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Acerbic Atheism

Secular Humanist Paul Kurtz versus acerbic atheism.

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The Flight

Slate reviews a new book due out next month, The Flight of the Intellectuals, by Paul Berman.

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Coulter

Ann Coulter takes on Canada.

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The Judeo-Christian Tradition

An atheist defends the Judeo-Christian tradition of Western civilization.

Rational thought may provide better answers to many of life’s riddles than does faith alone. However, it is rational to conclude that religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.

Succinctly put: Western civilization’s survival, including the survival of open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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No Exemptions

I agree 100% with this column by Connie Hair. In fact, I like it so much, the whole column is reprinted below.

President Barack Obama signed the Senate health care bill into law yesterday that will exempt the President, his cabinet secretaries and special congressional staff members from participation in the new government-run health care “exchanges.”

Rank-and-file House and Senate staffers will be forced out of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) and into the restricted federal health insurance exchanges, but not the leadership or committee congressional staff or the federal civil service bureaucrats who will be making your health care decisions for you.

“This is such an incredible affront to every principle of equality in this country that it demands an immediate apology to the nation by the President,” House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) said. “That should be followed by a straight up-and-down vote in the House and Senate on a bill requiring every member and staff in both Houses and the administration be included in this new monstrosity, with no exceptions for leadership, committee staff, the President’s cabinet, or the President. If they think this crap is good enough for Joe the Plumber, then it should be good enough for Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, and Tim Geithner.”

The bill was amended behind closed doors by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) back in December to exclude all congressional committee and leadership staff from the horrors of the health care “exchange.” The President, Vice-President, cabinet members, thousands of Obama administration staff and an unknown number of czars will all remain in the FEHBP.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) attempted to offer a floor amendment in December that would have nullified Reid’s covert carve-out, but Reid blocked a vote on the amendment.

Grassley offered an amendment to the reconciliation bill last night to apply the reform legislation to the President, Vice-President, cabinet members, top White House staff and all congressional staffers. It was a Grassley amendment last year that required members of both houses of Congress to participate in the exchanges (although there are doctors and facilities in the White House and on Capitol Hill they can opt to use while they still hold office).

Grassley said the motivation for his amendments is simple: public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.

“It’s only fair and logical that top administration officials, who fought so hard for passage of this overhaul of America’s health care system, experience it themselves,” Grassley said. “If it’s as good as promised, they’ll know it first-hand. If there are problems, they’ll be able to really understand them, as they should.”

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Pixar

The Genesis of Pixar at The New Atlantis. See here.

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No Agenda?

No Agenda? A Humanist View of Justice Scalia by David Niose.

At first glance Joan Biskupic appears almost ideally qualified to author a biography of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s most vocal and controversial justice. An experienced reporter with legal credentials, Biskupic has covered the Supreme Court for two decades and is already the author of a well-received biography of Scalia’s former colleague Sandra Day O’Connor.

Yet as one begins to digest the details of Scalia’s saga, one realizes that a psychology degree, rather than a background in law and journalism, might be the better qualification for putting Scalia’s life and work in perspective. A qualified analyst, much more so than a legal scholar, could perhaps make sense of the seemingly inconsistent stew that is Scalia jurisprudence.

More at The Humanist.

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A.J. Ayer

Did a leading British atheist once come face to face with a “Divine Being?” Although he never publicly admitted it happened, philosopher A.J. Ayer became very good friends with Father Frederick Copleston after his “God” experience.

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Deported

Christian aid workers have been deported by the Moroccan government for “proselytizing” and “trying to undermine the faith of Muslims.” And this is in a “liberal” Muslim country.

The large-scale deportations came as a surprise in a nation that is among the most liberal of Muslim countries. Although trying to convert Muslims to other faiths is illegal, Morocco tolerates the presence of other religions and is home to a number of churches and synagogues.

More at Time.

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Obamacare II

A reader’s poll at the LAT currently shows 64% opposed to the healthcare plan.

My favorite, however, is that 91% agree with the following: Obama’s healthcare plan is so good it should also apply to Obama, his family, all members of Congress and their families.

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Right and Left

I wonder, sometimes, if the Right gets the Left as badly as the Left gets the Right?

