The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

2004 September

Debatable

September 30, 2004 | 21 Comments

Mister Thorne proposes a line of questioning for tonight’s presidential debate:

Let’s start by asking them about their acceptance speeches, and what they said about God in those speeches. Now, picture this:

MODERATOR: Mr. Kerry, in your acceptance speech, you said, “I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.” I’m sure the people in the audience here, and those watching from home or listening somewhere would like to know this: how can you tell the right side of God from the wrong side?

* * *

MODERATOR: Mr. Bush, in your acceptance speech you referred to

Washed Up

September 30, 2004 | 8 Comments

His mom’s drawing them in as a stain on a hospital window, but Jesus is still using the old “downtrodden” schtick to get attention. From Reuters:

‘Miraculous’ Christ Washes Up in Texas Rio GrandeWhy the quotes around “miraculous”? I had a reason for doing so in the last sentence — I had to identify the particular word. Are they suggesting that there’s a presumption against miraculousness and we should be skeptical? Q: Why didn’t Jesus shower on the boat? A: He wanted to wash up on shore

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – A fiberglass statue of Christ that washed up on a sandbar in the Rio Grande three weeks ago is attracting scores of devout pilgrims to a police department lost-and-found and being hailed as a miracle.

Mexico? The headline said Texas. Maybe that’s the miracle. Or maybe it’s that the naturally-occurring element of fiberglass was miraculously shaped into a facsimile of Jesus. And I certainly can’t think of any rational explanation of how it got into the water — I mean, you’d have to engage in wild speculation about hurricanes blowing things off lawns and beaches. So it’s pretty disrespectful for the police to keep it in the lost-and-found. Nobody “lost” it; it was spontaneously created and sent there for a reason.

Police in Eagle Pass, Texas, said up to 40 people a day are coming to pay homage to the five-foot (1.5-meter) tall figurine, known as “The Christ of the Undocumented,” which was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in the river.

Oh, back to Texas. But five $%#!$ feet tall? That’s pretty big for a “figurine.” But isn’t it a little short for a Jesus? I can see making it two or three feet tall and stopping there, but once you’re up to five you might as well add nine or ten inches and finish the job.

It should be a snap to find the owner, though

Consequentially

September 29, 2004 | 5 Comments

Ryan’s Lair suggests that I might have been too harsh in my criticism of those selective religious folks who think that science applies to Dan Rather but not God:

I think that when a Catholic claims to believe in something utterly ridiculous, such as the magical transmutation of wine into blood, we should treat the belief-claim differently than the claim that she believes that the bank statement she receives every month is accurate.

The differentiating factor is consequence. Catholics have no vested interest in authenticating the fantasy of transubstantiation, since their physical health or financial security have no real correlation with the blood-content of the wine. The whole ritual is an elaborate game, a collective participation in fantasy. Subjecting such collective fantasies to scrutiny often has real negative consequences, such as social rejection from one’s family or community of believers. But not subjecting religious beliefs to reasoned inquiry has very few negative consequences. Most practitioners can afford to be lazy about their faith.

Ryan distinguishes the lazy adherents of this ilk from those of what he calls “real religions” like Christian Science, Scientology, or those sects which requiring snake-handling or arsenic-drinking — religions whose practices may have a serious negative consequences with respect to their members’ physical or financial health. He concludes:

[N]o matter what most modern Western Christians claim to believe, they rarely believe in a strong, consequential sense. Their belief is quite often expressed in shared ritual action, in reading certain books, singing certain songs, and in mental conversations with imaginary beings. It makes perfect sense for these sorts of Christians to subject the CBS memos (which if authenticated would have impact in an important election) to serious scrutiny, while failing to authenticate fantasies whose importance is negligible.

I have a number of problems with this analysis. First, due to the negative worldly consequences of their practices, the adherents of those “real religions” presumably do have a reason to subject their beliefs to serious scientific scrutiny. But they don’t. So the negative consequences of a practice aren’t necessarily a trigger for reasoned inquiry. Now, it may be that the Christian Scientists have been brainwashed into believing that the afterlife consequences of accepting modern medicine are infinitely worse than the earthly ones — but they don’t subject their theory of Hell to scientific investigation either. In fact, the “real religions” don’t pretend to subject anything to scientific investigation, and I doubt you’ll find many online typographical analyses of Rathergate by snake-handlers.

But the “modern Western Christians” have embraced those analyses, and the question still remains why they don’t apply the same scientific standards to their own religious claims. I don’t think it’s because they aren’t strong consequentialists. For example, even if they aren’t obsessed with it to the extent of a Mark Shea, many mainstream Catholics take their communion quite seriously — they fear dire consequences if they miss it or are denied it.

In particular, consider the recent controversy over Catholics with celiac disease, those who are deathly allergic to the gluten the communion wafer. Plainly eating the wafer could be as hazardous as handling a snake. So even if the celiac sufferer’s “physical health . . . ha[s] no real correlation with the blood-content of the wine,” it certainly has a real correlation with the wheat content of the bread. Yet this hasn’t sparked a call to science by either side of the squabble. The debate has merely shifted to whether rice can turn into flesh as easily as wheat. And the battle, like Pete’s reaction to my original post, is ferocious — hardly what you’d expect to arise from a dispute over a “fantas[y] whose importance is negligible.”

Strip Tease

September 28, 2004 | 12 Comments

To insure that public school children will continue to acknowledge God, the House of Representatives just passed a bill which would strip the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of the power to “decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, the Pledge of Allegiance . . . or its recitation. Professor Volokh, however, thinks that “the proposed law might have the perverse effect of jeopardizing the “under God” rather than preserving it.”

Specifically, he argues that “[i]f people are worried that federal courts may hold that

Rhinoceros

September 27, 2004 | 3 Comments

Faith is rather like a rhinoceros, in fact: it won’t do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention.

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

Jesus

September 27, 2004 | 99 Comments

If The Raving Atheist bashed Jesus, treated him uncivilly and asked him a lot of hard questions, would Jesus (1) vow never to vist the site again or (2) keep returning to try to change TRA’s heart?

