Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: “Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?,” Part V: “Atheists Can Be Moral, Too” Part VI: “Morality Is Objective, and We Can Prove It“
Given the term’s religious origins, it should be no wonder why “sacrifice” holds sacred status in our culture. Parents are lauded for the sacrifices they make on behalf of their children. Those who serve in the military, or in law enforcement, or those who risk their lives to put out fires — all are praised for the sacrifices they make for their community. We are persistently called to sacrifice in both public and private life. Policies have been sold by appealing to “what you can do for your country.”
This broad use of the term “sacrifice” fails to distinguish between two concepts which should not be confused with each other. Most of the above examples of “sacrifice” are actually profitable transactions where something of lesser value is given up in exchange for something of greater value. Contrasted to that, appeals to sacrifice in our political discourse frequently call for transactions where something of greater value is given up in exchange for something of lesser or no value.
To highlight this distinction, let’s work through a few examples.
A parent who gives up a trip to Paris or an expensive hobby so they can afford to send their children to private school is not giving up something of greater value for something of lesser value. They have determined in their judgment that the education of their children is a higher value than the vacation or hobby. Most parents do not resent their children as unjust drains upon their happiness.
A college student who gives up a night on the town with friends so they may study for a big test has not sacrificed something of greater value. They have determined in their judgment that their academic success is a higher value than the short-term pleasure of a night out. Most graduates clutching their diploma do not wish they had spent less time studying and more time drinking.
When we consider the role of a firefighter or a soldier, the calculus gets a little more complicated. But the principle remains the same. A firefighter who runs into a burning building does not do so with the intent to die, but with the intent to save. He assumes a risk, not because he deems his life of lesser value than the lives of others, but because he values life as such and seeks a world where those in danger are rescued.
Similarly, even in a scenario where soldiers are ordered to their deaths, they follow not because they want to die, but – with apologies to Mel Gibson – because they want to live. A world where evil is fought, where rights are preserved and liberty protected, offers a higher value than a life lived in slavery to tyrants. If one dies in pursuit of a life lived on their terms, it cannot be said that they sacrificed anything. The sacrifice would be to live in chains.
Indeed, what we really mean when we say that a solider or his family “sacrificed” for our freedom is that they exhibited virtue in pursuit of liberty. It seems unlikely that any particular soldier who has been killed in action had a total stranger in mind at the time and thought, “This is for you.” Rather, we at home stand as peripheral beneficiaries of the soldier’s pursuit of self-interest. He wants to live life on his terms, not on the terms of a tyrant. He wants his family and friends back home to be safe and to live free, and is willing to act accordingly. He’s willing to die if necessary, but death is not what he’s seeking.
The distinction here is between the pursuit of self-interest and the sacrifice of it. Many of the things we term “sacrifice” are actually rational pursuits of self-interest. Even when the pursuit risks or assures death, it’s still motivated by chosen life-affirming values. By contrast, real sacrifice is selfless in the sense that it betrays one’s values for the sake of something which isn’t a value. By conflating the two, we muddy the rhetorical waters, particularly in the political discourse.
When a politician comes to you pitching a new tax or restriction and sells it as a “sacrifice” for the sake of fill-in-the-blank, they are appealing to the sense of responsibility which compels you to prioritize your interests. They say such-and-such policy is “for the children.” You think about your children and what you’d be willing to do for them. The problem is, the policy isn’t limited to what you do with your resources for your children. Nor is it an appeal to charity wherein you choose to use your resources in support of a cause you favor. It is a call to sacrifice your values for those determined by others.
Indeed, to be truly altruistic, one cannot value the cause which they support. If you value the cause, then you’re just pursuing your own interest, and the altruists won’t give you any credit. This is, in part, why private charity is derided by leftists as an inadequate response the plight of the poor. If you only give to those you deem worthy, you’re discriminating against and neglecting those who need your help the most — those whom you do not deem worthy. It’s to these that you must sacrifice.
You’ve probably heard by now that director Paul Feig will helm a rebooted Ghostbusters film starring an all-female cast. From his previous work on the highly successful Bridesmaids, he’s bringing over Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. They will be joined by SNL performers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
The official announcement came after many years of perennial rumors, mostly driven by original Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd. The actor desperately sought a revival of the franchise in the form of a third sequel to the original film. The elder cast would perhaps hand the reins over to a group of younger paranormal investigators. With last year’s untimely death of actor Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the original, the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3 seemed to fade.
Sony Pictures’ choice to reboot the franchise entirely, to dispense with established continuity and begin fresh with an all-female cast, seemed odd enough. Now we get even weirder news.
