Vince Vitale, a philosopher and professor at Oxford University makes the surprising and bold claim in a new video that God is alive and well at the highest levels of academia.
Vitale excoriates the so-called “new atheists” who are “not engaged in current philosophical scholarship,” attributing their brand of atheism to the “old scholarship” at the academic level. Vitale said, “More recently, in the last fifty years or so, what we’ve had is a remarkable resurgence of professional philosophers who have thought long and hard about the evidence and have come to the conclusion that God exists. God is not dead. He is very much alive.”
He cites Quentin Smith, a contemporary philosopher who has published twelve books and over a hundred articles. Smith, an atheist, discussed in a paper in Philo in 2000 an assertion by non-theist philosopher Richard Gale:
If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith…”
Quentin Smith goes even further than Gale, saying that the non-theists would lose: “I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.”
In the paper Smith goes on the blast his fellow atheist philosophers for losing so much ground to the theists:
This philosophical failure (ignoring theism and thereby allowing themselves to become unjustified naturalists) has led to a cultural failure since theists, witnessing this failure, have increasingly become motivated to assume or argue for supernaturalism in their academic work, to an extent that academia has now lost its mainstream secularization.
Smith concludes that, “God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.
Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.
Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”
One comment, however, caught my eye.
In the next few weeks leading up to Easter Sunday you can expect to hear more news about the Shroud of Turin — a mysterious piece of linen that millions of Catholics and other Christians believe is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
It was during Holy Week last year when the Shroud of Turin generated headlines around the globe. That was a result of Italian scientist and renowned Shroud researcher Giulio Fanti releasing his book, The Mystery of the Shroud.
Fanti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua in Italy. His 2013 research book scientifically debunked the infamous and controversial 1988 carbon-14 dating that supposedly “proved” the cloth only dated back to the Middle Ages — more specifically between the years 1260 and 1390.
Headlines such as: “Shroud of Turin is not a medieval forgery” were typical of what appeared across all media platforms especially on Good Friday, 2013.
Now in 2014, Professor Fanti has a new book (only in Italian at this moment) and the title translates into English as, Turin Shroud: First Century A.D.
According to the book’s press release, “The new dating methods are published in prestigious international journals and no one has yet pointed out methodological errors.”
This Shroud dating research project costing $75,000 (54,000 Euro) was funded by Padua University. The funding made it possible to “develop alternative methods of dating the Shroud based on mechanical and opto-chemical analyses after obvious calibration.”
Here is a more simple explanation of the dating methods if you are not a scientist.
If there’s one thing the rise of gay marriage has taught us, it’s how dramatically public opinion can shift in a short period of time. A poll of Minnesotans taken shortly after that state became the twelfth to legalize gay unions found a radical 18-point shift in opinion among respondents aged 50 to 64 in just a few months. Sixty-eight percent opposed gay marriage in February of 2013. By June, that dropped to 50%.
Recall that President Obama, radical leftist that he is, only “evolved” on the marriage issue less than two years ago. Such observations suggest that radical social ideas can rapidly become mainstream given the right circumstances.
So when actor Chris O’Dowd predicts that religion will one day be widely considered as offensive and unacceptable as racism, I don’t immediately write him off. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult”…
O’Dowd has told Britain’s GQ magazine: “For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird s**t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!’
While we may be a long way off from such a world, with the vast majority of Americans still claiming a religious affiliation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a radical shift toward the dystopia O’Dowd predicts.
There are a lot of great lines in the megillah of Esther. The one most often quoted comes from Mordecai: “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position for such a time as this.” It smacks of drama and makes for an excellent movie poster catchphrase. But, it wouldn’t hold half its meaning without the point-blank observation of evil Haman’s wife, Zeresh.
Upon listening to his frustration over Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, Zeresh tells her husband to hang Mordecai. But, when she finds out Mordecai is a Jew, she does a complete 180 and admits:
If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a Jew, you will not get the better of him; on the contrary, your downfall before him is certain.
