Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just Say Yes to Proposition 8

Years ago, when prominent evangelical Christians warned that there were those who wanted to make it legal for homosexuals to marry one another, I honestly thought that they must be joking. Surely no one would be that stupid, I reasoned. But I was wrong.

Recently, in California, a public school took its first grade students on an "educational" field trip, where the little ones attended their first lesbian wedding. Or perhaps I should call it an indoctrinational field trip, since it's clear that that was the purpose of the outing.

Proposition 8 is an attempt, on the part of Californians who dislike the idea that California might become the Sodom and Gomorrah of the 21st century, to reclaim the traditional definition of marriage. I wish that I lived in California, just so that I'd have the opportunity to vote for that proposition.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Philosophical Foundations of Modern Science

It is ironic that modern science is so often seen as an enemy of faith. In the early days of modern science, many of the most influential scientists were motivated to pursue their interest in the sciences by theological considerations, and often by their own deep personal faith in God.

For example, I was recently reading a book, edited by Kathleen Stewart Howe, entitled Intersections. The book, which features articles by a number of different contributors, pertains to the relationship between photography and lithography in the early days of the 19th century, when both methods of producing images were extremely new.

In an article by Douglas R. Nickel, pertaining to William Henry Fox Talbot, it discusses the scientific method which enabled Talbot to essentially invent the form of photography which enabled people to create multiple prints from their original negatives:
The cornerstone of this approach was a belief in the interconnectedness of all matter: nature was understood as a book --- the book of God's universal and perfect design --- and the natural sciences were essentially reading tools, whose ultimate purpose was to detect and describe the divine organizational principles coded into all natural phenomena.
I find it particularly interesting that such truths are contained even in publications which are not in any way designed to promote religious belief.

While some would argue that Talbot was "merely" an inventor, he was hardly the only scientist to embrace theistic assumptions. Consider, for example, the following quote from an online article about Sir Isaac Newton:
A humble and reclusive figure, Isaac Newton was a Christian who studied the Bible daily and believed that God created everything, including the Bible. He believed that the Bible was true in every respect. Throughout his life he continually tested biblical truth against the physical truths of experimental and theoretical science and never observed a contradiction, according to his many biographers. Newton's writings reflected his belief that his scientific work was a method by which to reinforce belief in biblical truth.
It is sad that men such as Richard Dawkins waste their time trying to pit science against Christianity, and indeed, against all forms of religious belief. It is only by appreciating the nature of God that one can fully appreciate the universe which God has created.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The "Potential Life" Fallacy

Often, when talking with people who identify themselves as "pro-choice," they'll state that unborn children represent "potential life," but they'll argue that the value of those "potential lives" is outweighed by the health and happiness of the mother.

Pro-life people have correctly responded to such statements by saying that unborn children are not "potential lives". They are "lives with great potential".

If I were to describe John McCain as a "potential president," or to describe Barack Obama that way, that would make sense, because there is a reasonable possibility that either one of those men might become President (provided that claims that Obama isn't a native-born citizen of the United States prove to be unfounded), but neither one of those men has won the election yet, so neither one is currently the President.

If I described a person who wasn't born in the United States as a "potential president," it would clearly be a false claim, at least insofar as our current laws are concerned, because foreign-born people are ineligible to serve as President. Therefore they are not potential presidents, and they never will be unless our laws are changed.

Conversely, it would be stupid to say that George W. Bush was a potential President. He was a potential president prior to being elected. When he was elected, he stopped being a "potential president" and became our President (notwithstanding wishful thinking on the part of the Democrats to the contrary). During his first term, he was technically both a "potential president" and a "president", inasmuch as he had the potential to be re-elected, and he was also the President at the time. But no one in his right mind would have described him as a "potential president" at that time, because the most important aspect of his identity was not what he might later become, but what he already was.

It's difficult to know what to make of liberal claims to the effect that unborn children represent "potential life". If they aren't biologically alive, the likelihood that they will ever become biologically alive is scientifically nil. (Biological life does not spring forth from inanimate matter or from biological death, unless one is talking about miraculous events such as the creation of the first man from dust or the resurrection of Christ.) On the other hand, if unborn children are biologically alive, then why not just say so? Intellectually speaking, the description of unborn children as "potential lives" is incoherent --- unless one defines human life in a manner which has little or nothing to do with biology.