Not long after Sony announced a deal with Marvel Studios enabling Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and endure yet another reboot), it was also announced that Captain America: The Winter Solider directors Joe and Anthony Russo had signed a deal with Sony to helm projects there. Given the Russo brothers’ history with Marvel Studios and the recent MCU deal, the conventional wisdom among observers was that the Russos were taking over the Spider-Man franchise.
As it turns out, the Russos’ first project with Sony won’t be Spider-Man or a related property. Entertainment Weekly reports:
[Sony], along with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, is establishing Ghostcorps, a company that will develop movies, TV, and merchandising around the Ghostbusters…
After the female-led Paul Feig movie, the first task for the company will be a film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who recently signed a deal with Sony. The Russos will produce along with Reitman, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, and Channing Tatum, who is being eyed to star.
Deadline first reported on the company and the film. “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment,” Reitman told Deadline. “This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy.”
Absent further details, the whole thing sounds a bit odd. Are there going to be multiple Ghostbuster teams running around? Is the Tatum/Russo project going to follow the continuity of the original films? It seems strange that the same studio would be pursuing two different projects within the same franchise utilizing completely different creative teams.
Are you interested in either of these projects? Or should Ghostbusters rest in peace?
Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: “Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?,” Part V: “Atheists Can Be Moral, Too“
What is morality anyway? You might think it goes without saying. But different people don’t always mean the same thing when they claim an act is moral or immoral.
For believers, morality tends to boil down to obeying God’s commandments. When we say this is moral and that is not, we mean it conforms with or diverges from biblical prescriptions.
With that as our view of morality, it becomes easy to see why we might claim that there can be no morality without God. We’ve set God’s commandments as our standard of value. But what if, by doing so, we’ve placed the proverbial cart before the horse? Are God’s commandants good because he said so? Or does God issue commandments because they are good?
Before we can rationally tackle such questions, we need to define our terms. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, author Craig Biddle leads us on a path toward discovering a morality induced from the facts we perceive in creation:
To begin, note that the basic fact that makes morality such a difficult subject is the very fact that makes it a subject in the first place: free will. As human beings we have the faculty of volition, the power of choice; we choose our actions. This fact gives rise to our need of morality. Indeed, the realm of morality is the realm of choice. What makes the issue complicated is the fact that our choices are guided by our values – which are also chosen. This is why it is so difficult to get to the bottom of morality. Human values are chosen – every last one of them. Consequently, peoples’ values seem to differ in every imaginable way.
Nearly all of our chosen values are subjective. I like basketball. You like football. Which of us is right?
We tend to recognize that there is no “right” choice between such values. We may be tempted to extrapolate that there are no “right” choices at all, that all values are subjective. That’s the argument of moral relativism.
One such relativist was the philosopher David Hume, who presented an alleged unbridgeable gap between that which is and how we ought to act. This “is-ought gap” suggests that there is no way to leap from the facts of reality to a code of conduct, that there is no objective standard of value.
It turns out that Hume was wrong. There is an objective standard of value. Proving it requires no reference to God or religion. The is-ought gap was bridged in the last century by the discoveries of philosopher Ayn Rand. She wrote in her essay “The Objectivist Ethics”:
There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence – and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible. it changes form, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of “Life” that makes the concept of “Value” possible.
Biddle adds in his commentary:
The reason why living things need values is: in order to live. The answer to the question “for what?”is: for life.
Life is the ultimate end served by our pursuit of values, and thus reigns as our objective standard of value. Something has value to us only to the extent that it furthers or enhances our life.
But what do we mean by “objective”? Isn’t the idea that life is the standard of value just Rand’s opinion? Can’t you choose another standard based on your subjective tastes? Biddle answers:
No, free will do not make the issue subjective. It does mean that a person can choose not to live; but it does not mean that he can choose a standard of value other than life.
… Without life there would be no one to whom anything could be beneficial or harmful. And why do such alternatives matter one way or the other? Because of the requirements of life. They are values or non-values only in relation to the alternative of life or death – and only for the purpose of promoting one’s life. The fact that we have free will does not change any of this; it simply grants us a choice in the matter: to live or not to live – to be or not to be.
Having discovered this objective standard of value, we have our reference point for further unveiling an objective morality. From the fact of our own existence as living beings with a particular nature, we can rationally ascertain what we ought to do.
Generally speaking, we ought to work to provide for our needs. We ought to act to obtain or keep that which furthers our survival and makes us happy.