And this is before Esther convinced the King not to massacre the Jews. It’s refreshing to know our reputation precedes us. But it isn’t a reputation we Jews are always glad to have; we aren’t exactly in it for the fame. In fact, like Esther, our first instinct is to keep our heads down and fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Speaking of “the crowd”, modern feminists have managed to twist the humble Jewess into the villain of the tale, instead opting to celebrate the Persian Queen Vashti for her refusal to appear before the King at his whim. Think: Her body, her self, Persian style. Docile, compliant Esther, meanwhile, is a mere pawn whose beauty comes in handy to persuade the patriarchy to let her live another day. This simplistic interpretation, totally ignorant of the promise and perspective of God, relies on the feminist myth that a woman’s worth is in her ability to manipulate her body to her advantage. Esther could never be considered a hero to these women, because she was inspired by a sense of purpose that outweighed the importance of her own skin.
“Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father’s family will perish,” Mordecai warns before adding, “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.”
Vashti Feminists like to think the story is about Esther using her body to pursue the King’s favor. In reality, Esther pursues God’s purpose for her life and the life of her nation, Israel. She didn’t choose to sacrifice her body to the Persian King’s whims. On the contrary, Esther chose to devote herself, body, mind and spirit, to the living promises of God. The King, the death decree, even evil Haman, all of them were nothing more than plot devices in the ongoing love story between God and Israel. Esther, Queen of the Shadchans (Matchmakers) arrived on the scene as a reminder that “relief and deliverance will come”.
Esther was just a regular Jewish girl, redirecting her focus away from herself and onto the bigger picture of God’s plan for humanity. Crowned with the desire and humility to walk in faith, she is remembered as a Queen among her people. Vashti-feminists are oblivious to this plan and the honor it bestows, because their focus remains on the image in the mirror, not the person within, let alone the others who may be around.
Thank God, Esther decided that fitting in with the crowd was a bad idea. Had Esther followed feminist mantra, she would have dismissed Mordecai’s warning and followed the example of Queen Vashti, only to wind up exiled or dead. Instead, she trusted that God’s plan involved every part of her, including her beauty, and used all of her gifts to that end. Typical feminists favor Vashti because they worship tragic beauty; Biblical feminists admire Esther because she plays to win.
As a Christian and a fan of Hollywood’s past biblical epics, I got excited upon viewing the first trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The story of Noah and his ark has resonated through every culture of man, yet has never been the subject of a major Hollywood motion picture.
Alongside my enthusiasm, skepticism lurked. Modern Hollywood producing a biblical epic adhering to the written narrative and theological themes seemed unlikely given a culture increasingly opposed to the source material. That doubt grew with last month’s report that a disclaimer would be attached to the film’s marketing explaining that “artistic license has been taken.”
Any adaptation requires artistic license. Certainly, narratives were added to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments which fleshed out the characters and layered the world in which Moses lived. Adding Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri to spice things up between Moses and Rameses is one thing. But you don’t add or subtract commandments from the ten. In the case of Noah, the disclaimer added by Paramount addressed criticism from Christian groups who claim that the film deviates substantively from the biblical narrative.
A clue to Aronofsky’s approach emerged alongside reports that actress Emma Watson had become sick during production after the director banned bottled water from their location. Watson told Wonderland magazine that the ban comported with the “pro-environmental message” of the film. The Telegraph recalled that Aronofsky called Noah “the first environmentalist” in a 2011 interview.
Now we have begun to see clips from the film. The one above revealed Aronofsky’s revised reason for Noah to build an ark. “Our family has been chosen for a great task, to save the innocent… the animals,” Noah tells his family.
When one of his sons asks what makes the animals innocent, Noah’s daughter beats him to the punch: “Because they still live as they did in the Garden [of Eden].”
From this we may infer that God regards animals as morally superior to human beings. In the clip, Noah adds, “I guess we get to start over too,” as if the involvement of his family were an afterthought secondary to God’s purpose.
The Bible tells a different story. All creation shares the curse of sin, including animals. The flood surged as judgment against that sin, and Noah’s family was preserved in fulfillment of God’s covenant to provide salvation for mankind.
By turning the story of Noah into an environmental tale, Aronofsky has missed the point. Beyond artistic license, he seems to have defiled the story’s essence. Imagine a film about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which portrayed the hijackers as Hindu, and you understand the difference between artistic license and fraud. If Aronofsky’s Noah ends up as divergent as the above clip, it will trivialize something sacred, the treasured relationship between God and mankind.
Matthew McConaughey thanked God for his Oscar win last night and the conservative crowd went wild.
