Thursday, September 25, 2008

When Attacked, Consider The Source

Here's a link to the "printable" version of a very recent article from the September 29 issue of Newsweek magazine.

In the article, the well-known atheist Sam Harris attacks Sarah Palin, strongly implying that the fact that Palin attended Assemblies of God churches for decades constitutes de facto proof that she is unqualified to be the Vice-President.

Harris admits that millions of Americans share Palin's belief "that the Biblical God consciously directs world events," but he then goes on to imply that none of those Americans are qualified to serve as Vice-President or President, on account of those beliefs. He then describes McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate as "unconscionable".

Of course, the use of the phrase "unconscionable" implies that people do in fact have consciences, and that there is such a thing as objective morality (and, by implication, objective immorality).

It is here where atheists such as Sam Harris flounder big-time. If there is no God, as they claim, then beliefs about right and wrong are merely the results of social conditioning. If there is no God, then morality is infinitely malleable, and subject to changing conditions, such as the popularity (or lack thereof) of particular ideas about appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

If humans alone determine what is right and what is wrong, then it logically follows that majority opinion is invariably correct when it comes to morality. Yet, paradoxically, atheists claim to be objectively right about their belief that there is no God, in spite of the demonstrable fact that they represent a tiny minority of all of the people living in the world. This internal inconsistency might best be described as "cognitive dissonance".

One doesn't need to read the writings of atheists such as Sam Harris for very long before one is struck by the utter arrogance of such people. Fellow atheist Richard Dawkins describes himself and other like-minded unbelievers as "brights," as if there haven't been plenty of devout believers with IQs every bit as high as his own.

Just for the record, my own IQ has been tested at 140. I'm not sure how that compares with the IQs of Harris or Dawkins, but I think that the general consensus is that 140 is a fairly high IQ. But I'm smart enough to know that what I know is miniscule in comparison with what I don't know. And I'm smart enough to believe that the entirety of human knowledge is miniscule in comparison with the knowledge of the One who created the universe and who sustains the life of every single human being, in spite of the fact that some of those human beings forfeit their right to such ongoing sustenance on account of their perpetual defiance of the God who made them.

In my view, the arrogance of atheists such as Harris and Dawkins is caused by a remarkable lack of self-awareness on their part, insofar as their own limitations are concerned. That lack of self-awareness seems to be tied to a lack of awareness of the intrinsic limitations of empiricism, which seems to guide and shape most of their assumptions to a great extent. The idea that there might be realities which cannot be measured or proven with the tools and methods of empiricism seems to be beyond their abilities to conceive.

In 2003, Dinesh D'Souza wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Not So 'Bright'". I think that the article is well worth reading.

The Sam Harris article in Newsweek reeks of snobbery, condescension and anti-Christian bigotry, but that should be no surprise, in light of the things which Harris has written in the past.

I find it particularly interesting that an atheist such as Sam Harris seems to have a strong interest in promoting the election of Barack Obama, in spite of Obama's claim that he's a born-again Christian, and in spite of his many attempts to capture the votes of devoutly religious people by using language calculated to accomplish that purpose.

Yet, I don't really find it surprising that Obama is the candidate preferred by atheists such as Sam Harris. In Obama's view, one's religious convictions ought to be confined to the purely private realm. In Obama's view, such convictions shouldn't influence public policy.

But real life isn't that cut and dried. Most of the greatest political issues of history, including the issues of slavery and civil rights for African-Americans, have had a strong religious component. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of any great social reform movements in America which were led primarily by atheists. As for the social reform movement of atheistic Communism in the Soviet Union, we all know how well that experiment worked out.

To treat religiously devout people such as Sarah Palin as second-class citizens who are undeserving of leadership positions is to ignore the rich tradition of religious faith which has made it possible for people such as Sam Harris to enjoy the liberties they enjoy. In fact, the very concept of human rights in America has always hinged on the assumption that God is the source of all human rights, and that it is that fact which obligates all human beings to respect those rights, since we will be held accountable for how we have treated one another.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Liberals Really Hate (and Fear) Sarah Palin

I often come to the Harold Washington Library in order to use the computers here. During my visits to the library, I often skim through the library's free monthly newsletter.