This happiness, the sort referenced by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, is not a hedonistic whim. It’s not chocolate for a diabetic. It’s not an affair for a married man. Rather, true happiness is gauged in the context of how life works and what we can reasonably expect to follow from our actions. The diabetic who eats lots of chocolate may gain short-term pleasure, but at the expense of his long-term well-being. The same can be said of the adulterer.
Odd how this objective morality, discovered by an unrepentant atheist, starts to dimly echo the Ten Commandments. Indeed, if God exists, and if He created the universe, it follows that his moral commandments would jive with the facts of his crafted reality – that He would prescribe action in our best interest.
While Biddle, Rand, and other Objectivist thinkers reject religion on principle, believers need not reject the morality they present. On the contrary, recognizing objective morality glorifies God. Romans 1:19-20 reads:
… that which is known about God is evident within [man]; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Paul here says, in essence, that we can induce from the world – from what is – what we ought to do.
If we entertain objective morality as believers, we are presented with a challenge to some of our doctrine. In particular, we must figure out what to do with our human sacrifice problem. If life is the standard of value, which it’s fair to say we have firmly established, then how can sacrificing life ever be moral?
Biddle sets the context for deliberation:
Since each person is objectively a separate being with his own body, his own mind, his own life – since life is an attribute of the individual – each person’s own life is his own ultimate value. Each individual is morally an end in himself – not a means to the ends of others. Accordingly, a person has neither a moral duty to sacrifice himself for the sake of others (as religion and social subjectivism claim) nor a moral right to sacrifice others for his own sake (as personal subjectivism [or hedonism] claims). On principle, neither self-sacrifice nor sacrifice of others is moral, because, on principle, human sacrifice as such is immoral.
What then must we do with the Christian reverence for sacrifice? What do we do with Abraham’s offering of Issac? With Christ’s work on the cross? How do we categorize things like military service or working as a firefighter? How do we regard charity, parenthood, marriage, and a hundred other human interactions which are typically associated with sacrifice in a positive connotation?
That’s our subject for next week.
We’ve had some time to process the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. The character which Nimoy helped create inspired generations to seek balance between discipline and feeling. Let’s take a look back through Spock’s trek through the stars in these 10 clips from the franchise.
What It Means To Be Vulcan
In one of the most definitive moments from the original series, Spock finds himself torn between his dual natures when a debilitating attack upon Captain Kirk leaves Spock in command of the Enterprise during a critical diplomatic mission.
The wrinkle is that Spock’s father lies sick among the delegation, succumbing to a malady that only a transfusion from Spock can resolve. But yielding to the procedure would compromise Spock’s capacity to command while the ship is under threat, and so logic dictates that he mind his Starfleet duty and allow his father to die.
Spock’s human mother pleads for him to reconsider in this heated confrontation.
Catch up on this series’ previous installments: Part I: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem,” Part II: “Is Religion Illogical?” Part III: “Would Christians Object to Living Indefinitely Through Technology?,” Part IV: Is Religion Compatible with Life on Earth?
Can There Be Objective Morality without God?
Believers commonly assert that, without God, there can be no “objective right and wrong.” Yet, such an assertion ignores what it means to be objective. When we identify something as objective rather than subjective, we’re saying it can be observed in the real world. We’re saying it can be perceived, or conceived through reason applied to our perception. Even the most fervent believer must confess that God transcends our human perception, and therefore cannot be cited as a source of objective morality.
The appeal to God as a source of morality proceeds from our recognition that some standard must be applied to our decision-making process. Otherwise, anything goes. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, author Craig Biddle addresses this problem:
The problem is not: “If there is no God, anything goes.” The problem is: If there is no objective standard of value, anything goes. If there is no rationally provable standard of value, there is no way to defend with moral certainty what is right or to condemn with moral certainty what is wrong. The alternative is not religion versus subjectivism, but reason versus subjectivism – and the secular subjectivists know it.
The secular subjectivists Biddle references are those within the culture who reject religion as a source of morality, but make no effort to replace it with anything concrete. They suffice to say that morality emerges from social convention or rests in the eye of the beholder. What is right, they claim, is what makes you feel good, or what results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or what serves the “common good.”
How Do We Respond to Secular Subjectivism and Moral Relativism?
Believers offer our appeal to God as the source of “objective morality” in answer to such blatant subjectivism or moral relativism. Right and wrong can’t be left to whim, we argue. But our appeal to God doesn’t solve the problem.
Subjectivism – whether personal, social, or “supernatural” – wreaks havoc on human life and happiness. Until we can answer it with (genuine) moral certainty – that is, until we can show that morality is based on facts – it will continue to do so. From muggings and rapes, to school shootings and truck bombings, to concentration camps and gulags, to religious “inquisitions” and divinely inspired acts of terrorism – all such mayhem is caused by subjectivism. And the is-ought dichotomy is what makes subjectivism seem plausible.
