August 31, 2004

Warren Buffett has his say

from - Buck

Warren Buffett, high achiever extraordinaire, seems to view taxes and where they need to come from through a different lense than Boortz, Hannity and Limbaugh.

Here is a tidbit of information that I was not aware of

Buffett said corporate income taxes accounted for 7.4 percent of fiscal 2003 U.S. tax receipts. Except for 1983, that was the lowest in the last 70 years, he said.


Posted by Buck at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

"Outing" a Hater

from - smijer

Back in July, I posted a brief condemnation of the plan to call homosexual staffers and/or congresscritters out of the closet if they had supported the hate amendment. My words:

I decidedly do not think it is appropriate to "out" homosexuals to advance a cause, no matter how hypocritical that person is being, and no matter how important that cause is. This would do little more than serve as an attack on individuals and their privacy, and lend credibility to smears against homosexuals as petty and back-biting. I hope that the gentleman in question will change his mind and decide to take the high road instead. -this post

It appears that BlogAction has landed the big fish, nailing Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock, co-sponsor of the hate amendment.

It's hard to feel sorry for him, but I stand by my words.

The "outing" that should shame him into stepping down is not his homosexuality, hypocritical as it is. What should shame him into stepping down, and make him unelectable in the eyes of Pat Robertson's VA is his public support of bigotry no matter what his own sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, I can't help but be glad that he is withdrawing from the race.

Posted by smijer at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

Some Link Updates

from - smijer

If you have been following my discussion with Kevin on Morphemics, then you should note that Morphemics has moved. (The latest post in our discussion is here).

I've added the Freethought Forums to the very short "Reason / Rationalism" blogroll, despite the fact that I do not participate there. Oh, and that it isn't, technically, a blog. This post, and this one made Freethought Forums a must-read for me. It goes on the blogroll.

Lastly, I've anticipated the next Rocky-Top Brigade update by adding the delightfully liberal Scrutiny Hooligans, there under the Tennessee State Flag. I may have spoken too soon, as it seems that S.H. is actually a North Carolina blog who happens to have the kindness to include its Tennessee neighbors in its link-roll. I will let it stand, anyway.

Posted by smijer at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

Live in hope, die in despair

from - Buck

Last night George Bush admitted what every thinking person on the planet has known since the war on terror was declared. He said that we can not win it.

But back in January of 2004 he said with great confidence "No question, we will win the war on terror"

Is this considered a flip-flop?

I am glad to see that the President is showing some intellectual maturity as we get closer to the election.

But now we have to deal with the idiotic operatives of the Democratic party spouting nonsense.

"This is a president who doesn't believe he can win the war on terror," Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said. "I know John Kerry believes he can [win] because John Kerry has faith and confidence in our firefighters, police officers, EMTs and military personnel who keep our homeland safe."

Someone needs to tell Gov. Vilsack that firefighters put out fires, police officers fill out reports and EMT's pick up the dead and wounded after the fact. As for our military personnel they are too busy fighting for the freedom of Iraqi's to concern themselves with our "safety".

The fog begins to lift off of the Republicans only to settle on the Democrats.

There seems to be no way out of this box.

Posted by Buck at 08:49 PM | Comments (5)

Re-defining "Leadership"

from - smijer

I think I've identified the biggest talking point that is going to come from the right and make its way into the American subconscious this time around: "Leadership matters most". I've already been told by many of my Bush-leaning friends that they like him more for his "leadership qualities" than for his "policies," a meme that has been filtering into the media from the Bush camp slowly for quite a while. Now, it is going to be the RNC Convention theme.

The strategy is to take focus off of the record of Bush's actions and policies, where they are at a disadvantage, and put it on his "leadership style". "Leadership style" is a great phrase. It doesn't have a clear and concise meaning, so it can mean anything. In Bush's case, it means personality. Bush won the first election on his demeanor and personality, and he counts those among his biggest strengths in this election, too.

So the problem for Democrats is going to be to make sure the nation gets an earful of obvious facts: leadership style is quantified and defined by actions, policies, and results. Bush's leadership style is to borrow and spend. It is to divide us as a nation, and divide us from our friends in the world. It is to begin wars of choice without a plan for finishing them. His leadership style is to produce record debt, to lower the American standard of living, and to entangle our military hopelessly in a foreign nation that is increasingly hostile to us.

The RNC wants to re-define leadership to make it a show: an appearance of grit and determination. They want it to mean talk. "Tough" talk, to be sure, but that's still talk. They want it to mean the appearance of strength projected by unthoughtful agression. Don't let them re-define "leadership".

So, when the RNC hints that we should look at the President's "leadership" instead of his policies, we should say it loud, and say it proud: Leadership means making good policy. Leadership means uniting the people. Leadership means getting good results.

Posted by smijer at 01:27 PM | Comments (1)

Letters from Home

from - Buck


Posted by Buck at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2004

Skeptics and True Believers

from - smijer

raymo.JPG This Sunday's Sermon will be a review of the book, Skeptics and True Believers, The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion, by Chet Raymo.

I purchased my copy used. Had I looked inside first, I might have left it on the shelf. The previous owner marked up the entire book in pen: mainly marginal notes and underlining. But, I had paged through a new copy before and I already knew that I wanted to buy the book, so I took it home, marks and all. Interestingly, the inside cover bore the note "Scientist's C.S. Lewis". In some ways, I suppose, the characterization is fair. This book certainly does a wonderful job of presenting science as a glorious way of knowing. So, if the measure is dedication to the subject, Raymo compares very favorably in his appreciation of scientific reality with Lewis' devotion to the Christian religion. However, the comparison must end there. Lewis seems eager to bolster his cherished faith by finding any means, be it question begging or proposition of false dilemmas, to tie it to objective reality. Raymo, on the other hand, asks us to let our knowledge and beliefs start with objective reality as it is revealed through the methods of science and to build our most deeply cherished beliefs up from it.

Raymo is critical of pseudoscience, superstition, and reactionary fundamentalism as elements of religion, but he doesn't go too hard on the institutions and doctrines of religion generally. He certainly never rebukes the moral witness of contemporary religion, with its peurile fantasies of a fiery hell and redemption through blood sacrifice. And, while he stresses religion's role in providing a cohesive social structure (quoting the words "there can be no community without a community story"), he doesn't mention religion's program for subversion of the individual human will. He speaks approvingly of worship and adulation, and he is properly critical of credulity and gullibility, but he remains silent on the irrational fears that are bred in the minds of True Believers to be sure they never venture too close to a healthy skepticism of such human institutions as the church. He could have and should have spared a chapter in the book to offer his audience relief of such fears. Doing so might have furthered his agenda of evangelizing the scientific way of knowing as much as his presentation of its attractive power.

Raymo also takes issue with scientists whom he terms "strong" reductionists: namely Weinberg and Hawkins. He rightly criticizes the hubris of Hawking who would name the most fundamental description of physical law "the mind of God", but I think he mistakes Weinberg's reductionistic program. It is not merely faith that causes the scientist to seek the more fundamental reality reductionistically. It is a time-tested truth that the search for the basic building blocks requires examination of physical processes at finer and finer scales. That isn't to say that ultimate reality is best understood at its most fundamental level: it is only to say that we wish to see and know of that level.

Raymo does a better than average job of giving an overview of scientific skepticism and how it works, though he unfortunately doesn't really get into the nuts and bolts of critical thinking. But, the purpose of his book is to build a scientific foundation for the realization of the sublime. I can only say that I admire his ability to give substance to religious devotion without falling victim to the pitfalls of religious and pseudoscientific quackery. Such an effort is a tightrope that Raymo walks with true grace.

The true power of Skeptics... is that it whets the appetite for both knowledge and mystery. Upon turning the last page, you will be eager to get back into the world and explore it as directly as your physical circumstances will allow. This is a highly recommended book.

If you wish to direct this purchase to your closest independent bookstore with Book Sense, enter your Zip code below before pressing the button. (If you do not enter your Zip, a Book Sense store will be chosen for you at random.)

Update: I updated the Book Sense link, in case anyone was trying to use the service and wondering why they landed on the wrong book!
Posted by smijer at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

Military Solutions

from - Buck

War is the statesmans game, the priests delight, the lawyers jest, the hired assassins trade.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

And other thoughts concerning war


He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind

Posted by Buck at 05:52 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2004

On the Bible

from - smijer

It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand. - Mark Twain
Posted by smijer at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

On the reliability of Polls

from - smijer

Some questions on some polls remind me so much of the length of the Emperor's Nose.

Side Note

from - smijer

This Letter to the editor should look familiar to readers of this post of Buck's.

Posted by smijer at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2004


from - smijer

I am speechless.

Posted by smijer at 08:44 PM | Comments (3)

Kicks and Giggles

from - Buck

One of the ways I get kicks and giggles in my small hometown of Toccoa, Georgia is to send letters to the editor of our small hometown newspaper.
My most recent submission was printed today. I am taking the liberty of sharing it here with ya’ll.

To the Editor

Hopefully the rumors that George Bush will ride into the halls of the Republican National Convention on the back of an ass while his proselytes pliantly place palm leaves in his path are exaggerations.

Nevertheless, the convention itself is shaping up to be one of the most sickening displays of politics turned religion since Leni Riefenstahl directed The Triumph of the Will for the National Socialists in Germany 70 years ago.

From the lecterns of this convention we will be constantly reminded of the horrors of abortion and the glory of war. Liberals may be correct when they say that a conservative is one who believes that the sanctity of life begins at conception and ends at birth.

Only a pro-life jingoist can answer the question of why the killing of the unborn is to be considered so much more horrific than the killing of fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers.

During the convention we will be assured ad nauseum that the prospect of two men with a marriage license is far more ominous and threatening to the security of the world than a trigger-happy Commander-in-Chief who has over 10,000 nuclear warheads at his disposal and the proclivity to turn allies into enemies.

Experts with MBA's will explain to us that even though this year's deficit is 22 percent higher than last year's deficit the fact that this year's deficit is lower than it was projected to be means that the current policy of borrow, borrow, spend, spend is working wonderfully.

Perhaps we should all test this economic strategy in our own homes and see if it works as well for us as it does for them. Just keep in mind that the government can print money as well as take it at gunpoint. For ordinary citizens, both of these revenue-enhancing options are illegal.

Having pseudo-conservatives controlling the White House, the Senate and the House has made all of the difference in how we are governed.

Since his party has had total control, our President has not had to veto a single bill. He has not submitted one balanced budget. It seems that the only thing this President does not want to fund is stem cell research. A man must do what a man must do to keep the fundamentalists happy.

Maybe instead of riding in astride the back of an ass, George Bush can simply parachute into the proceedings. As he floats slowly downward towards the podium, Dick Cheney can implore the crowd to look up and lift up their heads because their redemption draweth nigh!

With the salty tears of sycophantic adulation streaming down their upturned faces and with their hands lifted towards the heavens in the hope of just touching the hem of his garment as he wafts by, those who believe in perpetual war and a Leviathan state can then sink reverentially to their knees as John Ashcroft sings, "Hail To The Chief" in its entirety.

I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

Buck Simmons


It is probably going to be a long weekend.

