Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Archive for January 2010

Jan/10

24

More Mush

This time from Catholic theologian Hans Küng, the co-author of a new book reviewed by Adam Kirsch in The Tablet:

How to Do Good and Avoid Evil is, in fact, the fruit of one of Küng’s major ecumenical projects, the “Declaration toward a Global Ethic” produced by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a conference held in Chicago in 1993. Küng drafted the declaration, which lays out four “irrevocable directives,” ethical principles upon which people of all religions can supposedly agree. They are “Commitment to a Culture of Nonviolence and Respect for Life”; “Commitment to a Culture of Solidarity and a Just Economic Order”; “Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life in Truthfulness”; and “Commitment to a Culture of Equal Rights and a Partnership between Men and Women.”

He’s a joker, that Küng, but then I suppose you have to be to take seriously something called the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

H/t: Andrew Sullivan, who highlights a different aspect of Kirsch’s review.

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Jan/10

24

Trouble in the Church (of Climate Change)

One of the clearest ways in which, for some, a belief in anthropogenic global warming has taken on the characteristics of a religion is in the way it has provided them with an organizing principle that helps ‘explain’ so much that would otherwise be random (a terrifying thought, apparently) or, in any event, beyond mankind’s control. To the ancients, the idea that terrible storms, say, or famine, was the work of the gods was not only an explanation for the previously inexplicable, but also, paradoxically, a source of hope and, for their priests, control. Could divine wrath be appeased by a sacrifice or two or, for that matter, better behavior? If it could, man was no longer powerless in the face of natural disaster. What a relief.

Time has moved on and many religions, excluding perhaps the curious faith apparently professed by Pat Robertson, are now a little more sophisticated, but the certainty with which some in the AGW crowd link catastrophe to climate change has been striking and more than a little reminiscent of more primitive belief systems.

Under the circumstances, this latest inconvenient revelation about the way in which the IPCC, the UN’s climate change body, has both been operating and been used is striking:

The United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report’s own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

The claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global warming is already affecting the severity and frequency of global disasters, has since become embedded in political and public debate. It was central to discussions at last month’s Copenhagen climate summit, including a demand by developing countries for compensation of $100 billion (£62 billion) from the rich nations blamed for creating the most emissions.

Ed Miliband, the [British] energy and climate change minister, has suggested British and overseas floods — such as those in Bangladesh in 2007 — could be linked to global warming. Barack Obama, the US president, said last autumn: “More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.”

Jan/10

23

A foolish alliance

If Republican opponents of Ben Bernanke think that his replacement would be more laissez-faire than Bernanke, they are deluding themselves.   Obama’s terrified renewed lurch towards left-wing populism all but guarantees a Fed chairman who would be more interventionist on behalf of debtors and consumers.

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Jan/10

23

What would Jesus pack?

An arms manufacturer has been coding references to New Testament verses on the sights of the rifles it supplies to the Pentagon for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of the coded passages from John is:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

The discovery has provoked the usual criticism that such references will be offensive to Muslims and will fuel the belief that the U.S. is carrying out a religious crusade, a reaction that in the present instance strikes me as not wholly irrational, if not actually true.  But what I find most striking in this episode is the notion that Jesus’ message should be seen as inspiration for, or compatible with, blasting someone away with a high-tech rifle.  This notion is almost as quixotic as the idea that the exponent of the Sermon on the Mount, who asked:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin

is invoked to justify the capitalist acquisition of wealth.  People’s capacity to read into the Bible what they want to find is as creative as their capacity to read into God what comforts them.  After another non-Islamic-terrorist (and thus largely ignored) mass killing in Virginia last week, a neighbor of the victims told the New York Times:

“We’re not going out in the dark not knowing what’s out there. But we trust in the Lord to take care of us.”

Now why would the Lord take care of the neighbors, but not the eight victims, I wonder?

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Jan/10

21

Post-Massachusetts blow-out reconnoitering

The emerging consensus among Democrats that they should ratchet back the health care stampede for now is certainly welcome, but not necessarily the corresponding view that they should focus instead on “fixing the economy.”  “Fixing the economy” will mean the usual incompetent efforts to pick market winners or to bankroll pet projects like “green jobs,” rather than lowering the costs of doing business across the board through cutting taxes, regulation, and spending (pure supply-side tax cuts without commensurate spending cuts are as irresponsible as endless deficit spending).  Even before the Brown upset, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave a preview of the typical Democratic noblesse oblige regarding  “job creation”: 

Whether talking about electric cars or his much-promised “Subway to the Sea,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has reworked his message during his second term to focus on a single overriding goal: jobs.  . . . The mayor plans to target three sectors: biotechnology, clean technology companies and entertainment.