McConaughey’s speech sparked a feeding frenzy for conservatives to outdo each other when it came to applauding him, while simultaneously taking shots at liberals. Rick Perry tweeted Monday morning, saying, “Texas boy counting his blessing.” His tweet linked to a Breitbart piece titled “Matthew McConaughey Praises God in Acceptance Speech, Hollywood Crowd Grows Quiet.” On Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s site, the speech ran as “Matthew McConaughey rattles Oscar crowd, wins hearts by thanking God.” Fox News got in the game with the headline, “Matthew McConaughey one of few to thank God in Oscar acceptance speech.” And so on.
As the Daily Beast points out, McConaughey’s God-nod was most likely reassuring to a Christian population that’s been ostracized more than not:
In recent decades, religious figures are often found more often in niche movies, wrote Cieply, or if they are in major pictures, they “are often hypocrites and villains, driving plot lines that make, at best, a token bow toward the virtues of a faith-based life.”
One need look no further than a recent episode of the hit Scandal, in which the evangelical female vice president who murdered her gay husband claims she is not culpable because the devil made her do it.
Fair enough. I’m sure the Son of God giddiness also contributed to the Tweetfest, despite the fact that McConaughey never did specifically go beyond the name “God,” let alone drop “Jesus” during the speech. He did, however, express conviction that Miller Lite is served in heaven, which I’m sure won over the Duck Dynasty crowd.
What most conservative Oscar watchers failed to lavish with praise wasn’t the mere thanking of God, but the praising of Him by singer Darlene Love. The career backup singer celebrated 20 Feet From Stardom’s Best Documentary win by singing the refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow:
I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.
The refreshingly simple, faith-laced, joyful lyrics made up the majority of her acceptance “speech” and were received with a full-house standing ovation led by an incredibly enthusiastic, non-religious Bill Murray. Where’s the barrage of Tweets about that?
McConaughey returned to his pot-smoking, bongo-banging self by the end of his speech, concluding with:
…whatever we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to and whoever it is we’re chasing — to that I say, alright, alright, alright. And then I say, just keep livin’.
It’s a generic statement that illustrates God is “whatever” and “whoever” and, therefore, “alright, alright, alright.” I have yet to read a conservative commentary that points out the many ways this level of ambiguity has eroded our nation’s ability to put faith in the God of our ancestors, let alone have faith in ourselves, both as a free nation and as individuals with free will. But hey, that’s cool; an actor said the G-word on stage and it got captured by social media, which makes it count.
Alright, alright, alright.
“HEAVENLY Father,” take to thee
The supreme iniquity,
Fashioned by thy candid hand
In a moment contraband.
Though to trust us seem to us
More respectful—“we are dust.”
We apologize to Thee
For Thine own Duplicity.
That’s by Emily Dickinson, the wonderful 19th-century American poet who churned out almost two thousand poems in almost total obscurity, too shy to publish more than a handful of them during her lifetime.
“Heavenly Father” is a retort, couched in acid irony, and also a plaint. We are not supposed to be anything much—dust, iniquity. Creating us was a momentary lapse, a glitch. The father is not presumed to be proud of what he has wrought.
And yet, if the creations are that flawed, why blame them for their failings? It seems like a double insult—to be fashioned as something iniquitous, then also held accountable for it. Dickinson raised here a profound question about moral responsibility and the relationship of the creator to his imperfect handiwork.
The poetess died at 55 in 1886, and “Heavenly Father” is considered one of her later poems. That means she wrote it about a hundred years before the publication in 1975 of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, the first major, groundbreaking book on near-death experiences. At that time, thanks to advances in resuscitation medicine in the 1960s, there was a sudden surge in the numbers of people—ordinary people, not mystics or spiritualists—saying they had had a direct experience of the deity. They gave descriptions of a being more logical, or reasonable, than the one Dickinson had accosted.
In this day and age, why would you be stupid enough to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone services?
There are plenty of ways to avoid entering into a business transaction without having to appear discriminatory at all. When I worked for a private repair shop and encountered a client who seemed to be more trouble than they were worth for whatever reason, we used to simply say, “I am sorry, but we cannot provide service.” If people questioned why (which they did, very often and with plenty of attitude), we just kept repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry, we cannot provide the service.” No one interpreted us as being discriminatory, or went as far as attempting legal action. We were simply annoying, so they moved onto a business that was willing to enter into the transaction. No harm, no foul.