Re-Pete

September 27, 2004 | 14 Comments

Pete responds (my responses in boldface):

Wow. Thanks for all of the attention. You must be having a boring day to spend so much time on this.

I’ll overlook the sarcarstic “thanks” in favor of exploring what you mean by saying that I “must be having a boring day.” It’s the equivalent of saying get a life or lighten up. But we both know that neither one of us is bored, and I bet you in particular have been spinning around you living room in a sparkly frenzy like Gamera on crack.

You know, I don’t want to belabor this, because we’ll obviously never agree. . .

The impossibility of agreement is not only a good reason to avoid belaborment, but to avoid discussion altogether. Yet here you are, arguing with me. I, for my part, do believe in evangelism and conversion, and am confident that reason will ultimately prevail and you will capitulate like Dan Rather. Unless some kind of un-Christian pride gets in the way.

By the way, do know how many lawyers send letters to judges which begin, “I hate to burden the court but feel compelled to respond briefly to my adversary’s latest missive”, and then launch into a list of numbered points?

. . .but let me address some of what you said in your numbered points:

See??

1) Your original post was clearly and obviously intended to belittle me, and you continue to do so in this post . . .

Admitted. And in this post as well.

. . . At least have the guts to be honest (as you hide behind your pen name).

Plainly, if I made it “clear and obvious” even to YOU from the first post that I was belittling you, I was being honest. Note that in the second post I said, “I simply reported what I found on his blog (see # 1), without stating the obvious conclusions to be drawn. Do I have to spell every thing out? Is there no room for subtlety? Must I start every sentence with “I hereby belittle you”?

As to this “hiding” thing, I’m not sure what worthwhile information revealing my name

For Pete’s Sake

September 27, 2004 | 32 Comments

Last Thursday’s post explored how some on the religious right, in their explorations of Rathergate, were abandoning their usual faith-based epistemology in favor of science. I also noted the reverse trend on the secular left. In the course of my analysis I mentioned one Christian blogger. All I said about him was this:

Pete’s Journal, too, was heralding the wonders of computerized typography (scroll down to bottom), his side bar all the while declaring the miracle of “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

That provoked this:

Nice of you to link to my site, even if it was just to characterize me as one of those irrational, stupid Christians forced, FORCED, by circumstances to actually look at something objectively.

Your pet theory tends to fall apart under scrutiny, though. You see, if you actually took the time to read the rest of my site, you’d see that I have a Master of Science degree. Professionally, I am an engineer. I am quite comfortable in the world of science, I assure you. I am also quite comfortably a Christian, and I don’t see any conflict between the two.

It’s really just sad to me that you feel a need to belittle other people to make some sort of point about how smart you think you are. On your site you define a “hate site” as: “one which explicitly attacks a person or group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation or creed.” Yet you attack people for their religious beliefs. It looks to me like yours is a hate site, by your own definition. (See the definition of “creed.”)

As Jesus said, “Take the log out of your own eye.”

June and DC have already said much of what I would have in the comments. I’ll add these observations:

(1) Pete did, in fact, discuss computerized typography and express his belief in the miracle of the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. My account of what I found at his site was not compromised by forgery or misquoting. Everything I said was both “true” and “accurate.”

(2) Nowhere in my post did I characterize Pete as “one of those irrational, stupid Christians forced, FORCED, by circumstances to actually look at something objectively,” or belittle him in any way. I simply reported what I found on his blog (see # 1), without stating the obvious conclusions to be drawn.

(3) I did notice Pete’s engineering degree before I posted; it figured heavily in my assessment of his sensitivity to provocation. Once again, I was correct.

(4) A degree in medicine, not engineering, is the one relevant to evaluating the possibility of resurrections and virgin births.

(5) Once it was established that the Killian memos were computer-generated and COULD NOT have been created in the 1970’s, questions regarding the chain of custody and the credibility and motives of potential witnesses to their creation became completely relevant. I assume that Pete found it infuriating to hear Dan Rather (and the mainstream media) pretend that the authenticity of the documents somehow depended on the “impeachability” of their source. In the same way, it is infuriating to debate with people who insist that the question of whether people can rise from the dead or be born to virgins in any way depends on a reconstruction and analysis of 2,000 years of hearsay, or the alleged “unimpeachability” of a mere book.

(6) If Pete accepts the resurrection and the virgin birth on faith despite all of the scientific evidence regarding the possibility of mean rising from the dead, he cannot fault Dan Rather for having faith in his “unimpeachable source” despite all of the scientific typographical evidence.

(7) The joy Pete experiences in attacking Dan Rather is qualitatively no different from any pleasure which might arise from me acting on my alleged “need to belittle other people to make some sort of point about how smart [I] think [I am].” Pete was merely showing that he was smarter than Dan Rather, in the same way that I have demonstrated that I am smarter than both Dan Rather and Pete.

God Squad Review CII (Gambling/Outdoor Weddings)

September 27, 2004 | 8 Comments

The God Squad is not shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in their establishments. In response to a reader who wants to know if there’s “anything in the Bible that says a person who goes to church can’t play bingo,” they sarcastically respond:

Nah, there’s nothing in the Bible like that. Gambling is just a fine form of entertainment.

There’s nothing spiritually wrong with believing you can get something for nothing, and there’s nothing stupid about believing you can beat the odds. There’s nothing about gambling that could lead you to become addicted or lose all your money, your house and your family and everything you’ve worked for. Nope!

There’s nothing the church has to consider in its moral reckoning as a font of ethical and spiritual wisdom. We see no problem whatsoever in making church budgets (and some synagogue budgets) dependent upon gambling profits from the pockets of little old people who can’t afford it.

No, that lady running 28 cards at the front table with all her good luck doodads is just having fun with her discretionary income and would never think of gambling away the milk money.

Nope, we see no problem here!

And in a previous column, the Squad opined that “[w]e do think God spends a lot of time in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, not as a divine croupier but rather as that still, small voice telling you,

Acceptable Use

September 24, 2004 | 8 Comments

PayPal is threatening to shut down the account of atheist blogger Bill Quick. The charges aren’t clear. It has something to do with his alleged violation of their “Acceptable Use Policy regarding Offensive Material,” which was adopted primarily to stop “hate sites” from collecting contributions on the Web.

