Recently in Morality, Religion & Philosophy Category
Language warning: Ice T says "fuck it". In this video from 2011 Ice T explains the benefits of calculated risk taking, and include a mention of Donald Trump.
Hillary has angered pro-abortion advocates by acknowledging the personhood of unborn children. Presumably she'll "correct" herself, which makes the evil of abortion even more apparent.
"The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights," Mrs. Clinton said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Now that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support."
As long as a mother wants her child to be healthy, "we" will give her and the child appropriate medical support. For a mother who wants an unhealthy child, "we" will help kill the baby and harvest his organs.
If you, like me, didn't watch the Super Bowl or any of the ads, well, here's the political angle you missed yesterday.
Doritos ran a hilarious ad in which an unborn baby ejects himself from the womb to buy a bag of Doritos. Naturally the pro-abortion people went crazy. Tweeted NARAL:
#NotBuyingIt - that @Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses
The doctor in the ad says that the baby is due "any day now", and I thought even the abortion profiteering industry acknowledged that full-term babies are human.
So, thanks Doritos! I can't eat you (too many carbs) but I'll buy a bag in support.
Marco Rubio is questioned by an atheist on the influence his faith will have on his potential presidency. I'm super-impressed.
Walter Russell Mead has written several excellent essays about Christmas this year, but this one is especially worth sharing: on the accessibility of the Gospel. It's hard to quote just a small bit, but here's the most interesting thesis to me:
If the Gospels came out of a culture that was closer to Western modernity, and they had therefore been written in ways that satisfied contemporary academic historiographic models (complete with photos and footnotes), the resulting 900 page biographies of Christ might be more satisfying to us, but perhaps much less accessible to poor farmers in Africa or simple fishermen in Indonesia.
Shockingly, that matters a great deal to God. The story of the Gospels is a story for everybody, not just for sophisticated, college educated citizens of advanced industrial democracies. Just as we find just enough common ground, intellectually and culturally, with these documents to grasp what they are getting at even while we are frustrated by their indifference to some of our cultural expectations, so other people in other places and times have found them clear enough to hear and believe. The Gospels occupy a kind of center point in human culture as a whole: products of a particular time and place, but comprehensible to all.
One really strange phenomenon since the horrific San Bernardino terrorist attack has been the media condemnation of those who have offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims.
Progressive and liberal politicians called for gun control. And other politicians prayed for the victims and their families while waiting for more information.
That's when things got super weird. For some reason, much of the media began mocking the efficacy of prayer. This was happening while victims of the shooting were actually asking people to pray. I mean, the critiques were everywhere. An editor at ThinkProgress said, and I quote, "Stop thinking. Stop praying." There's a bumper sticker for you!
Follow the link for images of all the bizarre targeting of Christians by prominent journalists.
I'm honestly not sure what possessed all of these media types to choose "people who pray" as the target of their anger. It was really weird and revealing. Almost more of a temper tantrum than anything else, particularly since progressives immediately turn to prayer of a different kind in the aftermath of tragedy.
Leftists pray to their god: government. The solution to every problem is to tax more, spend more, regulate more.
The theodicy of federal government seeks to defend the goodness of government in the face of tragedy. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame -- before we actually know what is even going on in a given tragedy -- insufficient fealty, sacrifice, and offerings to the relevant god of federal government. And so they explain that the god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we'd given it sufficient power to do so.
Strange event in the lunch line. The guy in front of me buys a sandwich and bag of chips, and the cashier tells him, "You'd save a dollar if you got a drink with that. The combo is cheaper."
The guy says, "No thanks." He pays for his meal and walks off.
I step forward to pay for my soda and the cashier just waves me off. "Just take it. That guy paid for your soda already," she says, gesturing towards previous customer who is now walking away, oblivious. "Now I feel better," she says.
So what should I do?
- Take my free soda and leave.
- Catch the guy and offer him a dollar.
- Catch the guy and offer him 50 cents.
David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress sat down for a meal in May with Cate Dyer, founder of StemExpress, which partnered with Planned Parenthood to sell organs to medical researchers.
"What would make your lab happy?" Daleiden asked.
