Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He addressed the abuses of the sale of indulgences and this event proved to provide the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. In an era when the Gospel had been eclipsed by a system of human merit, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other magisterial reformers proclaimed to the people of God that we are declared righteous in the sight of the Lord through faith alone in the person and work of Christ Jesus.
(www.ligonier.org)


Dr. Michael Haykin writes...

When historians write of the Reformation, Martin Luther and his rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone rightly take centre stage. Humanly speaking, if it had not been for Luther, this doctrine, which permeates both of the scenes we began with, might well have remained in obscurity, and Jane and Thomas may well have looked to their good works and faithfulness as evidence of God's grace and acceptance of them. As it was, they trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. And that because, in part, of the work of Luther.

But when we say Luther "rediscovered" this doctrine, we are implying that the doctrine had been lost or obscured between the New Testament era and Luther's day. Luther rightly viewed the loss of this key doctrine as having had detrimental effects on the health of the church. For Luther, justification by faith alone is "the principal doctrine of Christianity" and its opposite, the idea that one can be approved by God on the basis of one's own good works, the "fundamental principle" of the world and the devil. As he said more than twenty years after his experience of rediscovering the truth of justification by faith alone: "if this article [of justification] stands, the church stands, if it falls, the church falls."


...click here to read full article...

Happy Reformation Day!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Greed Is Not Good, and It's Not Capitalism

(American.com) by Jay W. Richards

Capitalism doesn’t need greed. What capitalism does need is human creativity and initiative.

After months of hearing the media and pundits pronounce the untimely death of capitalism, it did my heart good to see a recent Newsweek cover story challenge the familiar trope. The author, Fareed Zakaria, noted that this pessimistic pronouncement gets air time in the wake of every financial downturn. But in reality, capitalism, over the long haul, has succeeded far beyond any other economic arrangement in human history. If worldwide communism couldn’t destroy capitalism, why are we so quick to believe that some bad fiscal and government policies in real estate will do it?

Unfortunately, some copy editor entitled the otherwise reasonable article, “The Capitalist Manifesto: Greed Is Good (To a point).” This is one of the worst myths about capitalism. It was immortalized by the character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” directed by Oliver Stone. Michael Douglas played ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko, a charismatic villain who insists that “greed is good.” Gekko was Stone’s scathing embodiment of capitalism, seductive and selfish to the core. And now, thanks to the financial crisis, Stone is working on a sequel.

More unfortunately, this “greed myth” (as I have called it) is often perpetuated, as it was on the cover of Newsweek, by the putative defenders of capitalism. From Ivan Boesky to the bestselling tomes of Ayn Rand, champions of capitalism have told us for decades that greed is good since it’s the great engine of capitalist progress. Even Walter Williams and John Stossel, two of my favorite free marketers, have used this argument in recent years.

The rhetorical problem with this approach isn’t hard to spot. Most Americans are at least nominally religious, with moral sensibilities shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible and the Christian tradition both roundly condemn greed, and “progressive” religious leaders such as Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis have used this to drive a wedge between otherwise conservative Americans and the free market. Campolo, for instance, has condemned capitalism as based on the “greed principle.” But are these critics right? Must we choose between capitalism and Christianity, or, more generally, between markets and morality? I think not.


The Virtue of Selfishness?


You might think that greed has been bound up with defenses of modern capitalism from the very beginning. You might recall Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, who famously wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Ayn Rand and others seemed to extend Smith’s point by treating greed as the basis of a free economy. There are connections here of course; but Smith never argued that greed is good. His view was far different, and far more subtle.

First, Smith argued that in a rightly-ordered market economy, you’re usually better off appealing to someone’s self-love than to their kindness. The butcher is more likely to give you meat if it’s a win-win trade—if there’s something in it for him—than if you’re just asking for a handout. This is, or should be, common sense.

Second, Smith knew the difference between self-interest and mere selfishness. Every time you wash your hands or take your vitamins or clock into work on time or look both ways before you cross the street, you’re pursuing your self-interest—but none of these acts is selfish. Indeed, generally speaking, you ought to do these things. Greed, in contrast, is a sort of disordered self-interest. Adam Smith, the moral philosopher, always condemned it as a vice.

Third, Smith never argued that the more selfish we are, the better a market works. His point, rather, is that in a free market, each of us can pursue ends within our narrow sphere of competence and concern—our “self-interest”—and yet an order will emerge that vastly exceeds anyone’s deliberations.

Finally, and most importantly, Smith argued that capitalism channels greed. He recognized that human beings are not as virtuous as we ought to be. While many of us may live modestly virtuous lives under the right conditions, it is the rare individual who ever achieves heroic virtue. Given that reality, we should want a social order that channels proper self-interest as well as selfishness into socially desirable outcomes. Any system this side of heaven that can’t channel human selfishness is doomed to failure. That’s the genius of the market economy.

And that’s the problem with socialism and all sorts of nanny-state regulatory prescriptions: They don’t fit the human condition. They concentrate enormous power in the hands of a few political leaders and expect them to remain uncorrupted by the power. Then through aggressive wealth redistribution and hyper-regulation, they discourage the productive pursuit of self-interest, through hard work and enterprise. Instead, they encourage people to pursue their self-interest in unproductive ways such as hoarding, lobbying, or getting the government to steal for them.

In contrast, capitalism is fit for real, fallen human beings. “In spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity,” Smith wrote, business people “are led by an invisible hand ... and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society.” Notice he says “in spite of.” His point isn’t that the butcher should be selfish, or even that the butcher’s selfishness particularly helps. Rather, he argues that even if the butcher is selfish, he can’t make you buy his meat. He has to offer you meat at a price you’ll willingly buy. He has to look for ways to set up a win-win exchange. Surely that’s good.

So a free market can channel the greed of a butcher. But that’s not the only thing it can channel. It can just as easily channel a butcher’s noble desire for excellence of craft, or his desire to serve his customers well because he likes his neighbors, or his desire to build a successful business that will allow his brilliant daughter to attend better schools and fully develop her gifts. Capitalism doesn’t need greed. What capitalism does need is human creativity and initiative.

In searching for the “spirit of capitalism,” Max Weber argued almost a century ago, “Unbridled avarice is not in the least the equivalent of capitalism, still less its ‘spirit.’” The greed myth, he thought, was “na├»ve” and “ought to be given up once and for all in the nursery school of cultural history.”

Weber was right; and yet we still encounter it from critics of capitalism such as Michael Moore, and its champions like Ayn Rand. Let us finally be done with this caricature. We need cogent defenses of capitalism that are accurate and that appeal to the moral moorings of most Americans. “Greed is good” isn’t one of them.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama Signs 'Hate Crimes' Bill

(Onenewsnow.com) by Charlie Butts

The "hate crimes" bill approved recently by Congress could be a problem for broadcasters -- most importantly, Christian broadcasters -- now that it has been signed into law.

