America’s exceptional arrogance in the bin Laden killing?

While we Americans tend to embrace our “exceptionalism,”  people from other countries often see that as a bad thing.  Britain’s prominent Christian author N. T. Wright excoriates America for our presumption in the bin Laden assassination:

Popular author and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has accused the world of giving America a free pass for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty and killing an unarmed man during the recent attack that killed Osama bin Laden.

The former bishop of Durham sent a short statement to The Times’ religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in which he pointed out that Americans would be “furious” if Great Britain’s military had staged an unannounced raid against hypothetical Irish Republican Army terrorists and killed them, unarmed, in a Boston suburb.

The only difference, Wright says, is “American exceptionalism.”

“America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not,” said Wright, who is now the research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “By what right? Who says?”

President Obama, Wright says, has “enacted one of America’s most powerful myths,” the vigilante hero going outside the law to execute “redemptive violence” against an enemy who has rendered the legitimate authorities impotent. “This is the plot of a thousand movies, comic-book strips, and TV shows: Captain America, the Lone Ranger, and (upgraded to hi-tech) Superman. The masked hero saves the world.”

While this myth may have been a necessary dimension of life in the Wild West, Wright says, it also “legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one’s own hands, which provides ‘justice’ only of the crudest sort.”

“What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us?” he asks. “And what has any of this to do with something most Americans also believe, that the God of ultimate justice and truth was fully and finally revealed in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, and warned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword?”

via N.T. Wright Slams ‘American Exceptionalism’ in Osama bin Laden Mission | Politics | Christianity Today.

How would you answer him?   Would we, as he says, object if British commandos killed an IRA operative in Boston?  If so, how can we justify what we did in Pakistan?

Equal rights for atheists

We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays.  The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval:  Atheists!

The Washington Post has published an op-ed piece by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, raising the issue and asking “Why don’t Americans like atheists?”

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens.

Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

via Why do Americans still dislike atheists? – The Washington Post.

First of all, to answer the initial question, the major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column:  the atheists’ habit of condescension, anti-religious bigotry, reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.

Second, one has to ask, how, exactly, are atheists being discriminated against?  Are they not allowed to vote?  Are they not getting hired?  Is there wage discrimination against atheists?  Are they not allowed to get married?  A complaint here is that studies show that many people don’t want to marry an atheist and don’t want to vote for one.   If someone doesn’t want to marry you, is he or she violating your rights and discriminating against you?  Should defeated politicians be able to sue everyone who voted against them for discrimination?   I realize that the authors are just demanding social acceptance, but can there be an inalienable right to be liked?

The third point is the most important of all.  Notice how the authors are framing the issues.  Atheists are actually MORE moral than religious people, they say.  They then define “basic morality and human decency” not according to a traditional measure (such as the second table of the Ten Commandments) but according to what is primarily (though not completely) a list of distinctly contemporary secularist positions.  Thus, someone who does not believe in homosexuality, who does believe in capital punishment, who sometimes spanks his child, and who is not an environmentalist is EVIL, lacking basic morality and human decency.

This kind of moral and social inversion, if it catches on, would very soon result in actual and probably legal-driven discrimination against an unpopular minority whose human rights would be violated:  Religious people.

Pro-abortion theology

Katherine Jean Lopez quotes from “O, Beautiful,” a play by Theresa Rebeck, which is getting praise in the New York Times:

‘This is a loving, caring Jesus,” is how the director of a play involving abortion described a leading man to the New York Times.

The play, written by a Notre Dame grad, recently took to stage at the University of Delaware. The dialogue includes a gal asking Christ: “Did you ever say, ‘I’m Jesus, and I say that stupid girls who let guys talk them into going to the back seat of their cars have to have babies?’ Did you say that ever?”

“No,” Jesus replies.

“All you talk about is, be nice to each other!” the teenager continues. “You never said nobody’s allowed to have an abortion.”

The fictional Jesus confirms her assertion.

“So can I? Can I? Can I?” she asks.

“Honestly, I — I don’t really have an issue with it,” Jesus tells her.

Honestly?

Honestly. Rather than uplift and challenge, the hallmark of great art, this just seems to bring Jesus down to our broken level. Where’s the hope in that?

via Defining Divinity Down – Kathryn Jean Lopez – National Review Online.

