March 31, 2005

The Forest and the Trees - Our World

from - smijer

There's been some disheartening news, lately. It's probably already familiar to anyone reading this, but it's on my mind. Some of it is forest, and some of it is trees, but it's all part of the picture.

Have you read about this report? It was conducted by 1,300 experts from 95 countries, and it concludes that our world's ecosystems are in jeopardy of failing. In other words, we are not living sustainably.

Shamefully, Neal Boortz poo-poos the report. When the science contradicts his political views, Neal dismisses it. If the science reveals that human activity is harming the environment, then it is because all 1300 scientists are "anti-capitalist", and "anti-freedom". That's a shame. It's a shame that someone who has more listeners in a day than most advocates for environmental responsibility are able to reach in a lifetime uses his influence to obfuscate the problem. Researchers say that too much of the earth is under agricultural cultivation. Boortz interprets this to mean, "Apparently we're all supposed to starve to preserve the environment."

The problem is that if we destroy the environment then we really will starve. But no one has to starve to change our consumption habits. No one has to starve to create a sustainable agriculture. There is so much we can do to preserve the capacity to provide nutrition that future generations will depend on. It isn't too late, if we act now. This is a wake-up call.

There are big and small ways that we can make a difference. Eat more organically grown fruits, grains, and vegetables and less meat.

One hectare of land can produce 7500 kg of corn, 6500 kg of rice, or 1900 kg of soybeans. If instead that land is used for meat production, one gets only 490 kg of pork or a mere 70 kg of beef! - link

Get with your church group and plant some trees:

Trees improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide that otherwise would contribute to global warming. An average tree absorbs 50 pounds of carbon dioxide a year — that's one ton of carbon dioxide during a 40-year lifespan.

Because the average Californian consumes energy that results in 7.5 tons of carbon emissions per year, each person would need to plant about seven trees a year to be carbon-neutral, environmentalists say.

Buy shade grown coffee.

Support alternative energy research.

Follow this example.

Don't start wars.

Speaking of war, another disturbing report out today is this one. Apparently, child hunger in Iraq has doubled since the war. I don't have any solutions for this one, only to hope that things will improve with time.

Uptown Ruler from Scrutiny Hooligans has some words of wisdom about mercury. This is an issue whose time has come.

Posted by smijer at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

What John Wolfe Sent Me

from - smijer

Yesterday, I received this pamphlet in the mail from John Wolfe:



As you might guess, it is an attack on Ann Coulter (Democrat running for Chattanooga Mayor, not the self-loathing right-wing blowhard you non-Chattanoogans may be thinking of) in the run-up to the run-off election we'll be having on April 12.

I don't have a lot to say about it. It was filled with innuendo about Coulter's never-denied ties to the River City Company and suggestions that she would lavish all of her attention and the city's money on downtown development through her corporate allies.

Sorry, John... I love the way you aren't afraid to speak out, or to show up at a peace rally that many would-be politicians would never touch. But just because you believe the innuendo about Coulter doesn't mean the rest of us have to. And attack pamphlets like the one you sent me just make me sad. I'll still vote for Coulter.. and I confess I think a little bit less of you for the approach you've chosen.

Posted by smijer at 07:58 AM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2005

Get a Living Will

from - smijer

No, really.

from Atrios' eagle eye.

Posted by smijer at 06:32 PM | Comments (3)


from - smijer

Old, old news, via ex-gay watch. This apology from co-founder of Focus on the Family was apparently made in 1997, but is no less apt today. Maybe someday those who are still in the business of casting the first stone will catch up to this fellow. Highlights:

I apologize to any American who has felt the sting of James Dobson and the Christian Right wagging their holier-than-thou fingers in your face, shrieking that because your views differ from theirs, you are ungodly, evil and unworthy of the rights of full citizenship.


When we began Focus, in 1977, the seven founders had only two objectives:

...1. To help Americans raise their children, and
...2. to help us maintain our marriages.

Millions of Americans would say that James Dobson has made a tremendous contribution in those two areas. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said regarding his harmful foray into big-time politics.

I believe Dobson-style politics have been inept, simplistic, exclusionary, divisive and alarmingly sectarian. Mr. Dobson has shown little respect for our pluralistic system, for differing views or for the core skill of statecraft—compromise and consensus building. That is un-American.

James Dobson's political style has been one of relentlessly demonizing his adversaries. And he has created the impression that the pathway to national moral reform leads through the legislative machinery of Washington. That is unchristian.

Well said.

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2005

Lyrics Du Jour

from - smijer

I've missed a lot of chuch lately, for a variety of reasons. I was especially grieved over missing the March 20th service when Rev. Briere discussed "Buddhism in 20 minutes." Now, having received the text of the service, I find that I missed singing off-key along with one of my favorite hymns. I know it as an Enya song from the album Shepherd's Moons, but it is apparently an old shaker hymn, entitled "How Can I Keep From Singing?" The Shakers were a grim lot, but this particular hymn is kind of uplifting. To me, anyway. Lyrics are below the fold... Sing along.

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

I don't know what became of my copy of Shepherd's Moons, but I do plan to replace it, post haste.

Posted by smijer at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)

Good news from Iraq?

from - Buck

While Neal laments the fact that the mainstream media never gives us the good news coming out of Iraq the Village Voice paints a different picture of this so called good news.

What’s a man to believe?

Well if this is an actual training video from Raed and if the student is never greater than the teacher then we are all in real trouble. (Ed: video from Unfair Witness -smijer)

Posted by Buck at 11:11 AM | Comments (6)

Low Comedy, Talk Show Style

from - smijer

I've been giving Neal Boortz a pass for a couple of weeks since he has been padding his "non-partisan" creds with his own mini Schiavopalooza. But, I got a very hearty chuckle, reading this report of a discussion between himself and Sean Hannity:

Sean and I discussed the Schiavo matter a bit yesterday. We discussed the negative consequences of being true to your beliefs while doing a talk show ... even when those beliefs make so many listeners angry. Sean brought up an excellent point ... one I want to share with you. He said "If the flip side of that is that we are dishonest for ratings---then we become what we hate--POLITICIANS!!"

The obvious question is, if they are not being dishonest for ratings, what the hell are they doing it for?

But, what really stood out to me was that Sean Hannity said that he hates politicians. I don't know if you've listened to him, or watched his show, but from what I've seen, his feelings for the most powerful politician in this country are positively romantic. Maybe it's one of those love-hate relationships. Or maybe he'll just wake up and hate himself in the morning.

On a different subject: Boortz mentions the possibility that Iraq may be secure within 18 months, with American troops ready to come home. That may or may not be overly optimistic, but Boortz correctly notes that the situation there seems to be improving at present. Granting the optimistic view, I think we should not let success in achieving a good end cause us to forsake our commitment to legally and morally justifiable means. Unprovoked, aggressive war is not a legally or morally justifiable means to an end. And back to the original subject, but without the humor: Boortz says:

If you had told people that within two years, Saddam Hussein would be caught, power handed over to an interim government and free elections held....all with less than 2,000 casualties, people would have laughed and said that was unrealistic.

Yet that very thing has happened, and the left calls it bad news.

Well, no. We've had some legitimate disagreement about how many deaths there have been, but it has certainly been more than 2,000... more than 10,000. Possibly more than 50,000. Other, non-fatal casualties number in the tens or hundreds of thousands as well. These casualties are extremely bad news. I hope to goodness that "the right" perceives them as bad news, too, even if Neal Boortz cannot. The possibility of a peaceful and democratic result in Iraq, while still a possibility and not a reality, would be good news, but it cannot balance the loss that we have already caused.

Posted by smijer at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)

March 28, 2005

Fraud? What fraud?

from - Buck

Glenn Reynolds warns us that “corruption” is the biggest and most persistent problem that the Iraqi’s face in their country today.

But it seems that the Bush administration has already tackled this problem.

The administration's reluctance to prosecute has turned the Iraq occupation into a "free-fraud zone,"

Where there are no penalties for fraud then there is essentially no corruption. Problem solved.

Mr. Reynolds then warns us that

If enough Iraqis do not step up for honest government, the country will end up with another Saddam.

But he neglects to mention that Uncle Sugar was instrumental is providing Iraq with their first Saddam.

I still have no reason not to believe that Sam will be instrumental in providing them with their second.

But here is the money quote:

the presence of Coalition troops, and investigators, is key to bringing corruption under control.

No Glenn. All troops and investigators do is help determine who will be allowed to rape, rob and pillage. They do nothing to stop it.

Posted by Buck at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

Non-Boycott Wal*Mart

from - smijer

I've bitched more than once about the construction of a new Wal*Mart here in Tiftonia. It's not just their anti-business trade practices, their anti-market predatory "loss leader" pricing policies, and their poor labor practices. It's also the destruction of an idyllic, tightly knit community in favor of strip malls, sodium lights, and twenty four hour rush hour traffic. And, it's the fact that we are all subsidizing their bottom line with our tax dollars. That really burns me.

In the comments at the above linked Kos diary, a lot of people talk about the desirability and the futility of a Wal*Mart boycott. Desirable for all the obvious reasons. Futile because they will never miss the change of a few disgruntled shoppers.

Here's what I will do: a non-boycott boycott. For every good or service that can be purchased from Wal*Mart, I resolve to find an affordable, traditional alternative. If we do this en masse, we may not put a dent in Wal*Mart, but we may help our local business people survive the competition, and we may be able to keep our local economies healthy. Even if I have to put my money in a national chain, I can put it in Target or (even better, if they ever get here) Costco, where the workers bring home something closer to a living wage, and those few extra pennies of wages will stay in Chattanooga instead of winging their way to Bentonville, Arkansas. Eventually, if the non-boycott movement becomes large enough, traditional wholesale suppliers (who can no longer find a market for their product because Wal*Mart will not buy from them) may find a healthy enough retail market that they can survive without selling to Wal*Mart, keeping more economies strong.

Call it the fair-trade non-boycott. Make up cards and let your local businesses know what you are doing. The managers, owners, and employees may be so grateful that they join the movement. It's worth a try.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (4)

March 27, 2005

Go Where The Action Is, and Other Thoughts on UU's iPod Strategy

from - smijer

So it's time to put your imagination caps on. Think big about what "big changes" you'd want to see in UUism. What would your "iPod strategy" for UUism look like? What would it take to get there? And would any of your "iPod buyers" end up "making the switch" (and give up their old PCs for new "UU Macs"). Or would that even matter? Would a bunch of new "UU iPod" owners be enough?
from the Coffee Hour.

For more background on what this discussion is about, read this.

My own answers, unimaginative as they are, come from the perspective that "church", if it is to exist at all, should be a service to the people of the community, whether it is the local community, the national community, or the world community. UUism is the answer to a problem. Too many communities rely upon churches that exist more to perpetuate a dogma than to support a community.

The first suggestion has to do with this thing UUs seem to have for politics. From Doug's post:

Some people join us with the idea that they are going to be able to influence political issues, but they are unable to do so because we do not have the numbers. We also don't have the focus or the discipline.

From the chutney:

*Political influence ain't gonna happen with our current numbers. Period.
*We need an organizational overhaul to allow change to happen.

From the comments at Coffee Hour:

The point of an organization such as the UUA is social, political, and religious influence on the national and global levels. We, with our incredible 0.1% don't have enough influence to feed and/or self perpetuate our own reason for existence. Zero influence = zero point. Why not just stay home, as one of us already suggested?

Now, my point isn't that a political stance or political efforts are out of place in the UU church, so much as that there is a temptation with so many politically motivated people to put the cart before the horse. Our principles affirm the inherent worth and dignity of the individual and put us at the service of other people. We may find that we can render that service through political activism, or we may find other means serve the purpose better. But we must keep it centered on the service. It should be about the people and their community, not about the "cause".

A related note: People who know me know that I'm a born again Democrat, and that I love my UU church. Even so, the moments I was least in love with my church, and most tempted to turn my back on it were those moments when partisanship - for my side - became the center of attention... whether it was an innocuous seeming joke about the President from the pulpit, or whether it was people who used the joys and concerns to express a partisan viewpoint. I think that we can remove the "turn-off" by checking our partisanship at the door and embracing everyone. After all, if someone is coming to a non-creedal institution in search of companions on a moral path, their heart is probably in the right place even if we disagree with their politics.

Staying with the theme of service to the community, I believe one of the most difficult tasks is keeping our priorities right when it comes to our theology. Traditional churches put their faith in the theology first: their beliefs about God, whether derived from ancient scripture or from personal conscience, are the final authority in their lives. UU's are unique, as a non-creedal religion, in having no authoritative beliefs about God. Yet, many of us express that the most important thing the UU chruch can provide for them is an avenue to talk about theoloogy. I believe that is because theology is a need many people share. As such, I think the UU church's approach to theology should be the same as its approach to other elements of community: we, the church - the minister, the staff, and the congregation - should exist to meet needs, including the need to talk about theology. That doesn't mean that we have to settle on a theology, authoritative or otherwise. It does mean that we have to try to find out what our neighbors in the next seat over are looking for when they come to church and try to provide it.

