Barack Obama, in his own words, on Islam and Christianity

obama-churchBarack Obama self-identifies as a Christian.  He seems, though, to find Christianity troubling.  Meanwhile, although he denies being a Muslim, he obviously finds it an emotionally and aesthetically attractive belief system.  Why do I say this?  Because someone was good enough to assemble a list of his statements about both religions, and to put them side-by-side:

Obama on Islam:

1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

6. “Islam has always been part of America”

7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

Obama on Christianity:

1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

The list doesn’t mean that Obama isn’t a troubled, doubting Christian, or that he’s a closet Muslim.  As Queen Elizabeth I said, it’s not up to us to make windows into men’s souls. But the list of those statements, all of which I remember him making in real-time, strongly indicate that, whatever his actual beliefs, Obama’s affinity (which is different from his faith) seems to hew towards Islam, rather than to the Judeo-Christianity that has for so long underpinned our nation.

Currently, you can find the list here and here.  I found it at American Thinker.

 

“Since there was a Big Bang, there must be a Big Banger”

My approach wasn’t as erudite, but this short lecture much explains the intellectual process I went through to stop being an atheist.  I haven’t yet jumped on board with the Biblical God (although I am deeply fond of the lessons the Old and New Testament hold about justice, morality, and humanity), but I realize that atheism is nothing more than the adult equivalent of a childish resistance to a parent’s authority:

Hollywood couldn’t make an honest “Noah” without indicting itself

Noah-2014-Movie-Poster-650x962Ben Shapiro doesn’t like Noah, the newest Hollywood wannabe blockbuster, this one based loosely on the Bible.  At his own website, Truth Now, and at Breitbart, he vigorously attacks the movie for turning the Bible on its head.  As you read here some months ago, Hollywood has taken one of the Bible’s pivotal narratives, which focuses closely on the wages of man’s immorality, and turned it into a Gaia-focused extravaganza, with a steroid-pumped, ninja-esque Noah cheerfully watching humans die because they pillaged the animal world.  In his Breitbart critique, Shapiro, perhaps accidentally, hones in on why it was ridiculous ever to expect Hollywood to be true to the Biblical source:

In this litany of great sins [eating meat, mining for energy sources, making weapons], you may be missing the traditional Biblical explanations of sin: idolatry, sexual immorality, violence. Rape and murder make brief appearances, but those sins are purely secondary to the true sin: destruction of the environment and the purty animals.

“Idolatry, sexual immortality, violence” — the big sins in the Bible . . . .and the big money-makers in Hollywood:

Idolatry

academy-awards-oscar

425_barack_obama_zach_galifianakis_140311

Barack-Obama-George-Clooney

Madonna Super Bowl

Sexual Immorality

Lena-Dunham-Naked-at-Emmys1

Madonna and Britney kiss

the-wolf-of-wall-street

samantha-sex-in-the-city

Violence

skyfall-train-fight

Fight scene 300

Kill Bill

django unchained

Without the staples of idolatry, sexual immorality, and violence, Hollywood would go broke. It was therefore always impossible to expect Hollywood to make a movie attacking its holy trinity.

Secularists: It’s Christians who are killing Christianity

A joyous full immersion baptismBefore I explain how Christians are killing Christianity (at least according to Alternet and Salon), a short anecdote:  I have friends who used to joke that they would take up smoking when their kids were teens.  Why?  So that the kids, who they assumed would be rebellious, would rebel against Mom and Dad by not smoking.  And now back to Alternet/Salon, where an atheist triumphantly reports that, not only is Christianity dying in America, but also that children raised in Christian homes are part of the demographic most enthusiastically embracing atheism:

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Speaking facetiously, I would suggest that, as children in Christian households become teens, their parents ought to indulge in a little Satan worship to help drive their rebellious youngsters back into the religious fold.  On a more serious note, the fact is that young people do rebel . . . and that older people seem to crave faith.  It’s natural when you’re invincible (as all young people are) to feel that you don’t need a God.  And it’s equally natural that, as you age, and see the chaos inherent in the world and feel mortality breathing down your neck, that faith starts to seem like a light and a refuge.  I wouldn’t immediately start panicking about non-religious millennials.

Another analogy relevant to this issue:  Imagine a family with a dog.  One owner hates begging dogs and refuses to feed the dog table scraps.  The other owner loves feeding table scraps.  Torn between the two owners, it’s no contest:  The dog will become a beggar.  The lowest common denominator behavior always wins.

Christianity makes demands upon its adherents.  You have to elevate yourself against your baser instincts.  American secularism, by contrast, encourages people to indulge their baser instincts (mostly their sexual ones).  In a competition between the two, the lowest common denominator behavior will prevail.

Here’s hope, though:  Humans aren’t dogs.  Dogs will beg until they’re too fat to move and everyone hates having them around . . . and they’ll still beg.  Humans, however, have a sense of self-worth that dogs lack.  Unlike dogs, humans have to look at themselves in the mirror and many of them who have spent years living the self-indulgent life of the secularist don’t like what they see.  Religion promises redemption.

Anyway, this is a bit of a choppy post, so I’d very much like to hear what you have to say on the subject.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight to raise their children in the faith, no matter the numbers.  And having said that, here’s one more choppy point:  secularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.  Faith always fills the vacuum . . . and Islam is the most aggressive faith in the world, one that has no compunction about alternately enticing and bullying lost souls to get on board.

(And while we’re on the subject of faith, David Goldman analyzes the faith underlying modern secularism.)