"Another 50 livers a week," Dyer said. "We're working with, you know, almost like triple digit number of clinics. So it's a lot on volume. We still need more than what we do. So it's a lot. ... I don't think you're going to hit a capacity with us any time in the next 10 years."
The High Priests of Molech laugh about squeamish unbelievers.
StemExpress: I know we get requests for neural [tissue]. It's the hardest thing in the world to ship.
Buyer: You do it as the whole calvarium [the entire intact head of a dead baby].
StemExpress: That's it, yeah, that's the easiest way. And I mean we've actually had good success with that in the past.
Buyer: Yeah, Make sure the eyes are closed!
StemExpress: [Loud Laughter] Tell the lab it's coming. So they don't open the box and go, "Oh God!" [Laughter] So yeah, wheras so many of the academic labs cannot fly like that. They're just not capable.
Buyer: Why is that? I don't understand that.
StemExpress: It's almost like they don't want to know where it comes from. I can see that. Where they're like, "We need limbs, but no hands and feet need to be attached." [...] They want you to take it all off, like, "Make it so that we don't know what it is."
Buyer: Yeah. Bone the chicken for me and then I'll eat it.
StemExpress: That's it. But we know what it is [Laughter]. [...] Their lab techs freak out, and have meltdowns, and so it's just like, yeah.
Sacrificing children for medical research is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:2-5 (ESV)
2 "Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.
Ross Douthat at the New York Times explains that contraception and abortion are very different and should be unbundled. Let's separate contraception and family planning from dismembering babies.
If, like many of the moderate-liberal columnists writing on this issue, you are 1) made at least somewhat uncomfortable by the dismemberment of living human beings in utero but 2) are convinced that Planned Parenthood's non-abortion-related services are essential to the common good, why not write a column urging Planned Parenthood to, I dunno, get out of the dismemberment business? If all these other services are such a great, crucial, and (allegedly) abortion-reducing good, why do you, center-left journalist, want them perpetually held hostage to the possibility of public outrage over the crushing of tiny bodies in the womb? If a publicly-funded institution does one set of things you really like, and another thing that makes you morally uncomfortable, why are you constantly attacking that organization's critics and telling them that they just have to live with the combination, instead of urging the organization itself to refocus on the non-lethal, non-dismembering portions of its business? ...
So let's be clear about what's really going on here. It is not the pro-life movement that's forced Planned Parenthood to unite actual family planning and mass feticide under one institutional umbrella. It is not the Catholic Church or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the Southern Baptist Convention or the Republican Party that have bundled pap smears and pregnancy tests and HPV vaccines with the kind of grisly business being conducted on those videos. This is Planned Parenthood's choice; it is liberalism's choice; it is the respectable center-left of Dana Milbank and Ruth Marcus and Will Saletan that's telling pro-life and pro-choice Americans alike that contraceptive access and fetal dismemberment are just a package deal, that if you want to fund an institution that makes contraception widely available then you just have to live with those "it's another boy!" fetal corpses in said institution's freezer, that's just the price of women's health care and contraceptive access, and who are you to complain about paying it, since after all the abortion arm of Planned Parenthood is actually pretty profitable and doesn't need your tax dollars?
In the video, actors posing as representatives from a human biologics company meet with Ginde at the abortion-clinic headquarters of PPRM in Denver to discuss a potential partnership to harvest fetal organs. When the actors request intact fetal specimens, Ginde reveals that in PPRM's abortion practice, "Sometimes, if we get, if someone delivers before we get to see them for a procedure, then we are intact."
Since PPRM does not use digoxin or other feticide in its 2nd trimester procedures, any intact deliveries before an abortion are potentially born-alive infants under federal law (1 USC 8). ...
As the buyers and Planned Parenthood workers identify body parts from last fetus in the path lab, a Planned Parenthood medical assistant announces: "Another boy!"
Here's a disturbing video in which Planned Parenthood's director of medical research Deborah Nucatola describes how they carefully crush babies while avoiding the organs they plan to sell to medical researchers for profit.
Antiabortion groups also said the callous nature of the discussion captured on film should tug at viewers' consciences -- particularly when Nucatola apparently describes "crushing" the fetus in ways that keep its internal organs intact and her remarks about researchers' desire for lungs and livers.
"I'd say a lot of people want liver," she says in the video posted on the Center for Medical Progress's Web site, between bites of salad. "And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they'll know where they're putting their forceps."
