Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Atlas Shrugged in 7 minutes: Saving You 47 Hours, 21 Minutes, and Perhaps Your Very Soul

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn RandI just read Atlas Shrugged. It was my third attempt in 20 years. It took me five weeks of fierce determination. If you’ve mulled reading the book, I may be able to add precious days to your span on this mortal coil. (WARNING: The rest of this little essay is pure, unalloyed spoiler.)

Dagny Taggart runs a transcontinental railroad company. Dagny is slim, elegant, bold. In her spare time, she’s writing a 1,168-page novel in which she has sex with three different slim, elegant, bold men. She’s not a slut, mind you, nor horny as a rabbit during the rut.

No, she has sex with each man because she agrees with his philosophy, best summarized thus: I am the most important being in the universe, and my pleasure is the goal of the universe, so leave me alone.

Dagny has sex in her youth with Francisco D’Anconia, heir to an historic copper fortune and the richest man on earth, who’s also writing a 1,168-page novel.

Dagny has sex repeatedly with Hank Rearden, a rich (unhappily married) steel magnate, who, in his spare time, is writing a 1,168-page novel.

And finally, Dagny has sex with John Galt, the most interesting man in the world (who’s not pushing Dos Equis), but  who IS writing an 1,168-page novel which, like the others’, contains a mix of economics, philosophy, daily news and sex. It’s basically the Huffington Post, in book form.

Galt has worked as a laborer for Dagny’s company for 12 years, in the same building as she, though Dagny doesn’t know it. In his spare time, Galt works to shut down the economy of the entire world by getting a handful of effective producers to abandon their life’s work and to defect to Galt’s Gulch, an idyllic hideaway in the mountains.

Is it just coincidence that each svelte, ingenious, wealthy member of this foursome has all of this amazing perfect sex while running his or her massive business, and writing a 1,168-page novel?

No, not coincidence: It’s Ayn Rand.

Miss Rand (whose first name is pronounced any way you please) is the author of a 1,168-page novel called Atlas Shrugged. She’s her own inspiration for each of these characters. So, in a very real sense, Atlas Shrugged is about a svelte genius who wants to be left alone, to fantasize about an industrial Utopia while having sex with herself.

Read bullet |

What 2 Retired Whores Can Teach Slut-Walk Feminists

Monday, October 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

A story about two old Jewish ladies is making the rounds in the Jewish press, but not for the reasons you may think. Sure, they’re bubbes. They’re children of a Holocaust survivor to boot. But the real reason they’re attracting so much attention is that they happen to be retired professional whores.

Dutch twins Louise and Martine Fokkens (probably not their real last name, since “Fokken” is a Dutch term for “old whore”) have become international celebrities since the 2011 release of their biographical documentary Meet the Fokkens. Women’s magazines like Cosmo picked up on their story shortly after the film’s release, publishing quick little details like:

Louise and Martine (mothers of four and three respectively) became prostitutes before the age of 20 in order to escape violent relationships.

It’s an interpretation that, at best, qualifies as a half-truth. Louise was forced into the sex trade by an abusive husband. Martine, however, became a prostitute out of spite:

Martine followed her sister into the trade, working first as a cleaning lady at brothels before she began turning tricks herself. “I was angry at how everybody around us shunned Louise,” Martine said. “I did it out of spite, really.”

Both women eventually divorced their husbands, whom they now describe as “a couple of pimps.” But they continued working in the district “because that had become our lives,” Louise said.

“Our life in the business became a source of pride, a sport of sorts,” Louise added.

In retrospect, both women say they regret becoming prostitutes.

Reading their story, one can’t help but wonder if mainstream feminist advocates for slut walks and “Yes Means Yes” legislation would condemn the pair for regretting the life they chose. After all, their body, their choice, right? They took control of their bad marriages, divorced the husbands they referred to as “pimps” and chose, fully of their own volition, to remain in the sex trade after their exes were fully out of the picture. Martine and Louise, it would seem, are the originators of the Slut Walk.

