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Oh, Conservapedia

October 5, 2009 Leave a comment

How is this not awesome? Conservapedia has a Conservative Bible Project going. Because the people who do the NIV translation are a bunch of feminist liberals. Seriously. So they’re going to translate the KJV into more modern English.

For example, one of their suggestions from Mark is to replace Pharisees with “intellectuals” or “skeptical teachers.” One instance:

Jesus perceived immediately what the intellectual types were thinking, and he asked them, “Why are you so hostile to this?

If one of your goals is to enhance the intellectual force of the Bible, the phrase “intellectual types” isn’t helping.

(for reference, here’s what the NRSV translation is: “At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?”)

This is also an obvious example of the flaws in what they’re doing (flaws? no way!). The fact is that Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees is a conflict with a conservative religious establishment. The Pharisees are representatives of the ruling priests (from what I’ve read, anyway). Jesus’ is rebelling against a religious establishment, which is not a particularly conservative move. Characterizing the representatives of that establishment as “intellectuals,” which undoubtedly conjures up an image of anti-capitalist radicals in academia who want to destroy the very foundation of our country in their minds, is a bit misleading. Jesus is rebelling against tradition and is trying to shake the foundations of the contemporary religious establishment. You can make a better case that he’s analogous to their view of intellectuals. It would be stupid to do so, but less so than the Conservapedia alternative.

That’s not to say that verse is inconsistent with conservatism, just that using it to score conservative points obscures what Mark is describing. The world is too complicated to impose narrow ideological categorization on every event. Conservapedians, can’t handle that.

But we really already knew that, didn’t we?

Categories: Religion, Silliness, The Right

I still have a blog!

September 30, 2009 1 comment

Apparently. Did you know this person at The Corner can’t read her own chart? It’s true. Just look at the giant bar in the middle (2008′s projected budget deficit) and try to square it with “[e]ach year under Obama is worse than any year under Bush.” I’m pretty sure Bush was president last year.

This also invalidates her second point, but less humorously so.

UPDATE: This is what I get for ignoring how easy that was. Dave points out in comments that the graph is mislabeled and 2009 is the big bar in the middle. Of course, you can still point out that FY2009 includes TARP and the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac subsidies, both of which were Bush policies and a substantial portion of the projected increase. Not to mention the general economic deterioration which is difficult to blame on anyone. But that still means I should pay more attention.

Categories: The Right

Random thoughts

September 14, 2009 2 comments

I wonder if replying to emails I get at work with a Snopes link would cause problems.

In other news, you should read this. Of course, I’ve never read any Ayn Rand, so maybe I should shut up. I’ve sort of half meant to read a book of hers, in the same way that I half consider reading a Twilight book: I would feel better about considering them dreck. Alas, I have better things to do.

Categories: Domestic Policy, The Right

Pointless Pre-Labor Day post

September 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Because I’ve been on a sci-fi/fantasy kick all summer and am bored, here’s a meme from Tor.com, via Good Math, Bad Math. The last three genre books purchased.

As it happens, I bought four at once just about a month ago and since I’ve only finished two of them, I’ll mention all four. That evens out to three, right?

  1. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi. I read Old Man’s War earlier this summer and thought it was decent entertainment. Mostly because his blog is so entertaining, I bought this, even though Old Man’s War wasn’t good enough for me to be really excited about a sequel. It’s military SF, standard colonization of space type stuff. Old people can sign up for service with the Colonial Defense Force and get their consciousness transferred to a new body. The CDF also engineers people specifically to be soldiers, using the consciousness of those who didn’t quite make it to the transfer part (hence the name “ghost brigades”). TGB follows one of those soldiers. It’s not as good as Old Man’s War, but it still qualifies as decent entertainment. The universe is explained a little more and some of it is interesting, but the book really drags. I liked the end, though. So it’s a book I’m not enthusiastic about, but it’s a quick, enjoyable read.
  2. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. I love this book. The planet is put inside a sort of cosmic sphere where time is massively slowed down. This leads to all manner of reactions, which are all fascinating. As are the characters. Wilson’s writing is superb and the answers to the mysteries of the “spin” are suitably mind-blowing. I’ve not read anything like this, but my exposure to genre sci-fi is relatively small. It’s easily on the list of my favorite books and makes a strong case for the top spot (it’ll have to fight 1984 for it). There’s apparently a sequel (called Axis), which I’m too scared to read, lest it sully my enjoyment of this book. I’ll get to it eventually.
  3. Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod. Maybe it was because I had just finished Spin, but I only made it through a third of this. There are two main storylines, one of which is a near future that deals with first contact with an alien race and the other a far future that has space travel and castles. The near future one was vaguely interesting, though the name dropping of “legacy” software was grating for some reason (I know exactly what he’s talking about, so it’s not that I don’t understand it). The far future storyline/world was just really unappealing. It was also confusing, mostly because I didn’t care enough to pay attention after a certain point. The writing is decent enough and I suppose if you find the world engaging you’ll like it, but it apparently isn’t for me and I decided to not waste my time on it.
  4. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds. I’m not very far in this one (couple hundred pages), but it’s good so far. It’s more space opera and has an odd structure, with a few storylines that aren’t necessarily happening at the same time. It’s strange, but it’s working well enough. I haven’t really been pulled into it yet, but it’s engaging enough to keep me reading. Unlike Cosmonaut Keep.