The “Is-Ought” Dichotomy
This “is-ought dichotomy” is the philosophical dead end in which believers spar with secular subjectivists. Our culture has given up on the task of discovering a truly objective morality, because we have largely bought into the notion that values cannot be derived from facts, that we cannot discern an “ought” from an “is.”
The Moral Abyss of David Hume’s Philosophy
Biddle points to the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume as the originator of the is-ought dichotomy. Hume taught that it is logically impossible to transition from observable facts about the natural world to a code of conduct or set of values. The problem with Hume’s conclusion is that it leaves us with nowhere to go, with no moral anchor nor any means to discover one.
The is-ought gap represents a moral abyss. If we care about human life and happiness, we need to bridge it. We need to ground morality in reality; we need to discover a rationally provable ultimate end – a standard of value derived from observation and logic.
Christian believers should not feel discouraged or threatened by this. Indeed, scripture exhorts us to look to creation for general revelation regarding the character and nature of God. Paul says in Romans 1:20:
For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The Natural World Provides Guideposts for Appropriate Human Action
The primary such guidepost is a standard of value from which to judge the appropriateness of all other conceived values, an end unto itself which all other ends support.
An end is a goal toward which one acts; a means is the action one takes toward a goal. For instance, if a student studies in order to get an education, the education is an end toward which his studying is the means. Likewise, if a person works in order to earn a paycheck, the paycheck is an end toward which his work is the means. But notice that such goals are not ends in themselves. A student gets an education so that he can pursue a career – which he pursues in order to support himself and earn a paycheck – which he earns in order to buy things – which he buys in order to use for various other purposes – which he pursues in order to accomplish still other goals – and so on. Each end presupposes another. So where does it all end?
If we are to establish an objective, fact-based morality, we need to discover a final end – one toward which all of our other goals and values are properly aimed. Such an end is by that fact our standard of moral value – the standard against which we can objectively assess the value of all our choices and actions. So the question becomes: What is our ultimate goal?
When we identify this ultimate goal, the question of what we ought to do becomes objectively answerable. That, and only that, is how we discern an objective morality.
As this series continues, we will present and evaluate this objective standard of value. Biddle offers it as an alternative to religion. But one need not be an atheist to accept it. Indeed, the discovery of an objective standard for moral action should embolden the believer and deepen our appreciation of God.
As a father, I may answer any challenge from my son with the proverbial “because I told you so.” In doing so, I don’t offer an actual reason. I merely assert my authority. While that authority proves legitimate, my ultimate desire for my son is that he one day understand why my instruction and rules serve his interest.
Similarly, the appeal to God as a moral authority may prove correct, but says nothing of why his prescriptions are good for us. A consideration of objective morality works to bridge that gap.
Even if we conclude that God exists, that does not mean He is worthy of worship. Different presentations of God offer conflicting moral prescriptions, many of which defy our objective sense of right and wrong. It’s easy to understand why critics of religion, like author Craig Biddle, deem faith illogical and even evil. Examples like Islam’s Sharia law speak for themselves.
But Biddle argues that any religious prescription ultimately proves counter-productive to human happiness. From his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It:
To the extent a person is religious, he believes that he has a duty to self-sacrificially serve God. This duty requires him to abandon his own selfish dreams. If he sticks to his faithful convictions and abandons his dreams, he cannot be happy, because his dreams go forever unrealized. Conversely, if he hypocritically abandons his convictions and pursues his dreams, he still cannot be happy, for he is filled with moral guilt and dread of divine retribution.
Biddle offers the hypothetical example of a young girl who desires to be an accomplished ballerina, but feels compelled to serve God by becoming a nun or missionary. We might likewise consider the tithe. What could you do with the money contributed to your church? Aren’t you sacrificing whatever you could do – whatever debt you could pay, whatever provision you could acquire, whatever dream you could chase – by giving up a portion of your income to religion?
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Immutability stands as a defining characteristic of divine nature. A god who changes cannot be God. At least that’s been a long-standing Christian doctrine.
But at least one best-selling author and pastor believes that Christianity itself must change. The Blaze reports:
Former megachurch pastor Rob Bell told TV host Oprah Winfrey that he believes Christian churches will become even more irrelevant if they fail to embrace gay relationships and that he sees the Christian umbrella becoming more favorable of homosexuality in the very near future.