How about letting the market decide which sectors to target?
The Brown victory gives conservatives a true cause to celebrate, besides demonstrating that our democracy is still vibrant and that the world can change unpredictably with lightning speed.  So maybe Republicans and conservatives can stop manufacturing pseudo-scandals regarding the opposition and start doling out criticism only for activities they don’t themselves engage in.  Last night, radio host John Bachelor was deriding Obama as a big-government liberal for having voted twice as a Senator for TARP.  That would be the TARP designed by the Bush Administration.  Over the past several weeks, estimable conservative publications have run articles on the demonization of conservatives by the left and on Obama worship.  All valid observations.  But Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin regularly announce that Obama wants to “destroy America;” the “pal-ing around with terrorists” conceit is still alive and well and has been joined by a “pal-ing around with Communists” meme; and the cult of Reagan was not just a late career phenomenon but arose almost immediately upon his entry into the political realm.  Sarah Palin’s fans have not exactly been restrained in their estimation of her talents.

Jan/10

20

Hitler reacts to Scott Brown’s victory

H/T Ezra Klein

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Jan/10

19

Open thread on Scott Brown, etc.

In case people want to discuss his victory tonight. I don’t have any unique insights that you can’t find elsewhere, but a quick question. Looking at the pollster.com Coakley vs. Brown polls on the front page right now I get average of 51 for Brown and 44 for Coakley. The final looks like to be a 3 percentage points higher for Coakley and 1 point higher for Brown, so I think it worked out. Last fall I made fun of a rather stupid blogger at Wizbang for his skepticism of the polling (which turned out to be very close in regards to Obama vs. McCain). I haven’t followed political blogging too closely recently, so does anyone know of an equivalent from the Left this time around? They’re usually pretty amusing to read after the fact, though I grant that this race moved fast and the polling was volatile in comparison to last fall’s presidential campaign.

Jan/10

18

On the Miscellany

Walter, that’s an interesting round-up. The Irish blasphemy law merits a separate post of its own (the issues are a touch more complicated than they seem), but for now I’ll just comment on two of the other stories you pass on.

I have no idea whether Obama is right or wrong in thinking that there’s a ‘spark of the divine’ within each of us, but I see no reason for anyone to be ‘offended’ (dread word) by the assertion. Coming from a believer it is, in fact, a compliment.

And then there’s Mitch Daniels. The Indiana governor’s claim that “all” the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists is absurd, even if we assume that he is referring to the major historical atrocities that defiled that unhappy period. In this context, it says something in particular about Daniels’ knowledge of history that he so confidently includes Hitler in the atheist ranks. Hitler was no Christian, certainly, but to work out what his religious beliefs really were is no easy task, not least because many of his own statements on the topic were more a matter of cynical political expediency than serious professions or rejections of faith. So far as one can discern, however, Hitler does appear to have had some belief in God or ‘Providence’, but perhaps Gov. Daniels has a different interpretation of what the word “atheist” actually means.

Or maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Jan/10

18

Miscellany, January 18

More bits and oddments expanded and adapted from Secular Right’s Twitter account:

  • NYC’s Met Museum to rename Islamic Galleries, may yank art depicting Mohammed [NY Post] “Motoons republished throughout Europe” — why not here? [MWW]
  • “My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.” [CNN via Amy Alkon]
  • “Anti blasphemy law campaign begins in Ireland” [MWW, Times Online, Ilya Somin/Volokh]
  • In a nutshell, the three varieties of Straussians [Mike Rappaport, Right Coast]
  • “Atheism leads to brutality”: GOP Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels comes off badly in interview [Legal Satyricon]
  • How religious is your state? [Pew Forum]
  • Hitchens on Gore Vidal [Vanity Fair] And on our leaders’ absurd reaction to the attempted plane bombing [Slate]
  • “Spark of the divine” within each of us: Obama Nobel speech last month slighted unbelievers [Ann Althouse]
  • Spokesman for Prof. Robert George’s American Principles Project moves in circles quite different from those of this website [Michael Sean Winters, America]
  • Funny: Satan sends a letter responding to Pat Robertson on Haiti [Star-Tribune, scroll to second item]

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Jan/10

18

Terrorism’s risk curve

The logic of anti-terrorism measures seems to be that if one bad event happens, such as the 12/25 plot, the risk of similar bad events suddenly shoots up exponentially.  Thus the airport shut-downs over the last two weeks in reaction to minor security breaches, the no-liquids and no-shoes flying bans, and the rush for body scans.  I’m dreading a cross-country flight tomorrow, since there are only so many books I can lug into an airport in anticipation of security delays (yes, Kindle would solve that problem).  Surely this sense of a precipitously elevated risk following an attempt or an actual attack is of questionable logic, though perhaps the reaction is unavoidable. (more…)

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