Posted by Buck at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)

Friday Dog Blogging

from - smijer

In honor of Kevin Drum before me, and others who have jumped on that bandwagon, may I present Miss Piddles:



Happy Friday!

Posted by smijer at 01:17 PM | Comments (1)


from - Buck

For the first time it seems that George Bush has admitted to a miscalulation. The closer we get to the election the funnier the confessions and proposals become. Suddenly we are going to dismantle the CIA and the IRS. We are going to think about a "Fair Tax" and even bring some of the boys home. It can only get better as that great and terrible day approaches.

I was particularly amused by one comment that Bush made in the "miscalculation" article. The article states that

The president also discussed the issue of North Korea and Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying that he would not be rushed to set deadlines.

Bush is quoted as saying

"I don't think you give timelines to dictators."

I guess that means that Saddam was no dictator because didn't Bush give Saddam 48 hours to get out of town?

Posted by Buck at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2004

Not even Bush is that Dumb

from - smijer

For the record, neither GWB nor JF Kerry made this stupid Bible error. If you are reading this anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line, you most likely got the version that lied about Kerry. I know I did.

Posted by smijer at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

Not Just in America

from - smijer

But even here, Poverty is winning.

Posted by smijer at 08:33 PM | Comments (3)

Raise Your Hand If You've Seen them in Action (a Twofer)

from - smijer

[The Believer] is sure, and nothing shall make him doubt, that if anything seems to be proved by astronomer, or geologist, or chronologist, or antiquartian, or ethnologist, in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or secondarily, not contradictory, or thirdly, not contradictory to any thing really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation.
-John Henry Newman, quoted in Skeptics and True Believers, Chet Raymo

Today's thought comes two for the price of one (money back if you're not delighted!). I may eventually have to re-open my Book Reviews category for this book:

We yearn when we dream of fulfillment, of greater happiness, of knowing more. We yearn when we cry out for human affirmation from the cosmos, when we love, when we laugh, when we cry, when we pray. Yearning is wondering what is around the next bend, over the rainbow, beyond the horizon. Yearning is curiosity. Yearning is the driving force of science, art, and religion.

Learning is listening to parents, wise men and women, shamans. Learning is reading, going to school, traveling, doing experiments. Learning is dismantling the clock to see what makes it tick or touching the stove to see if it's hot, not taking anyone's word for it (not even the word of parents, wise men and women, shamans). In science, learning means trying as hard to prove that something is false as to prove it true, even if that something is a cherished belief.

Yearning without learning is seeing Elvis in a crowd, the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs together in ancient rocks, or moving statues. Yearning without learning is buying tabloid newspapers with headlines announcing "Newborn Baby Talks of Heaven" and "Aliens in U.S. Congress!" Yearning without learning is looking for healing in pretty crystals and the meaning of life in horoscopes. Yearning without learning is following whatever current guru offers the most promising prospects of eternal life.

- Chet Raymo, Skeptics and True Believers

Posted by smijer at 07:50 AM | Comments (14)

August 25, 2004

I like Al Franken

from - smijer

Because he's funny.

Posted by smijer at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

Who's the Biggest Flip-Flopper of them All?

from - smijer

So, who's the king of flip flops...

John Kerry?

George W. Bush?

Dick Cheney?

By November, Alan Keyes may have them all beat.

Posted by smijer at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

Trial Balloon before New York

from - Buck

The question of gay marriage just does not interest me very much. Put simply I just do not care. If two men or women are going to live together anyway I pretty much agree with Dolly Parton when she said "Let 'em marry and suffer like the rest of us."

I learned from reading Justin Raimondo that just because you are gay does not make you for gay marriage. He once wrote

I don't need any more reasons to be against gay marriage apart from the looming prospect of gay divorce. If I'm going to break up with my boyfriend, I don't want to have to pay a price higher than a few broken vases and a call to 911. As far as I'm concerned, if ever there was an argument for the existence of "homophobia," then this is it: "gay marriage" is the revenge of the heterosexuals, who resent and hate us for our gay fun-filled lives and advanced powers of color-coordination. It's a nefarious plot to make us all as boring and unbearable as Andrew Sullivan, and I, for one, will have none of it.

Tonight I had just finished reading that Dick Cheney had once again given his "I have a gay daughter" speech when my email alerted me to the fact that the old faithful Newsmax had this important poll that must be taken immediately!

I guess 'ol George and Dick are trying to figure out exactly how much they are going to have to kowtow to the evangelical wing of their party whilst in New York.

I'm lookin' forward to seeing the results of the poll.

Posted by Buck at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2004

More Notes

from - smijer

  • More bad news from Sudan.

  • This is a little bit old, but it explains so much. Fear is a wonderful tool for survival, until it overrides the remaining faculties entirely.

  • I think Jesse raises a couple of excellent points, here.

  • Kos points out that Bob Dole (whom I used to admire), is a hypocrite. I will qualify that, since he has chosen the dirtiest smear campaign yet to pile on top of. He is a hypocrite of the worst kind. P.S. To you people (you know who you are) that claim that Kerry has "invited" or "opened the door" to numerous baldfaced lies questions about his Vietnam service, please take a moment to re-examine your opinion. It's one thing to investigate Kerry's service and report the facts. It is quite another to put together a smear campaign campaign to convince as many people as possible to believe false things about Kerry's service. If the reverse were happening: if Bush had volunteered for combat, and some lefties turned up on TV lying about his war record, they would be universally condemned as radical anti-American Bush-haters, by the media, the President, and the punditry. Anyone with the temerity to suggest that he had brought it on himself by campaigning on his record of service, would forever after be consigned to the status of fruitcake, or worse.

    On the other hand, I agree with those of you who would like to see this race back on the issues of today instead of the history of 35 years ago, except insofar as I am glad Kerry's Vietnam campaign serves to undermine and reverse some of the Atwater/Rove psy-ops campaign to paint liberals as soft on defense and military issues. Better to show actual advantages to our foreign policy, but I will accept psy-ops against psy-ops.

  • John Kerry did not spend Christmas in Cambodia in 1968. But he probably wasn't lying about it when he said he did. Douglas Brinkley:
    "On Christmas Eve he was near Cambodia; he was around 50 miles from the Cambodian border. There's no indictment of Kerry to be made, but he was mistaken about Christmas in Cambodia," said Douglas Brinkley, who has unique access to the candidate's wartime journals.

    But Mr Brinkley rejected accusations that the senator had never been to Cambodia, insisting he was telling the truth about running undisclosed "black" missions there at the height of the war.

    He said: "Kerry went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions. He had a run dropping off US Navy Seals, Green Berets and CIA guys." The missions were not armed attacks on Cambodia, said Mr Brinkley, who did not include the clandestine missions in his wartime biography of Mr Kerry, Tour of Duty.

    "He was a ferry master, a drop-off guy, but it was dangerous as hell. Kerry carries a hat he was given by one CIA operative. In a part of his journals which I didn't use he writes about discussions with CIA guys he was dropping off." - link"

  • Buck's Daily links, and campaign links are added to the top right of the page now.

    Posted by smijer at 07:24 AM | Comments (8)
  • August 23, 2004

    Say it ain't so

    from - Buck

    When I received the following alert via email today I was dumbfounded. I use blockquotes here because I am not able to link to the story directly from Newsmax at this time.

    1. Is the Bush Campaign Running Out of Money?

    When John Kerry's campaign came from near insolvency to raising more money than the incumbent, President George Bush, we thought the President would be in a wee bit of money trouble.

    And when we saw the 527s raising tens of millions backed by the likes of George Soros -- without the Republicans doing likewise -- we knew that Republicans would be in for a big store of trouble.

    NewsMax's Insider Report was the first to reveal that the FEC would not rule against the 527s. In fact, we reported that Republican commission members had warned the Bush White House to get into the game ASAP because the 527s would not be declared illegal.

    But the Bush campaign, not interested in having independent groups they could not control, would not give its blessing to pro-Bush 527s.

    Now the money math is simple. The Kerry forces - through his campaign, the unions and the 527s - will outspend Bush by some $300 million or more by election day.

    With just two months left we thought the Republicans would be desperate for money. And so it is.

    One wealthy Republican - one of the few who can write Soros-style checks of $10 million or more - tells us that he has, all of a sudden, gotten calls from desperate Republicans seeking help, including one call from RNC chief Ed Gillespie. All calls have gone unreturned.

    Like most Republicans, he is strongly rooting for Bush. But no money will be sent. This donor doesn't believe it will make much of a difference at this point.

    And then there's politics. President Bush never invited the donor - a frequent guest in the Oval Office of previous Republican presidents - to the White House even once during the past four years.

    It's a story we have heard time and again. Conservatives who write to the president get no response, and no one from the Bush White House calls to thank their friends and supporters on behalf of the President. These are the normal things previous administrations have done.

    The stories about lack of follow up from the Bush White House and RNC are legion with the constituencies of the "Reagan base" of the party.

    For example, there's the NRA - perhaps the most critical group that backed Bush in 2000 - still furious over the McCain-Feingold bill that has perhaps permanently emasculated them in the political process.

    But there are other stories told. There is a prominent Democrat who endorsed Bush and never heard from the Republicans for months after going public. Now when they call he says he is still supporting Bush, but "please, let me do my own thing" (read: please keep your distance).

    If Bush loses in November it may be due to his lack of cash - and more likely due to the poor job his political operatives have done.

    Tip O'Neill once said all politics is local. He was wrong: all politics is politics.

    This was a real jaw-dropper to me. I cannot imagine a political party being so out of touch as to take everything for granted. Not even a simple thank you to donors? No White House invitiations? I had always suspected these guys of being ignorant, incompetent and apathetic but Newsmax just gave me all of the verification that I need.

    If I am missing something here please let me know. I don't know if I should take this article seriously or not.

    Posted by Buck at 10:14 PM | Comments (1)

    Don't Look!

    from - smijer

    It might be an actual issue.

    Posted by smijer at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

    Overtime anyone?

    from - Buck

    If this is impossible to understand how can it be described by the President as being "great for workers"?

    Posted by Buck at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

    Monday Notes

    from - smijer

  • The smijer side of this blog supports John Wolfe for Congressperson of Tennessee's third district. I'll add a link for his race to the left column later today.
  • This is odd. If Sky News is representative, the Brits use the term "put the gloves on" the way Americans use the term "take the gloves off." That, or they have a moron on staff.
  • This from the GOP candidate for Senate in Illinois:
    We must reject the notion of separation of church and state because that separation will mean the destruction of our nation... -link

  • Another strike against the SB Liars, as Swift Boat commander Rood breaks silence.
  • Sadly No! says I'll be seeing a new e-mail chain letter lie in my in-box before too long: this one.

    As Michael Feldman would say, That's All the News That Isn't.

    Posted by smijer at 07:50 AM | Comments (1)
  • August 22, 2004

    Leaps of Faith and the UU Church, a Sunday Sermon

    from - smijer

    Pardon me if my Sunday Sermon rambles a bit this morning. I'm going to try and deviate from my usual format of pointing out what's wrong with religion, and try to give a fair treatment to both the right and wrong of religion and church. It would be too much work to neatly organize all of the relevant thinking on the matter, so please bear with the stream of consciousness presentation.