A response to Judith Levy’s comment about a “religion versus science” post I wrote

Last week, I wrote about an image I saw in Facebook, which sought to disparage religion by showing that religion tears people down, while science builds them up:

Facebook poster saying religion demeans people

My response was to mock up an alternative poster that the little girl could have held up, one that shows that religion elevates the individual while pure science has no regard for the individual:
Religion versus Science
Somehow that post came across the radar of Judith Levy, who blogs at Ricochet. Judith believes that I used the wrong tactics in the battle against anti-religious bias:

The incredibly depressing photograph to the right has been flying all over the interwebs recently. As you can see, a cute little girl is being used as a prop to bash religion and tout science (which, of course, are assumed to be mutually exclusive).

I was struck by the response to this photo on a blog called Bookwormroom.com, the subhead of which claims that “conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions”.

At this point, Levy offers a few quotations from my poster, the one that has religion acknowledging life’s creation from the moment of conception, versus the scientific view that we are a bag of chemicals. She then wraps up by concluding that I offered the argument to defend religion:

Now, I understand the anguish of religious Christians when they see offensive tripe like the above photo disseminated, especially with the big steaming side of self-righteousness that always accompanies it. (One yearns to give the people zipping it out to all their Facebook friends a good patsch to wipe away the smirk.) Still, responding by announcing that religion = pro-life seems counterproductive: it reduces the issue down to pro-life vs. pro-choice and shuts the conversation down immediately. (It also discounts the reality of religious believers who are also pro-choice, but that’s a secondary issue here.)

What has always amazed me about the God vs. Science line of thinking on the left is how unimaginative it is. Why not attack on that line instead? Why not force a leftist to explain why the math behind the movement of the spheres disproves the existence of a creator? Put them on the defensive, don’t go into your own defensive crouch. A person who puts a sign like this in his own daughter’s hands is not going to hear a word you say if you open with a pro-life argument. That’s for later, no?

Aside from finding it amusing that Levy thinks that I, a vaguely theistic Jew, am a “religious Christian,” I think it’s worth clarifying what I was setting out to do.  Levy apparently believes that I somehow abandoned my commitment to facts by engaging in pro-Life propaganda, and others may also have misunderstood what I set out to do.

Contrary to Levy’s assumption about my goal in writing that post, I was not attempting to prove religion. Why not?  Because I don’t see disproving religion as the central point of the original photograph.  Look carefully at the poster.  It can be summed up as follows:  “According to religion I am [all sorts of negative things]” versus “according to science I am all sorts of [wonderful].”  The point that child’s parent is trying to make isn’t that God is dead, but that religious practices and people devalue humans beings, while pure science, especially as practiced on the Left, elevates them.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Go back and read the poster carefully.  It doesn’t challenge religion at all. There is not a single word in there that can be interpreted to mean “There is no God.” Instead, it says only that those who believe in God do not value human life, while those who believe in science do. That was the central canard I was attacking.

Within the context of the poster’s implicit argument, every statement I made was a factually true challenge to the poster.  I wasn’t arguing religious doctrine or ultimate scientific fact.  Instead, I took on the poster writer’s world, in which religious people think humans are worthless, evil and valueless, and demonstrated that, in the real world — and the world of those facts I cherish — America’s religious Christians (as opposed to those Leftist’s who, like the Devil, can quote scripture) have a fanatic belief in each individual’s value. To that end, I focus closely on the way in which America’s religious class practices its religion.

On the flip side, I wasn’t challenging whether science is right or wrong. (Although I will say here that, to the extent science is based on data and conclusions that can be drawn from that data, it’s rather silly to think that hard, real science deals in value-laden terms as “beautiful,” “full of wonder” and “smart.”)  Instead, I pointed out, entirely accurately, that it’s the nature of science to reduce life to the lowest common denominator — a collection of chemicals.  Moreover, it’s the “scientific” Left that has taken this definition and concluded, in true Orwellian fashion, that not all lives are equally valuable.

In sum, Levy seems to believe that I failed to counter the original photo because I didn’t engage in a theological argument about God’s existence.  And she’s right, I didn’t and nor would I do it differently if I could re-write the post.  To the extent I believe that the original photo intended to say that religion and God place different values on human lives, I cut through the conclusory language in the original photo and replaced those value-laden terms with hard facts about the way in which religious people differ in their approach from those who elevate science to a religion when it comes to determining each individual’s true worth.

Found it on Facebook: The Left enlists yet another sweet-faced child in the war against religion *UPDATED*

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel[UPDATE: If you came here from Ricochet, welcome. Having read Judith Levy's post, I think she misunderstood the point I was making here. I obviously wrote with insufficient clarity. I've expanded upon -- and, I hope, clarified -- my point in this post.]

It’s been many years since I read Jane Eyre, but I doubt that I’ll ever forget the ugliness of Mr. Brocklehurst’s Christianity, one composed of hellfire in the afterlife, and suffering and humiliation in the present time. With Mr. Brocklehurst firmly in mind, I defy you to walk into any church in America and find his peculiarly corrosive view of religion.  As best as I can tell, most Christians today view God as a loving God, and see themselves as his blessed creation.  If they can embrace God and his teachings, they will live a good life that sees them sitting at His feet in the Afterlife.  Modern Christianity, as actually practiced by modern Christians, strikes me as a very beneficent religion, with the emphasis on Grace, not Damnation.

One would never know this, though, if one lived solely in the Left’s anti-religious fever swamps.  When they’re not busy mis-citing scripture to pass Obamacare, they view religion as negatively as did Mr. Brocklehurst.  In other words, the Left’s is a profoundly regressive view of religion.  This isn’t surprising, since they’re regressive in most of their beliefs, ranging from abortion, which they view through a 1950s lens, all the way to race, which they also see as stuck in a perpetual 1950s Jim Crow reality.

This grim, regressive world view explains why, when I opened my “real me” Facebook today, I found this much-celebrated image touted amongst my Progressive friends:

Facebook poster saying religion demeans people

I have an alternative poster for that sweet little girl, one I easily created even though I’m a Jew who believes in the possibility of a divinity, rather than in a divinity’s absolute reality:

Religion versus Science

I’m sure all of you can come up with more examples for column one or column two.  If you think of anything, please be sure to share it with all of us.

