You should buy all your greeting cards from the fine folks at Apoplectic.
The Only Good Thing Ever to Come Out of Religion Was the Music
I know it’s de rigueur for the blognoscenti to avow their hatred of Christmas music, but I love it. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, carols like “O Holy Night”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “What Child Is This”, “Away In a Manger”, and even “The Little Drummer Boy” are some of my favorite pieces of music, holiday or otherwise. Being in the Appalachian region, it’s easy to find lots of instrumental versions of Christmas music featuring traditional folk instruments, and I especially love the version of “Snowbird on the Ashbank” on this compilation. (Here’s three other favorites that I’ve collected and listen to every year.)
First They Came to Recruit the Gays, and I Said Nothing…
Did you know that the United States Army is concerned with the spiritual well-being of their soldiers? Did you know that if you choose not to believe in the supernatural that the United States Army can consider you unfit to serve?
Really? It’s that easy? Well, hot damn, that’s great news! I only wish someone had told me that before I went and got all these gang tattoos on my neck and face, thinking that would keep me out of Afrakistan.
This is not even an insinuation. The US Army has taken the position that a soldier who does not feel connected to a deity is an incomplete person, and that a lack of belief will somehow compromise their principles and values. It’s right there, in black and white. That the US Army would take such a position is deplorable, and the fact that it is mandatory appears to be a direct violation of the First Amendment of the constitution that these very soldiers put themselves in harms way to protect. It is discriminatory in every way and undermines the confidence that every soldier should have that their Government is supportive of them, regardless of their belief or disbelief in a deity.
Sui Generic (Slight Return)
“Most people are other people,” Oscar Wilde wrote. “Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” You get the feeling, somehow, that he thought this was a bad thing. Seems likelier that it’s just an inevitable fact about a species whose members depend for everything on each other. No single one of us has wings, claws, beaks, or any easy way to make a laptop or a catch a tuna. What we have, instead, is our relationships to other people, through which come laptops, tuna, other necessities—and the sense of connection without which we’re miserable. We create a lot of ourselves by imitating others, then, and that’s not only because we lack enough lifetimes to reinvent all human knowledge. It’s also because imitation makes it easier to communicate information and connect emotionally.
Peter Lawler, summarizing David Bentley Hart:
Hart’s “governing conviction” is that what our new atheists regard as modern progress in the direction of rational liberation is itself a reactionary superstition. The modern Enlightenment has actually been a rebellion against the whole truth about our natures, about who we are, and about the true source of our freedom and dignity. And that rebellion has been not so much radical as selective and self-indulgent. By compassionately privileging personal freedom and human rights over what they believe they know through science, the new atheists remain parasitic on the key Christian insight about who we are. Their attachment to the humane virtues makes no sense outside the Christian claim for the unique and irreplaceable dignity of every human person. That claim is completely unsupported by either ancient (Aristotelian) or modern (Darwinian) science. The sentimental preferences of our atheists are really those of a Christianity without Christ.…Christ, the Christians claimed, freed us from the limitations of our merely biological natures through his perfect reconciliation of God’s nature and man’s nature. He was, the Nicene fathers concluded, fully God and fully man, and his redemption was to divinize every man. Christ freed each of us for unlimited love for every other person made in God’s image; Christ was the foundation of a virtuous way of life based on a vision of the good that has no pagan counterpart. Charity to all became the virtue most in accord with the truth about who we are. For Hart, the wonder is that anyone could have imagined the ideals of the Christian faith in the first place, given that those ideals had so little support in any pre-Christian conception of who we are.It is barely too strong to say that, for Hart, Christ transformed each of us from being nobody to being somebody—indeed, a somebody of infinite value. None of us is destined to be a slave, and death has been overcome. We are no longer defined by our merely biological natures, because our nature is now to be both human and divine. From one view, there is no empirical evidence that death has been overcome for each particular human being. From another, the evidence is the unprecedented virtue flowing from the unconditional love present among the early Christians and that virtue’s indirect, historical transformation of the broader social and political world. The change in who we are is the result of a deepened human inwardness or self-consciousness: Christ made each of us irreducibly deeper by infusing divinity into every nook and cranny of our natures.
The Dust of Exploded Beliefs May Make a Fine Sunset
Proving she’s no one-trick pony, Mary Elizabeth Williams demonstrates that she can be just as stupid about atheism as she can about Michael Vick. Oops, did I just prove her point? I’m so mean.
Unlike those who would rub what they want you to “know” in your face, Gervais has a gentlemanly, eminently British way of conveying his philosophy. He considers the astonishing number of animal species in the world and understatedly muses that perhaps the story of Noah’s Ark “isn’t totally accurate.” He refers to the Bible as “a dusty old book” that sounds “a little bit farfetched.” And in a highly entertaining “holiday message” for the Wall Street Journal this week titled “Why I’m an Atheist,” he wrote, “I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true.”
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t?
“I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. Your counter-arguments seem to me very correct and could hardly be better formulated. It is always misleading to use anthropomorphical concepts in dealing with things outside the human sphere — childish analogies. We have to admire in humility and beautiful harmony of the structure of this world — as far as we can grasp it. And that is all.”Four years later, in 1949, Raner wrote Einstein again, asking for clarification: “Some people might interpret (your letter) to mean that to a Jesuit priest, anyone not a Roman Catholic is an atheist, and that you are in fact an orthodox Jew, or a Deist, or something else. Did you mean to leave room for such an interpretation, or are you from the viewpoint of the dictionary an atheist; i.e., ‘one who disbelieves in the existence of a God, or a Supreme Being?’” Einstein responded on September 28, 1949:“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”
It Seems Your Ring Is Sliding Off My Hand
We could call them the lower-middle class or the upper-working class, but the better term is the moderately educated middle. They do not have BAs, MBAs, or PhDs. But they are not high-school dropouts either. They might have even achieved some college or training beyond high school. They are not upscale, but they are not poor. They don’t occupy any of the margins, yet they are often overlooked, even though they make up the largest share of the American middle class. In many respects, these high-school graduates are quite similar to their college-educated peers. They work. They pay taxes. They raise children. They take family vacations. But there is one thing that today’s moderately educated men and women, unlike today’s college graduates or yesterday’s high-school graduates, are increasingly less likely to do: get and stay happily married.
- Robbie Robertson — Mahk Jchi
- Primal Scream — Exterminator
- The Dresden Dolls — Night Reconnaissance
- Andreas Kisser — Virgulândia
- Tomahawk — Antelope Ceremony
- The Wildhearts — Tim Smith
- Faith No More — Stripsearch
- Erik Mongrain — Fusions
- Black Mountain — The Hair Song
- Eisbrecher — Kuss
- The Obsessed — Touch of Everything
- Sigur Rós — Ágætis Byrjun
- Yawning Man — Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway
- Dead Can Dance — The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
- Nine Inch Nails — My Violent Heart
- Primus — Here Come the Bastards
- Rob Zombie — Virgin Witch
- Type O Negative — Haunted
- The Beta Band — Alleged
- Grandaddy — Collective Dreamwish of Upperclass Elegance
The Ghost in the Machine
Fruit flies and other simple organisms might seem like they’re creatures of instinct, governed by a set of basically predictable stimuli and responses. But fruit flies actually have free will. Depending on what your definition of free will is.Leaving philosophy aside, we know humans have free will because we’re able to evaluate a set of different options and make a conscious decision as to which of them we’re going to choose. But for animals, we can’t ask them how they go about making decisions, so figuring out whether they possess free will in a biological sense is much trickier.