One of the main reasons that my non-UU wife chose the church that she chose was that she felt that they taught her: that she could learn theological lessons there. I personally believe that the theology she is being taught is a fake: that the "knowledge" they teach is not real knowledge, and that the moral instruction they give is faulty. Yet people are hungry enough to learn that they will accept a fraud if the real thing isn't available. And let's face it: for most people, after our high school years, every ounce of non-professional learning we acquire, and a whole lot of the professional kind, comes at a premium. One of the great needs we can meet right here at home is the need for honest-to-goodness knowledge and understanding. This can be academic knowledge: literature, mathematics, or cosmology. It can be experiential knowledge: the joy of shared song and dance. It can be religious knowledge: not dogma disguised as knowledge such as you are likely to find elsewhere, but real, in depth, knowledge about the beliefs, practices, and the impact of the various religious movements. Our church has given a wonderful series of sermons on Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism "in twenty minutes". This is a great start, but there should be opportunities to plumb the depths of those religions. Help those who have the need for it to discover the experience of quiet meditation or devotional prayer, without asking them to sell their souls to the systems of dogma that go with these experiences. If we see ourselves as meeting a need, we will strive to be sure that the "knowledge" we pass along is certain and that moral exhortations are not distorted by the lens of prejudice, ancient or modern.

None of this should take the place of the church's dedication to meeting the more tangible needs of the local, national, and world community: the needs for nutrition, clean water, medicine, and social justice. chutney, in the comments at Coffee Hour suggests it is good to pick only a couple of "issues" to focus on external to the church. Perhaps, so. But into the larger community we must go, and we must do it with a servant's spirit.

Then, when we all have our eyes on the prize, all we have to do is communicate what we are doing, and people will join us - because for many, many people, the biggest thing missing in their lives is community, and the second biggest is service. Since service is the best way to build community, they come two for the price of one, and all we have to do is let people know where to come to get it.

One other thing... you can't let people get a real feel for what you are doing without showing them some visuals. When you reach out to your community let them see your congregation serving those needs. Let them see people huddled together over a bit of literature or scripture, singing and dancing together as communities should, heads bowed in quiet contemplation or prayer, and legs crossed in meditation, and, of course, chatting away during coffee hour.

Posted by smijer at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

Starting over

from - Buck

Happy Easter everybody.

I have spent this morning wondering if that is an offensive statement to some. I have wondered if there is a “Seasons Greetings” equivalent. After all, resurrection is not a concept that was conceived and born with Christianity. The concept seems to have been ingrained in the minds of people from as far back as you are able to look.

I have also spent the morning thinking about the Easters of my childhood. The dreaded new clothes that I loathed but that my two sisters looked forward to. The trip to church which I always hated, not because of the teaching but because of the starched shirts, long breeches and new shoes that I was forced to wear to the service. The fantastic time we always had as children after church when we would hunt eggs and trade candy.

Over the years this holiday just like all of the rest has lost most of its luster as far as I am concerned. I guess that is normal. Just how much is a grown man supposed to enjoy chocolate rabbits and boiled eggs?

But as corny as it sounds the holiday is supposed to represent a new beginning and there is never a bad time for a new beginning.

So Happy Easter again guys, no offense intended.

Posted by Buck at 09:47 AM | Comments (4)

Easter RTB Update

from - smijer

Out hunting for Easter eggs this morning, and what did I find instead? A new update to the RTB membership list:

  • A Wizard / A True Star, where Todd - a student at UTK, blogs about rock & roll, books, school, and fiscal policy.
  • Blogging for Bryant supports Ed Bryant for Senator in 2006.
  • Chattanooga-Hamilton Civic Forums - Chattanooga's own Joe Lance blogs about all things political and local, and I'm grateful to him for it. Joe, we've got to get out for a cup of coffee sometime, eh?
  • Chris Woodhull is a blogging politician and community activist in Knoxville.
  • Communists for TennCare apparently enjoys satirizing those right-wing sorts who equate entitlement programs with communism. Or else, he's satirizing the entitlement programs by equating them with communism. Either way, it's cute and campy.
  • Poop Happens apparently comes from an agrarian family. Or, as SKB put it, "Her blog is as Southern as ice tea is sweet." Seems like somebody I would like.
  • Tennessee Guerilla Women: outspoken in all the best ways.
  • Whoa Mama!: Parent and mental health care worker. IOW, "Glutton". Reminds me of Mrs. Smijer.
  • Will Work for Doughnuts is a native Tennessean, San Francisco dweller, and apparently gaming and tech enthusiast.

Welcome, one and all, and Happy Easter Bunny! (I'll get you on the blogroll asap.)

Posted by smijer at 05:36 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2005

It's Carnival Time

from - smijer

Carnival of the Godless
Godless Gracious, there's another Carnival up at Yeah, Whatever. In this edition, Dr. Zen compares yours truly to cuddles on a cold day. Flattery will get you everywhere, Dr. Zen.

Next Carnival, if I understand correctly, will be two weeks from now at Freespace... Wolverine Tom.

Posted by smijer at 08:23 PM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2005

Case for Faith: Random Notes

from - smijer

I used MT long ago to begin an anynomous blog for my freethought posts. I have long ago abandoned it, and begun posting freethought along with everything else here. Since then, blog-spam has taken over the old project. As I prepare to take down the old project, I'm going to repost one of the posts here for posterity, and as ideal contributions to the Carnival of the Godless. Here is the first, Random Notes on Lee Strobel's a Case for Faith:

I've been paging through the rest of Strobel's Case for Faith. I'm not ready to do a detailed critique on the book. For one thing, I haven't read the whole thing yet. For another, I am supposed to be critiquing The Case for Christ - not the case for faith. But I wanted to make a couple of observations while they are fresh on their mind.

Chapter 3
Objection 3: Evolution explains life, so God isn't needed
I don't intend to critique this chapter in detail. It presents a loose apology for "Scientific Creationism" (leaning toward the "Intelligent Design" variety). It also attempts to make the case that an abiogenetic origin of life is not naturally possible, leaving Divine Intervention as "the most likely explanation" for the evidence. Needless to say, this is pure malarkey. Every claim made by Strobel and his interviewees is throroughly debunked somewhere at the Talk Origins Archive.

My one note that I would like to record while it is fresh on my mind is as follows. In the chapter on Hell, Strobel interviews a Christian philosopher. In the Case for Christ, Strobel interviews various Christian scholars and Christian archaeologists. For this chapter, one could expect Strobel to interview a Christian Biologist. Someone versed in the science of evolution and it's theological implications. Several come to mind. Two of the more prominent representatives would have been:
Kenneth Miller
Francis Collins
Instead, Strobel "settled" for a creationist in the field of mechanical engineering:
Walter Bradley.

So Strobel has gone out of his way to avoid good scholarship on this issue. The fact that he has to rely on pseudoscience to advance his viewpoints is telling, and speaks against the cause he is trying to advance through such underhanded tactics.

Next, in Chapter 4:
Objection #4: God and the Killing of the Innocents

I notice that Norman Geisler uses similar language defending genocide against the Amalekites that Hitler used to justify genocide against the Jews. Note how the Amalekites are portrayed as an incurable "disease" against which a "final solution" (amputation) had to be employed in order to keep the disease from spreading. Geisler:

But, Lee, you need to undestand the situation among the Amalekites. In that thoroughly evil and violent and depraved culture, there was no hope for those children. This nation was so polluted that it was like gangrene that was taking over a person's leg, and God had to amputate the leg or the gangrene would spread and there wouldn't be anything left..."

This reads like an essay from a neo-nazi publication. It is a denial of the individuality of persons as independent moral agents. It is a promulgation of the idea that racial or national identity is the defining trait: the idea upon which the holocaust was based. What Geisler is "defending", however, is the fact that God ordered the children of the Amakelites killed. The passage in question is 1 Samuel 15:2-3 :

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember [that] which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid [wait] for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

Incredibly, Geisler's defense is that it was an act of mercy to have the children killed. Geisler:

Now, if they had continued to live in that horrible society, past the age of accountability, they undoubtedly would have become corrupted and thereby lost forever.

Did Geisler forget the first half of the verse? Every man and woman was to be slain.. the "culture" that was to be such an horrific impact on these infants was to be the victim of genocide already. At the very least, God could have asked the Jews to take on responsibility for the infant children of those whom they were asked to slay, and raise them up in their own culture. One has to wonder though, whether the Jews' culture of the time (one that had developed their ideas about God around ideas like genocide) would have been any less depraved than the Amakelites own culture..

(this concludes the original post. Below the fold, I am including The Coherence of JP Moreland's Hell, also a critique of a portion of Case for Faith)

The Coherence of JP Moreland's Hell

As this will be a rebuttal, more than a critique, I would like to address the chapter point by point, and will quote liberally from the book in order to set up my objections.

Hell Is a Torture Chamber

After using an example of a good judge who reduced charges to avoid mandatory sentencing to remind us that he does have a functioning sense of justice, Lee Strobel moves on to introduce the problem of Hell. He has chosen J.P. Moreland as his expert witness to defuse that problem.

Moreland has a curious habit of arguing by assertion (ipse dixit - "because I say"). Nearly everyone is guilty of the occasional ipse dixit, on ideas that do not seem controversial to them, or out of carelessness, or in an attempt to be concise. But, this mode of argument seems to be Moreland's primary approach. We shall begin with the first instance of that fallacy, which also illuminates a hint of circularity:

"And it's important to understand that if the God of Christianity is real, he hates hell and he hates people going there," he added. "The Bible is very clear: God says he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked."

It is true that the Bible (in Ezekial 33:11) states that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. There is gaping hole of missing logic between this simple Old Testament statement and Moreland's claim that God hates Hell. If God is all-powerful, He would have open the option of making Hell unnecessary and eliminating it's existence from His divine plan - this follows directly from the definition of "all-powerful". If God truly "hated" Hell, then there would be no hell, and this chapter would be missing. On the other hand, Moreland makes no real effort to support his claim with reason - leaving us only the choice to believe it because he says so, if we are to believe it at all. One would hope he would give us more reason than that. After all, the problems with Hell are often presented as objections to Christianity. Since Moreland's interview with Strobel is ostensibly meant to answer "the toughest objections to Christianity", I would expect to find in it something more substantial than the unsupported declaration, that "if Christianity is true, then your objection is invalid because God hates hell." The objection is that Christianity may not be true because Hell is unjust, so it is somewhat circular to start with the assumption that Christianity is true in order to reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, as we read through the chapter, we find precious little added substance.

Reading on, we discover that Moreland has taken a very unorthodox view of what Hell is. On this point, it is hard not to at least respect his sense of justice. He sees the difficulty with the Biblical Hell, and finds that it cannot be accounted for. This speaks of a certain moral awareness often missing in other conservative Christian apologists, philosophers, and clergy. Moreland claims that hell is not a torture chamber. He claims that the suffering in Hell is only shame, regret, and the suffering of eternal separation from God. Even by this liberal definition, Moreland is unable to paint a coherent view of Hell while answering other objections. His answers to other objections will not make sense in light of this view of Hell.

Again, this is a morally superior view to the orthodox Christian one, but Moreland has two thousand years of church history, and some very clear language from the Bible against him. Since most Christians believe that the historical church view is dependent upon the Biblical view, I will let go the two thousand years of church history, and focus on the Biblical notions of Hell. Before I go on to the actual scripture, however, I want to quote somewhat more of Moreland's ipse dixit case against the Biblical hell as it comes out in his conversation with Strobel:

"When I was about ten years old, I was taken to Sunday school, where the teacher lit a candle and said, 'Do you know how much it hurts to burn your finger? Well, imagine your whole body being in fire forever and ever. That's what hell it.'" [...] "You have to admit that when it comes to talking about hell, the Bible does have a tendency to refer to flames." "That's true," Moreland replied, "but the flames are a figure of speech." I put up my hand. "Okay, wait a minute," I protested. "I thought you were a conservative scholar. Are you going to try to soften the idea of hell to make it more palatable?" "Absolutely not," came his reply. "I just want to be biblically accurate. We know that the reference to flames is figurative because if you try to take it literally, it makes no sense. For example, hell is described as a place of utter darkness and yet there are flames, too. How can that be? Flames would light things up." [...]

Moreland goes on to mention a few cases in the Bible where flames are mentioned in the context of a vision, or in clearly metaphorical terms, but never gives any detailed justification for taking each Biblical reference to "flames" figuratively. I do believe one could make a valid case that there is at least one instance where God is described metaphorically as a "consuming fire", but one could make that particular case on the merits of the language and context of that passage. On the contrary, it is not justified by the language and context to dismiss New Testament descriptions of Hell as figurative, and (I will show) such a view is contradicted by a specific examination of the passages dealing with hell.

Before moving on to the scripture, I want to quickly deal with the other argument Moreland cites for treating hell as a "figure of speech". He says that would be absurd because hell is sometimes described as being a place of darkness - and therefore the language must be figurative. I think this represents an apologetic failure. Anyone can easily reconcile the flames with the darkness. The flames might be hot without providing light (their purpose is only to torment, not to give the benefit of light). The flames may be real, but the sufferers may be in darkness because their eyes are burned. The flames may be so intense as to only create ultraviolet light - which isn't visible to the eye. None of these harmonizations occurred to Moreland or Strobel - a Christian philosopher and a Christian apologist - during their interview?

I will avoid Old Testament references to Sheol, which translates to "the grave" and which, I believe, represents distinctly Jewish ideas about death and the possibility of an after-life. Christians often read New Testament notions of hell into Old Testament discussions of Sheol. The resulting doctrinal controversies and difficulties are beyond the scope of this rebuttal. The New Testament literature is very clear in its own right, is not contradicted by the Old Testament, and should therefore be sufficient to discover what Christians consider to be the "Biblical" idea of hell.