The Left is wrong about AZ’s proposed law, but religious freedom supporters might have to boycott the Super Bowl to make that point

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.I’ve mentioned gay marriage once already today as the latest non-issue to roil the left even as the world around us crumbles (a la the 1930s), the American military is reduced (a la the 1930s), and tyrannies are rattling their sabres (a la the 1930s).  Overnight, the same liberal who have been remarkably quiet about the Obamacare debacle, uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela, the flat economy, etc., have found a new cause:  Arizona, they scream, is poised to enact the next generation of Jim Crow laws, in the form of Senate Bill 1062, an amendment to Arizona’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This Jim Crow claim, which gained instant traction amongst America’s Progressive class, is flat-out wrong as a matter of law and fact.  Nevertheless, presumably in the foolish hope that it can appease the Left into backing off from its ongoing effort to destroy football, the Super Bowl committee is using economic blackmail against Gov. Jan Brewer, promising to pull the upcoming Super Bowl from Arizona if she signs the bill.  To the extent that the Left is using the Super Bowl as a cudgel against religious freedom, it may be time for supporters of traditional marriage to use their own economic pressure against the Super Bowl.

Better people than I have examined the proposed law, so I won’t rehash it.  Without addressing the proposed law’s specifics, though, it’s still possible to show the falsity of the Jim Crow comparison.

First, no mainstream American religion has ever had racial discrimination as a core religious doctrine.  All traditional religions, however, have heterosexual marriage as a central tenet of the faith.  To the extent Southern racists claimed Christianity as their justification for separating the races, all that they could point to was their own twisted interpretations of the Bible, a document that never concerned itself with racial discrimination.

Heterosexual marriage, however, is something quite different.  The Catholic Church elevates it to one of the seven sacraments, and all other traditional religions enshrine marriage between a man and a woman (or several women).  What this means is that the Southerners in times past who asserted their right to Jim Crow laws had no protected First Amendment right.  The contrary is true today:  Those people who will benefit from the proposed Arizona law have a strong First Amendment right that cannot simply be thrown aside.

Second, the Jim Crow laws were actual laws, relying on the state’s coercive power.  In other words, they represented government action discriminating against American citizens.  The Arizona law, however, does  not advocate any type of segregation or discrimination.  It simply says that Arizona’s government cannot use economic coercion, not to mention the threat of imprisonment, to force Arizona citizens to engage in religiously offensive activity.  There are also safeguards is the act:  The protesting citizen must show that he is acting consistently with his faith and that he has a track record of being faithful.

Jim Crow laws meant that the government was discriminatory and coercive in a matter that did not implicate religion.  By contrast, the proposed Arizona law narrows the range of situations in which the government can be discriminatory and coercive against people of faith.

Third, the Jim Crow laws mandated that Southern citizens refrain from providing goods, services, or jobs to blacks, or they mandated that those goods, services, or jobs, if provided, must be provided in the most limited, demeaning way possible.  The proposed Arizona law not only does not mandate any conduct, it’s also extremely narrow in scope.  It says only that genuinely religious people cannot be forced to participate actively in a specific event that clashes with their faith.  It’s worth keeping in mind here, as Eidolon so beautifully explained, that up until just a few years ago, every mainstream Democrat politician in America (including Obama and the Clintons) rejected gay marriage, a position consistent with all known human history.

Super Bowl ArizonaI have no doubt that Gov. Brewer is going to cave to Leftist pressure because of the economic risk that the Super Bowl will pull out of Arizona.  That seems to be the ultimate leverage, right?  But supporters of traditional marriage — or supporters of a religious individual’s right not to participate in a ceremony that mocks his beliefs — actually have an even bigger stick than the Super Bowl.  Just as the Super Bowl can boycott Arizona, believers in religious freedom can boycott the Super Bowl.  I mean, it’s a great game, but sometimes we have to subordinate pleasure to principle.

The coming constitutional clash between traditional religion and homocentric secularism

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.Matt Lewis nails the core issue when it comes to the LGBT crowd’s demands that shopkeepers engage in acts contrary to their religious conscience:

But let’s be honest about something else. This is really a surrogate battle. A much bigger one is coming.

[snip]

The reason conservative Christians are fighting this fight today is because it’s a firewall. The real danger, of course, is that Christian pastors and preachers will eventually be coerced into performing same-sex marriages. (Note: It is entirely possible for someone to believe gay marriage is fine, and to still oppose forcing people who hold strong religious convictions to participate — but I suspect that is where we are heading.)

Think of it this way. If you were a congregant in a church, wouldn’t you expect the pastor to marry you? Why should you be treated different?

Any pastor — if he or she wants to maintain the church’s tax status, that is — had better grapple with this now.

Whether the analogy is fair, or not, refusing to officiate a gay wedding can just as easily be called “denying service.” And it will predictably also be compared to the bad old days of Jim Crow — where racist Christians opposed interracial marriage (until the courts struck down state laws prohibiting biracial marriage).

Gay rights and religious liberty are on a collision course.

I’m too lazy to go through my archives now, but long-time readers will know that I’ve been saying this for years.  In fact, just three years ago, I made precisely this argument using lawyer logic and the example of England:

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admittedly, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

I’m not usually a great strategist or long-term thinker, but it was easy to see this one coming. It’s not about homophobia. It’s about a clash between faiths: traditional religion versus homocentric secularism.  The traditionalists have people who will willingly martyr themselves for their faith, while the secularists have people who will cheerfully force martyrdom on others.  It remains to be seen (a) which is the more powerful impulse and (b) which resonates more strongly with Americans.  Sadly, if I had to bet money on this today, I’d put my money on the secularists, who long ago successfully co-opted America’s cultural institutions:  the news media, the entertainment world, all public primary schools, all colleges and universities, reform Jews, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians.