That is the beauty of the free market: You have choices. If a bakery simply said “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” and left it at that, a gay couple denied service might interpret the owner’s choice as being discriminatory, but they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court. You can’t sue based on an inference. Progressives, however, rely on the courts to push their agenda because Big Government is their god. So the minute you breathe a hint of something that could be misconstrued as an opportunity for a lawsuit, they gain home-court advantage.
By simply saying, “I am sorry, we can’t provide that service,” you may be opening yourself up to some annoying picketing and internet memes, but what’s the worst that will do? Throw you in the same court as Chick fil-A? We all know how well that protest worked out. The bottom line is, you’re letting the free market decide your fate, not the courts.
First exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1765, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s ”A Girl With a Dead Canary” was designed to evoke much the same emotion as PETA member Sarah Segal’s proposed memorial to chickens who were killed in a truck accident last month in Georgia. It seems like a tacky comparison that may even be read as an insult to a well-done and even pretty (if bizarre) work of 18th century art, but the bottom line is that both pieces were created for the same purpose: To tug at viewers’ heartstrings while affirming the moral superiority of a particular cultural class.
According to British historian Simon Schama, ill-fated French King Louis XVI introduced the “cult of nature” to the throne, “replacing couches and courtisans with [the] tenderness and simplicity” of Marie Antoinette’s toy farm and the well-crafted embrace of wildlife in art. “Tears were especially prized as evidence of feeling,” Schama explains, noting that, “people wept when they saw” Greuze’s painting. “Feelings …the shallow kind were embraced by the fashionable elite.” It was the attempt of a king and class to portray themselves as perfect, superior human beings.
So it goes with the Roadkill Memorial, albeit in a much more blatantly political format. A tombstone designed to dwarf roadside memorials to mere human victims of vehicular death, the proposed memorial is intended to remind all drivers to approach all of their animal relations with reverence:
Cascada said the tombstone’s visibility would make drivers’ more wary of people and chickens alike, thereby helping to avoid unnecessary accidents and preserve the lives of chickens in transport. …But Cascada acknowledged the reality of the chickens’ final destination, making the “Go Vegan” phrase a key takeaway.
“The more people who go vegan, the fewer chickens are in this situation to begin with,” she said.
Simply stating that “meat is murder” isn’t enough anymore. For PETA, the time for mere sloganeering is over. Humans are animals, don’t you get it? You’re all slabs of meat now, and some are much more important than others.
All week I’ve been seeing anti-Noah posts popping up on Facebook from Christian friends who are convinced that the not-yet-released Darren Aronofsky epic must be a liberal, secularist perversion of the biblical story, morphing Noah into a drunk and spouting an anti-human, pro-environmentalist message. Where’d the controversy come from? According to Jordan Hoffman at the Times of Israel, entertainment trade mag Variety needed to drum up readership on a slow news day:
A strange agenda group for “faith driven consumers” sent out a push-poll asking if people who hadn’t yet seen the film if they were “satisfied with a biblically themed film… which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”
In other words, a bunch of opt-in Christians were asked if they were ready to see what some scarf-wearing artiste from Jew York City had cooked up with his liberal and probably homosexual friends when, you know, they weren’t drinking blood and hoarding gold. Some 98% of respondents said that, no, they were not satisfied.
It would have been a nothing story had the press release not been picked up by Variety (one of the main entertainment trade publications) on a particularly slow news day. The Internet ran with headlines that basically read “98% of Christian audiences are enraged by ‘Noah!’” forcing Paramount, which has already had plenty of tsuris with this film, to issue an explanatory press release of their own.
The stereotypes Hoffman plays with in his commentary entertainingly highlight the unspoken rift between Jews and Christians when it comes to biblical epics. We, for the most part, stand back while Christians re-interpret our history, our people, our nation, and our sacred text in light of their own slightly Aryan (why are ancient Israelis consistently blue-eyed Brits?) Sunday School memories. This time, however, a Jewish writer/director has paired with a Jewish writer to bring a Torah story to the silver screen. That interpretation has caused Christian uproar, something the filmmakers prepared for when they sought out production partner Rob Moore, who is both a vice chair at Paramount and a devout Christian who supports the film.
“And now I know that every single day, the best and the worst, only lasts for twenty-four hours.” — Tricia Lott Williford
Two days before Christmas in 2010, amid the festive pictures of family Christmas celebrations, cookie recipes, and excited discussions about plans for the holidays, some terrible, heart-sickening news began to spread through my network of Facebook friends and acquaintances:
Stunned by some news. Please pray for a friend and her young family. The husband and father was unexpectedly taken to heaven for Christmas.
