Batman & the Joker

If any of you see the new Batman movie this weekend, please report. Tell the rest of us if it is worthy of all of the hype. Thank you.

An EX-atheist’s testimony

Thanks to Susan a.k.a. Organshoes for alerting us to Jim Pierce’s account of his former atheism. It will be an ongoing thread on his blog, but here are some samples of what he has to say:

Atheism is not religion. I know that statement will draw some frowns from those of my fellow Christians who like to think of Atheists as holding to a religious faith, but that is far from the truth. Atheism is the denial of God. It is the premise that there is no adequate concept of God; where “adequate” means coherent. Therefore, it is reasoned that there can be no instances of the various concepts of God presented to us through the ages by the well meaning philosopher or theologian. The atheist, as I was, is not concerned with trusting in anything for which there is no evidence. Faith is not a component of atheism, and certainly not even faith in one’s self! The reader will find in this text an undeniable self-loathing that I went through, and which I think many other atheists probably suffer from, too. It is precisely this disgust with self that accompanies palpable hatred atheists have for God. The very object they deny exists is somehow an object of great dislike and one which occupies much of their thought life in so far as arguing why that object should not exist! However, you will never find an atheist who will admit as much, since either they would be insane for hating something that doesn’t exist, or something does in fact exist which they hate; thus they really wouldn’t be atheists at all! . . . .

Of course, the atheist has no reason to even look at the Bible as anything other than an ancient mythological work of debatable value to humankind. The point though, before it is lost, is that atheism is about skepticism which is the polar opposite of trust, or faith. For the atheist the question isn’t “Did God really say?” but rather it is, “Is there really a god; let alone one who could say anything at all?”

If the atheist does trust in anything at all, it is their own capacity for reason. We can’t make too much out of this, though. Some theists (those who believe in God) have suggested that atheists have made reason their faith, but in reality atheists seem to relish calling into doubt even their own reasoning! I know I did. There was a time where I believed that we could not get beyond ourselves in the pursuit of truth. That, in fact, there were just as many “truths” as there are perspectives in the world because we are imprisoned in our own minds where knowledge of the “outside world” is concerned. While not quite solipsism, my view was one of extreme skepticism that anyone could prove universal truths of any kind without involving their own perspectives. Another way of putting the point is that I believed there was no such thing as a “God’s eye point of view” or a “view from nowhere”. And, if I was right, then the idea of universal truth was chimerical, since some facet of truth had to be attached to individual observations and experiences.

In Mr. Pierce’s Part 2, he tells of his own background–again–in legalistic Christianity, not only as a child but as a minister, no less. Legalistic Christianity seems to be a prime breeding ground for atheism. (Parents, keep that in mind.) Keep reading his saga. I can’t wait to see how it ends.

An All-Star game that meant something

I actually went to an All-Star game once, that 2002 game in Milwaukee that ended after 11 innings in the infamous tie. I remember how frustrating that was. This time, though, there would be no tie allowed, and the game went on for 15 innings. (No, even I did not stay up for it all.) All the pitchers were blown, and two outfielders were going to have to throw in the next inning, were it not for the AL pushing home a run to win the thing 4-3. Was that a mistake to risk so many good pitchers in a meaningless game? But it was not meaningless. The winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series, and the contenders–such as the Cubs–have a lopsidedly good record at home so those players wanted it bad. See Michael Wilbon’s analysis of the various subtexts of the game, including an unusual lavish praise for commissioner Bud Selig: No Mere Exhibition, but a Show.

Beer city blues

Not only has the Belgian/Brazilian firm InBev bought St. Louis’s Budweiser. Now Miller and Coors have merged and are moving their headquarters to a neutral site: neither Milwaukee nor Colorado but Chicago! Read this . America’s beer cities are no more. I know, the factories will remain in those cities, but part of their identity–as well as their major civic boosters and philanthropists–will be lost.

The paranoid style

Robert D. Novak tells us about the republication of a book from 1965 by Richard Hofstadter entitled The Paranoid Style in American Politics (Vintage).

He described the paranoid politician viewing his adversary as “sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, and luxury-loving.” As a liberal, Hofstadter was writing about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 takeover of the Republican Party, but he acknowledged that the syndrome “is not necessarily right-wing.”

As Novak shows in his column, this style of projecting your opponents as evil, all-controlling conspirators is being increasingly adopted today by the Left.

Now just because a person is paranoid doesn’t mean everybody is NOT out to get him, but the demonizing of people we disagree with is surely a problem in today’s discourse and not just in politics. Isn’t this a serious moral problem today, preventing us from loving and serving our neighbors, including the neighbor who is our enemy but whom we are still enjoined to love?

UPDATE: Let me add some more thoughts: Of course we Christians believe that evil is real and pervasive in sinful human beings. Also that demons are real and that behind earthly woes lie spiritual powers and principalities. But human beings, however depraved, are not demons, are they? They are enslaved to the great demon, but God so loved the denizens of this fallen world that He died for them to give them liberty. Doesn’t this imply that we should look at sinners with pity and not just with hostility, lamenting their doom and hoping for their salvation?

The Children of Hurin

Have any of your read the latest product from Christopher Tolkien editing his father’s papers? It’s The Children of Húrin, and it’s well worth reading. It’s not a Silmarilion-like collection of fictional non-fiction, like much of what Christopher has been publishing. Rather, it’s a true novel, though written in the high saga style, rather than in the variety of styles from the homely to the epic that characterizes “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.”

“The Children of Hurin” has a much scarier dragon and a much more powerful and insidious dark lord than those masterpieces. And it’s dark. Its hero Turin is a cross between Byron and Job. It’s tragic, heart-breaking, not for children, and utterly beautiful.

During our recent road-trip, we listened to the audiobook, which is read by the great Christopher Lee (who played Saruman in the LOTR movies). Hearing it was to feast on language. (If you’d like to buy these, click the links to go to Amazon.)