The real issue here is that liberals have managed to invent a value system in which being biologically alive and being undeniably human in terms of one's genetic structure are both considered insufficient for the purpose of procuring the legal right to life. Instead, such people have added a host of additional arbitrary criteria (pertaining to such things as communicative abilities, cognitive abilities, social relationships and so forth), without which biologically alive entities who are indisputably human beings in the genetic sense are merely considered to be "potential lives" for legal purposes.

By calling the unborn child "potential life," people who favor legal abortion deliberately seek to diminish our awareness and appreciation of the value of the unborn child, and to imply that we should accept a prorated value system in which some people who are indisputably human and indisputably biologically alive are considered to be less valuable than others fitting that description.

This, of course, makes a mockery of the Declaration of Independence, which says that all people (or "men," in the parlance of the day) are "created" (not born) equal.

People are not "created" at birth. They are created at the moment when they are first conceived. That's a biological fact, not a matter of philosophy or religious dogma.

Attempts to obfuscate the issue by talking about how unborn children are not fully developed ignore the demonstrable fact that human development is a continual process which does not by any means end at birth. If indeed being "fully developed" is the prerequisite for the legal right to life, then none of us is safe from the destructive impulses of the would-be murderer.

The trouble with most attempts to justify legal abortion is that they rely, in large part, on the willingness of the American public to accept simplistically deceptive marketing slogans without giving much thought to what those slogans really mean and imply. Just as the word "choice" has been used as a euphemism in order to cause people to overlook the demonstrable fact that there are cases in which it is legitimate and necessary to restrict choice in order to protect the rights of others, so also the phrase "potential life" has been used in order to pull the wool over people's eyes and cause them to support policies which are in direct contradiction of the values upon which our nation was founded.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm No Poll Cat

Often, when one attempts to have a serious discussion about the abortion issue, people who favor the "pro-choice" point of view will argue that opinion polls continue to show what they've always shown: That most Americans favor legalized abortion.

I personally find that claim to be highly suspect. And even if the claim is valid, I question the premise that people in the majority are always right. That's why I like to say that I'm no "poll cat". (A "polecat," for those unfamiliar with the term, is a skunk. And the people I like to call "poll cats" stink every bit as much, metaphorically speaking, in my opinion.)

I have therefore compiled a list of questions to ask when reporters or commentators cite opinion polls allegedly showing that the majority of voters support legalized abortion:

