusions, consider another Jones email: "I've been told that the IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process."
Heartland Institute's senior environmental fellow James M. Taylor points out, "More than revealing misconduct and improper motives, the newly released emails additionally reveal frank admissions of the scientific shortcomings of global warming assertions."
Some alarmists claim the emails are out of context. We join other critics who await alarmists providing any context that would render such comments innocuous.
Already, preliminary greenhouse gas-inspired regulations and taxes make energy more costly. More-costly energy makes food more costly, and transportation, housing, and, well just about everything.
If the economy improves, decision-makers and the public will should use real science to decide whether mankind is superheating the Earth. And if so, what, if anything can or should be done about it. We hope someone will suggest weighing costs against presumed benefits.
Perhaps then, less weight will be given to manipulators, secretive schemers and grant-hungry IPCC scientists, such as those who whipped up global warming fever for 20 years.
Perhaps more attention will be paid then to what an internal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report acknowledges: "given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."
That, mind you, is a U.S. government agency heretofore eager to clamp down on your carbon emissions. The author doesn't advance "the cause," which is how climate alarmist scientist Michael Mann referred in one email to the global warming campaign.
A Mann email complained about a defector from the movement: "I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don't know what she thinks she's doing, but its not helping the cause."
And you thought it was about science?
We aren't threatened by global warming. The threat is from global warmists.
What they have is a theory that things are getting warmer, which may or may not be true. Then they take a leap in logic that says things will continue to get much warmer, even though the purported cause of this warmth, greenhouse gas emissions, have escalated for 15 years while temperatures have remained flat or even declined.
Then they take another leap that presumes warming is harmful, even though it makes growing crops easier, and life less expensive in cold places, and more CO2 in the atmosphere is a boon to agriculture. Then they presume man can reverse all of this by using windmills and solar panels, which no one will buy unless someone else subsidizes them, and even then must be backed up with conventional, C02-emitting energy plants for when the sun doesn't shine and wind doesn't blow.
This is a chain of so many "ifs" it's amazing so many people have bought in to it. Until, of course, they are asked to sacrifice their own prosperity and comfort. Then, as they are discovering in Durban, that's enough of this nonsense.

I will second Landsbaum's challenge to defenders of AGW who claim the emails were taken out of context:
"We join other critics who await alarmists providing any context that would render such comments innocuous. "
There is no honest scientific evidence that global warming is caused by man or is a threat to mankind. Given the hidden and massaged data, and the remaining temperature recordings obtained with little concern for scientific integrity, the threat mankind faces is from corrupt scientists and from politicians and greedy entrepreneurs who are perpetrating the most egregious scientific hoax in recent history. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Im am 53%"

There's a website with postings from people who oppose the various socialist schemes that are destroying our economy and our moral fiber.

Only 53% of Americans pay federal income tax. The rest get the benefits of federal largesse, but contribute none of their income to it, or at least not through federal taxes. Of course the near-half of Americans have no disincentive and every incentive to vote for politicians who will burden hard-working Americans with even more federal taxes.

Here's one post I really like:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Philosophy, frankly, is a lousy tool to analyze the world..."

Commentor oleg has a knee-slapper that beautifully sums up the philosophical Luddism of atheists/materialists. We were discussing theories of free will and of the mind.

oleg's comment, with my commentary:

... Philosophy, frankly, is a lousy tool to analyze the world.
That's a philosophical assertion. Self-refuting, I might add.
And you are pitting one philosophical position against another.
That's a traditional way of sorting out the truth.
Nothing will be decided on philosophical grounds.
Another philosophical assertion. Self-refuting. On a par with the liar's paradox: "This sentence is false".
At this time, however, the materialist position has a crucial advantage: it has neuroscience on its side.
Neuroscience is natural philosophy-- the application of logic and inference to natural phenomena. Materialism is gibberish, and can't withstand even rudimentary logical scrutiny. The notion that neuroscience provides evidence for materialism is nonsense. The fundamental problems of materialism-- intentionality, qualia, persistence of personal identity, incorrigibility, restricted access, free will-- utterly defy materialist reduction. The assertion that neuroscience provides a materialist explanation for the mind is akin to the assertion that chemical analysis of paper and ink provides a materialist explanation for Hamlet.
Insights into the properties of mind will come from neuroscience, not philosophy.
Neuroscience is philosophy, oleg. It investigates neurological phenomena in a limited way-- examining material and efficient causes of brain function-- and does a nice job if one keeps the limitations in mind. It provides no meaningful insight into fundamental problems of the mind, such as intentionality and qualia, which are addressed with metaphysical insight and are beyond its purview.

