The Bookworm Beat (11/12/14) — The “trigger warning” edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingIf I’ve written this post correctly, it should trigger discomfort in sensitive Leftists.  “Trigger warnings,” for those of you fortunate enough not to move in circles that use them, are warnings at the beginning of any information presentation, be it fact or fiction, written or oral, aural or visual. They tell people with certain sensitivities that the material following the warning might upset them. For example, The Cat In The Hat might be preceded by a trigger warning stating “Trigger Warning: This book contains references to cats, which may be triggering to people suffering from Ailurophobia; references to boys, which may be triggering to people suffering from Misanthropy; references to girls, which may be triggering to people suffering from Misogyny; and references to Things, which may be triggering to people suffering from fear of Things.”

These trigger warnings started amongst the feminists, who manage to hold simultaneously conflicting thoughts, the first being that they are roaring women (and you’d better hear them), and the second that they are such fragile flowers that anything can permanently damage them. I’m not so sure anymore that trigger warnings are just a malicious feminist virus.  Instead, to the extent that trigger warnings are taking over American college campuses, I think that they’re actually part of a fiendish plot that transcends lunatic feminists in Herstory Departments across America.

Think about it: For decades, the Left has carefully controlled the material available to college students. Just when young people’s minds should be in their most receptive, inquiring mode, these youngsters are shut off in an institution that spoon feeds them carefully vetted material pointing to a single world view. As a conservative I met today told me, his grandson, a UC student, proudly boasted that everyone at his college voted Democrat in the last election. That may be an exaggeration, but it’s close enough to the truth to disturb all of us.

The problem for Leftist control freaks is the fact that they only get the students for 4-7 years, and that even during that time there’s the chance that the students, during visits home, or while picking up a random magazine abandoned at a Starbucks might accidentally be exposed to facts or analysis challenging the Leftist paradigm. Even the most zealous Leftist academic can’t police students all the time. Moreover, there’s always the problem that an insufficiently indoctrinated student might be embarrassed at the sheeple-ness of it all (is there no rebellion left amongst the young?) and foment an intellectual revolution.  What’s an academic to do?

What the enterprising academic will do is vaccinate the students so that they develop antibodies that make them permanently resistant to any new information whatsoever. That’s what the “trigger warning” is. It inoculates brains against all ideas but for Leftist ones.  Mention preprogrammed words, phrases, or ideas — e.g., liberty, Founding Fathers, Constitution, decent men, rape fallacy, conservatives, Republicans, etc. — and the students are so sensitized that they instantly, and without any higher brain function, start screaming “It’s a trigger!” after which they fall on the floor in a sobbing heap, inconsolable until someone comes along and whispers in their ears restorative words such as Social Justice, right side of history, racism, sexism, etc.

As long as our young people are not just taught Leftism, but are taught to panic at anything that challenges Leftism, they are unreachable. They have been vaccinated against ideas about individual liberty, constitutionalism, morality, etc. Sad, but true….

But if you’re made of stronger stuff, if you can read ideas that might not mesh with yours, I probably have something to offer you in this little grab bag of links and pictures.

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In Idaho, gay marriage is in direct conflict with religious rights under the First Amendment

(Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto)

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Since the first minute gay marriage appeared on the horizon, I’ve steadfastly argued that gay marriage will inevitably create a clash between newly discovered Constitutional rights that the Founders could never have envisioned and core, explicit Constitutional rights, such as the “free exercise” of religion. I developed this idea most fully back in 2009, so I’ll just quote myself:

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 the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious 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 their issue in the opposite way: they say gay marriage is 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.  Marriage is one of the sacraments.

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.

Whenever Leftists have heard my argument, they’ve essentially told me to stop worrying my pretty little head about complex Constitutional issues, because “it will never come to that.”

Well, as I predicted, it has come to that:

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who oppose gay marriage, own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Early in 2014, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, but the ruling was put on hold while the case was appealed. When the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the ruling stood and went into effect.

The city of Coeur d’Alene has an ordinance that prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, in public accommodations. It does have a religious exemption, but the Hitching Post is a for-profit company, not technically a religious organization, in spite of the Knapp’s deeply held personal beliefs.

[snip]

“On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.” Note that jail time and the fine is per day, not per offense, The Daily Signal reports.

Most articles I’ve seen have discussed the Knapp’s situation with reference to freedom of speech or Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I believe that these articles rely on too narrow an interpretation of what happened in Idaho.