  1. Was the source of the polls disclosed? Did the news organization disclose any possible vested interest the pollsters might have in the results? (Example: Polls on abortion conducted or funded by the Alan Guttmacher Institute lack credibility, because that group has a clearly defined agenda regarding abortion, on account of its well-known connection with Planned Parenthood.)
  2. Was the poll truly a random sampling of Americans, or was it restricted to a particular demographic group (such as the readers of The New York Times or Ms. magazine) known to favor liberal politics and the pro-abortion view?
  3. Have the results of all polls on the subject been released to the public? Or have polling organizations chosen to publish poll results only when those results favor their agendas? How many times did they have to conduct their poll before they finally got the results which were released to the public? (There's no law requiring that polling organizations publish the results of every poll the organization conducts. That fact alone makes all poll results suspect. If Pepsi-Cola ever conducted the "Pepsi Challenge" and found that the people they were polling preferred Coca-Cola, do you honestly think they'd feature the results of that poll in a national TV ad? Of course not. The poll results would be immediately buried and quickly forgotten.)
  4. Of the people who were polled, how many are active in politics? How many of the people polled are politically irrelevant for the simple reason that they usually choose not to vote?
  5. Are people who favor one point of view less likely or more likely than people who favor another point of view to agree to participate in opinion polls, or to be available during the hours when the pollsters typically do their work? How might that conceivably skew the poll results?
  6. What is the "margin of error" for the poll which was cited? How often does the reporter even bother to explain that all polls have a margin of error --- one which, in some cases, can make the difference between making a position the "majority view" or the "minority view," especially in situations where the country is more or less evenly divided on the subject?
  7. How many people were polled? Was the sample large enough to get a good idea of the views of the nation? More to the point, could any random sample be so large as to negate the need to give every single American the opportunity to have a direct voice in the issue? Should we abolish our current system of electing leaders in favor of a system which elects such leaders via random opinion polls? If not, why not? What does your answer to the preceding questions say about the validity and reliability of opinion polls?
  8. When a newscaster says something like, "Polls continue to show that the majority of Americans favor legalized abortion," or "The latest polls show that the majority of Americans favor legalized abortion," implying that such a poll was taken very recently, ask just how recently the most recent poll on that subject was taken. Just because a poll is the most recent one doesn't mean it was taking within the past year, or even within the past decade! If it's been many years since the last poll was conducted on a given subject, then the polls will "continue to show" what they've always shown, just because there are no new polls to contradict them. But that doesn't mean that the last poll on the subject continues to reflect current opinion on that subject.
  9. Ask why news reporters almost never report the actual wording of the questions asked in the poll, or the sequence in which they were asked. It's been proved that the phrasing of poll questions, and the sequence in which they're asked, can produce results which disproportionately favor the biases and agendas of the people asking the questions.
  10. When it's reported that a "majority" of the American people favors legal abortion or some other position, remember that even 51% constitutes a majority, and that 49% of the population is still a huge number of people! When subjective terms such as "overwhelming majority" are used, ask if the reporter's definition of "overwhelming majority" might be influenced by his or her biases on that issue.
  11. If Americans overwhelmingly favor legal abortion, ask why it is that they've voted for outspoken pro-life candidates in the majority of the national elections held during the years since the issue has become a major factor in such elections. The Democrats have only won the Presidential election three times since 1973 (Carter once, and Clinton twice), versus five elections which were won by Republican candidates, all of whom proclaimed their pro-life convictions in a manner which was very clear to the American voters. (Reagan in particular was outspoken in his opposition to abortion, even writing a book on that subject.) Even if Barack Obama wins in 2008, it will still be the case that Republicans have won the presidential election more often than the Democrats have won that election.
  12. If legal abortion is really as popular as liberal Democrats claim that it is, ask why such people are so afraid to put the matter to a popular vote by reversing Roe v. Wade and allowing the voters in each state to decide the matter with a referendum. What do they have to lose?
  13. Ask if it necessarily follows, even if the polls are correct, that the most popular position is invariably the correct position. Ask if there might not be cases in which the majority is clearly wrong. (There's a well-known logical fallacy known as "argumentum ad populum". In my opinion, political liberals, and particularly "pro-choice" people, are frequently guilty of committing that fallacy. That's rather ironic, in light of the fact that such people often use phrases such as "the tyranny of the majority" in order to argue that it's perfectly permissible for the Supreme Court to override the clearly expressed will of the majority of the people, even in cases where the Constitution is virtually silent about the issues which the Supreme Court is addressing.)
  14. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, ask if the constant repetition of the so-called facts pertaining to the popularity of legal abortion is really motivated by an innocent desire to educate and inform, or by an improper desire to persuade and influence people by intimidating those who would otherwise oppose abortion into refraining from doing so by implying that they will be defying popular opinion if they take a principled stand in favor of the sanctity of human life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Barack Obama: The Gangbanger's Choice

On page 40 of the October 6 issue of Newsweek, there's an article about how the black community is pinning its hopes on a win by presidential candidate Barack Obama. In that article, they quote the renowned political analyst known as Snoop Dogg:
"People that I know that have never cared about politics are registering to vote this time: gang members, ex-cons, you name it. I hate to see a lot of that hope go down the drain, and if he loses, it will."
Personally, it seems to me that the only way to offer real hope to gang members and ex-cons, such as the ones who apparently comprise a significant portion of Snoop's best friends, is to lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ. But there seem to be a lot of folks these days who can't quite grasp the idea that Barack Obama isn't the Messiah, so perhaps that's just splitting hairs.