President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure that adds to the list of federal hate crimes attacks on people based on their sexual orientation. Congress approved the legislation last week as part of the $680-billion FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill. Appended to the hate crimes amendment was a statement ensuring that a religious leader or any other person cannot be prosecuted on the bases if his or her speech, beliefs, or association.

But Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discounts that statement, pointing out that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith. He believes the law approved by Congress is potentially dangerous as it relates to comments made about homosexuality or another religion.

"Under the criminal law of incitement, if something is said in a broadcast that another person uses as a motivation to go out and commit an act of what they call 'bodily injury' in the statute, then a broadcaster could be held criminally liable," he explains.

Or an outspoken broadcaster could be held to be co-conspirator, adds Parshall. He says the supposed bodily injury could be something as insignificant as someone being jostled during a rally or shoved in a protest march.Parshall acknowledges the amendment that was passed to provide some degree of protection for Christians, but points out that interpretations of such statements are ultimately left up to the court.

"And that's always a problem," he laments. "We have a court system that has been notorious for getting it wrong when it pits the power of government on one hand and the free exercise of religious rights of individuals on the other."

According to the NRB attorney, there could also be repercussions in agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. Parshall says the FCC, for example, could develop rules on what broadcasters can and cannot say about homosexuality, possibly jeopardizing their licenses.

"Public school curriculum could be built entirely on the idea of what is illegal hate in our culture," says the attorney. "And our children could be indoctrinated [to believe that] if you criticize another religion or mention Jesus as being the only way, that's hateful--- [or] if you say that homosexuality is a sin, that's hateful."

And then there is the IRS, which Parshall says could apply the hate crimes law as a national policy on homosexuality and other world religions.

"And [they] could start taking a look at Christian non-profit ministries and [telling them if they] want to be tax exempt, [they] can't speak hatefully about other groups," he suggests. "That would be defined as not criticizing Islam or not being critical of the homosexual lifestyle. Those are just a few of the ripple-out effects."

Parshall contends that an examination of the motive behind the hate crimes law reveals it is not about hate -- and will have no effect on stopping crime, because that is already outlawed in all 50 states. In his opinion, it is designed to shut up the opposition -- Christians specifically -- and close down any debate against the homosexual lifestyle.

The NRB spokesman does expect lawsuits to be filed against the hate crimes law after it is signed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Failure of Scientism

Science is good, but science isn't everything. Taken to an abnormal and irrational extreme it may be properly labeled "scientism." This is the view that "science is the only paradigm of truth and rationality...Everything outside of science is a matter of mere belief and subjective opinion, of which rational assessment is impossible."(1) In other words, you can't know something unless you can prove it scientifically.

In a 1998 debate, William Lane Craig faced off against Peter Atkins on the question "What is the Evidence For/Against the Existence of God?" During the debate, Peter Atkins made the claim that science can account for everything and is "omnipotent." When questioned by Atkins regarding what science can't account for, Craig lists the following five examples of things that cannot be scientifically proven but that we are all rational to accept:

1. Logical and mathematical truths
2. Metaphysical truths
3. Ethical beliefs about statements of value
4. Aesthetic judgments
5. Science itself

Watch the clip here:

video

If you enjoyed this short clip, download the entire debate:

Full MP3 audio here.

Enjoy!
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1. See Love Your God With All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland, pg. 144.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Only One Issue

(Caseforlife.com) by Scott Klusendorf

The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It's not about privacy or trusting women. To the contrary, the debate turns on one key question.



What is the Unborn?


Pro-life advocates contend that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. This simplifies the abortion controversy by focusing on just one question: Is the unborn a member of the human family? If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own intrinsic worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled. As Gregory Koukl points out, "If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion in necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate." (Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons, p. 7)

This is not to say that abortion is easy for most women. To the contrary, a decision to have one may be psychologically complex and perhaps even agonizing for some. But the topic today is not psychology, but morality: Can we know what's right even if our emotions are conflicted?
Everyone agrees that abortion kills something that's alive. After all, dead things don't grow! But whether it's right to take the life of any living being depends entirely on the question: What kind of being is it?

Some people want to ignore that question altogether. They simply assume the unborn are not human beings like you and me.

Here's how to clarify things: Whenever you hear an argument for elective abortion, ask yourself if this particular justification would also work to justify killing toddlers or other humans. If not, the argument assumes the unborn are not fully human, like toddlers. But again, that's the issue, isn't it?

"Women have a right to make their own private decisions."


Imagine that a woman has a two-year-old in front of her. May she kill him or her as long as the killing is done in the privacy of the bedroom? Of course not. Why not? Because the child is a human being. If the unborn are also human, they should not be killed in the name of privacy any more than we'd kill a toddler for that same reason.

Of course, abortion advocates respond that killing a toddler and killing a fetus are two different things, like comparing apples with oranges. But that's the issue isn't it? Are the unborn human beings, like toddlers? That's the one issue that matters. We can't escape it.

"But many poor women cannot afford to raise another child."


When human beings get expensive, may we kill them? Suppose a large family collectively decides to quietly dispose of its three youngest children to help ease the family budget. Would this be okay?

Abortion advocates agree it's wrong to kill the children, but insist that aborting a fetus is not the same as killing a child. Ah, but that's the issue: Is unjustly killing a fetus morally the same as unjustly killing a two-year old? So, once again, the issue is the same: What is the unborn?

"A woman should not be forced to bring an unwanted child into the world."


Abortion advocates sometimes argue that killing the fetus is the more humane thing to do. "Who wants to be part of a family that rejects you? Everyone has a right to be wanted." And if you aren't wanted, may we kill you? Suppose a toddler is unwanted and we have good reason to think that by the time he's five, he'll also be abused and neglected. Should we kill him now to spare him future trouble?

The answer is obviously no, but it brings us back to the one issue that matters: What is the unborn?

"No woman should be forced to raise a child with physical disabilities."


Suppose that you have in front of you a small boy who is mentally disabled. He's not very bright, cannot speak or understand much of what is said, and looks strange from head to toe. Would it be morally permissible to kill him because of his condition?

Abortion advocates agree that we cannot destroy him, that we should treat him with the same care we provide all disabled human beings. But again, this raises a prior question: If the disabled unborn are human, like the disabled toddler, should we kill them for not meeting our standard of perfection? Thus, the issue that matters most in the abortion debate isn't disability. It's "What is the unborn?"

"Every woman has a right to decide what is right and wrong for herself."


Would you force your morality on an abusive mother who was physically mistreating her two-year-old? You better. No human being should be abused.

