Friday, December 21, 2012

Gingrich says conservatives should support same sex marriage for the votes

Okay, he didn't say that *exactly* but he is reported saying:

Gingrich said the GOP will need to accept that same sex marriage “is in every family, it is in every community,” and that Americans in increasing numbers find no issue with allowing it — as proven by voters on election day.

"The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to... accommodate and deal with reality,” he said. “And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”
Read the rest here.

Basically, I understand Gingrich to be saying conservatives will need to accept same sex marriage just because everyone else is? Does he mean to say the GOP needs to support same sex marriage in order to win "the game"? I don't understand why politicians look at political office as a game. It's as if Gingrich said, "Guys. Look. We have to support this so we can win a round or two. If we don't support same sex marriage then we'll never win! We can't let that happen." Instead of seeing political office as preserving the protection of natural rights and holding or changing the structure of society it seems that some see it as a game. Now, they wouldn't be bold enough to say that it's a game and they're truly just looking to win and only win instead of being statesmen, but I think statements like what Gingrich reportedly said and others make good evidence for supporting my view that guys who say stuff like this just see politics as a game. 

Regardless of the pros and cons of same sex marriage I think it's weak to support a position purely for the sake of winning. I would rather see a party stand for their principles and take a loss instead of supporting something only for a possible win. It's my opinion that if the GOP did "come out" (pun intended) in support of same sex marriage as a party that it wouldn't do much. It would just drive home the already established opinion that such a GOP wouldn't be *that* much different from the Dem party. I find it hard to believe that the GOP would attract many more voters than they already have. It seems in my opinion that if they do take this move then they will lose a lot of support and gain very little from this move. Again though, I go back to my original point that to support something for the sake of winning is not virtuous, it's wrong. It's just wrong. Supporting something because you truly believe in it is respectable. Even if I disagree with your position, at least I respect you for supporting something you believe in instead of just trying to win a game. We can discuss the rightness and wrongness of the view and still have respect for one another because we hold to a view for pure reasons instead of dishonest reasons.

Would any same sex marriage advocate respect the GOP for supporting same sex marriage purely on the ground to win, oh I apologize I mean purely on the ground to keep up with the times? I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong on that, but I find it difficult to believe same sex marriage supporters would respect the GOP for taking this position just because "everyone else is doing it." It's weak in my view. The GOP should stand for it's principles and if it fails as a party then some other party will rise up and GOP supporters and the GOP itself will at least go down standing for what it believes in instead of going down (because it would) dishonest, fake, and as cowards.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Collectivism

"The first of these tendencies is the growing exaltation of the collective and the growing indifference to persons. . . . if one were inventing a language for "sinless beings who loved their neighbours as themselves" it would be appropriate to have no words for "my", "I", and "other personal pronouns and inflexions". In other words . . . no difference between two opposite solutions of the problem of selfishness: between love (which is a relation between persons) and the abolition of persons. Nothing but a Thou can love and a Thou can exist only for an I. A society in which no one was conscious of himself as a person over against other persons, where none could say "I love you", would, indeed, be free from selfishness, but not through love. It would be "unselfish" as a bucket of water is unselfish. . . . [In such a case] the individual does not matter. And therefore when we really get going . . . it will not matter what you do to an individual.

Secondly, we have the emergence of "the Party" in the modern sense -- the Fascists, Nazis, or Communists. What distinguishes this from the political parties of the nineteenth century is the belief of its members that they are not merely trying to carry out a programme, but are obeying an important force: that Nature, or Evolution, or the Dialectic, or the Race, is carrying them on. This tends to be accompanied by two beliefs . . . the belief that the process which the Party embodies is inevitable, and the belief that the forwarding of this process is the supreme duty and abrogates all ordinary moral laws. In this state of mind men can become devil-worshippers in the sense that they can now honour, as well as obey, their own vices. All men at times obey their vices: but it is when cruelty, envy, and lust of power appear as the commands of a great superpersonal force that they can be exercised with self-approval." 1