According to the most recent issue of that newsletter, feminist author Naomi Wolf will be appearing in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium here at the library on September 23 (at 6:00 p.m.) in order to discuss her latest book, which deals with personal and political issues in relation to the meaning of liberty.

During the course of abortion-related research which I've done in the past, Naomi Wolf's name has come up on a number of occasions. She considers herself to be a feminist (and many people concur). She considers herself to be "pro-choice" regarding abortion. But Ms. Wolf has occasionally irritated her fellow feminists by admitting that legal abortion has not necessarily been a great thing for America or for American women and families. She has even admitted that the deceptive rhetoric historically used to defend "abortion rights" has been simplistically oblivious to the realities pertaining to the humanity of unborn children.

(Here's a link, by the way, to a very insightful article which discusses Naomi Wolf's position on the subject of abortion. As for the statements made in the article about Norma McCorvey, the former "Roe" of Roe v. Wade, I'm not in a position to assess the legitimacy of those statements, but I would strongly suggest that people check out Norma's website, and the book promoted on that site. Regardless of where Norma stands on issues pertaining to legislation, it's clear that she is not proud of the role she played in making abortion legal. More significantly, she has repeatedly allied herself in recent years with prominent pro-life activists whose clearly stated goal is to reverse that tragic judicial decision and to make abortion illegal once again.)

How does Naomi Wolf define what it means to be a feminist? Here's one illuminating quote which I found online:

What is a feminist? You are a feminist if you believe:
  • Women matter as much as men do.
  • Women have the right to determine their lives.
  • Women's experiences matter.
  • Women have the right to tell the truth about their experiences.
  • Women deserve more of whatever it is they are not getting enough of because they are women: respect, self-respect, education, safety, health, representation, money.
    -- Naomi Wolf, Fire With Fire

    Notice that there's nothing in Wolf's list which would suggest that one cannot be a feminist unless one approves of legal abortion. In light of her own ambivalence about abortion in relation to morality, that is easy to understand.

    But most of the feminists who dominate the Democratic party, and who are responsible for that party's platform pertaining to the abortion issue, would vehemently disagree with the idea that one can defend the unborn child's right to life without compromising one's belief in the equality of women. For years, liberal feminists have argued that legal abortion was an essential aspect of women's liberation. They have made it clear that they think that it would be impossible for women to be liberated in any other way.

    Now Sarah Palin comes along in 2008 and demonstrates that it's possible to believe in certain aspects of the feminist agenda, and to have a very active political career characterized by high aspirations and the freedom to speak openly and aggressively about one's personal convictions, without buying into the idea that the freedom to murder one's progeny in utero is a prerequisite for "liberation".

    Democrats have already gone to great lengths to try to discredit Ms. Palin, especially after seeing her electrifying performance at the Republican convention. During the next couple of months, it's likely that those attacks will only grow more intense. They will look for any and every excuse to imply that Palin is beneath contempt, and that she is certainly unqualified to serve the nation as the Vice President.

    But don't be misled into thinking that those attacks will ever address the real reason for the Democrats' intense dislike for Sarah Palin. The real reason Sarah Palin drives liberals crazy is that she has achieved more in a short period of time --- in spite of her opposition to something which they consider to be essential to feminism --- than most abortion-promoting feminists (including Hillary Clinton) have managed to achieve.

    In short, she is living proof that one of their cherished arguments in favor of legal abortion is based on false beliefs.

    Sarah Palin is the second woman in history to receive the nomination of a major American political party for the second highest political office in the nation. Yet, she is staunchly opposed to legal abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest.

