Atheists' ad campaign will target the Bible

The Christmas season will mark a newly-aggressive campaign by an atheist organization to present the moral failings of the Bible:

The American Humanist Association, both atheists and agnostics who think it is possible to lead a moral and ethical life without believing in a deity, rolls out its biggest ad campaign Friday night, a $200,000 splash with a TV spot during “Dateline,” followed by Metro and bus ads that will brighten the morning commute Monday.

The group’s ad campaign this year is aggressive and shrill. The ads pit particularly violent or archaic passages from religious texts against more inclusive, mellow and peaceful writings of secular humanists. They target the Koran as well as the Bible.

The Bible: “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” God, Hosea 13:16 (New International Version).

Humanism: “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own – a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.” Albert Einstein, column for the New York Times, Nov. 9, 1930.

via Christmas wars come early.

I suspect this tact might actually prove effective in turning people against the Bible.  How should this be answered?

The state bank solution

My brother put me onto the example of the North Dakota State Bank as a solution to our country’s financial woes:

While the Fed continues playing parlor tricks to try and stimulate the economy, a much simpler method of igniting long-term economic growth and stability exists in North Dakota. Yes, North Dakota, a state operating with a surplus of cash and unemployment at 4%. In the early 1900′s the economy of North Dakota was agriculture-based, and the farmers there were experiencing serious financial problems that prevented them from buying and selling crops and financing farm operations. Grain dealers from out-of-state controlled prices and kept them artificially low, while farm suppliers continually increased their prices. To no one’s surprise, interest rates on loans climbed.

By 1919 the people of North Dakota had had enough and wanted state ownership and control of marketing and credit agencies, and so the legislature established the Bank of North Dakota. Its mission: to promote the development of agriculture, commerce and industry in ND. The Bank of North Dakota is a public bank that is robustly solvent, with a strong record of financing loans for agriculture, housing and higher education, as well as funding municipal bonds. All tax revenues and fees in the state go into the State Bank, allowing North Dakota to finance construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, maintain schools and libraries, and assist local businesses.

The Bank of North Dakota is truly a peoples’ bank that exists for the benefit of the state and its residents, only, with loans made at low interest rates and no bloated, outrageous CEO salaries and benefits that squander funds. And no shady derivatives allowed, either; a novel concept indeed. For 91 years the bank has flourished and North Dakota today is a rare example of economic strength in a sea of debt-ridden states that must slash services and raise taxes to stay afloat, giving a whole new meaning to the term “red states.” . . .

via Pearl Korn: North Dakota — A Template For Our Economic Recovery.

Here is more about how it works, from Ellen Brown:

By law, the state must deposit all its funds in the bank, and the state guarantees its deposits. The bank’s stated mission is to deliver sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota. The bank operates as a bankers’ bank, partnering with private banks to loan money to farmers, real estate developers, schools and small businesses. It loans money to students (over 184,000 outstanding loans), and it purchases municipal bonds from public institutions.

Still, you may ask, how does that solve the solvency problem? Isn’t the state limited to spending only the money it has? The answer is no. Certified, card-carrying bankers are allowed to do something nobody else can do: they can create “credit” with accounting entries on their books.

Under the “fractional reserve” lending system, banks are allowed to extend credit (create money as loans) in a sum equal to many times their deposit base. Congressman Jerry Voorhis, writing in 1973, explained it like this:

“[F]or every $1 or $1.50 which people – or the government – deposit in a bank, the banking system can create out of thin air and by the stroke of a pen some $10 of checkbook money or demand deposits. It can lend all that $10 into circulation at interest just so long as it has the $1 or a little more in reserve to back it up.”

The Federal Reserve’s 10 percent reserve requirement is now largely obsolete, in part because banks have figured out how to get around it with such games as “overnight sweeps”. What chiefly limits bank lending today is the 8 percent capital requirement imposed by the Bank for International Settlements, the head of the private global central banking system in Basel, Switzerland. With an 8 percent capital requirement, a state with its own bank could fan its revenues into 12.5 times their face value in loans (100 ÷ 8 = 12.5). And since the state would actually own the bank, it would not have to worry about shareholders or profits. It could lend to creditworthy borrowers at very low interest, perhaps limited only to a service charge covering its costs; and it could lend to itself or to its municipal governments at as low as zero percent interest. If these loans were rolled over indefinitely, the effect would be the same as creating new, debt-free money.

