Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rosemary's Baby

The Birthers challenged Obama’s eligibility to be president. Was he a natural-born US citizen?

Turns out the Birthers may have been half right. They were just asking the wrong question. The real question is not where he was born, but to whom he was born. There is new evidence that his birth certificate is, indeed, a forgery:

Either we need to run a paternity test or someone needs to interview his mom.  Paging Mia Farrow.

Listen Closely to this Profiler

Draw nigh to God

The following is from Adolph Saphir:

Remember that man's life does not consist in what he has, but in what he is. Serve Jesus and the church. Oh, let not the best years of your life be years in which you have little communion with God, and in which you do little for Christ! 'Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.' Let not your biography be summed up: 'He turned to God in his youth, he then became lukewarm, being engrossed in the cares and the business and the social demands of the world, and a short time before his death he saw his mistake, and felt that one thing was needful. For years his spiritual life was barely sustained by the prayers of friends and the weekly services of the sanctuary. He might have been a pillar in the church, but he was only a weight.' This be far from you. Oh, serve the Lord with gladness, be strong, quit yourselves like men, and abound in the work of the Lord. ‘Draw nigh to God.'

HT: Malcolm Maclean.

Why Don't The Gospels Mention The Resurrection Appearance To James?

James was an apostle (Galatians 1:19) and one of the central figures of early Christianity (Galatians 2:9), as reflected by his prominence in Acts. Jesus' appearance to James after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7) seems to be the best explanation for his conversion from his prior skepticism (Matthew 13:57, Mark 3:21-35, 6:4, Luke 8:19-21, John 7:5). So, why would none of the gospels mention Jesus' appearance to James, even though James was so prominent in early church history and Jesus' appearance to him had so much evidential value?

Science in the everyday

A series of two interviews with Morton Meyers on his books Happy Accidents and Prize Fight here and here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Unusual Agreement Among The Gospel Resurrection Narratives

There are many differences among the resurrection narratives in the gospels. Critics of the resurrection often bring up those differences, and we've discussed them here many times. But there are a lot of similarities among the accounts as well. Some of the similarities are what you'd expect to see. You'd expect resurrection accounts to involve an empty tomb, for example. Or if two or more of the gospels agree by including Peter in the events they narrate, for instance, that's not surprising. Given Peter's prominence among Jesus' disciples, you'd expect him to be involved. However, there are other agreements among the gospels that you wouldn't expect. Those unexpected agreements are unusual to different degrees, and they have different levels of evidential value. But some are highly significant, and their individual and cumulative weight have to be taken into account in any attempt to address the historicity of the resurrection. What I want to do in this post is discuss some examples that aren't often mentioned.

Marshall v. Carrier

Sola Scriptura and Immigration Reform

Don't be spooked by scarecrows!

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:66-68).

Michael Patton has done a follow-up post:

I’ll comment on his sequel post in combination with his prequel post:

i) Up to a point, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being flexible about our apologetic or evangelistic strategies. Normally we wouldn’t begin with controversial passages of Scripture.

ii) However, a Christian apologist or street evangelist doesn’t always have the luxury of picking his topics. Often the unbeliever will pick the topic for us.

If an unbeliever asks you point blank about a stock objection to the Bible, should you duck the question? You can try, but he can tell if you are being evasive. If you dodge objections, that weakens your position. The message that sends is that Christianity can’t handle the tough questions.

iii) Moreover, why should we be ashamed to repeat what the Bible says? Are we ashamed of God?

iv) We have a duty to be faithful to the revelation that God has entrusted to us. This isn’t an Arab bazaar, where you dicker over the price. Where you lower the price. Where you keep making concessions until you can sell your product to finicky customers. An apologist or evangelist isn’t bargaining with the unbeliever. He isn’t cutting a deal. God is not so desperate for converts that he must bribe sinners to accept his Word. God isn’t a beggar. We are the beggars.

If an unbeliever asks you point blank about some “objectionable” teaching of Scripture, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give him a straight answer. Like it or not, he has a duty to believe whatever God says. He can never be a Christian if he refuses to be a follower.

v) Instead of Scripture as our standard, Michael is making unbelief the standard. Whatever people are prepared to believe (or not) is where you set the bar. But that’s not a tenable position. Do we jettison from the Christian faith whatever unbelievers deem unacceptable? It becomes a striptease where the unbeliever demands one concession after another until the Christian faith is completely denuded.

That’s not how Christians did evangelism in the book of Acts. The Gospel was a take-it-or-leave-it affair.

vi) I don’t object to being flexible about how we interpret Scripture in cases where sound hermeneutics allows us to be flexible. I don’t object to having a fallback interpretation if a particular passage is genuinely ambiguous or fairly uncertain.

But we can’t contrive an artificial fallback. Alternative interpretations have to be principled alternatives. They must respect the grammatico-historical method. The passage itself has to be open to more than one viable interpretation. You can’t special order the interpretation of Scripture to cater to your felt needs. The interpretive process must have integrity. The text has objective meaning.

vii) Michael acts as if the real threat to Christian faith is coming from the Bible. That Christian faith needs buffers to protect itself from the Bible.

It reminds me of Jewish Democrats who don’t know who the real enemy is. They still think Christians are the enemy. They are oblivious to the threat to Jews and Judaism posed by Muslims and “secular progressives.”

We’re living in a very dangerous time. A time where there are no rules. The power elite has rebelled against Biblical values.

At first, that’s exhilarating. Like horror movies about teenagers who go hiking in the woods. They are free! Out of reach of their parents and other authority figures. They can do whatever they please!

That’s fun–at first. But if there are no rules, then there are no rules about what you can do to your fellow hiker. Suppose a hiker sprains his ankle. Should we leave him behind? Suddenly the Nietzschean ethic isn’t so fun anymore.

Having repudiated God’s rules, the power elite is making the rules from scratch. There are no boundaries on what the power elite can do. No external constraints.

The power elite redefines human nature. Redefines social duties. What was human yesterday is inhuman today. What was inhumane yesterday is human today. What’s prohibitory one day is obligatory the next day. What’s obligatory one day is prohibitory the next day.

Take transgender rights. To say humans have no intrinsic gender is one of the most irrational and perverse ideas that’s ever been foisted on society. Yet that’s now the law in many states.