The Knapp’s situation is not the same as a Christian photographer being asked to take photographs or a Christian baker being asked to bake a cake. I think it’s unconscionable government bullying to force people to participate peripherally in a ritual that offends their religious sensibilities, but the government can (and invariably does) argue that it has the right to do so because the acts at issue are not central to the ritual itself.  To go back to my Catholic Church analogy, the photographer’s and the baker’s situation is similar to a scenario that sees the government insist that priests must drive girls to Planned Parenthood for an abortion.  That the government would force a priest to act in this way is appalling for any number of reasons, but the government still isn’t dictating what the priest can preach or the acts he can or cannot perform as part of his core ministerial duties (e.g., giving the last rites, administering the sacrament, take confession, or conduct a marriage ceremony).

Those who support Coeur d’Alene’s attack on the Knapps are trying to slot the Knapps case into that same metric as the photographer, baker or hypothetical priest-cum-chauffeur.  They contend that, because the Knapps get paid for offering a package deal of religious service and chapel rental, they are running a business, not engaging in matters of faith, making the town’s ordinance relevant and their own ordination irrelevant.

This is artful misdirection.  The real point is that the state is threatening to imprison ministers who are performing a core religious function — marriage — and who refuse to subordinate their doctrine to a state mandate.  The issue isn’t about whether the Knapps get paid for their services or profit from renting their chapel out along with their ministerial functions.  The real issue is that the Knapps are being told that, in their role as ministers, they must engage in acts that are completely antithetical to their religion’s interpretation of God’s word. Put another way, they’re like priests who are being told to perform an actual abortion.

It’s important to add here that the Knapps, like my hypothetical Catholic priest, aren’t crazy people who came up with their religion yesterday, while shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, and included in their brand new faith core doctrines demanding ritual Barbie doll dismemberment, mandatory bestiality, and 100% tithing. The Knapps, like my hypothetical priest, are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it has been interpreted for 2,000 years. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it existed when the Founders enacted the First Amendment. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine in a way that meshes with most religion’s core doctrinal points right up until the last 40 years, when a bunch of churches and synagogues ran off into the far reaches Leftist swamp lands.

Under the First Amendment, those faiths that wish to marry same-sex partners should be allowed to do so.  And those churches that hew to traditional religious interpretations about marriage and do not wish to marry same-sex partners, should be left entirely alone — and that’s true whether they perform the marriage ritual for free or on a fee-for-service basis.  The issue isn’t money; it’s faith.

When Queen Elizabeth I of England came to the throne after decades of religious strife, she famously refused to resume religious inquisitions, saying, instead, “I would not open windows into men’s souls.” What’s happening in Coeur d’Alene isn’t just opening a window into men’s souls, it’s interpretation of its own ordinance is a rock thrown directly through that window in an effort to destroy men’s faith entirely.

Atheists make fatuous arguments that don’t debunk God; Christianity is virtuous; and radical Islam is illiberal and monstrous

Why do atheists care if others prayMy sister watched The Unbelievers, a documentary that follows Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they try to convert people to atheism, with science as the true faith. That’s all fine. If they want to proselytize to willing listeners, good for them. I have just a few comments, based upon what my sister told me, and what I know generally about Krauss and Dawkins:

1. My sister said that Krauss and Dawkins spoke scathingly of people who believe in transubstantiation (the conversion of the wine and wafer into the blood and body of Christ during the Catholic service).

My response was “Thank God [no pun intended] for the people who believe in transubstantiation or for those who don’t believe in transubstantiation but just believe that Christ died for humankind’s sins.” Since we’re Jewish, and I’m an undifferentiated theist, she was surprised at my vehemence.

I explained that the belief in the body and blood of Christ, combined with the story of Isaac, which forbids human sacrifice, is one of the few delicate strands keeping modern civilization from slipping back into human sacrifice. The desire to shed human blood to propitiate random Gods or to take on the strength of the dead lies very close to the surface.
Don’t believe me? Just witness the way the Islamists are boasting about eating parts of their bodies. Even their beheadings and crucifixions are intended as a sign of their worshiping on the Islamist altar.

2. My sister also told me that Dawkins and Krauss claim that the Greeks and the Romans understood higher mathematics, that fundamentalist Christians destroyed that knowledge during that Middle Ages, that moderately religious Muslims raised it up again during our Middle Ages, and that fundamentalist Islamists are destroying knowledge. From this potted history, Dawkins and Krauss conclude that religion is bad because, when fundamentalists grab hold of it, knowledge vanishes. (Yes, it is hearsay from my sister when I say that Dawkins and Krauss relied on this potted history for their conclusion but I still accept it as true because (a) I’ve heard other atheists make the same argument and (b) my sister has proven reliable on these things. Now, back to how dumb this argument is.)

