Monday, July 21, 2008

Doesn’t Reality Matter?

In an opinion piece on Yahoo Michael Novak was (I think) bemoaning an essay by James Wood in New Yorker magazine explaining why Wood can no longer remain a Christian. Basically Wood has fallen victim to the “Problem of Evil” and will join Bart Ehrman, and many, many others, in rejecting God in general, and Christianity in particular, as a result.

I say “I think” because Novak never really nails down his point very precisely.

Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the Problem of Evil. As paraphrased by David Hume Epicurus asked "Is He (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

In other words, God cannot both be omnipotent and omnibenevolent as Christianity claims, therefore the Christian God cannot exist and therefore Christianity is false.

The title of the opinion piece is “Resolving evil with faith” but Novak doesn’t attempt to resolve the problem of evil. Instead he seems to take the position that abandoning one’s faith isn’t going to change anything so why abandon it!

“The rejection of God does not diminish evil in the world by a whit.”

Perhaps not, but understanding that Sky Daddy isn’t going to resolve it for us is a damn good start. Of course built into this statement is an assumption that God exists, but the whole argument associated with the Problem of Evil is that he can’t exist, or at least he can’t exist as described by Christianity.

“…the turn of Russia and Germany from more or less Christian regimes to boastfully atheist regimes did not lessen, but increased, the number of humans who have horribly suffered…”

I’m not going to try and defend atheist regimes with blood on their hands nor make excuses that these regimes were really a pseudo-religion. I will point out that Nazi Germany however, whom I assume Novak means, was not a “boastfully atheist regime.” Whatever one would like to think about Hitler, Goring and Himmler, Nazi German troops wore the slogan “Gott mitt uns” on their belt buckles.

“…those who suffer most from injustice and oppression seem to find more consolation and dignity in the Jewish/Christian faith than in any other worldview…”

Says who? The arrogance of this statement is so over the top I’m not quite sure what else to say.

“Worse, the world seen by evolutionary biology alone is even more rife with suffering, yet rather more merciless.”

Ah yes, the old argument from consequences. I don’t like the implications of reality therefore I’m going to make up a fairy tale to make me feel better. One cannot begin to effectively address a problem unless one is willing to accept that problem exists.

Religion brings to the table the dual crippling attitudes of (1) ask God for help and (2) it will all be better in the world to come.

As for #1, it’s been my experience that God tends to help those that help themselves and as for #2, what if there is no world to come and this is all we got?

“Would a conviction that our sufferings are meaningless, and due to blind chance, ease the pain of the poor and the unjustly tortured?”

Probably not, but at least we would be forced to focus on stopping the suffering rather than making saints out of those that suffered.

“Whether our lives are meaningless, or not, is not a trivial question.”

True statement, but meaning can easily be limited to this life and doesn’t have to be part of some divine cosmic plan. The fact that I breathe, laugh and cry has meaning to me even if it will only last the equivalent of the blink of an eye in the scheme of the universe.

The fact that I lived my life as best I could, loved when I chose to love, hated when I chose to hate and could look eternity in the eye and accept its implications has meaning for me here and now. And as far as I’m concerned that’s enough.

Friday, July 11, 2008

South Carolina is at it Again

In addition to its “I Believe” license plates, the South Carolina legislature has passed, and the governor has signed, a bill allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments and The Lord’s Prayer in public buildings.

Now there is something of a catch here. They have to be included in a display with other designated "historical documents" such as the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” address.

Including them with more secular documents is intended to allow the bill to pass constitutional scrutiny. So do you think this is fooling anyone? Let’s see what folks from South Carolina are saying (complete with the original spelling and grammar) about the bill on the Carolinas CW station blog shall we.

“Its about time! It should have never been taken down to start with! Maybe now we can get prayer back in schools! Its time for people to wake up and see that this country is NOTHING with out Jesus Christ!” - Chance

Doesn’t looked like Chance has any doubt that what matters is the RELIGIOUS significance of the documents does it?

“i think this is great ever body needs to see the ten commandment in the schools and buildings again it should had not been took down i am glad the house senate past the bill amen” – Travis

You figure Travis is happy that documents of such “historical significance” are being recognized? You think Travis has an IQ above 85? I'd have to say I doubt it on both questions.

“This is the 'bible belt' and I would suggest that individuals that don’t believe in God and the 10 Commandments find another place to call 'home'. It is time to bring the Commandments and prayer back into school.” – Wanda

Wanda certainly appears be interpreting the objective here as religious doesn’t she? God, and not history, appears to be what she considers the focus of the legislation.

“I am so happy to hear that God is back in school, God should never have been taken out, where there are so many precious lives.” – Tommie

Uh-huh. Gee Tommie and here I thought God was always everywhere?

Clearly even the trailer park set sees the motivation behind this legislature as getting God, Jesus and the Ten Commandments back into their rightful place in the public forum. Any of the historical documents they are to be displayed with are recognized to be no more than window dressing to try and get around the law and are pretty much not even worth mentioning.

To my mind this is another example of the dishonesty of Christians. Look, if you think it’s right to have religious displays in public buildings and public schools, then have the courage and honesty to admit that’s what you’re trying to do rather than engage in a subterfuge that any idiot can see through.

The last time I looked, everyone was still entitled to their own opinion. If you have an opinion about something, feel free to express it.

If you believe you're right, then you shouldn’t have to lie about your motives. If you feel the need to lie about your motives, then you must know that what you’re doing is wrong.

Allow me to provide one more quote.