Let us begin with Revelation 20:10 and 13-15.

10: And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
13: And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15: And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Here, we learn that the ultimate destiny of the hellbound is the same as that of the devil and his angels, and that it is a lake of fire and brimstone (a kind of incense which is thought to have a purifying effect when burned). We also learn that Hell isn't chosen freely by the unbeliever - but that she is to be cast into the fire from above. Revelation 21:8 reiterates:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Please make a note that the scripture does not claim that these unrighteous will have their part in separation from God, which will be as unpleasant as a lake of fire. Jesus, as quoted in gMatthew (shorthand for 'Gospel of Matthew'. I will also refer where needed to the conventional shorthand aMatthew to mean 'author of Matthew'), confirms this idea and adds that the condemnation is a punishment and that it is eternal Matthew 25:41 & 46:

41: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 46: And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

The importance of these passages are that they describe the afterlife of the condemned, without language signifying a figurative use of the word "fire", and without reference to "separation from God". Our next passage is from gLuke. It demonstrates that the references to fire are to be taken literally, and also that Hell is a torture chamber. Luke 16:23-25:

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

If the flames were only figurative, it doesn't seem likely that the Rich Man would be asking for water with which to cool his tongue. Furthermore, Jesus, as quoted by aLuke, wants to make triply sure we understand that hell is torture: he repeats the word "torment" three times in this passage. Again, the flames are not spoken of as a figure of speech for his suffering and regret, but instead are given as the cause of his torment.

So, we have a choice - we can rule out Moreland's apologetic, and deal with the moral status of an eternal torture chamber as described in the Bible, or we can use his tactic and re-write the Bible when it crosses the line of moral decency. But then the question becomes this: if we can dismiss one troublesome passage from the Bible arbitrarily, why should we accept any of it? Why should we treat the virgin birth as anything other than a "figure of speech"? - or the crucifixion? - or the resurrection? - the Holy Spirit, and its gifts?

The choice for the conservative - Bible-believing - Christian is clear: she must keep the literal interpretation of Hell that the Bible requires. That means the moral objection to eternal torture in Hell retains its full weight and Strobel and Moreland have failed to answer it.

Nevertheless, Strobel and Moreland have contented themselves with their explanation, without attempting to cope with its consequences for how Christians understand the Bible, and have moved on to other objections having to do with Hell. I intend for this rebuttal to be nearly comprehensive so I will follow their train of thought. I will accept, for the sake of argument, their vision of hell as a "separation from God" that is "chosen" by the unsaved, and will answer their objections accordingly, though I may throw in a comment about how the objection would pertain to the Biblical hell where I see it warranted.

Objection 1: How Can God Send Children to Hell?
Moreland argues (ipse dixit) that people in Hell will be there in their adult form, even if they died as children, so children will not be suffering there. He also argues (ispe dixit) that no child will die and go to hell who would have been saved had she lived long enough. I do not know for sure what he means by this. I do not know if he means that some children will be spared hell even though they were unsaved when they died, or whether he means that all children who die unsaved will be in hell because they never would have accepted salvation if they had lived longer.

If he means the former, then this creates a theological problem. Most variations of Christianity believe that a child can be saved as early as seven or eight years old, and many believe they can be saved even earlier. Only a very few believe that salvation must await adulthood with an adult's understanding of the New Covenant. To claim that children who were old enough to have reached this "age of accountability" can die, yet escape hell, does not conform to Christian doctrine.

If he means the latter, then this is also troubling. It tells the mothers and fathers of so many millions of unsaved young ones, that their children went to hell. What comfort is it, then, to know that J.P. Moreland believes that they were zapped into an adult form to endure their eternity of suffering? What comfort to think that God only cast them into Hell because He was sure that they never would have believed the Christian religion even if they had lived longer?

In reality, most children cannot fully comprehend the consequences of their choices until they are grown into adults. This is recognized even by our flawed justice system, which (usually) treats juvenile defendants differently than adult ones. If it is not also recognized by the God of the Bible, then this is a strong objection to the doctrines of the Bible. Before I move on, I just want to note to you again that Moreland believes that children will be given an adult form in Hell - as this may well prove relevant during the discussion of one of his other arguments.

Objection 2: Why Does Everyone Suffer The Same in Hell?
Moreland contends that everyone does not suffer the same in hell, and supports himself with the scripture wherein Jesus prophecies the doom of Capernaum. This seems to me a tenuous interpretation of that scripture, but I believe Moreland deserves the benefit of doubt here.

Further along, Moreland will dismiss the notion of reincarnation because he views it as "incoherent". He claims that coherence is important to him. I would suggest that there is a degree of incoherence in his own view of Hell. If hell is "separation from God" (and if, as Luke 16:26 suggests, that separation is unbridgeable), then there seems to be a discrepancy between these two views. As Kyle Gerkin points out in his rebuttal to this chapter of Strobel's book, "The only reason proximity matters is as a factor of how long it takes to make contact with an object." In other words, degrees of separation would not logically have any impact on the degree of suffering that came as a result.

Moreland seems also to believe that the suffering in hell comes partly from regret for sins and regret at having made the choice to reject God and live in eternity without Him. This regret certainly could (and should) exist in degrees, so this may help his view of Hell - if the idea of regret in Hell was consistent with Moreland's other ideas about Hell. I would argue that Moreland's other contentions rule out the notion of regret in Hell. He contends elsewhere that no one who changed their mind about their choices on Earth would ever do so in Hell. Since changing their mind about the choice to sin and reject God would be necessary before they could regret that choice, I would say that the existence of regret in Hell is not a coherent part of Moreland's idea of hell, and that therefore his argument in support of degrees of suffering in hell falls apart.

I would not, however, present the objection that all suffer the same in my own debates. In a Biblical hell, there is no reason to believe that all will suffer equally. The original objection that Strobel brings up seems only to apply to a minority of Christian denominations which may preach that Hell is a place of uniform suffering. I'm not certain why he thought it important enough to mention in his book.

Objection 3: Why Are People Punished Infinitely For Finite Crimes?
Moreland correctly reminds us that the severity of punishment warranted by a crime does not correspond to the length of time required for its commission. A robbery may take longer than a murder, but a murder is more heinous. Moreland seeks to convince us that rejection of God and salvation is the "ultimate" crime - the crime greater than which there is no other crime. This may well be true under Christian doctrine, but he also asks us to deduce that it must therefore warrant the "ultimate" punishment - the punishment greater than which there is no other punishment, e.g. eternal suffering away from God. On this point, his logic fails.

Justice is not so simplistic a value that one can merely substitute the description of the crime for the description of the punishment in order to decide what is warranted. If we thought so, we would punish a lying child by lying to her, punish an adulterous spouse through unfaithfulness, and punish a thief by stealing from her.

I believe that justice is a basic shared human value, and that most anyone would agree (according to their own sense of justice) that a certain punishment is warranted if (and only if):
1) The offense was intentional, or if enough care wasn't taken to avoid it
2) The punishment is not "cruel and unusual": meaning, essentially, that torture is forbidden, and the punishment cannot be orders of magnitude more severe than the criminal act itself.
3) One or more of the following are true:
a) The punishment provides compensation to the victim.
b) The punishment rehabilitates the criminal
c) There is a valid expectation that the punishment will deter others from the same crime.

I consciously left out the criterion of "revenge". It may be that satisfying the victims' sense of revenge may provide a degree of compensation to the victim, and that revenge can therefore play a role in justice. To the extent this is true, it is covered above under the item 2a. We often use the term "revenge", however, to refer to retribution that falls outside what is tolerated by justice. The Bible says that "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord". It isn't essential that we discover how this is best interpreted. Suffice it to say that there is nothing in that passage that requires God to be seeking the sort of "revenge" that is unjust.

On the other hand, the Biblical Hell does not qualify as just punishment, since it does employ torture. The Biblical Hell is, in fact, infinite torture - because it is eternal. Infinite torture is infinite injustice, and it is infinite injustice that the Biblical teachings of Hell ascribe to God.

Similarly, J.P. Moreland's Hell consists of eternal suffering. Suffering, as punishment, may be just. But can eternal suffering be a just punishment?

It cannot provide compensation to the victims of the crime. For a particular sinner, (we shall name her "Sue"), we can think of three sets of victims. She may have sinned against herself - but she cannot provide compensation to herself through her own suffering. She may have sinned against God, but God is perfect and therefore cannot suffer harm, so her suffering cannot provide compensation to Him. She may have sinned against other people, but they are either in Hell with her and sharing her fate, or in the Utopia of heaven where all of their suffering has been already erased. So we find that compensation cannot make Hell a just punishment, even under Moreland's view of it.

Rehabilitation is also out of the question. In both Moreland's and the Bible's view of Hell, it is eternal and continues either without successfully rehabilitating the criminal or without abating once the rehabilitation is done. So, rehabilitation does not justify Hell, whether we are talking about the Hell of the Bible, or Moreland's own conception.

Eternal suffering (under Moreland's view - and even more so under the Biblical view of eternal torture) would, in fact, provide a deterrent for those considering rejecting God. But Moreland believes that deterrence is not a valid use for Hell. In fact, he claims that being deterred would invalidate salvation. From his answer to the objection #8:

The next thing you have to keep in mind is if people saw the judgment seat of God after death, it would be so coercive that they would no longer have the power of free choice. Any 'decision' they made would not be a real genuine free choice; it would be totally coerced. It would be like me holding a paddle over my daughter and saying, 'You will say you're sorry to your sister for wearing her dress without asking.' Any apology would not be a real apology, it would just be avoidance. And people who would 'choose' in a second chance would not really be choosing God, his kingdom, or his ways - nor would they be suited for life in his kingdom. They'd be making a prudent 'choice' to avoid judgment only.

So Hell as a deterrent doesn't fit coherently with Moreland's view. Furthermore, the Biblical Hell goes far beyond what would be needed as a deterrent. Anyone who could be deterred by threat of torture would surely be as well deterred by the threat of several lifetimes of it as by the threat of an eternity. A human would have difficulty imagining the difference in the first place. However, just the threat of an ordinary punishment without torture may make a better deterrent if it could be witnessed by those for whom deterrence was meant. If deterrence was the goal, it would be far more effective if the earthbound could go to the edge of the pit and witness the agony of Hell's current denizens. We can deduce from the fact that God has not provided us a viewing window, that deterrence is not His aim with the creation of Hell. If it were truly His aim, He could be doing a much better job of employing Hell for the purpose of deterrence.

So we see that the punishment of Hell is unjust whether we are discussing Moreland's invention or the fiery abyss promised by the Bible. Moreland's suggestion that punishment should be infinite because it is retribution for disrespecting an infinitely Holy God appears to be without support. There seems to be no logical connection between the severity of the punishment and the degree of Holiness and Justice of the offended party. As mentioned before, an all-powerful God is not subject to involuntary harm. There is nothing a mortal can do to cause an infinite God to suffer. Only God could cause Himself to suffer. If He should do so on account of a mortals' actions then it is He, not they, who has done the harm, and should suffer the consequences. Furthermore, there is no way that the suffering of a mortal could provide reparations to God even if we considered His voluntary suffering as being the fault of the mortal.

Objection 4: Couldn't God Force Everyone to Go to Heaven?

This isn't much of an objection to begin with. Heaven is construed as a reward, so it would be absurd to expect that everyone will be equally rewarded.

On the other hand, if God is to keep His hands clean of torture by making sure Hell remains unoccupied, then He has at His disposal infinite power and creativity with which to find a means for doing so. He need not regard the rewards of heaven as the only alternative to the torture of Hell.

I find myself puzzled again about why Strobel even brought up this objection. It adds nothing to the discussion. But it did incidentally elicit this remark from Moreland:

When God allows people to say 'no' to Him, He actually respects and dignifies them.

I would agree with the sentiment behind this statement. I'm not sure that it would apply to a God whose idea of "allowing" people to say 'no' to Him was to provide for their eternal punishment. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to imagine a God that is unlike the one portrayed in the Bible or in Moreland's own imagination, then it isn't hard to find ourselves drawn to a conception of God that is more like a loving parent, and less like a jealous lover. One could imagine that such a God would provide for the free-will choices of His children even in the here-after, allowing people to love Him (or not) freely, without hint of coercion. Such a God would correct His children, but would never create eternal punishments for them. As long as Moreland believes we can discard the Biblical view of Hell at the first mention of flames and darkness together, he might as well create a coherent notion of the after-life that gives God more credit for justice and goodness. Instead, he paints a picture of God that is neither Biblical nor Just, and falls far short of being coherent.

Objection 5: Why Doesn't God Just Snuff People Out?

The option of annihilation would present an omnipotent God the opportunity to have Justice, mercy, and goodness without creating an unjust Hell of eternal punishment. I believe that Strobel has weakened this objection by giving it in the specific rather than in the general. It should be discussed as an example of the larger objection: Why doesn't God use His infinite knowledge, creativity, and power to eliminate the possibility of eternal suffering from the Universe? Asked this way, it would be very difficult for Moreland even to give the appearance of answering the objection. This is the slam dunk. If God is infinitely Good, then He would naturally hate the existence of eternal suffering, and if He is infinitely powerful, then He could make certain that it did not exist. Therefore, the doctrine of eternal suffering requires that God be less than infinitely Good, or less than infinitely Powerful. It is a logical impossibility for a God to be omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and for Hell to exist: even J.P. Moreland's watered-down version of it.