Genesis is not the enemy. The real enemy is the enemy of Genesis. You cease to be what God made you, and become whatever the party in power says you are.

viii) Michael is anxious about a Maginot-Line mentality (as F. F. Bruce put it). Michael wants a margin for error in case the Bible is proven wrong. Michael wants a safe fallback position he can retreat to if the Bible is demonstrably wrong.

Michael is worried about a rigid commitment to Scripture where you have two stark choices: faith or apostasy. No middle ground.

It’s like the web of belief where some commitments are central while others are peripheral. Where you can afford to lose “nonessential” beliefs like inspiration, inerrancy, the historicity of Adam, &c., without losing your faith in a single stroke.

I understand Michael’s concern. However, he suffers from a superficial grasp of the would-be alternatives.

Can the Bible be proven wrong? What’s the frame of reference? Is there a higher standard of comparison?

The alternative is nihilism. And not just moral nihilism. But intellectual nihilism.

Ironically, hardcore atheists like Daniel Dennett, Alex Rosenberg, and the Churchlands are illustrating the fact that there is no bona fide alternative to a Christian worldview. Their position leads to global scepticism. Human reason is the first casualty of naturalistic evolution.

One reason I’m a Christian is because there is nowhere else for me to go. There is no back door. There is no escape route.

The ostensible alternatives are illusory. Apostasy is not a viable option. Atheism doesn’t offer a constructive alternative. Ultimately, atheism is self-refuting. Atheism is the annihilator of any and all normative values. Not just moral values. But intellectual norms. Ironically, Thomas Nagel perceives the issue more clearly than Michael Patton. That’s why the secular establishment has pronounced a fatwa on Nagel.

We have nothing to fear from the Bible. We have everything to fear without it. If you don’t have Christianity, you don’t have anything. There is no back-up system, waiting in the wings, to take up the slack. To take over from Christian faith.

It isn’t just pious Christians like Van Til who say that. We have bold unbelievers who are showing us where the roadmap of atheism leads to: a dead end.

Don’t be spooked by scarecrows.

Nietzschean theology

If Calvinism is true, salvation is a condition, not a relationship. A relationship requires free consent.

Arminians don’t have a relationship with their parents. Arminians didn’t consent to be conceived. Arminians didn’t consent to be born.

Arminian babies don’t have a relationship with their parents. Babies are in no position to give informed consent. Same thing with Arminian two-year-olds. Or adopted children. 

Arminian siblings dont have a relationship with their brothers and sisters. They didnt give consent to be their siblings.  

Arminian grandmothers and grandfathers dont have a relationship with their grandchildren. They didn't consent to become grandparents.

Arminian children with autism or Down syndrome don’t have a relationship with their parents. They lack the cognitive development to give informed consent.

Arminian parents who suffer from senile dementia don’t have a relationship with their grown children. They are too enfeebled to give consent.

Arminian husbands or wives who suffer from senile dementia don’t have a relationship with their spouse. They are too enfeebled to give consent.

Comatose Arminian patients have no relationship with their friends and relatives. In that condition, they can’t give consent.

Arminian patients with mental illness or brain cancer have no relationship with their friends and relatives. They can’t give consent.

Arminian patients who are delirious from fever or intoxication have no relationship with their friends and relatives.

Arminian theology is Nietzschean. A theology to and for the strong.

On the contingency of evolutionary history

Kurt Wise reviews Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen Jay Gould. It's an old review (1997) but more or less still relevant today.

As for Gould's book, much of it is known to be incorrect (cf. Simon Conway Morris' The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals). But insofar as I understand it his main ideas are still alive and well.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

A la carte Christianity

Michael Patton, who is president of Credo House Ministries, and the most active contributor to the Parchment & Pen blog, recently posted a deeply confused article:

The article goes so wrong in so many ways that it’s hard to summarize, but I’ll try. I’m going to begin with some general observations, then shift to specifics:

1. Terminology

i) In his post, and a related post, Michael uses the following terms interchangeably: “central,” “foundational,” “essential,” “break.”

Now in many discussions I don’t object to using these terms as rough synonyms, but because of how Michael is setting up the contrast, it’s important to distinguish them.

“Central,” “foundational,” and “break” are metaphors. As metaphors, these have different nuances. They build on different images.

For instance, the Resurrection is a “central” event and central doctrine in the Christian faith. But is it “foundational”?

A foundation underlies whatever rests on the foundation. A foundation supports what lies on top of the foundation.

In that sense, the Resurrection is a foundational event for the Ascension, Session, and return of Christ. A precondition for those subsequent events. The Resurrection must happen before those other events can happen.

On the other hand, the Resurrection is not foundational to the Incarnation or the Crucifixion. Rather, the Incarnation and Crucifixion are foundational to the Resurrection. Christ can’t live again unless he died. And he can’t die unless he was alive.

Likewise, the Resurrection is not foundational to the creation or the fall. Rather, those are foundational to the Resurrection. No creation, no fall, no Resurrection.

To vary the metaphor, the Resurrection is more of a keystone or (headstone quoin) event than a foundational event. In redemptive history, there’s a series of divinely orchestrated events leading up to the Resurrection. Events which culminate in the Resurrection. They underlie the Resurrection.

If you remove the keystone, an arch or vault will collapse. If you remove a foundation, the building will collapse. But they collapse for different reasons.  The keystone is a building block that locks the other building blocks in place.

The keystone is also a central building block. It has a weight-bearing function in relation to other building blocks on either side and lower down.

The keystone occupies the apex, whereas the foundation is at the bottom. The foundation supports everything above it.

To take another example, the Exodus is central to Judaism in a way that’s not the case for Christianity. In Christianity, the first and second advents of Christ are central.

Yet the Exodus is a foundational event for Christianity as well as Judaism. The Exodus is one of those defining events which reveals the identity, character, and purposes of God. The Exodus is a past event which establishes a precedent for future events. Redemptive history repeats itself in the sense that God has common purposes for history. Every decade, century, generation, is driven and unified by God’s overarching purpose for world history.

Likewise, take the calling of Abraham. That event isn’t central to the Christian faith. It’s not the epicenter of our faith, from which everything else radiates out.