When Winfrey asked when the church will come on board with same-sex relationships, Bell, the former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, said that he believes that the time is “close” and that “we’re just moments away from the church accepting it,” according to the Christian Post.
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone,” Bell said on OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday.”
Two things stand out from these comments. First, Bell proceeds on the unspoken premise that cultural relevance ought to be a Christian value. Of course, if Christians want to be relevant to the culture, they should just renounce Christianity. Scripture is replete with exhortations for the believer to stand apart from the culture, to be distinct in both attitude and conduct. You’d be hard pressed to find a passage in the Bible urging Christians to be “relevant” to the world around them.
Which leads to the second standout from Bell’s comments: his cavalier dismissal of scripture. Who needs 2,000 year old letters to guide their theology? That’s so yesterday. One wonders why anyone would bother to consider themselves Christian at all if they hold so little regard for biblical authority.
It may seem like hubris when AMC Movie News editor-in-chief John Campea intros his daily online webcast as “the best damn movie-related show on the planet.” But watch and compare. You’ll soon conclude that AMC Movie Talk and its associated programs stand head and shoulders above their competition.
There’s no shortage of movie reviews and movie news commentary, both online and broadcast traditionally. What makes AMC’s programming special is the quality of their commentators and the savvy with which Campea employs them.
These aren’t amateurs shooting with webcams against a green screen in their mom’s basement. These are industry professionals with insight into the art and business of film. While Campea frequently reminds viewers that “all film is subjective,” the opinions and analysis offered by the AMC crew are always backed by a credible rationale.
For example, when news hit the web that Ben Affleck had been cast to play Batman in the forthcoming follow-up to Man of Steel, the choice was widely condemned by just about everyone. Campea stood alone as a dissenting voice in support of the decision. He wasn’t just being a fanboy. Campea explained that Affleck has emerged as a tremendous asset for Warner Bros. This is an Academy Award-winning actor who has won other industry prizes for his writing and directing. Affleck has come a long way from the days of Daredevil and Gigli. The smart money rides on Affleck directing one or more films in the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe. Why wouldn’t you want the director of Argo helping you catch up to Marvel Studios?
If you haven’t found AMC Movie Talk yet, now is the time to get on board. Campea took to social media on Monday to announce the launch of a new phase for the organization. In addition to the daily AMC Movie Talk and frequent AMC Mailbag shows, March will see three new weekly additions. As a new age of Star Wars films dawns with this year’s The Force Awakens, AMC Jedi Council will go in depth with news, rumors, and analysis. AMC Heroes will focus on the increasing number of comic book films slated in the coming years. Finally, AMC Rewind will hearken back to films at least 20 years old and introduce viewers to classics they may have missed.
Oh, and if independent film is your thing, check out AMC Indie Spotlight. Housed on a YouTube channel all its own, the show deals exclusively with independent film. There’s something for everyone.
We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.
But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?
Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:
America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…
While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?
… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.
The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?
The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.
One of the most intriguing stories to come out of the Sony hack last year was the revelation that Marvel Studios had been engaged in secret talks to include Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony holds the license to produce Spider-Man films, and has shepherded the character through a rebooted franchise starring Andrew Garfield in the title role.
All that may be about to change. Straight from the horse’s mouth at Marvel.com:
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.
Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.
Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films.
The news raises several questions. Will the “new direction” for Spider-Man take the form of another reboot? Or will the world of The Amazing Spider-Man films be integrated into the existing MCU? How will Marvel Studios ensure the continuity of their cinematic universe if Sony retains “final creative control” of Spider-Man’s adventures? It all seems very risky, at least without additional details spelling out how it will work.
Might Marvel pursue a similar arrangement with Twentieth Century Fox to bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU? It certainly seems more likely after this news, but would depend on a lot of unknowns. Will the new Fantastic Four reboot be a hit? Will the forthcoming X-Men Apocalypse prove as successful as last year’s Days of Future Past? Will this arrangement with Sony pan out successfully? If the answers to all those questions are yes, then a broader collaboration may make sense.
The downside to bringing all these characters into the same universe is that it crowds out less popular ones. There’s an argument that the MCU as we know it never would have been made if Marvel retained the rights to make Spider-Man and X-Men films. Would something like Guardians of the Galaxy have been made if Marvel could have fallen back on a better known property? Will the inclusion of Spider-Man in the MCU actually stagnate its creative development?
No matter how it pans out, it’s probably safe to say that all studios concerned are about to make a ton of money.
As we continue though Craig Biddle’s critique of religion found in his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, we are introduced to the concept of objective morality:
“Objective” means “fact-based.” For morality to be objective, it has to be based on a standard of value derived not from feelings, but from facts.