Bill hardly ever blogs about his atheism so I’m sure it has nothing to do with that. But I have occasionally posted on that topic and, in the process, expressed disagreement on philosophical matters with various religious groups. Now, I’m never going to hit my readers up for online contributions, but I was curious as to whether what I do run afoul of the PayPal rules. Apparently not:

PayPal believes that it is important to respect the diversity of beliefs of our members, and generally permits the use of PayPal to pay for anything the law allows. However, PayPal cannot condone the sale of items or support of organizations that promote hate, violence, or racial intolerance. In addition, PayPal is a worldwide company with many users residing in countries where the possession or sale of items associated with hate organizations is a criminal offense. Therefore, PayPal will judiciously disallow organizations that promote or glorify hatred, violence, or racial intolerance (such as the KKK, Nazis, neo-Nazis, and Aryan Nation), from using PayPal to accept payments.

(Emphasis in original).

Note that the policy doesn’t penalize sites that promote intolerance against religion or creed, categories which are staples of most state and federal anti-discrimination statutes. I suspect, though, that the omission of those categories wasn’t motivation out of concern for the free speech rights of atheists. Rather, it’s a recognition that virtually every orthodox religion makes exclusive truth claims about God and His wishes, and condemns those who deny Him to hell.

So the policy has more to do with immunizing the speech of religious groups; and for the purpose of the rules, Catholic anti-semitism is doubtlessly considered religious rather than racial intolerance. Note as well that there’s no prohibition against intolerance based on sexual orientation or gender. That, too, would preclude many religious blogs from obtaining PayPal accounts.

As a private company PayPal is entitled to contract with whomever it pleases. And it’s free to pick and choose which hateful idealogues it’s going to punish. Likewise, as a private blog, I’m entitled to put whomever I want on my Hate Site Watch list. PayPal, welcome to the club.

Role Reversal

September 23, 2004 | 10 Comments

The Rathergate scandal inspired some hilarious role-reversals. The forensic aspect of it had some on the religious right crowd bowing down at the altar of science, peering into a microscope to which they’d never dream of subjecting the tenets of their faith. Conversely, some on the godless left abandoned all reason and treated the forged memos as if they subscribed to the same self-authentication theory popularly applied by fundamentalists to prove the inerrancy of the Bible.

Uber-Catholic Godidiot Maggie Gallagher, for example, now finds the standard by which she justifies her most deeply held beliefs is insufficient to evaluate a piece of paper. Although on most days she’s decrying the secularist conspiracy to drive faith from the public square, she treats the “f” word with nothing but contempt here:

Why was he vouching for the story in the language of faith, not like a hard-headed journalist reporting the evidence?

Explain to us, Dan, why CBS News as an organization echoed this faith-based reporting at the highest levels, flipping the burden of proof and attacking the motives of critics in a way that struck most journalists (not just me, or Rush Limbaugh) as really odd.

Explain to us, Dan, just why it was so hard to find real experts to judge the documents?

Pete’s Journal, too, was heralding the wonders of computerized typography (scroll down to bottom), his side bar all the while declaring the miracle of “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Other the other side of the aisle, Orcinus, an outspoken critic of the irrationality of religious right, was insisting up to Sunday night that the documents were authentic. The unanimous opinion of forensic experts was just “a great deal of speculation, much of it later proven to be entirely without substance.” And although CBS had never presented any witness, in the first instance, to attest to their authenticity, Orcinus was theistically insisting that the burden of proof was upon their detractors to prove them fake. After the network threw in the towel, he admitted he was just acting on faith: “My mistake was to not pay enough attention to what CBS was doing as well . . . I assumed that they not only had secured some level of authenticity for the documents, they had a firm chain of their provenance.” But even this concession betrays an attitude more common among Biblical apologists: that somehow the testimony of eyewitnesses is sufficient to overcome what has scientifically or logical been proven impossible.

And finally, from the satire site The Holy Observer there was this headline: CBS News Claims Documents Disprove Christ’s Resurrection”. I’m sure the authors thought it was funny, and Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It apparently thought it was funny too. And it is funny, but not for the reason either side thinks it is.

Decent Christians

September 21, 2004 | 50 Comments

Jimmy Swaggart thinks gay marriage is “utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity” and vows that “if one [homosexual] ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.” In response, Prof. Eugene Volokh makes this strange suggestion:

[I]t seems to me that decent Christians ought to condemn this defender of murder, who publicly says that he’d violate the Ten Commandments when someone “looks at [him]” the wrong way, while purporting to preach God’s word and lead Christian congregations. Tell us, at least, that this supposed Christian — who was once one of the nation’s leading evangelists, until he was tripped up by another of the Commandments — doesn’t speak for you.

Contrary to the Professor’s suggestion, good Christians should embrace Swaggart. Volokh is dead wrong to suggest that Swaggart is advocating the violation of any Commandment, that he was ever “tripped up” by another, or that he is somehow guilty of hypocrisy. There’s nothing “purported” about Jimmy’s preaching at all: it is God’s word.

First, killing a homosexual doesn’t violate any of the Commandments. The Sixth Commandment prohibits only murder, not all killing. Slaughtering homosexuals is not only permitted, but required: under Leviticus 20:13, gays must be put to death. And Jesus’ arrival didn’t change anything. God still thinks fags deserve death, and they aren’t going to Heaven.

Second, Swaggart’s encounter with a prostitute wasn’t contrary to anything in the Decalogue. Although the Seventh Commandment forbids “adultery,” that term has limited application. Leviticus 20:10-22 lists the penalties for various forms of extramarital activity, ranging from death for sleeping with one’s neighbors wife and childlessness for bedding one’s aunt or sister-in-law. But there’s nothing wrong with screwing a whore, so long as you don’t marry her. If you’re single, though, it’s cheaper to just rape a virgin — unless her dad finds out, in which case you’ll have to pay him 50 shekels and you’ll be forced to marry her. Makes sure that she’s proves she’s a virgin, though; if she can’t, you and your friends get to stone her.