"The question has become whether we can discover any way of submitting to the worldwide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence. Is there any possibility of getting the super Welfare State's honey and avoiding the sting? Let us make no mistake about the sting. . . . To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death -- these are wishes deeply ingrained in civilized man"

1. C.S. Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 78-79, 2002
2. C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, 316, 1970

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teachers on Life - Wisdom from Mom

DISCLAIMER: I do not own this story. This post has been copied and pasted with permission from a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. I asked him if he had a story to share for my 'teachers on life' posts. This is his writing not mine. Any comments to this post will be forwarded to him and he will respond if you want him to. 

One summer when I was probably 3 or 4 years old, my mom and grandmother took me and my younger sister to Beech Bend amusement park in Bowling Green. My grandmother was always prepared like a Boy Scout for trips like this, and this was no exception; she came to the car with large "sippy cups" filled with ice water for me and my sister. I don't remember beans about the drive down or the day at the amusement park except that it was really hot, and by the time we got back to the car, I was sweating and tired. Using all the critical thinking skills typically exhibited by an exhausted preschool-age kid, I got in the car and grabbed the sippy cup - which had been sitting in the car all day - taking a huge gulp to slake my thirst. As you can imagine, water that has been sitting in an uninsulated plastic sippy cup in a 100+ degree car all day is somewhat less than refreshing, and my reaction was about what you'd expect, except I managed to choke it down rather than spew it all over the back seat.

An amusing anecdote became a life lesson with what my mom - a youth Sunday school teacher - said next. "You know how badly you just wanted to spit out that lukewarm water?" she asked.

"Uh huh."

"The Bible says that's how God feels about a lukewarm Christian," she said, alluding to Revelation 3:15-16 ("I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.")

Now, besides providing an illustration of a biblical concept that even a 4-year-old can clearly understand, this taught me an even more important lesson about teaching your kids biblical principles. Not only do I think about this incident pretty much every time I read Revelation 3:15-16 - even though it happened almost 30 years ago - I also think about it every time I read Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ("And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.") This is an admonition not to just talk about "church stuff" at church, but to integrate "church stuff" into your daily life so your kids can learn it 7 days a week. My mom had (and still has) the wisdom to do this. She didn't think "Oh, he's so little he won't understand." And you know what? She was right. Not only did I understand, I haven't ever forgotten it. Now, as the father of a 2-year-old little girl, I hope I can demonstrate this same wisdom as a parent.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Teachers on Life - Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World and Doug, but mostly Boy Meets World

I once read on a friend's "about me" section of his Facebook profile that everything he has learned about life he learned from Boy Meets World. Me too. In my pre-teen and teen years I learned a lot about daily life from Doug and BMW. I learned about dating, heartache, family, friends; a lot about the daily stuff that other shows wouldn't talk about because those shows were too worried about romanticizing sex, glamor, partying, and gossip. Not Doug, but BMW dealt with hard stuff particularly from Shawn's character, showing that yes, while life is hard and full of crap sometimes, close friends and family can give you a hand up out of the situation if you let them. BMW also promoted a pure, monogamous love between Cory and Topanga which was rare at the time. They could have easily made the characters give in to their passions, but Jacobs and the writers didn't. Cory and Topanga were virgins on their wedding day, which was beautiful. The viewer saw in Cory and Topanga's romantic life what abstaining from sex before marriage does to two lovers: you learn a lot about the other person for who he or she is instead of what he or she can *do* to you; you go beyond the physical and into the soul. Some may argue that a sexual relationship can do the same, however I'm not convinced of that. Even when I wasn't a Christian I didn't think sex before marriage was a good idea because sex outside of marriage complicates things a great deal. Anyway, I think Cory and Topanga are a good picture of love. If you watched the show all the way through you see that their love had very rocky moments, which shows that the life of lovers isn't perfect and that love will endure if the lovers continue in it.

