Growing Dismay

Matt Patterson: What’s the Matter With Islam?

I have surveyed the unfolding saga of the Reverend Terry Jones with growing dismay and gloom.

Not because this man, who has an apparently minuscule flock, wanted to burn copies of the Muslim Holy Book. In a free state, especially one in which the sanctity of expression is nominally inviolable, that cranks and eccentrics will occasionally attempt such stunts is to be expected and even welcomed. It is surely, after all, a healthy society that tolerates such displays. Indeed, in a free and healthy society, most who would hear about Jones’ plan would scratch their heads and say, “He wants to do what?” and then shrug and offer that sacred refrain, “Well, it’s a free country,” and then go about their business.

But that is not what has happened here at all. Instead, high government officials, including the President of the United States of America, his Secretaries of State and Defense, as well as his top general, have deliberately and publicly attempted to dissuade this private citizen from exercising his freedom of expression.

Read more here.



Sarah Shourd: Out of Iran, But Not Home Free. See here.



Browse inside Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley R.E. Wright.



Anthony Gottlieb on The Limits of Science.

Good sense is the most fairly distributed commodity in the world, Descartes once quipped, because nobody thinks he needs any more of it than he already has. A neat illustration of the fact that gullibility seems to be a disease of other people was provided by Martin Gardner, a great American debunker of pseudoscience, who died this year. In the second edition of his “Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science” (1957), Gardner reported that most of the irate letters he received in response to the first edition criticised only one of its 26 chapters and found the rest to be fine. Needless to say, readers disagreed about which chapter was the faulty one. Homeopaths objected to the treatment meted out to themselves, but thought that the exposé of chiropractors was spot on, and vice versa.

No group of believers has more reason to be sure of its own good sense than today’s professional scientists. There is, or should be, no mystery about why it is always more rational to believe in science than in anything else, because this is true merely by definition. What makes a method of enquiry count as scientific is not that it employs microscopes, rats, computers or people in stained white coats, but that it seeks to test itself at every turn. If a method is as rigorous and cautious as it can be, it counts as good science; if it isn’t, it doesn’t. Yet this fact sets a puzzle. If science is careful scepticism writ large, shouldn’t a scientific cast of mind require one to be sceptical of science itself?

Read more here.



Here’s a review of The Deity and the Decalogue, by William Galston.

You can browse inside the book here.



Nancy Pearcey: Secular Values No Defense against Mosque.

“Islamization” is coming to America. That’s the meaning behind the controversial Islamic community center-slash-mosque near Ground Zero. The secularization of the public square has created a vacuum that Islamicists are finding ways to exploit.

America has always welcomed anyone willing to assimilate to its national character. But radical Islam rejects assimilation and is bent on the conquest of our national character.

Read the rest here.



Power Line posts comments by the author of the new book, This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, James Robbins.



Rogue States: The Revolt Against ObamaCare. See here.



I was on vacation when this article was posted, How Evolution Gets Used and Abused in the Science-Religion Debate, by Denis Alexander.



Why Does God Hide? by Alan Lurie.

Bertrand Russell, the great British philosopher, logician, social activist, and outspoken critic of religion and faith, when asked what he would say if he met his maker after death, famously answered, “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”

This notion, that God’s presence is hidden, is a significant dilemma for many, and for some is clear proof that God does not exist. Why, one asks, would the creator of the Universe be so difficult to spot? Surely if such a creator exists, there would be obvious evidence. And why wouldn’t this creator, in order to silence disbelievers and recruit more faithful, simply appear on the White House lawn, announce his presence, and miraculously end all war, hunger, and disease? For some, this hidden presence is evidence that even if a creator deity does exist, such a being is not worth worshiping. What kind of a god, who religious people say loves us, would stand by as horrible atrocities happen, and silently allow us to suffer? Such a god is either not all-powerful, not all-knowing, or certainly not completely benevolent. Many site the Holocaust, for example, as clear proof of God’s impotence or indifference.

Read more.



David Weigel attacks as “crazy” Dinesh D’Souza’s theory about the source of Obama’s political style (linked to here).


Privileged Elite

Public versus private.