However, Strobel withheld this question. Moreland did not have a chance to answer it. So we will have to deal with the question Strobel did ask. Once again, Moreland's answers are wholly inadequate. First, he says that rescuing people from eternal suffering this way is "treating them as a means to an end". This seems patently absurd, when the end in question is to eliminate the suffering of the very people in question. I will quote again from Gerkin:

Sometimes apologists do an unbelievable job of twisting and squirming in order to be consistent with their beliefs. Moreland is a perfect example here. When speaking of annihilation he says, "The only way that's a good thing would be the end result, which would be to keep people from experiencing the conscious separation from God forever. Well, then you are treating people as a means to an end" (183). Give me a break. By his reasoning, if I see a starving child on the street, I should not feed him because the only good thing would be the end result, which would be to alleviate his hunger. Well, then I'd be treating the child as a means to an end. Can Moreland possibly believe this? No, of course not. No sane person could.

That sums it up for the "means to an end" argument.

However, Moreland does follow up by taking another tack.

It appears that he is assuming that annihilation would be involuntary. He states that God is honoring the individual's freedom of choice by not annihilating her, but allowing her instead to suffer eternally in Hell. This makes sense if, and only if, no one in Hell would choose annihilation over eternal suffering. If they would so choose, then God would better honor their choice by annihilating them. If they would not so choose, then one can hardly argue that Hell is a horrible place where one does not want to spend an eternity. So much for "honoring their freedom of choice".

Lastly, Moreland suggests that as "image-bearers" human individuals have "intrinsic value" that God would not destroy. Perhaps God really does prefer keeping his image-bearers in a place of eternal suffering over allowing them a painless end. If so, it cannot be rightly said of God what Moreland said at the start of the chapter: "And it's important to understand that if the God of Christianity is real, he hates hell and he hates people going there."

It is worth taking some time to think what Moreland may mean about people being "image-bearers" of God. Clearly, he is referring to Genesis 1:26 and other scripture that indicates humans were made in the image of God, but what does this mean? Theologians differ, but most argue that this means that humans are independent moral agents: that they have freedom of choice, and a consciousness of right and wrong. Very few believe that it means humans share God's anatomy, as this would lead to very interesting questions about what God does with lungs (not needing air) or with a body at all - considering He is a spiritual being. If the image of God is "free moral choice", then we are left again with a dilemma: God could honor the choice of his image-bearers, giving meaning to that status, and allow annihilation. If they did not choose annihilation over Hell, then Hell can hardly be a negative experience, all things considered; that is the second horn of the dilemma.

In fact, the very idea that God must "sustain" his image-bearer's life, yet needs to have it quarantined from Himself in a place of eternal suffering, may well be self-contradictory. It is difficult to conceive of a situation where one simultaneously needs to be sure a thing continues to exist, and also needs to be sure that the thing never gets near enough to affect or be affected by ones' own self.

It is becoming clear that Moreland is compromising his career as a philosopher in order to protect Hell from criticism.

I will not take up the discussion about whether the Old Testament teaches annihilationism. Many Jews, and some Christians believe that it does. Strobel - as per his usual habit - only presents one side of that debate. If he were really interested in investigating the toughest objections to Christianity, and really interested in investigating the toughest objections to his own views, he would not limit himself to interviews with those who agreed with him. Be that as it may, it is beyond the scope of this rebuttal to take sides in the debate of Scriptural authority for annihilationism. If the subject interests you, I strongly suggest you seek out representatives who favor the pro- view in order to balance the arguments you are hearing from Moreland.

Objection 6: How Can Hell Exist Alongside of Heaven?

This objection is simply too easy. I would point out that most of Moreland's answers come ipse dixit: because he says so. Even here, he must argue by assertion, rather than by logic. However, I will not take up any contrary positions on this point, because it is far too easy to explain how Hell and Heaven can logically coexist, even if Hell were the unjust infinite torture that the Bible says it to be. God could quite easily erase all knowledge of Hell from the minds of those in Heaven, and their joy would be complete. There's no more Biblical reason to believe this will be the case than there is to believe Moreland's explanation, but either would suffice and so this objection cannot stand. It is a shame that Strobel didn't give time to more serious objections.

Objection 7: Why Didn't God Create Only Those He Knew Would Follow Him?

In a fit of hubris, Moreland declares God incapable of creating only those people that would, according to His foreknowledge, follow Him and avoid Hell. However, the reasoning that leads him to this conclusion seems terribly unclear. He seems to be claiming that God wants us to be able to influence one another's hope of salvation. He describes a scenario where his parents' choice of city brings him into contact with different people, and the results are that he is saved while others are not in one case and others are saved while he is not in another case. In other words, Moreland is saying that God cannot have foreknowledge of who will be saved among the group until the parents have made up their mind whether to live in the first location or the second.

I cannot count the difficulties with this scenario. On the one hand, when answering the first objection, Moreland claims that God can have foreknowledge to ensure that no one who "dies prematurely" would have accepted God if given longer. Now, it appears, he is denying that same foreknowledge to God on the basis that God doesn't know where his parents will choose to live, which influence he will come in contact with, and therefore what his eventual choice will be.

It was quite acceptable that Moreland claimed God had foreknowledge of who would be saved when he was answering the first objection. It makes sense that an all-knowing entity would have foreknowledge of this kind. Now that Moreland wants to deprive God of this foreknowledge, I must call fowl. Omniscience, if the word is to have any meaning, requires ultimate foreknowledge. This would, in turn, easily enable God to choose only to create those who would follow Him.

This is not the only tack that Moreland takes in his effort to rob God of His omnipotence, and God's role in creation. He introduces us to the view of traducianism. He doesn't go into much depth explaining it, but we seems to accept a view that the human soul is created by the union of human gametes (sperm and egg). We all know that this is how a new human being comes to be: that the result of a sexual coupling often brings the human gametes together where they begin the process of dividing and specializing that produces a human being. Christian doctrine ordinarily assumes this to be accomplished by God's will, and assumes the creation of the soul to be a direct act of God accompanying the creation of a physical human by natural means. Moreland argues that without the union of that particular egg and that particular sperm, Moreland could never have been - and therefore God could not create only those who would follow Him, since He would have to create their grandparents as well. Moreland offers us no support for this view, and offers no explanation for his apparent view that God is restricted to traducianism as a means of creating new souls. Moreland seems to be implying that God lost his knack for creating by fiat after Adam and Eve.

Clearly Moreland's view is not consistent with the view in the Bible that God is all-powerful and capable of anything He chooses.

Furthermore, if you remember, Moreland believes God is capable of bringing about a mature state without the normal course of development. He believes (from objection #1), that children who die will be represented in their adult form in Hell. That means, God is capable of arriving at the end result without employing the process. He is capable of making an adult personality out of a child's without the process of maturation, and should also be capable of making those who will follow him without the process of historical genealogy.

Objection 8: Why Doesn't God Give People a Second Chance

Here again, philosopher Moreland cannot seem to keep his answers straight from one objection to the next. In defense of the previous objection, Moreland suggests that God could not have foreknowledge of the status of anyone's' salvation because people affect each other (in ways unpredictable to God - if his suggestion is to be meaningful). This is a laughable position to take, and it is no surprise, then that he turns around and presents its diametric opposite in answering this objection. Now, according to Moreland, God gives as many second chances as a person might possibly take advantage of while they remain on earth. He has the foreknowledge to know that no one who dies unsaved would have been saved had He given them a little while longer and another second chance. Be this as it may, it seems to miss the question. Even Strobel, seemingly willing to let any answer stand so long as it appears to defend his religion against a challenging objection, finds he must press the issue somewhat. I quote Strobel:

That only dealt with part of the question, however. "Wait a minute," I said. "Wouldn't death and the awareness of the presence or absence of God after you die be a very motivating thing for people?"

Wouldn't it, indeed? If the choice is between following God and desiring separation from God, as Moreland would have it, then wouldn't the best time for such a decision be when you are most fully aware of the options? It would appear that Strobel has a very good point.

Moreland's answer isn't quite as propitious. He compares sinfulness to a "bad habit" that becomes progressively hard to break as one continues in it, explaining again that a person who rejects God throughout life would never change her mind for a second chance afterward. This probabalistic thinking is inadequate in itself (I believe Moreland recognizes that), and is contradicted by the uptick in frequency of conversion experiences that accompanies old age and thoughts of death. Moreland may not recognize these "deathbed conversions" as being sincere and effective, however. He goes on to discuss the coercive effect that experiential knowledge of the absence (or presence) of God might have on human psychology.

He claims that full experiential knowledge of Heaven (fellowship with God) and Hell (separation from God) would have a coercive effect upon people and would invalidate their choice. They would no longer be choosing God, but would be choosing to avoid Hell. It seems a rather ridiculous explanation. After all, if direct knowledge of the consequences of one's choices is truly coercive, then the choice wasn't really free to begin with. The question would only be how well a person understood those consequences prior to making the choice. If God wanted us to choose Him without choosing to avoid the alternative to Him, then Jesus would never have mentioned that Hell was a place of torment. Is the faith of those who chose salvation because they believed the Bible's description of hell therefore invalidated because it was done "under threat" ? If not, then surely the real experience of Hell would also not invalidate salvation - merely because people were more acutely aware of what the threat consisted. And, if so, why does Jesus risk invalidating the salvation of people by making them indirectly aware of the experience of Hell?

Moreland continuously asks us to believe that God is honoring our free choices. Now he is asking us to believe that God wants us to make our choices with less experiential knowledge of their consequences than we could have. In effect, Moreland is suggesting that God doesn't want us to have a fully informed choice.

In fact, he goes even further:

I'll suggest one more thing. God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he's there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free."

What he is doing here is answering an objection that wasn't asked, has little to do with Hell, and which must burn in the backs of the minds of believers everywhere. And, as usual, he is failing to properly answer it. The question is, why would God not make His existence (and presence) clear and undeniable? Why not make it impossible to rationally disbelieve in God?

There are only two clear answers to this question that stand up to all objections. Mine is this: if God exists, it is not very important to Him that people believe in His existence - at least not all of us, and at least not while we are on Earth. If it were important to him that all people on Earth believed in his existence, then He could easily accomplish that. It would then bring the great moral questions into sharp relief, by eliminating the difficult questions about facts. No one would waste much time questioning the basic facts of God's existence, His Love for us and His plan for salvation. The factual side would be exceedingly clear and it would be contingent upon us humans only to decide whether we wished to follow God, return his Love, and accept His plan for salvation.

The other answer to this question: one that can withstand most objections, but which may not stand up well to actual experience is that God is already doing for His own existence what J.P. Moreland says He mustn't do. Many Christians believe that God makes Himself undeniably manifest to each individual at some point in their life, and they then have the freedom to choose God or reject Him. The most difficult objection to this view is that so many people die atheist (or as members of some other religion that does not recognize the existence of Yahweh God). It is unthinkable to myself that so many people, having seen the undeniable proof that God would give (under this theory) and yet fail to believe. One would think that these atheists - if unwilling to accept salvation - would at least give up their atheism and declare themselves "non-Christians" who have seen and rejected God.

No matter which of these two answers you choose, neither of them allows us to answer the original objection about Hell. I can find no reason that it is not a valid one: a second chance after death would only enhance a person's ability to choose correctly, and could only decrease the chances that a person would choose wrongly because of insufficient information.

Objection 9: Isn't Reincarnation More Rational Than Hell?

Obviously, I don't think Reincarnation is one whit more rational than hell. There exists no evidence for it, and even though Moreland doesn't seem to understand the real reason, reincarnation is no more coherent than the Christian notion of the afterlife. I don't wish to take up the argument in favor of reincarnation, but I do want to look closely at Moreland's objection to reincarnation and his defense of hell. I believe that doing so will show a double standard on his part.

"I think the evidence for reincarnation is weak for several reasons," he said. "For example, it's incoherent. [...] Now, it's not essential to me that I weigh one hundred and sixty-five pounds. But it is essential to me that I'm a human. "If you were to say, 'J.P. Moreland is in the other room and he has lost five pounds,' most people would say, 'Good for him.' What if you said, 'J.P. Moreland is in the other room and guess what? He's an ice cube.' Most people would say, 'That can't be J.P. Moreland, because if there's one thing I know about him, it's that he's human. He's not an ice cube.' "Well, reincarnation says that I could come back as a dog, as an amoeba - heck, I don't know why I couldn't come back as an ice cube. If that's true, what's the difference between being J.P. Moreland and anything else? There's nothing essential to me. [bold added, italics are original]
First, a note about coherence. A system of ideas is coherent if it is consistent; that is, if it does not contradict itself. For instance, Euclid's laws of geometry are coherent because its axioms do not contradict one another, and they are consistent no matter what problem you apply them to. If parallel lines do not intersect for one set of proofs, then you can be sure there is not another set of proofs under the same system that relies on them intersecting.

When Moreland claims Hindu reincarnation is an incoherent idea, he is claiming that the Hindu's belief that a person may be re-incarnated as something other than a human being breaks the rules about what a person fundamentally is. According to Hindus, the essence of a person is an immaterial soul that survives death, not a physical body that is limited to the form of a human being. In denying the coherence of this view, Moreland (at least on the surface) appears to be denying the coherence of the view that a person's essence is an immaterial soul.

It is beyond the scope of this rebuttal to join the debate over whether the existence of an immaterial soul is a coherent view, but if we grant that the Hindus believe it, then there is nothing internally inconsistent in their beliefs. If one does not rule out the immaterial soul, then it makes perfect sense that this, rather than the physical form, is what returns when a person is re-incarnated. So, in order to sustain Moreland's objection to re-incarnation, he must rule out, a priori, the idea that the immaterial soul which survives death is what is truly essential to a person.

Needless to say, such an a priori judgment would have a profound impact on any theory of the afterlife. It would make any such theory... incoherent. That would include the theory of hell that he has spent the rest of the chapter defending.

Moreland uses a rhetorical trick in an attempt to save coherence for his own theory of the after-life, naming the essence of a person "human being". This is merely special pleading, because a "human being" is either, essentially, an immaterial soul which might survive death, or it is not. If one allows that it is, then one can certainly not rule out the Hindu's version of that very same notion.

Having read this far in Moreland's interview about Hell, it may come as a surprise to you that he considers "coherence" important in the first place. After all, it seems that he isn't willing to be bound by the rules of consistency in giving his answers to the objections Strobel raises throughout.

Whether Moreland is sincere when he suggests "coherence" as an important consideration or not, it is, in fact, a necessary component in a rational world view. If our viewpoints are not to be unreasonable, then they must maintain a certain degree of coherence. We cannot hold as true several contradictory notions and be considered reasonable. Because of this, a reasonable person is left to conclude that Hell is unjust - whether it be the Hell described in the Bible, or whether it be Moreland's version of Hell that is adapted from the Bible and blended with his own curious attempts at saving it from it's own injustice.

We have left to us many other options to consider. I would like to direct our attention to just two of them. The first is the conservative Christian view of Hell. Some conservative apologists will attempt to defend the Biblical Hell from charges of injustice, but they normally do not get very far. It was not without reason that Moreland chose a watered-down concept to defend. His difficulties are small compared to those who are attempting to defend the Biblical view. However, after failing to defend the Biblical view, Christian apologists will often posit that Hell is Just in the eyes of God, and that humans may just lack the ability to comprehend God's full justice - so that it only appears to us to be unjust. Most skeptics would argue against that view, pointing out that it leads to a kind of moral nihilism wherein humans cannot trust their own conscience. True as this view may be, my own argument is that we should employ our conscience when we evaluate the moral claims made by other humans. We cannot extend to the human authors of the Bible and to the preachers in their pulpits the same transcendent understanding that may allow God to see justice where we see only injustice. If a person preaches injustice, one does not excuse him because he claims that his idea is Godly. Instead we reject the notion that this person's idea is Godly because we see that it is unjust.

The other remaining option is to take Moreland's approach and extend it. If we may discard the Biblical notion of Hell as a torture chamber, then we can just as easily discard the Biblical notions of the afterlife altogether. We may persist (if we choose) in our religious notions of heaven, or other after-life experiences if we wish. If the notion of an afterlife seems realistic or attractive to us, then we may certainly hold a hope for it that does not include the injustice of hell.

However, if the whole problem is just too much for us, we are perfectly safe in deferring the question until it becomes relevant: after our death. If God is Just, and worth our faith and trust, then we certainly not need fear hell, because we know a Just God would not allow it.

For my part, it seems to me that our experience is rooted in the organic function of our brains, and that we need not worry ourselves about experiences that will come after that organic function has ceased: according to that theory, we will have none. In other words, I would argue that the organic human being is the essence of a person and that it does not survive death. I believe that there is positive evidence that this is the case, and I don't think that this position in any way detracts from the value of our lives. This rebuttal is not about my view, though. It is about others' views: their views of Hell, of the Bible, of Moreland's logic, and of the afterlife. The pertinent objections to the Biblical Hell and to Moreland's own conceptions of Hell have been correctly raised. I have shown that Strobel and Moreland have utterly failed to answer those objections.

I would like to acknowledge the influence Kyle Gerkin had on this rebuttal. His original rebuttal at Objection Sustained, Chapter 6, no doubt affected my thinking in many ways. Also, Paul Doland has written an effective rebuttal here:
Critique of Lee Strobel's Case for Faith. While I have tried to attribute any ideas that I borrowed from either review directly in the text of this rebuttal, it is fair to think that they both indirectly influenced my own thinking and helped guide me toward the viewpoints I have expressed here in my own voice.

Posted by smijer at 07:03 PM | Comments (2)

In My Next Life I Want to Be Able To Say Things Like This

from - smijer


1. Liberals are the champions of the weak. The weakest members of our society have as much of a right to make decisions about their medical care as the strongest, loudest bullies. That's why liberals support the rule of law and the integrity of the judicial process.

2. Liberals know that it's wrong to ram a tube into an unconsenting woman's body. But "no" doesn't mean no in the culture of life. [...]

3. Florida isn't a slave state. It is supremely offensive to suggest that Michael Schiavo should give Terri back to her parents. He's not Terri's owner, he's her husband and her guardian. There is clear and convincing evidence that Terri didn't want a tube. There is no evidence that she'd want to be intubated, divorced, and shipped home to mommy, daddy and their creepy cabal of quacks and itinerant friars. Notice the subtext: Terri's desire to control her own body doesn't matter, nice girls sacrifice their dignity to spare the feelings of others.

4. The Schiavo case is about basic fairness. It's about how everyone ought to play by the same rules. No special dispensations, no do-overs, no trials by legislation for the favored few.

5. If anyone needs a sister Souljah moment, it's the pro-tube faction. If the Schindlers are decent people, they will distance themselves from the murderous zealots who threaten the lives of judges. However, nothing in their previous behavior leads me to expect that they will stand on principle. They are more than happy to ruin Michael Schiavo's life with unsubstantiated rumors of abuse, and even attempted murder. They care so little for their daughter's memory or her marriage that they are willing to use the intimate details of her marriage as ammunition, they schemed to parade her contorted body before Congress.

6. The left stands for reason over emotion. Principle over passion. Compassion over cheap sentimentality. And most imortantly, for universality. We care about making the system better for everyone. The Schindlers have elevated themselves to the status of holy victims. They are narcissists who believe that their anguish takes precedence over all moral and legal principles. Progressives want to protect Medicare so that all Americans have health care options. We recoil at the Texas "Futile Care Act" because we believe that intimate medical decisions should be made by patients and their families and caring doctors, not by cash-strapped institutions. And unlike the right wing, we're willing to put our money where our mouth is.

7. The left has the audacious pro-life attitude that healthcare and medical research are more important than tax cuts for the rich. Gawdy spectacle is cheap, but saving lives is expensive. On the left we care about life beyond reality TV.

I have nothing to add.

Posted by smijer at 02:30 PM | Comments (21)

I just love.....

from - Buck

this kind of stuff!

Posted by Buck at 11:27 AM | Comments (1)


from - smijer

Shannon, my friend-in-law, sent along her Pete-Pete for our enjoyment this Friday:


As always, there will be much, much more in the Modulator's Friday Ark.

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2005

Mission Impossible

from - smijer

This morning, I asked... what is it that is on the march in Krygyzstan?

The unlikely answer: Freedom... without U.S. invasion. Glenn Reynolds is optimistic, at least.

What happens when a warblogger has to admit that there are paths to freedom other than U.S. force?

Nothing, I guess. Without comments or trackbacks, we can't really ask him, can we?

Posted by smijer at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

Andy, can I have my bullet?

from - Buck

See Barney.

See Barney shoot himself during a gun safety class.

This guy should get a medal for driving the point home and making a lasting impression.

Posted by Buck at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday Notes

from - smijer

Let's see...

Sorry, Hon. It's only Thursday...

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2005

Nobel Prize Nominee Buck Simmons

from - smijer

I just wanted to congratulate Buck Simmons on his recent nomination for one of those Nobel thingies.

smijer and Buck is honored to now be included among the very few, very elite, blogs with a Nobel nominee as a major contributor.

To see how you, too can become a Nobel Prize nominee, check this out.

Posted by smijer at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

Lyrics Du Jour

from - smijer

It's better when the angelic but wistfulf voice of Joan Baez carries them, but I've been humming "In the Quiet Morning" to myself all day, and since I can't seem to compose much of a blog post today, I thought I would share the lyrics with you, in the extended entry... If you can hear them in your mind, you might get a feel for my mood.

In the quiet morning There was much despair And in the hours that followed No one could repair

That poor girl
Tossed by the tides of misfortune
Barely here to tell her tale
Rolled in on a sea of disaster
Rolled out on a mainline rail

She once walked tight at my side
I'm sure she walked by you
Her striding steps could not deny
Torment from a child who knew

That in the quiet morning
There would be despair
And in the hours that followed
No one could repair

That poor girl
She cried out her song so loud
It was heard the whole world round
A symphony of violence
The great southwest unbound

(La, la la... al fine)

Posted by smijer at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Ramblin' On

from - smijer

Just a few random notes:

I like Sundays, too...


...I have to work this weekend, so I'll miss the Easter Egg hunt, and that is a terrible shame. I would very much enjoy getting to watch M & C being kids.

This couple are dear friends of our family who have taken up blogging, so look for them in the blogroll.

Speaking of blogs, have you ever noticed BlogSpot Spam before?
One example:

Need to find the top information about Diamond Wedding Band? One of the best things about the net is that you can quickly and comfortably find whatever youre looking for. Before the advent of the web how easy was it to investigate the Diamond Wedding Band info you needed right in front of you? Our Diamond Wedding Band site is just new so we have not yet managed to add volumes of data, but what we have done so far is researched the very best Diamond Wedding Band sites on the net.

Another one, strikingly similar to the first.

Choosing the best Article Code Dress School web sites isn't all that easy. It is the reason we did this site. It took an incredible amount of resources and man power to compile this information on Article Code Dress School to point you to the best sites.

Very amusing.

Posted by smijer at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

smijer: bad liberal

from - smijer

This view of depleted uranium weapons is popular among us lefties. After a fair amount of reflection, I've come to believe that this view is too radical, and not scientifically sound.

The World Health Organization has compiled a fact sheet which brings the dangers of depleted uranium weapons into better scientific perspective. We do need awareness, and we do need to hold our government accountable for providing the correct clean-up and isolation measures if they are to continue to use DU instead of safer alternatives. However, I feel we harm our case when we overstate the case. It is far too easy to dismiss an issue entirely when one feels that one has been lied to about it. That's the danger of exaggerating the dangers and the health impact as it appears some lefties have done on DU.

So, I've parted ways with the most outspoken liberals on ANWR and depleted uranium. I guess that makes me a bad liberal.

P.S. Ah, hell. While I'm at it, I should go ahead and call for other libs and anti-war types to refrain from using the 100,000 civilian casualties figure. When we're called out for hyping artificially inflated numbers, it will detract attention from the fact that we have certainly killed more innocent Iraqis than Americans were killed on 9/11 by a factor of at least two or three.

Posted by smijer at 06:59 AM | Comments (14)

March 21, 2005

Boortz and Me on ANWR

from - smijer

Well, I've asked and looked, and haven't found anything that indicates to me that there are sound scientific reasons for worrying about the environmental impact of drilling a part of ANWR. Rick Dement has done an outstanding job debunking Neal Boortz' many mendatious claims about how oil production there will impact supply and the world economy. Nevertheless, I don't feel moved by Rick's argument that it is especially harmful to go ahead & drain American oil now rather than later. So, I'm going to break with my fellow Democrats on this one, and I'm going to ask that Democrats reading to please be sure they are working from good data before making alarmist claims about the environmental impact of drilling ANWR.

I'll also join them in holding the line on further exploration. The portion of ANWR that is set aside for oil exploration was limited to an area of tundra where our footprint can be relatively small. This is owed, in part, to steady activism from environmentalists and liberals, and we should keep our eyes open to see that the rest of ANWR remains off-limits for oil exploration.

Posted by smijer at 06:00 PM | Comments (9)

Political parasites

from - Buck

Listening to Boortz is not always a waste of time. Today he mentioned the Texas Futile Care Law.

I was not familiar with it and I did find it amusing that Bush signed it into law. Truly he is a man of constant contradictions.

It is a shame that Schiavo has turned into a political football but anytime politicians are involved you can bet there is political hay to be made.

Meanwhile her "life" continues and will continue as long as she can be used as a political soap box.

As selfish as it is to say, I'm just glad it is not me or one of mine.

Posted by Buck at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

Shaving the Genitals of Conservative Law Professors in Their Sleep is perhaps even a moral imperative

from - smijer

The post hoc mess that passes for brilliant legal thought has risen to new depths. It seems that intentionally cruel punishment really is justified, under this enlightening new moral theory of justice. Follow the logic, if you will:
1) Identify something most people agree should be done. (In this case, prosecution of war crimes long after the fact)
2) List two possible reasons we might agree about this thing and the suggestion that one alternative is to disagree with it. Be careful to lightly dismiss one option no matter how valid it may be*. Be sure to include your conclusion as the second option: that "vengeance is morally proper", and perhaps "even a moral imperative."
3) By process of elimination, announce that you are in favor of your conclusion.

Voilá you have moral justificiation for your viewpoint.

I'm going to appeal to a definition once again. Moral imperative. The obvious meaning of this phrase is an action on the part of an individual or society that takes that individual or that society out of a morally unacceptable situation and into a morally acceptable one. If Volokh, or anyone else, has a better definition, I'd be happy to hear it. But I think that, upon reflection, we can all agree that this is at least close to the meaning of the term "moral imperative".

So, I don't know if Volokh reads his trackbacks or not. If he does, then could I ask him please to start from this or some other meaningful definition of moral imperative, and show how retribution might, perhaps, even be a moral imperative?

And, if Volokh reads his trackbacks, I would also give him a suggestion. I have actually thought about what is morally proper or imperative in terms of, you know, what types of actions have the power to correct a morally unacceptable situation. I have discovered, as I laid out in my first post about this mess, a small assortment of actions that can fit that description:
1) Prevention, including:
...a) Rehabilitation
...b) Quarantine
...c) Deterrence
2) Restitution

I even went so far as to suggest that a painful punishment might go (ever so slightly) toward restitution in terms of closure for families of murder or rape victims. I maintained that one need not violate the eighth amendment on this account because closure is no more guaranteed by excessive cruelty than by the the satifaction that comes from seeing justice served in ways that do not include cruelty, because this type of closure is not a very effective form of restitution in the first place, and because risks of great harm to the innocent outweigh potential closure benefits when we go beyond eighth amendment restrictions.

Prosecution of war criminals long after the fact can, in fact, provide closure to victims, and can therefore fulfil the need for restitution (not retribution). This was left out of Volokh's not-so-exhaustive list of answers to the questions about why we seek to capture and prosecute those people.

I can easily show how each of my proposed rationales for punishment has the impact of righting a wrong. Volokh would like to add retribution to the list. I ask him again, can he justify it? Can he show how retribution serves to take a morally unacceptable situation and make it acceptable? And why did he not do this in the first place, instead of cooking up every kind of post hoc pseudojustification that his creative legal mind could think of? Why does he not have a robust enough theory of justice that he can draw is opinions from it in the first place? He is, after all, supposed to be a legal scholar!

*I disagree with Volokh in his thinking that prosecution of war crimes long after the fact lacks a deterrent effect. A potential war criminal, taking a calculated risk that he will escape justice in the short-run, especially after a victorious war effort, may be dissuaded from many crimes by the fact that so many of his predecessors cannot enjoy their escape in middle- or old- age because they must live life in the shadow of possible capture and conviction, whether their effort was victorious or not.

Posted by smijer at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

Weekend Activism Redux

from - smijer

Although the weekend was hectic, and I had to work Saturday and miss church Sunday, I was able to get out to two very important events, as promised, and was lucky enough to hook up with the author of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera on both occasions. For those who could only be there in spirit, I'll share what little my very inferior camera picked up.

Chattanooga Peace March:

The Food Not Bombs table:


Peace is a Family Value:


Some of the crowd:


A blurry view of the vigil - to honor the dead and maimed:


Somewhat more clear:


Then, to the Strides of March, fundraiser for Chattanooga Cares, our local AIDS education, prevention, and support organization.

On the Walnut Street Bridge:


Further along on the route:


And, a proud poppa asked us to include his young son...

proud poppa.jpg

Welcome to the beginning of the week.

Posted by smijer at 08:03 AM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2005


from - smijer

Carnival of the Godless
The eighth Carnival is up at Nanovirus. Go be Godless.

Posted by smijer at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Backpedalling on Moral Bankrupcy, to No Effect

from - smijer

Eugene Volokh has allowed himself to be persuaded, rather conveniently and all too easily, that his position about deliberate cruelty as punishment was "mistaken"... because so many people disagree with him so vehemently that an amendment to the constitution allowing cruel & unusual punishment for cases he deems "monstrous" (as opposed to just regular old rape & murder) would cause... get ready... a logjam in the judicial system.

This is clearly just a post hoc cop-out for Volokh. In his original post he lamented that the Constitutional amendment could never come about in the first place because of the self-same opposition. So, in his idealized world, where everyone saw the beauty of his moral thinking on cruel & unusual punishment, there would be no log-jams in the court system... the opposition that would cause it would not exist, for the same reason that the amendment could pass in the first place. Remember, he was arguing that we should do this to "monsters"... not that we actually could. So his argument from too many opponents is just a cheap cop-out.

What he will not address is what theory of justice he holds under which one sees a compelling reason that we should torture the "monsters". And that's because his view isn't rooted in justice.

Glenn Reynolds also welcomes the facile excuse to backpedal out of an unpopular (and indefensible) position.

To both of them, from Vizzini: Did I make it clear that your job is at stake?!

Posted by smijer at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2005

Working on the Anniversary of War

from - smijer

It was two years ago today that the government of the United States started an unprovoked, agressive war in Iraq. Since that time, the cause of the war has evolved from the effort to disarm a potential enemy to trying to spread democracy in the Middle East.

On the positive side, there is a somewhat greater potential for reform in the government of Iraq than existed before the war, and American conservatives have, at least rhetorically, been galvanized behind the cause of spreading Democracy around the world, a cause that held little interest for them before they needed a justification for war.

On the negative side, there are tens of thousands of innocent dead, tens of thousands cruelly maimed for life, compromises to America's international reputation and defensive posture, a disturbing trend toward American acceptance of aggressive war as a legitimate tool for achieving political ends, another disturbing trend toward American acceptance of torture and human rights abuse.

Currently, the European Union is preparing to welcome a Democratic Turkey into its fold. Also, there are a number of other developments, outside of Turkey and Iraq, that give hope to those who would like to see Democracy come of age in the Middle East. In Lebanon, Syria seems ready to withdraw its forces. In Jordan and Egypt, liberal but undemocratic leaders are flirting with free elections.

In the United States, those developments will be credited to the apparent success of the policy of aggressive warfare. Elsewhere, the peaceful model of Turkey and European diplomacy will receive the credit. Perhaps both models have had a positive impact in this regard. Yet, I can see no system of morality or justice under which aggressive warfare can be justifiably used to bring about a desired political change overseas.

It's for this reason - and to show my contrition over my government's role in the deaths and crippling of so many innocent Iraqis - that I will attend the rally for peace this evening at Miller Park. Because I am working today, I will not be able to attend the March, and I will be somewhat late for the rally, but I will be there.

I hope other Americans will be soul-searching, having dialogue about justice and war, and will also come to believe that we should only go to war in defense of ourselves or another people that are being aggressed against. I hope you will conclude, with me, that war is not the proper vehicle for creating political change, no matter how desirable. I hope that you will search out the events going on in your own town to mark this second anniversary of America losing its way, and go speak out for peace.

Posted by smijer at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2005

Vengeance as Justice

from - smijer

It's noteworthy that the two conservative big-wigs who have recently come out in favor of cruel vengeance as just punishment (Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds) are not known for being a part of the religious right. I say this because the conservative Christian view of original sin (that is, that all people "deserve" eternal hell, and are only saved by "grace"), as well as the conservative soteriology (the view that Christ's suffering and death replace the suffering due to the sinner) are entirely based in the view that cruel vengeance is integral to justice. Without that view, the conservative doctrine of original sin and redemptive sacrifice are meaningless.

So, while Volokh and Reynolds are not overtly and vocally religious, they seem to share at least part of their value system with the religious right. Maybe that explains the comfortable alliance between the religious right and other conservatives. After all, it is a theocratic state's notions of justice for which Volokh expresses such enthusiasm in the first place.

That's not to say that all conservatives share this value system. John Cole weighs in on the side of a civilized view of justice. (And, while Cole was silent on the nomination of Gonzales for Attorture General, it turns out there are more conservatives against torture than we previously believed... I think it is still clear that the conservative culture is more violence-friendly than the liberal culture, but it's worth noting that it is not homogeneous in this regard!)

For those of us who do not have a conservative religious view of punishment, there remains room for discussion about the role of pain or suffering in a system of human justice. I think it is safe to say that anyone with even remotely humanist values can agree that the mob justice of the Iranians is a barbarism best left behind us, as a race. I think it is also safe to say that any thinking person can easily conclude that it is improper to inflict pain merely for its own sake. But what is proper, and how do we decide?

A good starting point is to remind ourselves that justice is nothing more than the way we take a wrong and try to put it right.

I have yet to see how hurting someone just to vent our outrage can take a wrong and make it right. But, hurting someone in an effort to teach or rehabilitate them could, arguably, help to remove a danger to others. Hurting someone to deter others from following a bad example could, arguably, prevent danger to society. Placing a dangerous person in quarantine from society, for a time or for life, could, arguably, prevent them from doing further arm, and could, arguably, cause them suffering. And, of course, all of these potential benefits must be balanced against a standard of fairness and caution. For, if justice is to make things "right", it must not create further wrong. If I cause more suffering to the criminal than his actions merit*, even if mine is the just goal of preventing future harm, or undoing the harm he has done, then I run the risk of creating a new wrong in place of the one that I am seeking to rectify. Then, by definition, I have not been careful enough to ensure the cause of justice was served. Furthermore, if I cause suffering to an innocent party by mistake, then I have not taken enough care to ensure the cause of justice was served: the more severe the punishment, the greater injustice I am inevitably going to create in those cases where an innocent is punished by mistake. Because we are trying to right a wrong, it is important that we take as much caution as possible to avoid creating a wrong in the process, and it is for this reason that we should seek to fulfill our just goals of rehabilitation, prevention, deterrence (and one other possible just goal) without causing more suffering than necessary. Therefore, the separate issue of what is fair should rarely even come up.

* This is an entirely separate question. I think our instinct for fairness would tell us that the maximum penalty must create no more suffering for the injurer than he or she intended to cause or did cause to the victim(s). Furthermore, my own values tell me that penalties should be softened when the the perpetrator was innocent of malice, and softened further if the perpetrator was guilty only of unthinking negligence. How we decide what is "fair" is a completely separate question from what just goals our punishment is designed to accomplish.

I have purposely left to last discussion of just compensation. One of the best ways a justice system can right a wrong is by causing the wrong-doer to compensate the victim's loss to the best of his ability, and without causing him or her "unfair" (see above) suffering. In all of the blogospheric buzz that Volokh has created, I have seen little from the anti-torture side of the debate discussing how the infliction of pain could possibly compsenate a victim of a loss. As much as many of us would like to pretend otherwise, it is human nature to derive satisfaction from seeing a rulebreaker "suffer the consequences" of his actions. Where a thief may be required to return stolen property, a killer can never return the life of a victim. Can the suffering of the killer provide closure to the victim's families, and would closure for those families be a valid form of partial recompense for their loss? I don't think we can rule that out, but if reason is our guide, I think we can easily see that the "compensation" that comes to a victim's family this way is very slight, indeed, and that it is not made much greater by causing greater suffering to the perpetrator. So, while we cannot rule out the argument of "closure" as compensation, we cannot be excused by that argument for reverting to barbarian practices of punishment.

Volokh's mistake - what makes his viewpoint "uncivilized" - is the same as the religious conservative's: it is to fail to start with the aim of justice. Instead, he indulges himself in imprecise thinking informed only by unchecked emotion. This is what defines the "mob rule" mentality that Cole complains of. He does not take into account the properly defined role of justice: to right a wrong, He does not take into account the possibility of applying a punishment that fits a heinous crime to the innocent by mistake. Volokh and his sympathizers imagine themselves in place of the families, and imagine the suffering that was caused to the alleged mass murderer in Iran was no more than the suffering of his victims. Instead of starting with the intention of making a right, they start by asking themselves how a visceral desire can be fulfilled, and only then think of what would be "fair" as an afterthought. That's what makes this viewpoint so dreadfully wrong.

And that is what is so scary about two outspoken and popular legal professors espousing this view. We would hope our students of law would be trained to look for justice first, instead of being taught to satisfy visceral desires for revenge first. The respective universities should transfer these profs to the Divinities department, right away.

Update: In an attempt to fend off criticism on this issue, Volokh again shows how his viewpoint is informed by emotion without reason. In his second point, he regrets that Nazi war criminals were not made to suffer more than they did without offering a reason, grounded in justice, why he should want that. In point 4, he even goes so far as to assert that retribution is, itself, a "constructive" purpose, without even touching on the single justification that might exist for that viewpoint: as a form of compensation to victim's families. This is the most damning point of all. If justice was his goal, then he could not have demanded his critic to present evidence that of a negative: that retribution served no constructive goal. He would have himself supported his view that retribution could serve a constructive goal by showing how it might act as a partial restorative to a victims family. Instead he makes no mention of any conceivable way that retribution can take a wrong and make it right - showing that justice is not the heart of his reasoning. This is very damning. He should not be teaching law, starting from this viewpoint. In point 6, he states: "The question is how this risk of error balances against the moral imperative for retribution," again without showing where a moral imperative for retribution comes from. Perhaps he mistakes his desire for vengeance for a moral imperative. He says, "Yet my tentative current sense is that for a small number of extraordinarily monstrous crimes, the need for retribution is so strong — and the risk of error can be made so low — that not just death but deliberately painful death is the proper punishment," without ever showing how retribution can be needed, or why that need is so strong that it overrides the other considerations he brings up.

Second Update:Volokh Backflails.

Posted by smijer at 01:27 PM | Comments (4)

Makes sense to me

from - Buck

If there was ever any doubt about the sanity of the Republican party this should remove all doubt.
Of course "brain dead" does not necessarily make you ineligible to run for office as a Republican so testifying before Congress should not be a problem.

Posted by Buck at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

Why Did the Dog Climb in the Cabinet?

from - smijer

The Eldest smijerling found and photographed this wonderful series... The answer to the question in the post title is, of course, "because he thinks he's a glass":




All manner of six-, four-, and two-legged critters are in the Friday Ark, including the famous blueberry flavored frog.