Rather than mock Swaggart’s faith, Volokh should endorse his cause. It would be consistent with the Professor’s Religious Equality Amendment, and as he’s said, “there’s nothing at all illegitimate about people making up their own minds about which laws to enact based on their own unprovable religious moral beliefs, or on their own unprovable secular moral beliefs.”

Kevin Beck offers another view on gay marriage, one which doesn’t rest on recognition of the authority of the Bible.

God Squad Review CI (Communion Allergies/Politics)

September 20, 2004 | 10 Comments

When you mix that communion wafer with wine, Jesus EXPLODES ALIVE inside your body like you were adding soda water to freeze-dried nuclear-mutated Sea Monkeys. But God has made sure that doesn’t hurt. The one thing He couldn’t figure out, however, is how people with celiac disease

Choosing People

September 17, 2004 | 9 Comments

The Jews truly are the Chosen People, at least in New York. Responding to the Supreme Court’s refusal to reinstate the state’s Kosher laws, the Governor this week signed new legislation designed to circumvent some of the constitutional church/state problems. But as I predicted at the outset, the new scheme still impermissibly embroils the state in the interpretation and enforcement of Jewish law.

Disguised as a consumer protection measure, the Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004 starts out with some disingenuous legislative findings. To feign a secular purpose, the statute recites that many consumers buy Kosher “for reasons unrelated to religious observance.” But the old laws were struck down because the state was taking sides in a squabble between two warring Jewish factions, fining a Conservative Jewish deli because its food was not prepared in accordance with “Orthodox Hebrew religious requirements.” The lawsuit wasn’t brought by an atheist complaining that he was fooled about the definition of “kosher” employed. And as its succeeding provisions make clear, the sole purpose of the law is to assist Jews in complying with their particular version of religious dietary laws.

The burdens aren’t as onerous as those imposed by other states to insure religious purity, but implicit in the very choice of disclosures required by statute are judgments about what constitutes true Judaism and what features of Kosher law are most important. Among other things, establishments must post signs disclosing whether they sell both kosher and non-kosher foods; whether use separate ovens sinks, utensils, refrigerators and storage area for kosher and non-kosher foods; whether they soak and salt their meat, together with a description of the process. The education and affiliations of the persons certifying the fare as kosher must also be posted, along with their names, addresses and telephone numbers. The qualifying information must also be filed with the state, which sends out inspectors to assure compliance. The statute doesn’t specify what how the state inspectors are selected, but it’s clear that a religious test will be applied. As I noted before:

The Raving Atheist can discern absolutely no secular interest in insuring that members of a particular religion do not deceive one another as to whether the dictates of one of their religious laws have been met. To act as referee in such disputes by requiring the registration of religious doctrine and credentials, and by paying a squad of sectarian rabbis to enforce the doctrine, plainly entangles the state with religion to the same, if not a greater degree than simply applying the old orthodox laws.

As many critics have noted, the “problem” could easily be solved — without taxpayer expense — if kosher certifying organizations simply obtained trademarks and let the consumers decide.

No other faith receives state-assisted supervision of its religious practices. I imagine some Catholics might have an interest in insuring that their communion wafers contain wheat rather than rice, but there’s no reason to dispatch cops to the Cathedral just because someone suspects a substitution might have been made to avoid killing a digestively-sensitive child. Or to require mandatory registration of all priests — at least not for that reason.

* * *

Pursuing the legislature’s website, I notice there’s another bill pending to police Jews Behaving Badly. The proposed Kosher For Passover Product Price Gouging act would impose fines of up to $10,000 for merchants who jack up the prices for God-approved food in anticipation of the holiday celebrating the slaughter of Egyptian children. Apparently this offense has heretofore been punished informally, with the Department of Consumer Affairs performing a punitive inspection one at least one store that raised the price of a popular holy milk flavoring syrup from $2.19 to $3.09.

Now, New York does prohibit gouging on basic supplies during disasters and on milk generally. But unless it’s also going to investigate the suspicious rise in price in Easter egg die, Halloween candy and Christmas lights before the respective Christian and Pagan holidays, I can’t see it tampering with the free market on such a limited sectarian basis. And I can’t imagine what the legislative findings say, unless it was something like this.

My Life

September 16, 2004 | 6 Comments

“Since I was a kid I’ve always dreamed about engaging in joyless and acrimonious discussions about atheism and abortion. And now that’s all I do, day in and day out, with no end in sight.”
The Raving Atheist, Could Someone Just Blow My Brains Out, (2005)

Beginnings

September 16, 2004 | 41 Comments

I am anti-abortion and anti-choice not because I believe in God, but because I don’t.

I don’t believe that God installs an eternal soul into every person at conception. I don’t believe in eternal souls at all. If they did exist, abortion wouldn’t matter. The soul could simply reunite with God, or find another body to inhabit. Murder wouldn’t matter, either, for the same reason.

But I do believe that my genetic, mathematical identity was set at conception. That is not some fantasy or superstition. To have destroyed that clump of cells would have destroyed me, forever, and my only chance at existence. No soul would have escaped to emerge in another pregnancy, any more than that I would survive somewhere else as someone else were I killed tomorrow. It is a distinctly superstitious view that so completely separates human identity from its material form. It is the view that sustains belief in a ghosts, spirits, angels, reincarnation and heaven. There are religious pro-choice people who support abortion on precisely the ground that the fetus re-emerges elsewhere; it is not clear to under that theory why the death of the mother in a dangerous pregnancy would concern them if she enjoys the same fate.

It would equally be a fantasy to believe that I existed before conception. No sperm or egg, has the potential by itself to develop into a human being — any more than does an acorn or a rock. The Mormon view that we all met together God at creation, before our births, is as much a fantasy as the Christian view that we join Him after death. I was never, genetically or mathematically, identical or even similar to anything that existed before my conception.