This is not how you get religious people to change their minds

Little Sisters of the PoorMona Charen has written an excellent article about the Obama administration’s use of Obamacare as a vehicle for attacking religion and religious people.  I urge you to read it.

I was particularly struck by one point Charen made, regarding Sebelius’s previously stated view about religious accommodation — to wit, that the religion, not the state, has to adapt:

Two years ago, announcing that non-profits like the Little Sisters would be required to go along with providing all contraceptives and abortifacients even if it violated their religious convictions, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sniffed that the religious would “have to adapt.”

Put aside the fact that the Constitution, by making freedom of worship religion one of the paramount rights vested in the individual, means that the state, not the individual (or corporate collections of individuals), must adapt.  After all, we’re now used to hearing this combination of ignorance and disdain when the Obama crowd talks about the Constitution and constitutional rights.  That Sebelius erred there is a no-brainer.

The thing is that Sebelius didn’t just err about the Constitution.  She also erred about the way assimilation has always worked in America.  It hasn’t worked by persecuting religions (which is what the administration is doing now).  Instead, if you want to get rid of religion in America, you make the secular popular culture so attractive that religious people voluntarily abandon their doctrinal and procedural commitments to God.  Coercion begets resistance.  Enticement is what gets results.

Perhaps I should be grateful that, when it comes to Obamacare, the administration is clueless about this fact.

Mass weddings have always struck me as a “cult” thing

BrideQuestion for you — when you think of mass weddings, does your mind head in the direction mine does, and think of the Moonies?  The cult followers of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, after all, have long been famous for their mass weddings.

It makes sense that Moonies would happily go in for group weddings. After all, the nature of a cult is that you subordinate your individualism to a group. Once having done that, why in the world should you and your affianced have a special day, dedicated just to you? You’re no longer an individual; you’re a member of the Borg.

Knowing about the Moonies, when I heard about the massive group wedding on the Grammy’s stage, I didn’t think, “Aw, how romantic,” nor did I think “What a great political statement,” nor did I even think “How nice it is that ordinary people are willing to subordinate their special day to Macklemore’s and Ryan’s careers.”

I didn’t think any of those things. Instead, I thought of the Moonies. After all, when you think about it, one impersonal mass wedding is pretty much like the next, whether you’ve subordinated your individuality to the Rev. Moon or to the Gods of Political Correctness.

Moonies mass wedding

One mass wedding (this one for Moonies) . . . .

Mass wedding at the Grammys

Looks just like the next mass wedding (this one at the Grammys, with the couples lined up in aisles to be ogled by media elites).

America’s attitude towards Catholics and the Pope *UPDATED*

POPE-FRANCIS-TIME-PERSON-OF-THE-YEAR

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; or, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In 1960, Protestant Americans were afraid that a Kennedy election would mean that the Pope would have a say in American politics.

In 2014, with the Pope having been anointed (inaccurately) as a pro-Choice, pro-gay marriage savior, Progressive Americans are worried that American Catholics are giving him too little say in American politics.

The result is that now, as in 1960, we’re once again seeing explicit anti-Catholic bias.  [Link error corrected.]

UPDATE:  I forgot to add that today’s Progressives also love the Pope because they think he supports a redistributive economy (and they might be right about that, even though they’re wrong about his views on abortion and gay marriage).

The Air Force Academy caves instantly when atheists attack

Yesterday, I wrote a post for Mr. Conservative, which I reproduce here:

Among the many virtues that flow from recognizing God’s existence is humility. Without God, every man begins to think of himself as his own little deity, leaving him free to set his own rules and, if his rules call for it, to hold the power of life and death over others. For that reason, Americans are singularly fortunate that the vast majority of troops in our military hew to traditional Judeo-Christian religious principles that see them subordinating themselves to a Higher Power’s dictates about morality, justice, and grace.

Air Force Academy Oath PosterIf the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”) has its way, though, the Air Force Academy is going to kick God out of its precincts. The MRFF, founded and controlled by the fanatically anti-Christian Mikey Weinstein, is up in arms about the fact that the Air Force Academy’s current oath invokes God: “We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God.”

If Weinstein and the MRFF have their way, and the Air Force decides to amend, rather than just do away with, the old oath, the new oath would essentially read “We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me Me.” It’s that last clause that’s frightening. Without the Higher Power, each student at the academy essentially becomes his own moral arbiter, doing whatever he thinks is right at any given moment.

There are always going to be anti-religious fanatics like Weinstein, so he’s not really that interesting. What is interesting is that the Air Force Academy is actually giving serious consideration to Weinstein’s demands. In response to the MRFF’s complaint, the Academy’s Honor Review Committee, instead of sneering and laughing, is giving the demand serious consideration.

Maj. Brus Vidal, the Public Affairs Director, issued a formal statement to that effect: “They considered a range of options and some of those options will be presented to Academy leaders and, ultimately, the Academy Superintendent for a decision.”

It was a mischievous newspaper that brought the censorious Weinstein’s attention to the Academy. Last week, a local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Independent (the Academy is located just north of Colorado Springs), printed a picture of a poster hanging on the Academy’s walls that contained the oath. The newspaper than decided to stir up some controversy by sending that photograph to Weinstein.

Weinstein responded predictably by going ballistic. He wrote a letter to the Academy Superintendent, a woman, who equally predictably responded by backing down. A mere 68 minutes after getting his complaint, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson wrote him “The Prep School poster has been taken down. We are assessing the situation and have many mission elements, to include Prep School leadership, the Honor Review Committee and other entities on base, working to put together a way ahead that is respectful to all perspectives.”