We really are two Americas, but not those captured in the stereotypical populist class warfare speeches that dramatize the gulf between the rich and the poor. Instead there is a new division in America that affronts a sense of fairness. That division is between the workers in the private sector and the workers in the public sectors. No guesses which is the more protected. A new study by the Mayo Research Institute, based in Louisiana, demonstrates that there is a striking differential in the impact of the recession. In 2009, the study found, “private-sector workers were nearly three times more likely to be jobless than public-sector workers.”




Conservatism does not equal racism. See here.


Evangelical Leaders

How America’s Evangelical Leaders Wield Power.

As explained in my book Faith in the Halls of Power, evangelicals are the most discussed but least understood constituency in American public life, especially when we’re talking about evangelicals in power. In a study just published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Brad Smith (of Princeton University) and I identify four types of evangelical leaders, based on how they make decisions at work. The research emerged out of a massive five-year study in which I interviewed face-to-face nearly 400 evangelical leaders of major organizations.

These evangelicals, it turns out, are a lot like other leaders. Some are bold and brash; others second-guess themselves or try to keep a low profile. The people I interviewed are CEOs of big companies such as Walmart, ConocoPhillips, Johnson & Johnson, and Pepsico. They include cabinet secretaries and college presidents, heads of major nonprofits and leading figures in the arts. But they all share major characteristics that distinguish evangelical Christians from other people: they have 1) a very high regard for the Bible; 2) a belief in the importance of a born-again religious experience; and 3) a desire to bear witness to others through what they say and how they act. Ninety-three percent of the leaders I interviewed said that their colleagues at work know about their Christian faith, either because they have talked about it directly or because word has gotten around.

Read the rest here.


Higher Education?

Check out an excerpt of Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–and What We Can Do About It.



Newsweek profiles Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.



This, Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time, sounds like an excellent new book. Here’s a blurb about the book from the publisher.

It is a common—and fundamental—misconception that Paul told people how to live. Apart from forbidding certain abusive practices, he never gives any precise instructions for living. It would have violated his two main social principles: human freedom and dignity, and the need for people to love one another.

Paul was a Hellenistic Jew, originally named Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, who made a living from tent making or leatherworking. He called himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and was the most important of the early Christian evangelists.

Paul is not easy to understand. The Greeks and Romans themselves probably misunderstood him or skimmed the surface of his arguments when he used terms such as “law” (referring to the complex system of Jewish religious law in which he himself was trained). But they did share a language—Greek—and a cosmopolitan urban culture, that of the Roman Empire. Paul considered evangelizing the Greeks and Romans to be his special mission.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The idea of love as the only rule was current among Jewish thinkers of his time, but the idea of freedom being available to anyone was revolutionary.

Paul, regarded by Christians as the greatest interpreter of Jesus’ mission, was the first person to explain how Christ’s life and death fit into the larger scheme of salvation, from the creation of Adam to the end of time. Preaching spiritual equality and God’s infinite love, he crusaded for the Jewish Messiah to be accepted as the friend and deliverer of all humankind.

In Paul Among the People, Sarah Ruden explores the meanings of his words and shows how they might have affected readers in his own time and culture. She describes as well how his writings represented the new church as an alternative to old ways of thinking, feeling, and living.

Ruden translates passages from ancient Greek and Roman literature, from Aristophanes to Seneca, setting them beside famous and controversial passages of Paul and their key modern interpretations. She writes about Augustine; about George Bernard Shaw’s misguided notion of Paul as “the eternal enemy of Women”; and about the misuse of Paul in the English Puritan Richard Baxter’s strictures against “flesh-pleasing.” Ruden makes clear that Paul’s ethics, in contrast to later distortions, were humane, open, and responsible.

You can read an excerpt here.


The Driving Force

A good post on what drives the Left’s hatred of Sarah Palin.


His Roots

A good article on what drives Barack Obama.


Where It Leads

Where atheism naturally leads.

Hold onto your hats, folks. Although it is perhaps fitting that the actual day on which I sit here at my computer writing this column is April 1st, let me assure you that I do not intend this as a joke. For the last couple of years I have been reflecting on and experimenting with a new ethics, and as a result I have thrown over my previous commitment to Kantianism. In fact, I have given up morality altogether! This has certainly come as a shock to me (and also a disappointment, to put it mildly). I think the time has come, therefore, to reveal it to the world, and in particular to you, Dear Reader, who have patiently considered my defenses of a particular sort of moral theory for the last ten years. In a word, this philosopher has long been laboring under an unexamined assumption, namely, that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I now believe there isn’t.

Read more here.