But after then it was a certainty, absent an accident, that I would develop into what I am. Every hopeful parent examining a sonogram believes as much, knows as much about their own unborn child, and no obstetrician could perform his or her job competently without that knowledge. They might be insane if they believed the same while looking at an image of the kidney or the liver, or at a rock or an acorn but a clump of cells with the potential to develop into a self-conscious supercomputer is a different matter altogether. It is not mad to draw the line at the first moment of such potential, and I do not see another other place at which it can be reasonably drawn.

Those who support unlimited abortion rights frequently deride this concept, the concept of potentiality that I discussed last week. In this connection is it notable that the theme of this year’s March for Women’s Lives was “protecting the right to choose for future generations.” Certainly, that stated goal stretches the concept much further than I would ever propose. It assigns a “right” (which may or may not ever be exercised) to beings that do not now exist in any way at all. The right of the unconceived, ironically, is exalted over the right of the existing but unborn.

A common pro-choice argument is that the notion that life begins at conception is a religious, and specifically Catholic, fantasy. A woman should not be enslaved to the religious views of others, it is argued, but should be permitted to follow her own God or her own conscience on the matter. Strangely, though, the freedom seems ends with the imposition of the liberal Protestant or (Reform Jewish) view that absent a threat to the mother, life begins at six months. But there is nothing remotely principled or consistent about drawing the line there, and I cannot imagine how those who endorse it could conceivably muster the moral indignation necessary to condemn the more liberal among them who might support elective abortion up to birth. Or to deride child sacrifice by a devout Incan.

The same logic that drives my disbelief in God also tells me that A=A, regardless of what anyone else might think about the matter. For that reason, I do not consider the status of the fetus, at any stage of development, to be mind-dependent. It is what it is, whenever it is, and its status as form of human life does not vary with the religious beliefs of the expectant woman or any other observer. It is what it is, whether thought to be ensouled or not, or wanted or unwanted. I simply cannot understand the reasoning of those who argued that the killing of Conor Peterson was immoral only because the assailant was the father rather than the mother. He simply was what was he was.

Of course I recognize that people disagree about where to draw the line. But I don’t see how this would count at all against my arguments, unless the suggestion is being made that somehow a disagreement precludes the drawing of any line at all. And those who would argue for any point after conception bear the heavy burden of explaining why, given the brute fact than any pregnancy (and indeed any human life) — can be terminated quickly and painlessly at any stage, that their proposal is more reasonable than mine.

Inconceivable

September 14, 2004 | 2 Comments

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride (Movie)

Non-Partisan Atheists for Truth

September 14, 2004 | 39 Comments

The outcome of the controversy surrounding the authenticity of military documents proffered by CBS to question President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service may have profound theological consequences. The networks do not yet, on their national news broadcasts, promote faith healing over medicine, or creationism over evolution. Nor do they pretend, yet, that there is no difference whatsoever between science and pseudoscience. But that may all change, depending on which side prevails in the ongoing political dispute. Make no mistake about it: if the wrong side prevails, the violence done to the credibility of the already tottering mainstream mass media will be such that it will be absolutely impossible to distinguish its pronouncements from those of the 700 Club. Once authentic documents are excluded with false evidence, or forged documents are embraced as an acceptable part of the public discourse, or, anything goes. Every political discussion will resemble a debate with a fundamentalist mullah.

One thing is certain: either (1) the memos were authored by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian on a typewriter in 1972-73, or (2) they were created by a forger on a computer much more recently. There is absolutely no in between on that. And another thing is clear upon an examination of the experts and their evidence: one side of the debate is relying on incontrovertible science, and the other is relying on unsubstantiated nonsense.

Put your politics aside, consider the links to evidence below, and vote either “authentic” or “fake” in the comments section (don’t vote if you have the slightest bit of doubt). Feel free to identify which experts or evidence you found most or least compelling. But before you consider the experts, atheist partisans on both sides of the aisle should consider that if Dan Rather is forced to affirm or the documents based upon phony expert reports (or to give equal time to phony experts), the networks may soon be at the mercy of those who carbon-date the origin of the earth age to 4004 B.C. and the Shroud of Turin to 33 A.D. Conversely, if Rather is forced to retract the documents based upon false evidence, we may be faced with a suppression of truth equivalent to Galileo’s recantation.

I will stipulate for the Kerry-haters that even if the memos are authentic, the challenger is still a communist-sympathizer who committed atrocities and faked injuries in Vietnam. Likewise, I will stipulate for the Bush-haters that even if the documents are forged, the President is still a draft-dodging who is guilty of everything charged in the memos. Moreover, even of those who consider the Republicans to be the party of theocrats lose this battle, they may hereafter insist that the same standard of evidence used in debunking the document be used whenever religion enters the public square.

Experts Defending Authenticity

(1) Edward Mendelson, Contributing Editor, PC Magazine

(2) Bill Glennon, Technical Consultant (former IBM typewriter specialist):
On CBS report last night
Quoted in Time Magazine

(3) Richard Katz, Software Designer (also on CBS report)

(4) Barbara O’Brien, Mahablog, Typography Expert
Critiques Charles Johnson (see below)
Responds to Johnson

(5) Daily Kos

Experts Claiming Forgery

(1) Joseph M. Newcomer, Ph.D., Electronic typesetting expert

(2) Charles Johnson (Little Green Footballs), Desktop Publishing/Computer Font Expert
Index of Posts
Animated gif of Word 2004/Killian Memo overlay
Responds to Barbara O’Brien

(3) Powerline:
Original Expose
Addressing Daily Kos criticisms

(4) Washington Post summary of expert evidence.

(5) Blogs for Bush List of Experts Claiming Forgery (with links to some interviews)

Update: The answer is 100%, absolutely, positively, inarguably FAKE. The evidence presented in the Newcomer and Johnson analyses concludes the matter, and no qualified forensic document analyst has come even close to adequately addressing all of their objections. Indeed, every qualified expert has concurred in this result, and every point raised by CBS’s three unqualified non-experts can be refuted by laymen. Beyond this, there are countless factual errors in the text of the documents which would dispel their authenticity even had the forger taken the time to find an appropriate typewriter. I’ll examine some theological issues related to the matter later in the week.