BMW has a lot to say on life and it's mostly good. The Father wasn't stupid, which was nice. He was funny, but also smart, helpful, strong and loving. The same with the Mother. She was smart, funny, loving, but she wasn't a man-hater and that was nice to see. Cory's parents were excellent parents: they loved each other, their kids; they were a family team.

BMW is a good picture of what a family can be if they are virtuous. If they encourage each other, support each other, are honest with each other, and if they have fun together; you know, loving each other. Life isn't perfect and the family and friends on BMW had problems (remember Cory getting mad at his dad on his 16th birthday? Or when Cory thought his mom didn't want him and Topanga together?), but they worked them out together without developing hate, animosity, playing victim, and all of the other junk that happens in families who give in to their vices.

Some might say the BMW family and friends are a romantic idea of a perfect family; that Jacobs and the writers are Utopian thinkers trying to get people to be something they aren't.


If television shows only give us pictures of people giving in to their passions because that is what comes "natural," of people doing their daily routine and never going "beyond" then people will never grow past giving into their passions and their daily routine. If we see people living, in what we would call extreme I guess, then that rattles the ol' mind to live differently, to live virtuously, and to do things we ordinarily wouldn't do like not giving in to our passions and doing what is comfortable. BMW is arguably a picture of Aristotelian morality: strive to live like these people or even better than these people. In my opinion, BMW creators didn't want to tell you abstractly how to live by giving you commandments, instead they showed you through drama what love between family and friends looks like.

Honorable Mentions: Full House and Family Matters

Can God Ground Moral Truths?

The new question over at Reasonable Faith

"Dear Dr. Craig, there have been a lot questions recently asked about grounding the existence of morality in God, and I have one as well. The Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne rejects the Moral Argument for God because, he thinks, moral truths are necessarily true, and so the existence of God cannot have an effect on their truth."

He then goes on to explain succinctly Swinburne's argument then asks Craig how he would respond to the argument. Read Craig's response here. Swinburne, a Christian, argues that moral truths are necessarily true and so God isn't needed for moral truths. This is odd to me. I am to think that moral truths are necessarily true without having their root in a personal being who exists necessarily?

Does it make sense that objective moral values just exist? Let's go ahead and cede to that for the moment. Okay. Objective moral values just exist. What does that mean for me as an individual? I'm an advanced primate. I'm experiencing the world around me. Do I encounter patience? Do I encounter justice? What tool do I use to mine for these values? Do I sense an oughtness or shouldness to follow these values if I do encounter them? I don't think so. On naturalism, if objective moral values exist it would be non-natural, that is abstract, and I have no reason to believe that we could know of them or should know them, i.e. that we would have an oughtness to know them as we do today. On naturalism I find it hard to believe that these unexplainable objective moral values existed unchanging during the whole process of evolution, not dependent on anything for their survival and somehow man became aware of these moral values and found out what they are? If naturalistic evolution is true and objective moral values do indeed "just exist" I find it very hard to believe that man would evolve in that perfect way as to be able to know what those moral values are. Given that scenario, it's as if the moral realm "knew" that just such a man was coming. It's as if man was rigged to know the moral realm, care about it, and follow its values; like there was a design or something. Strange. Of course, a non-natural moral realm cannot be personal because it's impersonal. In order for man to know about such abstract objects, it would have be personal. The theist is in a fine position to say that if God exists, then as a personal being He could choose to let man know of His existence by divine revelation (written word) and/or by letting his existence be known via reason (nature). God is personal therefore knowable, whereas non-natural moral values/a moral realm is impersonal therefore unknowable. 

Read Craig's response here

Read my post "Do Objective Moral Values Just Exist?"

Quote of the Week - C.S. Lewis on Belief

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? ... Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief."

