In which I agree with Vox Day

I’ve been reading the comments over at Vox’s blog, and it’s pretty hilarious, not to mention providing double your recommended minimum daily dose of irony. For example, here’s Vox attacking the person who brought up my TIA series:

You’re absolutely wrong. Terrible example and you have apparently not read TIA nor understood that Duncan doesn’t even begin to rebut its arguments. He does not show that religion was involved as a pretext in more than 7 percent of the wars in recorded human history. Nor does he explain why no military tactician or strategist has EVER incorporated religion into their military tactics or strategy. His critique is totally invalid.

Now stop making groundless assertions and be specific. Precisely what about that his argument that religion causes war do you find persuasive?

Notice, the primary crime he accuses his critic of is a failure to read and understand the opposing point of view. He then insists that I failed to rebut his argument, and he demands to know what is so persuasive about my argument that religion causes war. Does he have a point? Does my argument—meaning the argument I actually made, not the one Vox attributes to me—fall apart when examined in the light of the evidence Vox cites?

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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Society, TIA. 12 Comments »

Reply to Col. Maxey

Via Ed Brayton’s blog comes this letter from Lt. Col. Stacy Maxey, as reported by guest blogger Chris Rodda.

Letters to the Editor, December 15, 2010So let me see if I understand this: The Defense Department is proposing to let people who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle serve “openly” in the armed forces (per the Dec. 2 article “DADT study group: Full integration is best”), but won’t allow Christians such as myself the freedom to “openly” share the good news of Christ with our co-workers — as the faith we’ve chosen requires?

DOD officials plan to tell servicemembers who have a problem with those living a homosexual lifestyle to “learn to deal with it,” but they are prepared to counsel and/or slap Christians with paperwork if someone feels “offended” by our witness? Wearing sexual lifestyle choices on your sleeve is OK, but not your faith?

Military chaplains who teach that homosexuality is antithetical to and incompatible with Christianity (which it is) can either muzzle their objections or “leave,” but gays will be permitted to parade their lifestyle choices in front of all?

Bottom line: So I’m free to express myself if I’m a homosexual, but not if I’m a Christian? What disgraceful hypocrisy.

Here’s the truth: I will continue to witness to who I want, when I want and where I want. My commitment to my God supersedes my commitment to the DOD and, if officials are upset about that, then I guess they can “learn to deal with it.”

Department of Defense? More like the Department of Double Standards.

Lt. Col. Stacy L. Maxey
Afghanistan

I feel like writing back to the good colonel and clarifying one or two matters about which there seems to be some confusion.

Dear Col. Maxey;

Regarding your letter of Dec. 15 to the Stars and Stripes, it seems you are offended by the double standard involved in repealing DADT. I’m sure you will be delighted to find out that a fair compromise is easily available that removes all of the issues of double standards between Christians and gays in the military. All we need to do is apply the same standard to both. With the repeal of DADT, the following will be possible:

  • If someone asks whether you are a Christian, you will not have to lie and say that you are not, just as gays will no longer have to lie when asked if they are gay.
  • If the military discovers that you are Christian, you will not automatically be discharged, just as gays will no longer face immediate discharge upon discovery that they are gay.
  • If you are seen openly participating in casual Christian activities, such as going to church or carrying a bible, you will not need to fear immediate exposure and discharge, just as gays who are seen associating with others of the same sex will not need to fear immediate exposure and discharge.
  • Any prayers, Bible studies, or other Christian activities which you engage in on your own time, in private, will not be any of the military’s business, just as it is none of the military’s business what homosexual soldiers do in private, on their own time.
  • If you have a fellow soldier or superior officer who is pressuring you to engage in homosexual activities against your will, you will have the same freedom to file a complaint as a gay soldier has to complain about a fellow soldier who is pressuring them to engage in Christian activities against their will.
  • If a superior officer unfairly penalizes you for failure to engage in homosexual activities, by giving you unfavorable performance reviews, withholding promotion, or giving you punitive work assignments, you will have the opportunity to apply for a redress of your grievances, just as gays will in the case of superior officers who penalize them similarly for failure to engage in Christian activities.
  • Military chaplains who advocate Christian conduct, as well as those who advocate homosexual conduct, will be free to speak as their conscience demands when conducting designated services where attendance is voluntary, but may face pressure, reprimands, or even discharge if they abuse their position to advocate Christianity or homosexuality among those who do not wish to participate in such exchanges.