Read bullet |

Does Everybody Want Freedom?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

m

A few years ago, on a rainy summer’s day, I was browsing around a secondhand bookshop on the east end of Long Island, breathing in the musty wonder of the overstuffed shelves, when an elderly man approached me. I had in my hand a first edition of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The man started up a friendly conversation about the Second World War, asking me whether I had watched a recent television documentary on the subject.

He continued talking, perhaps unaware that he wasn’t allowing me to respond. I didn’t take this as an insult. Most people prefer to hear themselves talk; this isn’t necessarily a sign of malice or rudeness on their part. I find it’s especially true of the elderly, who are usually lonelier and thus more desperate for the ear of a stranger. So I stood there and listened as politely as I could, not altogether uninterested in his views of fascinating matters like the Nazis and other dictatorships, which are subjects that I could eat with my breakfast cereal.

Read bullet |

Is Medical Greed Leading to D.I.Y. Deaths?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My PJ colleague Walter Hudson published a compelling argument regarding physician-assisted suicide in response to the ongoing dialogue surrounding terminal cancer patient Brittany Maynard. His is a well-reasoned argument regarding the intersection of theology and politics, written in response to Matt Walsh’s Blaze piece titled “There is Nothing Brave About Suicide.” Both pieces are a reminder that, in the ongoing debate over whether or not Maynard has the right to schedule her own death, little has been said regarding the role the medical profession plays in the battle to “Die with Dignity.” Walsh argues:

None of us get to die on our own terms, because if we did then I’m sure our terms would be a perfect, happy, and healthy life, where pain and death never enter into the picture at all.

It’s a simplistic comment that ignores a very real medical fact: Death can come on your own terms. And that doesn’t have to mean suicide.

My mother was a nurse for 20 years. During that time she worked in a variety of settings, from hospitals, to private practice, to nursing homes. Much like Jennifer Worth, the nurse and author of the Call the Midwife series, my mother practiced at the end of Victorian bedside nursing and the dawn of Medicare. As a result, the abuses she witnessed in the name of insurance claims were grotesque. For instance, if a patient required one teaspoon of medication, an entire bottle would be poured into the sink and charged to that patient’s insurance company. This was just the tip of the iceberg of unethical practices that would become priority in the name of the almighty “billing schedule.”

Read bullet |

Ross Douthat Loves Lena Dunham for All the Wrong Reasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

shutterstock_124666486

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.

The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,

She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due. 

It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”

In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:

He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.

By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.

Read bullet |

A Special Dispensation if You’re Thinking of Seeing the New Left Behind Movie

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

If you’re a Bible-believing Jesus-loving American like me, I hereby officially absolve you from the guilt of staying as far away from the theater as possible during the inevitably short run of the new adaptation of Left Behind.

I also grant a special dispensation, if you’ve already seen the movie, from any inner compulsion you feel to “say something nice” as a passive way of encouraging Hollywood to make more “Christian” or “Biblical” or “values-based” films, or for fear of being judged by those who thought it was “awesome and super-Biblical.”

I further grant you absolute forgiveness for your previous Facebook posts in which you gushed about your eagerness to see Nicolas Cage in Left Behind, and speculated about his spiritual condition.

How can I grant such merciful forgiveness? I have personally borne the burden for you, and by my $10.25, you are saved… from spending your $10.25.

Unlike you, Left Behind remains unforgiven.

While the movie purports to be about “the rapture” — the sudden vanishing of all Jesus-believers from the face of the earth (and the cabins of aircraft) — I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching another Zucker & Abrahams Airplane movie. I kept expecting Leslie Nielsen to pop into the flight deck to deadpan, “I just want to tell you both, good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

If I were more faithful to the doctrine of Frozen, I would merely let it go…let it go. But I feel mystically drawn to record my impressions here — drawn as a moth to the Mothra.

Here’s the problem: Left Behind is a bad movie.