    Regardless of whether or not you agree with pro-lifers such as Sarah Palin or myself, it should be obvious from her example that being pro-life does not preclude the possibility that a woman can achieve great professional success. Like most of the other arguments associated with the so-called "pro-choice" movement over the years, that argument simply cannot withstand careful scrutiny or analysis.

    Of course, that comes as no surprise to people familiar with the work of the members of an organization known as Feminists For Life. For decades, that group has argued that legalization of abortion actually represents capitulation to the values of a patriarchal society, instead of representing a renegotiation of the social contract in a manner which would insure that women would be treated as full equals without the need to negate or deny an essential aspect of what it means to be a woman. The members of Feminists For Life have gone to great lengths to document the fact that feminism was not always associated with legal abortion. Most of the earliest feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, strongly opposed abortion. (Quote from the preceding Wikipedia article: "In a view different from many modern feminists, Stanton, who supported birth control and likely used it herself, believed that abortion was infanticide, a position she discussed in Revolution.")

    More than a few of the members of Feminists For Life could be described as liberals when it comes to issues other than the abortion issue. But that has not prevented them from being shut out of the Democratic party on account of their views. In spite of its ceaseless rhetoric about so-called "tolerance," most Democrats have been extremely intolerant of those who dared to challenge the party's predominant views regarding the alleged necessity of legal abortion.

    What a shame. I firmly believe that women should be treated as equals. I also believe that unborn children have human rights which are in no way inferior to the rights enjoyed by men or by women. Promoting women's rights and promoting the right to life for unborn children are complementary goals. Those goals are by no means mutually exclusive.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    Online Forums and Bulletin Boards for Christian Organizations

    phpBB is an open source (free) option for creating online forums (a/k/a "bulletin boards") for churches and for Christian organizations. One company which uses that particular solution for its online forum is Graphic Chemical and Ink (

    Bristol Palin's Pregnancy

    Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has me on his organization's mailing list. I'm glad that I'm on that list, because his newsletter keeps me informed with regard to the many important issues facing our nation, from a perspective informed both by biblical morality and common sense (or what used to be regarded as common sense, at any rate).

    Recently, Democrats have repeatedly attacked Bristol Palin's mother, Sarah, on account of recent revelations concerning Bristol's pregnancy. They have speciously insinuated that Bristol's pregnancy is evidence that Sarah would be a poor Vice President.

    I found Tony Perkins' comment about Bristol Palin's pregnancy to be enlightened and appropriate. He said, "While marrying at an early age or single parenthood is not an optimal family structure, discarding life simply because it is the convenient thing to do ... only encourages a culture where all life is seen as disposable."

    Yes, of course, it would have been better if Bristol Palin had exercised better self-control and abstained from sex until marriage. No politically conservative Christian in his or her right mind would disagree. But Bristol's lack of self-control is not her mother's fault, nor (contrary to the insinuations recently made by many liberals) is it an indication that abstinence-only programs "don't work".

    No matter how conscientious parents might be, there is no foolproof way of guaranteeing that children will make wise choices. To blame Sarah for Bristol's sexual sin is therefore ludicrous.

    As for the idea that the only valid response to a problem is a response which has a 100% success rate, I would simply point out that no such response exists when it comes to the issue of teenage pregnancy. But that doesn't mean that some responses aren't better than others.

    Saying that Bristol's pregnancy proves that abstinence-only programs are ineffective is comparable to saying that alcohol rehabilitation programs are a waste of time because they don't always work, or that education is a waste of time because some kids still drop out of school, or that the criminal justice system is a waste of time because some people continue to commit crimes. Such claims are evidence of mind-boggling stupidity.

    Even the best education and prevention programs have failure rates, because people still have free will, and they can ignore the good advice which is presented to them. It's absurd for liberals to imply that we should therefore just give up on the idea that we can substantially reduce teen pregnancies by teaching good values to our children.

    The same fatalistic, defeatist assumptions can be found in other hare-brained liberal schemes, such as their plans to distribute condoms to high school students or their plans to give clean needles to junkies.