She continues: "We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part, I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact."
This pithy brilliance is why I read Ann Althouse: couples taking pictures with their "sex contracts" are mimicking weddings.
"I suddenly realized what's happening. This is a stand-in for a wedding ceremony."
"The fundamental idea is that sex is a component of marriage, not an activity to be undertaken lightly. What is revealed is a belief that consent is actually not enough, and this additional ritual, with a contract and photography, is a simulacrum of a wedding."
I write, over at Facebook, on a post about a National Review article titled "Students Told to Take Photos With a 'Consent Contract' Before They Have Sex."
At the linked article we read:
A "yes means yes" advocacy group, the Affirmative Consent Project, is instructing college students to take a picture with a contract before they have sex with each other just to make absolutely sure both parties are officially consenting.
In fact, the group has been distributing contracts to schools nationwide as part of its Consent Conscious Kit, according to an article in the Washington Examiner.
If no camera is available, students are encouraged to fill out the form on the back of the contract which states, "On this date [fill in the blank], we agree to have consensual sex with one another" followed by a space for students' printed names and signatures.
A question I've long pondered without any convincing answer. As an American (and conservative) I think the Declaration of Independence is awesome sauce, but it significantly realigned the relationships between God, government, and citizens. Is citizen sovereignty more in line with God's will than divinely appointed kings?
The key to this is to be found in the second sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. -- That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. -- That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Before the declaration, the standard political theory went something like this: God anointed a king, who is the locus of sovereignty on earth. Though the king is supposed to rule decently, it is the duty of everyone else to submit to the king, who is answerable only to God. The king might grant you rights, but if he did so that was an act of generosity on his part, not an entitlement on yours.
Divine-right political theory was understandably popular with kings and their supporters and hangers-on, and a form of it survives in assorted variations today. But the declaration takes a different approach. It says that rights come from God, not from the king, and that they are "unalienable" -- that is, incapable of being sold ("alienated") surrendered, or given away.
We Americans talk a lot about our God-given rights, but what scriptural authority do we rest these rights on? In Romans 13:1-7 Paul writes:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
So God instituted the authority of King George III and the American founding fathers rebelled against it... right?
In John 19:10-11 Pilate is questioning Jesus, who refuses to answer his questions.
So Pilate said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?"
Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above."
Jesus clearly asserts that Pilate's authority was given to him by God. Jesus does not oppose Pilate's secular authority despite his supremacy as God.
Thus, my quandary. I love the philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence, but I struggle to justify it scripturally. There are certainly other potential justifications for the belief in "God-given rights" (e.g., nature, love, submission to God rather than men, etc.) but the Bible gives no direct support that I can find.
Luke 16:18 is interesting because here Jesus only condemns actions of men as adultery:
"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
The word "adultery" comes from the same root as "adulterate" which literally means "to render (something) poorer in quality by adding another substance, typically an inferior one". In origin, adultery is sexual behavior that corrupts the line of inheritance, and therefore can only be committed against a husband -- there's never any doubt about the identity of a child's mother, so a wife's line of inheritance cannot be corrupted. In this legal sense, the crime of adultery was not so much about morals as it was about protecting a husband's assurance of legitimate offspring. (An assurance that a wife has thanks to biology.)
Which raises the question: in the two scenarios Jesus speaks of, who is the victim of adultery? Both cases are interesting in their own right.
Case 1: "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery". In the literal sense the man can only be committing adultery if the woman he marries was already the wife of another man, in which case the adultery is being committed against the other man. However, Jesus doesn't directly say that the new wife is or was married, which leaves open the door to the thought that Jesus is declaring that the spurned wife is actually a victim of adultery herself.
Case 2: "[H]e who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery". In this case it seems clear that the the first man is committing adultery against the divorced husband. However, if the marriage no longer exists then how can there be adultery? Perhaps the timing or circumstance of the woman's second marriage calls into question the legitimacy of the first husband's children? That seems like an overly specific reading for which there is no direct evidence.
Anyway, it's interesting to me that we've expanded the definition of "adultery" to include all sorts of marital sexual infidelity while at the same time "adulterating" the original purpose of the term: to protect husbands' assurance of paternity.