    As you should be aware, if you have read this blog in the last few weeks, I have little use for religion, whether it wears the label proudly on its sleeve, or masquerades behind words like "personal relationship with..." or "being touched by...", or "service to..." Jesus or God or the Spirit or whatever else, including that which is done outside of my particular geographical area. Part of the reason is that, from the perspective of western religion, I am the ultimate heretic. I refuse to bow to demands of other humans that I must "choose to believe by faith" in their man-made religions. I have high standards for my religion, and one of those is that belief come from conviction through experience, not obedience to human will. But faith has other meanings and connotations, and there is one kind of faith that I will sometimes apply without grudge: as benefit of the doubt.

    When I first drove myself to the Unitarian church, I had very low expectations about the experience. Yet, I knew of a group of people who organized themselves around some of the same ethical principles that I have, and who embrace people as part of their "religious" community who reject faith as an epistemic tool. It was on faith - or benefit of the doubt - that I agreed to see if this community and I could have a common purpose without the prop of a common creed.

    Today was my fourth visit, and I'm pleased to say that the benefit of the doubt served me well in this case. Had the result been the opposite, I would have stayed home the fifth Sunday. The most important thing one must do with faith, from my view, is lose it. One cannot persist in the benefit of the doubt forever when the search is designed to turn up objective evidence, and to reveal it if the evidence is against the position. That is the difference between the command to faith and faith as a useful guide. The command to believe makes it impossible to honestly assess the evidence against the belief while maintaining obedience. Faith as a useful guide acknowledges what benefit may be had from the model, while exploring how that benefit may better be gotten without the model.

    I picked up a tract today, entitled "Unitarian Universalist Views of God". Some of the views were closer to the anthropomorphic "personal God". Some were more metaphorical. The following view so closely mirrored my own, and so clearly displays the positive that can come from "religion" that I felt like I should include it here:

    It has been years since I have used the word God to explain anything about the world in which we live. The issue of evil and suffering prevents me from finding any comfort in this term. This is especially true when I consider the history and current needs of my own community - the African American community. The idea of God has had a mixed roecrd at best with respect to the African American struggle for liberation. In my experience, it has often justfied suffering by seeing it as redemptive instead of encouraging a strong, consistent fight against injustice. I see no merit in this. I believe the tradition of African American humanism points to the human potential for progressive activity, without any need of God talk.

    Mine is a firm atheism that avoids talk of transcendence. From my perspective, there is nothing behind the symbold God. In its place, I affirm the idea of community. It is in community that we are encouraged to develop our full human potential and overcome oppression. -Anthony B. Pinn

    To the best of my experience, there is exclusively one thing right with religion: community. The mystical urge is more expediently met with art and outdoorsmanship than with fanciful, but empty, mystical imaginings mistaken for an objective reality. The prejudice and dogma of religion could be done without entirely. Fearand avoidance of reason and its fruits should be turned on its head. What remains is community: a coming together of people with a common cause: the betterment of all.

    And, speaking of the betterment of all, I want to turn to the children's service. I have been witness to children's stories in numerous churches, and as a child I was among those who came to the front of the church to hear the coloring-book stories of Noah and the floating tetrapod Zoo. The unitarian church has a somewhat unique children's service. Yes, unfortunately, sometimes they are spoon-fed a new-agey reference for nature (as opposed to a real appreciation for the natural world, its working and delicacy, and humanity's place in it). But, sometimes they are asked not to internalize values, but to expand their minds. Today, Rev. Briere introduced the children to the Young Writer's Club. He asked one of the youngter's to read some of the members' best poetry (much better than many adults' I have read), and challenged them to learn the skill and art of writing on their own. This may seem a simple thing, and indeed it is. But, what stood out to me was the intention behind it (no matter whether the effort fully fulfilled the intention). The intention was to challenge the children to expand their minds, and to travel new intellectual roads. Contrast this with my own childhood experience in church, where I was encouraged to wear deeper and dustier paths in the same old theological roads that have been travelled for centuries; those that never bring pilgrims to any worthwhile destination, and lack even having the grace to provide a decent variety of scenery along the way.

    That isn't to say that UU's don't revisit the tired old doctrines of the world's major religions. They do educate the children about the core beliefs of all of the most popular world religions, so that evangelists who prey on ignorance or gullibility will not be met by youngsters who still retain the full youthful compliment of both.

    I imagine myself going out into the world in my particular corner of the Bible Belt's Buckle without some basic knowledge of science and the religions of the world. I am daily inundated with well-meaning but devastatingly misleading appeals to some sort of creationist or pseudo-historical argument. Had I led the apatheistic life that I believe is the humanist ideal, and had I no interest in the "evolution" debate (also, abiogenesis, planetary formation, stellar evolution, and big bang cosmology), I would likely not have possessed enough innate skepticism to discount each and every misleading or false claim presented to me. It certainly helps to have a handle on at least some of the facts ahead of time. As the UU church pamphlet says of religious education, it is not a matter of whether, but who. If we don't teach kids the diversity of beliefs and the critical thinking skills to make sense of them, they will succumb to the first slick Bible salesman that offers them a free ticket to heaven. So, mutual betterment includes educating the children and challenging them to broaden their intellectual horizons. The public school system serves a limited function in the education of children in secular matters, but churches have monopoly on community, including the religious education of children. And, too often, they teach them the same old coloring-book Noah that I was taught, along with the same old anthropomorphic fairy in the sky who lights on people when they pray, named God, or Jesus, or the Holy Ghost.

    A community that seeks to better itself and better the larger society does not self-organize easily. Churches are good at it. Unfortunately, those whose doctrines are the most backward, and whose tools for manipulating human emotions ar most finely honed, are also the ones that draw the largest crowds. Secular humanists and free-thinkers need to find a way to distill the ability to organize a community from the groups who teach the old ways. We need a community that isn't fearful of stale doctrines and isn't in thrall to a vamped emotional experience, but one that manages to grow, nourish its members as individuals, and to promote without prejudice a life that strives for the highest values and virtues, and bring its fruits to society at large.

    Posted by smijer at 10:32 PM | Comments (3)

    August 21, 2004

    God and Politics

    from - Buck

    Speaking of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering once said

    God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany.

    Speaking of George Bush, General William Boykin said in the October 17th 2003 edition of the New York Times
    Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this

    I do not bring up these two quotations to compare George Bush to Adolf Hitler. I bring them up to compare similar mindsets and to wonder whether or not this mindset is a healthy one.

    America is a very religious nation. But it is a mistake to assume that since it is religious it is also morally superior to other nations. All nations are made up of religious people. It is also a mistake to assume that since we are religious we have somehow been chosen by God to implement His will on this Earth anymore than other nations can assume that they have been chosen by God to stop us. The will we attempt to implement is our own and the sooner we admit to that fact the sooner we can begin to present to the world an honest foreign policy. And in issues domestic as well as foreign, honesty is the best policy.

    I have no doubt that the global intentions of America are good intentions. I am also a firm believer in the old adage that “good intentions are the pathway to hell”. We would be better served to rein in our aspirations of global hegemony and to at least once again consider the ideals of the republic we were envisioned to be.

    Since that will never happen we should keep in mind the words of Aristotle concerning the men and women we choose to lead us

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side

    I guess if there is a moral to my message it is don’t be suckered by any politician claiming to have the sanction of God for carrying out what amounts to be his own personal agenda. It is the oldest trick in the book.

    Posted by Buck at 10:37 PM | Comments (3)

    August 20, 2004

    Swift Boat Liars Score!

    from - smijer

    New poll shows dramatic drop in veterans' support for Kerry over the last few weeks.

    Lesson: lie more. Lies work.

    Posted by smijer at 09:44 PM | Comments (7)

    Friday Boortz

    from - smijer

    Not a particularly good day to be fisking Boortz, this Friday. In fact, it appears the scales have fallen from his eyes, partially, about one of the Swift Boat Liars for the Truth. Boortz admits that the evidence backs Kerry's version of events. And Rassmann's version. And everyone who was in the boat with Kerry's version. Nevertheless, even with knowledge of who runs the Swift Boat Liars club, with knowledge of the fact that their testimony contradicts the nearest eyewitnesses' and only signatories' various testimony, on every contentious claim, Boortz wants their Republican money to keep buying them media coverage. And he still thinks there's a possibility that "we have a standoff here"... Kind of like how its still a matter of honest debate over whether the moon is made of green cheese...

    Boortz other political item today is straight from the Bush campaign spin room.

    He takes this abbreviated quote from Kerry's August 1 appearance on ABC's "This Week" somewhat out of its broader context:

    "I will have significant, enormous reductions in the level of troops ...In the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps."

    The idea is to portray Kerry's position as supporting the withdrawal of troops from the Korean peninsula before he criticized Bush for announcing a withdrawal from there while engaged in nuclear negotiations with them. A couple of points. The broader context of the quote:
    Asked whether he would promise to have US troops home from Iraq by the end of his first term, Kerry replied: ''I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops. We will probably have a continued presence of some kind, and certainly in the region. If the diplomacy that I believe can be put in place can work, I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just there but elsewhere in the world -- in the Korean Peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps." - Boston Globe

    The broader context doesn't leave it so clear that the change in troop deployment aimed at the Korean peninsula is necessarily a reduction, as Neal's quote, with its strategically placed ellipses, suggests. The reduction is being looked at in Iraq, according to the quote. It is only some kind of changes in deployment that Kerry suggests for Europe and southeast Asia. He may have used that language specifically because he had different changes in mind for Europe than for Asia.

    Update: Schwarzkopf agrees with Kerry about Bush's plan:

    MATTHEWS: now we`re going to withdraw a third of our troops from the DMZ. Is it possible that might send him the wrong signal?

    SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, well, it`s very, very possible. But worse than that, it`s going to send a very, very, very wrong signal to the people in South Korea. They`re the ones that are going to be looking at what this is going to result in.

    MATTHEWS: What about Europe?...Is that the signal we want to send, we`re out there alone now?

    SCHWARZKOPF: No, I don`t think so...but you know, under the doctrine that Rumsfeld is advocating, that we`re going to have these, you know, high-powered rapid reaction forces that can get over there very quickly and some kind of airplane that hasn`t been invented yet or some kind of other way to get over there very quickly, and therefore, we don`t need to have them in place at the time, we can get them there quick enough to; something else about it -- that`s going to be a very expensive proposition to put together, by the way. - Hardball

    (Thanks Al Rodgers!) /update

    So, that's all the Boortz-bashing I'll do today.
    Since we have a new author at smijer-lite, I thought it would be fun to throw in some site statistics. Prepare to be underwhelmed!

    As of this morning:
    Number of authors: 2
    Date begun: Nov. 1, 2003 (blogspot), Jan. 3, 2004 (Moveable Type)
    Number of entries: 344 (not including the old blogspot pages, not all entries are published)
    Number of comments: 1375 (including at least some "comment spam" that still lurks in some of the older threads, I'm sure)
    Total number of visits: 28,821 (this is less than half of what Atrios gets per day. And at least a third of mine are more than likely, from me. Another third are looking for pictures of big catfish.
    Average visits per day: 83
    Average visit length: 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Which reminds me of a joke, the punchline of which is, "it just don't take me long to look at a horseshoe." I won't make you listen to the whole thing.

