Monday, June 30, 2008

Atheists Crying Wolf, Part 2

This is the second post in a series addressing common complaints of so-called “anti-atheist bigotry,” as characterized by atheist blogger Alonzo Fyfe:
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(2 & 3) Next we have two familiar bones of liberal contention: “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on our currency. Fyfe argues that these are unjust and demeaning to atheists by implying they cannot be good Americans.
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In
Part 1, I explained how God was vital to America’s founding principles. The nation also has a long tradition of turning to God in times of crisis and recognizing His hand in the course of history, such as Abraham Lincoln’s speculation that the terrible devastation of the Civil War was divine punishment for slavery, and his declaration that the United States’ “new birth of freedom” would come “under God.” Even the scientifically-minded Benjamin Franklin argued:
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I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
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This is the true motivation behind “Under God” and “In God We Trust”: first, to remind the people of America’s philosophical roots to preserve the sacred status of individual liberty; and second, to honor this tradition and keep it alive in the hopes that God will continue to steer us through troubled waters and bestow His blessings upon the land.
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To infer from these phrases a malicious intent to ostracize atheist citizens and impugn their love of country is fantasy, and smacks of paranoia. (This is not to say nobody wishes to denigrate atheists, or tries to do so via these phrases. But to take individual examples of intolerance and extrapolate from them conclusions about all, or even most, people who support them is a classic logical fallacy that indicates either weak thinking or rank demagoguery.)
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Admittedly, this conclusion begs two questions: (1) What about the offense some atheists take at the implications, even if they are unintentional? (2) Just because something is tradition doesn’t make it right, so why does tradition matter in this case?
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(1) Does the Pledge of Allegiance impugn the patriotism of atheists? Does it imply that “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is an all-or-nothing deal, that rejecting God means rejecting the rest? No—it is a matter of historical record that America is “one nation under God.” Granted, nobody should expect atheists to say the country is literally under “God” in the sense of an omnipotent being who created and surveys the universe. However, there is no reason an intellectually-honest atheist cannot acknowledge that our society is under “God” in the sense of a set of philosophical assumptions about the source of human rights, reflected in our founding documents and the men who wrote them and fought for them. Likewise, “In God We Trust” was true of our Framers, and has been true of the overwhelming majority of Americans who have lived throughout our history. True, atheists don’t trust in God, but frankly, it isn’t a case of the nation not valuing atheists, but of atheists not valuing a particular element of the American fabric. As long as we’re the same nation we were in 1776, atheists should resign themselves to the fact that they’ve chosen a worldview that is, in part, simply incompatible with their nation’s identity. Which leads us to…
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(2) A nation’s identity isn’t automatically a good thing; why should the mere fact that something is tradition be persuasive? Alone, it shouldn’t be (a point jovially-yet-morbidly demonstrated in a line from
this song). But every society has a basic right to keep its foundations alive through ceremony and tradition, and as long as that foundation is sound (as I’ve argued the founding’s religious component is), the tradition should stand. It seems to me that, in order for one to advocate abandoning such a tradition, one must also argue that the foundational element it reflects is flawed, and should be rejected.

ALL Report: Planned Parenthood's New Image

The Atheist Ethicist: Just Another Propagandist

We interrupt Atheists Crying Wolf (no, I haven’t forgotten it; I promise Part II is coming!) for a special bulletin: the “Atheist Ethicist’s” credibility has hit rock-bottom.
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In
this post, Alonzo Fyfe peddles a number of anti-Bible talking points, including the “abomination” of eating shellfish:
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The eating of shellfish is an abomination because – well, have you ever looked at a shellfish? They’re disgusting. My wife has a hard time with peel-and-eat shrimp. So, of course, eating those things must be considered an abomination…
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Current bigotry against homosexuals is not something that people get out of the Bible – something that people disapprove of because the Bible calls it an abomination. If people got their morality out of the Bible then they would be just as intent on protesting the eating of shrimp as they would homosexual sex.
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It doesn’t take much to find out Fyfe hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about here. Neil at Eternity Matters
explains the issue very well in a detailed-yet-accessible post. You should read it all, but here’s his quick summary:
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The short version: There were different Hebrew words translated as abomination. They were used differently in the individual verses and were used very differently in broader contexts. The associated sins had radically different consequences and had 100% different treatments in the New Testament.
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Curious about how he’d spin his way out of this, I posed the question to him in the comments section (yeah, that’s me under “Anonymous”). In response, not only did he refuse to defend his own claims, he actually argued that the original context was meaningless. After all, it only gives Christians “room for rationalization and self-deception.” Pot, meet kettle.
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The exchange is stunning in how completely Fyfe dismisses the basic legwork that any reputable commentator, philosopher, historian, or theologian would do before making serious claims about serious subjects. He speaks without any regard for the truth. His writings will continue to satisfy his hardcore secular groupies, but I don’t think many other people are going to recognize him for the ethicist he isn’t.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So This Is What He Meant By "Change"

Right-wingers aren’t the only ones beginning to notice the slimy residue Barack Obama leaves everywhere he goes:
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From the beginning, Barack Obama's special appeal was his vow to remain an idealistic outsider, courageous and optimistic, and never to shift his positions for political expediency, or become captive of the Inside-the-Beltway intelligentsia, or kiss up to special interests and big money donors.
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In recent weeks, though, Obama has done all those things.
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He abandoned public campaign financing after years of championing it. Backed a compromise on wiretap legislation that gives telecom companies retroactive immunity for helping the government conduct spying without warrants. Dumped his controversial pastor of two decades — then his church — after saying he could no more abandon the pastor than abandon his own grandmother.
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He said he wouldn't wear the U.S. flag pin because it had become a substitute for true patriotism, then started wearing it. Ramped up his courtship of unions. Shifted from a pledge to protect working-class families from tax increases to a far more expensive promise not to raise taxes on families that earn up to $250,000 a year. Turned to longtime D.C. Democratic wise men to run his vice-presidential search and staff his foreign-policy brain trust.
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On the subject of Obama flip-flops, we can add
the DC gun ban to the list, too.

