Tag Archives: religion


Public and Private

Heinlein once wrote, commenting wryly on Hugo de Grotius:

There is an old, old story about a theologian who was asked to reconcile the doctrine of Divine mercy with the doctrine of infant damnation. “The Almighty,” he explained, “finds it necessary to do things in His official and public capacity which in His private and personal capacity He deplores.”

Some of my “official” work, what I must write to comply with regulations, feels a bit like that dichotomy. For example, I recently helped write an application for a concession in our National Park Service. Now, by regulation, you are not even allowed to submit such an application unless you pay appropriate homage to the gods of global warming and promise to make the appropriate sacrifices at their altar. For example, you must demonstrate how much carbon you are going to save, how many plastic bottles you are going to eliminate, et cetera.

Amusingly, the NPS goes on at some length about how important it is not to allow guests to feed the animals, because when you provide handouts to a population you harm them by turning them into dependents. Amusingly, the rest of the government has no qualms about doing exactly this to their human constituents. Of course, the bears do not vote, so … no handouts for them.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Christian Nation?

The US is not a Christian nation by official founding proclamation, and religious freedom was wisely important to the founders of the country. In this sense, the US is unlike many countries in the Middle East whose constitutions proclaim them to be Islamic nations bound by strict religious (Sharia’h) law.

Nevertheless, there are countless US Supreme Court rulings that note in dicta that the US is “a Christian nation” and formulations to similar effect; these go back to the earliest court opinions. To this day, the Supreme Court opens with the supplication “God save the United States and this honorable Court.” Continue reading

US Politics and Christianity

In Citizen Tom’s blog, he wrote a post entitled “Three Things You Probably Don’t Know about Islam.” In the discussion that followed, Citizen Tom wrote:

What makes the Bible different is that it promotes freedom of religion. Jesus told us to render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and God what is God’s. The Bible says that what we each believe about God is a personal responsibility. Those on a quest for power hate that, of course. That’s why Christianity is so unpopular with power-hungry politicians. Continue reading

Killing Women

The estimable and devout Catholic Biltrix has a post up discussing abortion. It’s worth a look.  I replied there:

As a lifelong non-theist, I don’t have the “moment of conception” notion with regard to the beginning of life. For me, life is continuous for the past roughly 4 billion years, and that moment business is complicated because it can be tinkered with or even triggered artificially.

But death is not continuous. And at some point, a few weeks after conception, a human fetus has an impulse-sensing brain and a beating heart. Since we use brain death as an end-of-life measure, it seems reasonable to me to argue for brain-birth/formation/first signals as a beginning-of-life measure.

Thus, I am on your side when it comes to late-term abortions; these are indeed killing humans.

You voiced a rhetorical question: “How many women were killed by botched abortion procedures last year?” But there’s another aspect to this question, since about half of the <i>successful</i> abortions kill women, too. They’re just younger than the others.

I don’t think this should be decided at the federal level, as we don’t in general decide murder and self-defense at that level. But states can and should make these decisions, and in my state I would vote against late-term abortions, with “late” being defined as post-brain-formation.

(After my comment, another commenter put up a link to a non-theist who does argue that life begins at the moment of conception. Here is that link.)

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

What Religion is Jihadism?

Why can’t we all just get along?

People are quick to blame “Islamophobia” for attacks on the US. If we would just accept that the Islam culture is different, they’d just leave us alone. Somehow, terrorism is the fault of Americans. Religious Americans, of course. (This is, oddly, the approximate position of Ron Paul as well: That American activities are the cause of jihadist attacks, and that they’d leave us alone if we “pulled out of their countries.”) A commenter on Citizen Tom’s fine blog seemed to evince such a belief: Continue reading

Chicken of Turkey

A brief note on a telling dichotomy:

When the left describes something they don’t like about Christianity or Judaism, they are not shy about it.  They’ll even pin bombings or shootings on “Christian terrorists” or “Tea party” people ( which to many on the left seems synonymous), before any evidence is in hand at all. But they are often strangely gently and circumspect when it comes to handling Islam: Continue reading

Procecuting Blogs

(Over at Citizen Tom‘s, he and I have been engaged in a discussion related to his “Speaking Truth to Power” posts, including the follow up.  One aspect of the discussion in that follow up is worth pointing out separately, I believe. I wrote, in part:)
There is, as we’ve discussed before, a distinction between the “public personae” of political figures, which have generally been quite overtly religious, and their private philosophies which are sometimes less so. This is not always different; Ronald Reagan, for example, was quite devout both privately and publicly. But for years — centuries, really — it was necessary to be publicly religious in order to be seen to be fit as a leader in the US. You would not be criticized for being Christian here. The newer sort of evangelical faith was accepted by both political sides; our first evangelical president so far as I can recall was Jimmy Carter (for whom Pat Robertson campaigned).