You see the issue is not about forcing morality; it's not about privacy; it's not about economic hardship; it's not about physical disabilities; it's not about unwantedness. The issue is reduced to one question: What is the unborn?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Intelligent Design

(Converstantlife.com) by Sean McDowell

A special thanks to Sean McDowell and Barb Sherrill of Harvest House Publishers for allowing us to re-post this on Apologetic Junkie.

1. Design Detection

If nature, or some aspect of it, is intelligently designed, how could we tell?

Design inferences in the past were largely informal and intuitive. Usually people knew it when they saw it. Intelligent design, by introducing specified complexity, makes the detection of design rigorous. Something is complex if it is hard to reproduce by chance and specified if it matches an independently given pattern (an example is the faces on Mt. Rushmore). Specified complexity gives a precise criterion for reliably inferring intelligence.


2. Looking for Design in Biology

Should biologists be encouraged to look for signs of intelligence in biological systems? Why or why not?

Scientists today look for signs of intelligence coming in many places, including from distant space (consider SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Yet, many biologists regard it as illegitimate to look for signs of intelligence in biological systems. Why arbitrarily exclude design inferences from biology if we accept them for other scientific disciplines? It is an open question whether the apparent design in nature is real.


3. The Rules of Science

Who determines the rules of science? Are these rules written in stone? Is it mandatory that scientific explanations only appeal to matter and energy operating by unbroken natural laws (a principle known as methodological naturalism)?

The rules of science are not written in stone. They have been negotiated over many centuries as science (formerly called “natural philosophy”) has tried to understand the natural world. These rules have changed in the past and they will change in the future. Right now much of the scientific community is bewitched by a view of science called methodological naturalism, which says that science may only offer naturalistic explanations. Science seeks to understand nature. If intelligent causes operate in nature, then methodological naturalism must not be used to rule them out.


4. Biology’s Information Problem

How do we account for the complex information-rich patterns in biological systems? What is the source of that information?

The central problem for biology is information. Living things are not mere lumps of matter. Life is special, and what makes life special is the arrangement of its matter into very specific forms. In other words, what makes life special is information. Where did the information necessary for life come from? Where did the information necessary for the Cambrian explosion come from? How can a blind material process generate the novel information of biological systems? ID argues that such information has an intelligent source.


5. Molecular Machines

Do any structures in the cell resemble machines designed by humans? How do we account for such structures?

The biological world is full of molecular machines that are strikingly similar to humanly made machines. In fact, they are more than similar. Just about every engineering principle that we employ in our own machines gets used at the molecular level, with this exception: the technology inside the cell vastly exceeds human technology. How, then, do biologists explain the origin of such structures? How can a blind material process generate the multiple coordinated changes needed to build a molecular machine? If we see a level of engineering inside the cell that far surpasses our own abilities, it is reasonable to conclude that these molecular machines are actually, and not merely apparently, designed.


6. Irreducible Complexity

What are irreducibly complex systems? Do such systems exist in biology? If so, are those systems evidence for design? If not, why not?

The biological world is full of functioning molecular systems that cannot be simplified without losing the system’s function. Take away parts and the system’s function cannot be recovered. Such systems are called irreducibly complex. How do evolutionary theorists propose to account for such systems? What detailed, testable, step-by-step proposals explain the emergence of irreducibly complex machines such as the flagellum? Given that intelligence is known to design such systems, it is a reasonable inference to conclude that they were designed.


7. Similar Structures

Human designers reuse designs that work well. Life forms also reuse certain structures (the camera eye, for example, appears in humans and octopuses). How well does this evidence support Darwinian evolution? Does it support intelligent design more strongly?

Evolutionary biologists attribute similar biological structures to either common descent or convergence. Structures are said to result from convergence if they evolved independently from distinct lines of organisms. Darwinian explanations of convergence strain credulity because they must account for how trial-and-error tinkering (natural selection acting on random variations) could produce strikingly similar structures in widely different organisms and environments. It’s one thing for evolution to explain similarity by common descent—the same structure is then just carried along in different lineages. It’s another to explain it as the result of blind tinkering that happened to hit on the same structure multiple times. Design proponents attribute such similar structures to common design (just as an engineer may use the same parts in different machines). If human designers frequently reuse successful designs, the designer of nature can surely do the same.


8. Fine-Tuning

The laws of physics are fine-tuned to allow life to exist. Since designers are capable of fine-tuning a system, can design be considered the best explanation for the universe?

Physicists agree that the constants of nature have a strange thing in common: they seem precisely calibrated for the existence of life. As Frederick Hoyle famously remarked, it appears that someone has “monkeyed” with physics. Naturalistic explanations that attempt to account for this eerie fine-tuning invariably introduce entities for which there is no independent evidence (for example, they invoke multiple worlds with which we have no physical way of interacting). The fine-tuning of the universe strongly suggests that it was intelligently designed.


9. The Privileged Planet

The Earth seems ideally positioned in our galaxy for complex life to exist and for scientific discovery to advance. Does this privileged status of Earth indicate intelligent design? Why or why not?

Many factors had to come together on earth for human life to exist (chapter 9). We exist in just the right place in just the right type of galaxy at just the right cosmic moment. We orbit the right type of star at the right distance for life. The earth has large surrounding planets to protect us from comets, a moon to direct important life-permitting cycles, and an iron core that protects us from harmful radiation. Moreover, the earth has many features that facilitate scientific discovery, such as a moon that makes possible perfect eclipses. Humans seem ideally situated on the earth to make scientific discoveries. This suggests that a designer designed our place in the world so that we can understand the world’s design. Naturalism, by contrast, leaves it a complete mystery why we should be able to do science and gain insight into the underlying structure of the world.


10. The Origin of the Universe

The universe gives every indication of having a beginning. Since something cannot come from nothing, is it legitimate to conclude that a designer made the universe? If not, why not?

For most of world history, scientists believed the universe was eternal. With advances in our understanding of cosmology over the last forty years, however, scientists now recognize that the universe had a beginning and is finite in duration and size. In other words, the universe has not always been there. Since the universe had a beginning, why not conclude that it had a designer that brought it into existence? Since matter, space, and time themselves had a beginning, this would suggest that the universe had a non-physical, non-spatial, and non-temporal cause. A designer in the mold of the Christian God certainly fits the bill.


Taken from: Understanding Intelligent Design Copyright © 2008 by William A. Dembski and Sean McDowell Published by Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 97402 www.harvesthousepublishers.com Used by Permission

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Top Atheist Approves Teaching ID

(article cited from apologetics.org titled "Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to 'Mention' in Science Classes")

Prof. Thomas Nagel, a self-declared atheist who earned his PhD. in philosophy at Harvard 45 years ago, who has been a professor at U.C. Berkeley, Princeton, and the last 28 years at New York University, and who has published ten books and more than 60 articles, has published an important essay, "Public Education and Intelligent Design," in the Wiley InterScience Journal Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 36, issue 2, on-line at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118493933/home (fee for access US $29.95).