The only philosophical hammer atheists have is materialism, so all the world looks like a nail.
Get busy organizing a scientific enterprise if you want an upper hand. That would be a hoot: scientists studying soul...
Clueless dogmatic materialists speculating on the soul is a hoot. Learn some rudimentary logic, oleg-- 'philosophy is bunk' is philosophy, and is self-refuting-- and we can discuss these issues intelligently.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My question for Doug Indeap

Attorney and atheist Doug Indeap has posted some thoughtful comments defending the "wall of separation between church and state" as a valid constitutional principle.

I disagree, as you might surmise.

Here's my question for Doug:

Is it unconstitutional for the President to invoke God in an official capacity (e.g. "God Bless America, "Please pray for our troops", "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right..."

Do these Presidential invocations violate the Constitution?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why David Spero is an atheist

David Spero has a guest blog post at Pharyngula explaining why he's an atheist. His post is below, with my commentary.

Why I am an atheist – David Spero
December 4, 2011 at 9:48 am PZ Myers
Dave Niose, president of the American Humanist Association, posted recently over at Open Salon a copy of a letter he received from an atheist friend.
The president of a tiny loud claque of litigious atheists has a last name that sounds like "noise". I love irony.
The friend wrote the letter to his own 11-year-old daughter, who was “very upset about her father’s non-belief” — particularly his refusal to pray for her (something apparently advocated by the friend’s wife, who is a Christian).
I won’t comment on a family situation I know next to nothing about, but it did remind me of the very issue that began the unraveling of my own faith: prayer. About 20 years ago, I was on a path to ministry. I was in the middle of co-founding a fellowship organization on my college campus and had just finished drafting the group’s constitution (as required by the school to be an official student organization and thus receive activity funds) when I had a moment of clarity while praying for guidance. Yes, I appreciate the irony.
The path I was on would have led me to fervent proselytizing. I was 19 years old, post-Catholic and in training to present the Word to non-believers. I studied the Bible with an ordained mentor and doggedly researched apologetics. I was going to provide irrefutable answers in defense of Christ in debate.
But there were no irrefutable answers.
The classical demonstrations for God's existence-- Prime Mover, First Cause, Necessary Existence, Greatest Good, Final Cause-- are irrefutable. Critics have tried for several millennia to destroy these arguments, and no one has laid a glove on any of them.

Unlike the arguments for God's existence, knowledge of Christ is not the result of irrefutable logical arguments, and was never intended to be. Knowing Christ is a knowledge of the heart, as Pascal observed. It is a deep kind of awareness, like coming to love the person you will marry. It is a powerful kind of knowledge, but different from logical proof. So many of the things we know are knowledge of the heart. No one "reasons out" his love for his spouse or child. Yet that love is one of the things of which we are most sure.

Very few things that we believe in life are logically proven. The existence of a Prime Mover, First Cause... is one of them. Most of what we know is knowledge of the heart.

It doesn't seem as though David was intellectually prepared for the ministry.
I decided to keep on it — after all, I was just getting started and I had faith more would be revealed as I continued in my studies. But each revelation was more suspect than the last. Every question I had was answered with circular reasoning (e.g., why believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God? Because the Bible says so.).
No one makes the argument that we should believe the Bible is God's word because the Bible says so. Logical nonsense is the provence of atheists ("everything came from nothing"..., "there is no objective moral law, and it's immoral to believe that there is..."), not Christians.

Christians believe that the Bible is God's word because the Bible reveals deep truths that lead us to see that its ultimate Source is God. Augustine said it best: "I believe in order to understand". The Bible casts light on life in a way that is so profound and hews so closely to truth that we conclude it is God's word.