Pray for Tricia Williford as her husband went to heaven this morning. They have two little boys, Tucker and Tyler. What a sad day this is.
Three years later, I have fresh tears in my eyes as I re-read those words and I think about the shattering of lives, dreams, and families in that one terrible moment. How does a family survive such a profound tragedy? Can those shattered pieces be fused back together again? What does that really look like? I mean, in real life, starting with how you get out of bed the next day and how in the world you explain to two little boys that their daddy has died?
Tricia Lott Williford, a writer and editor — and a fabulous storyteller — had a blog at the time of her husband’s unexpected death at age thirty-five. Her bio explains, “On the day of her husband’s death, an unknown someone posted a link to her blog on Twitter with the words, ‘Please pray for this woman. Her husband died this morning.’ Overnight, her blog went viral and her community of readers grew exponentially.” Tricia continued with her long-established discipline of writing every day and shared her story, in all its brutal transparency, with friends and strangers around the world. Her story has now been turned into a book, And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimed, released February 18th.
Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 of P. David Hornik’s new series: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading. And click here to see his previous articles on the subject here: Do You Believe in Life After Death?
Out-of-body experiences, tunnels, bright lights, deceased relatives, a being of light—and life reviews. These are the most commonly reported elements of near-death experiences. They have been reported now for decades from all over the world, across cultures and religions. Of all of them, the life review may be the most difficult to imagine and “otherworldly.” Out-of-body experiences, encounters with dead people, mystical experiences of a deity—all these have long been on record outside of NDEs as well. The tunnel experience seems to have been represented in a painting by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch over five hundred years ago. Life reviews, however, may be the most “exotic” compared to our familiar modes of perception. Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel quotes this life-review account of one of his patients:
All of my life up till the present seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic, three-dimensional review, and each event seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of good or evil or with an insight into cause or effect. Not only did I perceive everything from my own viewpoint, but I also knew the thoughts of everyone involved in the event, as if I had their thoughts within me. This meant that I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others, as if I saw things with all-seeing eyes…. Looking back, I cannot say how long this life review…lasted, it may have been long, for every subject came up, but at the same time it seemed just a fraction of a second, because I perceived it all at the same moment. Time and distance seemed not to exist….
This is only one account, but anyone who has delved even modestly into the NDE literature as I have knows there are numerous other, remarkably similar ones.
Most folks first became aware of Dr. Benjamin Carson when he dared to speak out against Obamacare in front of the architect himself at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Carson about 20 years earlier when my mother handed me his book Think Big. At the time, I was an above-average student who struggled in the public school environment. Despite being intellectually acceptable (but economically unqualified) for entrance into a prestigious private school, my own public institution refused to allow me to skip a grade because they felt I’d suffer socially.
As if being the #1 nerd in the room qualified me to be crowned Prom Queen.
An outcast, I’d spend most of my time feigning illness or sick with stress, looking for a reason – any reason – to get out of going to school. I knew my mother was right; I couldn’t run away forever. But, I didn’t have a reason to care enough to face my battles. What I needed then is what so many young people need now: A perspective greater than their own. They need to learn how to Think Big.
And so my mother encouraged me to encounter the story of Ben Carson, a young African American boy from the projects who rose out of the ghetto mindset by seeking a perspective greater than his own:
“I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”
Carson’s illiterate mother required her 2 sons to turn into her 2 book reports a week. This practice turned Carson into a habitual reader, classical music listener, and Jeopardy! aficionado. His love of learning and imaginative fascination with science developed into the desire to become a neurosurgeon:
First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.”
Every American should rejoice over last week’s stunning 2-1 Second Amendment decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which invalidated San Diego’s unconstitutionally restrictive infringements regarding the right to bear arms. The irony will be lost on no one, especially on the Left. Per the Los Angeles Times:
In a significant victory for gun owners, a divided federal appeals court Thursday struck down California rules that permit counties to restrict as they see fit the right to carry a concealed weapon in public.
The 2-1 ruling by a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel would overturn restrictions on carrying concealed handguns, primarily affecting California’s most populated regions, including Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco.
The majority said the restrictions violate the 2nd Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms because they deny law-abiding citizens the ability to carry weapons in public unless they show they need the protection for specific reasons.