Prof. Nagel's paper is a significant and substantial opening, at America's highest intellectual level, that encourages all intelligent, educated, informed individuals — particularly those whose interest in this issue derives from intellectual curiosity, not the emotional advocacy excitement for any side — that it is legitimate as a matter of data, science, and logic, divorced from all religious texts and doctrines, to consider that intelligent design may be a valid scientific approach to understanding how DNA and the complex chemical systems of life came to attain their present form. Prof. Nagel's article is well worth the price to put it in the library of any inquiring mind.

As anyone who has watched TV's Crime Scene Investigation knows, scientific investigation of a set of data (the data at the scene of a man's death) may lead to the conclusion that the event that produced the data (the death) was not the product of natural causes — not an accident, in other words — but was the product of an intelligence — a perpetrator.

But of course, the data at the crime scene usually can't tell us very much about that intelligence. If the data includes fingerprints or DNA that produces a match when cross-checked against other data — fingerprint or DNA banks — it might lead to the identification of an individual. But even so, the tools of natural science are useless to determine the "I.Q." of the intelligence, the efficiency vs. the emotionalism of the intelligence, or the motive of the intelligence. That data, analyzed by only the tools of natural science, often cannot permit the investigator to construct a theory of why the perpetrator acted. The mental and conscious processes going on in the criminal's mind are outside the scope of the sciences of chemistry and physics.
Thus it is obvious that scientific methods can lead to the conclusion that an intelligence did something, even if those same methods cannot tell you who specifically did it, or why they did it. Everyone who has read or watched a Sherlock Holmes story knows this.

Prof. Nagel applies this principle to the evolution/intelligent design debate. Assuming, for purposes of argument, even though he himself is an atheist, to label the intelligence "God," he says "the purposes and intentions of God, if there is a god, and the nature of his will, are not possible subjects of a scientific theory or scientific explanation. But that does not imply that there cannot be scientific evidence for or against the intervention of such a non-law-governed cause in the natural order" (p. 190). In other words, Sherlock Holmes can use chemistry to figure out that an intelligence — a person — did the act that killed the victim, even if he can't use chemistry to figure out that the person who did it was Professor Moriarty, or to figure out why Moriarty did the crime.

Therefore, Prof. Nagel says, it potentially can be scientific to argue that the data of DNA and life points to an intelligent designer, even if science cannot tell you the identity of the designer or what is going on in the designer's mind.

The Professor then turns to whether any of the intelligent design proponents actually are presenting such a scientific argument. After all, just because it is theoretically possible that someone might present such a scientific argument doesn't mean that any particular individual currently is actually doing that.

Professor Nagel has read ID-supportive works such as Dr. Behe's Edge of Evolution (p. 192). He reports that based on his examination of their work, ID "does not seem to depend on massive distortions of the evidence and hopeless incoherencies in its interpretation" (pp. 196-197). He reports that ID does not depend on any assumption that ID is "immune to empirical evidence" in the way that believers in biblical literalism believe the bible is immune to disproof by evidence (p. 197). Thus, he says "ID is very different from creation science" (p. 196).

Prof. Nagel tells us that he "has for a long time been skeptical of the claims of traditional evolutionary theory to be the whole story about the history of life" (p. 202). He reports that it is "difficult to find in the accessible literature the grounds" for these claims.

Moreover, he goes farther. He reports that the "presently available evidence" comes "nothing close" to establishing "the sufficiency of standard evolutionary mechanisms to account for the entire evolution of life" (p. 199).

He notes that his judgment is supported by two prominent scientists (Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart, writing in the Oct. 2005 book Plausibility of Life), who also recognized that (prior to offering their own theory, at least) the "available evidence" did not "decisively settle[]" whether mutations in DNA "are entirely due to chance" (p. 191). And he cites one Stuart Kauffman, a "complexity theorist who defends a naturalistic theory of emergence," that random mutation "is not sufficient" to explain DNA (p. 192).

Prof. Nagel acknowledges that "evolutionary biologists" regularly say that they are "confiden[t]" that "random mutations in DNA" are sufficient to account for "the complex chemical systems we observe" in living things (p. 199) — but he disagrees. "Rhetoric" is the word Professor Nagel uses to rejects these statements of credentialed evolutionary biologists. He judges that the evidence is NOT sufficient to rule out ID (p. 199).

He does not, however, say that the evidence compels acceptance of ID; instead, some may consider as an alternative to ID that an "as-yet undiscovered, purely naturalistic theory" will supply the deficiency, rather than some form of intelligence (p. 203).

In light of these considerations, Prof. Nagel says that "some part of the high school curriculum" "should" include "a frank discussion of the relation of evolutionary theory to religion" but that this need not occur in biology classes if the biology teachers would find this too much of a "burden" (p. 204). Significantly, Prof. Nagel — who is a professor of law as well as a professor of philosophy — concludes that, so long as the proposal is not introduced by religiously-motivated persons "as a fallback from something stronger," but by persons "more neutral" or "without noticeable religious beliefs," it would be constitutional to "mention" ID in public school science classes, because doing so genuinely furthers "the secular purpose of providing a better understanding of evolutionary theory and of the evidence for and against it" (p. 203). He makes clear that the "mention" must be a "noncommittal discussion of some of the issues" (p. 205).

He acknowledges the prevailing attitude in the mainstream science community is that ID represents a "fundamentalist threat," fearing that allowing even a noncommittal discussion of ID in science classes could lead to the fundamentalists gaining the power to suppress "the right to teach evolution at all" (p. 205). He also acknowledges the possibility that students who arrive in class with religious objections to evolution already in mind may seize on the mere mention of ID as a basis for "build[ing] much more than is warranted" from that favorable mention (p. 204, quoting Kent Greenawalt’s Does God Belong in Public Schools?).

But to Prof. Nagel, these fears are not sufficient to bar, as a matter of constitutional law, the accurate statement, in public school science classrooms, that intelligent design, while possibly wrong, is a scientific approach to the question of how DNA and the complex chemical structure of life came to achieve its present form (pp. 204-205).

Prof. Nagel makes clear his right, as an intelligent, educated a "layman" (p. 199), to judge for himself the evidence that random mutation is a sufficient explanation for DNA and the complex chemical systems of life. He rejects any rule that well-educated, intelligent laymen such as himself must simply accept the assertions of the leading evolutionary biologists that the evidence in favor of evolution disproves intelligent design. Using his informed judgment, he rejects the claim that the scientific data "decisively" disproves intelligent design. He, an atheist, says that as a matter of science, intelligent design could possibly be correct. And he says it would be constitutional to say as much in a public school science class.