You had to love the part of the article which quoted a person named Daetwon Fisher, who said, "I know there is already talk about protests and stuff if he (Barack) loses, and I'm down for that."

So it isn't just gangbangers and other criminals who are longing for Barack Obama to win. There are also a lot of chronic whiners and sore losers who are so paranoid that they cannot conceive of a situation where John McCain might win the election fair and square. The election hasn't even been held yet (with the exception of places which allow early voting), and the final votes haven't been tallied in any of the voting precincts, so there's obviously no objective basis for making accusations about stolen elections. Nevertheless, these folks are assuming that if Obama loses, it will mean that the election was "stolen" (to use the phrase which became popular during the last two presidential elections). You can't reason with people like that, because their prejudices stand in the way of anything resembling sound judgment.

They're almost as irrational as another African-American icon, P Diddy, who stated that Sarah Palin was obviously unqualified to serve as Vice-President because she was from Alaska!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Abortion and the "Right to Privacy"

On Wednesday night, I attended an event held by Illinois Young Republicans for McCain. They all gathered together in a bar just southeast of DePaul University. I rarely go to bars, unless there's a particularly good band I want to hear (and I haven't done that in quite a few years). On the rare occasions when I do go to a bar, I order non-alcoholic drinks (which are almost invariably overpriced at such places). On Wednesday night, I had a glass of cola, which cost $2. The fellow Republicans I invited to join me at my table were also kind enough to share a few small pieces of their pizza with me.

Like most of the folks there that night, I was really there to watch the third presidential debate, not to eat or drink. There were a lot of big screen TV sets positioned around the bar, and there was a good sound system, so there wasn't a bad seat in the house.

Regarding the debate, I was particularly interested in whether or not the candidates and the moderator would address issues pertaining to the right to life. John McCain didn't disappoint me, inasmuch as he addressed those issues directly, although he wasn't as eloquent when discussing those issues as I might have preferred.

I later visited a web page and obtained the entire transcript for the debate in order to review the transcript for myself. I suspected that I was going to want to quote from it in one or more of my blog posts.

Here's the part of the transcript which I want to discuss in this blog post. It's a quote from Barack Obama:
I am somebody who believes that Roe versus Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.

But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision. And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn't be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote.

There are a number of aspects of that brief quote which could and should be addressed. Let's start with the idea that abortion is "a moral issue" on which "good people on both sides" can disagree.

Describing abortion as a moral issue is certainly accurate, on one level, but it can also be misleading, because such a description lends itself to claims by liberals such as Obama that pro-life people are trying to "force their morality" onto others who don't share their beliefs. The trouble with that simplistic characterization is that there are times when morality and public policies do, and should, intersect. In fact, many of the policies which liberal politicians and their allies seek to impose on the general populace stem directly from those folks' views pertaining to morality. They are not at all averse to imposing their moral views on others when it suits their purposes to do so, so it's hypocritical for them to criticize religious conservatives for doing the same thing.

The slavery issue which dominated the 19th century was a profoundly moral issue. But it was not a sectarian issue, or even an exclusively Christian issue. It was no accident that the most ardent opponents of slavery were zealous religious believers, but one didn't need to be a believer in God or Christ in order to perceive that slavery contradicted the fundamental premises on which the nation had been founded. One merely needed to be a person who believed that our nation ought to enact and enforce policies and laws which were consistent with those premises.

Unlike Barack Obama, I believe that the abortion issue falls into that same category. Again, I believe that it's no accident that strong believers in Christ are disproportionately likely to favor the pro-life point of view. But I don't think that one needs to be a Christian in order to see that abortion constitutes the taking of a human life, or to see that we have a moral and ethical obligation to protect all human beings from those who would seek to deprive them of life for reasons unrelated to self-protection or the need to uphold the principles of reciprocity and justice. In a previous blog post, I talked about how Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist who once identified himself as an atheistic Jew, had been persuaded to reverse his position on that subject after being confronted with the scientific evidence in favor of the view that unborn children were human beings, not the "blobs of tissue" they'd been called by people in favor of legal abortion.