“We are not holding that the Second Amendment requires the states to permit concealed carry,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. “But the Second Amendment does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home.”
You can read the court’s decision here. And you should, because this one is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where (in a rare departure for the 9th Circuit) it is unlikely to be reversed. The final constitutional victory over the Suicide Cult of the Left may be at hand, and the explicit promise of the Declaration of Independence settled once and for all.
Quoting liberally from the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller and McDonald decisions, the circuit court essentially said that while the state may regulate the manner in which handguns may be carried for personal protection, it may not do so by making it practically impossible for law-abiding citizens to afford themselves the protections — both constitutional and physical — of the Second Amendment.
We are well aware that, in the judgment of many governments, the safest sort of firearm-carrying regime is one which restricts the privilege to law enforcement with only narrow exceptions. Nonetheless, “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. . . . Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court [or ours] to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” Id. at 636. Nor may we relegate the bearing of arms to a “second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have held to be incorporated into the Due Process Clause.” (McDonald, 130 S. Ct. at 3044.)
Sunrise in Church of St John the Evangelist, Watertown, Connecticut, last Sunday. The gospel reading that morning included, “You are the light of the world.”
Last week the Forward covered a “trendy Jewish spoken word” happening in the trendy neighborhood of Park Slope in the trendy part of trendy New York City known as Brooklyn. If the E! network hasn’t made you wary enough of the word “trendy” this article surely should. Basically, it’s about a doctoral student and an app techie using grant funding to study what makes Judaism trendy with millennials. And if that doesn’t set off any alarm bells in your head, let me be very clear: the title “Sermon Slam” shouldn’t fool you. Despite the religious-themed location, if God was invited to join in the party it was to sit and be talked at, not about let alone with.
For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism or hip lingo: Instead of reading the Torah portion, and perhaps even the Haftarah portion, then wrestling with the meaning of the portion through a discussion involving comparative texts, the Sermon Slam for young adults involves attacking the weekly Torah portion with a style akin to a poetry slam – rough-edged spoken verse rooted in the performer’s emotions and personal (potentially uneducated) perspective:
“Spoken word poetry has become increasingly sexy. …When you synergize that with something that sounds boring, like a sermon… it’s an ancient tradition that we’re now embracing and making our own. It’s for the people, by the people. That feels exciting to those of us in our 20s and 30s.”
I’m far from Orthodox, in fact I don’t identify as a Rabbinic Jew (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist) at all. But this self aggrandizing hyperbole annoys me more than black hatters arguing over sleeve length ever could. Seriously, is Judaism so desperate for adherents that we’re getting grant funding to make the Torah “sexy”?
It gets worse. Apparently making the Torah “sexy” doesn’t involve actually reading the Torah as much as it involves creating a postmodern pastiche of Biblical words and pop culture lingo:
References to iPhones and to Facebook popped up in the same sentence as “Kiddush.” And the hallowed Hebrew names of God, “Adonai” and “Elohim,” were uttered in the same breath as “s–t.”
And now you know why I avoid obnoxious hipster Judaism like the plague. With its goddess worship of Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham and its conversion of New York into the New Zion, this religion has nothing to do with God and Torah and everything to do with Judaizing the kind of liberal self help ethos already prolific within the New Age and Buddhist movements. What’s next for Sermon Slam, a Chopra-esque two-hour fundraising featurette on PBS?
As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.
The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.
Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:
“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”
Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.
Sunday, posted on Barry Rubin’s Facebook page:
We felt it important to tell you that Barry has been in a coma since Friday. Thank you for all the warm wishes these past few months, you have all been very thoughtful. Please keep him in your prayers. We will keep you updated.
To our great sadness, Barry passed away this morning. He was surrounded by his wife and children. Your love, support, and prayers have been greatly appreciated. There will be shiva and a funeral, details to follow soon.
I wrote about Barry’s impact on me this past August as part of a series of my most important intellectual influences:
Barry Rubin is PJ Media’s Middle East editor. For the last least three years, his Rubin Reports blog has served as the roadmap to the Middle East that I rely on the most. Written from the center of the storm in Israel, his typical columns are densely filled with facts and fascinating observations. Perhaps the crucial insight that I’ve gained from trying to keep up with Barry all these years — he tends to publish his loaded analyses very prolifically, not that I’m complaining! — is the depth of complexity to the Middle East. The game is not a chessboard between two sides, and there are rarely easy answers given that there are so many different actors on the field.