Read bullet |

The Battle Against Israel’s Orthodox Patriarchy

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

I didn’t fully appreciate how spiritually free I am as an American woman until I set foot on an El Al plane.

“Do you speak Hebrew?” the fretting woman in front of me asked.

“No, not really.”

“It’s okay, I speak English,” she hurriedly replied, obviously looking for a friendly face. “These Orthodox,” she motioned to the people sitting next to her, “they don’t like sitting next to women.”

“Well, that’s their problem.” My response was pointed, matter-of-fact, American.

She smiled as if a light bulb went off in her head. “You’re right!” Her expression grew cloudy. “But what if I take off my sweater? They won’t like that I expose my shoulders with my tank top.”

Again, I simply replied, “That’s their problem.”

She smiled, empowered. Removing her sweater, she took her seat and stood her ground.

And at that moment I thanked God I was raised in pluralistic America, and realized, oddly enough, that the Holy Land was giving me my first chance to practice the biblical feminism I’ve preached.

Israel is a Western nation in that women have equal rights by law. Israel is also a confluence of religious and ethnic cultural attitudes, not all of which are friendly to women. Two days into our trip to Jerusalem, a family member who also happens to be a retired journalist explained the latest story to hit the nightly news. A man accused of spousal abuse was released to return home. Later that evening, police found his wife had been shot dead. The husband confessed to the murder. Apparently, domestic violence and death is a relatively small but significant problem in Israel. When I asked my former journalist why, he pointed to the influence of Middle Eastern (both Arabic and radical Islamic) patriarchal culture as the primary source.

Yet, even religious Jews in Israel (and around the world), despite their insular nature, are far from immune to sexual abuse. Sex scandals among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) show up frequently on the evening news. In this case it’s not the Arab/Muslim influence, but perverted behaviors that arise from rabbinic abuse of biblical teachings. How do you expect a man to relate to a woman sexually when he’s not even allowed to look her in the eye?

Read bullet |

10 More Movies Projecting the Jewish Experience on Film

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Daniel Deronda

A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.

Read bullet |

4 Reasons Israel’s Future Looks Bright as the New Jewish Year Begins

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, falls this year on Wednesday, September 24. The year that just ended—5774 on the Jewish calendar—was not an easy one.

There was the war against Hamas in July and August, which Israel won overwhelmingly while losing 64 soldiers and seven civilians. In June there was Hamas’s kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenage boys. (The murderers have now met their just fate.) And Israel’s overall security environment in the Middle East seems more and more precarious. Among other things, jihadis are battling the Syrian army just across Israel’s Golan Heights border; Jordan’s moderate regime could be in danger; Islamic State has set up its “caliphate” of atrocity in Iraq and Syria; while Iran keeps being allowed to progress along the nuclear path by Western powers playing feckless diplomatic games. (Another update: Israel has shot down a Syrian plane over the Golan.)

Where, then, does a “bright future” come into all this? Looking ahead to 5775, Israel has a track record of overcoming security challenges, and in other ways keeps thriving.

Read bullet |

10 Reasons I’m Proud to Be A Jew

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

It’s not an easy time to be Jewish, though there have been few moments in world history where it has been. A recent unscientific poll conducted in Europe found that 40 percent of European Jews hide their religion. The only thing surprising about that statistic is that it isn’t closer to 100%. The sour news out of Europe is never-ending: an arson of a synagogue in Belgium, a Swedish woman savagely beaten for wearing a Star of David, a deadly shooting outside of a Jewish school in France. The list, sadly, goes on, and on, and on.

Unfortunately for antisemites everywhere, Jews have a great deal to be proud of, and always have.

626-7-2

1. We’re wicked smart

Despite being just .2 percent of the world population, Jews have won 22 percent of the Nobel prizes awarded. From the 1920s until the late 1960s, Jewish students were either totally excluded or subject to quotas in Ivy League universities in the United States. Why? The schools had been admitting the best and brightest, and there were just too many Jews in attendance. Bloomberg reports on the Jewish quotas found in the United States,

Harvard, Yale and Princeton, up until the very early 1920s, had an exam-based system of admission. If you passed you were admitted. If you failed you were turned away. If you were in the gray zone, then they might admit you on conditions but basically, if you passed, regardless of your social background, you would be admitted. That was precisely why the system was judged to be no longer viable because too many of the wrong students, the “undesirable” students — that is, predominantly, Jewish students of East European background — started to pass the exams.

