grasping at space

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  • Friday, May 27, 2005

    Pat Robertson on degrees of punishment in hell

    In response to the question, “Are there different degrees of hell?” Pat Robertson says that he believes the answer is no: “[S]in is sin. It is probably no worse to kill somebody than it is to slander him or her.” Full question and answer here.

    Another relevant snippet from Robertson’s answer: “I know our friends in the Catholic Church categorize [sins], but I see nothing in the Bible that indicates that.” I neither agree nor disagree with this statement; I simply don’t care what the Bible indicates on this matter. Categorizing sins according to their degrees of severity makes sense because it is humane to do so. It’s a concept that we have seen fit to incorporate into our criminal code, classifying crimes as felonies, misdemeanors, and violations.

    I’ve mentioned in passing my belief that the old “eye for an eye” line in the Book of Exodus is a statement of the principle that a punishment should fit its crime. If a punishment should fit its crime, but a punishment need not fit its sin, then clearly Robertson believes in a God that is less moral than the typical human being.

    Tangentially related to all this: I’ve added this book to my reading list.

    Thursday, May 26, 2005

    "Didn't the judge get the memo ...?"

    For the record, I consider Wicca rather silly. Nevertheless, I hope this lousy decision is overturned quickly and emphatically.

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    How to teach intelligent design in the classroom

    I recall reading an essay by the late Neil Postman in which he argued that teachers and scientists who balk at the idea of teaching creationism in schools have too little faith in the scientific method, and that they should in fact welcome the opportunity to put creationism to the test. It's good to see that argument resurface.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Talk about a false god...

    The most basic, bare-bones definition of idolatry is the worship of a false god, the object of worship generally taking the form of a statue or other physical object. Additionally, the word has taken on some metaphorical meaning.

    Fundamentalism has taken the definition of idolatry to a ridiculous degree, an example of which you can see in these sermon notes by Kevin Cauley.

    Cauley sums up the fundamentalist point of view quite nicely: “[A]nything can be an idol to us if we put it before God in our lives.” The drawback to such a stringent definition is that it strongly tends to lead to holier-than-thouism. A relatively weak-willed believer will give up some benignly self-indulgent activities for fear of not being right with God. No more after-dinner cocktails. No bowling league. Forget about that baseball game on TV. Better give up smoking – not because it’s unhealthy, but because it’s ungodly. A friendly game of poker? How covetous! Tickets to an opera? Sorry, gotta go read my Bible.

    On the other hand, a strong-willed believer will consider Cauley’s laundry list of sins and conclude (erroneously) that she is more right with God than that fellow churchgoer who golfs every Saturday. Extracurricular activities become the moral standard by which she judges herself closer to God than others.

    When I read Cauley’s notes, I found it very interesting to note that even he seems to become a bit uncomfortable with the degree to which he extends the metaphor, stating in his section on leisure, “I want to be clear that none of these things individually are sinful in moderation.” Unfortunately, he makes this statement in reference to things like golf and fishing, while earlier in the notes having been crass enough to make the bartender the moral equivalent of the pimp. (Perhaps he should be more moderate in his moralizing.)

    In the interest of full disclosure, I want to confess to my readers that I am guilty of idolatry. I am a light smoker (four or five clove cigarettes a week). I love whiskey. I own about 1000 CDs and about 600 books. I play Texas Hold ‘em online. I play fantasy baseball with the guys at Lawyers, Guns & Money. Which reminds me, I’m a blogger. (How could I forget my most self-indulgent activity?)

    I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. But, taken as a whole, does this make me more of an idolater than someone who would put this on the back of his car?

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Oh, so that's my world view.

    You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

    Cultural Creative
















    What is Your World View?
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    Friday, May 13, 2005

    A posting in which the author asks readers to bitchslap him

    I’m considering printing and framing the first piece of hate mail my blog has generated, but before I do that, I’m going to take the time to respond.

    I don’t deny the ignorance of my post about Chan Chandler and Jerry Meek. It was written from the gut, at a time when I was already in a bad mood regarding things totally unrelated. And I don’t deny my ignorance about things in general, as you can probably tell by the name of my blog, and by the quotation from Tsung Kao at the top of the page. And I’m probably guilty of having violated my pledge to uphold standards of civilized discourse.

    I’m not sure what a “total bitchslapping” of my position would entail. Frankly, I thought I was more critical of Meek than of Chandler. (I used the word “jackass” in reference to a state chairman of the Democratic Party knowingly, and the gist of my complaint is against him.) So, was the writer contemplating a harsh rebuttal of my positions regarding both of them? I doubt it, but I don’t really know. At any rate, since the writer decided not to “bitchslap” me, I’m no less ignorant now than I was before.

    All right. As I’ve been typing this, I’ve made my decision. I’m not going to print and frame this piece of hate mail. I’m going to save that privilege for the writer who decides that he or she does want to take the time to refute one of my posts, whether that takes the form of a “bitchslapping” or of a friendly attempt to enlighten me through constructive criticism.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    Thank you, Chan Chandler. I needed that.

    Well. For days now, I’ve been angry because I haven’t been able to make my essay on the UU’s First Principle suitable for posting, and because I still have no job, and because the law firms that interview me keep telling me that I have a bright future, just not with them.

    And then along comes that two-bit Baptist dictator, Chan Chandler.

    And then along comes a gutless state chairman of the Democratic Party.

    Come on, Jerry Meek. Threatening the church’s non-profit status? That’s the best you can do? Allow me to usurp your office for a moment.

    First, note that Pastor Chandler says that the ouster of the nine members was not politically motivated. Well then, in all likelihood, he must believe he had a legitimate spiritual motivation. Challenge the man to give a scriptural justification for his actions. Ask for the chapter and verse that says God is a Republican.

    Second, the nine ousted people and the forty who left in disgust need a place to go on Sunday. The appropriate place for them to go is the place where they would ordinarily go, if not for Pastor Chandler: the East Waynesville Baptist Church. And that’s exactly where they should go – along with a large crowd of righteously indignant Democrats, ready to worship God according to their inclinations and their consciences. Oh yeah, and a TV news crew.

    Any jackass can issue a press release. Do something substantive.