I predict that Dan Rather will completely abandon any further defense of the documents and concede the forgery on tonight’s 6:30 broadcast (EST). One of the Powerline attorneys who broke the scandal will be appearing on Brit Hume at approximately the same time, and I can’t imagine Rather attempting to weather the storm that will undoubtedly cause. The broadcast, and its aftermath, will certainly be more interesting if he does not relent, but I cannot imagine any greater insult to democracy than the continued defense, by lying witnesses, of documents whose authenticity is supported by nothing and contradicted by everything. Other than the Bible, of course.

Update:On its nightly broadcast, CBS reported the First Lady’s comments that she thought the documents were forgeries. After noting that she was the first White insider to question them, it concluded: “”Laura Bush offered no evidence to back up her claim and CBS stands by its reporting.” Although Rather introduced the segment reporting this information, he did not otherwise comment on the controversy.

Cornered

September 13, 2004 | 3 Comments

Kathryn Jean Lopez of notes:

Amazon just suggested I’d want Kill Bill II since I got The Passion on DVD. Guess computers don’t get the differences in the violence . . . of course, a lot of pundits haven’t either.

Certainly not this pundit. But when I checked, Amazon suggested The Lord of the Rings,
The Last Samurai, Master and Commander. And I still don’t see the difference, other than that evil doesn’t triumph in the recommendations.

He’s Just Trying to Help

September 13, 2004 | 10 Comments

The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity is just the sort of hard-nosed, skeptical reporting I like to see when it comes to God. Wondering why God lets children die in droughts when all they need is a little rain, author Lee Strobel tracked down theologian Peter Kreeft and asked some tough questions. Kreeft explained that God, in his infinite wisdom, sometimes tolerates short-range evils for long-range goods:

[I]magine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear’s confidence, but he can’t do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn’t realize that this is being done out of compassion.

Then, in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be even more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he’s not a human being.

And because “the difference between us and god is greater than the difference between us and . . . a bear,” we, too misinterpret God’s compassionate efforts to help.

So droughts, hurricanes, cancer, child-rapists and Islamofascists are just like the drugs a sympathetic hunter might shoot into a bear. At first I thought the analogy might be closer if the hunter began whacking the bear’s head with a crowbar, but then I realized my limited human intelligence was deceiving me again. We should embrace God’s healing gifts no matter how painful they might seem to us. After all, the “hunter” might reward us in Heaven with more of the same.

Confusing the Issue

September 10, 2004 | 9 Comments

Jesus got chased out of the public square by the ACLU last June, with the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voting to remove a cross appearing in one of the panels of the county’s seal. The appropriate way to celebrate this victory would have been to reissue the seal with a big black “X” through the cross, or simply replace it with the words “Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah.” Instead, the council has decided to confuse the issue by revamping the seal in its entirety, as follows:

Lasealnew.jpg

This is an attempt to divert attention from the true value of the ACLU’s exercise, which was the whupping of religion. The new seal is just a cynical attempt to cater to the religious cry-babies.

First of all, there was absolutely no reason to remove Miss Pomona. A state doesn’t endorse religion by depicting an imaginary being that’s not actually a part of anybody’s religion — Los Angeles could celebrate Hollywood by sticking Mickey Mouse, Wizard of Oz or some other supernatural creature on the seal without running afoul of the First Amendment. Although Pomona was technically a Roman “Goddess,” there are no practicing Romans in California and not even the ones who invented her way back when really believed she was real. There are Roman Catholics, of course, and ditching Pomona is nothing but a cave-in to their phony claim that there’s some sort of equivalency between the cross and the fruit lady which would make retaining the latter evidence of a preference of Paganism over Christianity.

The ACLU, unfortunately, is giving cover to the ruse. Further clouding the issue (that religion got whupped), it’s applauding the county for going “a step further and tr[ying] to devise a symbol that would really reflect the diversity of the county.” But nobody ever complained that the seal was insufficiently multicultural, or that Miss Pomona was a symbol of majoritarian oppression. And I don’t see how the replacement serves even that purported end. L.A. is 52.9% white, 39% Hispanic (overlapping with other ethnicities), 13.9% black, 9.8% Asian and Pacific Islander — but only 0.5% Native American. The replacement is probably not even reflective of the diversity of the Indian community, unless they’re trying to ignite a new controversy by implying that they’re all primitive, bowl-toting squaws.

The cleverest move in all of this, of course, is replacing the oil derricks with the San Gabriel mission. This way the Church occupies an even greater slice of the seal-pie — with the cross removed, ridiculously, to draw even more attention its presence. While they’re at it, why not replace Pomona with this tribute to the L.A. businessman?

Jesussuit.jpg

Publishers, Weakly

September 9, 2004 | 5 Comments

Who writes those authoritative-looking Publishers Weekly book reviews that get first billing on Amazon.com? I don’t think it’s an atheist.

First, consider the review for Sam Harris’ religion-bashing End of Faith. PW calls it a “sometimes simplistic and misguided book,” accuses it of “misunderstanding religious faith,” and faults it for “generaliz[ing] so much about both religion and reason that it is ineffectual.” Granted, the book is not a rigorous philosophical examination of theological doctrine, but Harris’ target — modern religious belief — is not rigorously philosophical. Rather, it’s simplistic and misguided fairy tales about virgin-born zombies and long-bearded virgin-fuckers — tales which Harris accords all the respect they deserve.

Nevertheless, Harris did set himself up with that one line near the end about mysticism being “a rational enterprise.” So maybe PW was within its rights in discrediting the entire exercise. But how do books stuffed with mysticism from beginning to end fare? This is what PW had to say about The Way: Using the Wisdom of Kabbalah for Spiritual Transformation and Fulfillment:

Berg, the editor-in-chief of Kabbalah magazine, offers a readable introduction into what he claims is the universal mystical tradition. The Kabbalah is replete with modern analogies (even Vince Lombardi!) and is written in an intelligent style expressly designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. However, Berg overreaches with the claim that “Kabbalah is the birthright of all humanity. It does not belong to any religion or ethnic group.” Unless God desires everyone to be Jewish (which Judaism has always rejected), it is disingenuous to say that “The Way” is “for literally everyone in the world” and then proceed to refer exclusively to Jewish texts, prayers, heroes and holidays and the mysterious power of Hebrew and Hebrew alone.