Read bullet |

The 5 Ways Orthodox Judaism Builds Strong Families

Friday, September 12th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

When I tell people I’m an Orthodox Jew I often get two types of responses. From  conservatives: “Wow, that’s so cool, I really admire that commitment and sacrifice. Tell me more about it!” And from liberals: “Wow I can’t believe you’re a Jewish conservative. What’s it like being Jewish with all of those redneck antisemites?” I tell group B how wrong they are by explaining the reactions I get from conservatives 99 times out of 100. But I don’t set the record straight with conservatives often enough about my faith. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s a choice I made (I didn’t grow up religious or necessarily even Jewish). I didn’t make this choice because I’m a martyr. I made it because it is an intensely logical religion, and one that sets the stage for a strong marriage and family life. Before I get into how and why, these are the three basic tenets of Orthodox Judaism:

MUEn5720138

1. Kosher

No, this doesn’t mean the food I eat has been blessed by a rabbi. Judaism is a collection of laws, and the laws on what Jews can eat are plentiful. If something is kosher, it simply means that it has been made in accordance with these laws, with a Jewish supervisor ensuring all the rules were followed. Orthodox Jews don’t eat meat and milk mixed together, animals for consumption are killed according to Jewish law, and many categories of food (pork and shellfish being the most famous) are not allowed. The image above is a popular selection of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of kosher symbols in circulation. Check your packaged food for some of them; you’ll be surprised how much of what you eat is actually certified kosher!

Read bullet |

13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Lana Del Rey

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.

delrey

Sure, she may come off all serious in her videos, but Lana Del Rey has a seriously good sense of humor. According to Rolling Stone, Lana Del Rey ”has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.”

“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something,” she says. “But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.” She’s surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!”

Read bullet |

The Challenge of Writing A Short History of Christianity

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 - by Rich Tucker

{B8D6E2D9-E943-4259-8C40-AF0842D1D996}Img400

Mention that you’ve read a short history of Christianity and people may assume you mean the New Testament. Or, perhaps, simply one of its books, Acts of the Apostles. But those are how-to manuals, not true histories.

Into this gap steps Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey with A Short History of Christianity.

Blainey’s created a cottage industry for himself out of this sort of thing. He’s also penned A Short History of the World and A Short History of the Twentieth Century. His Christianity book falls squarely in the middle of those tomes. Christianity is, in many ways, synonymous with what we used to call “Western Civilization,” at least the last 2,000 years of it.

His book belies its title because it’s anything but short, clocking in at some 550 pages. But that’s to be expected considering the scope and sweep of the topic. It’s not beach reading by any stretch. But this book, like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time or Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, was probably meant more as a reference manual than an offering to be read and discussed in book clubs.

Read bullet |

10 Reasons Why I Will Forever Love Joan Rivers

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.

10. Joan never grew old or gave up.

At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.

Read bullet |

How Leo Strauss Nurtured American Narcissism

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by David P. Goldman

6a00d834979dc253ef01053714154b970b-320wi

Crossposted from Asia Times Online

The late Leo Strauss (1889-1973) was a thinker sufficiently nuanced to allow a wide range of interpretation of his views, and a teacher broad-ranging enough to influence students with divergent interests. I am honored to contribute occasionally to the Claremont Review of Books, associated with the so-called West Coast Straussians (although I am persona non grata among some East Coast Straussians). In fact, some of my best friends are Straussians.

As my friend Peter Berkowitz argues in a recent essay for RealClearPolitics, it is silly and not a little mendacious to portray the late emigre philosopher as an arachnidan spinner of right-wing plots. [1] My problem isn’t simply with Strauss, but with the ancients whom he admired. He taught that we have something fundamental to learn about statecraft from the ancient Greeks. This in my view is woefully wrong.