Do "good" people disagree on the abortion issue, as Barack Obama believes? That depends on how one defines the term "good," now doesn't it! I personally think it is disingenuous to describe anyone as "good" when he or she defends a practice which has already taken the lives of tens of millions of innocent human beings.

(Of course, the Bible also makes it clear that no one is "good" or "righteous," in the sense that God defines those terms, apart from the saving grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. But that's another topic. I understand that it would be political suicide for a politician to come right out and state that Christians or Old Testament saints who preceded Christ are the only people who could be legitimately described as good, even though that is what the scriptures teach and what millions of Christians believe.)

In any event, let's move on to the argument Obama makes in the second paragraph quoted above. He argues, essentially, that the "right to privacy" cited by the Supreme Court is comparable to the rights enumerated in the First Amendment. This, of course, is nonsense.

The "right to privacy" is found nowhere in the Constitution or any of its many amendments. When Roe v. Wade was written, the assertion that such a right existed was derived from a fairly recent previous case known as Griswold v. The State of Connecticut. Griswold was the first time in the history of American jurisprudence that such a right had been claimed to exist. In order to make that claim, they had to use the obscure term "penumbra" in order to describe that alleged right. A lot of people couldn't define that term if their lives depended on it. What does it mean? Here's how the American Heritage dictionary defines the term "penumbra" in relation to jurisprudence:

An area in which something exists to a lesser or uncertain degree: "The First Amendment has a penumbra where privacy is protected from governmental intrusion" (Joseph A. Califano, Jr.)
Even if there is a Constitutional right to privacy at all (and the fact that a "penumbra" is defined with the phrase "uncertain degree" makes it clear that that's a questionable contention), it should be clear that it exists to a "lesser" degree than the rights which are explicitly described and listed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In other words, Barack Obama's claim that our First Amendment rights are comparable to the "right to privacy" is proof of his ignorance of the meaning of the term which was originally used by the Supreme Court to support the argument that a constitutional right to privacy existed. In Griswold, the court freely admitted that a general "right to privacy" could not be found in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, but it was argued that the "right to privacy" was based on "emanations" from those documents.

When the Supreme Court decided that a "right to privacy" existed during the course of the Roe v Wade trial, it based that conclusion on a different argument; namely, that the "right to privacy" was located in the "due process" clause of the Constitution.

In my opinion, the tortured logic which was used in order to arrive at such a conclusion did not in any way support the contention that the right to due process ought to have any bearing on whether or not a woman could kill her unborn child.

The idea that taking an unborn child's life deprives the unborn child of due process seems to have eluded the minds of the justices who voted in favor of legal abortion on that fateful day in 1973. In the years subsequent to Roe v Wade, it has been admitted by a number of people who believe that abortion should remain legal that the argumentation used by Harry Blackmun when he wrote the majority opinion in Roe was shoddy at best. But Barack Obama doesn't think so. He thinks that Roe v Wade was "rightly decided". His view of the Constitution is that it's a "living" document, which basically means that he thinks that activist judges should be able to impose their own personal agendas on the Constitution, and that they should be free to interpret the Constitution in whatever way is most expedient in terms of achieving the social results they deem desirable.

One of the ironies about the effect of Griswold and Roe is that both decisions were based primarily on a belief in a right to privacy. Yet, the social consequence of those decisions has been that sex has never been less private than it is today. Who would have imagined, prior to those fateful decisions, that people living in 2008 would be able to go to a public library, open their e-mail or visit a publicly accessible website, and view explicit videos of total strangers having sex with one another (or even, in some particularly revolting cases, with animals), in full view of anyone else who happens to be walking by at the time?

In Griswold, the reason cited for the need for a right to privacy was that they didn't want to allow the police to search "the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms". That's rather ironic, since the term "sacred" has strong religious connotations --- yet, the people which have cited Griswold in defense of the "right to privacy" are the people most likely to argue that nothing is truly sacred (or to argue, at the bare minimum, that people's religious convictions have no place in the public square), and to act as if that's the case.

