Why the wall is there.

Via Americans United comes this report of how a failure to separate church and state leads to a dilution of the church.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today, Americans United and allied religious leaders and organizations take issue with a federal court decision allowing Utah officials to place crosses along highways to memorialize state highway patrol officers who have died in the line of duty.

State officials insisted that the Christian symbol is a secular symbol and can be used regardless of the personal religious beliefs of the officer being honored.

Did you catch that? The state of Utah is telling mainstream Christians that the Cross is no longer their symbol. Nope, it’s been secularized. It has nothing to do with the Gospel, or with paying the penalty for sin, or even with anticipating the Resurrection. All a cross means is death. You walk into a Christian church, you see a big cross up front, and according to the state of Utah, all it means is that someone died in church.

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The price of belief

In the Chronicles of Narnia, there is a story of how two children and a “marsh wiggle” named Puddleglum travel deep into underground realms to rescue a kidnapped prince from the clutches of an evil witch. Using gentle music, and some strange, narcotic herbs thrown into the fire, the witch begins to enchant the three of them, telling them there is no sun, no sky, and above all no Aslan (the messianic Lion who is the real hero of Narnia). Just when the enchantment is almost complete, Puddleglum rallies, stomps on the fire, and tells the witch that even if there is no sun, sky, or Aslan, he’d rather believe in them all anyway because they’re a darn sight nicer that what the witch is telling them.

You hear the same argument from people in real life. Suppose there is no God (or at least no Christian God). Suppose the Gospel really is just a myth. But it’s such a nice story. What’s wrong with just believing in it anyway? If the fable is pleasant and comfortable, and the truth seems unappealing, why not go ahead and believe the fable anyway? What’s the harm?

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Bruce Ivins: born again?

Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide when he found out the FBI was preparing to accuse him of sending anthrax-tainted letters that killed 5 people, wrote a number of letters to his local newspaper during his career. These letters are now available online, thanks to the Frederick (MD) News-Post, and they make for some fascinating reading. Dr. Ivins, it seems, was no Richard Dawkins.

August 24, 2006

Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a “dialogue.”

By blood and faith, Jews are God’s chosen, and have no need for “dialogue” with any gentile. End of “dialogue.”

And there’s more.

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TIA Tuesday: Wrapping up Hitchens

Vox Day closes his chapter on Christopher Hitchens with a look at three topics where he feels Hitchens does particularly badly: historical Biblical accuracy, child abuse, and charity. Let’s look at the first of these and see how Vox does.

In discussing the Bible, Hitchens claims that the four Gospels were not in any sense a historical record and claims their multiple authors “cannot agree on anything of importance.” His only source is Bart Ehrman, an apostate former evangelical whose Misquoting Jesus is an interesting and respected textual criticism of the inerrant inspiration of the New Testament. But Hitchens is apparently unaware that Ehrman has been forced to admit that the Gospels are in accordance that 1) Jesus was crucified and buried, 2) his tomb was discovered to be empty, 3) his disciples believed they encountered him after his death, and 4) his disciples sincerely believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

That’s an interesting rebuttal, considering that the earliest and most reliable manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at chapter 16 and verse 8, which mentions an angel and an empty tomb, but not any actual encounters with the allegedly risen savior, or subsequent belief on the disciples’ part. So of the 4 areas of broad general agreement that Ehrman was “forced to admit,” two of them aren’t even in the originals of one of the four Gospels.

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The opposite of discovery

Via AnswerTheSkeptic.com comes this report, from Dr. Hugo Ross, on what Martian ice ages teach us about God.

Schorghofer demonstrated that the mid-latitude subsurface ice was well explained by large intermittent increases in the tilt of Mars’ rotation axis. His explanation implied that, unlike Earth, the main driving force behind Mars’ ice ages was changes in the tilt of its rotation axis…

What makes Earth so extraordinary is that the variation in the tilt of its rotation axis is virtually nil and changes in the eccentricity and inclination of its orbit are very small compared to the other solar system planets. Evidently, Earth’s orbital and rotational features have been exquisitely fine-tuned to allow for the long-term survival of advanced life on its surface.

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Sunday Toons: The Trilemma’s New Clothes

For today’s trip to toonland, I want to finish up a few loose ends in Holding’s attempted defense of C. S. Lewis’ famous “Liar, Lord or Lunatic” trilemma. First, though, let’s take a quick look at a comment Holding made about this blog in the “July Screwballs” section of theologyweb. He introduces a comment of mine with this little gem:

And, Dumplin’ Dumbash on why he responds to me, and why he therefore has Dunning Syndrome:

The reference to “Dunning Syndrome” is apparently a reference to an Ig-Nobel-award-winning paper (available in PDF here) in which authors Kruger and Dunning discuss people with very low mental aptitude (e.g. 12th percentile) having impaired ability to assess their own intellectual performance. Wikipedia has an entry for this phenomenon under “Dunning-Kruger Effect” (not “Dunning Syndrome), and describes it as “the phenomenon wherein people who have little knowledge (or skill) tend to think they know more (or have more skill) than they do.” Holding wants to accuse me of suffering from this problem, but in his rush to accuse, he mistakenly calls it a “syndrome” and gets the name of the authors wrong, thus demonstrating that he really doesn’t know as much about this condition as he thinks he knows. The gypsy curse strikes again!

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XFiles Friday: Is the NT telling the truth?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 9.)

Now that they’ve established the fact that, yes, we have a pretty fair idea of what the original text of the New Testament was, Geisler and Turek are ready to move on to the question of whether the claims made by the NT are actually true. They begin by listing seven points which they cite as being the seven tests historians use to determine whether or not a historical document should be regarded as factually accurate.

  1. Do we have early testimony?
  2. Do we have eyewitness testimony?
  3. Do we have testimony from multiple, independent eyewitness sources?
  4. Are the eyewitnesses trustworthy?
  5. Do we have corroborating evidence from archeology or other writers?
  6. Do we have any enemy attestation?
  7. Does the testimony contain events or details that are embarrassing to the authors?

The first thing one notices about these seven questions is that they are an apologetics checklist, not a list of tests for determining the relative credibility of a particular document. “Let’s see, what can we use to convince people that Christianity is true? Do we have eyewitnesses, or something we can claim to be eyewitness testimony? Do we have anything we can cite as being multiple, independent eyewitness sources? Can we argue for the trustworthiness of the eyewitnesses? Is there anything from archeology or ancient literature that we can use as evidence? Can we make it sound like the writers are being embarrassingly forthright and honest in their accounts? What can we use to convince people we’re right?” It’s all apologetics.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 2 Comments »