Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God Help Newdow

President Elect, Barak Obama initiated Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch to make the official prayer during his inauguration ceremony on January 20th, 2009. Not surprisingly, a group of atheists are miffed.

These atheists are concerned that the use of traditional phrases such as "so help me God" misrepresent the concerns and ideologies of those that don't believe in God.

"'There can be no purpose for placing 'so help me God' in an oath or sponsoring prayers to God, other than promoting the particular point of view that God exists," the lawsuit states, according to CNN.'"

Yes, that's right. It seems that these purpose driven atheists have enough insight to recognize the biases of people who don't believe like them. Not a revolutionary insight, to be sure, but one that sparks a small hope that perhaps they might catch on to a certain corollery: the president elect, and the people officiating the ceremonies believe differently from atheists.

At the same time, these atheists lack the savvy to manage a new tactic in meeting their aims. Apparently, this isn't the first time this group of atheists, headed by Michael A. Newdow, have sought to delete metaphysical derogatories from presidential inaugurations.

"Newdow made similar attempts to take out God from inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005 and was unsuccessful. This time, he believes he'll lose again but hopes to eventually succeed."

There probably isn't any coincidence that those just happen to be the years that Mr. Bush -- professor of war-mongering, ill-gotten gain, and religious hypocrisy -- gained his ascendency to the presidential seat. Again, no surprise that the same atheists would boast a little foresight: perhaps Bush isn't the best person to be including clauses like "so help me God", and thereby subjecting well-meaning Christians everywhere to his cloak of deceit. In those cases, I can agree with Newdow's bias that I don't want to fall under the same umbrella, and all 'in the name of God.'

Nevertheless, I'm unaware of any reason to extend such a forceful negation of "so help me God" to Obama's ceremonies. Unlike Bush Jr., Obama doesn't have a Bush Sr. to sully his history, or inspire any omens of war-mongering in a religiously hypocritical fashion. Playing pattern recognition with Dubbya because of H. Dubbya doesn't apply to Obama. So why take up verbal arms against a man with a fresh start? And, more importantly, why impose one bias over another bias? As if negating another's bias will effect any actual change in the presidential agenda!

And speaking of agendas, Newdow clearly has one, though it may be a little less noble than simply a linguistic overhaul in the inauguration ceremony. Apparently, Newdow is happy to take up his differences with the people using the phrase "so help me God", but doesn't consider it wise to foist his upset on the president himself.

"If he (Obama) chooses to ask for God's help, I'm not going to challenge him," Newdow said, according to CNN. "I think it's unwise."

Doesn't this remind you a little of the bullying tactics so common to playgrounds? I'll make sure to go after the weaker guys, but leave the big guys alone. You could get hurt.

Piffle, and twaddle.

Newdow is just barking because he's too afraid to bite. God help him.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Reading Dawkins: The Deluded

Lately, I've been reading a host of atheist literature.  It seems that between 2004-2007, a whack of well-known philosophers, journalists, and scientists dented the world with a rash of atheist essays.  Some of the more familiar titles include:

The End of Faith by, Sam Harris
Breaking the Spell by, Daniel Dennett
The God Delusion by, Richard Dawkins
god is not Great by, Christopher Hitchens
God: The Failed Hypothesis by, Victor Stenger
In Defense of Atheism by, Michel Onfray

While pushing my way through some of these authors, I had to cut short my foray into the delusional world of Richard Dawkins.  Amongst Dawkins' complete mistreatment of classic Christian arguments for the existence of God, which he then summarily knocks down in a grand display of straw-man killings -- and all with the fervent pleas of an intellectual snob searching for sympathy from his readership -- the reputable Oxfordian biologist seems unable to hold even the simplest argument together from one sentence to the next.

After 190 pages of Dawkins' twaddle, I gave up.  The last straw came when Dawkins implied his intellectual superiority to anyone who is not a Darwinian biologist.

I pointed this out to one of my atheist friends, and he asked me to give references.  So I obliged.  Here is what I wrote to him.

My edition is the Mariner Books, 2008 edition. Silver cover with a big orange dot, the word 'God' in white inside the orange dot. In chapter 4, pg. 172, second paragraph, opening line:

"Maybe the psychological reason for this amazing blindness has something to do with the fact that many people have not had their consciousness raised, as biologists have, by natural selection and its power to tame improbability." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter (4), pg. 173, footnote:

"Susskind (2006) gives a splendid advocacy of the anthropic principle in the megaverse. He says the idea is hated by most physicists. I can't understand why. I think it is beautiful -- perhaps because my consciousness has been raised by Darwin." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter, pg. 175, last sentence of first paragraph:

"A mischievous biologist might wonder whether some other physicists are in need of Darwinian consciousness-raising."