    Posted by smijer at 07:42 AM | Comments (10)

    August 19, 2004

    Party of God?

    from - Buck

    I am currently reading “Ghost Wars” and I highly recommend it to anybody who really wants to understand how we got to where we are in the Middle East today. It starts with the administration of Jimmy Carter and covers the CIA’s involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East in general up until the attacks of September 11th.

    It amused me to find out that the translation of the word “Hezbollah” is “Party of God”. After seeing this and this I started to wonder if the party of Lincoln in this country does not consider itself to be our “party of God”? Should we start referring to the Republicans as our Hezbollah?
    I bet Gary Walby of Destin, Florida would be willing to give it some consideration.

    Posted by Buck at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

    Hurry! While Supplies Last

    from - Buck

    Newsmax is making this incredible offer!
    Be sure and get one for those times when you grow weary of watching paint dry and grass grow.

    Posted by Buck at 01:14 AM | Comments (1)

    August 18, 2004

    Questions I Forgot to Ask

    from - smijer

    I don't want to give the wrong impression here (wrong impression = smijer is gullible), but I was impressed by Mr. X's ability to answer my challenges on the fair tax. The answers were fair-minded, if a bit vague. I certainly sympathize with the view that extra administrative costs that accompany income taxes are undesireable. I can see, in principle, why an added luxury tax is not desireable. We can collect more tax from luxury items, according to theory, if we charge the same tax as everything else, because luxury items will sell better without the tax. If they sell better, more people can be employed making luxury items. Win/win. That's kind of vague, though. I'd like to see the specific models. After all, there are only so many people who are even potentially in the market for some types of luxury item.

    Anyway, I forgot to ask a few challenging questions. So I'll ask them now, even though I know there is no chance that Mr. X is reading this, and it isn't reasonable to expect the answers from him. If I have a fair-tax advocate out there reading, it's time for you to step up to the plate:

  • A tax on consumption punishes ... consumption. How do we avoid the negative impact on the economy as consumers become more conservative in their buying habits?
  • State and local sales, property, and usage taxes are very regressive. One reason the income tax system must be so progressive to begin with is to offset the effect of state and local taxes. Is there a provision in the "Fair Tax" proposal to take away the right of the state and local governments to collect sales and usage taxes? If not, is there a provision in the "Fair Tax" to compensate for the regressivity of such taxes?
  • Aren't many forms of savings double-taxed? Should seniors, who no longer have a taxable income be put back on the tax rolls at the same rate as everyone else?

    I have a sneaking suspicion that at least some of these answers wouldn't be satisfactory. I wish I had known what the subject of conversation was going to be before last night's dinner.

    Posted by smijer at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)
  • August 17, 2004

    Two Libertarians and a Democrat Walked into a Bar...

    from - smijer

    Not a joke... I had dinner and a Killians at Durty Nellies tonight with two libertarians whose agenda was a national sales tax (AKA "Fair Tax"). I have to admit that many of their arguments were compelling.

    I remain yours truly, the supreme skeptic - particularly of all things endorsed by Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. But I will once again review the arguments. I've stated before that if the national sales tax can be implemented in a way that meets budgetary requirements at least as well current schemes, and also does not have a net regressive effect over current schemes, I would not oppose it. I have yet to settle for myself whether these things would be the case under the "Fair Tax" proposal.

    Anyone have any particularly juicy bits pro or con you wish to contribute to my deliberations?

    And yes, Morat... a return to the "gold standard" was mentioned in passing. Don't worry - I'm not going to put any serious time into deliberating that idea.

    Posted by smijer at 10:31 PM | Comments (10)

    August 16, 2004


    from - smijer

    Warning! If you are a Democrat, Independent, or a Republican that got left behind when the Bush ship of state set sail in the murky waters of increased deficits, international quagmires, and lurking stagflation: this is not meant to be encouraging or uplifting. This is some of that pessimism that we liberals are so famous for this time around. Skip it if you have been considering sleeping pills and Evan Williams already.

    Imagine this scenario. It's November. The American people have finally decided "enough's enough". Kerry/Edwards wins in a landslide, with longer-than-expected coattails. The Republicans are out of power again, and are willing to do anything... anything to get it back. Including... kicking the Neocons and the Falwell crowd to the corner (like the Democrats have been doing with our fringe elements since McGovern), and putting strong moderates at the helm of the party: people whose priorities are on effectiveness over ideology, and governing over partisan politics. Great day in the morning! We have Democrats leading the nation, and Republicans ready even to reform in order to get back into the good graces of the voting public.

    Fast forward to January, 2005. Reality hits. The war in Iraq isn't going away. John Kerry, bless him, is no more able to reverse the deterioration of the Middle East situation than Bush is now. That dam has already burst. Kerry pushes through a few positive domestic proposals, and perhaps succeeds in shoring up around the edges of Iraq, but oil prices continue to rise, and the economy must struggle forward with the albatross of historic debt around its neck. Terrorists have learned some big lessons in how to operate under our radar, and they continue to harass us in small, or large, but always tragic ways.

    By 2008, America is once again ready for a change in direction. Sensing this, the Republican machine regains its confidence, issues another "contract with America", and pushes all of it's pinkest and roundest ideologues and corporate nannies out to the fronts of the ballots... for another four years just like the last four.

    Does that make you think, for even a second, that a Bush victory might be preferable, on the premise that the enemy you know is better than the enemy you don't? Not for a second. The alternative is another four years of Bush, and then a pretty good shot at the same scenario above in 2012.

    So, what good is all my doomsaying? I guess it doesn't do much. So I'll leave it off and make a personal and heartfelt appeal. My open letter to the next president of the United States:

    John Kerry, I don't have much confidence in you. Please, please surprise me. Prove me wrong.

    Get in there and show the kind of leadership we haven't seen since George Washington. Fix the problems. Get us in to Petroleholics Anynomous. Get the international community and our own policy makers really interested in helping Iraq achieve a viable state of self government and get our boys out of there. Take the targets on their back and put them to work hunting down and eliminating threats. Put the job market back on a strong growth track. Invest in new technology, and support the infrastructure that makes the old technology work for us in the meantime. Do something right. Please.


    Posted by smijer at 10:29 PM | Comments (4)

    What Luck!

    from - smijer

    Here I was thinking of how I was going to segue back from religion to politics. The President's brother has come through for me. Pharyngula has the story.

    Posted by smijer at 03:44 PM | Comments (2)

    August 15, 2004

    Continued ... the Documentary Hypothesis

    from - smijer

    Before I begin today's sermon, I'd just like to take a moment to recognize the loss being experienced all across the state of Florida today. Residents are comparing Charley to Hurricane Andrew that devastated South Carolina the gulf coast years back. Many of those losses cannot be replaced.

    Next, I'd like to acknowledge Buck's Sunday Sermon. I had no idea that he would be contributing to Sunday service. Despite his use of the oxymoronic phrase "Rational Mysticism", his words are very timely and welcome. Thank you, Buck!

    This sermon is continued from last week, where I showed an example of how it is possible to cling so tightly to a doctrine that one may find onesself uninterested in pursuing the evidence about the truth. I was taken to task on several points. JosiahQ makes the contention that my epistemology is an insufficient basis for my conclusions, because it leaves out an epistemological basis for values. Kevin at Morphemics makes an argument that deals specifically with my dismissal of Biblical claims (not from the Pentateuch) as mere tradition centuries removed from the time of Moses. In our discussion, he suggests that deductions from faith are properly thought of as evidence to those who hold to faith. You may see the extent of our discussion in his comments, but due to a bug, you will have to click the preview button after the last visible post to see the full conversation. Chris McCartney has this post at Credu Ut Intelligam, also challenging my epistemology, and seeking to treat faith in the infallability of scripture as axiomatic. Short of challenging my reasoning, I notice that Maphet has taken notice and decided to sit this one out. I have to appreciate that, since I don't know that I can face more than three separate arguments simultaneously. Serendipitously, I find, by following his own links, a post on Baltimore Roll that expresses a view of faith and reason very similar to my own. Lastly, even Mrs. Smijer-lite chimes in with a quote from Dostoevsky of the "I'd show you, but you wouldn't believe me anyway" variety.

    Since responding to all of these viewpoints and carrying on my own thesis is going to require and all day tent revival, instead of a mere Sunday Morning Homile, I will carry it on in th extended entry.

    In my last entry, I showed that there was no reason (apart from faith or distantly removed tradition) to believe in Mosaid authorship of the Pentateuch, yet some were some (Answers in Genesis, for one) were so determined to support their doctrine over discovering the truth that they concocted some terrible arguments to try to defend their premise against the evidence. While I succeeded in showing that there was a lack of positive evidence for Mosaic authorship (apart from doctrine, or distantly removed tradition), I stopped short of providing the evidence against Mosaic authorship, as I had planned.

    Most of what I had originally planned to include in this post will be old news to most of the newcomers mentioned above. I had not intended a detailed and scholarly critique of Mosaic authorship or defense of the Documentary hypothesis. I had merely intended to point out the evidence, why it mattered, and to move on to my conclusionary statements. In light of the controversy my first post generated, my first thought was to deviate from that plan, to get more detailed and in-depth. I will, however, stay with my original course of action, then provide links to arguments and counterarguments. With that, I present a summary of the evidence against Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch:

  • The Pentateuch refers consistently to Moses in the third person. In my opinion, this is one of the stronger pieces of evidence against Mosaic authorship. The plain language indicates some unnamed author(s) referring back in history to the person of Moses, and the structure of language strongly suggests that the use of the third person means that the author is not the subject of the narrative. Part of what religious education does (for some) is teach them to think of this evidence as trivial. After all, it is not impossible, or even strictly speaking inaccurate, for an author to refer to himself in the third person when the literary occasion demands it. Take that with a large dose of "we must believe Moses wrote...", and over time, the serious question of why Moses would have confused us by always referring to himself in the third person begins to fade into the world of imponderable mysteries that don't really matter. Despite the fact that an author can refer to himself in the third person, the simple fact is that the use of the third person ordinarily indicates that the author is referring to someone else, and no reason is given to explain why the author(s) of the Pentateuch would have done differently, in every single passage which refers to the person of Moses.
  • Deuteronomy refers explicitly to Moses' death, in the distant past. Even most conservative scholars admit that this passage was not written by the hand of Moses, but was added by some later priest or scribe (possibly Ezra). Beginning with the fact that our only positive evidence for Mosaic authorship is from tradition or faith, that all of the Pentateuch refers to him in the third person, and (as it will be noted in the discussion of the Documentary Hypothesis) the rest of Deuteronomy is written in a style similar to the pronouncement of Moses' death, this fact that we have nearly-conclusive evidence against Moses authorship of one specific passage is much more important. Why should we accept that Ezra (or whoever) wrote only that part of Deuteronomy which definitively could not have been written by Moses? I say nearly-conclusive, because Kevin pointed out to me the possible interpretation that Moses wrote of his own death as a thing of the distant past knowing that the book which he wrote would not be discovered until the distant future - whereupon what he wrote would be true. This hyopthesis strains credulity and even the admitted flexibility of the Hebrew language, but it must be acknowledged. Nevertheless Moses' obituary serves as another piece of evidence against his authorship of the Pentateuch.
  • Anachronisms. Genesis refers to the city that Moses would have known as Laish as "Dan". The city was not known as Dan until much later (at least according to history as presented in the book of Judges). The Pentateuch also refers to Edomite kings that ruled until the kings of Israel, a development which came long after Moses' putative time. Another place-name anachronism is Hebron, which was not so-called (at least according to the book of Joshua) until it was conquered by Joshua after Moses' death. These are representative of a much longer list of usages that would be common much later, but unheard of in Moses' time. Of course, the place name anachronisms could reflect errors in Judges or Joshua. I doubt those interested in defending Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch would wish to do so at the expense of the history recorded in Joshua and Judges. I am not yet very familiar with Old Testament archaeology where it concerns history as recorded in Judges and Joshua. I understand there is a wealth of research, and Finkelstein and Silberman have written The Bible Unearthed, offers very untraditional conclusions about Old Testament history from archaeology, and casts Moses as a mythic rather than historical character. I have that book on order along with a few who draw more conservative conclusions on my "wish list". Perhaps next year I will be able to preach a sermon on Old Testament archaeology. Nevertheless, those who insist on Moses authorship do not have many good choices. They can invent ad hoc explanations of why Moses would have used place names that did not yet apply, they can dispute the history of Judges and Joshua, or they can reject Mosaic authorship. Given that we have strong reason to believe that the list of Edomite kings up to the beginning of the monarchy is anachronistic without having to rely solely on Judges or Joshua, and given the lack of positive evidence for Mosaic authorship and the other evidence against Mosaic authorship, one must give weight to this as further evidence against Mosaic authorship.
  • Language that indicates the author(s) were situated west of the Jordan River. Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Numbers all refer to the land "beyond the Jordan" when referring to the east side of the Jordan. The Pentatuech and all of Bible history is clear that Moses never crossed the Jordan. His perspective would have put Caanan "beyond the Jordan", instead of the eastern lands.
  • Finally, internal linguistic evidence, supported by historical evidence, strongly suggests that there were at least two major authors of the Pentatuech, and at least one redactor. This is the Documentary Hypothesis, for which I will briefly summarize evidence. Since the Documentary Hypothesis in the forms suggested by the evidence conflicts with Moses as the primary author of the Pentateuch, I will count evidence for JEPD and certain other forms of the Documentary Hypothesis as evidence against Mosaic authorship. However, I would say that it should be apparent to anyone not already committed to the point that doctrine comes before truth, that Moses was not likely the primary author of the Pentateuch in any meaningful sense, even without considering the Documentary hypothesis.

    Moving on to support for the Documentary Hypothesis... I do not wish to reinvent the wheel here, nor do I wish to submerge myself or the readers in difficult scholarship, over what is essentially a simple issue. So, I will deal only with the best category of evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis, and then only with two representative cases. The best category of evidence is the presence of doublets (the same story told two or three different times in different ways, and sometimes with apparent contradictions, in the Pentateuch) - that each reflect a unique literary style. In other words, I say that the Documentary hypothesis of the origin of the Pentateuch best explains why stories are repeated more than once in distinct styles, which distinct styles can be identified throughout the Pentateuch. An overview of this view can be found here, with an outline of its application to the flood story here. You can use the handy concordance feature at Blue Letter Bible (click the C next to the verse to see what Hebrew word is used for "God" or "the Lord" in each passage that mentions God. You can see that the flood doublet includes two parallel stories, where each event is mentioned more than once. Each time, one version of the story uses the name YHWH, while the other uses the name Elohim. Could it be pure coincidence that a single author, repeating himself practically every other verse in this story, happens to also alternate the use of the name of God in each repetition?

    The second case is that of Abraham's deception in his sojourn with Sarah into foreign lands. The relevant passages are Genesis 12 and Genesis 20. In each case, Abraham fears that the beauty of his wife will make him a target, so he announces her as "sister" and let's the local king borrow her for his harem. Remarkably, God's response in each case is to deal with the deceived king, instead of the prevaricating Abraham (whose moral character is called into doubt by this (or these) incident(s) as well as his willingness to promote obedience over conscience in his near-murder of his son). The slight differences between the passages are:

  • Genesis 12 takes place in Egypt. Genesis 20 takes place in Gerar.
  • In Genesis 12, God deals with the pharoah by plaguing him on account of Sarah. In Genesis 20, God deals with Abimelech by letting him in on the secret.
  • In Genesis 12, the author consistently refers to God as YHWH. In Genesis 20, the author consistenly refers to God as elohim.
    This is the case over and over in the Pentateuch (though it is notable that large swaths attributed to the Deuteronomist do not repeat in doublets or triplets). Another puzzling feature of this doublet is that it may, in fact, be a triplet. Genesis 26 tells a very similar story, however Isaac and Rebekah are featured rather than Abraham and Sarah - and their story places them in the locality mentioned by Genesis 20. So we have an author that refers to God as YHWH in Genesis 12, telling a story about Abraham and Sarah in Egypt. In 20, we have an author who refers to God as elohim telling a story of Abraham and Sarah in Gerar with Abimelech, and in 26 we have an author who refers to God as YHWH again, telling the same story of Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar with Abimelech.

    Do the alternating names in the parallel stories have any significance, or are they just coincidence? And did the great Father Abraham have no more sense than to repeat his mistake of Egypt in Gerar, then fail to even warn his son away from making the exact same mistake?

    Were these two incidents of parallel doublets with consistently different use of language isolated, then perhaps we could write them off as a mystery. They are not the exception, however, but a very common occurrence, and nearly always following a similar pattern. Because the texts are so old, we so far removed from them in history, and the redactor's hand so difficult to unravel, we may never know exactly which parts of the Pentateuch were written by which of its source authors, but the evidence strongly suggests that there was more than one. This evidence is so much more weighty om the absence of the hint of hte one single piece of positive evidence one would expect if Moses wrote it in a single hand: the author of those books naming himself as Moses.

    And now, with apologies for leaving out most of what I promised to include in this sermon, I must close it. Hopefully Kevin will be pleased that I presented my case more strongly against Mosaic authorship and for the Documentary Hypothesis (though not as strongly as I had wished). Unfortunately, my day after church did not go as planned due to the membership in my family of a teenaged boy. Therefore, I will have to save my replies to all epistemological issues for a future post, the comment threads at the various blogs, or next Sunday's sermon - whichever format works best. Until then, we will close with the altar call: Hymn number 147, Honesty (is such a lonely word), by Brother Billy Joel.

    Posted by smijer at 08:26 AM | Comments (38)
  • Puttin' it in perspective

    from - Buck

    As associate pastor of The Smijer Lite Church of Rational Mysticism I want my first Sunday sermon to deal with the importance of perspective.
    We all have a planet to share. It is not only possible but it is imperative that we learn to peacefully co-exist here. It can be done and call me a cock-eyed optimist if you will but I truly believe that someday it will be peacefully shared. That decision is ours to make.
    I borrowed the following passages of scripture from the blog over at strike-the-root.

    Life Is Too Fleeting to Waste on Politics

    DOUG THOMPSON, CAPITOL HILL BLUE - Since returning to the Blue Ridge Mountains earlier this year, we’ve found the intoxication of country living too much to resist. . .
    Long past time for a change. Long overdue. The urban life no longer appeals. The hustle and bustle of politics bores. So do those who lie and die by the political sword.
    Politics is a one-dimensional world, dominated by extremists. Extremists live to hate. Increasingly, those who follow these zealots are shallow lemmings who lack both the will and the capacity to think for themselves. Anger drives them and they are controlled not by love of country but adherence to party dogma. . .
    Life in the country tempers anger. One cannot stop and gaze at the beauty of fog hanging on a mountaintop on a crisp August morning and feel anger. Anger doesn’t work here. It has no place. . .
    Life is too fleeting to waste by getting mad or expending energy on hate. I owe what little time I have left on this earth to the woman I love and the peaceful quality of life we have found here in the mountains. . .
    And, along the way, I find that I really don’t care what George W. Bush has done, what John Kerry has charged and who said what on Meet the Press.


    Mr. Thompson seems to be beginning to understand.

    Discussions about religion and politics have always fascinated me. It astounds me that so many people can look at an issue and see it in so many different ways. I enjoy the bantering back and forth of the different perspectives. I love it when I find agreement and I love it just as much when I am shoulder deep in disagreement. It strengthens the mind to have your opinions questioned and your positions challenged. This bantering keeps us staggering towards what Chris Floyd once called “The Broken Light”.

    If we continue to banter and if we continue to stagger I believe we will one day stumble out of our Platonic cave and into the Unbroken Light of Peace, Love and Understanding

    Just remember. Do not let the journey destroy your perspective on life. Life is so full of so many other things than who ran against whom and who said what and when. There is sorrow and there is tragedy but there is also happiness and triumph. Do not put your continual focus on the one at the expense of the other.

    And rest assured that there is no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.

    Posted by Buck at 04:46 AM | Comments (0)

    Quick Movie Review

    from - smijer

    Bourne Supremacy kicks ass. Thought you should know.

    Posted by smijer at 12:58 AM | Comments (1)

    August 13, 2004

    Rocky Top Brigade Membership Update

    from - smijer

    Who knew there were so many Tennessean bloggers? New to the list are:

    Argus: a military man with some pretty bold opinions. I expect he doesn't worry too much about the occasional toe-stepping episode.

    Dropstones: new to Tennessee from the bluegrass state. Welcome to Tennessee and the RTB.

    Tennessee Talk: Just what it says, and lots of metablogging. I like it.

    Domestic Psychology: looks pretty in pink. Welcome.

    John Brown: Could it be a non-Randian libertarian? Should fit in nicely with the right-leaning half of RTB.

    No Silence Here: All about Knoxville from a blogging 'pro'.

    SKB has the update and mentions that Adam Groves is back on duty. Might I mention - so is Orfinanny?

    A hearty welcome to all. Here's a special musical tribute to the RTB, and a special welcome to Dropstones:
    Tennessee, by Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys.

    Posted by smijer at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

    Tell Us Something We Didn't Already Know

    from - smijer

    Unless you have been hypnotized by Bush's tax rhetoric, then you probably already knew that Bush's policies have shifted the tax burden to the middle class. I guess that's why Bush's constituents are the "have's" and the "have more's".

    Posted by smijer at 12:49 PM | Comments (8)

    Chaos Theory and me

    from - Buck

    I believe that in the future I will lend a little more credence to the Chaos Theory . Maybe there is underlying order in random events. Maybe it works in our own personal lives just as easily as it works for the weather.

    A few months ago, while blundering around and looking at the websites I visit daily Neal Boortz referenced a blog that was supposedly critical of his version of the truth. I had never heard of the site he referenced but I knew it was one that I would have to visit. I walked into Smijer’s place on that day and have visited it regularly ever since.