Greek philosophy, to be sure, remains one of the ornaments of human endeavor – as it applies to epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and logic, among other fields. Plato and Aristotle, though, came into adulthood just as the Greek city-states destroyed themselves through their own cupidity. What was left of Athens after the disastrous Peloponnesian War was ruined by Alexander of Macedon, who employed Aristotle as a tutor. I do not mean to deprecate the importance of the Greek polis as an exercise in democracy, but Aristotle was hardly its advocate.

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim,” begins the Nichomachean Ethics. But Aristotle’s assertion that all men seek the good (or at least the good as they see it) is wrong on the face of it. Frequently men seek perversion, violence, and the destruction of themselves and all around them. That is typical of civilizations that have reached their best-used-by-date, and at some point has been true of every civilization west of the Indus during the past 2,500 years with the exception of Israel.

By the time the Romans walked in, all of Greece could not field two regiments of phalanx-men. The rational, logical Greeks chose not to have children and disappeared. They did so after Athens built an empire that looted its colonies to pay off the Athenian mob, relying on imperial exactions for half of its food supply. Athens was a slave society that preyed on its neighbors. What is the sum of Athenian wisdom after the war was lost? For Sophocles (in Oedipus at Colonnus) it was that the best of all possibilities is never to have been born (“But who has such luck? Not one in ten thousand!,” said Yankel to Moishe in the old Jewish joke). It was Sophocles more than Aristotle whom Hellas took to heart, and ensured that its next generations would not be born.

Read bullet |

Beyonce’s 10 Worst, Anti-Woman Songs

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Also check out Leslie Loftis’ analysis of Beyonce’s performance at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards here.

10. “Bow Down/I Been On”

The Church of Bey has clearly gone to the pop goddess’s head. A critic at New Wave Feminism writes:

Aside from repeatedly yelling “bow down bitches”, the song also contains lyrics such as “I know when you were little girls / You dreamt of being in my world / Don’t forget it , don’t forget it / Respect that, bow down bitches”. Apparently, Beyoncé thought the appropriate response for young women who admired her and looked up to her was to call them misogynistic slurs and demand they genuflect in her presence.

This Bey Anthem doubles as the death knell of the sisterhood.

Read bullet |

VIDEO: Does Suffering Prove God Doesn’t Exist?

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Prager University

Read bullet |

5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

6a00d8341cb55f53ef010536f93bdd970b-800wi

These days we don’t really talk much about idols, at least not in the literal sense. We talk about American Idol and teen idols and that sort of thing, but the idols that represent serious sin go unmentioned.

Throughout the Bible, we see the evidence of the damage that idol worship does. After the Exodus, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the impatient Israelites made a golden calf to worship. For the people of Israel, it was just downhill from there, as idol worship and the unfaithfulness toward God that such worship represented led to a world of trouble for them, including the exile to Babylon.

In the New Testament book of Acts, Jesus’ apostles encountered idol worshipers when they went about spreading the Good News of the Messiah. These worshipers of other gods — and even some of the craftsmen who made the physical idols — stirred up all sorts of strife for the followers of the one true God.

So what relevance does idol worship have for us today? These days, the idols that Jews and Christians follow aren’t graven images per se, but followers of God do allow certain ideas, preferences, and opinions to become idols that get in the way of their relationship with Him. Many of these idols come with the best of intentions, yet they impede the ability to truly follow God.

In the following pages, through an inter-faith dialogue with one of my favorite colleagues here at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg, we’re going to look at five idols that God’s followers allow to get in the way of their relationship with Him. Hopefully naming these idols will get some Christians and Jews to think about how they may affect their own relationship with God.

