Recently in Morality, Religion & Philosophy Category
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.
Millions of Chinese are becoming believers and the Communist Party is fighting back. Pray for the Church in China, that these believers would be strengthened and that the Gospel of Christ will reach hundreds of millions more.
Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in - one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called "China's Jerusalem.") By one estimate, China will become the world's largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030. ...
Carsten Vala, an expert on religion in China at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, says 40 million to 60 million is "the low end of a conservative" estimate of the number of Evangelicals. Fenggang Yang, director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University in Indiana, says he thinks there are more than 80 million Christians and that China will have 245 million by 2030 if growth is steady - making it the world's most populous Protestant nation.
In some ways this surge seems counterintuitive. Being a Christian in a country that sees worship as odd or superstitious does nothing to boost one's status. "There is absolutely no social advantage to being a Christian in China," says Bob Fu, a pastor who escaped a Chinese police crackdown in the 1990s and now runs Texas-based ChinaAid, which monitors Christian rights in the country. "There are no cookies, no status, no outward rewards, no privileges in choosing Christianity." ...
Experts say the Chinese have a practical nature, and if they adopt the evangelical message, especially after years of required wrestling with Marxist thinking, they usually don't take it lightly. Many work hard at it.
"Chinese Christians know the Bible better than some Southern Baptists," says Wickeri in Hong Kong. "That's not a small thing."
The basic idea behind Boltsmann brains is that if intelligence arose randomly in the universe, it's vastly more likely to arise as a lone speck of order in an "entropic soup" than to arise in the middle of a huge bubble of order like we observe around us. Most significantly, it's an approach for refuting the selection bias argument against the anthropic principle.
Boltzmann proposed that we and our observed low-entropy world are a random fluctuation in a higher-entropy universe. Even in a near-equilibrium state, there will be stochastic fluctuations in the level of entropy. The most common fluctuations will be relatively small, resulting in only small amounts of organization, while larger fluctuations and their resulting greater levels of organization will be comparatively more rare. Large fluctuations would be almost inconceivably rare, but are made possible by the enormous size of the universe and by the idea that if we are the results of a fluctuation, there is a "selection bias": we observe this very unlikely universe because the unlikely conditions are necessary for us to be here, an expression of the anthropic principle.
The Boltzmann brain paradox is that any observers (self-aware brains with memories like we have, which includes our brains) are therefore far more likely to be Boltzmann brains than evolved brains, thereby at the same time also refuting the selection-bias argument. If our current level of organization, having many self-aware entities, is a result of a random fluctuation, it is much less likely than a level of organization which only creates stand-alone self-aware entities. For every universe with the level of organization we see, there should be an enormous number of lone Boltzmann brains floating around in unorganized environments. In an infinite universe, the number of self-aware brains that spontaneously randomly form out of the chaos, complete with false memories of a life like ours, should vastly outnumber the real brains evolved from an inconceivably rare local fluctuation the size of the observable universe.
This is the first I've heard of it, but Dan Gainor claims that Warren Buffett has given over a billion dollars to pro-abortion groups since 2001. I'd like to learn more, maybe some reporter will investigate the details.
Popular Science has a fantastic article about robot ethics, with a focus on robotic cars. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a taste.
It happens quickly--more quickly than you, being human, can fully process.
A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there's too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.
Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn't be simpler.
In my opinion, your robotic car should has customizable ethics options that let you, the owner, choose your priorities. If you want to protect your family above all else, then you should be able to select that and bear the legal consequences.
"Buy our car," jokes Michael Cahill, a law professor and vice dean at Brooklyn Law School, "but be aware that it might drive over a cliff rather than hit a car with two people."
Okay, so that was Cahill's tossed-out hypothetical, not mine. But as difficult as it would be to convince automakers to throw their own customers under the proverbial bus, or to force their hand with regulations, it might be the only option that shields them from widespread litigation. Because whatever they choose to do--kill the couple, or the driver, or randomly pick a target--these are ethical decisions being made ahead of time. As such, they could be far more vulnerable to lawsuits, says Cahill, as victims and their family members dissect and indict decisions that weren't made in the spur of the moment, "but far in advance, in the comfort of corporate offices."