    To hear their rhetoric with regard to issues pertaining to personal morality, one would have to conclude that liberals think that people are lemmings. We are not. (Well, at least I'm not!) People are not animals; or, at least, people are not mere animals. We are not irrevocably bound by instincts we do not understand and cannot control. We have free will. If that were not the case, then any type of criminal justice system would be intrinsically unjust. But it's legitimate to hold people accountable for their actions.

    Most liberals understand intuitively that that's the case. Otherwise, how can one explain the myriad regulations which they would impose on business owners? Very few liberals are anarchists. They may disagree with conservatives about what aspects of behavior should and shouldn't be regulated, but most of them agree that it's legitimate to hold people accountable for their actions.

    Yes, it's true that our choices are influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, family upbringing, economics, political structures and so on and so forth. But none of those things are capable of depriving us of the ability to choose, nor are they sufficient for the purpose of excusing us for making bad choices.

    Abstinence-only programs which teach proper, non-dysfunctional behavior are the right solution, even though they are not guaranteed to "work" 100% of the time, because the alternative is to just throw in the towel and give up. When we do that, we forfeit the right to complain when things predictably start going down the toilet.

    We are never guaranteed success when we do our best to minimize societal problems by encouraging people to do the right thing, but we must do our best nevertheless.

    Sarah Palin undoubtedly wishes that Bristol had made better choices in life with regard to her sexual activities. Nevertheless, like me and like millions of other Americans, Sarah Palin is a principled person who knows that the unborn child currently residing in her daughter's womb is not to blame for Bristol's choices. Sarah knows that Bristol's unborn child has divinely endowed fundamental rights equal to the rights with which all other human beings are endowed.

    To see the "unwanted" unborn child as a "punishment" (as Barack Obama does) and to punish the unborn child for the sins of his or her mother by sending Bristol to the local abortion clinic would only make things much worse than they already are. It would be unjust from the standpoint of the unborn child's right to life, and it would be unfair to Bristol as well, because it would only encourage her to continue to make irresponsible choices in the future.

    In short, I am extremely glad that John McCain chose a running mate with the wisdom of Sarah Palin. I hope that voters will exhibit comparable wisdom when they visit the polls on election day.

    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    A Letter to Mary Mitchell

    A while back, a well-known columnist for the Chicago Tribune responded to Barack Obama's call for more "dialogue" about race by setting up her own online forum specifically for that purpose.

    I'm so glad that someone actually believes that we should have dialogue about this subject, as opposed to the monologue we've mostly been hearing from the black community for years. And I'm happy to oblige by adding my two cents to the discussion. (Notice that I said "my two cents," not "my two cent".)

    For example, here's a letter I recently sent to Mary Mitchell in response to the commentary she wrote and published in yesterday's issue (9/5/2008) of the Chicago Sun-Times:


    Dear Mary,

    Your column in the Sun-Times yesterday says less about Sarah Palin than it says about the massive chip on your shoulder. She praises small-town Americans (without even mentioning race), and you take that as an example of racism, saying that it "reinforces divisions among black and white voters". Talk about paranoid. You and Jeremiah Wright must have a close bond with one another.

    Hey, Mary, you know what reinforces divisions among black and white voters? Black folks who cannot speak three sentences without using the word "motherfucker" at least two or three times. Believe it or not, most folks don't talk that way in predominantly white small towns, and such profane talk is extremely offensive to people who live in such areas or who grew up in such areas.

    (Admittedly, there are exceptions to the idea that white folks from small towns don't talk that way, just as there are exceptions to the idea that all black folks constantly use profanity. But the generalization is nevertheless valid, if my personal experiences during the sixteen years I've lived in Chicago are any indication.)

    The inability of many black folks to speak without mangling the English language tends to reinforce racial divisions, too. I wish I had a dollar for every time an African-American in Chicago had used a singular noun (e.g., "75 cent") where a plural noun was appropriate, or vice versa. And that's hardly the only example I could cite. I once compiled a list of all of the grammatically stupid things I'd heard from black folks since moving to Chicago from Springfield, MO in 1992. It was a very long list.