Even if one believes that there is a constitutional right to privacy, it still doesn't follow that the right to privacy is a supreme right to which all other rights --- including the fundamental right to be protected from murder --- ought to be subordinate.

If a man wants to force his child to commit incest in the privacy of that family's home, the fact that the deed took place behind closed doors will not, and should not, protect that man from prosecution for having committed a heinous crime. One could cite numerous other examples to demonstrate that there legitimate legal limits to the alleged right to privacy, just as there are legitimate legal limits to the Constitutional right to free speech (as indicated by our laws which forbid libel).

The primary issue, then, is not whether or not there's a constitutional "right to privacy"; rather, the issue is whether or not the existence of such a right can legitimately be used to justify a public policy of looking the other way while millions of innocent human beings are killed in the name of deceptive euphemisms such as "choice" and "reproductive freedom".

Regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court was correct in arguing that there was a constitutional right to privacy, I believe that such a right, if it exists, ought to be subordinate to the unborn child's right to life, since the right to life is the most fundamental right of all, without which all other human rights lose all meaning.

From what I've seen, John McCain agrees, as does his running mate, Sarah Palin. That's why they will be getting my vote.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Sad Sign of The Times

Here's a link to an article which gives detailed information about a current proposal to create a public school, in Chicago, specifically for "LGBT" students.

Some conservative parents might be inclined to approve of such a project, in spite of the fact that it seems to put a stamp of public approval on the dubious idea that sexual perverts deserve special recognition and special funding. After all, the end result of the project will be that fewer straight students will be regularly confronted by confused kids who don't think that God knew what he was doing when he gave them the genitalia with which they were endowed at birth.

If indeed such a school is approved by the Chicago School Board, then it seems to me that Chicago ought to also have a publicly funded school specifically for born-again Christians who refuse to be intimidated into accepting politically correct (but biblically incorrect) notions of right and wrong. After all, if indeed the purpose of such special schools is to create safe havens for minority groups so that they can be free to live in accordance with their own personal beliefs, then why limit the principle to LBGT students?

Based on personal experiences I had during high school, I can attest to the fact that Christian students are sometimes subjected to harassment from their fellow students. I particularly remember one skinny little guy who spat on me (on one particularly memorable occasion), and who told me, on a frequent basis, to eat feces and kiss his derriere, for no apparent reason other than the fact that he disliked outspoken Christians such as myself.

Now, some people might argue that such conflicts are unfortunately just part of life, and that part of the process of growing up is learning how to deal with such conflicts in a mature fashion. They might argue that there are myriad reasons why people are ostracized and ridiculed when attending public schools, and they might argue that once we start creating schools for the specific reason of heading off every potential conflict between students who are different from one another, we open a Pandora's box which should have remained closed.

I think that such people have a very good point. I wasn't happy about being ridiculed for my Christian beliefs when I was in high school, but it made me a stronger person to have to learn to endure such treatment, and to have to learn how to respond to such treatment in a mature way. If I can deal with (and survive) such treatment, then so can kids who are ridiculed for reasons pertaining to their sexuality. Like it or not, they will discover as they travel through life that there are people (including myself) who disapprove of their lifestyles and their attitudes about sex. Sheltering such kids during their high school years only postpones the inevitable.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Determinism, Homosexuality and Murder

The above is a link to a very interesting article about determinism, free will and moral responsibility, with a particularly illuminating section which discusses the infamous case of Leopold and Loeb, in which attorney Clarence Darrow (the ACLU member who also defended John T. Scopes for teaching evolution) was able to prevent the defendants from getting the death sentence by arguing, speciously, that their circumstances deprived them of free will and therefore relieved them of the need to be held accountable for their actions.

Wikipedia says, "Darrow based his argument on the claim that his clients weren't completely responsible for their actions, but were the products of the environment they grew up in, and that they could not be held responsible for basing their desire for murder in the proto-existentialist philosophy of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche."

Darrow's argument was a variant of determinism, which (in its genetic form) is also the premise upon which the most commonly accepted defense of homosexuality is based.

It seems to me that if Leopold and Loeb weren't responsible for their actions, the same could be said for those who murdered millions of Jews becaused they based their desire for murder on the philosophies of Adolf Hitler.