Granted, you may be required by regulations (if not by ordinary courtesy and professionalism) to make certain concessions. For example, to promote team cohesion and unit effectiveness, you may not be allowed to single out certain members of your team for public humiliation and harassment just because they are gay. But even here, the same standard works the other way: your team members will be required not to single you out for public humiliation and harassment just because you are a bigot and/or have chosen a bigoted religion.

You are right: there have been some serious and injurious double standards in the military. I’m sure that with your interest in justice, fairness, and service, you will be delighted now that these double standards are being ended, and the samel rules applied equally to all service members.

Sincerely,

Deacon Duncan.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Politics, Society. 6 Comments »

Getting religion

Every now and then the atheist/skeptical community sees a flare-up in the debate over “framing.” On the one hand, people like PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens favor forthright, unapologetic denunciation of religious falsehoods. On the other, people like Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet protest that the “New Atheists” are being too aggressive, and are turning people off.

My comments in the past have been along the lines of “they’re both partly right and partly wrong,” but I’ve been frustrated by my inability to express something that felt deeper and more important than that. It took me a while to put it together, but now I think I’m ready to go into more detail, and spell it out.

The basic problem is that neither the New Atheists nor the “framers” really get religion. Yes, I’m being deliberately provocative in hopes of stirring discussion—religion is a subject both groups are intensely interested in and familiar with, so neither side is exactly ignorant about it. But there’s a very important aspect to religion that they still don’t “get,” and without this understanding, neither side will never have anything more than rare and coincidental successes, at least in the public arena.

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Posted in Society. 16 Comments »

Gay rights and Biblical justice

Hey, I just had a stray thought. I know how we can settle this whole gay rights controversy in a way that should please gays, liberals, and even conservative Christians. Let’s use Biblical justice to punish gays for being gay. No, not that whole “stone them with stones” thing. That went out with bronze chariots. I mean that bedrock of moral principle at the bottom of God’s Old Testament Law, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Since gay people sin against us by falling in love differently than we do, we should punish them by falling in love differently than they do. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth! Let’s see how they like a taste of their own medicine, eh? They want to walk down the street with a same-sex lover? We’ll show them: we’ll walk down the street with opposite sex lovers. Hah! They want to marry same-sex partners? Let ‘em. But we’ll make ‘em pay. We’ll marry opposite sex partners. Legally! Take that, gays! You want to be different from us? Fine, then we’re gonna be different from you. And it serves you right.

Yeah, none of this merciful, New Testament, God-loves-sinners crap. Paul knew how to deal with sinners. Give ‘em old-fashioned Moses-brand justice, and do to them exactly what they’re doing to us, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. 100% Biblical justice, old school. Then everyone will be able to see just how much harm you can do to someone else by falling in love differently than they do.

 
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Posted in Amusements, Politics, Society. 2 Comments »

The Pew Poll

There’s been some discussion lately about the recent Pew poll that shows atheists outscoring believers on the subject of the believers’ own religious beliefs. PZ Myers and Ed Brayton are among those who see this as scoring a not-insignificant point for the atheists’ side, while Chad Orzel and Josh Rosenau are among those cautioning us against reading too much into this interesting statistic. Orzel cites Razib and Nisbet as pointing out that atheists, being in the minority, are more motivated to explore and understand the religious beliefs of others, since they’re more likely to find themselves “in the crosshairs” of a dorm-room discussion or a knock at the door. Brayton, meanwhile, points out that many unbelievers (of which I happen to be one) started out as believers, and became unbelievers precisely because they learned what they were believing in, and thought about it.

Neither side should be lightly dismissed; each has something important to say, and a valid point to make. And of course, I have my own two cents to toss in.

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Posted in Current Events, Society, Unapologetics. 5 Comments »

The New Terrorists

Terrorism: promoting a sustained condition of fear in an entire population in order to get what you want. There are two types of terrorist. The violent type spreads fear by saying “I am going to hurt you.”

Osama bin Ladin

The milder type spreads fear by saying “Someone else is going to hurt you.”

Glenn Beck

You know, like “liberals.” Or better yet, “socialists.” Or gays. Or whoever it’s convenient to demonize at the moment.

Our biggest problem isn’t that we’re being terrorized by the violent guys. It’s all the “milder” types jumping on the terrorist bandwagon, working to maintain a continuous state of fear and paranoia in the general public. If we really want to help America by fighting terrorism, we ought to start by recognizing where it’s really coming from. It’s not being smuggled in from some Middle Eastern territory. It’s 100% home grown.