“I believe that any philosophy that feels the need to engage in misleading or dishonest conduct in order to promote itself or its beliefs is by definition a false philosophy unworthy of respect or adherence.” - Alencon

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did I miss the Election?

Did I somehow miss the 2008 Presidential election? The way the media is focusing on Barack Obama and his intended policies you’d think it was a done deal.

It’s not.

I’ve been around too long not to realize it ain’t over till it’s over. Even if the Republicans weren’t especially skilled at manufacturing nonsense issues (he didn’t wear a flag pin and gay marriage for example) and even if the majority of the American electorate didn’t have a level of intelligence an eyelash above a retarded rabbit, it’s a long way until November and a lot can happen.

I’d like to get the preliminaries out of the way and get to the debates. I’m unhappy about Obama’s decision to continue Bush’s Faith Based Initiative but I’m still a long way from wanting another four years of Republican fiscal and diplomatic irresponsibility.

Besides, I’m dying to see who they’re going to pick for Vice Presidential candidates.

I think the Republicans might actually be considering nominating a woman. I think that would be a magnificent strategy in an effort to woo away disgruntled female Clinton supporters. The only problem is would those Clinton supporters go for a pro-life female? Somehow I doubt it and I can’t see the Republicans going with a pro-choice female.

The two women mentioned most are Condoleezza Rice and Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska. Rice to my mind is as guilty over the Iraq war as Bush is and I think even the pussy Democrats would rip her to shreds over it.

From the little I know about Palin she sounds like a fairly typical right wing conservative but she doesn’t strike me as being ridiculous about it. She’s strongly pro-life and is a lifetime member of the NRA. On the plus side she vetoed a bill that would have barred the state from giving employment benefits to gays and their partners, most likely because her attorney general clued her in that it was probably illegal.

As an ex-Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska pageant, I suspect she would drive Ann Coulter to fits of insane jealousy if she got the nomination. That alone would be worth the price of admission.

The other two possibilities I hear a lot about are Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. I have this feeling that choosing the Mormon Romney would just about guarantee that lots of Evangelicals stay home on election day.

Evangelicals might get excited over Huckabee but I don’t think his religious pitch would go over well in a general election. Then again, if a candidate comes across as honest and sincere, Americans tend to overlook religion. This wouldn’t work in Romney’s case since I don’t think he can radiate the kind of sincerity Huckabee does.

In the end the safest bet for McCain might be to pick someone a little less extreme, in other words another white male. Charlie Crist of Florida would be a good choice except I’ve heard some in the Republican Party think he might be gay because he never married. Wouldn’t that be something?

On the Democratic side I think it’s essential that Obama not do anything overly dramatic. Nominating a woman for VP might hurt him more than help him. I'd say go with Bill Richardson of New Mexico but I’m not sure the country could handle a black-hispanic ticket just like I don’t think it could handle a black-female ticket.

I think Obama needs a nice white male swing state governor for VP, like maybe Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Nice Move Jesse

Just goes to show you, you never know who might be listening. Jesse Jackson stuck his foot halfway down his throat yesterday when an open mike at Fox News caught some nasty remarks about Barack Obama.

Apparently Jesse would like to “cut his nuts off” for “talking down to black people” at some recent speeches at black church.

Actually all Obama was saying was that blacks, and especially young black males, need to face up to their responsibilities. That was hardly a devastating critique but it’s one that Jesse Jackson never appears to have had the guts to openly advocate.

I’ve never been a big fan of Jackson’s and I don’t think eating a little crow is going to hurt him any.

By the way Jesse, what the hell were you doing on Fox News anyway?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hold on Barack

Hey, wait a minute. Obama is planning on EXPANDING the faith based initiatives of the Bush administration? WTF is with that?

Needless to say, while I’m all for helping the poor, I’m violently opposed to using faith based organizations to do it because, I don’t care how much you try to avoid it, they’re going to use the opportunity to proselytize and not all of us believe that religion is a good thing.

I hear what he’s saying about why, that we need all the help we can get, but I don’t buy it.

My support has slipped significantly after hearing this.

Interestingly enough I don’t have as big a problem with the second part of the announcement that he might support religion based hiring criteria for religious organizations in non-tax funded areas.

My one problem with this is I doubt it’s going to be that easy to separate the areas using tax dollars and those not using tax dollars. Hey, I know how we can simplify this! Let’s not give faith based organizations any tax dollars, and then they can discriminate in hiring to their heart’s content.

Oh No, Not Again!

Here we go with Iran again. Now the furor is that the Israeli’s are planning to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities if either the Iranians mass enough enriched uranium to build a bomb or acquire a Russian missile system. The concern of course is that the U.S. will be blamed for either supporting the Israeli decision, or even urging them on, and will catch as much, if not more, hell from the Muslim world and the Iranians.

Supposedly these milestones could be reached before the end of 2008 and, another factor, would be the Israeli desire to act while a known friendly administration is in the White House.

This is bad enough but, given that the current President is a complete moron, there is real concern that, despite his military advisors telling him it’s insane, Bush could decide to strike instead because the U.S. could probably make a more complete job of it.

WTF ever happened to getting a declaration of war before committing American forces to an act of war? I can understand the need to respond in defense, but to attack a country when there is no evidence of immediate danger is contrary to international law and common decency. An attack on Iran, without congressional approval, would be even more illegal than the invasion of Iraq.

This is God damn ridiculous. My support for Israel has always been a bit tenuous because I believe that the Palestinians have a case as well, but an attack an Iran might evaporate it all together.