“Freedom” has long been a right-wing rallying cry for self-identified patriots ranging from John Birchers to tea party protesters to increasingly extreme members of the Republican establishment. They’re particularly passionate about the freedom to own and openly carry guns and freedom from federal taxation (but not necessarily federal benefits). Otherwise, their most consistent attachments to freedom tend to be rhetorical, unless freedom means restricting reproductive choice, same-sex relationships, medical marijuana, or sexually explicit speech and permitting discrimination against people who do not acknowledge Jesus as their savior. For some prominent conservatives — like John McCain, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Dick Cheney — freedom also entails the establishment of a national security state empowered to arrest and imprison summarily people suspected of terrorism and to spy on people suspected of nothing in particular, thanks to a ubiquitous but largely invisible surveillance system.

More, badly, from Wendy Kaminer.

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Diversity Training

No surprise that diversity training doesn’t work.

If you work at a large company, and especially if you manage other people, chances are you’ve gone through diversity training. The vast majority of the Fortune 500 and, by some estimates, the majority of American employers offer diversity training programs for their employees. Many make such training mandatory. The amount of money spent on it in the United States runs into the billions. . .

. . .Now a few social scientists are taking a hard look at these programs, and, so far, what they’re finding is that there’s little evidence that diversity training works.

Read the rest here.

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Truth

This blog and website is named after Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy. Here you can hear a talk by professor Willard on The Value of Truth, and What Happens When U Don’t Have It.

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Proof

At The Huffington Post religion section: The Burden of Proof: How Atheism Has Adopted a Worldview That Science Never Intended.

I assume that most atheists, who are generally intelligent people, are smart enough to realize that standing from the sidelines and claiming that there is no value in something that they do not practice themselves is not a defensible position. Atheists obviously don’t know the value of spiritual practice, because they don’t experience its value. Its a bit like someone who has sat idle in front of a computer for most of their lives telling a soccer player that there’s no value in soccer. Coming from a non-soccer player, the statement means absolutely nothing. There are 4 billion+ people in this world who practice some form of religion. They are not all — every single one of them — enslaved by fear or ignorance as some atheists seem to imply. Clearly many of them are getting some personal value out of it.

Read more here.

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Before I Go

Here’s an excerpt of Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters by Peter Kreeft.

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Muslim Liberals

First they’ll come for Muslim liberals, then they’ll come for Western liberals.

“Two weeks ago [Sheikh Nasser bin Suleiman Al-‘Omar] delivered a fervent address to an audience of his followers and supporters, one all too similar to an inflammatory religious sermon. The renowned sheikh is considered one of the [great] Muslim preachers. He is among the prominent leaders of the Islamic awakening movement, holds the titles ‘sheikh’ and ‘doctor,’ and runs the religious Al-Moslim website [http://www.almoslim.net]. [In his address] he urged the impassioned youth [present] to raise a jihad against the secularists and liberals in their own countries instead of joining the jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sheikh Dr. [Al-‘Omar] said, ‘Young people come to me, yearning to set out for Afghanistan or Iraq to join the jihad for the sake of Allah. I tell them: ‘Although these countries are indeed lands of jihad… do not go there to wage jihad.’ And so what will these youths, so impassioned by his jihadi sermon, do now…? How will they vent this [yearning]?

“[Don’t worry, for] the sheikh does not leave his followers in suspense. He wastes no time in directing them to a superior alternative, which he calls ‘the greatest jihad,’ saying: ‘Jihad is right here before you: jihad against the secularists and liberals, who are Muslims in name only.’ [In response to the question of] how the youth are to carry out this jihad against the secularists and liberals, Sheikh Dr. [Al-‘Omar] replies: ‘Each according to his strength and ability’. Which is to say that all possibilities are open to the youth, from jihad through the written word to a jihad of invective, diatribe, and accusations of treason, and also jihad by the sword.

More.

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The Arab Tomorrow

The Arab Tomorrow by David B. Ottaway.

The Arab world today is ruled by contradiction. Turmoil and stagnation prevail, as colossal wealth and hyper­modern cities collide with mass illiteracy and rage-filled imams. In this new diversity may lie disaster, or the makings of a better Arab ­future.

See here.

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The Lucifer Effect

Here’s a review of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo.

The book’s website is here.

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Sin

CT reviews Sin: A History by Gary A. Anderson.

I linked an excerpt from the book here.

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A Choice

TNR reviews Addiction: A Disorder of Choice by Gene M. Heyman.