Observations

June 29, 2011

I believe my nightmare can be expressed as a sociological principle: People who professionally dislike marriage almost always favor gay marriage. Here is the corollary: Ideas that have long been used to attack marriage are now commonly used to support same-sex marriage.

David Blankenhorn – The Future of Marriage

Advertisements

The Historical Nature of the Bible Deux

June 24, 2011

As I have elaborated on elsewhere, the Bible is fairly unique as a religious text for its reliance on testimonies that are rooted in specifically identifiable times and places. In this lecture, Dr. Peter Williams warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge and professor of ancient languages lectures here on the details that demonstrate the veracity of the historical record of the New Testament. It’s about an hour long, but the information provided is well presented and the time flew by while watching it.


Friday Fun-ness

June 24, 2011

In addition to dinosaurs, I have also been a fan of robots; in fact my younger son and I have built a few together. This one combines a robot and art, so double bonus.


Is the ‘Hitchen’s Challenge’ that Challenging?

June 22, 2011

One frequently quoted challenge to religious belief is the oft cited ‘Hitchens’ Challenge”, taken from Christopher Hitchens’ book The Portable Atheist. Hitchens frames the provocation as follows:

“Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.”

He claims no one has yet has provided an example. I haven’t looked around enough to see how hard anyone else has tried, but a little thought immediately brought this example to my mind; human equality.

I would assert there is in fact no atheistic basis for claiming humans are equal, or should necessarily be treated as equals. There is certainly no such basis in biology – no two humans are biologically ‘equal’, in any sense of the word. We are certainly not intellectually equal (in fact atheists themselves consider believers to be deluded and generally less intelligent than non-believers). There is no historical obligation to treat people as equals, and even if there were, atheists don’t base mandates in mere history.

And yet Western Society holds up equality before the law and in terms of human worth to be an essential value – and many (if not most) atheists share that value. And yet, there is no reason as atheists to do so in any logically inherently consistent way; it is by neccesity the product of mere personal preference.

It appears the only rational and inherently consistent basis to assert human equality is the basis the Founders utilized – that we were created equal by a transcendent Creator. While we might have no physical or natural basis for equality, they thought it to be self-evident that we had an equality rooted in our eternal souls and that we were imbued with inherent worth by the one who originated our souls. Only by a scale that transcends a temporal and material world could the worth of a human life be measured and found equivalent to the worth of another human life, and thus we were compelled to recognize this equality and incorporate it in law. While the Founders and those that followed weren’t perfect in their implementation of this value, it is this value that constantly called us to progress as a society.

So I don’t find ‘Hitchens’ Challenge’ to be all that challenging – the greater challenge I would think is to realize how unbelief undermines the essential values of the Western world.


A Little China in New York

June 20, 2011

I wrote recently about the persecution Chinese Christian were receiving at the hands of the atheistic Chinese government.

In the post I made the claim New Atheism would have little basis for opposing such repression given their low opinion of religious belief to begin with. The closest any atheist response came to defending religious freedom in China was this one:

However, official government active discouragement of religion is a non-starter in the United States or any Western society. I’m an American, I can’t solve all the world’s problems, and I have limited interest in and limited influence on Chinese government policy. The Chinese government is fundamentally the business and problem of the Chinese people: they, not I, have to live with the consequences.

Unfortunately, thanks to a recent court ruling, this defense no longer applies in New York where a court has ruled churches cannot meet in schools on weekends:

New York City may again block religious groups from using school facilities outside of regular school hours for “religious worship services,” a federal appeals court inManhattan ruled on Thursday.

Deciding 2 to 1, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the city had “a strong basis to believe” that allowing the religious services to be conducted in schools could be seen as the kind of endorsement of religion that violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

“When worship services are performed in a place,” Judge Pierre N. Leval wrote for the majority, “the nature of the site changes. The site is no longer simply a room in a school being used temporarily for some activity.”

In many ways it is this last bit of reasoning that is most troubling. The idea that a particular activity in a place can ‘change the nature of the site’ by its mere presence within the four walls of a building would suggest that words and ideas and purposes are tangible things that taint physical buildings.

It would suggest a few students have religious conversations or pray in a dorm room at a State University wouldturn it into a church. Or that a faith-based organization helping drug addicts would turn a community center room into church by quoting Scripture. If a few people met at a house for a Bible study, would zoning laws that determine where churches could be built come into effect?

This is an issue that hits close to home for me. I have both been the member of a church that met in a school, and am a school board member of a public school that has a church meeting at it. There are actually many benefits to schools for such arrangements. Beside paying rent and providing extra income to budget starved schools, churches (especially in low income areas) will often provide supplies and other goods that impoverished students don’t have, like clothing and meals. Many times churches will help upgrade equipment and facilities that are mutually beneficial. And quite often the churches extend their involvement to the community at large. That has certainly been my experience.

Like China, those who oppose the presence of religious organizations inNew York don’t actually have to jail congregants or physically harm believers to diminish their ability to exercise their faith. All they have to do is find bureaucratic or legal reasons to keep them from occupying spaces within a community – and they effectively keep them from having a presence in the society at all.

There is of course no basis for this in our history – church services were famously held at the US Capitol building for over 50 years, services which were attended by Jefferson and Madison.

Given the reluctance of American atheists to speak out against religious suppression in other countries, one wonders if they can find a reason to oppose it in their own?


Happy Father’s Day

June 19, 2011

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”
George Herbert

I have had a father, and been without a father, and am the father of four children – some who are now adults.

 I consider my success as a father to be the greatest measure of my success as a man. In a time where fathers are dismissed,  often as a neccesary evil, it is good for those who understand the value of a father to honor their own.


Friday Fun-ness

June 17, 2011

I like this talk by Horner because I wanted a pet dinosaur when I was a kid. I was very influenced by the book (and TV special) The Enormous Egg. I was in fact a bit of a dinosaur fanatic. Still am.

Nonetheless I think the chances of him succeeding in making what he is talking about are very small, but it’s still fun to consider: