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dangerous idea

This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics, C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.

Updated: 2018-04-26T04:40:43.487-07:00


The China Delusion


 It looks as if they have been reading Richard Dawkins in China. “It is an offense for any organizations or individuals to guide, support, permit and condone minors to believe in religions or participate in religious activities,” the letter said.

The l
etter said minors were at a critical stage of physical and mental development and had no independent thinking, so parents had an obligation to nurture children in accordance with national laws and social requirements.


HT: Bob Prokop

The Sharpened Intellect


Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.

Do you believe in American civil religion? Not me.


Discussed here.  

Civil religion, on the one hand, often refers to America's covenantal relationship with a divine Creator who promises blessings for the nation for fulfilling its responsibility to defend liberty and justice. While vaguely connected to Christianity, appeals to civil religion rarely refer to Jesus Christ or other explicitly Christian symbols. Christian nationalism, however, draws its roots from "Old Testament" parallels between America and Israel, who was commanded to maintain cultural and blood purity, often through war, conquest, and separatism. Unlike civil religion, historical and contemporary appeals to Christian nationalism are often quite explicitly evangelical, and consequently, imply the exclusion of other religious faiths or cultures.

Does Richard Carrier Exist?



Guns don't kill people, people kill people. So do slogans


If a gun is discharged and kills a person, it is true it is normally caused by a persons. So, a person decides to kill, this causes the person to pull the trigger, this causes the gun to discharge, and if it reaches its target, the person dies. So the gun caused the death, but the shooter caused the gun to caused the death.
But this doesn't meant that the availability of guns, or certain types of guns, or the availability of guns for certain types of people, isn't a bad thing. If a parent leaves a loaded gun out for a six-year old to get their hands on, and he shoots and kills his little brother, the parents can't just blame their kid and say "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." There is a reason why mass shootings happen in the US at a far more frequent pace than they happen in Britain, Canada, or the countries of Western Europe. With the Parkland shooting, someone with known violent tendencies has able to get a hold of an AR-15, a weapon that could kill numerous people in succession without the shooter having to reload. 
Slogans are very tricky. Because there is always a shooter who is morally responsible for the shooting, and the gun, as an inanimate object, is not responsible for the shooting, doesn't mean that there aren't reasonable ways in which we could limit gun availability and save lives. 
If I am homicidally angry and I have no weapon, I could choke someone to death, but that might prove difficult. Even stabbing someone to death with a kitchen knife might take a great deal of effort and be messy. If all I have to do is squeeze a trigger, it is going to be more likely that my homicidal intentions will reach fruition. And this will be so even if it is true that I and not my weapon if I use one, will be morally responsible for the act of homicide. 
Beware of slogans. They are often a substitute for critical thinking. 

It's Whately Time, again


This famous essay using anti-Christian arguments against Napoleon is a classic, and deservedly.

Why the universe had a beginning



How God's nature is known


Some arguments for God. Here. 

Why are there Jesus skeptics but not Alexander the Great skeptics


Gary Habermas asks here. 

Obama on religious liberty


He does say this about opponents of same-sex marriage: 

I think it’s important to recognize that folks who feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as between a man and a woman, many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They’re coming at it because they care about families. And they have a different understanding, in terms of what the word “marriage” should mean. And a bunch of ’em are friends of mine, pastors and people who I deeply respect.

But figures in his administration have not followed this up with their policy statements and actions,  unfortunately. 

McGrath on the Trilemma


Here.  It is designed to refute the idea that Jesus was a good man but not God, not to prove Jesus's divinity.

Reading assignment


People need to read C. S. Lewis's Meditation on the Third Commandment. Over, and over and over, and over, and over. 

Christianity will make you uncomfortable with the ideology of ANY party. If you are completely comfortable with the ideology of any party as a Christian, you are not thinking clearly.