Sometimes it pays to be nice, and sometimes it pays to be a jerk. It shouldn't be a surprise that neither kind of behavior dominates every situation. The trick is knowing when to act how. Apparently the important aspect of jerkiness is the confidence, not the cruelty.
The problem with competence is that we can't judge it by looking at someone. Yes, in some occupations it's fairly transparent--a professional baseball player, for instance, cannot very well pretend to have hit 60 home runs last season when he actually hit six--but in business it's generally opaque. Did the product you helped launch succeed because of you, or because of your brilliant No. 2, or your lucky market timing, or your competitor's errors, or the foundation your predecessor laid, or because you were (as the management writer Jim Collins puts it) a socket wrench that happened to fit that one job? Difficult to know, really. So we rely on proxies--superficial cues for competence that we take and mistake for the real thing.
What's shocking is how powerful these cues can be. When Anderson paired up college students and asked them to place 15 U.S. cities on a blank map of North America, the level of a person's confidence in her geographic knowledge was as good a predictor of how highly her partner rated her, after the fact, as was her actual geographic knowledge. Let me repeat that: seeming like you knew about geography was as good as knowing about geography. In another scenario--four-person teams collaboratively solving math problems--the person with the most inflated sense of her own abilities tended to emerge as the group's de facto leader. Being the first to blurt out an answer, right or wrong, was taken as a sign of superior quantitative skill.
Jonathan Adler is mostly right but ultimately wrong in his argument that the federal government lacks the power to regulate abortion, and that such power is reserved for the states. However, he seems to slide past the most powerful and obvious counter-argument: the Supreme Court has injected itself into the issue (and it's part of the federal government).
(Obviously I'm not a lawyer, but I believe that abortion is a moral and political question, not primarily a legal one. I'm not trying to create an air-tight legal position that supports any specific abortion restrictions.)
Relevant legal questions -- how to define murder, when to excuse the taking of life as defensible or otherwise permissible, even defining what constitutes the end-of-life for medical and other purposes -- have always been matters of state law. Drawing such lines necessarily involves drawing distinctions that will please some and offend others, but that hardly creates an equal protection problem, let alone justify federal legislation. Again, where protected classes are not involved, a state's decision to draw different distinctions than would the federal government, even on matters involving life and death, is insufficient to justify a federal law.
Note there the invocation of "protected classes" -- who decides what the protected classes are? Can't Congress? Of course it can; Congress (with sign-off from the President) can decide that unborn babies are a protected class. Most of the protected classes were created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was was passed by Congress and signed by President Johnson.
Glenn Reynolds also argues that Republicans should oppose abortion legislation because they support limited government. I respect the Instapundit a lot, but I think he misses the same element that Mr. Adler did.
One such conflict is likely to appear this week, when the House is expected to vote on a 20-week limit on abortions. Such a limit polls well-- Americans are much more supportive of early abortionsthan late-term abortions -- and would still leave the United States with more-liberal abortion laws than nearly all of Europe. Even so, the Republicans need to be asking themselves -- and the Democrats need to be asking them, too -- where, exactly, Congress gets the power to limit abortions to 20 weeks?
Where did the Supreme Court get the power to enable abortions? Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution says that Congress may limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (except for "Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party"). So clearly Congress could remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court if it wanted to. That's de facto power to regulate abortion without interference from the courts, if Congress chose to exercise it.
As I wrote at the top, I'm not skilled enough to make an air-tight legal argument. But I know that if the law allows the slaughter of millions of babies every year then the law is wrong.
We tend to look back on the past and note a few differences here and there, and then our minds fill in all the blanks with similarities to the present. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry takes a small step to correct this enormous blind spot we all have by writing a bit about how Christianity invented children, and how modern humanity takes the worth of a child for granted. (Well, except for abortion.)
We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.
Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children -- their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?
In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe's ancient pagan world.
Here is why I believe I am a Christian: I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ. Whether or not I succeed in living up to that example is primarily between Him and me.
My understanding of Christianity is that it doesn't require me to prove my faith to anyone on this plane of existence. It is about a direct relationship with the divine and freely offered salvation. That's one of the reasons that when my generic "There must be something out there" gut feeling blossomed into a desire for a personal connection to that "something," it was Christianity that I choose to explore. They'll let anyone in.
