October 17, 2007

God Damn!

This blog is usually PG-13, but I had to throw that out there because Diana has posted on Mark Wahlberg's unease with saying "G. D."

The article characterizes the invocation of divine damnation as blasphemy, but that's not technically true.  Really, you're just telling God, "Hey!  That thing over there is really bad.  You should send it to hell."

Of course, telling God what to do is something like blasphemy since you are presuming to tell God what to do.

blas·phe·my     

1.    impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.
2.    Judaism.
a.    an act of cursing or reviling God.
b.    pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in the original, now forbidden manner instead of using a substitute pronunciation such as Adonai.
3.    Theology. the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.
4.    irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.: He uttered blasphemies against life itself.
"God damn" doesn't mean, "I damn God."  But if you look at definition number 3, I guess you could call telling God what to do blasphemy.

Growing up, I was always told that blasphemy means taking credit for God's work or giving credit for God's work to someone other than God, like the devil.

The ultimate blasphemy in all cases is atheism since that is definitionally impious on all counts.

I am so off on a tangent.

What I wanted to tell you is that my New York friends were surprised to learn that, at least in the South, "god damn" is considered more offensive that "fuck."  But it's true.  And apparently Markie Mark agrees.

See?  Told ya!

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 12:24 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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October 10, 2007

Question

How come people aren't absolutely terrified by the idea of talking to dead people?

There are some ads up right now for some kind of show with a lady who has short hair and the posters say, "The dead want to talk to you."  This is a horrible idea to me, but I think some people are fine with that.

I think that if you think someone is talking to dead people, you should stay away from that person.  No good can come of talking to dead people.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 10:28 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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October 08, 2007

Moving the Goalposts

Ari Armstrong sent this link out to the OBloggers' list this morning:

Townhall: A challenge to believers -- and non-believers

The article is by Dinesh D'Souza and is really just a statement of purpose for his new book, What’s So Great About Christianity, which attempts to rebut arguments made by the new atheists and the Brights like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Pinker, and the rest.

The article doesn't present any arguments in itself, although he does compare it to CS Lewis's Mere Christianity which I found to be woefully ill-suited to its assumed task.  Mere Christianity is an embarrassment and a fraud, really.

D'Souza says that he has seven goals with his new book:

Taking as my foil the anti-religious arguments of prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the others, this book will show the following—1) Christianity is the main foundation of Western civilization, the root of our most cherished values. 2) The latest discoveries of modern science support the Christian claim that there is a divine being who created the universe. 3) Darwin’s theory of evolution, far from undermining the evidence for supernatural design, actually strengthens it. 4) There is nothing in science that makes miracles impossible. 5) It is reasonable to have faith. 6) Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history. 7) Atheism is often motivated not by reason but by a kind of cowardly moral escapism. I end this book by showing what is unique about Christianity and how our lives change if we become Christians.
On the first item, I find myself thinking, "If, for the sake of discussion, we assume that this statement is true, it does not imply anything about the suitability of those values for the life of human beings."

Items two and three make me suspect profound dishonesty on D'Souza's part.  I'd like to pretend that he's merely ignorant of science, but such arguments also require ignoring basic steps of logic in the discussion.  There is no way he could argue this coherently and successfully.

Item four supports my conclusions about items two and three.  Miracles, by definition, are impossible.  They require not merely the occurrence of the improbable, but actual instances of the impossible, eg. water turning to wine, people rotting in a tomb for three days and coming to life, people being cured of blindness by having mud and spit rubbed into their eyes, people being healed of leprosy at a touch, edible flakes of a perfectly nutritious substance raining down from the sky on a nomadic tribe wandering the desert, a talking donkey, etc.  None of these things ever happened and none of them will happen unless you either change what you mean by "miracle" or change what these events are described to be.

I predict that in order to make the argument for number 6, one or both of two things: Either D'Souza intends to claim that these horrible things, although committed in the name of Christianity, were actually contrary to Christianity and, therefore, cannot be considered as being a result of actual Christianity or he intends to point out things like Stalin's atheism and Hitler's atheistic comments (he was actually Christian).  The problem is that no one has ever said, "I intend to kill a whole buncha people because I don't believe in god."  Some have said things like, "I intend to kill a whole buncha people because THEY believe in god," but more often than not, those people believed in some kind of crazy magic themselves. 

This brings me to a suspicion that D'Souza may attempt to redefine the term "atheism" to refer to merely that which is opposed to Christianity.  As if Hindus, Pagans, and Pastafarians are all atheists when they clearly are not.

Item seven evades me completely.  The very definition of "cowardly moral escapism" is summed in Christianity where people attempt to excuse their nefarious, hateful behavior by claiming that God told them to.  What presents a better escape from the responsibility of rational thought than a fairy tale that a life of misery will be rewarded after death?

I'm not sure if I will read this book.  I have to say that I am sorely tempted, although the heft of so many pages of blarney may prove dissuasive.

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 01:44 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Category: Mythology and Modern Man
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