What shallowness.  What bathos.  What flaming ignorance.  What a reduction of Christ’s teachings.  “Be nice.”  But no one has to be nice to the baby.

 

 

The lies of embryonic stem cell research

Embryonic stem cell research, contrary to the rhetoric, will NOT lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s.  And it probably won’t for Parkinson’s disease, either.  According to Joe Carter, stem cell scientists know this, but purposefully lie about it to overcome pro-life opposition to the destruction of embryos:

Several years ago I worked for a Christian bioethics think tank when ESCR was being hotly debated in the media. Although the ethics of the issue were contested, there was not much disagreement about the basic science involved. Yet some scientists were making claims about ESCR that no one with even the most basic knowledge about the subject could honestly believe were true. But they fooled others into believing them.

For example, the Democratic Party was so convinced that it included in its 2004 platform the claim that, “Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses—from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s.” Even at the time, researchers knew that ESCR could never cure such diseases as Alzheimer’s, and would likely never be useful for treating juvenile diabetes or Parkinson’s either.

While all Christian bioethicists were quick to point out that these claims were inaccurate, few were willing to say that the scientists were lying. However, Art Caplan—the “dean of liberal bioethics”—has no qualms about calling them out on their dishonesty.

via Lying About Embryonic Stem Cell Research » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The post then links to this interview with Caplan.

Newt explains his affair to Christians

Newt Gingrich is gearing up for a presidential run, so he is courting social conservatives.  That requires him to account for his three marriages, including the one that grew out of his affair with a young staff member even as he was lambasting President Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.  What do you think of his explanation?

Newt Gingrich says his passionate hard work for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. In an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich – who recently converted to Catholicism – said he had sought God’s forgiveness for mistakes in his past.

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich said.

“What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them,” he said. “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”

Gingrich went on to say that he and his third wife, Callista, now have a great marriage.

“Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I’ve had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice,” he said.

The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has said he had an affair with Callista, a former congressional aide, while married to his second wife. It happened at the same time he was attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

via News from The Associated Press.

So would you support him for president?

Sex survey surprises

A wide-ranging and embarrassingly detailed survey of Americans’ sexual practices turned up some surprises.  Abstinence among young adults is significant and growing.  More than twice as many women than men have homosexual attraction and behavior.  And quite a few people with homosexual attraction have never had a same-sex experience.

Among the findings of a sweeping federal government survey of American sexual behavior is one that may surprise those bewailing a permissive and eros-soaked popular culture: More than one-quarter of people interviewed in their late teens and early 20s had never had sex.

The latest round of the quaintly named National Survey of Family Growth found that among 15-to-24-year-olds, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males reported no sexual contact with another person ever – up from the 22 percent of both sexes when the survey was last conducted in 2002.

“The public’s general perception is that when it comes to young people and sex, the news is bad and likely to get worse,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, an advocacy organization in Washington.

The seventh and latest round of the survey, first done in 1973, provides a corrective to that view.

“Many, many young people have been very receptive to the message of delaying sexual activity,” Albert said. “There’s no doubt about it.” He added that the nearly 40 percent reduction in teen pregnancy since the 1990s – which experts attribute to both increased condom use and increased abstinence – represents “extraordinary progress on a social issue that many once considered intractable.”

The uptick in abstinence is one of many revealing facts arising from structured interviews with a random sample of 13,495 Americans, ages 15 to 44, that were done from 2006 to 2008. The findings provide evidence for almost every theory and supposition about the nation’s secret sex life. . . .

Across the entire age span surveyed – 15 through 44 – 13 percent of women reported some “same-sex sexual behavior” in their lifetime, compared with 5 percent of men. For women, the fraction was up slightly from 2002, and for men, it was down slightly. . . .

There were small effects related to education. For example, 9 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees or higher reported same-sex encounters, compared with 15 percent of women who had not graduated from high school. On the other hand, 6 percent of male college graduates reported such encounters, compared with 3 percent of men who had not finished high school.

The survey also asked about sexual identity and orientation.

Among 18-to-44-year-olds who described themselves as heterosexual, 9 percent of women and 3 percent of men reported having same-sex encounters. On the other hand, 15 percent of women and 12 percent of men who described themselves as homosexual or bisexual had never had a same-sex experience.

via A sweeping survey of Americans’ sexual behavior.


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