This attitude is being replaced, in recent decades, with a media-led outright hostility to Christianity. And in a curious juxtaposition, the modern trend is one of supplanting it in some respects with Islam as the protected faith. We now have officially appointed US Attorneys (such as William Killian) warning us that we are subject to prosecution if we write comments on social media considered demeaning to Islam. This was not something ever officially sanctioned by the US when it came to Christianity. In the described presentation, the US Attorney in Tennessee makes the assertion that posting something that is offensive to Muslims violates their civil rights, and is subject to prosecution. An excerpt:

“We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”

Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.

“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” he said.

There is now a “civil right” against being offended discerned by the current administration, exactly in accordance with Sharia (and United Nations) principles. Interestingly, Killian makes quite a few false statements in his presentation, if he is quoted accurately. Most are aimed against Christians. It is interesting to speculate whether US Atty Killian is subject to prosecution for violating the “civil rights” of Christians with his offensive statements.

Ah, but do not hold your breath while waiting; Christians are not afforded such rights by our uneven current government. The change in attitudes means that professing a Christian faith is becoming more and more risky. Thus, in many circles, you are at risk of being ostracized for your beliefs just as I am in other venues. Would that this was not a part of America’s modern culture (and government) for either of us!

And it brings me back to your central topic: We are hamstrung, those of us concerned about the rise of jihadism as a threat to Western civilization, by an ever-increasing environment of rules and attitudes that make it dangerous to speak that truth to those in power — or publicly at all.

You mentioned “many strange ‘isms” and I completely agree. You’re familiar, I think, with the short film Make Mine Freedom from 1948 that touches eloquently on that topic. In that post, I wound up in a lively discussion of racism — because the film showed black and which schoolchildren together in 1948. But its message about “isms” is an important one, and needs to be spoken, even if the “power” (from government to bureaucracy to most of the media) seems thoroughly infected with them.

Best wishes.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Sunday Verse 6: Two Worlds

Another post in the Food for Thought series, triggered by this nomination from Citizen Tom.

One rather famous verse in the synoptic Gospels (such as in Matthew 21) includes this line: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The same chapter contains many other recognizable phrases, and it has long intrigued me how many different Biblical expressions have made it to English conversational or literary use.  For example, in this chapter are found the expression “Many are called, but few are chosen” and “Show me the money!”  (often translated as “show me the tribute money” or “show the the tribute coin”). Continue reading

Is Altruism Batty?

This creature is perhaps an unlikely representative of altruism:

The nightmarish vampire bat might not seem like a team player, given that it’s a parasite and all, but in fact it demonstrates some pretty advanced social intelligence. It’s in the best interest of a small animal like the bat to maintain a healthy and large community, and vampire bats, as it turns out, are capable of reciprocal altruism–basically, doing favors. Research by Gerald Wilkinson showed that bats share food (fine, they regurgitate blood. Happy?) with bats who are hungry, regardless of whether the hungry bats are close relatives. In fact, writes Boysen, “the bats seemed to keep track of who had shared with them in the past, and they were much more likely to reciprocate with those who had been generous to them on a previous occasion.”

The gallery in this PopSci website is called “10 animals that are smarter than you think” and is interesting, despite leaving out octopuses (which is correct, I suppose, as I think that they are very smart).

The vampire bat is described as demonstrating “advanced social intelligence” and “reciprocal altruism.”  But is it truly altruism, or is it more likely a wise investment for self-preservation?  The researcher quoted in the caption notes “the bats seemed to keep track of who had shared with them in the past, and they were much more likely to reciprocate with those who had been generous to them on a previous occasion.”  They would give blood to other bats, independent of whether those bats were related, with an eye toward getting the favor back in the future. And ones who had been generous would be rewarded with a meal instead of relatives, which means the vampire bat version of “blood is thicker than water” needs a number of adjustments.

So, then, would “altruism” — what these creatures do is described as “reciprocal altruism” which might be a bit closer to “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” from a larger and genetically closer fellow mammal. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it seems to me to be a mis-use of the word “altruism” if the bat discriminates who it helps based on an expectation of, or reward for, returned favors.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle