Around the Web

The New Hampshire GOP says “screw marriage.”

What’s the worst lie Ann Coulter has ever seen in the New York Times? It’s a doozy.

My NRB colleague Paul Cooper has a cool list of pro-life heroes.

How many “memorial services” can you think of with their own official logos and t-shirts?

Wisconsin Republicans plan to push voter ID. Now there’s change I can believe in!

In the wake of Tucson, Sarah Palin’s getting an “unprecedented” amount of death threats. But don’t hold the scumbags to their own standard and blame Paul Krugman, James Clyburn, or Chris Matthews, No sir.

Joe Carter contemplates atheist anger toward God. Why vent at someone you don’t think is there?

And check out the case against cutting defense spending.

Brief Observation: Ayn Rand vs. the Founding Fathers on Human Nature

Amit Ghate has a piece at Pajamas Media, using Ayn Rand to argue that reason is a superior foundation for morality than religion. I’d love to do a more thorough response to it if I wasn’t so busy right now (for those interested, here are parts One, Two, and Three of a debate I had on the subject with an atheist blogger a few years back); For the moment, one quick observation will have to suffice. (Usual disclaimer: I haven’t read Rand firsthand.)

Ghate approvingly cites Ayn Rand’s rejection of man’s fallen nature, saying Rand “sides with the giants of the Enlightenment in considering man to be morally perfectible.” However many Enlightenment thinkers may have believed man was “morally perfectible,” that was one aspect of Enlightenment thinking the American Founders didn’t put much stock in. To the extent that Rand disagrees with Publius on this point, she sides with Progressives.

Principled & Productive National Discourse, or a Culture of Grievance-Mongering?

Here we have another profile in sleaze from the Atheist Ethicist. Today the object of his ire is a column by the American Spectator’s Melanie Phillips, who argues:

I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’ which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda — and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.

Alonzo, in his Herculean struggle against “anti-atheist bigotry,”
responds with an analogy to scapegoating Jews for society’s problems, which “had some very ugly consequences” (I seem to recall a term for this sort of thing—I guess it only applies to them there pro-life yahoos…), a claim that Phillips’ words are “trying to promote hatred and bigotry of” atheists (predictably, he doesn’t bother to actually assemble a case that her words constitute anything of the sort; he just assumes it as a given), and whiny outrage that she isn’t “fighting for her job.”

Once again we see that our hero’s casual acquaintance with truth (or just sloppy reading skills; take your pick) strikes again. Look back at Phillips’ column, and you’ll see she talks specifically about “militant atheism” (geez, she even put it in quotes), and goes on to explain what she means by that—a specific mindset, a specific strain of atheism. As I’ve said before, public consideration of atheism’s (or any religion’s, for that matter) intellectual and moral merits is not bigotry, because religious belief and lack thereof are prisms through which we see the world, with ramifications relevant to society. Clearly, Phillips was not blaming the average skeptic for the financial breakdown; she was making the point that the expansion of a particular mentality in society has had a detrimental effect.
Right or wrong, it’s not bigotry, but a debatable sociological proposition based on her worldview and observations. Any punk with a keyboard and an Internet connection can call those with whom he disagrees names, or wish their careers were in jeopardy. It takes another kind of man entirely to engage an argument head-on.

But the Atheist Ethicist, it would seem, is interested in no such thing. He’s not interested in what Melanie Phillips actually said, but in grievance-mongering. According to the Alonzo Fyfe standard, it’s apparently not possible to criticize any aspect of atheism, any sub-group or sub-mindset within atheism, and not have it seen as bigotry against the entire atheist community. The state of public discourse in this country is already abysmal; the last thing we need is this sort of thing corrupting it further still.

Religion Battle Royale

Click here for the full video of a recent three-way debate between Dinesh D’Souza, Dennis Prager, and Christopher Hitchens, representing Christianity, Judaism, and atheism, respectively. It’s an excellent, stimulating, wide-ranging discussion on faith, reason, God, and morality, with three tremendously formidable debaters—even if Hitchens tends to be a snide, boorish ass.

Question

Every now and then, atheists claim they’re being discriminated against because polling data suggests many Americans wouldn’t want their children to marry an atheist. I don’t see any reason atheists should be offended by this. Why should a desire to marry, or to see your kids marry, somebody with similar values be taken to mean you think somebody with different values is inferior? The issue isn’t superiority, but compatibility: what will make a couple bond best, what will give children the clearest foundation and messages, and so forth. I don’t feel even remotely slighted by the fact that a Muslim would probably not want his daughter to marry me (whether or not Dad’s into honor killings, of course, is a different matter…). This claim is really grasping at straws.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is "Ethicist"

Alonzo Fyfe recently devoted an entire post to condemning misleading, context-free attack ads, and in another, chastised a reader for taking his own words out of context:

Words get their meaning from their context and it is impossible for a person to write anything or to carry on any discussion that will not contain elements whose meaning changes in a different context. For this reason, there is no option but for the burden of the responsibility to be on the reader to understand a statement in that context.

Isn’t that remarkable? It seems the Atheist Ethicist understands and values the importance of context
more than he let on…