However, the calling of Abraham is surely a foundational event in redemptive history. By the same token, the calling of Abraham is an essential event in redemptive history. God does one thing in order to do another thing. The calling of Abraham is a precipitating cause of many other redemptive events down the line. If God hadn’t called Abraham, you’d have an alternate future without Christianity. No Abraham, no Israel, no Christianity.

History has a causal flow. Later events are effects of earlier events.

Or take the relationship of the OT to the NT. The OT is not as central to Christian faith as the NT. However, the OT is foundational to the NT. The OT lays the groundwork for the NT.

Not only does the NT fulfill the OT, but the NT must fulfill the OT. The NT requires OT warrant. In that respect (among others), the OT is essential to Christianity. To be the true Messiah, Jesus must match the Messianic job description laid out in the OT.

ii) I’m not quite sure how Michael is using the word “break.” Is that shorthand for “make-or-break” and/or “deal-breaker”?

iii) Unlike “central” and “foundational,” which are figurative adjectives, “essential” is abstract. Now one of Michael’s criteria for distinguishing what’s essential from what’s inessential is to invoke alternate possibilities. If God might have or could have done something differently, then that makes it inessential.

But that criterion is remarkably confused. It’s like saying that if there’s a possible world with non-carbon-based organisms, then carbon is inessential to biological life on earth. Needless to say, in the world we actually inhabit, carbon is essential to life.

Likewise, the Bible would not be essential to Christianity if, in fact, God revealed Biblical truths by some other means. However, that hypothetical scenario hardly justifies the claim that the Bible is inessential for us. After all, we’re not living in a parallel universe where God reveals Biblical truths by some other means. Christianity, as it actually exists, is dependent on Biblical revelation.

2. Essential for what?

Michael also equivocates on what it means for something to be essential or inessential. He oscillates between two fundamentally different referents:

i) Essential to be a Christian

ii) Essential to Christianity

But these aren’t interchangeable. Michael fails to distinguish what is essential for Christianity to be true from what is essential to be a true Christian. He fails to distinguish essential beliefs from essential events (or things or realities).

For instance, a young child can be saved without believing in the Trinity. But that doesn’t mean the Trinity is inessential to Christianity.

The Trinity is essential to reality. God is a Trinity is every possible world. God is the ultimate reality. If God is Triune, then the Trinity is essential to reality.

However, a Christian with Down syndrome could exercise saving faith even if he lacks the mental competence to assent to the Trinity. In that qualified sense, belief in the Trinity is inessential.

Moreover, I’m saying that belief in the Trinity is inessential in exceptional circumstances. Young children or the retarded are special cases. We make allowance for their cognitive impairment.

To take another comparison, a Christian who becomes senile, or comes down with brain cancer, or suffers severe head trauma, may cease to believe in the person and work of Christ. Yet he doesn’t lose his salvation, even though he can no longer exercise saving faith.

But that doesn’t mean lack of faith in the person and work of Christ is ordinarily inessential to saving faith. That’s not the norm. As a rule, belief and trust in the person and work of Christ are essential to saving faith.

3. Religious duties

For some reason, Michael has usurped the right to tell people that they don’t have to believe everything God says. Frankly, that’s blasphemous. God is telling us we ought to believe something, while Michael is saying, “You don’t really have to believe what God tells you to believe.”

Imagine if Michael accompanied the prophet Jeremiah. God commands Jeremiah to deliver an oracle of judgment. As Jeremiah is speaking, Michael Patton stands behind Jeremiah, giving thumbs up or thumbs down depending on whether or not the oracle is essential to Christianity, or essential to saving faith.

I don’t know how Michael worked himself into the mindset of imagining that he’s entitled to give people permission not to believe anything in Scripture that’s not “essential” or “central” or “foundational.” Michael is suffering from extreme spiritual arrogance.

People have an absolute obligation to believe whatever God reveals. It’s not Michael’s place to make faith easier for them by waiving their duty to believe each and everything God has taught us. Michael doesn’t have the authority to do that. If God wanted to make it easier for some people to believe, God didn’t have to reveal those hard truths in the first place. That is God’s call, not Michael’s.

Now Michael might say we must distinguish between Scriptural teaching and our fallible interpretations of Scripture. The problem, though, is that by relegating inspiration and inerrancy to nonessential or nonfoundational categories, Michael himself is erasing that distinction.

4. Nominal faith

A large part of Christian faith is to take things on faith. To believe something on the authority of God’s word. I didn’t personally witness Bible history.

What does it say about the quality of someone’s faith who only believes what he can see for himself? He doesn’t have to trust God to believe what he can see for himself.

Take the wilderness generation. They were condemned to wander and die in the wilderness because they were faithless. They could never bring themselves to trust God. They had to live by sight every step of the way. That theme that looms large in the book of Hebrews, as a warning to the church.

Michael’s a la carte Christianity reminds me of a scene from Brideshead Revisited. Rex Mottram wants to marry Julia. But Julia is Roman Catholic. Rex must convert to Catholicism to marry Julia.

Problem is, Rex is irreligious. Rex only wants to know the bare minimum he must profess to marry Julia:

So Rex was sent to Farm Street to Father Mowbray, a priest renowned for his triumphs with obdurate catechumens. After the third interview he came to tea with Lady Marchmain.

“Well, how do you find my future son-in-law?”

“He’s the most difficult convert I have ever met.”

“Oh dear, I thought he was going to make it so easy.”

“That’s exactly it. I can’t get anywhere near him. He doesn’t seem to have the least intellectual curiosity or natural piety. Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’”

“Julia,” said Lady Marchmain, when the priest had gone, “are you sure that Rex isn’t doing this thing purely with the idea of pleasing us?”

“I don’t think it enters his head,” said Julia.

“He’s really sincere in his conversion?”

Next week the Jesuit came to tea again. It was the Easter holidays and Cordelia was there, too.

“Lady Marchmain,” he said. “You should have chosen one of the younger fathers for this task. I shall be dead long before Rex is a Catholic.”

“Oh dear, I thought it was going so well.”

“It was, in a sense. He was exceptionally docile, and he accepted everything I told him, remembered bits of it, asked no questions.”