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 1961 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Teachers on Life - Master Splinter

We all have life teachers don't we? I don't mean academic teachers either, though they do play a part in teaching us, instead I mean those who influence us in the 'big' ways particularly in three areas: God, man, and society. Even if you're a non-theist, God is still an important category in life's big questions because you have an opinion on the existence of God or gods and how it affects the other two categories man and society. People teach you everyday about these the big three either directly or indirectly. You learn about them from your family, friends, magazines, books, music, and television (television, arguably, is the most influential - arguably). You might think these are just "ideas," that they don't really matter in your daily life and are only important to "thinkers" who sit in a room all day surrounded by books and have time to think about such unimportant things. Maybe you're correct. Maybe. What if I'm correct though in my saying your opinion on God, man, and society plays a huge part in the drama of your life? Lets back up though and talk about life teachers. Your life teachers play a huge part in your life too. These people help you shape the world around you whether you like it or not, for better or for worse, giving you pieces of your puzzle on reality. I've had numerous teachers in my life. Some of them may make you laugh even.

Master Splinter
Right off you're probably thinking this is a dumb blog post. Is the author of this post seriously posting that Master Splinter taught him some things on life? Yes he is. When I thought about writing this post, I wanted to go back as far as I can remember on big life thoughts and Splinter came to mind almost instantly. I was 6 or 7 when I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the movie. The good one. It was dark, deep, and had action in it, unlike the second and third movies. Well, there is a huge life lesson in the movie about family bonds and virtuous living as opposed to a life of vice; the big, big, moment for me was the talk between Splinter and Raphael on anger. It was brilliant. Splinter taught me a lot about how anger clouds the mind and also on relying on family for getting through a difficult struggle. Watch it. Not only is it a good scene for learning, but it's also a rich scene for displaying the love of a father toward his son.

Are Government Welfare Programs Virtuous?

I've been wanting to put this in a post for a long time. You know how that goes, don't you? Things like this are put on the shelf in your mind for a while. They are "important" to you, but not enough to take the time right at that moment and do it are they? I have a lot of things on the mental shelf. Well, I'm taking this one off the shelf and actually getting it in a post. Yay me.

A typical question that is asked of me in conversations about government spending and welfare is "what's wrong with government programs that help people?" or "what is wrong with government welfare? doesn't it help people?" Those are typical questions. Maybe they're real questions, certainly it depends on the person asking, but usually it's a question masked as a spear to give my position a deathblow. I don't think it's a spear that gives a deathblow though. If it is even a spear it's a Lilliputian spear at best. Even so, it's an attack to make me look immoral or less moral than the person advocating government welfare.
Let's frame it. Person asks "how can you be against government programs? The govt is simply there to help people." How do I answer this? I give an answer that is actually quite long. I won't lie, it's lengthy, but a lot of ground must be covered. My answer is not totally original I have to admit. I constructed my answer with tools from Dinesh D'Souza. He had a debate with Michael Shermer on the existence of God and someone asked D'Souza a question in the Q and A section of the debate on morality and welfare. I thought his answer was really good, so good in fact, that I used some of it to make my argument better. It's not perfect at all, but I think it's a good argument against those who think conservatives and libertarians are immoral for opposing government welfare.

"how can you be against government programs? The govt is simply there to help people."
Okay, but which people? With whose money? With whose consent? And with what result? It's one thing for the government to help those who are truly needy: people who are poor, without self-reliance or reliance on family and friends. It's totally different for the government to take resources from one "middle-class" (I cringe to use that word) family to another "middle-class family." Examples: government builds a mass-transit system. People who drive cars must pay for the transportation tastes of those who prefer to take the subway. Another redistribution example is when the government funds the National Endowment of the Arts. I have to pay for those who wish to admire a portrait of a man's genitals? That is wrong. Typically these programs do not promote common welfare or public good, or the "Great Society" if you are a LBJ fan. What is a great society? Think about John Locke. On his view, we, i.e. society, enter into a social contract with each other and place ourselves under a government to protect ourselves from foreign and local thugs, and to protect our natural rights of life, liberty and property. Why would we want to join a society that seizes our resources without our consent and bestow them on other people? Government does have an important role to play I think. What is that role? To protect us from foreign and local thugs, protect our liberty, property, and help to those who are truly needy (those who can't help themselves, can't rely on family or friends). We shouldn't be embarrassed of that. Some people do not have family and friends to rely on. What's worse is that some people can't rely on a local private charity to give them a hand-up out of the abyss of true poverty. The problem with government aid though is that government doesn't have a "bottom line." There's no clear criteria for whether a program is working. In the private sector, there is a bottom line and it's easy to tell if a program is working or not working.

