Overheard (v. 8)

Overheard — By on June 16, 2006 at 2:59 am

“Throughout this book, I often refer to Christians and Christianity because I am a Christian and I have a fairly good idea of what they believe, but the term is intended to include anyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others.”

– From a footnote on pg. 3 of Ann Coulter’s new book Godless.

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“I’m not sure how wise it is to pass resolutions that functionally condemn the actions of Jesus (John 2; Luke 7:33-34; ) and Paul (1 Tim. 5:23). I’m also not sure it’s very wise to prohibit that which God has given as a gift (Deut. 14:26; Ps. 104:15).”

Justin Taylor on the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution against alcohol.

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“Real patriotism cannot be coerced. Our freedom to speak was attacked ‘



  • David Marcoe

    of course Darksyde is rather infamous in the blogosphere (is there a blog that guy hasn’t commented on?), but despite his reputation, I actually received a thank you e-mail from him after answering a question of his here on EO. So, hats off and God bless to ya DS, if you happen to read this.

  • The Raven

    Right. Darksyde is a very eloquent spokesman for the scientific matters he addresses.
    If you’d like a good scare, drift over to Wired.com and check out Bruce Sterling’s remarks on the politicization of science. He warns, correctly, that at the rate we’re going, US scientists are in danger of becoming pariahs in the international scientific community.
    When our high school and college teachers become afraid to even utter the word “evolution” for fear of reprisals, then we concede ground to the… I forget who said this, but “the 30% of Americans who don’t believe in electricity and radio waves, the people who believe that there are little people moving about inside their televisions.”
    Which is why I always get nervous when evangelicals turn their attention from Spreading the Good News to directing the FDA to block sales of Plan B, to rewriting NOAA reports, to interfering with NASA, etc. I don’t mind the good Doctor Dobson coming on the radio and talking about parenting skills. I get very nervous when he criticizes the Southern Baptist Convention for considering environmental protection as worthy of adoption as a Christian principle.
    In short, please confine yourselves to discussions of the afterlife, and let those of us who wish to pursue scientific inquiry and apply the tools of reason oversee government and education. There’s a place for everyone at the table, so long as we understand our areas of competence.

  • JHadji

    1 – Perhaps Jedi mind tricks explains the strength of the abortion debate. But when you pare down the decoration, it’s hard to polish a turd.
    2 – Here’s to preventing prostate cancer. Perhaps coffee and donuts prevents something too (probably sports injuries)
    3 – Yesterday’s Scrappleface was the best yet

  • http://newsojourn.blogspot.com Mark Hunsaker

    The Raven said: “…please confine yourselves to discussions of the afterlife, and let those of us who wish to pursue scientific inquiry and apply the tools of reason oversee government and education.”
    You know Raven, if you could just implement concentration camps, your wish might come true.
    The old definition of tolerance: Listen to everyone’s ideas and respect the people who offer them even if you do not agree.
    The curren definition of tolerance: Agree with me or shut up.
    Wow, the 21st century ought to be fun.

  • http://wwwl.sufficientscruples.com Kevin T. Keith

    Nat Henthoff’s admission that his thinking about women’s freedom and autonomy is on the level of that of a 9-year-old boy who doesn’t even know what the word “abortion” means is a welcome clarification. (I presume it is equally devoid of any reference to the woman’s interests, as well.)
    Some might be inclined to draw a conclusion from that fact as to the depth of his insight into the matter. As for me, I just hope he finds some older children to talk to, at some point.

  • J. J.

    In short, please confine yourselves to discussions of the afterlife, and let those of us who wish to pursue scientific inquiry and apply the tools of reason oversee government and education.
    Thanks, Raven! This is a great quote for me to have. People sometimes don’t believe me when I say this view exists and its prevalence is one of the (many) reasons we homeschool our kids.
    All education is religious. It just depends on what the prevailing religious thought is.
    Btw, who are these people who are afraid to utter a word about evolution? If I were to send my kids to government schools, that’s the ONLY view they would get there. You show well how PC thought works. The slightest challenge to the prevailing dogma is turned around as some alarmist crisis, so that those doing the challenging are made to look like …(insert favorite pc name calling here)…, making life miserable for the nice PC people. No, I think those who want the government school children to learn evolution are thriving just fine.

  • J. J.