    I like the people here. One of you even called me “terminally stupid” once and that ranks second as the all time favorite characterization of me by another person. Number one on that list was when I was called “ignorant beyond comprehension” at another site but that is another story.

    You cannot imagine my surprise when Smijer invited me to co-blog with him. He and I view the world through different lenses but that is okay with me and it seems to be okay with him. He has offered me a chance to cast my bread upon the ethereal waters of the Internet. How could I say no?

    So from time to time you will hear from me here. Of course you will have the opportunity to agree or disagree with me. I know what I think and how I feel and why. What I am most interested in is what you think and how you feel and why. Because even the terminally stupid and the ignorant beyond comprehension are not without hope.

    As a wise man once said, "As long as we are talkin' we ain't fightin' "

    I like that philosophy.

    Posted by Buck at 08:56 AM | Comments (4)

    Adding an Improvement

    from - smijer

    So this is it: the big, major, exciting, sensational, spectacular site news. Smijer-lite is growing. Starting today, quite possibly this very morning, smijer-lite has two authors. The newcomer is Buck. If you've read the comment threads on this blog in the last eight months, then you would know already know Buck, by another name. In the comments, he has posted under the handle of Boortzlistener.

    I've had a lot of people who have left comments here. Some rather regularly, some who have eventually tired of my predictable liberal spin on every issue or have wearied of my frequent hiatuses. I've had a couple who have set me straight on a thing or two, and a couple who were patient enough with my terrible style of argument to see me through to the end and even come around on an issue.

    Through all that time, one commenter stood out. He's been here practically since day one, he comments as frequently as I manage to post something interesting enough to deserve a comment, and his comments are always, but always thoughtful, eloquent, and representative of a truely unique point of view.

    The more I read what Buck had to say, the more I had to recognize that he has a gift for language, that he is resolute in his beliefs and convictions, and that he bears no-one ill will. It's rare to find someone who is as comfortable with their own way of thinking as he is without even the slightest trace of pomposity. And it's rare to find anyone whose ideas challenge the mainstream conventional wisdom as much as his do, but who keeps their feet so firmly on the ground. Whether we agree or disagree, I always look forward to hearing what he has to say.

    Buck's willingness to join me here means a lot to me; it is a great kindness on his part. I'm going to make him feel as welcome as possible. I hope anyone who reads this blog will do the same.

    Posted by smijer at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

    August 12, 2004

    Just so I'm Clear

    from - smijer

    I do mean, by the things I said two posts back, and despite the particulars of McGreevey's case: The "Pro-Family" position is support for gay marriage.

    B.S. and wild spinning aside, the anti-gay stance is also anti-family.

    Posted by smijer at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

    Major Exciting Site News!

    from - smijer

    Check back in the morning to see what it is!

    Posted by smijer at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)


    from - smijer

    Gov. McGreevey, D-NJ, is resigning. He is accused of sexual harrassment by a man on his staff, and he acknowledges that he is gay and has had an extramarital affair with a man.

    I'm not going to defend McGreevey. If he is truly guilty of harrassment, then he was wrong and should be punished. He admits to being unfaithful to his wife, and that was wrong, no matter what.

    Governor McGreevey did something terribly, and inexusably wrong. But, if we give him the benefit of the doubt on the harrassment charge, one cannot help but wonder whether this story would have been a happy ending in a world where homosexuality was not taboo, gays were encouraged to marry and be monogamous just as heterosexuals are. I've known enough gay people and heard enough stories about families being torn apart as they struggle to commit to a heterosexual lifestyle as they are told they must by their family, friends, and church. I've read about those who enter church-led "classes" to "heal" them of their homosexuality or "deliver" them from the spirits that cause it. They leave the course, confident that their sexual orientation has been set right, go out into the world on faith, marry, and another family comes apart as they discover that they can't fake it.

    More about the destructive ex-gay movement:
    Ex-Gay Watch
    Failures of the ExGay Ministries

    Hat tip to Atrios for the news.

    Posted by smijer at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

    August 11, 2004


    from - smijer

    I shouldn't do two Thoughts in a row from Emerson. I don't want to give the wrong impression, what with all this talk of the unitarian church and all... But...

    To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

    The take home point from this entire essay (whose many faults include its anticipation of New Age mysticism) is that real appreciation of nature means appreciation of ones' peculiar relationship to the world, and ultimately, everything and everyone it it - including onesself.

    Posted by smijer at 06:39 PM | Comments (5)

    Site News Teaser

    from - smijer

    There is some site news. I know about it already, but you don't yet. And I'm not telling. If you do know, better not go blabbin'. You'll find out soon enough.

    No, I'm not taking comments away... I'm just removing temptation from people who might be inclined to let the proverbial cat out of the proverbial bag.

    I already told you, you'll find out when I'm ready to tell you!

    Posted by smijer at 04:53 PM

    August 10, 2004

    Another new addition

    from - smijer

    Might as well welcome another new weblog to the blog roll. It seems JosiahQ (uintus) and his Irresponsible Journalism live just down the road a piece from my own home, and while we are on opposite sides of some things, he holds up his end most admirably. So, let the Local Interest blogroll grow!

    Posted by smijer at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

    Must Fill Space... Must Tell Joke

    from - smijer

    Well, the weekend brought a post-feast, and here it is Tuesday and I'm dry. I haven't let the weekend's events get by me, particularly the outing of double agent Kahn by the Bush administration. Also not missed were the press corps racing to present a staged video beheading from California as news of a real one in Iraq, and Tim Russert and a guy from Time getting called before a grand jury in the Plame outing. Instead of functioning in echo chamber mode this morning, I'm just going to cheat and tell a joke. This one was shared with me by a friend, and I have adapated it from its original form that included Reagan, and I've turned it around a bit. The Joke:

    Bush travels to Britain to meet with Tony Blair. While he's there, he confesses to Blair, "Tony, I just don't know what to do. Everything is going crazy in Iraq, and there's no end in sight. I'm really worried about this."

    Blair puts his hand on GW's shoulder and says,"don't worry about a thing. My home secretary is terribly smart. He has an answer for everything. I'll show you".

    So Blair calls Blunkett into the room and asks him, "David, old boy, I have a question for you. It's the son of your father, but it's not your brother. Who is it?".

    Without missing a beat, Blunkett replies, "That would be me, sir".

    Bush says, "wow. You're right. We don't have anything to worry about."

    When Bush gets back to Washington, he calls Powell in right away, and tells him, "Colin, all our problems are solved. No more worries."

    Powell asks, "what do you mean?"

    Bush says, "listen. It's the son of your father, but it's not your brother. Who is it?"

    Powell thinks for a minute and says, "It's me."

    Bush replies....

    "No, no... it's Blunkett, but don't ask me how."

    Posted by smijer at 07:42 AM | Comments (2)

    August 08, 2004

    New to the Blog/Link-roll

    from - smijer

    In the blog-roll, under local interest, we have a new addition. This one stands out from the others, in that it is also hosted at The reason is that it belongs to Mrs. Smijer-lite. Have a look at Baskets of Blessings. This is what you get when you have a rationalist and a mystic married and living under the same roof.

    Also new, but on the right-hand column designated as a non-blog, look for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, TN. I've been attending there recently. Because they embrace a variety of traditions, including the humanist/freethought tradition, I feel more or less at home there. Community is important, and the one singular advantage that the superstitious have over the rational is that their churches provide a more effective means of community building than the secular equivalents. The UU Church helps to offset this advantage by providing the church-type community to those who are non-superstitious. That's not to say that people who take a mystical approach are not equally welcome at the UUC. One finds that the predominant viewpoint is a variety of new-age holism. I don' t subscribe to it, but it is perfectly inoffensive and still life- if not reason-affirming. Thanks for being there, UUC.

    Posted by smijer at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

    When it Rains, it Pours

    from - smijer

    This will be my fourth post for Sunday. I've found that most people are not reading on the weekend, so I can only hope that a few readers will find the time to look through all the Saturday and Sunday posting I've done this weekend, and that it will not all be for ought. Anyway, it's official. Alan Keyes has endorsed Hillary Clinton. If you don't know what that means, then do a google search on these words:

    I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it.

    Try to find out who said them.

    (Hat tip to the entire farking blogosphere.)

    Posted by smijer at 09:41 PM | Comments (9)

    Meet The New Boss

    from - smijer

    .... Same as the old boss. Via kos, The Oregonian has the photos, and the the story. Here's an informal poll for you. Which is more disgusting to you?

    a: That we've lost a thousand American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, thrown away hundreds of billions of dollars that could have been spent helping people or imroving security, and we've managed to replace thug regime A with new and improved thug regime B that relies on our troops for security.
    b: That Americans ordered the Oregon guardsmen to return these prisoners to the jailers that were abusing them, and walk away.

    Vote in the comments. Bonus poll - at what point does a soldier have a moral and legal obligation to disobey orders? At the point where you have to return a 14 year old boy to the vermin that would commit these crimes, before that point, or never?
    The Passion

    Posted by smijer at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

    The Documentary Hypothesis

    from - smijer

    He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.
    I disagree with this quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, though I once endorsed it. I find that the third premise just isn't borne out in the modern world. Perhaps it once was a general rule, but my experience is that Christians have their share by proportion of generous and caring people. Sure, one can easily think of examples of people who followed the exact path Coleridge described. On the other hand, in the ecumenical utopia that is modern America's smorgasboard religiosity, one can easily think of any number of people who began by loving Christianity better than the truth and never proceeded to that next stage.

    I open with a quote about loving Christianity better than truth, because I have had a fairly specific example on my mind last day or two, and I think it is indicative of a mindset best described as exactly that. Many people feel that Christianity and the truth are quite compatible, and feel that they themselves are equally committed to both. This post is not meant to dispute that claim (though I disagree that Christianity and truth are compatible). The post is here just to highlight the kind of thinking that many people use, whether they are aware of it or not, that does promote religion at the expense of truth. My example is conservative Christianity's insistence that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, collectively known as the Pentateuch. It illustrates the willingness of some to advance doctrine over truth.

    Recently, a friend of mine, unversed in Biblical scholarship, was given a study Bible with notes and information about the authorship, dating, and other relevant data about the books of the Bible. My friend had no particular reasons to be prejudiced in favor of the view that Moses wrote Genesis, but he nevertheless came away from his study Bible notes with a strong impression that scholarly consensus had settled firmly on the side of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In fact, only a large subset of strongly conservative scholars still hold the view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, or even that any single individual wrote it. Mainline, liberal, and secular scholars have reached the opposite conclusion. Why did the editors of this study Bible mislead my friend this way? And why are only conservative scholars still clinging to Mosaic authorship? Because Christianity (at least in its conservative "Bible Believing" form) teaches as doctrine that Moses wrote the Pentateuch.

    Before I explained to my friend that there was no positive evidence for the theory of Mosaic authorship, I wanted to double-check myself. I visited some of the web-sites of people who argue strongly for Mosaic authorship. While doing so, I came across this page on a page sponsored by the pseudo-science organization that calls itself Answers in Genesis. It turns out that, indeed, there is no positive evidence for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. What was interesting was that the page does purport to present positive evidence in a section boldly headed "Evidence for Moses authorship of the Pentateuch", containing six points and two follow up paragraphs.

