The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

DID IRENE HAVE A PURPOSE? “The Speculation-Derision-Relief Cycle of Natural Calamities.”

The fact that this speculation-derision-relief cycle must occur after almost every single natural calamity (and many man-made ones, too) suggests that, at least, we’re not as secure in our secularism as we like to claim.

Perhaps, but it’s not just religious people offer reasons for natural calamities. The Goracle (as Al Gore is affectionately known around here) regularly preaches that we are “Global Warmers in the Hands of an Angry Gaia,” which is just a secular version of natural-disaster teleology.


WHAT CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? “U.S. Muslims happy with their country despite pressure, study finds.”

Many American Muslims feel singled out by government anti-terror policies; significant minorities have been called names or had their mosques attacked; and most say it’s harder to be a Muslim in the United States now than it was before September 11, 2001.

And yet the vast majority say their communities are very good places to live, that Americans are not hostile toward Muslims, and that American Muslims have a better quality of life than Muslims elsewhere, the survey of more than 1,000 American Muslims has found.


HERE TO STAY. “The Inconvenient Truth of the Evangelical Vote.”

So it is that a presidential campaign that is largely about the economy is nevertheless deeply shaped by issues of faith and morality. The evangelical vote, which comprised an astonishing 44 percent of GOP presidential primary voters in 2008, is poised to play a larger role than ever. The media, which has been publishing the obituary of religious conservatives prematurely for a quarter century, will discover once again that social conservatives are here to stay. Their return from a long exile from civic engagement in the late 1970s was not a fad. Nor was their deep conviction that America needs moral and spiritual renewal to return it to its founding principles.


LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON…OR NOT: “The son of intelligent design heavyweight Michael Behe discusses his journey to atheism.”

Behe: The journey from very devout Catholic to outspoken atheist took about six months total. Once my trust in the Bible was shaken, I still believed strongly in a theistic god, but I realized that I hadn’t sufficiently examined my beliefs. Over the next several months, my certainty of a sentient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity faded steadily. I believe that the loss of a specific creed was the tipping point for me. After I lost the element of trust—be it trust in the Bible, trust in a church, or trust in the Pope—I had no choice but to vindicate my own beliefs through research, literature, and countless hours of deep thought. It was then that my belief in any sort of God faded away gradually, and to this day I continue to find more and more convincing evidence against any sort of design or supernatural interference in the universe. As for the arguments from design, such as irreducible complexity or the so-called fine-tuning of the six cosmological constants, I have many reasons for dismissing them each in particular, but one overarching reason would be the common refutation of William Paley’s classic watchmaker argument—the only reason that complex objects appear to be designed is because we as humans create complex objects, and we then assume that complexity is indisputably indicative of a designer. This is an association we make only as a result of what our “common sense” tells us.

Leo Behe is obviously a very intelligent young man, although he hasn’t gone to college yet. As can be seen from the excerpt above, his arguments are standard atheist fare. But would The Humanist have interviewed him if his last name weren’t Behe?


SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE: In response to Bill Keller’s questions for religious candidates, Marvin Olasky pens some “Questions for Evolving Candidates.” My favorite:

Do you agree with Darwin that “higher races” should and will become dominant over “lower ones?” If not, what in Darwinian thinking suggests that races do not compete with each other in struggle for survival of the fittest?


THE “ICK” FACTOR: “Pedophilia and the Limitations of Science and Law.”

Seeming to confirm all our worst fears about the present age, an advocacy group called B4U-ACT sponsored a conference this month whose attendees—mainly psychiatrists and researchers—seek to de-stigmatize pedophilia. Their literature is quite clear on that goal; they are not being misunderstood or misrepresented by the media.


One of the chief lessons is that there is no built-in brake on where or how far “scientific” inquiry will take us. Science, per se, will not tell us to prioritize the innocence and moral safety of children. Those quantities are irrelevant to science. Science cannot tell us what is morally wrong. In attempting to reassure the public, the American Psychiatric Association appealed to moral and not scientific principles.


DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON THE SAME REALITY: “The Common Ground Between Science and Religion.”

If we change the question to science versus religion, however, people flock to either pole of the debate. Some religious fundamentalists close their eyes to the scientific laws that make our 21st century lives possible in the name of preserving the literal words of scripture written down millennia ago by men who had a different understanding of how the universe worked. On the other extreme, scientific atheists look down their noses at those who hold religious beliefs as simpletons belonging to a different age.

The core problem in this debate stems from both sides overstretching their perspectives. A religious worldview that denies scientific knowledge will ultimately be doomed to irrelevancy. A scientific worldview without a larger philosophical, metaphysical or religious system in which to anchor itself strands one like a shipwreck survivor adrift in an ocean of meaninglessness. Neither science nor religion, on their own, can hold all of the answers to existence, but maybe together they can complement and strengthen each other.


But as good as science is at explaining the how and the what of existence, it falls short with the why and the should. Science better describes mechanics than it does meaning.


DOES JESUS WANT CREDIT FOR BIEBER? “Justin Bieber Gives Jesus Christ Credit in VMA Win.”


CONSERVATIVES AGAINST PERRY: “What’s So Scary About Rick Perry?”


A FACE ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE: “The Benefits of Being Ugly.”


FROM MY MAGAZINE: “What Does It Mean to Say God Is Holy?” by Derek Tidball, author of The Message of Holiness.

One thought on “The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

  1. The difference between religious people and others offering reasons for natural calamities is that the former degrade the outward face of the gospel, and that is by far the greater calamity.

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