Imagine filling our pews with church members who ask what’s the very least they have to believe to get by with. It’s a recipe for nominal Christians.

Now let’s comment on some specifics:

I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued.

Ironically, this is exactly what happens to many who study the Bible. Charles Darwin tells about how his faith was initially dislodged due to discrepancies in the Scriptures. Bart Ehrman goes in the same direction.

Why does Michael assume that’s a bad thing? Why not view that as a winnowing process? It purifies the church to slough off nominal believers.

What’s the value of an untested faith that fails the test when put to the test? A time-tested faith is real faith.

There was nothing that obligated God to this form of revelation (or any form at all!). Christ could have come and lived a perfect life, gained representation, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and never had it recorded in the Scriptures. How would we know about the Gospel? I don’t know. Maybe angels, maybe word of mouth, maybe direct revelation, or maybe not at all. The point is that God did not have to inspire any books in order for him to be who he is and do what he did. The Bible does not make Christianity true; the Bible simply records true Christianity through inspired words and thoughts.

But by that logic, it’s not merely the inspiration of Scripture that’s inessential: Scripture itself is inessential. If God could have dispensed with Scripture altogether, then by Michael’s reasoning, the Bible is not essential or central or foundational to the Christian faith.

While I do believe a sustained argument can and should be made for the inclusion of these [Pastoral Epistles] in the canon, whether or not Paul wrote these letters does not affect the truthfulness of the Christian faith. While these letters are extremely valuable for issues of personal integrity and ecclesiology, the essence of the Christian faith remains intact without them. This goes for 2 Peter as well – by far the most contested book in the New Testament. William Barclay, author of the Daily Bible Study Series (as far as I know, still the best selling commentary set of all time), did not accept Petrine authorship of Second Peter. While I disagree (like Calvin, I believe that Peter was behind the letter, though he did not directly write it) this did not in any way disqualify Barclay from being a Christian and a committed servant of God.

i) If you keep whittling down the Bible to the bare essentials (as (Michael defines it), where do you stop? Does Michael think four gospels are essential? Or would one gospel suffice?

Does Michael think Christians aren’t required to believe all four gospels as long as they believe in the Gospel of Mark? Would a one-book canon suffice?

And it doesn’t stop there. Is everything in Mark’s Gospel essential (as Michael defines it)? Or does Michael think Christians are only required to believe an essential core of Markan teaching?

Mark’s gospel has lots of miracles. How many miracles do you have to believe in? Will one or two suffice?

What about the parables of Jesus? Can’t we just pick out our favorites?

ii) Why does Michael think God inspired, collected, and preserved all these superfluous books of the Bible? Isn’t that a stumbling block to faith?

There are many people who spend an enormous amount of money holding seminars, building museums, and creating curricula attempting to educate people on the importance and evidence for a six-thousand (give or take) year-old earth.

Considering all the natural history museums around the world that indoctrinate viewers in Darwinism, why is Michael bothered by the existence of a single Creation Museum in Kentucky?

There is simply no sustainable reason to believe that one’s interpretation about the early chapters of Genesis determines his or her status before God.

i) Surely that’s an overstatement. It depends, in part, on what motivates the denial. As long as exegetical considerations are foremost, rejection of young-earth creationism doesn’t cast doubt on their status before God. But if their denial is the reflexive response of an unbelieving mindset, then that does implicate their status before God.

ii) Also, when Michael refers to “the early chapters of Genesis,” he’s casting the net pretty wide. That’s not just a question of chronology, but historicity. Does disbelieving Gen 2-3 have no bearing on your status before God? Isn’t disbelief in God’s word the effect of an unbelieving heart?

iii) Moreover, the early chapters of Genesis are “foundational” for redemptive history.

Some believe that the entire earth was covered with water. Others believe it was a local flood, isolated in Mesopotamia. Some even believe that the whole event did not really take place and is not meant to be taken literally. These believe that the story itself is a polemic against other gods and other flood stories, essentially saying in a parabolic way that God is in charge, not your other gods. Whichever view one takes, this does not affect Christianity.

i) Again, it depends, in part, on what motives the interpretation. Is this primarily exegetical, or does it evince a lack of faith? Rank disbelief?

ii) And what about those who think the flood account is fictitious. Honestly, is that really a faithful attitude? Or is that driven by profound skepticism regarding God’s action in the world?

Once again, consider the attitude of the wilderness generation, which is paradigmatic for apostates (Heb 3-4). Unbelievers typically find Biblical miracles incredible. They balk at the supernatural. They have a fundamentally secular, closed-system outlook. God, if there is a God, doesn’t rupture the uniformity of nature. God, if there is a God, doesn’t break natural laws. God, if there is a God, doesn’t interrupt the causal continuum. Practical atheism.

Unfortunately, many Christians believe that the theory of evolution is somehow an anti-Christian theory invented by Satan to destroy Christianity.

If evolution is false, and if there is a devil, then why is it out of bounds to consider evolution the devil’s counter story to the true story? Writing over the true story? Isn’t the devil the master counterfeiter?

From the Bishop’s “secret archives”

Yet another current Roman Catholic sex abuse story:

The Joliet Diocese readily admitted that David Rudofski was sexually abused during his first confession at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena. It offered him an in-person apology from the bishop and more than six times his annual salary in the hope of putting a quick, quiet end to yet another ugly incident involving a priest.

But Rudofski wanted more than money.

The south suburban electrician wanted the diocese to truly pay for its repeated and, oftentimes, willful mishandling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy — and he insisted on a currency far more precious to the church than money. He demanded that the diocese settle its debt by turning over the secret archives it maintained on abusive priests and making them available for public consumption.

"What was I supposed to do? Take the money and run?" Rudofski said. "How would that help anybody else? If people don't know how this was allowed to happen for decades, they can't prevent it from happening again."

The diocese, however, fought Rudofski's efforts for more than a year before agreeing to turn over the personnel files of 16 of the 34 priests with substantiated allegations against them. It also issued a news release adding his alleged abuser, the Rev. James Burnett, to its still-growing list of accused clergy.