Are these books “comfortable” together? Well, given that all but one is space opera, I’d have to say yes. I don’t know why I bought a bunch of space opera, but there you go.

Categories: Culture

Secularism

September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Since most of the time when I link to The Corner, it’s to mock it, I thought I should link to a post approvingly. Amazingly, it’s a post about religion and politics.

I’d quibble with the quote that “secularists ask that individuals with religious reasons pretend to think and act on some other basis.” Secularists ask that individuals don’t advocate for policies with no support other than religious dogma. If they can come up with an argument that demonstrates the benefits or harms of the policy, great. If not, the policy isn’t one we should adopt.

I don’t think that’s really “pretending,” so much as acknowledging that it’s not the job of government to govern the spiritual lives of a society. It’s the logical conclusion of a belief in the separation of church and state. It is absolutely an ideology, but one that is broad enough that it encompasses a wide array of political views (even if conservatives have rejected it in greater numbers than liberals).

Categories: Religion

Some sort of joke?

August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

So Holder is going to appoint a prosecutor to investigate CIA detention abuses. Only those who acted outside the guidelines set by the Yoo and Bybee memos, though.

That largely makes sense. We can’t expect CIA interrogators to be able to spot fraudulent legal arguments, but we can expect them to follow the guidelines given to them. So, okay, I’m on board here.

But low level abuses aren’t the real problem, as everyone knows. The outrage is over the Bush administration’s conduct. It’s about lawyers who made arguments in bad faith to justify unchecked executive power. It’s about administration officials using those arguments to shield themselves from accusations of war crimes.

It’s probably too much to ask the executive branch to check itself. We have a system of checks and balances for a reason. But we have a legislative branch that is made up of people either too stupid to do their job or too corrupt. I suspect there’s a lot of both. The judicial branch is better, but it can only do so much when American citizens rarely have standing to challenge these abuses.

So in conclusion, we’re fucked. But at least we’re going to get major, progressive health care reform. Oh, wait…

Categories: Bush, Civil liberties, Obama

Why didn't I think of that?

August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This is almost as good as rapture bonds.

You’ve committed your life to Jesus. You know you’re saved. But when the Rapture comes what’s to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each
Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you’ve received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.

I wonder how much money they’ve made.

Categories: Religion, Silliness

Everything's gay

August 17, 2009 Leave a comment

So there’s this campaign called Think B4 You Speak, which has the aim of reducing the use of gay, fag, and dyke as insults. Not an easy task as anyone who’s been on in high school or on Xbox Live within the last fifteen years (at least). This popped up on a gaming blog I read, with less than encouraging results.

I have to say, this is very true. This sort of scolding is just not going to work and will probably make things worse. You see defenses of the use of gay as an insult running along the lines of “oh, it’s just another word for stupid in that context, so it’s okay.” Which is almost true, in that people aren’t necessarily consciously anti-homosexual, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s rare, but you occasionally see this same sort of defense with the word nigger. I remember in high school a group of kids arguing that nigger wasn’t a racial slur, it was just another word for asshole. In another instance, someone said that I don’t “know the difference between a nigger and a black person.” That’s slightly different, but it’s an attempt to remove a word from its established context. Given that there’s not much of an argument in the ads, that’s probably the reaction you’re going to get.

I don’t have a solution and I’m sympathetic to the campaign, but it’s not going to work. It’s not biting enough to have an impact. And there’s a real risk of going to far in the direction and making the ads look hysterical. I really wish I had a solution, especially because those insults are a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t.

Categories: General

The kill your grandmother movement

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

I think I’m less surprised by the “death panels” and related nonsense about health care reform. It’s a leap that’s surprisingly easy for them, no matter how insane it is. For example, this was said about me in 2004:

I’m glad I’m old – maybe I’ll get to die naturally before his generation wants to kill me off.

That comment was prompted by my support of John Kerry and abortion rights. I said nothing relating to even euthanasia.

