Thursday, 26 December 2013

Rachel Held Evans on the Christmas Wars

Rachel Held Evans's blog post on the CNN belief blog is by turns inspiring and disappointing. I agreed resoundingly with the latter part of her article but had some problems with its beginning.

I disliked her use of the word "privelege". It has too much of a political connotation with identity politics and neo-Marxism. Feminism, critical race theory, and gay identity politics always uses the same term to describe the wider oppressive society, which means that it is pejorative. "Privilege" sends the message that you've "got it".This in essence means that you have no right or no moral grounding to complain about anything that goes on in the area where you have "privilege". It is an emotionally manipulative way of silencing people who disagree with you. The "epistemic privelege" if I can put it like that only shifts from the majority to the minority. And, by the way, it is not at all inconceivable that the minority can have privelege over the majority. It has been the norm throughout human history.

 I agree with Evans that complaining that someone uses "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is a priggish, but I disagree with why she thinks it is wrong ( if I understand her correctly) According to the "privelege" model, if a Muslim or a Jew or some other minority religious group complained about something similar it would not be condemned because they are not in a position of "religious privilege". I find it equally priggish. Indeed, the entire reason that people are now saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is because people complained about the fact that their religious greeting was not included in "Merry Christmas". In fact,  I object to the seasonal greeting on those grounds alone.

 I regard the whole concept of privilege to be not only nonsense but socially dangerous nonsense. It encourages bitter feeling and alienation between groups and fragments society.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Chris Stedman and the War on Christmas

"Let’s not kid ourselves: There is no war on Christmas."

Chris Stedman, author of Faitheist, wrote a thought-provoking article on the CNN belief blog about the "war on Christmas". First of all, I have a good deal of respect for Stedman. He is well described by what the Infidels website describe themselves as ( but which actually does not describe them) "a drop of reason, in a pool of confusion". Stedman is a peacemaker, which certainly commends him. Stedman begins by criticizing an American Atheist billboard which he accuses of taking stabs at Christians ( around the subject of Christmas). But then he turns around and says that there really is no war on Christmas when the just-mentioned billboard seems to make a good case for just such a war. He goes on to criticize Bill O'Reilly and Fox News for peddling this concept of the "war on Christmas". He explains what is seen as the war on Christmas is really a by-product of a greater recognition of religious diversity. Stedman in essence condemns both sides of the divide.

The "war on Christmas" is really just a hyperbolic and sensationalist way of saying exactly what Stedman admitted: that there is much less of a focus on Christmas and more of a generic seasonal celebration. This has its pros and cons. Since I am a libertarian and not a social conservative I am not so intent upon enforcing a Christian culture within society. But there is a more direct campaign being fought against Christmas. It is not merely an indirect result of more consciousness of religious diversity.  The billboard that Stedman mentions is a good example of such a campaign. Another example is atheists who constantly make issues about public nativity scenes. "We see the nativity scene as a direct attack on good human values..."

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Amazing Atheist On How Atheists Are Better At Christmas

The Amazing Atheist posted a video giving three reasons why atheists are better at Christmas
Atheists don't have to go to church. Um...neither do Christians. Why are Christians obligated to go to church on Christmas? All Christians don't automatically subscribe uncritically to every pronouncement or stance of institutional Christianity.

According to the Amazing Atheist going to church also detracts from what Christmas is really about, which is family and togetherness etc etc. But how did this tradition really come about? How did it come about that Christmas is seen as being about family and togetherness? Through Christianity obviously.

"I don't want to destroy Christmas. I like Christmas. I just don't think it has anything to do with Jesus". TJ goes off about how atheists don't really want to destroy Christmas and goes on a pointless and absurd but admittedly funny rant about Bill O'Reilly and Fox news and then manages to take a stab at the Rapture as well. I think what I found most funny about it is how unbelievably tangential and irrelevant it was. Well, the issue is highlighted by the passage quoted from TJ above. If you're going to redefine Christmas as being a non-specific  non-religious celebration of "family", then you have destroyed Christmas. The family is redefined on atheism, and Christmas is also completely redefined on atheism. The central narrative around which Christmas is constructed and around which all the other pleasant things about Christmas developed is Christianity. Christmas is altered fundamentally without its origin and shaper ( Christianity).