David's assertion that we believe the Bible because the Bible tells us so is an idiotic caricature of real Christian belief. Thank goodness he didn't become a minister.
Finally, while praying to understand God’s will, a giant hole ripped in the fabric of my belief: Who am I praying to? Why? Why does God require me to pray when he is supposedly omniscient? What does that say about the nature of the god I’m praying to?
It says, David, that God wants you to know Him, personally. Prayer is for you. He doesn't need prayer. You need prayer, and He loves you and wants to bring you to Him. It's analogous to when a father accepts a penny from his toddler as a "gift for Daddy". The father doesn't need the penny, but he delights in his child's love and gratitude. The meaning of prayer is the relationship it fosters.

Prayer is God's gift of Himself to you.

You don't understand that, David, and you were going to be a minister?
The God I believed in was supposed to be perfect. Too perfect, in fact, for mortal minds to fathom. Ultimate love. True goodness. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Omnipresent. The whole nine yards and then some. Whenever something about God didn’t make sense to me, I countered myself by saying my definition of God must simply be too narrow. But because of that, God soon became just an infinitely broad but paper-thin abstraction.
That's because you never met Him, in prayer or otherwise. Christ is many things. "Paper-thin abstraction" isn't one of them.
It was then a very small step to the realization that the concept of a personal God was absurd. Eventually, I came to understand the fallacy of the “God of the Gaps“. There was no chance I’d turn to another religion; it was clear they’d all fail the litmus test instantly.
The "God of the Gaps" fallacy is an idiotic argument. The inference is that science is continuously explaining things previously attributed to God. This foolish argument confuses primary with secondary causes. Science sheds light on secondary causes. It is silent on primary causes, which are the domain of philosophy and theology.

Scientists are, for the most part, grossly incompetent philosophers and theologians. Like you, David.
I claimed to be an agnostic throughout my 20s. I left open the door to the idea of a higher power but, again, was pretty sure the matter was too complex to be comprehended. It wasn’t until my 30s that I faced the issue head on and realized I had been making the same weak excuses.
David, you never understood Christianity and never met Christ in any way that you understood.
A sequence of events and introspection ultimately left nowhere for my intellect to hide. Once I allowed myself to practice skepticism honestly, the absurdities appeared everywhere I looked. There was no God.
Your intellect still hides, and your simplistic caricature of Christianity doesn't count against the existence of God. None of your skepticism is honest, or really skepticism. You need to understand what you are rejecting, which you don't. Rejecting something without understanding it isn't skepticism, but its opposite. You are a credulous atheist, willing to believe in God's non-existence without really engaging the issue.
And it quickly became clear that many of civilization’s messes — either directly or indirectly — were catalyzed by some form of religion.
Right, David. Embracing the metaphysics of Marx and Stalin and Mao is such a rational response to civilizational messiness. You just jumped from the greatest source of good for mankind (Christianity) to the most malignant evil (state atheism). As I said David, you're no skeptic.
My eyes were opened, and I was faced with one big question: Now what? It didn’t take long to understand that the only sane response to an insane world was to roll up my sleeves and try to make it a better place. All alternative responses were (and remain) unacceptable. Ultimately, I discovered my ideals matched those of organized Humanism.
If God doesn't exist, whence your passion for human betterment? How very un-Darwinian. If there is no God, there is no source of objective morality, and no objective good or evil. Merely animals struggling to procreate. "Atheist benevolence' is an oxymoron.
So yes, you could say that prayer accidentally provided me with guidance. It was exactly the spark I needed to put me on the right path.

Your service to mankind, David, was that you did not become a minister, and thus you could not destroy the faith of people who trusted you. I encourage you to become a real skeptic. Learn real Christian theology. Pray earnestly.

And apply your skepticism to your own atheist pabulum. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The real St. Nicholas

One of the beautiful things about Christianity, aside from truth, is the tapestry of culture, tradition and history it brings to our lives. St. Nicholas was a real person, and many of our Christmas traditions derive from him.

Here's a nice article on his life and influence. 

An atheist dies and wakes up to find...