    Nat Henthoff’s admission that his thinking about women’s freedom and autonomy is on the level of that of a 9-year-old boy who doesn’t even know what the word “abortion” means is a welcome clarification. (I presume it is equally devoid of any reference to the woman’s interests, as well.)
    Of course, the other side of the coin is that if an adult can’t see what is blatantly obvious to even a child, he is either stupid, deluded, or an agenda-driven liar.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    KTK:
    Nat Henthoff’s admission that his thinking about women’s freedom and autonomy is on the level of that of a 9-year-old boy who doesn’t even know what the word “abortion” means is a welcome clarification.
    Ouch! :) Let’s just be thankful that the boy didn’t ask “What’s ‘collateral damage?’”

  • Bryan K Mills

    It seems that the objective, non-agenda-driven scientific community reserves special ire for the Christians and ID supporters. I don’t see the derision pouring out over the druids, the astrology buffs, and all the other flavors of anti-rational nonsense that so many embrace.
    I’m not advancing an “Us poor Christians!” whine, I just find it curious. I think Chesterton was right. When you stop believing in God you don’t believe in nothing… you’ll believe in anything.

  • http://davidkeuss.blogspot.com Dave

    I have to take issue with Ann’s comment if it is truely what she meant in context. The use of ‘christian’ as such an ambivalent and broad term makes it useless. Galatians chapter one is clear that there is only one gospel and any attempt to put non-Christians under its banner is falacious at best. I hope that perhaps it is a mistaken comment or somehow out of context.

  • The Raven

    Don’t take my remarks as an affront, guys. Just reminding you of the “render unto Caesar” bit.
    Plenty of room for god-talk in the agora, always has been. The trouble starts when you bring it into the Senate, as it were.
    And for the last time (maybe), there is no war on Christians. We just get antsy when you start directing branches of government that are supposed to be impartial.

  • Bryan K Mills

    Raven,
    I understand what you’re saying. And I don’t (think I) have a persecution complex.
    My pushback to that, however, is that secularists (or scientists or humanists or atheists… I’m using a broad stroke here) pretend that they do not have an agenda composed of values that they wish to impose on others.
    Christians in politics are trying to implement a theocracy.
    Secularists in politics are entirely benign souls trying to implement what is good and proper.
    What?
    How about we all admit that all of us have values and policies we want enacted and then put it to a vote?
    You say we Christians have a persecution complex… maybe we do in this sense: Why can secularists advocate secularist values but Christians can’t advocate Christian values?

  • Winsome

    Coulter meant Judeo-Christian, as in “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
    She’s usually a better master of the English language than that, but if you insert “Judeo-Christian(s),” it renders a reading that shouldn’t cause even a hiccough.

  • The Raven

    Thank you, Bryan. Appreciate that.
    Y’know, you mention “secularism” a lot in your comment and I confess that while I have a sort of vague, generalized sense of what that word means, it doesn’t map to any clear, concise idea that I hold. I wonder what it means to you?
    But there has been quite a bit of discussion of Ann Coulter’s latest book-length diatribe titled, Godless and if you’d bear with me a moment, I’d like to try and tie these concepts together – her book and the idea of “secularism.”
    Yet, to begin with that, let me alter our terms a bit, replacing “secular” with “liberal,” as the latter term has a far more clarified meaning in my idiolect. The liberal mindset as I experience it and as I see it manifest in those around me who identify themselves as such, is always directed toward the idea of human freedom. It is a given that many of us will make serious mistakes, many of us will create bad art (I forward the move Show Girls as Exhibit A), many of us will fall prey to vice. This is a given. A reality. And the fewer of us who experience such calamities the better.
    But it is only with such potential, freely available before us, that we can each have, at least, the possibility of self-actualizing. As long as I have that, I have a reason to live. Just maybe, if I’m smart enough and have the slightest smidgeon of luck, I might reach the absolute limit of my human potential. I want society to be structured in such a way as that remains a possibility.
    Time and again, as I experience Christianity, especially fundamentalist and Baptist evangelical Christianity, I discover a disconnect in agendas: I want a free, relaxed society in which individuals have maximum freedom, and these other people would prefer a whole bunch of severe, restrictive rules and laws imposed such that freedom to act would be harshly curtailed.
    So the teenaged girl who got accidentally knocked up on prom night now must carry that child to term, by law. So the guy who spent an entire day being screamed at by management is foresaken the all-too-temporary relief of a glass of gin at the end of his day, alcohol now being forbidden. So too with dancing, avante-gardism in general, and unrestricted philosophy. Given these possibilities, liberalism appeals to me and I reject the more violent, self-interested tenets of conservatism in general.
    Yet as to spirituality, most liberals I know are extremely reflective and often religious. Most are Judeo-Christian (just not overly expansive about it), some are pagan, many are Buddhist. I’ve been continuing my own studies of Taoism and while this isn’t a deity-driven way of life, it is very much focused on the business of perceiving reality. The jury is still out on what reality is, and I’m always interested in anything anybody has to say about it.
    So, given that I’m a secularist by your definition, I wouldn’t impose any particular view about anything on anybody. I suspect that this is why chapter 8 of Coulter’s book, which consists of a 20-something page attack on an evolutionary strawman, is so terribly sad. There’s so much of interest that could be discussed here, and it’s a shame to waste the trees that were harvested to create that paper.
    No intelligent individual, to my knowledge, makes any serious decision or defines himself, or sees himself in relation to anything based on the theory of Darwinian evolution. That is, after all, only a theory. Given that it’s the best explanation going, it suggests a frame of reference, but it’s always subject to revision if evidence for some other theory emerges. Such evidence remains to be seen, but I’m certainly not prejudiced against it.
    In like guise, most common preconceptions about liberalism are laughably absurd. We don’t see religion as being a problem, but rigidity of belief rarely proves to be an optimal strategy for dealing with life’s challenges.