Just two cents worth, in observance of 9/11.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Society. 7 Comments »

XFiles: The Faith, by Chuck Colson

(Book: The Faith, by Chuck Colson.)

I have a couple more substantial books coming in, but in the meantime I thought I’d take a quick look at Chuck Colson’s book The Faith. As some of you may recall, I bought this book in response to a request from a publicist at Zondervans, who invited me to submit questions to Colson, which the latter promised to respond to publicly in his blog. I sent him two rather simple ones (I thought), and never heard from him again. Go figure. So now I’ve got the book, and I’ve got a gap in the XFiles series, so it seems like it must be God’s will for me to review it now.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest ultra-condensed summary: What do Christian’s believe? A curious mixture of evangelical pop theology and contemporary conservative politics (what Colson calls “social holiness”). Why do Christians believe? Because great Christians demonstrate the power of God by the way they fearlessly face persecution and death for their beliefs. Why does it matter? Because if Christians don’t jump up and vote Republican every time Karl Rove says “family values,” they might end up following the example of the great Christians, and frankly that scares the shit out of them. The Church may love martyrs, but they love them best when they’re someone else.

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Posted in Society, Unapologetics, XFiles. 1 Comment »

A White Christian Nation

As President Obama once remarked, America is not a Christian nation, or at least not just a Christian nation. It’s probably his most-quoted statement (although his quoters tend to have a curious inability to report the “not just a Christian nation” part). It offended a lot of people, even though it’s factually true. There are indeed non-Christians living in America, and since America is a democratic republic, non-Christians do have a significant say in what the country’s values, priorities, and policies are. A simple and even uncontroversial fact—but some people don’t want to hear it. To them, America is a Christian nation, and any attempt to say otherwise is an attack on the Christian faith.

How can we help such people understand why America is not (and does not want to be) a Christian nation? The other day I though of a parallel that might be helpful: calling America a “Christian Nation” is like calling America a “White Nation.” Yes, there were quite a lot of Founding Fathers who espoused at least vaguely Christian rhetoric, just as there were quite a few who owned slaves. And yes, you can find a lot of early American policies and precedents that favored Christianity, just as you can find a lot that favored white men. And you can even argue that, by “freedom of religion,” the Fathers meant being free to choose whatever flavor of Christianity you like best, just as you can argue that when a slave owner like Thomas Jefferson writes “all men are created equal,” he really means only that all white males are equal, and not that women and/or other races are also equal.

If you’re a white supremacist, you may not see anything wrong with doing any of the above. If you’re a Christian supremacist, then you may see a problem only with the “White Nation” arguments (even though they’re the same as your own, slightly re-framed). And that’s the point. The Christian Nation arguments are Christian Supremacist arguments. They’re a bigoted demand that your religion be publicly and officially acknowledged as supreme above all other religions, just as white supremacists demand that whites be held superior to all other races. And that’s why sensible and fair-minded men and women should oppose all efforts to turn America into the kind of Christian nation that our Founding Fathers came here to get away from.

 
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Posted in Politics, Society. 3 Comments »

A Texas “education”?

I haven’t been saying much about current events lately, but there’s a question I just have to ask. Experts have been commenting about how the new curriculum standards out of Texas are likely to influence other states as well, due to the very large number of textbooks purchased by Texas schools. The question I have to ask is what the heck are they doing with all those books?

 
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Posted in Current Events, Education, Society. 8 Comments »

Vox Day, War and religion

Via Ed Brayton comes this word that Vox Day is up to his old tricks again. Apparently, now that the so-called “New Atheism” is no longer making headlines, he feels safe enough to try and float an abbreviated version of his straw-man arguments against atheism, in the form of a short stack of Powerpoint slides (downloadable here). Who knows, perhaps it will boost sales of his sad little book?

The first point in his presentation says that the New Atheists claim that religion causes war, and that Vox can prove statistically that it does not. As always, his refutation consists of ignoring the role of religion in war, and focusing instead on an oversimplification that distorts the data so badly he can make any claim he wants. Specifically, for each war in the Encyclopedia of Wars, he asks, “Is religion the cause of this war?” Not surprisingly, given his biases, he “discovers” that only 3.2% of wars are caused by non-Muslim religions, and fully 93% are allegedly “Non-Religious Wars.”

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Posted in Society, TIA, Unapologetics. 7 Comments »