The notion of objective morality stands in contrast to various forms of subjectvism which have dominated much of human history. Biddle lists “religious subjectivism” among “secular subjectivism” and “personal subjectivism” as three variations of the same phenomenon. In this way, he connects the rhetoric and methods of the church, the Nazis, and hedonistic criminals.
This is how an argument for God always ends. One believes because one believes – which means: because one wants to. Religion is a doctrine based not on facts, but on feelings. Thus, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, religion is a form of subjectivism.
In light of this fact, it should come as no surprise that while secular subjectivism denies some of religion’s unproved, evidence-free claims, it demands and employs the very same methods – faith, mysticism, and dogma.
For instance, according to the Nazis, Hitler’s will determined the truth…
Believers may scoff at the comparison. Yet consider the foundation upon which it is built.
#9. SpongeBob Square Pants: Sponge Out of Water
It’s SpongeBob. He wears square pants. This time, he’s coming out of the water.
Have fun kids. Daddy will be next door watching Ted 2.
“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.
Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”
“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”
“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”
Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”
While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.
So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.
A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.
From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.
Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.
Does Christianity call for human sacrifice?
When you put the question like that, the instinctive response of any given Christian would tend toward a resounding “no.” After all, human sacrifice is a barbaric act which no rational person could condone. We believers like to regard ourselves as rational.
Yet, a cursory examination of popular Christian doctrine suggests that human sacrifice – to one degree or another – stands as a central tenet of the faith. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, author Craig Biddle cites “religionists” – including many prominent Christian theologians – to demonstrate that religion calls upon man to sacrifice his own interests to “an alleged God.”
As a Christian, I find Biddle’s observations compelling. Having considered them within the broader context of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy for several years, I have come to question the manner in which Christian teachers present the topic of sacrifice. Increasingly, I have come under the conviction that Christendom has interpreted sacrifice incorrectly. In my view, it is because Christendom has misinterpreted sacrifice that critics like Biddle are able to present Christianity as force for evil rather than good.
With this introductory essay, I invite you to join me in an ongoing exploration of Christian doctrine and the challenges brought against it. My objective, as we proceed week after week, will be to correct what I have come to regard as a doctrinal error causing tremendous confusion within the church and posing a stumbling block for seekers and believers alike. To be clear, my claim is not that God’s Word is wrong, but that our reading of it has been. I hope to demonstrate that my altered view of sacrifice is the view actually taught within scripture.
Commentators, both on the political Left and within libertarian circles, have been wringing hands over the tremendous commercial success of Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle bio-pic American Sniper. From The Wrap:
Over the weekend, multiple Academy members told TheWrap that they had been passing around a recent article by Dennis Jett in The New Republic that attacks the film for making a hero out of Kyle, who said: “The enemy are savages and despicably evil,” and his “only regret is that I didn’t kill more.” Kyle made the statements in his best-selling book, “American Sniper,” on which the film is based…
…Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”
“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.
And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”
Moore has since walked back his comments, if only just a bit. The Interview star Seth Rogen came under scrutiny for comparing American Sniper to a Nazi propaganda film only to also walk his comments back. In these and many other lower-profile cases, the common denominator is a moral equivalence between America and forces like Nazi Germany, the Taliban, or ISIS.
Is it any wonder that American Sniper has dominated the box office? From the Associated Press:
Clint Eastwood’s R-rated Iraq War drama … opened in January like a superhero movie in July, taking in a record $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. four-day weekend.
The film’s unprecedented success obliterated forecasts and set numerous box-office records. It easily surpassed “Avatar” to become the biggest January weekend ever.
Of course it has. This is a film that gives American audiences what they want. PJM’s David Forsmark swoons:
American Sniper lives up to its title. This is an intensely American film. Everything about Chris Kyle’s background, from hunting with his father, to the little country church, to wanting to be a cowboy, is not just Texas, it’s America.
When America gets what America wants, studios make $100 million in four days.
So why don’t more studios make these kinds of films? Why do we instead get inundated with cynical anti-American garbage with anti-heroes espousing an anti-philosophy?
We need not look far for our answer. From The Wrap:
Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”
“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.
And Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted on Sunday, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”
Money may be a store of value, but it’s not the standard. For those holding the reins in Hollywood, the social acceptance of their community can often be a higher value than record profits.
We don’t see more films like American Sniper for the same reason we don’t see more G-rated family films. Movies you can take your kids to earn money hand over fist, for obvious reasons. Conversely, R-rated films have a built-in market limitation which translates to a smaller box office take. That’s why Fox’s forthcoming Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as a filthy-mouthed mercenary from the X-Men universe is aiming for a PG-13 rating. Gotta get those kids in the seats.