But, you ask, wouldn’t that be dangerously inflationary? Not if the money were used to create new goods and services. Price inflation results only when “demand” (money) exceeds “supply” (goods and services). When they increase together, prices remain stable. . . .

Our workers and our factories are sitting idle because the private credit system has failed. An injection of new money from a system of public banks could thaw the credit freeze and bring spring to the markets again. The mathematical flaw in the private credit system is the enormous tribute siphoned off to private coffers in the form of interest. A public banking system could overcome that flaw by returning the interest to the public purse. This is the sort of banking that was pioneered in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where it worked brilliantly well. We need to return to our historical roots and implement that system again.

Liberals like this, moving capital from the private to the public sector, while conservatives might like the federalist implications for empowering the states, as well as the decentralization of finance (which is not exactly laissez faire as it is). And North Dakota is a Red State with pretty conservative citizens, isn’t it? What do you think? I told my brother I would submit the idea to my readers and let him know.

The two different NIVs

tODD, a long-time reader and commenter on this blog, told me that he was using Bible Gateway, that extremely useful site that allows you to find Bible passages from a wide array of translations, when he noticed that an NIV passage he was finding was different from the same NIV passage he learned as a child. He dug into the matter, and it turns out there is a new version of the NIV, with many quite different translations, that will replace the NIV of 1984.

On November 1, the new translation was put up on Bible Gateway. In March, 2011, it will be published as the New International Version, with both the controversial Today’s New International Version (TNIV) (with all of the gender-neutral and other non-conservative language) AND the original New International Version (that had become the dominant evangelical version) going out of print.

These plans were announced some time ago, but I suspect many people do not realize that this change is underway. The Wikipedia article on the TNIV says this:

“On September 1, 2009, it was announced that development of a new revision of the NIV is in progress, and that once it is released both the TNIV and the 1984 NIV would be discontinued.[3] Keith Danby, president and chief executive officer of Biblica, once known as the International Bible Society said they erred in presenting past updates, failed to convince people revisions were needed and “underestimated” readers’ loyalty to the 1984 NIV. The update NIV will be issued in 2011.”

The Wikipedia article on the NIV gives the updated details: “A major revision was announced on September 1, 2009 and was published online on November 1, 2010 at http://www.biblegateway.com and http://www.biblica.com. The first printed editions will be published in March 2011.”

The revised NIV will not use inclusive language for God, but it will use inclusive language in other places. Grammatical purists like me will be annoyed that the plural pronoun “they” will be used for singulars of unspecified gender. See Translation Notes, which lists other new readings. I’ll let tODD report the ones that caught his eye:

1 Peter 5:9
(NIV 1984) Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
(NIV 2011) Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

James 5:7-9 (partial)
(NIV 1984) Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. … Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
(NIV 2011) Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. … Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

* ‟Saints” often becomes ‟God’s people,” ‟the Lord’s people,” ‟the Lord’s holy people” and the
like (as in Romans 8:27)
* Certain uses of ‟Christ” are now ‟Messiah.”
* Some occurrences of ‟Jews,” especially in John, have become ‟Jewish leaders” or something
similar.
* Most occurrences of ‟sinful nature” have become ‟flesh.”

Perhaps the most-changed verse, that I could find, was Malachi 2:16:
(NIV 1984) “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself[a]with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
(NIV 2011) “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

There are some good changes, in my opinion, such as translating some passages that are ambiguous in the original languages so that they are still ambiguous in English, leaving room for various interpretations, instead of the translator taking a position and making it look like that is what the Bible says! (That, to me, is the bane of many modern translations.) But still there remains lots of interpretations for the sake of modern readers in place of simply rendering what these non-modern texts literally say, this being part of the translating philosophy of the NIV. Here too is that tendency in American evangelicalism to cut itself off from the church of the past (eliminating “saints”?). Not to mention the presumption of correcting the Bible’s “sexist” language.