An atheist dies and wakes up to find he is in hell. He's really depressed as he stands in the processing line waiting to talk to an admittance counselor. He thinks to himself "I know I lead a wild life but I wasn't that bad. I never thought it would come to this." Looking up he sees that it is his turn to be processed into hell. With fear and a heavy heart, he walks up to the counselor.
Counselor: What's the problem, you look depressed?
Atheist: Well, what do you think? I'm in hell.
Counselor: Hell's not so bad, we actually have a lot of fun. Do you like to drink?
Atheist: Sure, I love to drink.
Counselor: Well then, you are going to love Mondays. On Mondays we drink up a storm. You can have whiskey, rum, tequila, beer, whatever you want and as much a you want. We party all night long. You'll love Mondays. Do you smoke?
Atheist: Yes, as a matter of fact I do.
Counselor: You are going to love Tuesdays. Tuesday is smoke day. You get to smoke the finest cigars and best cigarettes available anywhere. And you smoke to your heart's desire without worrying about cancer because you are already dead! Is that great or what? You are going to love Tuesdays. Do you do drugs?
Atheist: Well in my younger days I experimented a little.
Counselor: You are going to love Wednesdays. That's drug day. You can experiment with any drug you want and you don't have to worry about overdoses or getting hooked because you are already dead. You are going to love Wednesdays. Do you gamble?
Atheist: Yes, I love to gamble.
Counselor: You are going to love Thursdays because we gamble all day and night -- black jack, craps, poker, slots, horse races, everything! You are going to love Thursdays. Are you gay?
Counselor: Oh , you're gonna hate Fridays...

Friday, December 9, 2011

"[T]o keep the populace alarmed..."

Charles Cooke has a superb commentary on a recent scientific study that suggests that the apocalyptic global warming climate change global climate chaos scenarios proclaimed by climate scientists are grossly exaggerated.

The Climate Cataclysm Is Not Nigh 

“We have some room to breathe,” a scientist reports.
In 1783, William Pitt warned the British Parliament about the dangers of those who would reflexively employ “necessity” as an argument in favor of their preferences. “Necessity,” Pitt exclaimed, “is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves!” These are wise words indeed. But in a purely Machiavellian sense, the tactic is also a risky one. Those who shout “or else!” tend to be left in the role of the boy who cried wolf if their apocalypse fails to turn up on time.
The environmental Left has long neglected Pitt’s admonition and is starting to pay the price. Having careered wantonly from “global cooling” to “global warming” to “climate change,” the greenies eventually settled on the rather dramatic “global climate chaos,” a neatly eschatological term that has the delicious benefit of being so vague as to be unfalsifiable. For years now we have been told that this week, or month, or year — or conference, or junket — is our last chance to save the world.
Such an approach is rapidly losing its efficacy. What the global downturn has done for prioritization, science is doing for perspective. Enter Andreas Schmittner, a professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Schmittner headed up a major study recently published in Science and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which baldly concludes that the sort of doomsday scenario readily thrown around by the scaremongers is simply not rooted in reality...  
... In other words, we’re not all going to die.

By painting Armageddon as the price of inaction, the green lobby has sought to achieve two goals. First, focusing in on an extreme scenario allowed advocates more effectively to play the we-should-do-something-just-in-case card. Second, with all nuance removed from the discussion, even the slightest evidence in favor of an anthropogenic contribution to climate fluctuations could be tied to eschatological imagery, and “climate moderates” could be portrayed as being just as complicit in bringing about the end of the world as the evil deniers. “Necessity” would thus become the mother of intervention.

“The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote H. L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” It is still a matter of debate whether there are any hobgoblins at all (the very existence of a “consensus” is rendered comical, given the existence of new papers such as Schmittner’s), but if they do exist, the tallest among them are disappearing at a rate of knots.

As they go, we must insist that so too do the invitations to be led to safety, for without necessity we have no reason to be slaves.

Please read the whole thing. Cooke discusses the study, and points out that the invocation of impending catastrophe unless you do exactly what the Cassandras say-- which invariably involves empowering and enriching the Cassandras-- is the oldest political trick in the book, and is usually a lie.