Also, there's the problem of coercion. Social Security is a good example here. What if I don't want to pay social security taxes? What if I want to rely on my own investments for my retirement? How would the government respond to this? They would respond by punishing me. I don't pay the fines. They show up to my door, threatening me and such. It could get ugly quickly. The government has the power of coercion. The private sector doesn't. The parking meter attendant, IRS, immigrant offical - these people have more power over me than the CEO of McDonalds or GE. Coercion is the nature of government, which if thought out shows that the government helping people is not a moral thing at all. It's actually immoral. I'll give you an example. I'm driving down the road. I notice some people on the sidewalk asking for money. I go to the local Kroger, buy non perishable groceries for the group of people on the sidewalk. I give them the groceries, they take them and hearts are warmed. They can't repay me because they don't know me and have no way of getting in contact with me. Maybe they will help someone else when they have the chance. What do we have here? A moral action. Selflessness. What happens if government gets involved? The government takes my groceries from me by force. The government then hands the groceries over to the needy people. Instead of feeling gratitude, the people feel entitled to this benefit. The involvement of the state has stripped the transaction of its moral value even though the result is exactly the same. Replace government with a guy who had a gun to my head. Same thing. Same result. It's not just. It's not moral. It's coercion. It's vice, not virtue.

One more thing. Human nature is the same in the private and public spheres. Typically people think of the private sector as greedy, selfish, etc. The same kind of people who work in the private sector work in the public sphere also. Human nature doesn't change when it's moved from the private sector to the public sector. It's the same self-interest, just a different currency: power instead of money, or both. It's operating outside its sphere for effectiveness. We cannot even pay for the programs it currently has. It needs to be limited so it can focus on what it's supposed to do. When it stretches out past its proper functions it invades the domain of the citizens, undermining our freedom and responsibility thus neglecting the government's first principles which are to protect the natural rights of society.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quote of the Week - William Lane Craig on Moral Ontology vs Epistemology

The question that we are facing is not, “Do you have to believe in God in order to live a good and decent life?” That is not the question...The question is, “Why think that human beings have intrinsic moral worth?” The question that this argument is raising is simply this, “If God does not exist, do objective moral values and duties exist?” The question is not about the necessity of the belief in God, the question is about the necessity of the existence of God. We are not claiming belief in God is necessary for morality; we are claiming God is necessary for morality.

-William Lane Craig, Defenders Class

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interesting Poll: More people believe in an afterlife than in God

Wintery Knight posted a poll from the Institute of Education at the University of London that shows, of those polled, more people believe in an afterlife than in God.


More people may believe in an afterlife than believe in God, according to a nation-wide survey of Britons born in 1970.
Almost half – 49 per cent – of those surveyed earlier this year by the Institute of Education, University of London believe that there is ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ life after death. Only 31 per cent have said that they believe in God, either without doubts (13 per cent) or with some doubts (18 per cent).

Read more.

Science: A New Religion?

The Devil's Advocate has written an excellent blog post on the new dogmatism of Science. Instead of being a tool it's much more like a religion, even though it rejects religion and philosophy (another problem DA points out in his post). He wrote, "Science, corrupted by mankind's hubris, is as dangerous as any other dogmatic doctrine that tells us what we *must* accept as valid and *must* reject as heresy.  This is an event horizon that science is rapidly approaching - and the time to realize that and find a better middle ground is now, before it is too late."

Read more here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Quote of the Week - Frederic Bastiat on Freedom and Legislators

"If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?"

- Frédéric Bastiat