It also looks like the new NIV will continue and maybe even intensify what most annoyed me about the old NIV: the utter tone-deaf resistance to metaphor, poetry, and beauty of language:

Psalm 23: 4: (NIV 1984) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. . . ”
(NIV 2011) “Even though I walk through the darkest valley. . .”

End of the welfare state?

England’s coalition government is getting tough on welfare.  As are other European nations:

Britain announced the most radical overhaul in decades Thursday to its once-generous welfare system, pledging harsh penalties for those who refuse jobs and community work service for the unemployed in return for benefit checks.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled sharp changes to the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net, which was first introduced after World War II to better protect newborns, families, the jobless and the sick.

Critics have long said the British system offered hefty benefits unavailable to other citizens across Europe, the U.S. and other major economies — encouraging some people to snub modest jobs in favor of an easy life on handouts.

“The message is clear. If you can work, then a life of benefits will no longer be an option,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last month announced it would slash benefits payments by 18 billion pounds ($29 billion) under a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 pounds ($128 billion).

Under the new plan, many of the 5 million people who claim jobless benefits in Britain will be ordered to regularly do four weeks of unpaid community work to remain eligible for their 65 pounds ($105) weekly welfare payment. The stints could include manual labor tasks like removing graffiti or gardening in public parks.

Unemployment claimants routinely also receive other welfare payments to help with housing costs and raising children.

The plan is the centerpiece of Cameron’s legislative program, and one of the key elements of his strategy to fix so-called “Broken Britain,” his election slogan for the social problems that he says have blighted the nation’s prospects.

Duncan Smith said under his reforms, those who turn down job offers, fail to show up for job interviews or decline to take part in community projects face tough punishments. Benefits will stop for three months on a first offense, for six months for the second time and for three years after a third breach.

The system is still much more lenient than that in Spain, where a third offense means a person loses their welfare payments for good.

Duncan Smith insists the changes are not just to reduce the country’s budget deficit but are meant to jolt a group of around 1.4 million Britons who have been without a job for about a decade.

“For too long, the success of our welfare system has been judged by the number of people who are on benefits,” said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. “Our welfare system should be judged by the number of people who are off benefits and into work.”

Britain’s reforms echo a program by Sweden’s center-right government to get more people into the work force and reduce the number of benefit-takers.

Sweden’s motto — “it should pay off to work” — was echoed by Duncan Smith.

via Off the sofa! UK gets tough on welfare.

Tolkien vs. the Beatles

Imagine:

Once upon a time, the Fab Four—having slain the pop charts—decided to set their sights on the Dark Lord Sauron by making a Lord of the Rings feature, starring themselves. One man dared stand in their way: J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the ’60s—and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.”It was something John was driving, and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage, but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson said.

via Little-known sci-fi facts: Tolkien killed a Beatles LOTR movie | Blastr.

HT: Joe Carter

The ideological crisis of liberalism?

Although many states are hurting financially, the states with the biggest financial problems are the “blue states” like California and New York whose Democratic state legislatures with their liberal policies have brought them to the verge of ruin.  Michael Gerson describes the problem and suggests that they point to a crisis in liberalism:

Most significantly, the blue-state financial misery continues and deepens the ideological crisis of American liberalism. Few politicians in traditionally liberal states now speak about the expanding promise of progressive government and the welfare state. New Jersey is already in conservative revolt. New York’s Democratic governor-elect, Andrew Cuomo, campaigned on a promise of budget cuts without tax increases. The New York congressional delegation shifted significantly in a Republican direction. While California remains in denial – even after a budget crisis that has lasted for a decade – that could rapidly change as well. It may be Democratic governors who are forced by economic reality to limit the size and ambitions of government, delivering a body blow to liberalism itself. If progressive activism can’t survive in these places, it will be difficult for it to survive anywhere.

via Michael Gerson – Blue-state budget crises spell more trouble for Democrats.

But isn’t it also possible that a really severe and prolonged economic crisis might tilt the country to the hard left? For example, what if the government responded to the housing crisis by nationalizing the property of those evil banks and forgiving everyone’s mortgages? Would that not be popular? Yes, this would destroy our whole economic system. But would Americans have the principles to oppose measures that might seem to help them economically but that would be wrong?


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