The files, which Rudofski's attorney shared with the Tribune after redacting the names of other victims, contain more than 7,000 records detailing how the diocese purposefully shielded priests, misled parishioners and left children unprotected for more than a half-century. They also raise new questions about whether the church has been forthcoming about the number of local priests involved in the scandal and the percentage of clergy confronted with credible claims.

Though the Joliet Diocese's botched handling of pedophile priests has been well-documented in recent years, the records offer the most complete portrait of the ineptitude and indifference that greeted the allegations almost since the religious district's inception in 1948. The errors span more than six decades and involved three bishops, 91 places of worship and more than 100 victims.

Researchers and Roman Catholic Church officials have previously said that about 4 percent of priests nationally committed an act of sexual abuse against a minor between 1950 and 2002, with church officials claiming the rate of abusers within the priesthood is no different from that among other professions.

However, the files show that the Joliet Diocese — which includes parishes in DuPage, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall and Will counties — had double or triple that percentage in the 1980s. In 1983, for example, more than 13 percent of priests serving in the diocese would later have credible abuse allegations leveled against them.

Reached at his home in New Lenox, retired Bishop Joseph Imesch, 81, said he didn't want to discuss details of the revelations in the documents.

"I'm not going to rehash all of this. I know what I did; I know what I should have done," he said, expressing frustration with the way news reports portrayed his conduct.

Here is the real difference between the way Protestants and Roman Catholics deal with the “sex abuse” that they say happens in all churches:

Protestant pastors who molest teens go to jail.

Roman Catholics cover it up and get to go free.

Nobel War Prize

Given how Obama has fared with the War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, not to mention drones of doom delivering death from the skies, and so forth, I think it might've been more prescient for the Nobel Committee to have awarded him the Nobel War Prize instead of what he did receive.

Well, unless to them WAR IS PEACE. (If so, then I wonder what FREEDOM and IGNORANCE mean to them?)

On the plus side, this might go toward explaining how someone like Yasser Arafat also won in the past.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Atheists: A Psychological Profile"

Here's a brief excerpt from Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's chapter "Atheists: A Psychological Profile" in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism:

Who Are They? Demographics

In representative surveys of the U.S. population in the 1970s and 1980s, the unaffiliated were found to be younger, mostly male, with higher levels of education and income, more liberal, but also more unhappy and more alienated in terms of the larger society (Hadaway and Roof 1988; Feigelman, Gorman, and Varacalli 1992). According to 2004 Gallup data, based on 12,043 interviews, the 9 percent of Americans who say they do not identify with any religion whatsoever or who explicitly say they are atheist or agnostic tended to be politically liberal, Democrats, independents, younger, living in the West, students, and those who are living with someone without being married (Newport 2004).

In Australia, secularists are much better educated than the rest of the population, socially liberal, independent, self-assertive, and cosmopolitan. In Canada, census data and national surveys show that those reporting “no religion” are younger, more male than female, more urban than rural, as well as upwardly mobile (Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle 1997).

Being an atheist overwhelmingly means being male. Data from all cultures show women to be more religious than men (Beit-Hallahmi 2005b). Recent polling data from the United States show that the statement “there is a god” was endorsed by 72.5 percent of men and 86.8 percent of women. The statement “I don’t believe in any of these” was endorsed by 7.0 percent of men and only 1.3 percent of the women (Rice 2003).

Parents and the Making of Atheists

Findings regarding those who come from religious homes and then give up religion show that they have had more distant relations with their parents (Hunsberger 1980, 1983; Hunsberger and Brown 1984). Caplovitz and Sherrow (1977) found that the quality of relations with parents was a crucial variable, as well as a commitment to intellectualism. Hunsberger and Brown (1984) found that lesser emphasis placed on religion in home, especially by the mother, and self-reported intellectual orientation had a positive impact on rejecting the family’s religiosity as a young adult. Dudley (1987) found that alienation from religion in Seventh-Day Adventist adolescents was correlated (0.72) with the quality of their relationship with their parents and other authority figures. Alienation was tied to authoritarianism and harshness on the part of the parents. But parents may also have a more consonant effect on their children’s religiosity. Sherkat (1991), analyzing large-scale U.S. surveys in 1988, found that parents’ religious exogamy and lapses in practice led to their children’s apostasy. Thus, children may be following in their parents’ footsteps or acting out their parents’ unexpressed wishes.

Attachment theory (Kirkpatrick 2005) assumes that interpersonal styles in adults, the ways of dealing with attachment, separation, and loss in close personal relationships, stem directly from the mental models of oneself and others that were developed during infancy and childhood. Attachment styles can be characterized as secure, avoidant, or anxious/ambivalent. Secure adults find it relatively easy to get close to others. Avoidant adults are somewhat uncomfortable being close to others. Anxious/ambivalent adults find that others are reluctant to get as close as they would like. Kirkpatrick (2005) reports that in a study of 400adults in the United States, those having an avoidant attachment style were most likely to identify themselves as either atheist or agnostic.

Does losing a parent early in life lead one to atheism? Vetter and Green (1932–33) surveyed 350 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, 325 of whom were men. Among those who became atheists before age twenty, half lost one or both parents before that age. A large number in the group reported unhappy childhood and adolescence experiences. (The twenty-five women reported “traumatic experiences” with male ministers. We can only wonder about those today.) Vitz (1999) presents biographical information from the lives of more than fifty prominent atheists and theists as evidence for his theory that atheism is a reaction to losing one’s father.

Is it hypocritical to oppose sodomite marriage?

I’m reposting (with two editorial additions) some exchanges I had on this thread:

buddyglass March 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

Portman is wrong to think the golden rule compels him to approve of homosexuality. It does not. He’s not wrong, however, to regard the golden rule as relevant to the issue of whether believers are compelled to seek to deny the secular, legal rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples.

    stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    How can believers deny them their fictitious nonexistent right to homosexual marriage? It’s like denying the right of unicorns to gallop on the moon.

stephennhays March 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

Lauren Bertrand

“I’m still not quite clear how Sen. Portman should have reacted.”

He shouldn’t react any differently than if his son was caught in some other serious wrongdoing.

“Would the father be demonstrating “righteous living” if he had kicked his son out of the house upon the announcement of his sexual immorality (as ostensibly still happens to one out of three people when they come out of the closet)?”

Since he son is a 21-year-old college student, why assume he’s still living at home?