To be clear, I don't just believe in God. I am a Christian. Decades of mass culture New Ageism has fluffed up "belief in God" into a spiritual buffet, a holy catch-all for those who want to cover all the numbers: Pascal's wager as a roulette wheel and not a coin toss. Me, I'm going all in with Jesus. It's not just that the payoff could be tremendous--it already has been! The only cost is the judgment that comes from others, from telling people that my belief has a specific shape, with its own human legacy of both shame and triumph.
This makes my day! There's almost nothing I like more than reading about people coming to Christ.
The Islamic State's branding and media operations are critical for their recruitment and survival, and America is struggling to compete.
It's been less than a year since IS burst onto the stage, seizing large amounts of territory and shocking the world with its brutally violent tactics. During that time, the group has evolved into a highly sophisticated multimedia organization, boasting slick social media strategies that could give major corporate marketing teams a run for their money. IS knows how to package its extremist ideology in the form of well-produced videos, attractive graphics, polished magazines and strategic online posts. It's also strikingly savvy at spreading them online, tailoring their presentation and message to media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Vine. The messages are hypercustomized in language, tone and content to reach as many people possible and ultimately go viral. As Marshall Sella recently wrote in Matter, IS is "an entire brand family, the equivalents of the Apple logo's glow ... terrorism's Coca-Cola." There's no need to hold an IS-stamped watch or baseball hat in your hands to face the truth: IS is a powerful and terrifying brand that we were not prepared to reckon with. ...
"These videos of people killing themselves and joining terrorist groups around the world, they're conveying a narrative of authenticity," [Oren Segal, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism] said. "When we're trying to come up with something that opposes that, how do we capture an authentic counternarrative that doesn't look like 'Say no to drugs'? We need something meaningful. At the end of the day, it's a battle for hearts and minds."
The lack of such philosophical/moral/religious focus is a weakness of the Western secular system. We hope our strengths can make up for it: wealth, size, technology, liberty. For the past couple of centuries our system has managed to beat our more ideologically-cohesive opponents.
At NY Mag (and all over the internet) is a story about a father and daughter dating each other (sexually) and planning to live together in New Jersey where adult incest isn't a crime. It's easy to condemn this behavior for a host of reasons, spiritual and secular, but as I read the interview with the women mostly I just felt sadness and pity. It doesn't seem that she or her father would accept my sorrow or pity -- they seem thrilled -- but nonetheless my heart breaks for them.
So can you remember what it was like the moment you and your dad were reunited? Was there an instant attraction? It was so weird and confusing. I was seeing my dad for the first time in forever but it was also like, He's so good-looking! And then I was like, What the hell are you thinking? What is wrong with you? I saw him as my dad but then also part of me was like, I'm meeting this guy who I have been talking to over the internet and really connecting with and I find him attractive.
Was there a single moment you realized that you were sexually and romantically attracted to your dad?
After I had stayed with him for about five days.
Genetic sexual attraction is defined as "sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings, a parent and offspring, or first and second cousins, who first meet as adults", and apparently it's extremely common: GSA occurs up to 50% of the time that parent and child or siblings meet for the first time as adults. Your first reaction may be revulsion, but if you reflect on it you will probably see how tragic and painful GSA is for everyone involved.
The unexpectedly high number of reported cases of men and women struggling with sudden and terrifying emotions after a reunion has surprised and perplexed most post-adoption agencies. So far, because of the taboos surrounding GSA and its variable and complex nature, the frequency of these cases is almost impossible to quantify, although some agencies estimate that elements of GSA occur in 50% of reunions. Growing awareness of its potentially devastating implications, especially in cases where relatives embark on a sexual relationship, has prompted some organisations to warn all clients attempting to trace a relative about the phenomenon, while also training counsellors to recognise the warning signs and to help adoptees and their families cope with the damage.
GSA is an affliction that our civilization is largely unequipped to deal with -- we've undermined the spiritual foundation that would give us the moral authority to condemn adult incest, nurture the proper familial relationships that each of us needs, and love and care for the people who are suffering. In an age of egg and sperm donation and in vitro fertilization it seems likely that GSA will be a growing problem, and Christians especially should be prepared to care for the afflicted.