It Pays to Be Related to Ron Paul

America’s Greatest Patriot would never do something like this, would he? After all, I though he was the only principled statesman left in the country! This must be a misunderstanding…

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hating Religious Expression

In today’s Reporter, Rachel Diech whines:
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Is it just me or is it every time I read The Reporter's editorial section, there's always someone spewing rants about God?
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It’s just you. God and religious values are a recurring topic every now and then, but you’ll need more than that if you want to characterize them as “spewing rants.”
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I'm so sick of Christians forcing their beliefs down my throat. Can we just give a little bit of a rest when it comes to religion, please!
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What the heck were you expecting from a page labeled “Opinion”? Its entire point is for people to express their OPINIONS. Religion is something people have OPINIONS about, for and against. Disagree with specific beliefs? Write about it. But unless you’re willing and able to offer more than vague crap, your complaints are nothing more than bigotry.
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If I wanted to be preached at about God, I would go to church. I don't want to read it in my newspaper.
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Get off your high horse and grow up. Maybe church would do you some good...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Toldja So!

Here’s my picture with Mark Steyn—pundit, humorist, free-speech defender, and all-around cool guy.

Boehner vs. the FCC

House GOP leader John Boehner claims the FCC is up to no good:
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Under the rubric of "broadcast localism" it is clear the Commission is proposing no less than a sweeping takeover by Washington bureaucrats of broadcast media. The proposals and recommendations for Commission action contained in the NPR amount to the stealth enactment of the Fairness Doctrine, a policy designed to squelch the free speech and free expression of specifically targeted audiences.
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Forcing licensees to recreate so called "advisory boards" of a by-gone era will encumber broadcast media with onerous bureaucratic burdens not faced by cable, satellite, or Internet. The report's assertion these boards would help stations "determine the needs and interests of their communities" or promote "localism and diversity" borders on fantasy. The recreation of pre-1980s advisory boards will place broadcast media squarely on a path toward rationed speech.
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Two other proposed rules completely disregard a generation of technological and media advancement. Both the Main Studio Rule and rules regulating the physical operation of stations suggest the Commission has apparently decided to regulate broadcast media based on the needs of 1934 (the year FCC was created) instead of the proven realities of 2008.
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Licensees and stations should serve the needs of local citizens. But adding more restrictions and Washington mandates is retrograde considering the constant technological evolution of the media market. I urge the Commission to rescind these proposed rules.
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Unfortunately, this also highlights yet another Republican deficiency: if this sort of thing is going on, it's not enough to "urge" your opponents to change course in letters nobody except for political junkies are ever going to see. It's not enough to count on Rush and Hannity to be their personal spokesmen. Our elected leaders have to go on the offensive, grabbing every camera they can, putting very public pressure on the other side to explain their actions to the American people.

The Content of Obama's Character; UPDATE: Now with Kos Feedback!

My latest letter to the editor:
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A recent letter asked, “Why does everybody have such a problem with a member of a minority achieving a position of either prominence or power in our society?” as if racism is why voters really oppose Barack Obama. That’s completely false, and this voter opposes Obama because of his utter lack of competence, courage, and character.
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Competence: Iran and North Korea’s nuclear pursuits, and the desire of Islamic jihadists for nuclear weapons, make today’s world very dangerous, yet Obama pledges to cut investments in missile defense. He also voted against the recent bill preserving our intelligence-gathering capabilities, which received broad bipartisan support, passing 68-29.
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Courage: On June 4, Obama said Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. But after a single day of Palestinian complaints, he backpedaled, now saying the Jews and Palestinians will have to negotiate it for themselves. Such cowardice leaves little doubt that Obama would fold like a house of cards in his no-precondition, direct talks with Iran’s Ahmadinejad.
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Character: No responsible father who values honesty could possibly expose his children to the foul lies of Jeremiah Wright. And nobody with a shred of decency or compassion could reach Obama’s extremes on abortion. In Illinois he fought against legal protection for fully-born babies who survived their abortions. Even after being separated from their mothers and gaining full physical independence, Obama thinks these children should be starved to death. Delivery-ward nurse Jill Stanek testified twice before Obama for born-alive infant protection, offering her firsthand experiences and pictures of premature births. She says her efforts “didn’t faze him at all.”
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Conservatives are judging Obama not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. Unfortunately for him, that’s a contest in which he doesn’t stand a chance.
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UPDATE: It seems I’ve
made a new friend on the Daily Kos! Unfortunately, Pan Zareta’s refutation is so devoid of substance it’s laughable. If you’re out there, Pan, I’d be happy to clear up any confusion you might have; comment away!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Around the Web

“The Barack Obama I knew,” according to, er, a Palestinian anti-Zionist activist. Wonderful company this guy keeps....
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Political personalities, coming to a Nintendo Wii near you.
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Nobody should take pleasure in Ted Kennedy’s recent medical woes, and most conservatives have offered him and his family their condolences and prayers, as well they should. But for John McCain
to go so far beyond that as to say it’s “a great privilege to call” this guilty-of-manslaughter demagogue “my friend” is pathetic.
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In the wake of California’s latest same-sex marriage decision, Dennis Prager has some
must-listen segments on the matter.
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Pot, meet kettle.
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