  • Terry

    Oh for God’s sake:
    “But it is only with such potential, freely available before us, that we can each have, at least, the possibility of self-actualizing. As long as I have that, I have a reason to live. Just maybe, if I’m smart enough and have the slightest smidgeon of luck, I might reach the absolute limit of my human potential. I want society to be structured in such a way as that remains a possibility.”
    Raven- Have you ever asked yourself where this desire for “self-actualizing” comes from? What in the world does “society” have to do with as selfish a project as “self-actualizating”? Where does “luck” come from? Why should it favor you?
    I think you are depending on ghosts to give you a reason to live.

  • Bryan K Mills

    Raven,
    I think we are talking past one another on some levels here.
    Maybe Christians exist like the ones you’re talking about–those that want to clamp down on everyone’s freedom–but I don’t hang out with any of them.
    I can speak for myself only, but my ideal government is somewhere between libertarianism and conservatism. I want a small, limited governnment that does as little as possible. I believe in public morality, I believe that societies need moral people (especially representative ones like ours), and I believe government should actively promote public morality. How it should do so–that’s too long an essay here. I’m not talking about prohibition and closing down all the dance halls. You and I will likely disagree here.
    I don’t see liberalism in its modern incarnation as compatible with freedom. They want government involved in everything. I think this is where you and I will disagree most.
    Since you mentioned it, I think government should have something to say about abortion–it should protect the defenseless among us. “Choice” comes before sex. What comes after is “Consequences” (backing away slowly… this fight never ends).
    Like you, I do want maximum freedom. I want the freedom to not have the government take my money and use it to pay for things I find morally reprehensible. I suspect if we did away with socialism and stopped making me finance other’s immorality I would stop complaining so much. Give me a limited government that doesn’t engage in social engineering and I think we’d all get along a lot better. Liberalism will never agree to this, as it sees government as the answer to everything.
    I’ll stop here… I’m starting to ramble.