Ask yourself this: If we’ve created a military that is so politically correct and Leftist that it instantly backs down when an anti-Christian hack attacks it, what use is it going to be against people with actual guns and bombs, such as Islamists? Under the Obama administration’s tutelage, our military is having an existential crisis and needs a swift intervention if it’s to be saved. Once it goes full Leftie, it’s useless as a weapon against America’s true enemies.

Today, the Air Force Academy caved:

Air Force Academy cadets are no longer required to say “so help me God” at the end of the Honor Oath, school officials said Friday.

The words were made optional after a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, that they violated the constitutional concept of religious freedom.

Let me say again that the First Amendment doesn’t prohibit religion.  Indeed, the Founders strongly approved of religion.  It simply says that the government cannot create a mandatory church to which all citizens must belong or incur a penalty; it may not make practicing a specific religion a condition of participating in civic affairs; and it cannot interfere with a religion’s doctrine.  The First Amendment guarantees us freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  The latter is an option, not a mandate.

I’ll end by restating my last paragraph in my Mr. Conservative post:

Ask yourself this: If we’ve created a military that is so politically correct and Leftist that it instantly backs down when an anti-Christian hack attacks it, what use is it going to be against people with actual guns and bombs, such as Islamists? Under the Obama administration’s tutelage, our military is having an existential crisis and needs a swift intervention if it’s to be saved. Once it goes full Leftie, it’s useless as a weapon against America’s true enemies.

 

Does the Obama administration really want to get involved in a fight with the elderly nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor?

Although Ted Cruz didn’t mention this during his magnificent 21 hour marathon attempt to reach past the media and speak directly to the American people, one of the things he’s fighting for is religious freedom.  Case in point:  Mother Theresa’s The Little Sisters of the Poor, which is made-up of mostly elderly, and definitely celibate, nuns has been forced to file suit in order to avoid the Obamacare mandate that it must provide all of its employees with insurance that includes birth control and abortifacients.

I can’t wait to see the wits in the internet come up with poster memes for that one.  Anyway, if you’d like to know more about this one and understand just how tyrannical Obamacare is, please check out the Anchoress’s post.

“What’s in a name?” when it comes to a new “biography” of Jesus

I haven’t read Reza Aslan’s book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, so I can’t weigh in on its factual veracity or the quality of the conclusions Aslan draws from the facts he does assert.  This Jewish Review article certainly suggests that Aslan is, if not all hat, no cattle, at least short a few cows.  As for me, I have a bias that leaves me suspicious about Muslim-authored books that seek to re-write Jesus and then are embraced by the Leftist mainstream media.  Suspicions, of course, are neither fact nor proof.

But here’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty:  Reza Aslan’s given name is a brilliant, ironic joke in this context.  You see, for me, there is now and always will be only one Aslan:

C.S. Lewis's Aslan, from the Narnia books.

C.S. Lewis’s Aslan, from the Narnia books.

C.S. Lewis’ Aslan is, of course, an allegorical stand-in for Jesus — the very same person Reza Aslan seeks to deconstruct.

Three degrees of separation

I enjoy reading my Liberal-Lefty friends’ Facebook posts because they are so insightful into the mindsets of the Left.

One insight that I have gained over time is that the differences between us conservatives and the Progressive/Left are so profound that they are unlikely to ever be bridged, barring some cataclysmic, life-changing events. What I have tried to do is understand why this is so. I share this with you because I greatly appreciate the insights that Bookworm group has to offer on such issues – be it “yay” or “nay”.

Our disagreements appear to come down to three levels of separation.

1) First, there are objective facts (OK, I am being deliberately redundant here). These are easy enough to resolve. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock world has arrived: everybody is so overwhelmed with information that we can’t absorb and process all there is to know and we therefore choose our facts selectively.

As Ronald Reagan said, ““It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

In discussions, factual disputes are easy enough to resolve: my typical response to Liberal /Lefties is simply tell them to “Google it”. Amazingly, many apparently don’t know that you can Google entire texts or sentences. A good example was the recent George Zimmerman trial…many people with whom I disagreed told me outright they were too busy to bother looking up facts. The Left operates on so many facts that just aren’t so.

2) The second level of separation involves our assumptions or premises. These are tougher to resolve, because we assume and presume events based on our past experiences. I suspect that we humans are hard-wired to build assumptions (true or false) as a defense mechanism: for example, my cave ancestors probably assumed that to allow a saber-tooth tiger to stand in their path was not a good thing and that such assumption is one reason why I stand here today.

We go through life building mental templates on how the world works in order to short-circuit decision making and evaluation. Otherwise, we would soon be overwhelmed with indecision. As long as our world templates work for us, we continue to hold onto them. Many formerly Liberals (e.g., David Horowitz, Bookworm) only became conservative when one or more events (e.g., 9/11) rendered their previously comfortable world views untenable. For me it was Reagan’s second term, when his policies led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic resurgence. I, young man at the time, knew then that my Democrat world template had been very, very wrong.

I use the word “comfortable” deliberately, because our templates represent our comfort zones. Losing that comfort zone is terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden nothing in the world made any sense to you; you would feel totally deracinated and quite possibly insane. You would also feel a deep sense of personal failure, as in “how in the world could I have been so deluded?”

And, the older you get, the more frightening that sense of loss, confusion and failure would be. So, the older we get, the more desperately we defend our mental templates, selecting and force-fitting “facts” to fit our own perceptions of reality. I believe this is where modern Liberalism and Progressivism are today (Google “Paul Krugman”). As Thomas Sowell put it, people of the Left expect the world to conform to their misperceptions. Eventually, however, reality hits like a 2 x 4 between the brow…as in “Detroit”.

I believe that this dynamic also explains the sheer viciousness expressed by many on the Left when the presumptions of their world templates are threatened (as by Sarah Palin or by black conservatives, for example). This is also the reason why I believe that world Islam will fail, because it doesn’t work and eventually people in Muslim worlds, aided by the internet, will eventually realize this (some of my Middle Eastern friends assure me that many already do). Reality is a harsh mistress.