    The problem is not lack of funding for education, notwithstanding Rev. James Meeks' claims to the contrary. The problem is that there are many African-American neighborhoods in which education and educated people are held in derision. Why would people want to add more funding to schools in such neighborhoods, when there's good reason to believe that the problem has nothing to do with lack of money? The phrase "throwing good money after bad" (defined on one website as "to spend more money on something that has already failed") comes to mind.

    Now, you might say that it's racist of me to suggest that black folks ought to learn to talk like other Americans talk and to use proper English grammar, not "Ebonics". Personally, I think that double standards based on race are inherently racist, inasmuch as they're discriminatory. Holding black folks to the same standards which apply to everyone else is not racist. It's the antidote to racism. As long as black folks insist on talking in ways which emphasize their "blackness" (i.e., their differences from other Americans), they shouldn't be surprised when their differences are noticed, and occasionally commented on, by people who don't act or talk that way. They may not have a choice about their skin color, but they do have a choice about how they talk and act. Therefore, when they are ostracized from the larger community because they insist on acting and talking in ways which are inherently divisive, they have no one to blame but themselves when their behavior leads to disenfranchisement from mainstream society.

    Barack Obama's grammar isn't perfect, but it's far better than what I've heard from the majority of blacks in Chicago. I guarantee you that he wouldn't be where he is today if he had insisted on using "Ebonics" constantly, or if he used profanity in public the way that a lot of black folks do. Nor, for that matter, would you be a Sun-Times columnist if you wrote articles using such language.

    Racial double standards abound in the black community. Imagine the outcry if a white man had said, as Jesse Jackson said, that he wanted to cut Barack Obama's nuts off! He'd be accused of being a closet member of the KKK. But no one leveled similar accusations at Jesse Jackson, because he's ostensibly a highly admired leader in the black community --- in spite of his other hypocritical acts, such as committing adultery even though he's allegedly a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    If you think that it's "downright mean" to speak the plain unvarnished truth, then I guess that you're right when you say that Sarah Palin is mean, and you undoubtedly think that I'm "mean" as well. Tough. The truth sometimes hurts, but that's no reason to refrain from speaking truthfully.

    Take the chip off your shoulder, Mary. Chicago and America will benefit greatly when you do.

    Mark W. Pettigrew
    30 W. Chicago Avenue, Room 1212
    Chicago, IL 60654

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    A Man With Awfully Grammar

    Today's issue of RedEye (published by the Chicago Tribune) featured an Associated Press article (page 13) quoting Barack Obama as follows:

    You're hearing an awfully lot about me --- most of which is not true --- but you're not hearing a lot about you.
    I don't blame Barack Obama for wanting voters to focus on themselves rather than focusing on him. If they focused on him, they might ask themselves how it was that a Harvard graduate didn't know the difference between an adverb (awfully) and an adjective (awful).

    Of course, it's no mystery to anyone who's spent much time among the African Americans living in Chicago, as I have. There are exceptions, fortunately, but far too many blacks in this city seem to be incapable of speaking without repeatedly mangling the English language. That is not a racist statement, it is simply an observation of a demonstrable fact.

    Example: I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time a black cashier at Walgreens said something like, "Here be yo' change. It be fifty cent."

    Apparently no one ever explained to them that plural nouns usually have the letter "s" at the end of them, or the letters "es" at the end of them in some cases. There are exceptions, such as the words "sheep" or "fish", but the plural version of the word "cent" is not one of those exceptions. Notwithstanding the fact that there's a hip hop musician who calls himself "50 Cent", the only number which should ever precede the singular noun "cent" is the singular number "one".

    There are obviously other grammatical errors in the preceding quote; specifically, the use of the word "be" where the word "is" would be the correct word. (Either the folks who talk that way like to think of themselves as pirates, or else that particular use of the word "be" is the lingering residue of the popularity of Rastafarian culture during the 1980's.)