But Barry has gone out of his way, dedicated his life really, to trying to help people understand better the chaos in the Middle East. Recently he decided to GIVE AWAY 13 of his books. These titles of his are available in convenient online and downloadable PDF reading. It’s a lifetime’s worth of scholarship in the history and politics of the Middle East:
(Barry describes this as his favorite of his books that he’s written. Thus it’s the next on my to-read list for him after the one I’ve already started, below.)
The first of this haul that I’ve decided to dive into is Hating America: A History, which Barry co-wrote with his wife (a practice Ron Radosh has also engaged in and which I hope to explore with my own wife someday).
As the above list of Barry’s titles shows, he jumps all over the place in trying to understand the many different angles of the Middle East. I confess: foreign policy was what dragged me into leftist activism and then fueled my shift to conservative activism, but it was Barry’s writing above all others that turned me into a full-blown foreign policy geek. Because of him I feel like I could pick up just about any book on a Middle Eastern country, culture or an individual and be interested and excited to learn from it. For that — and for much else — I’ve thanked him privately and now I do so publicly.
Before he died Barry completed two books that are set to be published this year. From Broadside Books on April 1, Adam Bellow’s extraordinary conservative imprint at HarperCollins (publisher of Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda, Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound, and Dennis Prager’s Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph), comes Barry’s history of ideology in 20th century America: Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance. And from Yale University Press, out on February 25, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
My friend Jeff Dunetz at his blog Yid With Lid this morning wrote about how he was similarly taught and inspired by Barry:
Professor Barry Rubin, is more than one of the great intellectual defenders of Israel, he was my teacher and a friend. When we first met, it was Barry who taught me to change from being a frothing at the mouth lunatic to a thoughtful commentator. He taught me to discern the quality of information coming from the trash. In 2009 when I was leading the charge against Chas Freeman’s nomination to a key Obama National security spot, It was Barry Rubin giving me advice on future steps.
Barry was a consummate teacher. When he first took Ill, he made all of his scholarly books available for free online because he wanted people to be able to learn from him even after he was gone.
You can read Barry’s last two PJ Media posts, from January 21, here:
Imagine All the People Living in Islamist Hegemony: Why Lennon and Dylan Know All About Islamist Hegemony
Did you know Barry? Do you have any memories to share about how he or his words touched your life? Please send me an email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] Gmail.com.
When I’m feeling less like a crushed tin can I’ll write about getting to know Barry over the years, how his writings changed the way I see the world, and how now that he’s gone I will continue to fight his battles for a world where Jew, Muslim, Christian, and people of all faiths live together peacefully in mutual respect and prosperity.
Updates: I’ll be linking to various reflections from colleagues. Here’s Patrick Poole at the PJ Tatler.
Updated 9:33 AM PST: Here’s PJM’s co-founder and editor emeritus Roger L. Simon: Barry Rubin: Conscience of the White City
Updated 3:20 PM PST: Sent along from David Gerstman, who says his own reflections are forthcoming:
Another follow up from Gerstman:
Here’s Barry’s Facebook page from his 01/28/2013 Birthday
A year and a week ago we all thought he was out of the woods.
Updated 3:36 PST:
Ron Radosh: R.I.P.: Remembrances of My Friend Barry Rubin
A group called American Atheists is sponsoring a digital billboard near MetLife Stadium targeted at Super Bowl attendees. Six times each hour through Super Bowl Sunday the billboard will proclaim, “A ‘Hail Mary’ Only Works in Football. Enjoy the Game!”
“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” says American Atheists President David Silverman.
It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about—people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about—coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.
On Fox News’ The Five on Friday, Greg Gutfeld seemed to agree. ”If prayer actually works in a game no one would ever lose,” Gutfeld said. He added, “I don’t believe God designed the world on who’s the best pray-er.”
On the surface, Gutfeld and the atheists have a point. Several years ago when my son was playing football for a Christian school, the teams would huddle together before the games for a short prayer. As the team’s captain, Ryan was often called upon to lead the prayer, along with the captain of the opposing team. He admitted at one point that it didn’t seem right for both teams to pray to win and he thought it was especially awkward to pray for a win in the presence of the other team. They were, after all, asking God to bestow his favor upon one Christian team and not the other. How would God ever choose? Would he pick the team with the “best” Christians? The most fervent pray-ers? Or does God not bother with such trivial things as the outcomes of football games?