    Now, if one were not well versed in how Christian apologetics worked, one might casually read the heading, the points, and the follow-up, and go home thinking that one had just heard six good reasons to believe to think that Moses wrote the pentateuch. In fact, not one of the reasons actually supports the theory. How's that for a bait and switch? So, if "Evidence for Moses authorship" is the bait, let's see what they have given us in the switch, point by point.

  • Contrary to the views of Wellhausen and others, archaeological research has established that writing was indeed well known in Moses’ day. The JEDP hypothesis falsely assumes that the Iraelites waited until many centuries after the foundation of their nation before committing any of their history or laws to written form, even though their neighbours kept written records of their own history and religion from before the time of Moses.

  • The glaring fallacy is this: I might just as well claim that writing had been invented in the days Moses would have lived as evidence that he wrote Gone With the Wind. What this evidence actually does, is show that concerns from over 100 years ago that Moses might not have been literate were unfounded. It answers a no-longer current objection to Moses' authorship. It does not provide evidence that Moses wrote.

    The second fallacy is the attack on the Documentary Hypothesis (aka the JEDP), saying that such a theory assumes that the Hebrews didn't bother to record their own histories and laws until long after they existed as a coherent political entity. If that is indeed a flaw of JEDP, it still does not serve to advance the theory of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. If one makes the assumption that at least part of the Pentateuch actually dates to the time Moses would have lived (approximately 12-1500 BCE), then that is no reason to assume Moses wrote it. I am almost certain that Gone With the Wind was written in my grandfather's lifetime, but that is not evidence that my grandfather wrote it.

    In fact, it is not even a valid objection to JEDP. JEDP does not speculate on what might have been recorded by the Hebrews prior to the earliest writing in the Pentateuch (thought to be "J's" contribution from around the 7th to 10th centuries BCE), nor does it generally speculate on whether the Hebrews had even developed a tribal identity long prior to that. In other words, the JEDP is not inconsistent with the Pentateuch being written at the beginning of Hebrew history, nor is it inconsistent with other records being kept at the beginning of Hebrew history that were later made obsolete by informal incorporation into the Pentateuch, and then lost.

  • The author is obviously an eyewitness of the Exodus from Egypt, familiar with the geography, flora and fauna of the region; he uses several Egyptian words, and refers to customs that go back to the second millennium bc.

    The first claim may be the most egregious one. How does one conclude that the author of the account of the exodus was "obviously" an eye-witness to it? Even if we generously assume that the exodus was an actual, historical event, how can we claim that the author of the book about Exodus was "obviously" there when it happened? Was the author of the book about the Great Flood "obviously" an eye-witness to it? What about the author of the creation story?

    The other claim, that the author was familiar with ancient Egyptian flora, fauna, language and customs, is fine evidence that the author had some connection to Egypt. There is evidence that the author of Gone With the Wind was familiar with 19th century Georgia's flora, fauna, language, and customs... that isn't evidence that Scarlett O'Hara wrote it.

    Even though the claim doesn't actually support Mosaic authorship, it is fishy on another level. It is (I think purposely) extremely vague. How familiar were the author(s) with Egypt? When did the Egyptian customs "that date to the second millenium" actually fall out of common use? Did any of the ones that the author(s) were familiar with continue to the first millenium BCE? Were the author(s) familiar with them as one might be after reading a recorded history of them or hearing an oral tradition about them? From the perspective of the Documentary hypothesis, were J, E, P, and D equally familiar with Egypt, or was there a difference between them? What trade routes existed between Judah and Egypt, and how much contact did those two cultures have with one another? I don't know all of the specifics, but I suspect that some of them would do more to suggest that the author(s) connection to Egypt was not so direct as Moses should have been, and some of the specifics would lend credence to the Documentary hypothesis.

  • The Pentateuch claims in many places that Moses was the writer, e.g. Exodus 17:14; 24:4–7; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22, 24.

    When I read this claim, I was somewhat surprised. If true, it would be the first evidence for Mosaic authorship in the list (at least where such claims specifically reference themselves). It would, by far, be the strongest evidence for Mosaic authorship. And when one checks this scripture (I recommend Blue Letter Bible), one finds that not one of these passages claims that they were written by Moses. Furthermore, they are all written in the third person and in the past tense. To be thorough, I will review each passage:
    Ex 17:14 - The Lord told Moses to write a memorial of Joshua's battle against the Amalekites in a book and to "rehearse it in the ears of Joshua".

    Ex 24:4-7 - The Lord gave Moses some instructions, Moses wrote down "the words of the Lord" (the instructions he had just been given?), then built an altar. All of this happens in verses 1-4. It isn't clear why verses 5-7 are important to the claim that "Moses wrote something". The "book of the covenant" is mentioned in verse 7, but only in the context of being read aloud.

    Ex 34:27 - Moses writes "the book of the covenant", identified with the ten commandments.

    Numbers 33:2 - Moses is said to have written about the "going out" of the Israelites at and after the exodus, though this writing isn't identified with the book of Exodus. The author of the chapter then proceeds to relate the same journies. This may be a claim that Moses wrote Exodus, but it is not a specific, self-referencing claim that would be evidence of Moses' authorship. At most, it is only evidence that there was a tradition of Moses authorship of Exodus. We are looking for a claim to the effect that "Moses wrote this". That would be evidence of Mosaic authorship. There is no such claim in the Pentateuch. In this case, it is unclear whether we even have a reference of "Moses wrote that" where the "that" is part of the Pentateuch.

    Deut 31:9, 22, 24 - Actually, this entire chapter claims that a certain song or law had already been written by Moses, that it was the song and law presented in that chapter, and that it should continue to be written, sung, and remembered. In other words, this chapter is evidence against Mosaic authorship. It is saying that "this law, and song" had already been written by Moses, and now the author is reminding his readers of it and exhorting them to continue to pass it down in this way. This is a strong indication that while the Deuteronomist thought he was relying on Moses for this chapter of his book, the book was not written by Moses. This chapter makes better sense in light of the Documentary Hypothesis which holds that 'D' wrote all of Deuteronomy, including this chapter, and the story of Moses' death and burial.

  • Many times in the rest of the Old Testament, Moses is said to have been the writer, e.g. Joshua 1:7–8; 8:32–34; Judges 3:4; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 8:1; 13:1; Daniel 9:11–13.

    Most or all of these verses came nearly 1,000 years after the time that Moses would have lived, and might easily have relied on the same tradition. In fact, it is thought that 'D' wrote parts or all of Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 Kings in the 6th century BCE. They only testify to the existence of the tradition that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, and such traditions themselves are poor evidence.

    Many people take these passages of the Old Testament as being true on faith. If they accept the truth of these passages on faith, then their belief in Mosaic authorship comes from faith. That isn't evidence, and should not be presented as such. That's the bait and switch again. Whatever your thoughts on whether faith is valid in its own right, faith and evidence are two entirely distinct things.

  • In the New Testament, Jesus frequently spoke of Moses’ writings or the Law of Moses, e.g. Matthew 8:4; 19:7–8; Mark 7:10; 12:26; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46–47; 7:19. Jesus said that those who ‘hear not [i.e. reject] Moses’ would not be persuaded ‘though one rose from the dead’ (Luke 16:31). Thus we see that those churches and seminaries which reject the historicity of Moses’ writings often also reject the literal bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Once again, the authors of the New Testament were two millenia removed from the nominal lifetime of Moses, and relied on Old Testament traditions to accept Mosaic authorship. Once again, this is a matter of faith, not evidence. There is also an attempt to paint the mainline and liberal seminaries and congregations that accept the Documentary Hypothesis with a very broad brush of ad hominem. The suggestion is that if one rejects Mosaic authorship, one is likely to reject the resurrection of Christ, and go to hell for it. The fact is that the mainline churches that accept JEDP also believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Only the very liberal ones reject that.

    More importantly, it is this point that is most illustrative of the love of Christianity above truth. You must believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, not because it is true or because there is evidence for it, but because you must not disagree with the words that the gospel authors attribute to Jesus and Paul. You must believe the Bible. You must love Christianity better than truth.

  • Other New Testament speakers/writers said the same thing, e.g. John 1:17; Acts 6:14; 13:39; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 2 Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 10:28.

    Again, this is a matter of faith, not evidence. Now we have seen each of six points purporting to be evidence that Moses authored the Pentateuch, and we have seen that not one of them actually supports the proposition! In fact the only evidence that Moses wrote the pentateuch is that there was an Israelite tradition to that effect at some point after the time that Moses would have lived.

    I had intended to proceed and cover the positive evidence for the contrary: that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, and that the Pentateuch is the product of more than one persons', largely produced long after Moses would have lived. I can see, though, that I am running long on my sermon, and I know you are all ancient to get out to the restaraunts before they get too crowded. I will pick this topic up again next Sunday. Brother Mike, would you go ahead and lead the altar call?

    Posted by smijer at 11:19 AM | Comments (10)
  • A Free and Democratic Iraq

    from - smijer

    Quoth Jefferson (quite correctly):

    Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.

    I would like to thank George Bush for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq. I would especially like to congratulate him for managing to do so without having to rely on the usual methods of elections or freedom of the press. Great job, George. I haven't been so proud of America since the British invaded us and gave us our democracy!

    Posted by smijer at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

    August 06, 2004

    Friday Boortz

    from - smijer

    Poodle's House of Cards.... That's what Neal calls it when he jumps aboard the Swift Band-Boat-Wagon for "truth". If you haven't been paying attention, here's the short version.

    John O'Neill's involvement began three decades ago, when he was recruited by the Nixon White House on Tricky Dick's orders to attempt to discredit John Kerry personally and thereby damage the anti-war cause. Currently, O'Neill and some other swift boat vets, Jerome Corsi, for instance, have made national news by writing a book and airing a television ad that makes some pretty ugly accusations against John Kerry, concerning his actions in Vietnam. One allegation is that he shot a Vietnamese boy in the back. Another is that he faked one or more injuries in order to secure an early discharge from duty. The group is funded, organized and assisted by several republican operatives. They are not, as some would have you believe, representative of the Veterans who actually served with Kerry in his craft - all of whom enthusiastically support him and testify to his courage and leadership under fire (Video link features them that served on Kerry's boat). The Swift Boat Veterans for the "truth" are not, as some would have you believe, a self-organized grass roots, non-partisan group that would be doing the same thing if Kerry were running as a Republican. Joe Conason scratches the surface of their GOP connections (Another link from Conasan... You may need to ask for a "free day pass", then click the link again after watching the silly ad).

    Despite the fact that the Swift Boat Veterans' ad is not substantiated by any evidence or even any credible witnesses' testimony, and is contradicted by the available eye-witness testimony, it has been in the news quite a bit in the last few days. O'Neill has been on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, and generally speaking, the major media outlets are eating it up... because it sounds big and they don't have to put a lot of invesment into research. SBVT will be happy to spoon feed them their lines.