For all those who, like myself, have some education in science (at MIT while earning a bachelor of science in architecture, I earned As and Bs in physics, chemistry, calculus, introductory astrophysics, and ecology), have maintained a lifelong interest in science, and who became interested in this issue out of their intellectual curiosity about science, Professor Nagel's conclusion both is very refreshing, and really rather obvious.

The mainstream science community's crusade against fundamentalism seems unnecessary in the eyes of persons such as myself, who never encountered any fundamentalists at any point in grade school, high school, university, and thereafter, nor in my children's education. When I interested myself in the data, my heart was empty of both a fear of fundamentalism, and a longing for fundamentalism. Prof. Nagel has approached the data with the same freedom from bias.

Perhaps fundamentalism is a stronger force than my experience reveals. But that should be irrelevant to the scientific analysis of data. The emotionalism which scientists have brought to this issue since before the Scopes Trial, even if directed against a real, rather than imaginary target, has introduced a non-scientific motivation into the hearts of evolutionary biologists that has biased and rendered unreliable their evaluation of the data, especially the relatively recent data concerning DNA and molecular biology.

Moreover, those who are convinced that we are not-very-far-descended from troupes of apes that engage in group dominance struggles should monitor themselves for the possibility that they are engaged less in a search for truth than in a search for dominance. An Achilles' Heel of modern science is the satisfying sense of pride that comes from having successfully dominated the people around you. Its origin is from the apes and its goal is to flatter emotion, not to facilitate reason.

The True Face of Islam

Well, at least one thing can be said: these Muslims are consistent with the teachings of the Qur'an and life example of Muhammad.

Make no mistake about it. This is the true face of Islam.

Who needs free speech anyway?

video

In case you were unaware, the Qur'an does not contain a parallel verse to Matthew 5:44: "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Sharia law. Coming to a city near you!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Science Can't Prove

(Stand to Reason) Greg Koukl

If science can't even disprove the existence of unicorns,how can it disprove the existence of God?

I often hear the comment, "Science has proved there is no God." Don't ever be bullied by such a statement. Science is completely incapable of proving such a thing.

I'm not saying that because I don't like science, but rather because I know a little about how science works. Science operates on induction. The inductive method entails searching out things in the world and drawing generalized conclusions about those things based on observation. Scientists can only draw conclusions on what they find, not on what they can't find.For example, can science prove there are no unicorns? Absolutely not. How could science ever prove that unicorns don't exist? All science can do is say that scientists may have been looking for unicorns for a long time and never found any. They might therefore conclude that no one is justified in believing that unicorns exist. They might show how certain facts considered to be evidence for unicorns in the past can be explained adequately by other things. They may invoke Occam's Razor to favor a simpler explanation for the facts than that unicorns exist. But scientists can never prove unicorns themselves don't exist.

Since science, by its very nature, is never capable of proving the non-existence of anything, one can never accurately claim that science has proven God doesn't exist. That's a misuse of the discipline. Such a claim would require omniscience. The only way one can say a thing does not exist is not by using the inductive method, but by using a deductive method, by showing that there's something about the concept itself that is contradictory.

I can confidently say for sure that no square circles exist. Why? Not because I've searched the entire universe to make sure that there aren't any square circles hiding behind a star somewhere. No, I don't need to search the world to answer that question.

The concept of square circles entails a contradictory notion, and therefore can't be real. A thing cannot be a square and be circular (i.e., not a square) at the same time. A thing cannot be a circle and squared (i.e., not a circle) at the same time. Therefore, square circles cannot exist. The laws of rationality (specifically, the law of non-contradiction) exclude the possibility of their existence.

This means, by the way, that all inductive knowledge is contingent. One cannot know anything inductively with absolute certainty. The inductive method gives us knowledge that is only probably true. Science, therefore, cannot be certain about anything in an absolute sense. It can provide a high degree of confidence based on evidence that strongly justifies scientific conclusions, but its method never allows certainty.

If you want to know something for certain, with no possibility of error--what's called apodictic certainty in philosophy--you must employ the deductive method.

There have been attempts to use the deductive method to show that certain ways of thinking about God are contradictory. The deductive problem of evil is like that. If God were all good, the argument goes, He would want to get rid of evil. If God were all powerful, He'd be able to get rid of evil. Since we still have evil, then God either is not good or not powerful, or neither, but He can't be both.

If this argument is sustained, then Christianity is defeated, because contradictory things (the belief that God is both good and powerful in the face of evil) cannot be true at the same time. The job of the Christian at this point is to show there isn't a necessary contradiction in their view of God, that genuine love does not require that there be no evil or suffering, and that preventing such a thing is a not function of God's power. I think that can be done, and I've addressed that issue in another place (see The Strength of God and the Problem of Evil ).

So don't be cowed or bullied by any comments that science has proven there is no God. Science can't do that because it uses the inductive method, not the deductive method. When you hear someone make that claim, don't contradict them. Simply ask this question: "How can science prove that someone like God doesn't exist? Explain to me how science can do that. Spell it out."
You can even choose something you have no good reason to believe actually does exist--unicorns, or leprechauns, for that matter. Make that person show you, in principle, how science is capable of proving that any particular thing does not exist. He won't be able to. All he'll be able to show you is that science hasn't proven certain things do exist, not that they don't exist. There's a difference.

Some take the position that if science doesn't give us reason to believe in something, then no good reason exists. That's simply the false assumption scientism. Don't ever concede the idea that science is the only method available to learn things about the world.

Remember the line in the movie Contact ? Ellie Arroway claimed she loved her father, but she couldn't prove it scientifically. Does that mean she didn't really love him? No scientific test known to man could ever prove such a thing. Ellie knew her own love for her father directly and immediately. She didn't have to learn it from some scientific test.

There are things we know to be true that we don't know through empirical testing--the five senses-- but we do know through other ways. Science seems to give us true, or approximately true, information about the world, and it uses a technique that seems to be reliable, by and large. (Even this, though, is debated among philosophers of science.) However, science is not the only means of giving us true information about the world; its methodology limits it significantly.

One thing science cannot do, even in principle, is disprove the existence of anything. So when people try to use science to disprove the existence of God, they're using science illegitimately. They're misusing it, and this just makes science look bad.

The way many try to show God doesn't exist is simply by asserting it, but that's not proof. It isn't even evidence. Scientists sometimes get away with this by requiring that scientific law--natural law--must explain everything. If it can't explain a supernatural act or a supernatural Being then neither can exist. This is cheating, though.

Scientists haven't proven God doesn't exist; they've merely assumed it in many cases. They've foisted this truism on the public, and then operated from that point of view. They act as if they've really said something profound, when all they've done is given you an unjustified opinion.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Are the New Testament documents reliable? Haven't they been changed over time? Can we really trust what they say?

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Darren Hewer seeks to answer these questions and more. This is a free e-book brought to you by Why Faith.