If his son was still a teenager, I don’t think he should be kicked out of the house on that account.

“Should Portman have pulled his son out of Yale…”

Actually, the social climate of Yale, with its biennial Sex Week and coed locker rooms, may well have exacerbated William’s sexual identity confusion.

“…and sent him to conversion therapy?“

Since his son is an adult, that’s not legally feasible. But if his son were still a minor, it might well be appropriate to have him undergo counseling with a competent psychologist.

“Should he have consistently reminded him of his sin, regardless of whether the son is acting upon his orientation?”

Since it’s doubtful that his son is celibate, why do you say “regardless”?

“How would YOU affirm the Gospel in handling this situation, if your son/daughter confided in you that he/she is gay?”

They should be told that we all have to struggle with sin. They should obey God’s commands and cultivate their spiritual life.

They should also work towards marriage with a member of the opposite sex.

James Bradshaw March 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

Lauren, what do you tell your heterosexual friends or family who are getting divorced or who have been divorced and remarried? Christ Himself was clear on this: to divorce your wife is to force her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. He provides ONE exception: infidelity. Otherwise, to repent of divorce means you either remain single and celibate … or you reunite with your first spouse. That’s it.

Do you tell these heterosexual friends/family that they will spend an eternity being tortured as well if they don’t “repent” of their unbiblical behavior?

stephennhays March 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

Adultery effectively dissolves the existing marriage. Hence, it’s not possible to continue committing adultery against the same (ex-)spouse. Therefore, you analogy is flawed. You need to read a few good commentaries on Mt 5 and 19 concerning divorce and remarriage.

stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 12:56 am #

To begin with, I’m just remarking on what Mt 5 & 19 teach. They don’t say everything there is to be said about marriage.

In addition, you’re confusing marriage with a marriage ceremony. For instance, it's possible to have marital vows without marital intent as well as marital intent without marital vows.

stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

You continue to confuse marriage with a marriage ceremony. As Jesus himself implies in Mt 19:4-6, the key features of marriage are consummation, monogamy, and marital intent. A public ceremony is preferable, to have a community witness, but that’s not the essence of marriage. If the couple is reconciled, then they simply revert to the status quo ante.

A common law marriage can be a genuine marriage, from a biblical standpoint. For instance, traditional Catholic countries refuse to recognize biblical grounds for divorce. A husband could walk out on the marriage, leaving the wife stranded (or vice versa). The innocent party has no recourse to divorce under Catholic law. But if the innocent party entered into a common law marriage, that would be legitimate from a biblical standpoint.

stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

Not if you read evangelical commentaries on Matthew. Adultery, not divorce, is what dissolves the marriage. Divorce is simply a formal recognition of the fact that the adulterer effectively ended the marriage by his (or her) sexual infidelity. Desertion is another case in point (1 Cor 7:15).

stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

Buddy, do you not know the difference between fornication, a common law marriage, and a marriage ceremony?

stephennhays March 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

D. A. Carson, in the revised edition of his commentary on Matthew, interacts with Instone-Brewer.

Christian Homophobia

I would like to propose a new definition for Christian Homophobia: The fear of talking about the sin of homosexuality or the fear of challenging homosexuals with their sinful behavior.

Inventing the papacy

Dreaming and determinism

Many people find predestination paradoxical, especially if you think about it too much. If, before you do something, you pause to consider the fact that what you’re about to do was predestined, it feels odd–like watching hidden camera footage of yourself, when you didnt know you were being filmed.

This sensation has analogies. Because we are self-aware, there’s a sense in which we can watch ourselves do something, as if there were two of us: the observer and the agent. We have a capacity for mental detachment that enables us to seem to step outside ourselves and study ourselves from a third-person perspective, even though that’s something of an illusion. Of course, much of the time we don’t bother to engage in self-reflection. What just do whatever we need to do or want to do.

Or consider dreams. Three kinds of dreams.

In ordinary dreams the dreamer is self-aware. The dreamer is aware of the dreamscape. The dreamer is aware of characters in the dream.

The dreamer does things in the dream. Goes places. Talks to people. Makes choices.

Yet what the dreamer thinks and sees, hears, says, and does is caused by his subconscious. In that respect, dreaming is like predestination. In dreaming, there’s that invisible underlying cause (the subconscious) which directing everything you do and everything that happens to you in the dream.

The dreamer’s involvement is effortless. He is carried along by the inner momentum of the dream. No struggle. No sense of entrapment.

In lucid dreams, the dreamer becomes aware of the fact that he is dreaming. He’s cognizant of a hidden reality behind the dream. Behind-the-scenes.

At that point, a lucid dreamer has a choice. He can remain a passive spectator in the sense that he can simply let events continue to unfold without intervening. Discover what his subliminal imagination has in store.

Even a lucid dream still has a default setting. A default dreamscape. Default characters. A default plot. So even though the lucid dreamer is a self-conscious dreamer, there is still a part of him that’s subliminally scripting the dream. A compartmentalized mind.

This is somewhat like a Christian who believes in predestination. He becomes a conscious participant in his predestined reality, in his predestined actions.

Or the lucid dreamer can take control of the dream, override the default setting, and influence the course of events. That might seem more like libertarian freewill.

Yet predestination doesn’t prevent us from interacting with our environment or changing our surroundings. What we can’t change is predestination itself. But when we consciously manipulate our surroundings, when we effect the course of events, that’s part of the original plan.

Then you have inspired dreams. In Scripture, you have seers and dreamers who take part in narrative dreams and visions inspired by God. God creates the dreamscape. God creates the characters. God creates the plot. The seer or dreamer is like a tourist.

This raises the question of whether inspired dreamers and seers know at the time that they are dreaming or seeing visions. Or is this something they become aware of after the fact? After they awaken or come out of the trance?

Suppose they are conscious of the fact that they are experiencing a divine vision or dream at the time it happens. That’s like become aware of predestination. God controls every detail of the vision.

Before he was “Pope Francis”, Cardinal Bergoglio advocated “civil unions”.

The New York Times writes with some sense of hope:

On Gay Unions, a Pragmatist Before He Was a Pope

Argentina was on the verge of approving gay marriage, and the Roman Catholic Church was desperate to stop that from happening. It would lead tens of thousands of its followers in protest on the streets of Buenos Aires and publicly condemn the proposed law, a direct threat to church teaching, as the work of the devil.

