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.
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
A decade ago, the ACLU threatened suit against the county of Los Angeles because they had a tiny crucifix visible on the county’s official seal. That had to go. The county caved in, despite thousands in the street protesting the rewriting of this bit of history. (By odd circumstance, I was briefly part of that crowd.)
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:
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:
(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.
===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle
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”).
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
I’ve been enjoying recent re-visits to Ayn Rand’s work, and my own Lady Anne has just re-read the full text of Atlas Shrugged and is plowing through Rand’s non-fiction work now. This makes for enjoyable discussions (but I confess a bias toward always considering discussions with my Lady to be enjoyable). Along the way (and spurred by Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness available here as a .PDF file), some lively and surprisingly vehement discussions about definitions of “selfishness” and “self-interest” and “altruism” have taken place, and I have another post on that topic coming soon. But for my purposes at the moment, in this discussion of thought-provoking Bible verses pursuant to the Food for Thought award based on Citizen Tom’s rather flattering nomination, I’m going to look at Biblical treatments of wealth, and a slightly different take on altruism.
Philippians 4 has an exhortation that is appropriate for Thanksgiving — and it is a reminder to be optimistic, and to manage your thoughts. In the Young’s Literal Translation:
8 As to the rest, brethren, as many things as are true, as many as [are] grave, as many as [are] righteous, as many as [are] pure, as many as [are] lovely, as many as [are] of good report, if any worthiness, and if any praise, these things think upon;
It is good advice, whether you are a believer or not. And it is exceedingly difficult in some respects.