First, for so-called logical people, the syllogism that (a) fundamentalists destroy knowledge; (b) some religions have fundamentalists; (c) therefore all religion is stupid, is obviously false. Do I need to explain why or can I take a short cut here and assume that you are all with me on this one?

Second, as I explained to my sister, what brought about the Dark Ages wasn’t Christianity, which was small potatoes when the Roman empire (which was the inheritor of some Greek knowledge) collapsed. It was the pagans who destroyed the Empire and, with it, its store of knowledge. It was the Christians, starting with monks sequestered far away in Ireland who began the laborious process of bringing light and knowledge back to the darkness. This process was not a straight line and there were definitely people and nations who perverted Christianity to suit evil ends. Ultimately, thought, it was this Christian journey that led to the Enlightenment, to the end of the slave trade, to the end of child labor, to the beginning of the 40 hour work week, and to most other civilized beliefs we have long taken for granted in the Western world.

As for the Muslims, yes, the Muslim world had preserved some of the Greek and Roman mathematical and scientific knowledge, and as well as the marvelous Indian numbering system that goes under the misnomer of “Arabic numerals.” During laxer periods in medieval Muslim history, some people — mostly Jews or former Jews — relied upon this knowledge to come up with important ideas.

But mostly, no, moderate Muslims were not a Renaissance of discovery and creation. Just as was the case when 19 al Qaeda terrorists used an airplane to destroy the Twin Towers, the medieval Muslim world created nothing. It simply hijacked knowledge from the people it conquered. This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful that those Medieval Muslims, unlike today’s fundamentalist Muslims, chose to salvage, not destroy, books and some limited ideas. I’m just saying that only the uninformed could pretend that they actually had an intellectually dynamic and creative culture.

So, to the extent that Krauss, Dawkins, and other atheists attack religion using a crude, false syllogism and a lot of historical ignorance, I’m neither persuaded nor impressed.

3. Dawkins and Krauss advocate science as a substitute for faith. I firmly believe in science, which I define as things that are proven true through careful observation or reliable experimentation, or everything that can be inferred from observation and experimentation. Nevertheless, science is no substitute for faith and, indeed, becomes just as dangerous as any other fundamentalist faith when people fall into that error.

Simply put, history proves over and over that substituting science for faith results stupid ideas. The most obvious example is the claim that the Big Bang disproves God’s existence. Huh? I currently believe in the Big Bang as the most reasonable theory to prove observable phenomena, but someone has to explain to me how the Big Bang disproves God?

It’s true that the Big Bang arguably challenges the Genesis version of creation. However, some would say that the Genesis version is an allegory, since it tracks the earth’s development, both geological and biological with rather uncanny accuracy, rather than a Bronze Age creation fantasy. Whatever. Whether Genesis is a truth, a fable, or an allegory, it doesn’t mean there is no God.

But why get caught up in origin stories. Let’s talk about the world in which we live. Moreover, let’s talk about my favorite example of elevating a scientific theory to the realm of faith.

Where to begin? Every prediction has proven wrong. Every allegedly new phenomenon is, in fact, same old same old. Despite being wrong again, and again, and again, nothing shakes the believer’s faith in the “science” of climate change.  When a doctrine is infallible, it’s not science; it’s faith.

We can also look at a less contentious subject than climate change to prove how wrong science is.  When it comes to diet, it seems as is everything science has ever taught us is wrong. We were told to give up all fat, eat carbs, and use fake sugar. We promptly become obese and diabetic. It turns out that natural fats in moderate quantities are beneficial, that carbs in excess are bad, and that fake sugar messes with our bodies. It’s Sleeper all over again.

Just the other night, on 60 Minutes, scientists proudly admit that, despite humans living with them for 15,000 years, scientists know next to nothing about dogs. I could even argue that they know less than nothing about dogs.  For years many scientists have claimed that dogs do not know “love,” something every dog owner knows is a manifestly false statement. Only now are scientists catching up to the love our common sense always knew was there.

Over and over again, scientists are forced to concede their ignorance and errors — and yet the true believers consistently assert that anthropogenic climate change is unfalsifiable. It must always be true. If that’s not faith — and one in which Dawkins (or, at least, his foundation) and Krauss (who is not a “climate scientist”) unquestioningly believe (see here, beginning at 13:30), I don’t know what it.