"Atheists don't have to worry about the true meaning of Christmas". Well, they don't have to worry about the religious meaning of Christmas, but if TJ truly values Christmas, then he has to say that atheists do have to worry about the meaning that he believes to be the true meaning of Christmas. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Authoritarian Britain?

A man was arrested for making jokes about Nelson Mandela in the UK. Yes, you read correctly, but if only your eyes would have been kind enough to deceive you right? Alas, it is true. The crucible of political liberty has already turned into its antagonist.

Environmentalism and Anti-Business Sentiment

"This is where the money comes from folks"

Environmentalists and others of the general anti-business leftist edifice often don't seem to understand how prosperous nations like Canada function. If there is no business to tax, then state initiatives don't get funded, and a country can't function.

The government is not some self-sufficient entity that can just act as it pleases with some magically infinite heap of cash. It is funded by "corporate greed" and those gluttonous CEO's. The more successful private enterprise is, the more money there is for government initiatives. If the government abuses this funding and over-regulates society and by implication, the business world, then it is in essence biting the hand the feeds it.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Hell and Omnipresence

It brings up an interesting but ultimately vacuous point. Barker thinks about hell too literally. Hell isn't a "place". As a non-physical dimension, we must understand it as a "place" only in a metaphorical way, because our own physical understanding of space is bound to be only loosely allusive to the type of "location" that is hell ( if it is allusive at all).  Hell simply represents spiritual death and impotence and it is perfectly natural to suppose that God cannot "inhabit" death. Nor is the idea that God is not present in evil or sin damaging to the claim of his omnipresence. More nuanced and less over-simplified thinking about the doctrine of omnipresence is needed.

The Secularization Hypothesis Reinvigorated?

I stumbled on an article explaining the increasing irreligious climate of America, sometimes seen to be the last stand of societal Christianity in the West. Could it be that America will follow Europe in things religious? Its definitely a cause for concern.

"America's fastest growing religious allegiance is "None"."

Nevertheless, we should be suspicious of any attempts to predict widespread atheism. The secularization hypothesis of a few decades ago failed spectacularly in its predictions, and similar fates may await predictions of the same sort today.

Sam Harris on Morality....Again

Sam Harris recently posted a blog post contending as he did in his book, The Moral Landscape, that "science is not value-free". There is truth in such a statement, but not in the sense that Harris would have it.

Harris still fails to answer the is-ought problem. How one can derive normative information from descriptive information. He compares our intuitions regarding physics to our intuitions about morality saying, "we also have an intuitive morality, and much of our intuitive morality may be wrong with respect to maximizing human flourishing". But if our moral knowledge can only come from intuitions, where does Harris get the idea that maximizing human flourishing should really be the prime moral ideal? We can only perceive this information through moral intuitions or revelation, or a combination of both. And we cannot know that our moral intuitions actually tell us something valid about the world but by appeal to God. 

His defense of it is to say that "well-being" encompasses everything we can care about "in the moral sphere". Since he is attempting to define the moral sphere itself, his reference to it here is circular.  The point of an objective morality is for its obligations to be independent on human desires and preferences. In other words, the justifications for holding a particular morality cannot be that "everyone cares about it". This would mean that the foundation of morality is no more than popularity and societal cohesion. This means Harris is arguing from popularity ( which is a logical fallacy).

Harris's landscape remains an implausible alternative to a religiously rooted morality.

Josh Barro Vs. Phil Robertson

Check out Business Insider's misrepresentation of Phil Robertson. Barro's uncharitable assessment of Robertson's ideas is evident even just from the captions of Robertson's opinions that Barro himself excerpts. There is nothing wrong with highlighting your own experience of a politically charged era. Criticizing other people for not adhering to one's own moral system is commonplace, and Barro himself does it in the article. I'll give it to Barro that Robertson's statement about gays is quite an Old Testament cocktail. But hatred is a strong word, and one that gay activism throws around much too liberally. Indeed, they tend to apply it to anyone who dares disagree with them.

Stand With Phil

Phil Robertson, the star of Duck Dynasty, was recently fired from his job for making disapproving remarks about homosexuality. Robertson's remarks does seem to be a bit heavy handed, but being dismissed from his job for it or having any legal ramifications whatsoever still constitutes religious discrimination.

The militancy of the gay activism is boundless.