Maturity means accepting responsibility for one's actions, whether one chooses to commit murder or to have sex with people of one's own gender. We are influenced by a wide variety of factors, including genetics, the economy, the political climate, our family upbringing and on and on. But none of those things can negate morality or excuse us for choosing to commit morally abominable acts. Philosophical arguments which have the effect of excusing people for committing such acts are a destructive force in our culture.

It would be inappropriate to respond to such specious arguments with censorship or oppression, but that doesn't mean that we ought not to respond at all. Our response should be to teach and preach the simple but profound truth: People who reject God and God's values are enslaved to sin, but they can be liberated from their sinful natures by submitting to the moral will of God, which is expressed in the Bible.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Refuting A Nonsensical Claim

Recently, I was browsing through the books at Borders, and I came across a book by Guy P. Harrison, entitled 50 Reasons People Give for Believing In A God. Harrison appears to be an atheist, and the book appears to scrutinize and critique arguments sometimes used in order to justify belief in God. I'm not in a position to assess the legitimacy of his arguments, because I haven't yet had the chance to read the book. As a strong believer in God, I suspect that I will find a lot of holes in his arguments, if and when I do read his book. But even unbelievers are capable of insight every once in a while. Such was the case with regard to the following text (on page 215) which I found while scanning through the book:
Some believers think that all religions are equally valid and that all paths lead to heaven. This sounds wonderfully optimistic, but it only makes sense to people who know nothing about the conflicting and irreconcilable claims of the world's religions.
I agree. Some people allow wishful thinking to take the place of sound judgment.

When Christians make claims regarding the exclusivity of Christianity, they aren't being snobbish or arrogant. They are merely taking Christ at his word. Either Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, "No man comes to the Father but through me," or he didn't. If he didn't know what he was talking about, then he certainly isn't worth worshipping, and people who believe that he didn't know what he was talking about ought not to call themselves Christians. If Jesus did know what he was talking about, then it is impossible for people to have access to God the Father without believing in Christ.

Some people want to have it both ways, by claiming to be Christians while denying that Christ offers the only way to have access to the Father. Such people lack integrity. People who lack integrity are unworthy of respect.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Web Site To Visit Before You Vote

Here's a link to a very thought-provoking website. I highly recommend that anyone thinking about voting for Barack Obama visit that website and read the articles on the site, before it's too late for America.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Jesus Was Not A Community Organizer

During the Republican convention, Sarah Palin compared herself to Barack Obama, saying that governors had weighty job responsibilities, whereas community organizers such as Barack Obama had relatively few responsibilities.

Democrats could have responded by pointing out that "governor" was Palin's most recent job description, whereas Obama had served as a senator subsequent to working as a community organizer. That would have been an intelligent rebuttal to one of Palin's weaker analogies. But of course, that would have been too intelligent for the Democrats. Instead, they responded, as usual, with utterly specious rhetoric. They argued that Pontius Pilate was a governor, whereas Jesus was a "community organizer". The implication, of course, was that governors are evil, and community organizers are good (which begs the question of why they thought that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both of whom were governors, were good choices for President).

I thought then, and still think, that such a statement betrayed a fundamental difference between most Democrats and most Republicans. To a Democrat, Jesus was little more than a glorified social worker whose primary objective was to eliminate poverty. Republicans know better. They know that Jesus did indeed have compassion for the poor, but they also know that his primary agenda was not to create an earthly kingdom, but rather, to promote the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus was not a "community organizer," and it's laughable to suggest that he was. He was, and is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

A Particularly Inappropriate T-Shirt

I just visited to check out their latest political T-shirts, in response to an e-mail message I got from that company.

On that website, there is a T-shirt design which says, "Babies For Obama".

That could be taken two ways, considering the tendency of most Democrats to whine like little babies whenever they lose an election. ("Those awful Republicans stole another election, mama. It's a right wing conspiracy! Waaaaaa! Waaaaa!") However, judging by the fact that the merchandise which features the design consists of baby wear, I suspect that the design is aimed at Obama supporters who think that their little ones would look just adorable in outfits which promote candidates their parents support. Never mind that the babies themselves couldn't care less about politics.