Read bullet |

5 Realizations as My 60th Birthday Draws Near

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

shutterstock_60044804

These days I’m approaching the six-decade mark in rather odd circumstances. The Gaza War has reignited, and last night we in Beersheva were woken up twice by rocket alarms, meaning we had to rush out to the stairwell and hear the big booms of Iron Dome interceptors knocking Hamas rockets out of the sky. In other words, not the ideal environment for stocktaking and peaceful reflection.

Even so, the onset of my 60th gives rise to thoughts, so I’ll try, amid the commotion, to summarize some of what I see as life’s lessons.

Read bullet |

VIDEO: ‘What is Truth?’ said Jesting Pilate…

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Read bullet |

God’s Not Dead, But Some Are Trying

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Take a look at some of these reviews for the religious indie hit God’s Not Dead:

From Britain’s Socialist newspaper The Guardian:  ”This warped evangelist item…  veers from the suspect…  to the outright hateful: by the jawdropping climax, wherein a preacher is effectively granted divine right to mow down non-believers, “doing God’s work” has become indistinguishable from Grand Theft Auto. Ban this sick filth.”

Here’s one from Movie Nation:  ”It’s a movie where rare is the voice that is raised, but deep is the rage bubbling through its rabid anti-intellectualism. When a non-believer is considered to be better off dead, that’s not brimstone you’re smelling. It’s bile.”

And from my old employers The Village Voice:  ”Judging by the ignorance and contempt with which the script treats nonbelievers, the real goal here is proving that non-Christians are worthless.”

I admit those reviews are the extreme ones. I disagreed with Claudia Puig’s negative review at USA Today but it was fair and honest and gave credit where credit was due. She and I saw the same flaws and strengths but came out with a different overall impression. Tastes differ.

My take? God’s Not Dead, is a pleasant and touching little entertainment, the core of which is an intelligent, succinct, well-reasoned and well-stated response to popular atheist arguments. There’s no Bible thumping, there are no threats of hellfire, there’s no attempt to “prove” God’s existence — the film admits it can’t be proved. But the script makes clear what I have thought for a long time: most atheist arguments, no matter how brilliant the scientist or philosopher who makes them, are just simply not very good judged on the merits.

What’s more, the movie is bracing in its vigor. It doesn’t hesitate to depict both the unkindness and the pain of a Muslim father when his daughter discovers Christ. His is a perfectly plausible reaction and we all know there are Muslim fathers who would do much worse. Nor does the movie fail to confront the fact of suffering and death that many non-believers find a dispositive argument against faith. I was happily surprised at how far the filmmakers were willing to go in making their case.

Read bullet |

Yelling at Each Other About Robin Williams, Ann Coulter, Death, and God

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

Inevitably, Robin Williams’ suicide saw the “raising awareness about mental health issues” camp fighting it out online with the “he was a selfish git” crowd.

When the latter reject the “disease model” of addiction and mental illness — people like Theodore Dalrymple — they do so prompted by a laudable instinct:

They think depressed people or addicts use the “disease” model to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

This is a bit like the New Atheists’ concept of “God,” as “an old man in the sky.” They proudly and loudly reject that concept, seemingly unaware (despite their alleged sophistication and superior education) that so do most actual believers.

Likewise, few addicts who accept the disease model (and not all do) use it as a “get out of jail free” card.

It’s called “How It Works” not “How It Lounges on the Couch Eating Cheetos and Watching Judge Judy.”

“What an order! I can’t go through with it” is right.

“Some of us thought we could find an easier, softer way, but we could not…”

Making amends, taking inventory, doing service and even prayer and meditation are exercises in responsibility and action.

Robin Williams apparently did all those things and stayed clean and sober for 20 years.

Then he “went out” in 2006 and was never the same.

“Cunning, baffling, powerful.”

Or, as Catholics like to say when they can’t explain something: “It’s a mystery…”

(If you say it in a somber enough voice, and include the “…”, it sounds satisfyingly deep.)

Read bullet |

11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

Read bullet |

10 Lessons on Abiding in Everyday Life I’ve Learned from The Dude

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.

10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.

Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.

Read bullet |