This level of separation helps to explain why Liberals and Conservatives usually talk past each other. We try to rationalize our positions to each other, but our rationalizations only make sense if the other party shares the same assumptions and understandings of how the world works. We operate from completely different templates.

3) Faith. This the most difficult and potentially dangerous degree of separation, because it addresses fundamental values that are non-negotiable. Our “faith” defines how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, irrespective of facts, logic and reason. I cannot, for example, “prove” the veracity of my Christian faith. Environmental extremists and atheists cannot “prove” the righteousness of their positions. We just “know” that what we believe to be true is true. There is no logical argument that I know of that can challenge faith-based values. Our values define who we are and how we perceive the world to be. Utopian fascist ideals (Progressivism, Nazism, communism, Islamism, etc.), for example, are defined by a faith in a future to come – they require no proof. Abortion is a similar issue of faith and values – there is no middle-of-the-road compromise if you believe abortion to be murder and that murder is wrong (a value proposition). Psychologists have claimed that only very powerful shocks to the system can challenge faith.

I have no dealing with the first degree of separation. I admit, however, that I am totally stumped on how to address (2) and (3). Any ideas?

The top ten awkward facts about the new atheist monument

I have no problem with atheism, having been an atheist for large chunks of my life.  I do, however, have a problem with atheists’ concerted attacks on religion, which I think bespeaks precisely the type of intolerance atheists swear they oppose.  That’s why I found so amusing Catholic Vote’s list of “top ten awkward facts about the new atheist monument.”  I can just imagine some hyper-politicized atheist coming across the list and crying out in anguish, “Stop confusing me with the facts.”

Hat tip:  A friend who prefers to remain nameless

Obama’s stupid crack about parochial education

Much is being made of Obama’s speech in Ireland, in which he managed to insult parochial education.  Catholics seem most disturbed, perhaps because (a) most parochial schools in America are Catholic and (b) Obama has been at war with the Catholic church by trying to make churches pay for abortifacients and birth control, which is a big First Amendment no-no.

Reading what Obama said, there’s no doubt that, once you work your way through his sloppy formulation, it’s right up there with the best of Obama’s offensive statements:

Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity–symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others–these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it,” said Obama. “If towns remain divided–if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs–if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.

“Ultimately, peace is just not about politics,” he said. “It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation.

“And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union,” said Obama. “A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations.

“Even a century after we achieved our own peace, we were not fully united,” he said. “When I was a boy, many cities still had separate drinking fountains and lunch counters and washrooms for blacks and whites.”

I actually understand what he’s trying to say:  in a country riven by past sectarian violence, it’s dangerous to perpetuate sect identity.  Put another way, he’s saying that the only way to live together in harmony is to abandon religion entirely.  “Hey, come on, guys!  We know you’re incapable of living together, so let’s just go all Soviet and renounce religion entirely.”

Understood properly, not as a slap at the Catholic church, but at the notion of jettisoning religion and religious identity entirely, Obama’s remark is even more stupid than it first appears.  He’s my age, so he should know exactly what happened when the stifling Soviet yoke was removed from regions that had mutually hostile religions that were suppressed under Communism:  they exploded into orgies of violence.  Suppressing religion didn’t make these hostilities vanish; it made them fester.  (Think:  Kosovo.)

James Taranto figured out that Obama’s problem is that he sees everything through a Civil Rights filter, despite never having lived through Civil Rights.  (He was only three when the Civil Rights Act was passed; he was in Indonesia when the last gasps of Jim Crow worked their way through the system; he was at a fancy school in Hawaii where Civil Rights were not an issue; and he emerged as a young adult into an Ivy League world.)  Here’s Taranto’s take on another facet of Obama’s colossal ignorance:

Note that Obama is talking–or attempting to talk–about Northern Ireland, a country that is unusual within Christendom for its recent history of sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants. His comments make a certain superficial sense in that context, whereas they would be completely out of place and objectionable in reference to America, where pacific pluralism is the rule.

Note also that Obama doesn’t actually seem to know anything about Northern Ireland. Viewed in context, his comments are actually a homily about civil rights in America. His criticism of Catholic and Protestant “schools and buildings” is just a poorly thought out analogy: It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that while there’s no good reason to segregate schools by race, there are differences in content between the education offered by Protestant, Catholic and secular schools.

Obama is why I’m sour about the Ivy League schools.  They take in bright people (and I do think that Obama is innately bright) and turns out ignoramuses, who have no real knowledge, just a warped ideological framework to which they try to attach, however, poorly, what situation greets them at any given moment.  Obama’s not the only example of this problem; he’s just the most embarrassingly prominent.

One more point worth noting, although I’m far from the first to make it, is that Obama would never have the courage to argue that religious teaching leads to violence if he were in a Muslim country.

What would an atheist military chaplain say?

I realize that we’ve got a meme in the works here.  What fun! If you go here, you can create your own “What would an atheist chaplain say?” poster.  If you do, please share the link with with me, and I’ll try to include it in this post.  Here’s my effort, to get us started:

Atheist military chaplain

What would an atheist military chaplain say?

And is it only me, or does the fact that this news about atheist military chaplains broke on the anniversary of D-Day perfectly illustrate how far we’ve traveled since June 6, 1944, and that our journey has been in a very unhappy direction?

UPDATES:

JKB had two ideas for about what someone what might who is charged with giving spiritual counseling, without believing in a higher Being:

JKB2
JKB

What would an atheist chaplain do? *UPDATED*

Atheists aren’t limiting their attacks in religion in the military to demonizing Christians.  It turns out they’re also agitating for their own chaplains.  I find this amusing.  I can just imagine the atheist chaplain in different military scenarios.