So the only flaw is a little “over-reaching” — failing to recognize that the One True God wants everybody to have wildly differing conceptions of him. Likewise, PW finds the Prayer of Jabez for Teens to be enlightening rather than “misguided”: “[t]he authors distinguish miracles from magic and link the Old Testament prayer to Christian teaching . . . [t]he Jabez prayer itself, with its pleas for blessing and expansion, seems particularly appropriate for young adults facing major life decisions”). And showing non-believers the Christian way earns the highest praise of all — The Twilight of Atheism is “intellectual history at its best.”

Moderate Fundamentalism

September 8, 2004 | 5 Comments

Religious fundamentalists have been put in a strange bind by Sam Harris’ new book, The End of Faith. On the one hand, it calls for the eradication of all faith, of all religion, and of all belief in God — plainly a demand they reject. On the other hand, Harris’ plan would necessarily eradicate all of the faiths, religions and Gods with which the fundamentalists disagree — a result they embrace.

So it’s amusing to read the rather cagey review of Harris’ work by R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Expanded commentary on his radio program). He agrees with Harris that non-literalist religious moderates, who ignore most of their own canons, are intellectually dishonest, and concurs that the religious left is simply atheistic. So much of Mohler’s review is a mere repetition, sometimes gleeful, of Harris’ arguments against mushy modern theology.

But what to do about Harris’ attacks on non-Christian fundamentalism? As an evangelical, of course, Mohler rejects as false orthodox Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — and even Christian fundamentalism that differs in any material respect from his own. But the True Believers of those faiths adhere to the literal word of their own insane, bloodthirsty scriptures, so their methodology can’t be dismissed as disingenuous postmodern relativism.

The honest thing to do would be to present the case for the authenticity of his own Holy Book (and interpretation thereof) and explain how the remaining infidels, however sincere, went wrong. But Mohler apparently realizes that there would be little to convincingly distinguish his arguments from those in support of the Koran of the Book of Mormon, and that he’d just find himself embroiled in an inconclusive He said/ He said match. So instead, he faults Harris for religious intolerance. “So much for the myth of liberal tolerance,” he snorts, outraged at Harris’ rejection of the notion “that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God.” He concludes that Harris’ book is “a wake-up call . . . to the true character of aggressive secularism and the true agenda of its proponents.”

It’s more than a little ridiculous, given that the last thing evangelicals believe in is multiculturalist “liberal tolerance” or the notion that “every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God.” It’s precisely the sort of ideological relativism that Mohler finds so abhorrent in the Religious Middle. And Mohler himself is regularly defending his sect’s efforts to covert Jews to the Christian God, an enterprise every bit as aggressive as Harris’ secularist crusade. But when it comes to defending his faith against an atheism as evangelical as his own beliefs, he abandons truth in favor of moderation.

Still the Worst Argument of All

September 7, 2004 | 51 Comments

How would you like it if you had been aborted?

The usual pro-choice answer to this question is “I wouldn’t be around to notice the difference.” Or, sometimes, “many pregnancies miscarry and I’d be in the same position had my mother lost me that way rather than through an abortion.”

These are the worst arguments of all. I addressed them last week in an anti-abortion post disguised as an attack upon theism (consistent with my Mother’s Day promise to become, in part, an anti-choice blog before September). As I noted then, “the potential for happiness is a sufficient argument . . . whether or not the killing is accompanied by pain . . . [t]he fact that the victim is asleep, or a barely conscious infant, or a completely senseless person who is anesthetized or in a reversible coma, is irrelevant in view of what still is lost.” And as I also observed, there is a vast moral difference between an accidental killing and a deliberate one.

You would not notice the difference, today, had you been killed yesterday, last week, a year ago, ten years ago, as newborn, or in the womb. But it would have been you that would have been killed, nonetheless, had the killing occurred at any moment after your identity was genetically determined. And the earlier you had been killed, the more of your potential life you would have been forfeited.

Of course, you’d be in the same position today had your earlier death been deliberate or accidental. But, as I noted, a morality which fails to distinguish between the intentional and the unintentional is no morality at all.

You may trivialize your pre-natal existence all you like. You may argue that there is a clear moral difference between a clump of cells and a born human being, and may certainly make the argument safely now that you are the latter rather than the former. But my point here is that the loss of potential life is the same no matter where on the continuum between conception and birth — or indeed between birth and death — that the killing occurs. And distinctions based upon the complexity or development of the organism are quite irrelevant if the killing is timed at a point when the organism is unconscious. A human life can be snuffed out at any point in its existence with as little pain as the doctor’s slap that brings about its first breath.

Immoderation

September 6, 2004 | 5 Comments

His mystical Buddhism aside, Sam Harris makes some salient points about the drawbacks of religious tolerance and moderation in The End of Faith. He rejects as a “terrible dogma” the notion “that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others.” Moreover, he contends, “the very ideal of religious tolerance

Nobody’s Perfect

September 6, 2004 | Comments Off

Sam Harris is a torture-loving stealth-Buddhist who believes in reincarnation and psychic phenomenon, point out readers Madman and Katherine in the comments section of my earlier post (see Curt Purcell’s review at Amazon.com). Alas. He does plug meditation and “the wisdom of the East” rather heavily in the last ten pages, concluding that “[m]ysticism is a rational enterprise.” However, it’s a scientific kind of mysticism: “Mysticism, to be viable, requires explicit instructions, which need suffer no more ambiguity or artifice in their exposition than we find in a manual for operating a lawn mower.” Or, presumably, repairing a motorcycle.

Nobody’s Perfect

September 6, 2004 | Comments Off

Sam Harris is a torture-loving stealth-Buddhist who believes in reincarnation and psychic phenomenon, point out readers Madman and Katherine in the comments section of my earlier post (see Curt Purcell’s review at Amazon.com). Alas. He does plug meditation and “the wisdom of the East” rather heavily in the last ten pages, concluding that “[m]ysticism is a rational enterprise.” However, it’s a scientific kind of mysticism: “Mysticism, to be viable, requires explicit instructions, which need suffer no more ambiguity or artifice in their exposition than we find in a manual for operating a lawn mower.” Or, presumably, repairing a motorcycle.