The bigot-bomb and the 2016 election


By the way, the attempt to, as I call it, bigot-bomb people who believe in and defend traditional marriage by comparing them to Klansmen is one of the things that got Trump elected. Evangelical Christians noticed that Hillary's infamous "deplorables" comment took place at an LGBT gathering. That and some statements by Obama administration officials that trivialized religious freedom issues as merely a cover for discrimination. It is one thing to say that we need gay marriage to be fair within a religiously diverse society, but we understand the right and rationality of people to dissent from the idea that gay relationships can ever truly be marriage. It is another to attribute all opposition to bigotry, as something not even deserving of respect in a pluralistic society. What puzzles me about all of this is that the Democratic politicians like Obama, Biden, the Clintons, and Kaine, are all Christians. Hillary seems very serious about faith. I know conservatives like to discredit faith claims made by liberals, on the assumption that if they were true believers they wouldn't be pro-choice. But liberals could just as easily counter that they think the faith of conservatives is phony because they support public policies that harm the poor and the needy, something that is all over the Bible. If you look at Romans 1 and other passages on homosexuality, it doesn't look good for gay relationships at least on the face of things. Now there may be ways of interpreting those passages so that they aren't so bad for homosexuals, or you can say that they reflect a limited understanding of homosexuality from the first century and they are not God's final word on the matter. But you have to admit that if it can be reasonable to be a Christian (I take it all these Democratic politicians think that), then it can also be reasonable, based on what Christians think of a special revelation, that homosexual acts are sinful. Because these arguments are Christian-specific, they might not be an adequate basis for law, but when we separate church and state we leave areas for the church that the state has to keep its hands off. By contrast, no reasonable interpretation of the Bible supports white supremacy. (Curse of Ham? Give me a break). These Democrats are also recent converts to the idea of gay marriage (Hillary says that Chelsea convinced her to accept it), so was she a bigot when she opposed gay marriage? Was her husband a bigot when he signed DOMA? This implied bigotry charge against conservative Christians kept a lot of them in the Trump fold when Access Hollywood should have sent them running for the hills. I believe that if the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign had retained a respectful attitude toward opponents of gay marriage, even while disagreeing with those opponents, they evangelical bloc would not have held for Trump and Hillary would be President today.I stand by my view that the price of electing a corrupt, impulsive, racist such as Trump who has spent a lifetime disrespecting women is too high to make this choice the right one. But I do understand it. [...]

A solution to the wedding providers' dilemma


A solution to the wedding providers' dilemma.

Four Reasons the Resurrection is a Fact



The real argument of Roe v. Wade: Abortion and the burden of proof


People tend to assume (I used to) that the legal debate about Roe v. Wade parallels the moral arguments about abortion and fetal personhood. We typically think that those who support the decision accept arguments like those of Mary Anne Warren or Judith Jarvis Thomson that abortion is justified, and opponents of the decision advance arguments like those of John Noonan, or Francis Beckwith, or Scott Klusendorf that fetuses are persons and therefore Roe has to be wrong.

Actually, the debate over Roe doesn't turn on that. This is my best reconstruction of it.

1. There is a constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy, of which we can be certain.
2. In the case of abortion, the right of privacy must prevail unless there is a countervailing right of which we can be certain, such as the fetus's right to life. This protects a woman's right to consult with her doctor and decide whether or not to get an abortion. Just as it is a violation of privacy rights to make birth control illegal, it violates privacy right to prohibit abortion, unless a countervailing right can be established.
3. But the fetus's right to life cannot be established. Reasonable persons can disagree as to whether fetuses have a right to life or not. One may, based on one's religion perhaps, believe that they have this right, but this right cannot be demonstrated in the same way that the right of privacy can be demonstrated.
4. Therefore there is a Constitutional right to abortion.

All attempts to oppose Roe that I know of, starting with the Rehnquist dissent when the original case was argued, argue not against 3 but against 1. Scalia in one interview refused to refer to himself as a pro-life justice. All he argued was that the right of privacy on which the decision as based was made an absolute when it should not be, and that therefore abortion should be a matter of democratic choice.

It seems you can accept the Roe argument even if you, in your own viewpoint, believe that fetuses have the right to life and that abortion is always wrong. The question is not whether abortion is justified, the question is whether the fetus's right to life is as evident as a woman's right to privacy.

Is the right to privacy really in doubt? If not, do arguments like the SLED argument meet the requisite burden of proof? It would have to be so strong that it would be irrational to reject it.

See the discussion here.

Charles Colson's Argument from Watergate


“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

The elder board's dilemma


                In a large church in a major American metropolis, there were two candidates for head pastor. One was selected for the pastorate. Then, after a year in the pastorate, it is discovered that the chosen pastor had had an affair with a porn star 10 years before, but, more than this, just before the final decision, he paid the star $10,000 for her silence. But the elder board says, “God is a God of forgiveness. Let’s give him a mulligan, and let him remain the preacher of the church.”
                What elder board would say a thing like that?

Jeff Lowder on gun violence


Here.  The idea of repealing the second amendment has just been defended by former justice Stevens.  He has been criticized here. 

The President's First Duty


The President's FIRST duty is to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States. That comes before nominating pro-life justices, or cutting taxes, or supporting Israel, etc. Unless you have been looking at him through Fox-colored glasses, I think the answer concerning Trump is overwhelmingly NO. It was bad enough that many Christian leaders supported him at election time, but I think I can understand it up to a point. At that time there was the contrast with Hillary. With respect to his extramarital relationships, I think we have the right to ask him to just come clean, and either tell the country that he doesn't think he has a duty to be a faithful husband because he has considers that requirement to be an outdated religiously-based prudish moral rule, or to say that he is deeply repentant for the disrespect for marriage, in word and deed, that he has shown in the past and that he has amended his behavior in the meantime. This is especially true for Christians who look to a Republican President to support traditional marriage and who find same-sex marriage to be a treat to that institution. Don't such Christians have a right to know if the President they are supporting respects the institution of marriage as they understand it? And shouldn't such Christians demand such answers from the President they support? Someone willing to make a payment of amount a few times my annual salary to keep someone silent is someone who is liable to be blackmailed by a foreign government to keep other improprieties quiet. His ability to put the American people first and uphold the Constitution has to therefore be questioned. Evangelical leaders are getting up on TV and giving Trump a whole bunch of breaks that they wouldn't give Clinton or any other previous President. Worse yet they focus on the actual affair, when the attempt, in violation of campaign finance laws, to keep someone from talking about the affair is far more serious. And if he has people out making threats of physical violence, this is worse. I am tired of hearing that the public policy bottom line is all that matters. A President who can't uphold the rule of law, who is so compromised that we can expect nothing but scandal after scandal, is someone who the American people will sooner or later turn against. I liked a lot of John Edwards' public policy proposals. But his character was so compromised that I would be far more comfortable with Mitt Romney in the White House than him. I think those who voted for Trump should have seen the handwriting on the wall when they voted for him back in 2016, but this constant talk of "mulligans" and "we believe in forgiveness" is nauseating and with a lot of people yes, it damages the credibility of Christianity. The Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkinses, not to mention Paula White, who says its a sin to oppose our President since God raises up kings, (How come we didn't hear that when Obama was in office), yes, they do give opponents of Christianity ammunition. [...]

What might undermine evangelical support for Trump


I suspect we will see a crisis in evangelical support for Trump, if, as I suspect, Stormy Daniels comes out and says that Trump paid for, and encouraged her to get, an abortion. That would make him in the eyes of the pro-life movement, a baby-killer not in the sense of being pro-choice and opposing government efforts to stop abortions, but actually being a contributing cause of an abortion, or even several abortions. Would THIS be a bridge too far?

Lennox on Hawking



Oppose the weakening of the Americans with Disabilities Act


Let's oppose the weakening of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is personal for me, as it affects my immediate family. Two family members suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention my late mother, who passed away in 1986 four years before the ADA was passed, and who spent many years on canes and crutches due to arthritis.

This explains the information about HR 620, which has already passed the House of Representatives.