But behind the scenes, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who led the public charge against the measure, spoke out in a heated meeting of bishops in 2010 and advocated a highly unorthodox solution: that the church in Argentina support the idea of civil unions for gay couples.

The concession inflamed the gathering — and offers a telling insight into the leadership style he may now bring to the papacy.

Few would suggest that Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is anything but a stalwart who fully embraces the church’s positions on core social issues. But as he faced one of the most acute tests of his tenure as head of Argentina’s church, he showed another side as well, supporters and critics say: that of a deal maker willing to compromise and court opposing sides in the debate, detractors included.

The approach stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who spent 25 years as the church’s chief doctrinal enforcer before becoming pope, known for an unbending adherence to doctrinal purity. Francis, by comparison, spent decades in the field, responsible for translating such ideals into practice in the real world, sometimes leading to a different approach.

HT: Louis

Providential science

These are some comments I missed when I was reposting comments I originally left at Parchment & Pen in response to a militant apostate:

Ryan says:

“By the way, while I’d rather not chat with Steve anymore…”

Constantly losing the argument can, indeed, have that effect.

“…something important needs to be clarified. Science has to be done under the assumption of methodological naturalism. Let me define. Philosophical naturalism is a metaphysical belief that only the material/natural universe exists. Methodological naturalism is a method of assuming, for practical purposes, that only material causes exist for material events.”

Ryan acts as if this is breaking news. Ryan, just because you learned something doesn’t make it new to the rest of us. 

“You do this in science.”

This is just a made-up rule, which Ryan dutifully parrots from his godless drillmasters. That, however, is not how real scientists have to do science. Take medical science. Rex Gardner, Kenneth McAll, M. Scott Peck, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones were all distinguished physicians.

They were content with natural causes as long as natural causes were sufficient to explain the condition of the patient. But when natural causes were not the best explanation, they were open to supernatural causes.

Likewise, Rupert Sheldrake and Mario Beauregard are distinguished scientists. They are satisfied with material causes so long as that adequately explains the phenomenon in question. But when material causes are not the best explanation, they consider immaterial causes.

“When you’re not doing science, you can believe in supernatural causes/realities all you like.”

Another one of Ryan’s problems, which I’ve let slide until now, is his failure to distinguish between natural explanations and naturalistic explanations. Natural explanations are consistent with Christian theology. Christian theology has a doctrine of ordinary providence. Second causes. That’s quite different from naturalism.

”Here’s why you must be a methodological naturalist in science. Science can only deal with natural causes. Why? Because science often makes it’s most important discoveries by holding variables constant (dependent variable), manipulating one variable (independent variable), and testing for the manipulated variables’ effect.”

That’s an artificially narrow definition of the scientific method. One that applies in the laboratory, with control groups, double-blind experiments, &c.

That works for some things. But science also involves discovering the world as it comes to us. Field observations. Nature in the raw. You can’t squeeze the world into a laboratory. 

“God, or any other supernatural force, can’t be held constant to test for it’s effect. It’s that simple.”

i) The obvious problem with that dictate is that it’s viciously circular and self-stultifying. Unless you already know that all natural events are produced by physical causes, it is prejudicial and willfully ignorant to limit the range of acceptable explanations to natural (much less naturalistic) explanations. That’s getting ahead of yourself. Pretending that you know the answer before the evidence is in.

ii) Let’s take a concrete example. In 2 Kgs 19 (par. 2 Chron 32; Isa 37), the Assyrian army is defeated in answer to prayer. In addition, Sennacherib will be assassinated as a delayed effect of the same prayer.

Now, the account doesn’t say how, exactly, God destroyed the Assyrian army. It merely mentions the agent of destruction: the Angel of the Lord. The angel might have destroyed the army directly. However, according to 1 Chron 21, the angel can kill indirectly by instigating a deadly plague. Some scholars think the army died from a tropical form of bacillary dysentery. Cf. D. Wiseman, “Medicine in the Old Testament World,” B. Palmer, Medicine and the Bible (Paternoster 1986), 25. 

Suppose that’s how they died. Suppose a medical examiner autopsied the casualties. If all he had to go by were the corpses, he’d conclude that they died of natural causes: a virulent strain of dysentery.

Likewise, Sennacherib was later assassinated. Put to the sword. If his corpse were autopsied, the cause of death would be physical. Maybe the sword pieced a vital organ, or maybe he bled to death.

In both cases you could give a complete physical description of the cause, yet in both cases, a complete physical description of the cause would be an incomplete explanation. For back of the natural causes was prayer. They died in answer to prayer.

If a scientific investigator knew about the prayers, if he knew about the timing of the prayers in relation to the opportune timing of the outcome, his explanation would have to include divine agency in response to prayer. Ryan can only close his mind to that explanation on pain of rejecting the correct explanation. Ryan will always opt for a false, naturalistic explanation in preference to a factual, supernatural explanation.

Coercing social acceptance

I didn’t comment on this article at the time, but since our nation is being stampeded into sodomite marriage, commentary seems timely:

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the "traditional" definition of marriage and press for an "activist" interpretation of the Constitution to create another "new" constitutional right?

For any number of reasons, I don’t find that the least bit surprising:

i) Ted Olson grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. So it’s not as if his social conditioning was hostile to homosexuality.

ii) He’s a lawyer. Many lawyers will argue any side of any issue.

iii) He’s been married four times. In fairness, his third wife died in the 9/11 attacks. But discounting the fourth marriage, it’s not surprising that a man who’s been married three times might have a rather elastic definition of marriage.

iv) Finally, there are varieties of conservatism. Not all conservatives are social conservatives or Christian conservatives.

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics…

Kinda like saying suicide bombers aren’t so bad once you get to know them.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation.

That’s equivocal. Traditionally, “marriage” is shorthand for heterosexual marriage. We never considered “marriage” between two men or two women to be a social building block. Olson is abstracting away what makes marriage marriage.

 At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership.

Like a mob family? That can be a loving extended family that also functions as a socioeconomic partntership.