(For those interested, Lord Monckton does a beautiful job of debunking the climate faithful who try to debunk the skeptics.)

Having said all of the above about The Unbelievers, I have to say something nice about two famous atheists, one who is incredibly rude and vulgar (that would be Bill Maher) and the other of whom is polite (Sam Harris).  Both of them stood against Ben Affleck, who desperately tried to argue there’s nothing illiberal about Islam.  Amusingly and expectedly, Affleck supported his position by throwing out the term “racist.”  This is an idiocy that could only come from a Leftist who doesn’t understand that Islam is not a race but is, instead, a religion that can be and is embraced by people all over the world, regardless of race or natural origin.

Thinking about Affleck’s last-ditch argument, I have to say that Leftists are constantly unable to separate ideology and behaviors from skin color.  You know, I think they have a name for people like that.  Wait.  Wait.  It’s coming to me.  Oh, yeah!  Racist.  Affleck’s a racist.

And yes, I loved it when Affleck says “we’re endowed by our forefathers with inalienable rights.”  No wonder the Left is so willing to throw those rights overboard.  They don’t come from a Creator; they come from dead white men.

Anyway, you  have to see the video to appreciate it fully.  Here it is:

I disagree with Harris and Maher on many things, but they are brave and honest about this and deserves kudos. Also, to the extent I’m vaguely religious, I pray constantly for their safety, and hope that they don’t end up like Theo Van Gogh.

Also, since I’ve wandered into the subject of Islam, I’d like to commend to your attention an incredibly solid post explaining why it would be an incredible mistake for America to define itself by fear of radical Islam. Our culture may mot be perfect, but the Islamist culture is monstrous and, for that very reason, fundamentally weak.

Hobby Lobby reveals how public and private spheres have changed in the last few decades

Church rejects Obama as GodBack in the 1980s, when I was a good ol” liberal Democrat (sort of in the Kennedy mold), I kept hearing those Bible Thumpers in the Moral Majority bandy about a word: “Secularist.”

What the heck was that? Nobody I knew (and everyone I knew was a person of the sort-of Left) called him or herself a “secularist.”

What in the world did those zealots mean by labeling me that way and pretending that I’m doing something damaging to them? I understood what was really going on:  Very religious people were abnormal, and then there were the rest of us who were non-religious, or slightly religious in a genteel, non-obtrusive fashion.  The fact that our “religion”  closely paralleled the Democrat Party platform, meaning that laws were informed by our “religious” values was just a coincidence.

We were not foisting anything on them.  If anything, they were the foisters, especially with their stupid pro-Life values.

I’ve obviously come a long way from then, haven’t I?

One of the things that helped me on my journey to rationality was Stephen Carter’s The Culture of Disbelief. It was he who explained to me that to hold values in opposition to traditional Christianity is itself a value system.

Bingo! Light bulb moment. As of 1994, I finally understood what the Moral Majority was complaining about. I didn’t yet agree with the values they advanced, but I instantly became much more sympathetic to their complaints about Leftist, secular culture encroaching upon them.

The societal change Carter noted — that the absence of religious values (as opposed to religious doctrine) was taking over the public forum — has only accelerated in recent years. I actually hadn’t thought about it in any specific way until I read Megan McArdle’s very thoughtful post about the Left’s hysteria in response to the Supreme Court’s extremely narrow, common-sensical Hobby Lobby ruling.

For conservatives, even non-religious ones, the ruling’s correctness was a no-brainer:  The holding that government cannot compel people to purchase a product inconsistent with core doctrinal beliefs is true both to the Constitution and to the traditional American ethos of keeping the state out of people’s religion.

But what if the state itself is the people’s religion? McArdle believes that this trend, which sees public space co-opted by non-religious beliefs that have been themselves elevated to absolute “values” explains much of the hysteria, not among the professional Left, but among ordinary DemProgs.  The change in attitude McArdle notes explains both why Leftists cannot appreciate the seriousness of the issue for religious people and why they do not view the Obama administration’s actions as coercive.

I’m quoting McArdle at some length here, because the logic underlying her theory is so tightly constructed, it’s difficult for me to quote her without doing damage to her reasoning.  I urge you, though, to read the whole thing:

I think a few things are going on here. The first is that while the religious right views religion as a fundamental, and indeed essential, part of the human experience, the secular left views it as something more like a hobby, so for them it’s as if a major administrative rule was struck down because it unduly burdened model-train enthusiasts. That emotional disconnect makes it hard for the two sides to even debate; the emotional tenor quickly spirals into hysteria as one side says “Sacred!” and the other side says, essentially, “Seriously? Model trains?” That shows in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, where it seems to me that she takes a very narrow view of what role religious groups play in the lives of believers and society as a whole.