Atheist military chaplain on the eve of battle:

“You’re going into battle tomorrow.  No one is watching over you; no one is at your side; and you’re not cradled in anyone’s divine love. Have fun and be careful.”

Atheist military chaplain in a fox hole:

“We’re going to die!  We’re going to die!  And after that . . . nothing!!!”

Atheist military chaplain at a dying soldier’s side:

“Please, my son, ignore the fact that your life had no meaning, your death will have been equally meaningless and, when you die, you’ll rot and turn to dust.  Don’t worry.  Be happy.”

Atheist military chaplain when soldier confesses that he has the urge to rape the enemy’s women:

“Well, I think that’s a very bad idea.”

My parodies are stupid, right?  It’s not just that I’m a bad parodist (which I am).  It’s that life in Obama’s America has moved beyond parody.

UPDATE:  There’s a meme going on here.  Check it out.

Why atheists have no fixed moral points — and why that’s a problem (even if they’re really sweet people)

The Arizona legislature had an atheist “prayer”:

Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez (D) turned a Tuesday afternoon prayer into something much more.

The Phoenix New Times reports that Mendez, who is an atheist, changed the course of the event held prior to the House of Representatives’ afternoon session. He asked lawmakers to refrain from bowing their heads and instead to view their surroundings.

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

That’s all well and good — cute and “kum-bye-yah” — but it reveals that dangerous moral vacuum at atheism’s center.  Everyone in the room is a moral authority.

Okay, then, I’m a moral authority too.  And by the way, my morality says that I get to take everything in your house and put it in mine.  The reason?  I don’t need to give you a reason.  I’m an extraordinary person who is alive (isn’t that wonderful?) and it will improve my life to have your stuff.  Whoa!  Wait a minute there, buddy.  Are you telling me that your morality says that my life blights yours and that you can only experience the extraordinary wonderfulness of being alive if I’m dead?  Nooooo!

That’s what happens when you have no external fixed moral point.  The Ten Commandments work because they apply to everyone, at all times, in all cultures.  Nor are they ridiculously rigid, to the point that humans lose free will.  Heck, they’re so intelligently nuanced that the Hebrew word that’s mistranslated as “kill” is actually “murder,” because the Commandments recognize that sometimes, killing can be a morally appropriate act — or at least, not an immoral one.  They demand our intelligence, as well as our allegiance to a moral and just force greater than ourselves.  And they also threaten us with consequences that transcend whatever the people around us can mete out.  They matter.

Or we can all sit there staring at our navels and basking in our wonderfulness.

God’s Chosen People

Michaelangelo hands of God and Adam

There’s a guy where I exercise who’s nice, but I’ve never really warmed up to him.  He’s not part of the ownership or the management team, so it’s never really mattered to me what I think of him.  Last week, though, I discovered that my subconscious might have been sending me messages when I couldn’t make myself like him.  After a tirade against capitalism, for ObamaCare, and in favor of restrictions on all things that could affect Global Warming (yes, let’s get rid of the sun!), he said, “And another thing….”  He then started to inform me how pernicious the message is that the Jews are “God’s chosen people.”

My exercise place is wonderful, so I wasn’t about to upset the nice dynamic there by getting into a debate with a hard-core Leftist.  Those debates usually end badly:  the Leftist doesn’t change his mind, while any people in the vicinity who aren’t hard-core but are still Left (this is Marin after all), get very upset and start thinking with their navels, not their brains.  The best way for me to handle situations like this is to leave, think my arguments through, and then have those arguments ready for the inevitable round two.  This blog is where I think my arguments through. . . .

Apropos his anger that Jews think they’re special (along the lines of “Who are they to claim they’re God’s chosen people?”), it occurred to me that both the Left and antisemites are ferociously ignorant about their Old Testament.  Here is what the Bible tells (and all of you, who are more Bible literate than I, please correct me when I’m wrong):

Before he formed the covenant with the Jewish God, Abraham was polytheistic.  Ur, his original homeland, was certainly polytheistic.  God did not originally appear as a monotheistic God.  Instead, he just appeared as a divine being who selected Abraham (or, as he was initially, Abram).  If Abraham joined in a covenant with God, aligning his family with God, and circumcising all males as a sign of that covenant, God would treat Abraham and his descendents well.  Provided that all of them, through the centuries, abided by the covenant (and circumcision is a harsh demand) they would have land and good fortune.

The Bible acknowledges more than once that there are other gods swirling around in the ancient world.  For example, when Jacob and Rachel flee her father, Laban, Rachel takes her father’s “Household Gods.”  Significantly, in the Ten Commandments, God himself acknowledges other Gods.  It’s just that, as to the Jews, if they wish to keep the covenant, he must be the only God they claim and worship:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Those words make sense only if there was competition. Otherwise, God would have said, “There are no other Gods, but for me.”

While God promised much to the children of Abraham, he also placed heavy burdens upon them in addition to circumcision.  In a time when people were comforted by a panoply of gods, all of whom were physically present and whose favors could be bought with human or animal sacrifices, the Jews had just one abstract God in whom they had to believe, regardless of his invisible nature.

During the Greek occupation in Palestine, the Jews could not partake of the physical libertinism that characterized the Greeks.  Jews could not hold on to slaves for more than seven years, and had to treat their slaves humanely, which placed them at an economic disadvantage compared to others in the ancient world.  They were prohibited from eating all kinds of foods, which may have conferred some health benefits on them (e.g., no trichinosis), but which also limited their ability to thrive.

And so it goes, rule after rule that gave the Jews a spiritual advantage, but that limited their options in the ancient world.  In exchange, absent periodic miracles, such as the exodus from Egypt, being God’s chosen people wasn’t so great:  they were isolated and often at war with the world around them, their lives were constrained by God’s stringent rules, and God was big on punishing individuals or whole groups for any failure properly to abide by His rules.