In the end, my son decided that he would pray for all the players to do their best and that God would protect them. He also prayed that he and the other boys would demonstrate Christ-like attitudes on the field and that they would honor God in the way they played the game. He would leave the outcome up to God and then play to win.
So does God care who wins the Super Bowl or the curling competition at the Winter Olympics or your family’s Monopoly game? Two of God’s attributes, his omniscience and his sovereignty, as described in the Bible, help to explain God’s view of matters that may seem trivial upon first glance.
I was standing, sleepily, at the counter of a coffeeshop in Union Station, waiting for the barista to remember I’d ordered a drink, when I overheard the woman behind me order hers:
“I’ll have a small latte.”
“What kind of milk?”
“Whole milk.” Pause. Muttered, half to herself: “The way God intended it.”
Maybe I was just cranky — it was my first day heading back to the office after a week out with the flu — but I had to fight the urge to say to her, “Just like God intended that sheep’s wool to be spun, woven, and dyed into your pretty pink plaid coat?”
I had little doubt it was a real wool coat. She looked like someone who would curl her lip at the thought of synthetic fabric touching her skin.
Last fall Bret Baier from Fox News interviewed author and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about his best-selling book, Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics. They discussed Krauthammer’s spinal cord injury that paralyzed him in his twenties while he was a medical student at Harvard. Krauthammer said,
“I made one promise to myself on day one. I was not going to let it alter my life except in ways where were, sort of, having to do with gravity. I’m not going to defy gravity and I’m not going to walk and I’m not going to water ski again. That’s fine. So that you know. But on the big things in life, the direction of my life, what I was going to do, that wouldn’t change at all.”
Krauthammer told Baier that he never entertained the possibility that he would walk again. He accepted his fate and focused on accomplishing his goals in life regardless of his disabilities. Despite overwhelming hardships, Krauthammer managed to graduate from medical school with his class and went on to a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He ran into some unexpected problems, however, during his psychiatry residency, when all residents were required to attend “group therapy” once a week. Krauthammer refused to attend. “I thought, it’s a pointless exercise. So I was called into the chief’s office after about seven weeks of non-appearance.” Krauthammer explained that he was there to give therapy, not receive it. “The chief of residency told Krauthammer he was in denial. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m in denial! Denial is the greatest of all defense mechanisms. I could be a professor of denial. I’m an expert at denial!’ Krauthammer said. The chief “was not amused.”
Krauthammer completed the required therapy, though he mostly refused to participate in the sessions:
“I’m not a big therapy guy…I don’t like to talk about myself…I’m not a touchy — I’m not a feely guy. That’s probably why I quit psychiatry. If you’re not into feelings and emotions and all the backstory then you ought to be doing something else.”
This Wednesday evening and Thursday mark the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (the name refers to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat). Also known as the New Year of Trees and as Israeli Arbor Day, it’s a minor, nonbiblical holiday, its source in the Talmud. But quite a to-do is made about it in Israel.
The Talmud specified Tu Bishvat as the day on which the annual agricultural cycle begins. Considering that the holiday falls in January or, at best, February, this—the middle of winter—may seem a strange time for agricultural rebirth. It is, though, the time in the Land of Israel when—amid the cold and damp, but with sunnier intervals—you start to see the first white and pink almond blossoms.
You also see packages of dried fruits (dates, figs, apricots, pineapple) and nuts, especially almonds, everywhere. In the Diaspora, Tu Bishvat was marked by eating fruits of the Land of Israel. In the European Diaspora with its cold winters, that meant dried fruits. Now, back in the Land of Israel, they’re ubiquitous at this time of year.
But on a deeper, more ideological level, Israeli Tu Bishvat has become a day of massive tree planting. The custom began in 1890, in the early days of Zionist settlement. A bit later—about a century ago—it was adopted by the Jewish National Fund, which made Tu Bishvat a day to fight malaria by planting swamp-draining eucalyptus trees.
By now the Jewish National Fund has planted over 240 million trees in Israel, adding 12,500 acres of new forest every year. On each Tu Bishvat it holds tree-planting events in forests; about a million Israelis take part in them including large numbers of schoolchildren.
Mark Twain, touring the Land of Israel in 1867, not long before Zionist settlement began, described it this way:
…[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…. We never saw a human being on the whole route….There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere….
He wouldn’t recognize it today.