If babies knew about Obama and his voting record, and if they were capable of voting, I personally suspect that he's the last candidate they would vote for. After all, this is the man who refused to oppose infanticide when given the opportunity to do so several times while serving in the Illinois legislature.

Obama clearly isn't for babies (who he views as "punishment" for unwed mothers), so why would babies be for Obama? Beats me.

Churches and Tax Exemptions

I just read an interesting article about a group of pastors who have joined together to commit "civil disobedience" in order to challenge the idea that the tax exemption enjoyed by churches and other religious organizations ought to be contingent on their willingness to refrain from endorsing particular political candidates. Here's a link to that article.

Tax exemption for churches is something we tend to take for granted in this nation. Many seem to feel that such an exemption is absolutely essential if churches are to perform their mission. Personally, as a person who is passionate about my commitment to Christ, I think it's great that our nation's government has long recognized the importance of the church insofar as its contributions to society are concerned, to the extent that the government is willing to effectively subsidize the work of the Church by offering such tax exemptions. But I think that it might be overstating the case to say that tax exemptions are essential for effective ministry. I seriously doubt that any of the churches during the first several centuries of the Church's existence received tax exemptions. Yet, they prospered anyway, and they even managed to fulfill their mandate to take care of the needy. When Christians treat such exemptions as though they are morally entitled to receive them, it undermines their credibility in the eyes of unbelievers.

If indeed one of the essential societal functions of the church is to serve as a prophetic voice, and if indeed that voice is stifled as a result of attempts to conform to the requirements of the IRS, then perhaps the price of tax exemption is too great. Our first priority as Christians ought to be to speak the truth. If Christians living during the first several centuries of the Church were so dedicated to the truth that they were willing to be martyred by being fed to lions, surely it is not out of line to suggest that Christians ought to be willing to give up their tax exemptions rather than allowing the content of their sermons to be monitored and controlled by the state.

There are other issues involved, too. For example, my own vision for a Christian arts ministry includes the sales of numerous art-related products for the purpose of funding the ministry. This aspect of my vision is not merely peripheral to the overall vision. Part of the reason for the existence of the organization will be to overcome the barriers which have prevented many artistically talented Christians from being able to make a living, without compromising their beliefs, by selling their artistic creations. Selling Christ-centered art and music and videos on behalf of independent artists who are struggling financially will serve as a means of overcoming those barriers.

It may be possible to structure my Christian arts organization in such a way that the IRS will be satisfied that the organization meets the requirements for a nonprofit group in spite of such sales, particularly if it can be demonstrated that the funds which the organization receives from such sales are being used primarily or exclusively to subsidize activities which would ordinarily be tax-exempt. If not, it may be that it will be possible and necessary to have a specific division of the organization which will be taxed, without jeopardizing the nonprofit status of the larger organization as a whole. (I have read some books which suggest that some nonprofits do sometimes become involved in taxable business endeavors as one way to raise funds for the organization, without forfeiting their tax-exempt status. And I know of some specific nonprofit organizations which are heavily involved in product sales which are used to support the missions of those organizations.)

If neither of the aforementioned scenarios is feasible, however, it may be that my Christian arts organization will need to forfeit its tax-exempt status in order to achieve its goals.

The drawback of doing so is that some people are reluctant to make direct donations to groups which lack 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Such reluctance might be attributed to wrong motives (i.e., to the fact that they are donating money or goods primarily so that they can get a tax break, not so they can help worthy ministries or organizations); or it might be attributed in other cases to the erroneous belief that lack of tax-exempt status automatically means that the organization is unworthy of their donations.

Another drawback is that certain forms of assistance, such as grants from certain foundations, are only available to IRS-certified tax exempt organizations.

Consequently, it will be important to weigh the various options in order to determine the wisest course of action, not only in terms of the most effective way to raise funds without running afoul of the law, but also in terms of the best way to insure that the integrity of the organization is maintained, and that its ultimate goals are not hindered or compromised by such considerations.