Those are the comments I could re-locate at a quick glance. I'm sure there are more. It was the first and second comments in particular, that really got me riled. It could be said that Dawkins is simply advocating for the notion that Darwinian natural selection boosted his understanding, as if it were drawn upward by a 'crane' (a word that Dawkins himself employs quite frequently, and happily). However, what physicist, or modern-day scientist hasn't been educated on a rather fatty diet of Darwinism? What places a biologist in a new bracket of awareness? Dawkins does nothing to explain his cheek and idiocy on this issue, and so, comes out looking more the buffoon than the biologist.

You may disagree with me, I don't know. In any case, I'm going to have to come back to Dawkins at a later date. His brand of pugnacity reads more like a yapping chihuahua than the British Bulldog he seems to fancy himself to be. I really can't take that kind of intellectual noise without there being a suitable pay-off at the end of my endurance. And from what I've seen of Dawkins so far, he's more likely to rob me of any semblance of mental integrity than leave me with a reasonable cognitive dowry.

What do you make of Dawkins' comments?  I may return to his book at a later date, mostly because I don't like to give up on these kinds of things, and I hope to make a suitable response to the recent proliferation of atheist literature, and their 'buckshot' claims.  For now, however, I have moved on to more 'reasonable' writings from Michel Onfray, and soon Daniel Dennett.  So far, at least, they don't seem so happy to skip understanding in favour of quasi-clever remarks, and meaningless commentary.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The New Syncretism

Apparently, a vast majority of American Christians view other religions as equally salvific. It would seem then that we could thereby reduce the moniker "American Christians" to 'Americans'.

So, many Americans feel that there are many paths to salvation, even though those same Americans claim Christianity as their religion of choice.

"Sixty-five percent of all Christians say there are multiple paths to eternal life, ultimately rejecting the exclusivity of Christ teaching, according to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life."

Let's let this article slant in an unnecessary direction now, shall we?

"Even among white evangelical Protestants, 72 percent of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion, such as Judaism or Islam or no religion at all, that can lead to salvation."

My goodness. Even white evangelical Protestants? How is that a defining feature of the overall 65% surveyed? Why is it important that they're white? Is Christianity somehow different for white people? What are the assumptions that go behind isolating a certain demographic of evangelical Christians? And why does it matter if the total percentage of Christians surveyed is a clear enough indication that Christians in America don't believe like some of us may have thought they did?

The rest of the article is pretty black and white. But mostly white. It's a very strange article, even if it does present some telling figures.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh, How the Mighty Hitchens Falls...

Watch here as Dinesh D'Souza slams a mental cudgel upside Christopher Hitchens' head. The debate is long and humorous, but intense and very intellectually rewarding.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All for One, and One for All

The near future may look very, well, different.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Muppets and Christopher Hitchens

I used to watch The Muppets when I was younger. In particular, I enjoyed the sarcastic and curmudgeonly old men (Statler and Waldorf) that occupied the theater balcony. Their obstreperousness and cynicism tickled my nascent perspectives on the world.

In much the same way, I enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist whose most recent book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything has kindled a fire under the buttocks of theists everywhere. The book has a lot to offer by way of oblique perspectives, logical incoherence, and a sparce but spicy sprinkling of valid criticism. But Hitchens offers his piffle with such flamboyance, and sardonic derring-do that I can't help but continue plundering the pages of his book wondering what cerebral stunts he'll pull next.

Unlike The Muppets, however, I can't figure what got up Hitchens' ass so much that he'd collide so sharply with the deific Reason he esteems so highly. Especially since his Lennon-esque vision of a "world without religion" includes many of the same measures that those pesky, naughty, and bad, bad religions used to exact their vision of the world.

So from an aspiring Contrarian to another well-established Contrarian, I offer my thanks for a good laugh. But I must decline to see you, Mr. Hitchens as anything more than a fellow puppet looking down on the world stage and quipping just as many sophistries as the next guy. And who knows? That next guy might just be me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anti-Christianity and the Burning Stupid

Shall I dissect?  Or shall I have mercy?  I can't decide.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Belligerence, Homosexuality, and Christ's Love

I get it when mainline Christians disagree with the practice of homosexuality. I understand their concern. What I don't understand is why homosexuality is a greater sin in need of garnering more public attention than, say, physical-social-metal-verbal abuse, war, toxic spirituality within the church, indifference, racism, torture, human trafficking, or any number of existing sins within the world.

For that reason, I'm not exactly sure why waging a war via popular media against homosexuals is a necessary manouever. It's not unknown that Christians traditionally disagree with the practice of homosexuality, but why pay for advertising space to push that point when everybody knows that the end of such a tactic is only going to be inflamed tempers, misappropriations, and mud-slinging?

Christians are called to a gospel that prompts love in, with, and through all our actions. Taking out advertising space as a war on homosexual lifestyles is effectively wielding popular media as if it's a firearm. And when weapons are wielded against sinful people, who of us can say that we don't deserve a firearm pointed back at us? Or, as Jesus said, "let the person who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7).

So, while I acknowledge the sin of homosexuality, I'm not concerned to crusade against it so much as I am to love the people who practice it. For which is the greater sin: to practice homosexuality, or to foist belligerence on a group of people all the while claiming it is love? I know my answer. Do you?