All of You Who Harshly Condemn Anti-Homosexuality Religious Beliefs, Take Note

And same for all of you who mock young earthers, or devout Scientologists, or believers in miracles — and all who say that, for instance, racist or sexist religious beliefs are contemptible — and maybe even all those who, even politely, contend that rival religions’ views are wrong and will deny salvation to the holders of those views:

“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

So says the Secretary of State, in quite categorical terms. After all, in all the examples given above, you would presumably be intentionally denigrating the religious beliefs of others: saying that they are immoral and foolish. The U.S. government deplores your speech. It’s not just that the government doesn’t endorse the speech, not just that it deplores a limited and narrow category of blasphemous acts (e.g., burning a Koran, treading on a crucifix, and the like), but rather that it deplores any attempt to denigrate religious beliefs. Religious beliefs, which are routinely used by billions as a guide to private action and a guide to lawmaking, are supposed to be somehow immune from the denigration that is a commonplace and necessary part of debate about ideological beliefs generally.

If Christians behaved more violently, perhaps they’d be respected more by the Left. It seems to be working for Muslims. Let’s hope not. Via The Volokh Conspiracy » All of You Who Harshly Condemn Anti-Homosexuality Religious Beliefs, Take Note.

Divorce the State from Marriage

… if they [Christians] are truly interested in restoring marriage and the family to their proper places as the twin bulwarks of civilized society, they must leap at the opportunity to remove the state, at all levels, from the process entirely. Marriage is a sacred trinity of a man and a woman before God, there is neither room nor reason for a fourth party to enter into the relationship, still less one that corrupts and destroys the tripartite relationship.

Note that the author is talking about Christian sacraments, not civil law. Via Alpha Game: Divorcing the State.

Newt Gingrich, How Will You Lead The Nation Back To God?

Gingrich did *not* say the following:

… it is not the job of the President of the United States or in in the skill set of the President of the United States to lead the nation back to or toward God. For starters, a lot of Americans don’t believe in God and don’t want to hear about God. I don’t want a President to lead the nation toward meat-eating or vegetarianism or any of the myriad of other choices we make privately in our day-to-day lives.

More importantly, the President doesn’t know how to lead the nation back to God. He is just as likely to lead the nation away from God. There are people who specialize in Godliness–they are called “the clergy.” Having the President get involved in religion or belief in God inevitably crowds out private efforts or has unintended consequences.

In other words, the right answer is that the President of the United States is not the Messiah or a prophet or even a member of the clergy. Leading the nation back to God is the job of private voluntary acts. The President’s job is to leave those alone.

Via Not the Messiah.

Left vs Right on Evolution and Economics

On the one hand: Many right/conservative types believe in a universe that was designed from the top down, but are OK with thinking of the economy as something that self-organizes from the bottom up without central control.

One the other: Many left/liberal/progressive types view with contempt anyone who believes in Creation or Intelligent Design, and see evolutionary theory as as good explanation for life on Earth. But, simultaneously, they believe that the economy can be directed and controlled by a relatively small group of smart people.

Me, I have become a believer in the primacy of evolutionary forces in both life and economics.

Islam and the First Amendment

… Thomas Jefferson wrote that the Virginia statute protecting religious freedom, which he drafted, deliberately covered “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination,” and that a proposal to mention Christ in the bill “was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend” all religions.

Which is as it should be. Read the whole thing. Via The Volokh Conspiracy » Islam and the First Amendment.

Mystery and Evidence

… Christianity rests upon certain historical claims, like the claim of the resurrection. But this is not enough to make scientific hypotheses central to Christianity, any more than it makes such hypotheses central to history. It is true, as I have just said, that Christianity does place certain historical events at the heart of their conception of the world, and to that extent, one cannot be a Christian unless one believes that these events happened. Speaking for myself, it is because I reject the factual basis of the central Christian doctrines that I consider myself an atheist. But I do not reject these claims because I think they are bad hypotheses in the scientific sense. Not all factual claims are scientific hypotheses. So I disagree with Richard Dawkins when he says “religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.”

Religion, on the other hand, attempts to make sense of the world by seeing a kind of meaning or significance in things. This kind of significance does not need laws or generalizations, but just the sense that the everyday world we experience is not all there is, and that behind it all is the mystery of God’s presence. The believer is already convinced that God is present in everything, even if they cannot explain this or support it with evidence. But it makes sense of their life by suffusing it with meaning. This is the attitude (seeing God in everything) expressed in George Herbert’s poem, “The Elixir.” Equipped with this attitude, even the most miserable tasks can come to have value: “Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws/ Makes that and th’ action fine.”

Religions do make factual and historical claims, and if these claims are false, then the religions fail. But this dependence on fact does not make religious claims anything like hypotheses in the scientific sense. Hypotheses are not central. Rather, what is central is the commitment to the meaningfulness (and therefore the mystery) of the world.

All emphasis mine. Via Mystery and Evidence – NYTimes.com.

Update, 06 Oct: For what it’s worth, I consider myself an agnostic.

Government and journalists cower at threats to cartoonist

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had "gone ghost." Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

via Examiner Editorial: Government and journalists cower at threats to cartoonist | Washington Examiner.

Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids

In one camp are conservative Christians and their champion, the Texas State Board of Education; in the other are politically radical multiculturalists and their de facto champion, President Barack Obama. The two competing visions couldn’t be more different. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Unfortunately, whichever side wins — your kid ends up losing.

That’s because this war is for the power to dictate what our children are taught — and, by extension, how future generations of Americans will view the world. Long gone are the days when classrooms were for learning: now each side sees the public school system as a vast indoctrination camp in which future culture-warriors are trained. The problem is, two diametrically opposed philosophies are struggling for supremacy, and neither is willing to give an inch, so the end result is extremism, no matter which side temporarily comes out on top.

Both visions are grotesque and unacceptable — and yet they are currently the only two choices on the national menu.

via Zombie » Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids.

What’s the Matter with Texas?

While for the most part the Texas State Board of Education is in fact admirably defending patriotism, they unfortunately drag some ideological baggage into the meeting room as well, and do here and there attempt to push conservative and/or Christian viewpoints into the curriculum. Maybe not as much as their critics charge, and they’re not always successful, but they try. And try. And try.

And it is this attempt on the part of the TSBE to overreach which frustrates me to no end. Because every time they push back too hard, they look just as partisan as the leftists they’re trying to counteract. Which gives the media and the liberal critics a valid basis on which to criticize Texas’ attempt (and thus any attempt) to salvage a patriotic curriculum.

Furthermore, the conservative board members of the TSBE have in a few cases gone too far and ended up distorting historical fact to match their own wishful thinking for a Christian nation. When you want to rectify your opponent’s twisting of the facts, it’s never good to overtwist them yourself in the opposite direction. It might work when negotiating the price of a used car, but in an argument about the nature of truth it only serves to undermine your position.

via Zombie » What’s the Matter with Texas?.

The “Ground Zero mosque” debate is about tolerance—and a whole lot more

Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center [i.e., the “Ground Zero mosque”], its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter

(All emphasis mine.) Via The “Ground Zero mosque” debate is about tolerance—and a whole lot more. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine.