Imagine No Religion

“I maintain that nothing need be destroyed, that we only need to destroy the idea of God in man, that’s how we have to set to work. It’s that, that we must begin with…

Men will unite to take from life all it can give, but only for joy and happiness in the present world. Man will be lifted up with a spirit of divine Titanic pride and the man-god will appear. From hour to hour extending his conquest of nature infinitely by his will and his science, man will feel such lofty joy from hour to hour in doing it that it will make up for all his old dreams of the joys of heaven. Every one will know that he is mortal and will accept death proudly and serenely like a god. His pride will teach him that it’s useless for him to repine at life’s being a moment, and he will love his brother without need of reward. Love will be sufficient only for a moment of life, but the very consciousness of its momentariness will intensify its fire, which now is dissipated in dreams of eternal love beyond the grave…

[Is] it possible that such a period will ever come? If it does, everything is determined and humanity is settled for ever. But as, owing to man’s inveterate stupidity, this cannot come about for at least a thousand years, every one who recognises the truth even now may legitimately order his life as he pleases, on the new principles. In that sense, ‘all things are lawful’ for him. What’s more, even if this period never comes to pass, since there is anyway no God and no immortality, the new man may well become the man-god, even if he is the only one in the whole world, and promoted to his new position, he may lightheartedly overstep all the barriers of the old morality of the old slave-man, if necessary. There is no law for God. Where God stands, the place is holy. Where I stand will be at once the foremost place…’all things are lawful’ and that’s the end of it!

That’s all very charming, but if you want to swindle why do you want a moral sanction for doing it? But that’s our modern Russian all over. He can’t bring himself to swindle without a moral sanction. He is so in love with truth.”

- The Devil (“The Brothers Karamazov”)

Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies, and The Huffington Post Still Fails at Science

In response to yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, an article from The Huffington Post is going viral. The article, entitled, “Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies and Viagra,” not-so-subtly accuses the Green family of moral inconsistency and misogyny.

From the article:

“Evangelical Christians have long argued that life begins at conception, and therefore that medical procedures that disrupt the first stages of pregnancy amount to murder. In the case of Hobby Lobby, this extends to a woman taking pills such as Plan B, Next Choice or Ella, any of which would prevent her ovaries from releasing an egg that could be fertilized after unprotected sex.”

Hobby Lobby objected to covering Plan B, Ella, and the 2 IUD’s in question because the owners believe these can interfere with implantation – not because they interfere with the ovaries releasing an egg, as this article states. This is an extremely important distinction. (One can debate the scientific evidence for this belief. But that actually misses the point. Their religious convictions should still be protected, even if they think these specific forms of birth control are immoral because they’re cursed by Zeus.)

IUD

Intrauterine Device

Since a fertilized egg is, biologically speaking, a human organism…and since an unfertilized egg & sperm are not human organisms…there’s no inconsistency in the owners of Hobby Lobby covering vasectomies, viagra, (most) OCP’s, condoms, or any of the other 16 of the 20 FDA approved forms of contraception that they already cover.

The article continues:

“Perhaps taking a note from Catholic Church’s opposition to sterilization, Hobby Lobby also objected to long-term birth control methods such as IUDs, which can cost women up to $1,000. But that does not explain why Hobby Lobby doesn’t object to covering the cost of its male employees’ vasectomies.”

Sterilization and long-term methods of birth control are not the same thing. So this comparison is head-scratching. The owners of Hobby Lobby don’t object to IUD’s because they prevent pregnancy (or even because they prevent pregnancy “for a long time”), but because they believe these devices can cause the death of a human organism by preventing implantation of the blastocyst. Vasectomies work exclusively by preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg.

If the Huffington Post wishes to use smear tactics, they’re free to do so. This article, however, relies not only on a gross misunderstanding of the Green family’s moral stance, but on an embarrassing ignorance of human biology.

Why Do Progressives Oppose Evidence-Based Solutions to Income Inequality?

Perhaps the trendiest issue among modern progressives is the supposed problem of “income inequality”. In ominous tones, we’re told that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and that the top 1% of income earners are getting richer while the poor grow poorer.

It’s easy to see how such a narrative might gain traction. Most people – regardless of political orientation – recognize the depravity and excesses that often accompany extreme wealth. The injustice is especially clear when juxtaposed with the millions who die every year from thirst, malnutrition, and preventable diseases.

inequality

On the surface, it might seem that these injustices can be addressed by focusing on “income inequality” – the relative gap between the rich and the poor.

Consider, though, the following thought experiment (from Steve Horwitz):

“Want to have some fun with your leftist friends who are complaining about supposed growing income inequality? Ask them if they’d prefer the status quo or a world in which everyone’s real income got doubled. The latter, of course, would have much more inequality. If they prefer the latter, then they really aren’t so concerned about inequality, but something else. And that’s a different conversation. If they prefer the former, then at least you know where they stand: they prefer equality so much that they are willing to condemn all of us, including the poor, to worse lives to achieve it.”

This isn’t a new idea, of course:

For the sake of argument, though, let’s imagine that our goal is to reduce income inequality. Where should we begin? What policy initiatives should be put in place?

As it turns out, there are a couple of clear, evidence-based solutions to income inequality. Ironically, these proposals are widely rejected and/or ignored by progressives – the very people who claim to care most about this issue.

Solution 1: Reduce income taxes and enact right-to-work laws.

According to economists Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder, “the income gap between rich and poor tends to be wider in blue states than in red states. Our state-by-state analysis finds that the more liberal states whose policies are supposed to promote fairness have a bigger gap between higher and lower incomes than do states that have more conservative, pro-growth policies…The two of us have spent more than 25 years examining why some states grow much faster than others. The conclusion is nearly inescapable that liberal policy prescriptions—especially high income-tax rates and the lack of a right-to-work law—make states less prosperous because they chase away workers, businesses and capital.”

Solution 2: Embrace pro-family social policies (and start by repealing no-fault divorce laws).

As explained by economist Mark Perry, it’s actually household inequality – not individual inequality - that has been increasing over the last several decades. “The combination of a flat Gini coefficient index for individual income inequality for more than 50 years along with rising Gini coefficients for US households and families means that social, rather than economic factors, are responsible for the most frequently reported rise in income inequality for households and families.”

This has been driven primarily by an increasing number of single-parent families and single-person households. Yet this crucial distinction goes largely unrecognized:

“[In] the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.”

Following the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, many states enacted no-fault divorce laws – allowing either spouse to unilaterally obtain a divorce without penalty, and without having to demonstrate infidelity or wrongdoing.

divorce rate

As a result, marriage is perhaps the only legal contract that can be violated by one party, without that party facing any kind of penalty. As an added perversity, the party that walks away from the marriage (breaking the contract) is often granted financial rewards and/or child custody.

These laws have resulted in higher rates of divorce, which not only harms children, but also directly contributes to income inequality. Yet no-fault divorce laws are staunchly defended by mainstream progressives.

Three Bible Assassinations that Put Hollywood to Shame

In the last few months, we’ve seen a surprising array of Bible-themed and Bible-inspired movies (Noah, Heaven is for Real, Son of God, God’s Not Dead). The trend shows little sign of slowing down (Exodus: Gods and Kings, David and Goliath).

Which got me thinking about other Bible stories that would make interesting movies (and I mean “interesting” in the “maybe we should leave the kids home with a babysitter” kind of sense). This isn’t your typical Sunday School material.

__________

Movie Title: “A Left-Handed Man”

Source Material: Judges 3:12-30

Ehud

Excerpt: Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”

The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.

Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.” They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.”

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Movie Title: “Jehu and Jezebel”

Source Material: 2 Kings 9-10

Jezebel

Excerpt: Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?”

He looked up at the window and called out, “Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. “Throw her down!” Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.

Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care of that cursed woman,” he said, “and bury her, for she was a king’s daughter.” But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, “This is the word of the Lord that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh. Jezebel’s body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, ‘This is Jezebel.’””

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Movie Title: “Hammer of Heber”

Source Material: Judges 4

Jael

Excerpt: “At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.

Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazorand the family of Heber the Kenite.

Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

“I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.

“Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.”

Do Atheists Have Any Reason to Care About Global Warming?

I’m not sure what to make of someone who:

1) claims to be an atheist (of the naturalistic variety)
2) works passionately to fight global warming

On the one hand, they believe mankind – and all sentient life – is destined to eventually go extinct (see: “heat death of the universe”).

On the other hand, they want to ensure that our planet is environmentally sustainable for future generations. Which is great and all. Much respect.

But even according to “worst-case scenario” climate models, global warming isn’t going to have apocalyptic, life-altering consequences for the generation that’s currently living. Even if these grim models are true, the manure isn’t going to really hit the fan for at least another 100+ years. Taking immediate steps against global warming, however (via carbon taxes, rationing of fossil fuels, etc.), is guaranteed to cause significant economic hardship for people who are currently alive. (And such steps probably aren’t as necessary as they’re made out to be, anyway).