In the absence of a universal standard for built-in, pre-collision ethics, superhuman cars could start to resemble supervillains, aiming for the elderly driver rather than the younger investment banker--the latter's family could potentially sue for considerably more lost wages. Or, less ghoulishly, the vehicle's designers could pick targets based solely on make and model of car. "Don't steer towards the Lexus," says Cahill. "If you have to hit something, you could program it hit a cheaper car, since the driver is more likely to have less money."
These questions seem futuristic, but our robots will be making a lot of split-second decisions for us based on the rules we set up in advance. We need to think about what those rules should be.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly archbishop of St. Louis, is pushing back against the compartmentalization of religion in the public space. He asserts that free exercise of religion permeates society and is not confined to the walls of a church.
The former archbishop of St. Louis stated that Obama is trying to "restrict" religion.
"Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions," Burke said.
UK hospitals have been burning aborted and miscarried babies for fuel in "waste to energy plants". May God bring an end to this evil and have mercy on the souls of these children.
One of the country's leading hospitals, Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own 'waste to energy' plant. The mothers were told the remains had been 'cremated.'
Another 'waste to energy' facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.
They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site.
Many are comparing this atrocity to the practices of the Nazis, but it reminds me of earlier child sacrifices to Molech, Cronus, or Saturn.
I don't know the ins and outs of the Arizona religious freedom bill that Republican Governor Jan Brewer is considering now. However, I'd like to comment on the issue in a very broad sense.
People have a right to choose who they associate with. The government should only be able to force or prohibit associations when that is the least restrictive method for satisfying a compelling public interest. (And I'd define "compelling public interest" very narrowly, likely limited to life-or-death situations.) As a consequence of this right of association, people are free to discriminate in their personal lives for or against whomever they want. Unjust discrimination is immoral, but not everything that is immoral should be illegal. Business owners have a right to grant or deny service to whomever they choose; employees have a right to grant or deny services to whomever they choose; and owners can fire employees whose choices conflict with their own.
People also have a right to choose and exercise their religious beliefs, but in the context of business service I think this right is largely subsumed by the right of association. A person's religious beliefs will be one factor he uses to choose his associations, but he is free to choose his associations based on any criteria he prefers.
(Note: the government does not have a right of association and cannot be allowed to discriminate unjustly. The government is a representative of all the people, and does not have the right to treat one person different from another without a compelling reason.)
Louis CK uses "of course, but maybe" for comic effect, but this is an amazing technique for influencing people. "Of course we can't do X, obviously. Of course. But maybe it would work! Just imagine."
James Altucher describes the laws of reciprocity and commitment bias in the video, and that's a great examination of the foundation, but presentation is everything.
(HT: James Altucher.)
It should be obvious that the proposal to erect a statue of Satan for the Oklahoma Capitol isn't really about Satan.
I'll venture a guess and say that 99% of "Satanists" don't believe in Satan. The purpose here isn't to honor a real set of beliefs but simply to mock Christians. This is pretty pathetic, because American Christians are generally peaceable and tolerant. If the Satanists really want to be edgy they should try this in any other the capitol in any other country in the world and see what happens.
At the risk of inciting mockery from my intellectual superiors, Satan is very real and is actively working to subvert and destroy humanity. The Bible describes him this way:
1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
I don't believe it's worthwhile to spend a lot of time talking about Satan. He will ultimately be defeated and is God's to deal with.
"The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond," said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the group, in a statement reported by the AP. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."
The group is based in New York, but says it's not fair for Oklahoma lawmakers to let a Ten Commandments statue stand at the building, without also allowing monuments that reflect other spiritual beliefs, The Associated Press reported. The Ten Commandments statue was privately funded. The American Civil Liberties Union sued to have it removed shortly after it was place, AP reported.
And the Satanic Temple isn't the only group seeking equal access to the site.
The AP reported that a Hindu head in Nevada wants to put a monument at the Capitol, along with an animal rights group and the -- satirical -- Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In response, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has put a moratorium on deciding new requests.
The Christmas season is often a time of charitable giving, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out the best way to give. Fortunately, a twelfth-century Torah scholar named Maimonides developed guidelines describing eight differing levels of charity that seem pretty reasonable to me.
There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.
 The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
 A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the "anonymous fund" that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.
 A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
 A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
 A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.