Hitchens

September 6, 2004 | 5 Comments

[W]hat can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Christopher Hitchens, in Mommy Dearest

The End of Faith

September 6, 2004 | 6 Comments

In The End of Faith, Sam Harris recommends a policy of zero tolerance toward religion. After seeing it trashed by a clueless agnostic at Salon, I’d lost all hope of reading a fair appraisal of that most excellent book. But yesterday the New York Times published a review a by its house atheist, Natalie Angier. All I can say is “Amen”:

It’s not often that I see my florid strain of atheism expressed in any document this side of the Seine, but ”The End of Faith” articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood. Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity’s long-term survival, mutually incompatible. A doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America: ”We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them ‘religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called ‘mad,’ ‘psychotic’ or ‘delusional.’

Angier anticipates for the firestorm that’s likely to be sparked by her review with a classic understatement: “You may also think it inappropriate that a mainstream newspaper be seen as obliquely condoning an attack on religious belief.” But, as she immediately notes, “[t] hat reaction, in Harris’s view, is part of the problem”:

Criticizing a person’s faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person’s ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not.

By coincidence, I bought the book on Friday night, and was particularly impressed with what Angier describes as Harris’ “particular ire for religious moderates.” He nails it right on the head:

The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. All we can say, as religious moderates, is that we don’t like the personal and social costs that a full embrace of scripture imposes on us. This is not a new form of faith, or even a new species of scriptural exegesis; it is simply a capitulation to a variety of all-too-human interests that have nothing, in principle, to do with God. Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance´┐Żand it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism.

The first chapter, “Reason in Exile”, is available online here. It’s well worth reading, especially the subsection The Myth of “Moderation” in Religion, from which the above-quoted language is taken.

The Conventional God

September 3, 2004 | 5 Comments

Richard Nixon received a rare tribute at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, with Arnold Schwarzenegger revealing that he joined the G.O.P. after listening to the late president campaign in 1968 and finding him to be a “breath of fresh air.” John Kerry may have drawn some divine inspiration from the same source. In his acceptance speech last month, he said “I don’t want to claim that God is on our side . . . [a]s Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side.” I’m wondering if his speechwriters were aware of the penultimate line of Nixon’s speech accepting the Republican nomination in 1960:

A hundred years ago Abraham Lincoln was asked during the dark days of the tragic War between the States whether he thought God was on his side. His answer was, “My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.”

The annontations to the speech indicate that at this point, “[t] he assembly arose and cheered and applauded at length.” So he tried it again in 1972:

During the tragic War Between the States, Abraham Lincoln was asked whether God was on his side. He replied, “My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.”

As turns out, God is not really all that popular a guest at presidential conventions. However much the candidate may talk about Him on the stump or while visiting churches, He doesn’t get that much play in the nomination acceptance speeches. That meaningless quote picked up by Nixon and Kerry is about as deep as it gets, and Jesus never gets his props. I read through all of the convention addresses from 1960 through last night, and this is all I found:

1960:

John F. Kennedy: Although he quoted a line from Isaiah (“”They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary.””), JFK’s main concern was to convince people he wasn’t the Pope’s marionette:

I am fully aware of the fact that the Democratic Party, by nominating someone of my faith, has taken on what many regard as a new and hazardous risk–new, at least since 1928. But I look at it this way: the Democratic Party has once again placed its confidence in the American people, and in their ability to render a free, fair judgment. And you have, at the same time, placed your confidence in me, and in my ability to render a free, fair judgment–to uphold the Constitution and my oath of office–and to reject any kind of religious pressure or obligation that might directly or indirectly interfere with my conduct of the Presidency in the national interest. My record of fourteen years supporting public education–supporting complete separation of church and state–and resisting pressure from any source on any issue should be clear by now to everyone.

I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant. I want to stress, what some other political or religious leader may have said on this subject. It is not relevant what abuses may have existed in other countries or in other times. It is not relevant what pressures, if any, might conceivably be brought to bear on me. I am telling you now what you are entitled to know: that my decisions on any public policy will be my own–as an American, a Democrat and a free man.

Nixon: (See Lincoln quote above).

1964:

Lyndon B. Johnson: The “Great Society” speech was completely Godless.

Barry Goldwater: Goldwater used the standard line about freedom deriving from God. He seems to be calling for a theocracy, but it almost morphs into a demand for separation of Church and state:

Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of yours, those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen, must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for Divine Will, and this nation and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion, and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.

Now those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of Heaven on earth.

1968:

Hubert Humphrey: Quotes the Pledge (with “under God” in it) and then a Saint:

And may we just share for a moment a few of those immortal words of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi — words which I think may help heal the wounds and lift our hearts. Listen to this immortal saint: “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light.”

Nixon: (Quoting Lincoln): The great God which helped him must help me. Without that great assistance, I will surely fail. With it, I cannot fail.”

1972:

George McGovern: “So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.”

Nixon: (See Linclon’s “Hope we’re on God’s side” quote above).

1976:

Jimmy Carter: The most sincerely religious Democratic candidate in modern history quoted Bob Dylan (“We have an America that, in Bob Dylan’s phrase, is busy being born, not busy dying”) but didn’t mention God once.

Gerald Ford: No God-talk either.

1980:

Carter: Although he did mention one imaginary being

Mission from God

September 2, 2004 | 11 Comments

President Bush is frequently accused of believing that his presidency generally, and the war in Iraq specifically, are part of a grand mission from God. But he’s got nothing on John Kerry, if the challenger’s authorized hagiography, Tour of Duty by David Brinkley, is to be believed. Although the index to the 500-page tome contains just one entry for “religion” — the page 28 revelation Kerry that prayed all the time and considered becoming a priest when he was an eleven year old altar boy at boarding school in Switzerland

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