The Raving Theist

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2007 January


January 23, 2007 | 1 Comment

The best part of this comment is that you don’t have to do anything but click the video above to get the verdict. Is Dawn right about anything? No evidence of it yet.

Amanda of Pandagon, relying on The Argument From YouTube Video Authority regarding the title of this song


January 22, 2007 | 15 Comments

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, in his bestselling The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream, shares his thoughts on the ideals of this nation’s founders:

Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities or minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad.

Read literally, the passage states that the common undesirable feature of inquisitions, pogroms, gulags and jihads is that they are brought about by people who believe in truth and consistency, not that they involve violence and suffering. I suppose this might have been the founders’ thesis. Some of them did endorse slavery, or hanging for horse-thievery, so their ultimate concern might simply have been to avoid the eternal sameness of the cruelty rather than cruelty itself. What could be more insufferable, after all, than the arrogance of someone who believes that the thumbscrew should forever be preferred to the rack?

On the other hand, Obama refers to an “American Dream” that needs “reclaiming.” This implies that he favors one state of affairs over another – possibly even in an absolute sense. The subtitle isn’t “The American Dream, But I May be Wrong and Humbly Admit It Might Be Best to Continue As We Were Without Reclaiming Anything.” Furthermore, throughout the book he identifies policies he supports and attacks policies he rejects — without the slightest hint that they are equal, or even that the truth lies in between. This seems to embrace rather than reject absolute truth.

Harris v Sullivan

January 17, 2007 | 4 Comments

Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan spar over whether the most important issue is religious truth or religious extremism — an issue explored by this blog here last year.

Sam Harris, Pro-Lifer?

January 15, 2007 | 14 Comments

Amanda of Pandagon wonders where atheist author Sam Harris stands on “sperm magic,” i.e. abortion. Because he’s apparently sympathetic to one form of magic — reincarnation — she’s concerned that his irrationality may extend to an embrace of the pro-life philosophy. No need to worry. In the The End of Faith he compares fetuses to rabbits, and in Letter to a Christian Nation, as Nicholas Kristof points outs, he mocks conservative Christians for opposing abortion. Although he hasn’t written extensively on the subject, I suspect his views on later-term abortions aren’t materially different from Amanda’s — he’s somewhat queasy about interfering with the emergent brainwaves but not to the extent that he’d necessarily prohibit it before birth.

The divide on abortion is not an especially religious one. Planned Parenthood employs clergy to promote a pro-choice creed, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom is devoted to justifying abortion from a faith-based perspective. My experience with adherents of Eastern religions like Harris is that they tend to lean pro-choice. So (apart from the fact that his views on abortion are so easily ascertainable) I’m puzzled why Amanda targeted Harris for the “sperm magic” gibe. I doubt she’d go after a liberal Christian in the same way, worrying that his or her beliefs in Jesus or prayer or the afterlife might down the road lead to an irrational opposition to feticide.

As I’ve noted before, Amanda’s charge that a belief in the soul must underlie the every pro-life position is erroneous. An argument can be made that the eternality of the soul would render any killing — of a fetus, of a baby, of an adult — morally permissible because “death” would lack any real consequence. Because reincarnation also involves the notion of an eternal (if migrating) soul, its value as a predictor of pro-life views is also questionable.

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