Even so, we see far more R-rated exploitation fare and self-indulgent art house films which critique American culture than we see films like American Sniper. That’s because the former earn kudos from the industry, a currency nearly as good as cash in Hollywood.
Indeed, how many times have you heard it said of a star that he is doing that summer blockbuster to earn a check so he can afford to make an “important” film later? Such importance is not measured by commercial success, but by the accolades of fellow liberal artists.
That was the subject line of an email sent out Wednesday by the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance in reference to the freshman congressman from the state’s Sixth District. Emmer this week filled the seat previously held by Michele Bachmann.
[Voters] put a man in office with the expectation that he would fight for smaller government and more liberty. However, in his first real test vote as a conservative, Tom Emmer voted wrong and against the wishes of his conservative base by voting for John Boehner as Speaker.
Similar condemnations and recriminations crisscrossed social media like missiles exchanged in a nuclear apocalypse. The ruckus was not contained to Minnesota. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) was compelled to issue a statement rebuking detractors of his vote for Boehner. He described a hopeless scenario wherein the speaker could not have been removed:
… there were never enough votes to oust Boehner to begin with. On top of that, some people who had publicly said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for Boehner did just that. This was an effort driven as much by talk radio as by a thoughtful and principled effort to make a change. It was poorly considered and poorly executed, and I learned first-hand [from participating in a previous coup attempt in 2013] that is no way to fight a battle. This coup today was bound to fail. And in fact, it failed worse than I expected, falling 11 votes short of deposing the Speaker. At least two years ago we only failed by six.
At the root of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the several controversies which have fueled it, lies a critical disagreement over the nature and importance of property. At first glance, in the midst of an unarmed shooting and a death by choke-hold, it may not seem like property rights stand out. But they do.
From the moment Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery, through the looting and arson which have characterized the response to his shooting death, to the trespass and harassment which have been committed and sanctioned by protestors across the nation, the implicit (and sometimes explicit) narrative has been that property does not matter.
I responded here at PJ Media and on my Fightin Words podcast to Reason author Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s critique of a city attorney for pursuing criminal and civil charges against Black Lives Matter protestors who staged an unlawful demonstration at the Mall of America. Both Brown and the organizers she quoted repeatedly referred to the event, an admitted act of trespass, as “peaceful.”
My thesis was simple. There’s no such thing as peaceful trespass. If you’re going to encroach upon the rights of others, you are not being peaceful. You are committing an act of violence.
Christianity is an absurd death cult. That was the expressed belief of the late Christopher Hitchens, one among the so-called “new atheists” who engaged in an aggressive sort of anti-evangelism. Hitchens once sketched his view of the incarnation thus:
In order to be Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years our species suffered and died… [enduring] famine, struggle, viciousness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years – heaven watches it with complete indifference – and then 2,000 years ago [God] thinks that’s enough of that, it’s time to intervene. The best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate part of the Middle East…
Hitchens’ presentation of Christianity highlights one of the greatest challenges to Christian apologetics. Increasingly, a dichotomy has been offered between reason and faith. Ayn Rand defined the two concepts as opposites, and the co-relation of religion and atrocity has been increasingly cited as evidence that faith literally kills.
This Christmas Day, I offer a preview of an ongoing project to begin here at PJ Lifestyle in the new year. Working through books on the topics of reason, individual rights, and the Christian worldview, we will explore how we might reconcile our human perception with divine revelation.
We’ve all seen it a few dozen times by now, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. For the most part, it looks quite good. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and hiring of Abrams signaled a clear advancement of the franchise from the malaise of the prequels to something better resembling the original trilogy. Indeed, this trailer’s aesthetic looks a lot more like classic Star Wars than anything we saw in Episodes I through III.
There’s only one major hiccup, and it’s quite concerning. While the TIE fighters look like TIE fighters, the X-Wings look like X-Wings, and the Millennium Falcon looks better than ever, what’s up with that new lightsaber?
With Abrams’ direction setting the tone for the plethora of Star Wars films due in the next six years, his creative choices prove definitive and therefore important. We can look to his previous efforts in the Star Trek franchise for clues into how he will approach it.
One thing that seemed very clear from Abrams’ approach to Star Trek was that he wasn’t shy about drastically altering the aesthetic of the universe. Everything from the way phasers work to the look of warp drive to the Apple store-themed bridge of the Enterprise was a sharp deviation from the franchise’s established look and feel.