The end result was that, in the ancient world, Jews were considered everything from fellow imperialists, to slaves, to an occupied people.  The one thing that they weren’t considered to be, though, was arrogant and special.  Indeed, in the ancient world, they were considered foolish for hewing to one invisible God rather than taking advantage of the panoply of gods then benefiting everyone else.

What changed was Christianity, which looked at the Jewish God and the whole notion of monotheism and concluded that it was a good idea.  The early Christians were Jews and, when they split from Jews who didn’t recognize Christ’s divinity, they still considered themselves God’s Chosen People — only they were even more chosen because they had taken Christ as their savior.  Suddenly, the Jews’ claim to be God’s Chosen People seemed (a) wrong and (b) arrogant, considering that both Jews and Christians were claiming the same God as their own.

All of which is to say that the Leftist at the dojo was wrong when he sought to insult Jews because they somehow think they’re “special.”  That’s not the issue at all.  Jews have simply chosen, for thousands of years, to abide by a very challenging covenant that Abraham made with a God who came to Abraham and said, “If you pick me, and you play by my rules, we’ll be a team forever.”  In the beginning, everybody thought Abraham made a bad deal by letting himself and his descendents get tagged by this jealous God.  It was only with the passing of time that others began to think that they’d like to be tagged too.

Certainly now, Jews do not display religious arrogance.  They do not demand, either with words or swords, that others worship their God; and they do not enslave or tax or otherwise discriminate against those who don’t.  Yes, amongst themselves they think they’re doing the right thing, but so does every group, whether religious or otherwise.  Why bother to be a group if you don’t have special bonds that distinguish you from others?  But there’s a profound difference between thinking “Yup, I’m engaging in correct religious behavior,” and thinking “You all are evil and doomed.  You deserve to die and then go to Hell.  And while you’re on this earth, I have the right to make it a Hell on earth for you.”  Now that’s arrogant.

Charles Krauthammer has been reading Bookworm Room about gay marriage

That post title is, of course, a wild leap of faith.  But there’s no doubt but that Dr. Krauthammer has come to exactly the same conclusion I’ve been trumpeting forever at this blog:  making gay marriage a civil right protected by the Constitution will cause a headlong crash into the First Amendment’s promise that government will leave religious doctrine and practice alone.

I’m going to quote myself from March 2009, long before gay marriage got to the Supreme Court:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religion organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis.  What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages.  It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing it in the opposite way:  they say gay marriage as a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march.  Instead, it’s a sacrament.  A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God.

So imagine this scenario:  Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them.  The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level marry them.  The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights.  Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues.  It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

The only thing that’s changed now is that, thanks to ObamaCare, which requires that Catholic institutions pay for birth control and abortifacients, the Obama administration has already managed to create a Constitutional crisis with regard to abortion.  I hadn’t seen that one coming back in 2009.

An Argentinian Cardinal becomes Pope Francis

Pope selected

White smoke over the Vatican says the Cardinals have elected a Pope.

Catholics around the world rejoiced as a puff of white smoke rose above the Vatican, heralding the cardinal’s election of a new Pope – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. Cardinal Bergoglio will take the name “Pope Francis.”

The fact that Pope Francis is the first non-European Pope to be elected acknowledges that Europe is no longer home to the world’s Catholic majority. Instead, the greatest number of Catholics live in Africa and Latin America.

Tens of thousands of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics stood for hours in St. Peter’s Square, awaiting word of this momentous announcement. Upon seeing the white smoke, the crowd started shouting “Habemus Papam” (“We Have a Pope”), and long as “Long live the Pope.” Vatican and Italian military bands both marched into the square and up the Vatican steps. They were followed by the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, in their colorful regalia with silver helmets.

The occasion for this election was Pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to retire due to declining health. Benedict, Formerly Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, was the first Pope in 600 years to retire.

Pope Francis, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Pope Francis, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Pope Francis is a 76 year old native of Argentina (although his father was Italian). After studying at a seminary in Argentina, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1958. He has a degree in Philosophy, and taught literature and psychology in Buenos Aires. Pope Francis was formally ordained as a priest in 1969. Because of his manifestly impressive leadership skills, he rose quickly in the administrative ranks of the Society of Jesus.

The new Pope has traditional views on contested issues. He opposes abortion and euthanasia. Although he supports the church’s traditional teaching that homosexuality is a sin, he has consistently urged that Catholics must treat homosexuals with respect. Unsurprisingly, Pope Francis strongly opposes same-sex marriage.

By electing Pope Francis, the Cardinals have reaffirmed their commitment to core Catholic doctrine. They will not lash out at those whose lives or beliefs are at odds with the doctrine, but they will not back down on central tenets of faith and life.

(Written by Bookworm; originally published at Mr. Conservative.)

New York Times public editor keeps straight face while saying she doesn’t know reporters’ political orientation

Hot Air caught the New York Times public editor stating — with a straight face yet! — that she really has no idea what political viewpoint informs their writing.  Maybe this screen shot, from today’s online edition, will help her:

New York Times screenshot

I’m sure both stories are true.  That is, I don’t doubt that a specific woman, in a crisis handled herself well or that money that well-meaning Evangelicals sent to Uganda got put to an evil use.

I’m equally sure, though, that these stories are propaganda for a specific world view.  This is a world view in which women — who are on average less strong than men and on average less big than men, making them less able to handle equipment and more likely to bleed out from wounds, and who also can’t pull it out to pee, have periods, and are vulnerable to an enemy’s deadly sexual assault — should be in the front lines at all times, even if that means lowering front line standards to the detriment of the troops and the military’s mission.  Likewise, the NYT world view always believes that Christian money never funds good causes in the Third World — educating and feeding children, fighting dictatorships, liberating women, etc. — but only pours money into “charities” that abuse victim classes around the world.

So maybe, just maybe, it would help if the public editor occasionally took a glance at her own paper.