  • The Raven

    Hi Bryan:
    “Like you, I do want maximum freedom.”
    Glad to hear it – it is, after all, the American spirit. Perhaps one way to frame our difference in perspectives is that in my view, offering maximum freedom is inherently risky. As I said above – such freedom includes the freedom to make poor decisions. I imagine that Christianity offers the adherent a kind of code of behavior that seeks to minimize the possibility of poor choices – and that’s why religion is so tempting to so many people.
    Yet, “freedom to be free only in the manner that is agreeable to me, personally” isn’t any kind of freedom at all, unless we are all exactly alike. So our social organization will always have to enact compromises between conflicting visions of what it is that we should all be about. Take the notion of “death with dignity,” or the idea that a sane individual might, in some rare circumstances, be legally allowed to terminate his or her own life as doing so would be the most preferable of all given choices. For a test case, consider Anna.
    Anna was the ward of a very close friend of mine, a young man who was employed by the state to care for her as a live-in aide. Anna was the unfortunate victim of MS (multiple sclerosis), and her diagnosis was terminal. Problem was, her prognosis had her on a downward spiral that would require about 3 years to complete. During that time, I watched Anna steadily decline in functionality; at first, she was able to sit in a wheelchair and she could make noises that my friend was able to interpret. At the time I met her, she was able to communicate somewhat. Eating, dressing, these were not possible for her, but she could interact with others – and this is considered by some ethicists as being one of the primary definitions of human dignity.
    In her third year, Anna was a thrashing, howling presence. Her four limbs had to be restrained to her bedposts, and all she could do was scream and buck, her mis-firing neurons having taken over all control over her. She endured about 6 months of that before she finally died. Now, if I were diagnosed with her illness, I would immediately kill myself. If I decided to hang on a bit, I would hope that the law allowed me to request a physician to kill me as long as I still had the wherewithal to make that request. I would want that freedom.
    My fear is that fundamentalist Christianity, of the type that seeks to prohibit abortion, also seeks to prohibit assisted suicide, for identical reasons. Freedom exists, to my way of thinking, when you are free to follow the dictates of whatever religion you choose – you believe abortion is bad? Don’t have one. You believe assisted suicide is bad? Let them tie you to the bedposts. You should have those choices. But you can’t make those choices for me. The moment you do that, I am not free.
    This position can be argued against – I am not requesting a rebuttal here – only pointing out one area in which compromise may offer the only solution that, while not protecting all individuals, protects most. As for liberalism being an argument for greater government control over the individual, of course I disagree. The definition I would forward is that liberalism is the notion that it is possible for a government to do good things.
    Remember that conservatism, encompassed most tightly by Thoreau’s credo of “that government which governs least governs best,” is also a philosophy that distrusts government inherently. That is, conservatives are proving themselves to be extremely poor stewards of the national interest because their hearts simply aren’t in it – they dislike government and they dislike government solutions. Iraq, Katrina, Medicare, Social Security, Bankruptcy law, you name it, the conservative approach to all these things is an unmitigated disaster because a core belief that government IS the problem results in poor performance.
    Liberalism only posits that an intelligent government MIGHT be able to offer solutions that help more than hurt. Intrusiveness is not an ipso facto requirement. Best regards – R.

  • AYTQ

    The Utter Dysfunction of the United Nations
    It will take five minutes to read this and another five minutes to take action, proposed below. Please don

  • Eric & Lisa

    The Raven wrote;
    In her third year, Anna was a thrashing, howling presence. Her four limbs had to be restrained to her bedposts, and all she could do was scream and buck, her mis-firing neurons having taken over all control over her. She endured about 6 months of that before she finally died. Now, if I were diagnosed with her illness, I would immediately kill myself. If I decided to hang on a bit, I would hope that the law allowed me to request a physician to kill me as long as I still had the wherewithal to make that request. I would want that freedom.
    It is interesting to me that you said this in a post that included mention of Ann Coulters new book, “Godless.”
    The part of the book that is getting the most news, chapter 5, is all about how liberals use grief to keep conservatives from responding. She said specifically on one television show
    She criticized the widows for “speak[ing] out using the fact that they’re widows” and “using their grief” and “the fact that you lost a husband” to make “a political point while preventing anyone from responding.” She further argued that “the Left” exploits a “doctrine of infallibility,” and that “[i]f they have a point to make about the 9-11 Commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism,” they “put[] up Cindy Sheehan … put[] out these widows.” As a result, Coulter said, conservatives “always have to respond to someone who just had a family member die” and appear to be “questioning the authenticity of the grief.”
    Ive never noticed how often liberals do this, until now.

  • The Raven

    E&L: No, I didn’t bring it up, Bryan did. My observation was a logical continuation of his remark here:
    “Since you mentioned it, I think government should have something to say about abortion–it should protect the defenseless among us.”
    When talk turns to this subject, often we can make progress by discussing end-of-life issues, because they involve many of the same considerations. And it’s always better to be specific when possible. But thanks for letting us know that you spent your hard-earned money on Coulter’s blind hatred. Really – there are so many more uplifting things you could have chosen to read.

  • RB

    Hmmmm.
    “collateral damage”?
    “abortion”?
    Pretty easy IQ test question here as to which one involves the purposeful killing of children.
    My money would be on the 9-year-old to figure that one out, too..

  • Bryan K Mills

    OK, RB, I’ll bite.
    Abortion is an intentional killing.
    Collateral Damage is an accidental killing.
    Did I pass?

  • Bryan K Mills

    OK, RB, I’ll bite:
    Abortion: purposeful killing of children.
    Collateral Damage: accidental killing of children.
    How’d I do?

  • RB

    Bryan K Mills–
    Off the charts.
    Of course this did make me wonder if there’s a new tactic hidden in here—redefining abortion as collateral damage resulting from sexual encounters….blame it on the moon, baby.

  • http://dailykos.com/ DS

    TY for the link Joe. Clark was pretty impressive. He talked for almost half an hour with just an outline, a few bullet points. It took me about half an hour to get three sentences wired. But as far as the intersection between science and politics goes, PZ and Chris Mooney are hard to beat. They have that stuff down pretty well.