The far Right has been primed to believe the Left is a death cult. Abortion is the classic example with the rhetoric about encouraging a “culture of life.” It stands to reason that those opposing you are participating in a culture of death. Terri Schiavo is a more recent example; the Right went nuts claiming she was alive and Leftists were supporting her murder. Ramesh Ponnuru wrote a book called The Party of Death, for crying out loud.

The fact is that the far Right in this country already has a mental landscape that is perfect for these claims to take root. Existential issues with death, worries about increasing secularism, a deeply held belief that we’re participating in genocide, and the the fervent paranoia that accompanies Democratic presidents all work together to produce this kind of insanity. Honestly, could anything less absurd come of this?

Categories: Religion, The Right

Can you repeat the question?

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Because I’m sort of masochist about these things, I was perusing the Biologos site earlier. Biologos is Francis Collins’, our new head of the NIH, organization. It’s aim is to reconcile science and religion, or at least provide its own perspective on how they interact. It’s pro-evolution, thankfully, but still mostly ridiculous.

For example, here they are talking about the atheist retort “If God created the universe, what created God?”

In many faiths, God’s origin is straightforward. Christian doctrine teaches that God is eternal and thus had no beginning.

Theologians have debated the relationship of God to time for centuries and no doubt will continue to do so. It is a question that we probably cannot answer. In one thoughtful response, God is the creator of time itself, and thus exists outside of time seeing all of history at once. Verses like those above are often used to support this view. On the other hand, this view is often critiqued by Biblical scholars including Clarke Pinnock, John Sanders and Gregory Boyd4, who point out that God is portrayed in scripture as acting in time….God certainly seems to be in time and responding to the unfolding course of events. But of course, given the difficulty our time-limited minds have in grasping this philosophical problem, there is no compelling reason that God could not be both outside of time and capable of acting within it.

This is the sort of silliness that our high-minded theological betters come up with fairly often. Well, it could happen, so what the hell, eh? It is indeed difficult to find compelling reasons against nonsense. How can you have a moral agent that exists outside of time? Thinking, making a decision, and then acting is so bound up in the concept of time that to separate them is to make it incomprehensible. Even if you were to someone how say that an agent could exist outside of time and not make decisions there, to place itself in time is a decision that would require time. Or maybe he’s in both realms simultaneously and this is like trying to prove that love is green.

The next section is pointless meandering (not that I’m criticizing, I’ve done plenty of that on this blog). After that comes this:

Suppose as a religious believer you ask the question, “What kind of a universe is most compatible with my belief in an eternal God?” In this case the response affirms but does not prove the reality of God. The universe that we experience appears to have had a beginning; it appears to be finely tuned for life; it appears to have a place for love and purpose. These appearances affirm as plausible your prior belief in God.

Now suppose you start from the atheist assumption. In this case the universe must not really be as it appears. It cannot have a real beginning, be tuned for life and love, and purpose can’t be anything other than illusory epiphenomena — the curious byproducts of chemistry and physics. The whole picture has a claustrophobic bleakness.

This is cute, but wrong. First, is the universe really the most compatible with belief in a God? It seems to me that for thousands of years human beings though they were a) the center of the universe and b) the direct creation of a higher power. What we currently know is that the Universe is vast and overwhelmingly hostile to human life and that we occupy a suitable niche in some insignificant corner of it. It seems like an awful waste of space, doesn’t it? Furthermore, we are the end result of several billion years of very gradual change. Directed or not, it’s what I’d expect of a god who created us in his image. Compatible? Sure. The fact that there are religious believers shows that. But it wouldn’t be my first pass at the question. Then again, God works in mysterious ways so who’s to say what’s the most compatible?

As for their account of the atheist view, what the fuck? I confess to not understanding the idea that we all have nothing to live for if there’s no purpose to the Universe. It’s like they expect a conversation like this to be the formative experience of our lives:

[Boy|Girl] 1: Wow, I really love that [girl|boy].
[Boy|Girl] 2: You know, your feeling for that [girl|boy] is a mechanism to encourage you to further our species.
[Boy|Girl] 1: You’re right! My feelings for that [girl|boy] have now vanished.

If you’re really stopped from enjoying life by the thought that you aren’t an invisible man’s special snowflake, I think you need to relax a little.

Furthermore, I think an atheist would point out that the assumption that all conceivable universes are possible is not a good one. The parameters of our universe are likely constrained, though how and why are open questions for scientists to answer.

Now, the conclusion!

But we can also state confidently that denials that God is creator are fraught with even more unresolvable difficulties and ultimately provide a far less satisfactory grounding for a worldview in which meaning and purpose play important roles.

Err, okay then. A whole article of muddled confusion and hand wringing about how atheism is bleak and we get a completely unsupported conclusion. Did you expect more?

Categories: Religion
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