We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities.

i) Notice the bait-n-switch. “Couples.” But, of course, we don’t encourage just any sort of “couple” to marry. Traditionally, “couple” is shorthand for a man and a woman. He keeps abstracting away what makes a couple a genuine couple.

ii) The only real families homosexuals have are heterosexual families. Homosexuality is parasitic.

iii) We shouldn’t provide benefits to the homosexual “community”–any more than should provide benefits to the Russian mafia. That’s a community too.

To speak of the “homosexual community” is just a way of referring to homosexuals as a group. The fact that a group of people have one thing in common, which makes it possible to group them, doesn’t ipso facto make them a community. Lots of folks like ice cream. But that doesn’t create an ice cream community. 

Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society.

i) A homosexual couple is oxymoronic. Homosexuals don’t pair off the way heterosexuals do. Two men or two women are not a matching pair. They are just two of something. They could just as well be four of something.

ii) And homosexuals aren’t “transformed” by their “union.” Two homosexuals aren’t two halves of a whole. Men and women bond because men and women compensate for each other.

The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

i) “Happens to be gay” is euphemistic, like “happens to be a suicide bomber.”

ii) They don’t want to “share” it, they want to infiltrate it.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation's commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation. This bedrock American principle of equality is central to the political and legal convictions of Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike.

That’s simpleminded. Mere equality is not a virtue. The correct principle is to treat like things alike and unlike things unalike.

Subsequent laws and court decisions have made clear that equality under the law extends to persons of all races, religions, and places of origin. What better way to make this national aspiration complete than to apply the same protection to men and women who differ from others only on the basis of their sexual orientation?

He’s not entitled to say that’s a national aspiration. He doesn’t speak for the nation. And the nation isn’t monolithic.

I cannot think of a single reason—and have not heard one since I undertook this venture—for continued discrimination against decent, hardworking members of our society on that basis.

That tells you something about the social circles he moves in.

Various federal and state laws have accorded certain rights and privileges to gay and lesbian couples, but these protections vary dramatically at the state level, and nearly universally deny true equality to gays and lesbians who wish to marry.

That’s because you can’t artificially equalize what’s inherently unequal.

 The very idea of marriage is basic to recognition as equals in our society; any status short of that is inferior, unjust, and unconstitutional.

That’s a rubbery redefinition of what’s Constitutional, which runs roughshod over the original intent of the frames as well as the states who ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

To say it’s “unjust” begs the question.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution.

But you don’t have a right to marry your dog. Rights correspond to natures. You can’t detach rights from the nature of the property-bearer and reassign them to whomever or whatever you please. There has to be something about the party that corresponds to the right. Something that makes it a fitting ascription.

It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity.

What about a consensual incestuous relationship between a mother and her teenage son. They may love each other in a twisted way. Be emotionally interdependent in a twisted way. Like the new TV series, Bates Motel. Should society sanction their “loving,” but unnatural relationship?

 The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.

The Supreme Court is not the arbiter of human nature. The Supreme Court can’t define reality, even if some justices labor under that illusion. Judicial rulings have no power to reify ideological constructs.

The California Supreme Court described marriage as a "union unreservedly approved and favored by the community." Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.

Excuse me if I don’t think the California Supreme Court is a beacon of social virtues or values. 

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way.

That’s just ignorant. Who has he actually read?

 Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors' prisons.

What’s so bad about debtors’ prisons? Is it wrong for people to make financial restitution?

 Gays and lesbians have always been among us, forming a part of our society…

You could say the same thing about the criminal element. Crooks have always been among us, forming a part of our society.

...and they have lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities.

Homosexuals haven’t always lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities. That’s historical revisionism.

For a long time, they have experienced discrimination and even persecution; but we, as a society, are starting to become more tolerant, accepting, and understanding.

More like the power elite is coercing Americans to submit to its social engineering.

 California and many other states have allowed gays and lesbians to form domestic partnerships (or civil unions) with most of the rights of married heterosexuals.

There’s a word for that: decadence.

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces.

You could say the same thing about drug addicts. That doesn’t mean we should promote drug addiction as a social virtue.

They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends.

Notice the wedge tactic. But they shouldn’t be our teachers or our soldiers.

They yearn for acceptance…

That’s childish.

…stable relationships

Which they won’t find in homosexuality. Moreover, even if homosexuals were capable of forming stable relationships, stabilizing a pathological relationship doesn’t make it healthy.

…and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Actually, many homosexuals are successful.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another.

Does he apply that same reasoning to polygamist cults or communes?

 Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

Social stigmas are a salutary deterrent to social implosion.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others.

We should encourage them to seek emotional healing.

And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued.

We should be telling them it’s less legitimate. Indeed, illegitimate.

 We demean their relationships…

That’s progress.

 ...and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

That’s like saying we demean drug addicts or compulsive gamblers when we say their behavior is self-destructive.

I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural…

What a surprise.

...and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law.

And I take strong exception to his position.

 Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed.

That’s preposterous. The nature/nurture debate can’t be settled by fiat.

And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others.

That’s duplicitous. If you don’t agree with him, you’ll be prosecuting for violating the civil rights of homosexuals. Guess who’s forcing whose beliefs on others.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination.

Laws are inherently discriminatory. They sanction some forms of social conduct while penalizing other forms of social conduct.

The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races.

That’s an argument from analogy minus the argument.

Citizens who have been denied equality are invariably told to "wait their turn" and to "be patient." Yet veterans of past civil-rights battles found that it was the act of insisting on equal rights that ultimately sped acceptance of those rights. As to whether the courts are "ready" for this case, just a few years ago, in Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court struck down a popularly adopted Colorado constitutional amendment that withdrew the rights of gays and lesbians in that state to the protection of anti-discrimination laws. And seven years ago, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down, as lacking any rational basis, Texas laws prohibiting private, intimate sexual practices between persons of the same sex, overruling a contrary decision just 20 years earlier.

That’s circular reasoning. Appealing to bad precedent to justify subsequent bad rulings.

I have no doubt that we are on the right side of this battle, the right side of the law, and the right side of history.

Many civilizations that slid into oblivion due to internal rot thought they were on the right side of history–until moral decline consigned them to the trashcan of history.