But if humanity is doomed to eventually go extinct (because…you know…entropy), then why does it really matter to an atheist living in 2014 whether that happens in 300 years, or in 3,000 years, or in 30,000 years? We’ll all be dead by then, anyways. Everyone we love and care about will be dead by then, too.

If all experience ceases with death – and if death is the inevitable fate of our species – then we have to ask ourselves,

hillary

So You’re a Conservative? Why Do You Hate Poor People?

“Every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.”

- Frederic Bastiat

“There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions.” 

-Karl Popper

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Poisoning the well” isn’t something unique to political progressives. Lately, though, it seems to have become standard practice among Those On The Left to assume that anyone disagreeing with their policy positions is acting out of bad faith. Consider, for example, President Obama’s recent remarks on the Affordable Care Act:

“[Republicans have] spent the last few years so obsessed with denying [people] access to health insurance that they just shut down the government and threatened default over it.”

According to this narrative, opponents of Progressivism don’t simply have different ideas about how to make the world a better place. Opponents of Progressivism are actually just mean, spiteful people who want to harm others. Because they’re mean. Here’s another shining example from the College Democrats of America:

college dems

In other words, if you don’t support the Democrat Party’s specific plan for organizing the American healthcare system, you don’t care about human life. Because you’re trying to take away people’s healthcare. Meanie. Yet another example from left-leaning news site Slate:

“When we talk of cutting food stamps or gutting education, we shouldn’t just call it greed. We should call it a sin.”

Translation: “If I think the government should set aside X% of the federal budget for education, and you only think it should set aside Y% of the budget for education, YOU’RE A SINNER.”

When someone has the audacity to oppose re-defining society’s definition of marriage, the progressive is unable to comprehend that his opponent could be motivated by anything other than ill will toward homosexuals. Hence, the labels “bigot” and “homophobe” are swiftly handed down to anyone who disagrees with the progressive’s viewpoint.

When someone questions why businesses should be forced to offer their employees free birth control pills (but not free allergy pills, or free pain pills), the progressive indignantly asks why that person is “anti-women”.

buckley

Such rhetorical tactics are deeply authoritarian. “Agree with me, or you’re a bad person.” “Stay silent, or I’ll drag your name through the mud.”

It seems especially ironic, then, that this approach has been embraced by self-described crusaders of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Tarkovsky Films and Christian Allegory

I’m an enthusiastic fan of foreign film – from the works of Andrei Tarkovsky to those of Akira Kurosawa. Tarkovsky’s films are especially noteworthy for their religious imagery, so I wasn’t at all surprised to come across this article on Christianity Today.

“The most revered Russian filmmaker since Sergei Eisenstein, Tarkovsky offers an unabashedly religious worldview, without which, he wrote, ‘people cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume films like bottles of Coca-Cola.'”

(Aside: For more on the relationship between art, beauty, and religion, I strongly recommend Roger Scruton’s documentary, “Why Beauty Matters“.)

tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky

The article goes on,

“The influence of Russian religious history is also evident in his use of the Holy Fool, an archetype of Russian literature—often characters of deep faith, seen as fools by the world, yet who see God’s reality as it truly is.

All his films deal with apocalyptic scenarios; indeed, one film idea he had was titled ‘The End of the World,’ yet he refused the label ‘pessimist.’ Indeed, he said of apocalyptic literature, ‘It would be wrong to consider that the Book of Revelation only contains within itself a concept of punishment, of retribution; it seems to me that what it contains above all, is hope.'”

For anyone interested, most of Tarkovsky’s films can be found free online. I’d recommend starting with my personal favorite, “The Stalker”. Gregory Schreck provides some fascinating historical context:

“Andrei Tarkovsky’s last film made in the Soviet Union, The Stalker (1977), illustrates the difficulty of properly interpreting his work, and rightly understood, underscores his Christian perception of life and struggle…[The] script approved by censors included a clear indictment of the United States and, seemingly, of capitalism. Yet the finished film, with obvious religious overtones, and with a protagonist who looks like a political prisoner right out of the Gulag, infuriated Soviet authorities. The Stalker turned out to be a condemnation of materialism, both East and West, and ultimately caused Tarkovsky to leave the Soviet Union to finish his career in exile.”