Obviously this topic is important since the New Testament documents are what Christians base their beliefs, teachings, and knowledge of the life of Christ. Skeptics often attack the New Testament in hopes of undermining the Christian worldview. Cults and false religions attack the New Testament because their own beliefs cannot be found within it and they must tear down the Bible in order to erect their own religious system in its place. Regardless of the motivation behind these attacks, Christians need to know why we can trust what we read.

Excerpt from The Historical Reliability of the New Testament:

Our primary record of the Christian faith is the New Testament; the New Testament texts serve as the foundation for accurate knowledge and belief about Jesus. The authors of the New Testament claimed to be writing true accounts of the life of Jesus, and the historical reliability of their writings is important because it protects the Christian faith from modern revisionism. Our duty, then, is to investigate whether or not the New Testament documents are in fact accurate, and it is the intent of this analysis to demonstrate why we can be confident that the New Testament is historically reliable, that is, accurately preserved according to the original documents and reliable according to the sort of traditional tests applied to historical documents.

The question we are seeking to answer is Can we have confidence that the New Testament was accurately recorded and transmitted to us, and that what it contains is the product of early and eyewitness testimony?

The e-book is available for download here!

You may also want to check out Daniel B. Wallace's talk Is What We Have Now What They Had Then? A great presentation.

Full MP3 audio here.

Also, check out this page at Apologetics315 for more audio and info.

If this short e-book has wet your appetite for information regarding the historical reliability of the New Testament, you may want to also check out the following books:

The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? by F.F. Bruce
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham

Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who Has the Burden of Proof?

Probably one of the most important ideas to grasp concerning argumentation and debate is the issue of burden of proof. In his book Tactics, Greg Koukl dedicates an entire chapter to this topic (see chapter 4). What do we mean by "burden of proof"? Greg Koukl defines it this way:

The burden of proof is the responsibility someone has to defend or give evidence for his view. Generally, the rule can be summed up this way: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden. The key here is not to allow yourself to be thrust into a defensive position when the other person is making the claim. It's not your duty to prove him wrong. It's his duty to prove his view.(1)

It doesn't matter whether you are discussing theology, philosophy, politics or ethics, the burden of proof rule is a crucial one to remember. It prevents you from being unjustly placed in a defensive position and forces the individual making the claim to carry his own load.

EXAMPLE #1: THERE IS NO GOD!

Perhaps you have been in a conversation or overheard one that goes something like this:

Skeptic: There is no God.

Christian: Really? How do you know that?

Skeptic: Well, how do you know there is a God?

Notice what has happened here. The skeptic started out the conversation by making a truth claim. In this case, he is making the claim "there is no God." The Christian rightly asks the question "How do you know that?" in order for the skeptic to provide justification for his position, as he should. After all, the skeptic is the one making the claim. Therefore, the skeptic bears the burden of proof in this case. But the skeptic doesn't accept it! Instead, he tactfully (and wrongly) attempts to shift the burden of proof to the Christian!

So how should the Christian respond? Should he answer the question? Should he accept the burden of proof? Should he give a three hour lecture on the kalam cosmological argument? No! Why not? Because he is not the one who made the claim. Instead, the Christian should point out to the skeptic that since it is the skeptic who made the claim it is his job to support it. The conversation might continue like this:

Skeptic: Well, how do you know there is a God?

Christian: Wait, hold on a minute. You started out this conversation by making the claim that there is no God. Since you made the original claim, the burden of proof is on you to provide some reasons or evidences as to why you think you are right. I am not going to accept any burden of proof at this point because I have not made any claims. So again, how do you know there is no God?

EXAMPLE #2: THE BURNING BUSH

Here is another scenario. Recently I was speaking with a friend of mine who is Roman Catholic. We began discussing the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (a five dollar word for sure, this is the idea that the bread and wine during communion actually become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ when the priest consecrates it.) As a Protestant, I disagree with the doctrine of transubstantiation and do not believe this is what the Bible teaches regarding the nature of communion. On the other hand, my Roman Catholic friend beliefs it wholeheartedly.

During our conversation, my friend attempted to defend the idea that God could take on the form of material objects by pointing to Exodus 3 where he claimed that God actually took on the form of the burning bush when He spoke with Moses. If God can become a bush, why can't he become the bread and wine in communion? That was his line of reasoning. Our conversation went something like this:

Roman Catholic: In Exodus it says that God took on the form of a burning bush and spoke to Moses. If he could do that, why couldn't he become the bread and wine?

Me: Actually, Exodus 3 does not say that God literally became the burning bush. Verse 2 says, "The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of the bush." There is nothing in the text that says God became the bush. It wasn't necessary for God to do so in order to make His presence known "from the midst of the bush" and speak to Moses.

Roman Catholic: Well it doesn't say He didn't become the burning bush either! Where does it say that He didn't become the bush?

***Notice he has shifted the burden of proof.

Me: Wait a second. You are the one who brought this text up in support of your position. You are the one who made the original claim. Therefore, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this text is saying what you are claiming it says.

Roman Catholic: But you are making a claim too! You are claiming God didn't become the bush! Show me where it says that!

***This conversation (can I call it ridiculous?) carried on for about half an hour.

Me: But as I mentioned, the burden of proof is on you since you made the claim. Whoever makes the claim bears the burden of proof. My only claim is that you have not made your case. You can't base your argument or evidence on what the text doesn't say. That is an argument from silence. Besides this, even if I grant that you are right on this point, it doesn't follow from this that transubstantiation is true.

Again, notice what happened here. First, my friend started out by making a truth claim, i.e. that God actually became the burning bush. I pointed out to him that there is no evidence or reason from the text to believe this.

Second, my friend attempted to shift the burden of proof to me by implying that it was not his duty to prove himself right but rather my job to prove him wrong!

In response to all of this, I pointed out three problems with his reasoning:

First, I rightly pointed out that, despite what he may think, the burden of proof rests with him. I tried to explain this to him as clearly as I could but in the end I don't think the information stuck.

Second, I pointed out that he was committing a logical fallacy: an argument from silence. Notice his statement above. During our conversation he implied that because the text does not say God didn't become the bush that this is somehow evidence that God did become the bush! The obvious problem with this fallacious reasoning is that you cannot base your argument or evidence on what the text doesn't say! That commits a logical fallacy, an argument from silence.

Third, I pointed out that even if he was correct in assuming God actually became the burning bush, it wouldn't follow from this that transubstantiation is true! Why not focus on more important passages in the New Testament that Roman Catholic apologists use to defend their views? Ultimately this was a silly conversation that got us nowhere.

CONVERSATIONAL TIPS:

First, never accept the burden of proof if it isn't yours to bear. Explain the rule "whoever makes the claim bears the burden." Of course, if you do make claims, be prepared to give reasons or arguments as to why you think you're right.

Second, don't get frustrated (as I did after a half hour of meaningless debate) when speaking with someone who seemingly is not willing to follow the basic rules of argumentation and logic. In cases such as this it is unlikely the conversation will ever be productive, or even get off the ground.

Third, explain yourself as best as possible. Stop, think for a moment, and pick your words carefully so you are able to speak as clearly and persuasively as possible.

Fourth, don't waste your time discussing issues that are distracting from the main topic. These are red herrings. Instead, focus in on the question under discussion and try to redirect the conversation toward more foundational and relevant matters.

Fifth, in the end, you may just have to "agree to disagree." If your interlocutor is refusing to be reasonable or abide by certain conversational rules it may be best to simply end the discussion on a friendly note and try again next time (if you dare).
______________________________________________

(1) Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, 59.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Calvin: Knowledge of God, Knowledge of Self

John Calvin begins the Institutes of the Christian Religion, his 1500 page magnum opus, with the topic of knowledge of God and knowledge of self. The very fact Calvin would begin his entire work this way signifies its importance. As you read the Institutes it is easy to see the magnitude of this topic as it is constantly referenced throughout the rest of the book.

Why is this topic important? Because without a proper knowledge of self there can be no knowledge of God. In short, without a correct understanding of our own depravity and corruption we cannot aspire, nor would we ever be aroused, to seek God.

Likewise, without a proper knowledge of God there can be no knowledge of self. As long as we fail to see God for who He truly is, in all His majesty, we will never recognize or scrutinize our own lowly state but rather will continue to view ourselves in our natural fallen condition as "basically good."

All quotes are from the Battles translation, edited by John T. McNeill. Enjoy!

John Calvin on Spiritual Warfare
John Calvin on Total Depravity

JOHN CALVIN: KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, KNOWLEDGE OF SELF

1.1.1 Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.

Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and - what is more - depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone... we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves.

Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.

1.1.2 Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self

Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy-this pride is innate in all of us-unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. For, because all of us are inclined by nature to hypocrisy, a kind of empty image of righteousness in place of righteousness itself abundantly satisfies us. And because nothing appears within or around us that has not been contaminated by great immorality, what is a little less vile pleases us as a thing most pure-so long as we confine our minds within the limits of human corruption.

As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power-the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness.

That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.

1.1.3 Man before God's majesty

As a consequence, we must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's majesty.

Yet, however the knowledge of God and of ourselves may be mutually connected, the order of right teaching requires that we discuss the former first, then proceed afterward to treat the latter.

"Simply Unprecedented" - President Obama and the Gay Rights Movement

(Albertmohler.com) by Albert Mohler

"This was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It's simply unprecedented." Those words were spoken by Joe Salmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, just after President Barack Obama spoke to the group's 13th annual national dinner.

The Human Rights Campaign is one of the leading organizations promoting what it describes as "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights." The group's annual dinner, held Saturday night, featured well-known politicians and entertainers popular in the LGBT community, as well as an appearance by the President of the United States. President Obama's speech was a matter of controversy long before he arrived. Though pledging soon after his election to be what he called a "fierce advocate" for gay rights, the President has frustrated the gay rights community with what they see as inaction and hesitation in dealing with their agenda.

Indeed, the Obama administration has been under sustained pressure from the gay rights community -- a crucial sector of its political support -- and the HRC dinner was seen as an opportunity for the President to reassert his identification with gay supporters. Mr. Obama was the second sitting president to appear at an HRC dinner. President Bill Clinton appeared before the group in 1997.

Addressing the group, President Obama spoke of the obstacles in the way of the agenda hoped for by gay activists. The President told the group that they faced a continuing fight, adding: "I'm here with you in that fight."

In the course of his address the President took credit for a federal hate crimes bill that was passed last week by a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. He also pledged to push for an employee non-discrimination bill and fully-inclusive hate crimes legislation.

But the greatest attention was directed at the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars openly-homosexual individuals from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. "I will end don't ask don't tell," the President pledged. "That's my commitment to you." Nevertheless, the President did not stipulate any timetable for this action -- a fact noted by his audience.

The President's perceived lack of action -- and his refusal to hold his administration to a timetable for action -- meant that many in the crowd were disappointed. Though his speech was repeatedly interrupted by eager applause, a good many activists complained that his speech was politically expedient. At TIME.com, John Cloud summarized the President's message with these words: "I'm with you. But I can't do much for you."

Nevertheless, in contrast to that reading of the President's comments, others understood Mr. Obama to make a sweeping series of promises. In addition to pledging a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the President also pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

The President said:

And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act.


The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996, stipulates a federal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and protects any state from being forced to recognize a same-sex marriage legal in another state. The law was passed by huge majorities in both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The opposition of the homosexual community to the law has multiplied since the advent of legalized same-sex marriage in a handful of states.

In a significant portion of his address, President Obama spoke of the fact that gay and lesbian concerns "raise a great deal of emotion in this country." He did not counsel the homosexual community to be patient, but he did ask for understanding. He spoke of advances made over the last three decades, but then reflected that "there's still laws to change and there's still hearts to open." Furthermore, "There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors, even loved ones -- good and decent people -- who hold fast to outworn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; who would deny you the rights most Americans take for granted. And that's painful and it's heartbreaking."

The President's promises were sweeping. Nevertheless, the most remarkable section of his address included a truly unprecedented promise. The President told the group that his expectation is that when they look back over the years of his administration, they would "see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians."

Then he spoke these words:

You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman
.

Those words represent a moral revolution that goes far beyond what any other President has ever promised or articulated. In the span of a single sentence, President Obama put his administration publicly on the line to press, not only for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, but for the recognition that same-sex relationships are "just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman."

It is virtually impossible to imagine a promise more breathtaking in its revolutionary character than this -- to normalize same-sex relationships to the extent that they are recognized as being as admirable as heterosexual marriage.

The attendees at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner heard the President of the United States make that breathtaking pledge. Was the rest of America listening?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Less Religion Means More Government

(Acton.org) by Anthony Bradley

Soviet communism adopted Karl Marx’s teaching that religion was the "opiate of the masses" and launched a campaign of bloody religious persecution. Marx was misguided about the role of religion but years later many communists became aware that turning people away from religious life increases dependence on government to address life’s problems. The history of government coercion that comes from turning from religion to government makes a new study suggesting a national decline in religious life particularly alarming to those concerned about individual freedom.

The American Religious Identification Survey, published by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., reports that we should expect one in five Americans to identify themselves as having no religious commitments by 2030. The study, titled “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population,” reports that Americans professing no religion, or Nones, have become more mainstream and similar to the general public in marital status, education, racial and ethnic makeup and income. The Nones have increased from 8.1 percent of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008.