Looking for a movie to watch this holiday that’s at least somewhat relevant to the season? Perfect. We’ve got you covered.
These films aren’t necessarily about Thanksgiving, although a couple of them are. Regardless, they each have some connection to the holiday and provide a welcome escape. Here are 10 films set around Thanksgiving that you can stream tonight:
#10. Tower Heist
Capitalizing on real-life headlines regarding Wall Street graft and investment Ponzi schemes, Tower Heist imagines how the staff of a high-rise luxury apartment complex would react to the news that their most high-profile tenant had squandered their retirement savings. The comedy stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, and Alan Alda.
When Alda’s Wall Street billionaire is arrested for scamming investors out of their money, Stiller’s building manager recruits Murphy’s petty thief to help the defrauded building staff steal their money back.
Thanksgiving Connection: The titular heist occurs during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Streaming options: Available to rent/buy on Amazon and Vudu.
Above, you can view the new trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. The film marks the third such reimagining, following this year’s hugely successful Maleficent and 2010′s Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland. If Cinderella proves successful, which seems to be a foregone conclusion, the question becomes: which other Disney classics might lend themselves to a live-action treatment?
Not every old Disney film stands as an ideal candidate. Many feature talking animals as their main characters and, if you were to try to translate them into CGI within a live-action setting, wouldn’t prove that much different than their animated originals.
Weeding those out, let’s rank what’s left. Here are 10 Disney classics which deserve a live-action remake.
Warner Bros. recently announced an aggressive slate of films based upon DC Comics properties which will share a single cinematic universe, an answer to the successful franchise which Marvel Studios has built since 2008’s Iron Man. The DC slate opens with 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and will continue the same year with Suicide Squad, which director David Ayer recently described as “The Dirty Dozen with supervillains.”
In the comics, the Suicide Squad boasts DC’s B-list villains, characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. However, if rumors now circulating prove true, the cinematic interpretation of Suicide Squad may boast A-list villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. Reports claim that bombshell actress Margot Robbie has been cast as Harley Quinn, and that Oscar-winner Jared Leto is in talks to play Joker.
In any case, the roster of DC Comics villains portrayed in live-action film is about to explode. Before that happens, let’s consider where the existing rogues gallery ranks. Here are the top 10 cinematic portrayals of DC Comics villains.
#10. Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow
When it was announced that Christopher Nolan would be rebooting the Batman franchise years after Joel Schumacher piloted it into the ground, no one could have predicted how definitive the result would become. Among the bold moves made in re-imagining the property was featuring lesser known villains, including the Scarecrow.
Actor Cillian Murphy took what could have easily been a camp character and grounded him in a believable reality. Dr. Jonathan Crane served a vital narrative purpose befitting his nature as a criminal psychologist obsessed with fear. Fear stood as the dominant theme in Batman Begins, as Bruce Wayne turned his fear against the criminals holding an unholy grip upon Gotham City.
Being a grown adult, married with young children and many assumed responsibilities, I don’t get to play video games as much as I used to. There was a time, just a few short years ago, when I kept up on all the latest releases and played them through voraciously. But that’s just not an option anymore, which is probably a good thing.
The last Call of Duty game I purchased and played was Modern Warfare, the first in the franchise to move the action from the historical battlefields of World War II to the present day. Many sequels have come and gone since then, none of which I have felt particularly compelled to sample. The latest entry, however, piqued my interest.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare makes the next chronological leap in the series from the present day to an imagined near-future where high-technology reshapes both the warrior and his battlefield. Add to that the acting talent of Kevin Spacey, fully digitized in a key role, and developer Sledgehammer Games presents a package worth taking a look at.
Having received the game as a birthday present recently, I’ve had the opportunity to kick its tires and have to say – it’s impressive. Especially coming from the perspective of having been away from the franchise for several years, the game feels remarkably evolved from what I remember. It’s easy to pick up and get the hang of, despite presenting a deeper than average experience for a game of its genre. It manages to be both more complex than its predecessors, and still simple to play.
The single-player campaign feels as cinematic and immersive as any big-budget Hollywood action film. You’ll find yourself marveling at the action even as you are the one controlling it. The “that’s cool” moments hit one right after the other.
If you’re like me, and haven’t yet made the switch to the next generation of consoles, you’ll want to take advantage of an offer available through March 15th to get both the current and next gen versions of the game for the price of one. You have to buy the downloadable version, and you’ll be committing to stick with your current console brand. If you buy the Xbox 360 version, you get the Xbox One as well, and the same with Sony’s Playstation.