Posted by smijer at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2005

The Nuclear Option, also ANWR question for readers who are green

from - smijer

RTB newcomer, Open Your Mind, has the full text of Harry Reid's letter to Tennessean, Bush sycophant, Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. Give 'em hell, Harry. Reid, by the way, mentions that Democratic senators represent "millions" of Americans, despite being in the minority of senators. What he left out was that Democratic senators actually represent the majority of Americans. If California and New York got as many senators as Idaho and Wyoming, the Senate would be Democratic. That's not a complaint... just a fact. In this case, Democratic "obstructionism" against the most radical judicial nominations serves to protect the interests of a majority that happen to have minority representation. Reid's point is still sound: the Senate's rules (without the nuclear option) should be kept intact in order to protect the interests of an actual minority.

Let's call the nuclear option by its proper name: a power grab.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Neal Boortz.

Follow up... Normally one can safely find the truth by taking the opposite point of view as the one espoused by Boortz, but just to be safe, I like to get a second opinion from time to time. Today, Neal made a lot of dubious claims about the ANWR provision in the Senate bill. Now, I'm ignoring claims about how many years we could run NY or GA on ANWR's oil... Even if those claims are based on current demand (probably), that's still a piffling amount of oil in my view. Leave aside, also, the claim that "who knows?" maybe there will be even more oil produced there than estimated, based on anecdotal evidence from Prudhoe Bay. Leave aside especially the comedic claims about the "real" sinister agenda of America-hating liberals. The one question I have is this: is he possibly, accidentally, correct in his claim that environmentalists are exaggerating the impact of ANWR drilling? Is he correct in claiming that the piece of tundra that would be opened for ANWR drilling is not such important property? That it is not the "beautiful", pristine part of ANWR? That the caribou will be no more likely to suffer from drilling than they were in Pruhoe Bay?

If I knew that Boortz was fabricating or blowing smoke on this, I would call him out in a heartbeat. And goodness knows I don't give him the benefit of the doubt on it... but is there anyone who can show us a concrete scientific basis for environmentalists' objections to drilling there?

For the record, I think it's ludicrous that the Republicans are putting all their stock in drilling ANWR, as though this give-away to Big Oil will actually have a measurable impact on our long-term energy needs... But if they are right, and the environmental impact will be minimal, why not let them win that battle? On the other hand, if they are wrong... I'll be glad join and promote the boycott. I just want to know which side is really on firmer scientific ground. Anybody?

Posted by smijer at 04:31 PM | Comments (5)

I'll Move To Canada and Be a Singing Elf

from - smijer

Some Thursday afternoon fun: Lord of the Rings - the Musical, Toronto, one year from now.

Posted by smijer at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

Comfortably Numb

from - Buck

When it comes to the current administration I find myself becoming comfortably numb. Whether it is the price of energy, Wolfowitz becoming the President of the World Bank, or the rising deficit I find that nothing seems to surprise or even anger me anymore. Even though my opinions of the policies of this administration have not changed at all I still fear that I am becoming a glassy-eyed accepter of things that reason and logic are powerless to change. Now I am beginning to understand how Winston Smith could raise his arms in frustration and complete resignation while crying out, “I love Big Brother”. Sometimes it seems to futile to rage against the dying light.

Posted by Buck at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

Weekend Activism

from - smijer


Please join us in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as we send a message to the world that we do not support unprovoked American aggression against our brothers and sisters around the world. Make your voice heard...

Join Our March!
We March — from Coolidge Park (4:00 pm EST)
We Rally — at Miller Park (5:00 pm EST)
We Pray — silent, candlelit vigil (7:00 pm EST)

That's Saturday, March 19 I may not make it to the march, but I should be there for the rally and vigil, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. Hope to see you there.


The Strides of March is Chattanooga's annual AIDS Walk benefiting the fight against AIDS. This premiere fundraising event is one of the most successful and entertaining walks in Chattanooga and attracts people of all ages and from around the region, sending a powerful message of hope in the fight against AIDS. Since 1996, an average of 1500 people have participated and raised an average of nearly $100,000 each year. The Walk is through the revitalized riverfront of Chattanooga, going past the Tennessee Aquarium, trendy shops and restaurants, the Bluff View Arts District and over the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Tennessee River.

That's Sunday, and provided I do not have to find sponsors on my own (read that - provided someone at church has a team they need help filling out), I should be able to make that, and I hope to see you there as well, if you're from closeby.

I know I can expect at least one other Chattanoogan in the lineup on both events.

Posted by smijer at 03:41 PM | Comments (1)

Southern Baptist Preacher on the Ten Commandments

from - smijer

A bit of trivia for those who don't know: smijer was born in Decatur, Alabama. Earlier this month, the Decatur Daily ran a column by Southern Baptist preacher Jim Evans, of the First Baptist Church of Auburn, AL. Go have a look:
10 Reasons to not post 'Big Ten'.

Posted by smijer at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

In Another Time, This Would Have Been a Scandal

from - smijer

Go check out Divine Right of Nino. I don't have anything to add... just a link to bring attention to what would have been a scandal back when the populace cared about civics.

Posted by smijer at 08:07 AM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2005

A few good men

from - Buck

Obviously the military does not discriminate when it comes to looking for a few good men. Here is a copy of an email I received from them. Not a bad offer for a 47 year old flat footed fat ass

MILITARY.COM - Benefits made easy

Your service may have earned you up to $50,000 in education benefits.

Now, you have access to over 4,000 military-friendly schools ready to help you meet your goals.

Many military-friendly schools offer:

* College credit for military service
* Wide selections of degree programs to meet your career goals and interests
* Flexible online or campus-based programs to accommodate your busy schedule
* Access to over $300 million in scholarship money

Request information today and receive the
2004 Guide to Military & Veteran Education Benefits -- F R E E.

Posted by Buck at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

Judicial Tyranny versus the Tyranny of the Majority

from - smijer

This judge's ruling has nothing to do with enforcing the Constitution and everything to do with rule by fiat. Those who want gay marriage should win that right by changing the law - not the imposition of the will of activist judges. What happened yesterday is an egregious and shameful act of piracy. Make no mistake - the Left is engaging in a coup through the use of judicial dictators. The Left cannot advance their agenda by appealing to the people of the United States, so they are going to impose it by force through activist judges.
- This is from one of the RTB's newer members, Jeff Blogworthy (welcome, dude.. I'm not trying to pick on you... you just happened to be using some language that's been floating around in conservative circles, and that's what caught my eye)

I would ask Jeff, or others who complain of "judicial tyranny,": Upon whom, exactly, is this judge imposing his will by force? Who are the victims of his dictatorial tyranny?

Jeff cites the percentages by which the anti-Family proposition 22 passed:

Proposition 22 was ratified by an overwhelming majority of California voters, prevailing by a 23-point margin. Statewide, 4,618,673 votes were cast in favor of the proposition, comprising 61.4% of the total vote. Opponents garnered 2,909,370 votes, for 38.6% of the vote.

Again, I ask... how many of the people voting for the anti-family law are going to actually be affected by it? My guess is virtually none. Of those whom the law blocks from marriage, I would guess that there was near unanimous opposition ot the law.

Now, when the majority of people vote for a law or a political system that only effects the minority, and the minority who are affected oppose that law, that's what I think DeTocqueville had in mind when he talked about the tyranny of the majority.

It's unfortunate that the majority of people so despise their countrymen who are gay that they are willing to deprive them of access to the same institutions they demand access to for themselves, even though it harms them none to do so. Perhaps if they gave as much attention to the Golden Rule as they do to the Ten Commandments, things would be different.

Posted by smijer at 01:04 PM | Comments (7)

When it absolutely, positively, has to get there...

from - smijer

Liquid Propane: $82,100
Shipping and Handling (KBR Ground Service): $27,514,833
Total: $27,596,933*

* (plus interest)

Thanks, Crony Capitalism!

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Butt Out

from - smijer

Dear Mel Gibson,

If and when I, or a member of my family are prevented from making decisions for ourselves, even if there is a dispute among those remaining about those decisions, and even if that dispute has to be settled in court: please stay the #&@! out of it! Unless and until you are licensed to practice law or medicine, and further, until you are retained by one of my family members specifically for the purpose of bringing your expertise to bear on our problem, I don't want your opinion.
Dear Pope,

You either.
Dear Media, government, bloggers, and everybody else,

You either.
Dear Everyone Who Believes Michael Schiavo Is Doing This for the Money,

Get real.
Dear Everyone Who Believes What You Hear on Hannity and Colmes,
You aren't getting the whole story. Find out more from Lindsay Beyerstein and others (for whom its also none of their business, but what the hell - Pandora's Box is open),
here, and here.

Posted by smijer at 05:46 PM | Comments (8)

Rocky Top Updates

from - smijer

number 1
...welcoming Not In My Bible, Dr. Johnson's Cat, Harelip Frog, the return of American Dissent, The Piho Post, Tennessee Values Authority, Donkey Top, Mountain Laureate, Abused by Illusions, and the bestest Chattanoogan on the list: 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera!!

Wow... what a mouthful. Deep breath, and then: number 2...
... welcoming All About Wallym, Open Your Mind, Jeff Blogworthy, Mr. Rocky Top, and welcoming Half Bakered back to duty.

These will be added to the blog-roll "asap", but hopefully, I'll be able to convert the RTB blogroll to an expandable list by then. It's grown quite a bit since I was welcomed aboard!

Posted by smijer at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005


from - smijer

Carnival of the Godless
The Frozen Texan has posted this week's fine round up of Godlessness: COTG#7. Go see what's up. I'm skipping this week, but, by Bob, I'll have something ready for next Sunday!

Posted by smijer at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

Existentialist Doggie

from - smijer

Why are you looking at me, when we are all destined for the same end?


Other philosophical beasts in the Friday Ark.

Posted by smijer at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005

Now Where I Tell People To Go?

from - smijer

Via Boy in the Bands, Christians who dispute the doctrine of eternal damnation. As one of the major obstacles between the Christian religion and moral thinking, it would be good to see this one fall. I doubt the trend will catch, though: fear sells.

Posted by smijer at 09:45 PM | Comments (3)

March 09, 2005

Where Did I Go?

from - smijer

The answer is wierd.. Everything I've cared to blog about this week has had me so keyed up that I couldn't set aside a block of time for giving it the attention I felt it deserved. Don't count me out. I'm just catching my breath and sorting out what I want to tackle next. I may still take Thursday off because we're babysitting young niece! Tell the neocons please not to start any wars while I'm unable to protest them.

Posted by smijer at 11:14 PM | Comments (1)

Simple but important lessons

from - Buck

America does in a way resemble Rome. But it is, unfortunately, the Rome of the late fourth century

Buchanan gives a good explanation as to why there is no such thing as a single world superpower. We are all just children at play in the same global sandbox. Mabye GW should read "All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten". When he finishes he could then loan his copy to Condi and Rummy and Cheney. Come to think of it, maybe he should let them read it first.

Posted by Buck at 08:45 AM | Comments (2)

March 08, 2005

Just for you Smijer

from - Buck

My favorite old hippie, Fredwin, gives his take on evolution.

Posted by Buck at 05:05 PM | Comments (2)

Now may be the time...

from - Buck

to invest in companies that make razor wire!

Posted by Buck at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

Nicola Calipari vs Martha Stewart

from - Buck

Neal is up in arms about Italy and Giuliana Sgrena. First he claims that you will not be advised of the fact that Sgrena wrote for a (horror of horrors!) communist newspaper. I have yet to find an article that discusses the incident without mentioning the fact that she wrote for Il Manifesto. And what does that have to do with anything anyway. Sure, if she had written for Fox News and had been killed her epitaph would have read "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my media outlet" but not all journalists are that glassy-eyed.

Concerning the ransom paid by the Italians for her release Neal sanctimoniously says

Let's talk about this ransom business for a bit. The United States refuses to pay for the release of hostages

He did not mention that we would trade arms for hostages but I guess as long as it is not cash it does not count.

Without access to any facts my guess would be that the incident at the airport was accidental. For the United States to attempt to kill an Italian journalist intentionally while the whole world watched makes about as much sense as believing that Syria assassinated Rafik al Hariri

Only Condoleezza Rice would be capable of peddling that kind of nonsense with a straight face.

Posted by Buck at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2005

How quickly we forget

from - smijer

Holy Joe never belonged on the wall of shame in the first place. After having voted to endorse torture, he should no longer be considered a member of our party. Who gives a crap how he postures on Social Security? He's a non-Democrat.

Posted by smijer at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)

Unitarian Boy Makes Good

from - smijer

Wow... who'd a thunk it? A blog about Unitarianism (and politics) makes the fake news!... Now off we go to One Good Move to look for the clip...... or actually read the thank you note to the guy who taped it... duh.

Posted by smijer at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

No thanks Irving

from - Buck

I'll put it bluntly: if you care for the quality of life in our American democracy, then you have to be for censorship.

This is just what I need. The warmongering godfather of the neoconservative movement taking on the role of philosopher king in order to tell me what I should or should not read or watch.

No thanks Irving. I’ll make that determination for myself and I am happy to let the rest of society make that decision for themselves.

Isn't it a shame that to these people sex is more abhorrent than war?