According to the study, 22 percent of American 18 to 29-year-olds now self-identify as Nones. For those promoting dependency on government to handle the challenges of everyday life, as well as those who wish to take advantage of a growing market for morally bankrupt products and services, the news of declining religious life is welcome.

The increase in non-religious identification among younger generations highlights a continued shift away from active participation in one of the key social institutions that shaped this country. It may also come as no surprise, then, that according to the research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, voters under 30 are more liberal than all other generations. When asked about their ideology, 27 percent of those under 30 identify themselves as liberal, compared to 19 percent of baby boomers, and 17 percent of seniors. Pragmatic utilitarianism, favorable views toward a larger role for government in helping the disadvantaged, and a lack of ethical norms characterize this young segment America’s population.

The most significant difference between the religious and non-religious populations is gender. Whereas 19 percent of American men are Nones only 12 percent of American women are. The gender ratio among Nones is 60 males for every 40 females.

The marketplace and society in general will both reap the consequences of high numbers of male Nones. If more and more men are abandoning the religious communities that have provided solid moral formation for thousands of years, we should not be surprised by an increase in the explosion of demand for morally reprehensible products as well as the family breakdown that follows closely behind. With consciences formed by utility, pragmatism, and sensuality, instead of virtue, we should expect to find a culture with even more women subjected to the dehumanization of strip clubs, more misogynistic rap music, more adultery and divorce, more broken sexuality, more fatherlessness, more corruption in government and business, more individualism, and more loneliness.

Alexis de Tocqueville cautioned in his 1835 reflections on Democracy in America, that the pursuit of liberty without religion hurts society because it “tends to isolate [people] from one another, to concentrate every man's attention upon himself; and it lays open the soul to an inordinate love of material gratification.” In fact, Tocqueville says, “the main business of religions is to purify, control, and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.” Religion makes us other-regarding.

Historically, religious communities in the United States addressed the needs of local communities in way that were clearly outside the scope of government. For example, as David G. Dalin writes in “The Jewish War on Poverty,” between the 1820s and the Civil War, Jews laid the foundation for many charitable institutions outside the synagogue including a network of orphanages, fraternal lodges, hospitals, retirement homes, settlement houses, free-loan associations, and vocational training schools. These were also normative activities for both Protestant and Catholic religious communities on even a larger scale in communities all over America before Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The reported decline in religious life is an omen that virtue-driven local charity will decline, the passion to pursue the good will wane, and Americans will look to government to guide, protect, and provide. As we turn our lives over to government control, our capacity for independent thought and action are compromised. The real “opiate of the masses,” it would seem, is not religion but the lack of it.

Perspective on Arnold Signing Homosexual Indoctrination Bills

(SaveCalifornia.com) by Randy Thomasson

Despite the hard work and moral cries of pro-family parents, grandparents and other concerned Californians, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed SB 572, “Harvey Milk Gay Day” for schoolchildren, into law.

CLICK HERE FOR MILK DOCUMENTATION AND BILL FACTS

This morning, SaveCalifornia.com issued our response to the media (see news release below). Pro-family Californians are appropriately outraged today (see comments on our Facebook). I want to give you perspective and direction.


Thank you for your hard work and prayers to protest “Harvey Milk Gay Day.”


Your phone calls, emails, faxes, and petitions were admirable and pulled off four Democrats in the State Assembly. But sadly, Arnold Schwarzenegger has plugged his ears to parents. In the face of opposition, we must always stand strong for our values and do what we can.


California voters are reaping what they have sowed.


In 2003 when he was first elected, Schwarzenegger was on record supporting giving all the rights of marriage to homosexuals (later he flipped and now supports homosexual “marriage” licenses too); he supported homosexual couples adopting children; and he had posed nude in a homosexual magazine in his body-building years.

A couple years ago, he hired a homosexual activist, Susan Kennedy, as his chief of staff. Now, by signing SB 572 and SB 54, which recognizes out-of-state homosexual “marriages” in clear violation of Prop. 8, Schwarzenegger supports the ENTIRE homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda, just like Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom do.


What’s worse? A liberal Democrat or a liberal Republican?


Since they do the same damage to family values, a liberal Republican is worse. Because a liberal Republican dumbs-down pro-family voters with a unbiblical “lesser of two evils” standard, dumbs down conservative talk-show hosts, and dumbs-down the Republican Party. By infiltrating from within, a liberal Republican can do more damage to “his side” than a liberal Democrat. A liberal Democrat in office will actually unite pro-family citizens in opposition and motivate them for the next election. Look at the national picture. If you’re a pro-family citizen who voted for Schwarzenegger, an anti-family-values liberal Republican, please learn from this.


You may want to express your anger by calling a live staffer in Schwarzenegger’s office at 916-445-2841 or at any of his
five regional offices.

You should also expose this terrible deed (supported by 68 Democrat lawmakers, 1 Republican named Abel Maldonado, and California’s liberal Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) by posting comments to online news sites and social networking sites, and by calling talk radio shows.


Here is our Oct. 12, 2009 news release:


SaveCalifornia.com Appalled at Signing of ‘Harvey Milk Gay Day’


SB 572, opposed by overwhelming majority, signed by “People’s Governor”

Sacramento – SaveCalifornia.com, a leading West Coast pro-family, pro-child organization, is appalled that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed SB 572, “Harvey Milk Day,” into law.

“Harvey Milk* was a sexual predator of teens, an advocate of polygamous relationships, a public liar, and is in no way a good role model for impressionable schoolchildren,” said Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com. “Sadly, children in public schools will now have even more in-your-face, homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination. This provides the strongest impetus yet for loving parents to remove their children from anti-family public schools.”

“’Harvey Milk Day’ teaches children as young as five years old to admire the life and values and the notorious homosexual activist Harvey Milk” said Thomasson. “The ‘suitable commemorative exercises’ that are part of ‘Harvey Milk Day’ can easily result in cross-dressing exercises, ‘LGBT pride’ parades and mock gay weddings on school campuses — everything Harvey Milk supported.”

Schwarzenegger vetoed ‘Harvey Milk Day” last year, he signed it this year. The Governor also previously claimed to oppose same-sex “marriage,” but now supports destroying the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, in court, and by his signing of SB 54, to recognize out-of-state homosexual “marriages” in violation of Prop. 8.

For several months, SaveCalifornia.com has been leading parents and grandparents to call, email, fax, and petition Governor Schwarzenegger to veto “Harvey Milk Day.” The clear majority of correspondence to the Governor was opposed to SB 572. As a whole, Californians are 4 to 1 against the notion of statewide day of significance honoring the San Francisco gay activist.


For documentation of Harvey Milk’s values and further analysis of “Harvey Milk Day,”
see SaveCalifornia.com’s SB 572 veto request letter.

*
Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982)