    These allegations don't hold up to scrutiny, but they are big news to our media. They are even bigger news to Neal Boortz, who claims the name of Libertarian, but who will stop at nothing to help one of the most anti-libertarian politicians in recent history get elected President. Boortz says,

    The Kerry campaign is of course, calling the whole thing trash, and asking 'how low can they go?' There's only one problem with all of this. There are 13 Vietnam veterans in that television ad....are they all liars? Have they all decided to interrupt their private lives for the glare of the media spotlight just so they could lie about The Great and Omnipotent John Kerry?

    Well, the answer is in. No, they are not all liars. George Elliot was in the ad, but he had the honesty to correct himself and the SBVT. Others in the ad, like O'Neill, did not serve with Kerry. So maybe they are not liars themselves. Maybe they are just being deceived by a crafty liar who learned the art under the tutelage of Watergate's Chuck Colson.


    Reverse the situation. If Bush were the Democrat, and Kerry were the Republican, the mainstream media would be erupting in a chorus of demands today for a full investigation of the charges that Kerry's first Purple Heart came from a self-inflicted wound. They would want all of the details about Kerry's alleged torching of an entire Vietnamese village with his Zippo, and the charge that he shot a fleeing Vietnamese teenager wearing only a loin cloth in the back. The Democrats would be demanding an investigation because of the "seriousness of the charge." The double standard is clear.

    The double standard is that the media continues to regurgitate whatever anyone with a cheap and sensationalist story spoon feeds them. A healthy media would be doing the investigation of these charges that Neal suggests. Then they would be reporting that they lack credibility. As it is, the media (Fox "News" excepted) is doing the same thing that people have always found it convenient to confuse with media partisanship: they've been uncritically reporting what they are told by the spin-rooms and flunkies of the political parties. "Moon Made of Green Cheese" is just fine as long as it's got "According to So & So's campaign". You'll never hear "Claim that Moon is Made of Green Cheese is clearly erroneous" from our media. You'd be more likely to hear them talk about an actual policy issue

    That's it for Boortz. A final note to you-know-who-you-are, and others that might share the feeling that "character" matters a lot in presidential campaigns: Politicians don't have character. They have charisma, loosely defined as the ability to appear to have character. A politician's job is to make and implement policy. If he does this in a way that helps us, that's good. If he does it in a way that hurts us, that's bad. "Character" does have a role to play, but most times, its relatively minor. More important are intelligence, values, and the ability to make policy that helps move the nation forward.

    Posted by smijer at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

    Thought for the Day

    from - smijer

    He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
    -Ralph W. Emerson, Self Reliance

    Read the whole essay, it ranks with the great prose of all time. Like most great prose, it is nearly as easy to take the wrong lesson from it as the right one, I say by way of disclaimer.

    Still to come... a Friday Boortz! Stay tuned.

    Posted by smijer at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

    August 05, 2004


    from - smijer

    I'm too busy to post tonight, but after an unpleasant incident at my place of work yesterday which was talked about in an unpleasant way today, I wanted to share a joke (it's laugh or cry when you live in the toothless belt). I forget where I heard it, but hat tip to whoever it was...

    Three Iraqis were enjoying their new liberation and decided to make the most of it. They decided to have a competition to see who could have a lifestyle most like the wealthy, free Americans after one year....

    Miraculously, all three survived and prospered over the course of the year. When they came back together to settle their bet, the first one said, "look, I have a used Mercedes, a large house, and my son is in private school. I'm just like the Americans." The second one said, "look, I have a new BMW, a two story house, and all three of my children are making high grades in their private school. I'm just like the Americans." The third one shook his head slowly, looked at the others with a sneer, and said...(you have to continue reading...)

    "F*ing towelheads."

    Posted by smijer at 09:15 PM | Comments (1)


    from - smijer

    Following, once again, the lead of Pharyngula, I have implemented gravatars in the comments on this site. If you want to add a visual dimension to your signature on here or any other web-log that implememnts the same, go here, sign up for an account using the e-mail address that you leave in the e-mail line in comments (it has to be an address where you can receive mail, too...), then fix yourself up a roughly square image and upload it...

    To see a sample, check the comments of this post. Beware, I wasn't quite creative enough to put the Tazmanian Devil or some bit of Anime esoterica... it's just my plain old ugly mug.

    Posted by smijer at 07:54 AM | Comments (6)

    Prison abuse Redux

    from - smijer

    Skeptical Notion has more on prison abuse... He quotes the Davidson interview this way:

    The abuses took place at the Hard Site, a two-story cinder-block unit at the sprawling prison that housed Iraqi criminals and insurgents, not members of Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations. In one sworn statement, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, said he witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. "I saw Abu Hamid, who was wearing the military uniform, putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Hilas testified. "The kid was hurting very bad." A female soldier took pictures of the rape, Hilas said.

    During the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, Hilas saw Spc. Charles Graner Jr. and an unnamed "helper" tie a detainee to a bed around midnight. "They . . . inserted the phosphoric light in his ass, and he was yelling for God's help," the prisoner testified. Again, the same female soldier photographed the torture.

    Why didn't God help when the boy cried out to Him? According to some, it is because "some people don't believe exactly right". Reason #7,345,241 that I don't believe people's stories about God... and their excuses that it was the "Devil" that made these people make the choices they made.

    Posted by smijer at 12:04 AM | Comments (2)

    August 04, 2004

    Praise Dionysus!

    from - smijer

    It's a quirk of fate (and, no... I won't share the story) that I am drinking wine as I post this, rather than perched primly atop the wagon as I had intended myself to be. Now, thanks to the fact that I avidly read Pharyngula I know that wine is brain food... !!!

    I quote:

    drinking half a bottle of wine a day can make your brain work better [emphasis mine]

    Thank Bacchus!

    Posted by smijer at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

    Me Too

    from - smijer

    Like the Church, I don't have much to add about this. I think it is beyond the pale that the guy who did the most politically expedient think possible pretends that he is "making a stand". The guy who probably hurt his career for standing up for what's right (Dingfelder is his name) deserves accolades and re-election. One of the few people left in this country for whom principles are more important than hanging on to political power. If you read this from Tampa, vote for him... donate to his campaign. If nothing else, take the Church's suggestion and drop him a thank you note.

    Posted by smijer at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

    August 02, 2004

    Predictions and such...

    from - smijer

    Now that Neal Boortz has permalinks (thanks again, webwench!) I owe it to him, myself, his listeners, his readers, and my readers, to do what Neal Boortz does best: spend a little bit of time and prose making him look bad.

    First up: Neal thinks he is going to catch hell [...] for predicting that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November will be an issue to terrorists and their friends. In fact, he predicts that terrorists will celebrate a John Kerry victory, or mourn a victory for Dear Leader. In fact, he is going to catch hell for that comment... but not until after the election. I'm saving the above permalink in my special place for election predictions, and I'm going to drag it back out on November 3rd. I have a good feeling about Kerry's chances this time 'round. If he should win and there be no celebrations in the streets of Iran, then the egg will rest squarely on the face of our most beloved radio jockey. Likewise, if Bush should win, and we not hear wails of dismay from our terrorist enemies, then we will have to consider Neal Boortz' wonderful prediction to be just so much hot air (wouldn't that be a surprise). I'm willing to go on record with a counter prediction. Terrorists don't, and won't, give a rat's ass about who wins the election. They care about carrying out the most visible and successful attacks they possibly can against the infidel west, no matter who is running the show on our end.

    [...]"but I'm right," he says. Declaring onesself right in absense of reason or evidence is sometimes a foolish thing to do. I think that I will enjoy seeing if he was right on November 3rd. Where does he get this idea that the terrorists like John Kerry? Does he think they have a penchant for big hair? Or is it that, as he showed again today, with the words, "...who do you want running the show? The fighter or the appeaser?", he doesn't understand what the word "appease" means. I refer to an old entry at my old blog, which has now been bloggered. If this link only takes you to the top of the page, then just scroll down to the entry entitled "Newt Strikes Again" from December 3, 2003.

    I think Boortz is just using the Goebbels technique here. To paraphrase... repeat your propaganda often enough, and loud enough, and people will believe you.

    You gotta wonder how many people would be screaming about irrational Bush hatred if Al Franken spoke thusly on the O'Franken Factor blog...

    Just a small wager: I'll collect from you on this on the morning of November 3rd. I'm betting that an impartial observer of the November 2nd election will be able to tell you who won our presidential election merely by watching the video -- no audio -- only the video of any of stations covering Klan rallies. Just watch the people in the sheets in Selma, and Pulaski. If they're shouting, celebrating and shooting their 30-06's into the air, you'll know that Bush won. If there are long faces behind the white hoods, you can get ready for four years of John Kerry.

    Or how about this??

    Just a small wager: I'll collect from you on this on the morning of November 3rd. I'm betting that an impartial observer of the November 2nd election will be able to tell you who won our presidential election merely by watching the video -- no audio -- only the video of any of the defense table at the Ken Lay trial. Just watch the lawyers and their clients in federal courthouses. If they're shouting, celebrating and lighting cigars with one hundred dollar bills, you'll know that Bush won. If there are long faces behind the Lay defense table, you can get ready for four years of John Kerry.

    Naw... let's not get uncomfortably close to reality with this.
    P.S... I was just taking the cheap shot today.... there will be more from today's Boortz page tomorrow, if I can find the time.

    Posted by smijer at 10:01 PM | Comments (5)

    New to the Blogroll

    from - smijer

    10,000 monkeys & a typewriter camera is added, tentatively under "local interest", until it sorts itself into another category. (corrected it's name...)

    Posted by smijer at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

    I feel dirty

    from - smijer

    Ok, I feel like I have just played a role in introducing chain letter spam to the blogosphere (see previous post). Oh well. At least it was in the name of science, right?

    Posted by smijer at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

    Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!

    from - smijer

    This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).

    The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet (Permalink: --- results and commentary will appear there in the future.

    Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate -- the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

    The GUID for this experiment is: as098398298250swg9e98929872525389t9987898tq98wteqtgaq62010920352598gawst (this GUID enables anyone to easily search Google (or Technorati) for all blogs that participate in this experiment). Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)


    To add your blog to this experiment, copy this entire posting to your blog, and then answer the questions below, substituting your own information, below, where appropriate. Other than answering the questions below, please do not alter the information, layout or format of this post in order to preserve the integrity of the data in this experiment (this will make it easier for searchers and automated bots to find and analyze the results later).

    REQUIRED FIELDS (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers)

    (1) I found this experiment at URL:

    (2) I found it via "Newsreader Software" or "Browsing the Web" or "Searching the Web" or "An E-Mail Message": Browsing the web

    (3) I posted this experiment at URL:

    (4) I posted this on date (day, month, year): 02/08/04

    (5) I posted this at time (24 hour time): 13:35:00

    (6) My posting location is (city, state, country): Chattanooga, TN, USA

    OPTIONAL SURVEY FIELDS (Replace the answers below with your own answers):

    (7) My blog is hosted by:

    (8) My age is: 32

    (9) My gender is: Male

    (10) My occupation is:

    (11) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software:

    (12) I use the following software to post to my blog: Movable Type

    (13) I have been blogging since (day, month, year):

    (14) My web browser is: Mozilla Firefox

    (15) My operating system is: Windows XP

    Posted by smijer at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)