The second, and probably more important, problem is that the long compromise worked out between the state and religious groups — do what you want within very broad limits, but don’t expect the state to promote it — is breaking down in the face of a shift in the way we view rights and the role of the government in public life.

To see what I mean, consider an argument I have now heard hundreds of times — on Facebook, in my e-mail, in comment threads here and elsewhere: “Hobby Lobby’s owners have a right to their own religious views, but they don’t have a right to impose them on others.”As I wrote the day the decision came out, the statement itself is laudable, yet it rings strange when it’s applied to this particular circumstance. How is not buying you something equivalent to “imposing” on you?

I think you can understand this, however, as the clash of principles designed for a world of negative rights, in a society that has come to embrace substantial positive rights — as well as a clash between old and new concepts of what is private and what is public.

All of us learned some version of “You have the right to your beliefs, but not to impose them on others” in civics class. It’s a classic negative right. And negative rights are easy to make reciprocal: You have a right to practice your religion without interference, and I have a right not to have your beliefs imposed on me.

This works very well in situations in which most of the other rights granted by society are negative rights, because negative rights don’t clash very often. Oh, sure, you’re going to get arguments about noise ordinances and other nuisance abatements, but unless your religious practices are extreme indeed, the odds that they will substantively violate someone else’s negative rights are pretty slim.

[snip]

Alongside this development, as Yuval Levin has pointed out, we have seen an ongoing shift, particularly on the left, in the balance between what constitutes the private and the public spheres, and who has powers in which sphere. There’s a reductive tendency in modern political discourse to view public versus private as the state versus the individual.

In the 19th century, the line between the individual and the government was just as firm as it is now, but there was a large public space in between that was nonetheless seen as private in the sense of being mostly outside of government control — which is why we still refer to “public” companies as being part of the “private” sector. Again, in the context of largely negative rights, this makes sense. You have individuals on one end and a small state on the other, and in the middle you have a large variety of private voluntary institutions that exert various forms of social and financial coercion, but not governmental coercion — which, unlike other forms of coercion, is ultimately enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

[snip]

[O]utside of our most intimate relationships, almost everything else is now viewed as public, which is why Brendan Eich’s donation to an anti-gay-marriage group became, in the eyes of many, grounds for firing.

For many people, this massive public territory is all the legitimate province of the state. Institutions within that sphere are subject to close regulation by the government, including regulations that turn those institutions into agents of state goals — for example, by making them buy birth control for anyone they choose to employ. It is not a totalitarian view of government, but it is a totalizing view of government; almost everything we do ends up being shaped by the law and the bureaucrats appointed to enforce it. We resolve the conflict between negative and positive rights by restricting many negative rights to a shrunken private sphere where they cannot get much purchase.

Put another way, once upon time, things not directly within the government purview were neutral territory in which I didn’t impose upon or demand from you, and you didn’t impose upon and demand from me.  We might have thought the other excessively moral or immoral, but we danced together in uneasy harmony.

Beginning in the 1980s, though, the Left co-opted the public space, declaring that it was not neutral territory but was, instead, government territory.  Further, because Leftists deny that their belief in non-Christian values is itself a value, they insist that by doing so they’re not infringing on First Amendment rights.  They insist upon this denial even as they promote and guard their own secular faith with all the vehemence of a true religious zealot.

The Obama healthcare mandate reflects the fact that, for the Left, the distinction between your private religious space and all the other public government faith space has morphed again.  Now, as a person of faith, the only space you have that’s yours is within the four walls of your home.  Everything else is within the public purview, meaning that it’s under government control and government values (which are, by definition, statist, hostile to matters of faith, and identical to the Democrat platform).  With this rejiggered view of public and private, the government is not infringing upon your religion if it imposes obligations on you (even obligations that directly contradict your faith) as long as it is not constraining you within your own home.

Put another way, the DemProg interpretation of the First Amendment’s promise that the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion boils down to this:  I can’t force you to pay for or perform an abortion on your own daughter (provided she lives in your house), but I am not impinging on your faith if I force you to pay for or perform an abortion on your neighbor’s daughter.   Under this definition, your objection to paying for or performing that abortion on the neighbor’s child constitutes an unreasonable attempt to enforce religious values in the public arena.

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.