    Now, no one's perfect when it comes to grammar (including myself), although some come a lot closer to perfection than others. George W. Bush has been criticized repeatedly (as was Dan Quayle before him) for his linguistic errors.

    My point is not that Barack Obama is inherently unintelligent or unqualified solely on account of his linguistic imperfections. My point is that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Throughout the Bush administration, diehard liberals delighted in making fun of Bush and making it sound as if he was stupid, on account of the occasional verbal mistakes he committed. In my view, therefore, turnabout is fair play.

    But don't vote against Obama because of his linguistic slip-ups. Vote against him for a legitimate reason --- such as the fact that he is the first presidential candidate in history who was so spineless and morally clueless that he refused to endorse a law which would have specifically prohibited infanticide.

    A Poem For Election Day

    Something's stinkin' in the Land of Lincoln.
    If you vote for B.O., you're really not thinkin'.
    If you have a brain, you'll vote for McCain.
    A vote for Obama is surely insane.

    Unless of course, you approve of infanticide,
    or if you think that the right to life should be denied.
    If killing little babies is part of your plan,
    then vote for Obama. He's your man.

    Great poetry? No. But true nevertheless.


    NOTE: To download additional Christ-centered poems I've written (stored online in the form of PDF files which can be downloaded from a public SkyDrive folder), visit this link, then select the poem in which you have an interest, and then click the Download button.

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Morons In The News

    Yesterday's issue of the Chicago Sun-Times seemed as if most of it was written by propagandists for the Obama campaign.

    For instance, there was the fascinating blurb which quoted "P Diddy", whose opposition to Sarah Palin seemed to be based solely on the fact that she was from Alaska. (He repeated the word "Alaska" four times, just to make sure that everyone understood him clearly.) Diddy argued that people from Alaska were unqualified to serve as Vice President because of the scarcity of black folks in that state. Diddy also took issue with Alaska because "there aren't even any crackheads in Alaska". Personally, I would have thought that that would be a strong selling point in favor of Alaska. But Diddy apparently thinks we'd be better off with a VP hailing from some place like Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, known for its problems with drugs, gangs, drive-by shootings and kids who feel fortunate to make it past their tenth birthdays.

    P Diddy, by the way, used to be known as Puff Daddy. The next time he decides to change his nickname once again, I'd suggest that he seriously consider going with Piss Doody.

    Then there was an article, on the next page of the Sun-Times, by TV news anchor Carol Marin (or, as I like to think of her, Marin the Moron). She essentially argued that the "production values" seen during TV coverage of the Republican convention had been below par in comparison with the stellar production values seen earlier in Denver at the Democratic convention. Well, that's hardly surprising. Obama has about 90% of the people in Hollywood in his pocket.

    PT Barnum has been quoted as saying that "there's a sucker born every minute". He was a man known for putting on a great show. Abraham Lincoln, relatively speaking, was not. But I'm glad that it was Lincoln, not Barnum, who was elected to serve as President.

    Barnum isn't alive, of course, but there are plenty of Barnum-like characters running around today, like Cher, or like Madonna (who infamously mocked Christ by having herself "crucified" on stage, and who later had the audacity to compare George W. Bush to Adolph Hitler). Perhaps Carol Marin would prefer that we elect Cher or Madonna to the presidency.

    Maybe Ms. Marin should worry less about production values and more about moral values. Or is that asking too much?

    Incidentally, I realize that some folks consider the use of the word "morons" to be offensive. But actually, I would never use the word to describe anyone who was genuinely retarded, because such people can't help the fact that they lack intelligence.

    The problem with people like P Diddy and Carol Marin isn't that they were shortchanged at birth, in terms of intelligence. The problem is that they refuse to use the brains God gave to them. They say the first things that come to their heads, rather than taking the time to think about the implications of what they're about to say or write.