Posted by Buck at 09:14 AM | Comments (1)

Friday Spring Watch and Animal Blogging

from - smijer

I'm not a transcendentalist, per se, but I do have a lot of admiration for Emerson and Thoreau. And, I find it helpful sometimes to emulate people who have earned admiration. So, hoping that Dan Harp's season watches will help remind me, I'm going to join him.

Between the walking track at work and the premises at home, I get to see quite a few birds, including Dan's Red-Wing Blackbirds (aplenty) the occasional hawk (of some sort), herons, king-fishers, kildeers, the odd blue-bird, the standard mockingbird, wren, and cardinal, and my favorites, the American Golden Finches, who should be showing their breeding plumage soon. Although I haven't seen one (or heard one) for years, yesterday, I was sure I heard a quail Bob-Whiting outside my window. This morning when I went out to feed the outside dog, I brought my camera, but alas - no visible birds. One of Spring's other early markers is the emergence of the daffodils on our drainage ditch. These must have been cultivated by an earlier resident, or else grown up "volunteer" having escaped domestication from someone's garden. Since I couldn't spot the Bob-White, I'll share the Daffies, who don't mind standing still to pose:


And now for part II - the animal blogging. Why did the cat climb on the bookshelf?


Because he thinks he's a book.

Don't forget that institution of Friday animal-blogging: The Modulator's Ark. I'd like to steal this one.

Posted by smijer at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005

Found on the Nets

from - smijer

Or, instead of whining, feel free to exercise your right to leave, because frankly, I find it offensive that you want to kick my Father out of society. - Teen Vicky S., quoted here
Why? Are you actually afraid that it will work? That we can remove your Father from society against his will? Just asking, because I would think you would be more optimistic about his odds... And that should leave little for you to worry over.

Brent's rejoinder must be included (same link)

No one wants to kick your "Father" out of society. You can pray anywhere you want to, go to church everyday, attend any of the millions of Christian churches in America. All of our politicians, practically, share your faith. You have an 85% majority in this country, Vicky. Did you know that?

However, it is illegal and unconstitutional to allow your "Father's" earthly representatives run our government as a theocracy.

Well said. If I were God, I'd be rather tired of hearing my followers use me as dishonest rhetorical shield to deflect criticism of their (not my) efforts to blend church and state. In a booming voice from on high, I would tell them, "Quit your bitchin'. You are lucky to live in a country that protects your right to worship. Use it instead of trying to force your beliefs on everybody else." Heck, if I was God, I might even go so far as to include an instruction that went, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Posted by smijer at 06:22 PM | Comments (4)

A stunning success

from - Buck

You simply must read this one from Neal today

Two years ago the United States invaded Iraq, a nation of 25 million people, and overthrew its government, that of the evil (except to liberals) Saddam Hussein. During the run-up to the war, a number of generals-turned-talking heads predicted that tens of thousands of troops would die in the initial invasion. It didn't happen. The Baathists promised to send home American troops in body bags by the thousands...that didn't happen either.

I'll admit that I was one of the ones that believed we would lose more soldiers than we have. I was operating under the assumption that Iraq had an army that would fight back. It did not so we were able to go farther, faster and with fewer casualties than at any other time in American history (to quote Sean Hannity). At the time, who knew that Iraq would throw open the door, allow us to come in and then start killing soldiers two or three at a time. It is an absolutely brilliant strategy and there is no end in site. Bleeding the treasury is a much more important goal than killing soldiers. In fact it is much more effective to wound a soldier than it is to kill him. Burying a soldier is cheap compared to societies cost of keeping a disabled soldier on the payroll for another 50 years. Notice Boortz did not mention the over 11,000 soldiers that have been wounded.

So now here we are, two years later. We've won the war and largely won the peace. Elections have been held, and the insurgency has been all but defeated. The United States will probably largely leave Iraq within 12 to 18 months. All with less than 2,000 casualties.

Now I know why Neal wants to legalize drugs and I would dearly love to have a bag of what he is smoking. There are advantages to living in La-La Land.

If President Bush had predicted 1,500 casualties before the war started, liberals would have complained that he was being unrealistic. Of course now, it's being portrayed as if it's the next Vietnam war (58,000 American troops killed there.) By any measure, the war in Iraq has been a stunning success, the American media notwithstanding.

There you have it. Unless and until 58,001 soldiers die then this war is justified and a stunning success. It would be interesting to know how many Iraqi's have died during this misadventure. I realize that they are considered much more expendable than our guys but it would be valuable information to have since "the insurgency is all but defeated".

I for one am constantly amazed when I see the strategies used by David against Goliath in the Middle East. This is definitely one for the history books. It is proof positive that you don't necessarily have to have a 3.2 billion dollar nuclear attack submarine to get your point across.

Posted by Buck at 10:15 AM | Comments (3)

March 02, 2005

Truth about Consequences

from - smijer

You hear the news about the Supreme Court decision about applying the death penalty to juveniles? Well, if not, you can still learn all about it. Just read what Neal Boortz has to say about it, and whatever the opposite of that is will be the truth!

Bear with me here.. Before he reaches his salient point(s), Boortz engages in his usual self-congratulatory huffing and puffing where his display of his own intelligence comes off somewhat poorer than he intends for it to. But I want to slog through it any way. Just for the sake of form. If you want to get to the heart of the matter, just here.

Good. You're still here. I'll start at the top, quoting from the horse's mouth:

Those who understand that America is not, was not designed to be, and should not become a democracy -- those who recognize the dangers of mob rule -- will be disturbed by this. Most Americans, victims of government school misinformation and indoctrination, will not be.

It is apparent that Boortz is clueless about the meaning of the word, "democracy". Maybe a little bit of "government" school would have helped him. Here is an encyclopedia article about that word. I would challenge Eggbert to show a substantial reason to believe that the article incorrectly defines the range of systems described by the word Democracy, and/or how the system of government which America was designed to use and uses differs from the systems described by the word democracy. He won't answer the challenge because his format is to run his mouth, and never to give an honest answer to a legitimate challenge... But I'm here if he should ever want to blossom into adulthood.

He continues:

Yesterday we had a ruling from the Supreme Court in the case of Christopher Simmons [pdf].

You're thinking, "well, that, at least seems correct, sensible, and straightforward." And you're right. Really, if you aren't talk radio educated, reading the text of the decision should be near good enough for you to understand what happened. Unfortunately, as we will discover, Boortz either a) did not read it, b) told bald-faced lies about it, or c) has extremely poor reading comprehension. You'll see why in a minute. In the meantime...

...The Supreme Court has now ruled that a person cannot be executed for a crime committed when that person was less than 18 years old. Cruel and unusual punishment, says the court. The opinion was written by liberal justice Anthony Kennedy ... and this ruling sends ice water through the veins of anyone who understands our Constitution and the role of our Supreme Court.

It's worth noting that Anthony Kennedy is by no means a liberal justice. It is almost sickening to see how willing people like Neal Boortz are to twist the truth on something so simple as the ideological orientation of a supreme court justice. Fact is, Kennedy is a life-long moderate conservative. Oh, and guess what. I understand, better than Boortz pretends to, but probably not better than he actually does, the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court. And my veins are still pumping regular old human blood... Now, are you ready for the big lie? The blatant one? The one that a person capable of shame could never tell? Well, here it comes:

Neal Boortz says:

The Supreme Court, you see, is expected to cite a Constitutional basis for its rulings. Not so in this case. Instead, Kennedy cites a "national consensus" and "international opinion."

For those of you who skipped the buildup, here's the PDF link to the text of the decision that Boortz himself provided.

Turn your attention, if you will, to page 10 in Acrobat, or page 6 as it is printed, section II of the decision, and you will find these words:


The Eighth Amendment provides: “Excessive bail shallnot be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The provision is applicable
to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Furman v. Georgia, 408 U. S. 238, 239 (1972) (per curiam); Robinson v. California, 370 U. S. 660, 666–667 (1962); Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U. S. 459, 463 (1947) (plurality opinion).

That's right... after laying out the facts of the case in section I of the decision, Kennedy proceeds immediately to explain his reasoning, by citing the Constitutional basis for his ruling, using the words of the Eigth Amendment, just like Neal Boortz said he didn't do. In the remainder of the opinion, Kennedy seeks to establish, for the purposes of enforcing the Constitution, what, exactly, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. "Cruel" is a fairly subjective word for the framers to use, and - yes - the Supreme Court looks to the "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society", among many other factors, including medical opinions about the maturity of youngsters, legal standards of responsibility in the U.S., standards specifically advocated in "friend of the court" briefs, etc., for guidance on what - for purposes of the Constitution - constitutes cruel punishment. That other word, "unusual" is slightly more objective. As Kennedy and others noted, having a number of states who have outlawed execution, and none in recent years who have expressly legalized it, and being (as we were) the only nation that has a death penalty and applies it to minors (there's that international consensus for you), he correctly observed that the death penalty for minors is unconstitutional under the "cruel and unusal" provision of the eighth amendment.

There, my friends, you have the difference between the truth and a carefully crafted lie.

But don't think the silliness ends there! No, sir... read on!

So now it seems official. The Supreme Court will base its rulings on what is and what is not Constitutional based on the mood of the people; based on the whims of the mob. This is nothing less than the legitimization of the lynch mob. If there's a "national consensus" that old so-and-so must hang, then hang he does, regardless of whether or not such niceties as the rule of law have been followed or Constitutional rights met.

Let's see - because Simmons was not allowed to hang on the "whim" of a jury because of the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, now we can expect for the "whims" of national consensus to overrule the Constitution? Stupid should hurt. Speaking of which...

Sadly, most of this will go unnoticed by the dumb masses. The vast majority of Americans will direct their attention to the current NASCAR standings, tonight's edition of Entertainment Tonight and whether or not there's enough brewski in the 'fridge for the weekend.

Listening to the content, you would think that Boortz would identify with the "dumb-masses". Oh well...

And, of course there's more stupidity down-page, but I'll have to save that for later.

Posted by smijer at 07:01 PM | Comments (6)

Blessed are.......

from - Buck

the Peace Makers?

Have you noticed how quickly Syria became our mortal enemy? I wonder who will be the first to compare Bashar Al-Assad to Adolf Hitler. He probably has sons that fed human beings into shredders and soldiers that took newborn babies out of incubators wouldn' t you think? And don't forget the mass graves. I am sure Syria is just full of mass graves. You just know there will be links to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 as well as yellow cake purchased from Niger. We are only 45 minutes away from total annihilation and the dreaded mushroom cloud.

Just ask Ms. Firm Evidence herself.

And it may comfort you to know that the U.S. has given Israel permission to strike Syria.

I am sure Ariel Sharon will appreciate that as soon as he can stop laughing.

Posted by Buck at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

H.R. 235

from - smijer

Aimed at letting churches get away legally, what they get away with anyway. If you like the idea of giving churches even more influence over government, then let them do what no other non-profit can do - campaign without paying taxes. Personally, that thought sends a chill down my spine. Brainwise has the scoop. Also chilling is the Orwellian language H.R. 235's uses to deceive people about the nature of the bill.

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to protect the religious free exercise and free speech rights of churches and other houses of worship.

Noooooo....... the bill is meant to leave intact their free exercise and free speech rights, and allow them continued use of the tax-exemption benefit they are awareded, even while they assist in political campaigns. Want to see the church take over the government? Let them run political campaigns more cheaply than the political organizations can. This is a very, very, very, bad idea.

And meanwhile - anti-separationists, take off the sheep's clothing. I hope your congregations figure out what liars you are.

Posted by smijer at 07:49 AM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2005


from - smijer

for thought.

Posted by smijer at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

Preparing for Peace

from - Buck

Yep, it looks like we are going to be there for quite a while.

The Army has transformed Fort Polk, La., into a simulation of Iraq, converting 18 training sites there into replicas of Middle Eastern towns and villages.

Maybe we are just preparing for Syria and Iran. After all, if you have seen one Middle Eastern town you have seen them all, right?

Posted by Buck at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

Thrusting Pelvis

from - smijer

Shorter John Cole: "We're everybody's DADDY!"

Posted by smijer at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

Snowy Election Day

from - smijer

I was a little surprised to see this view from the front porch this morning:


Normally, this would be considered a blizzard. Even if one flake fell on the mountain, school would be closed. Not today. We were half-way there when Younger raised the possibility, which somehow I had managed not to consider... but the school opened, proving that miracles do happen.

Next stop, the polling place... When the sun came up, the sky was clear and beautiful, and the flag was waving in the breeze. This polling place is also the recreation center where both Elder and Younger spent many summer afternoons in their tender years, where they practice football, and play pool. It's also where the ballet lessons are held. I wonder what will become of it withhn months or years when Wal-Zilla comes to town.

... See the light frosting of snow on the grass... ?


Unfortunately, there were no big crowds this time... The building itself was an elementary school many decades ago... Perhaps that is what gave the impression that going in to vote was a visit more with a past history of civic pride than it was with a robust present of civic responsibility. Or maybe it was the fact that there was no line, and, indeed, no one else there to vote. Oh, well, it was still fairly early.


If anyone is interested, I went with my gut and voted for Bennett and Coulter. I'll be happy with any result for mayor besides Johnson.

Important note for Chattanoogans: The election is being liveblogged at the brand new Pulse blog. Hat tip, to Civic Forums.

I'll try to check back in later.

Posted by smijer at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

Royal Wedding

from - Buck


Sorry guys. I know this is awful but a friend sent it to me and I thought it was about as funny as anything I have seen in a while.

Posted by Buck at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)