Thursday, October 26, 2006

Actually, I liked him better when he was a bodyguard for the Dalai Lama.

Sam Harris is the kind of atheist who makes unbelievers squirm.

It's not just that he reject the idea of God; in both his books (and an upcoming movie), he also makes clear his belief that believers in any kind of god are evil, nasty, and irrational people.

Except Jains. Jains are okay. Harris wouldn't object if everyone became a Jain.

Then again, it's anybody's guess as to whether Harris's idea of Jainism squares with the beliefs and practices of Jains themselves. That's one of the problems with his books -- they don't always fit the facts on the ground.

Take his horrifying (and utterly convincing) description of a suicide bomber. In his first book, he describes everything except the reason why the bomber is prepared to do such a horrible thing. But then Harris asks the question, "Is there any doubt in your mind as to the religion this man believes?"

Actually, there is.

Suicide-bombing, remember, was not pioneered by Moslem extremists, but by Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka -- separatists who are pursuing the "secular" goal of a national-state for their people.

Now we could go on to talk about all the other "isms" that have inspired violence (and even suicide). Last time I checked, for instance, nobody was arguing that the "Kamikaze" of World War II were Moslems (or even theists); neither were the Khmer Rouge, nor the followers of "Heaven's Gate."

No, any belief can degenerate into violence; any faith can spawn hatred and death.

But find me someone who loves their enemies . . . now there you'd have something unique!

(Click on the title for the article in The Washington Post.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Grief Observed On Stage

Julia Sweeney was a devout Catholic.

Then her brother died of cancer, and her faith didn't help.

Julia's now an atheist, and in her one-woman show, she talks about her "spiritual journey" -- the journey of a woman who doesn't believe anymore.

Click on the title of this post for the New York Time's review of her show.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The wages of sin are death -- but as an investment, it looks pretty good.

Turns out that a lot of "socially responsible" investment fund managers are rethinking bans on companies that deal with alcohol or gambling. Ask them, and they'll tell you that these issues aren't as "black and white" as they used to be . . . but the real reason may be buried in paragraphs 18 and 19 of The Christian Science Monitor's article on the topic:

Finances could also be a factor. Pax's three funds have largely failed to keep pace with average mutual-fund industry returns over intervals of one, three, or five years, according to data from fund-tracker Morningstar. In one particularly painful episode, Pax last year reluctantly divested its profitable stake in Starbucks when the coffee giant struck a deal with Bourbon distiller Jim Beam and triggered a requisite "sell" in accordance with a zero-tolerance policy for companies that make alcoholic products.

Meanwhile, vices are paying dividends. The Vice Fund, which seeks out alcohol, gambling, tobacco, and defense stocks, has beaten the market with returns in excess of 18 percent on average over the past three years.

Click on the title of this post for the article.

If you thought those secular humanists in Hollywood were bad, just wait till you see what Christians can do!

Matthew Crouch makes Christian movies.

And no, the movies themselves are not very good. And if this profile of him in The Los Angeles Times is any guide, the man himself is not very . . . nice.

But his parents do run the Christian TV network TBN -- so hey, what do I know?

You don't suppose Matthew Crouch is working for him, do you?

Sure as eggs, you're going to get asked about Richard Dawkins' book -- in The God Delusion, he argues that belief in God is just not mistaken, but positively evil.

Fortunately, you can click on the title of this post for a review of Dawkin's book in the New York Times -- and while you probably won't agree with everything he says, the review's author makes it pretty clear that theism is safe (for now).

(Dawkins, by the way, has proposed that atheists should launch a PR campaign, and as part of this, they should start calling themselves as "Brights." Works for me . . . just so long as believers are referred to as "Lights." "Brights" and "Lights" -- I like it!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I still think they should have asked Little Richard to play the Apostle Paul

Turns out a lot of actors are devout Christians -- it's just that nobody noticed 'cuz they're Black. (And yes, some of them are Adventist too!) Now a new all-star audio-recording of the Bible is giving these members of Hollywood's elite a chance to talk about their faith. Click on the title for the article in the LA Times.

Monday, October 16, 2006

2000 years of Christianity are disappearing in Iraq.

Fifteen years ago, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today there are somewhere between 600K and 800K -- and more are leaving every day. Click on the title for the article in the NYT.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

How long before they do "The Passion of the Christ" as a musical?

Article in The Christian Science Monitor about Hollywood's new-found interest in movies based on the Bible. The reason? Hollywood's long-established interest in movies that make money. When TPotC made $600 million, that made a lot of studios get religion. (And didn't they used to call these movies, "Bathrobe Epics"?)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And no, "Jesus Camp" is not the answer.

Christianity Today asked over a hundred youth leaders how we're doing at reaching youth.

The answer?

Not very well "They come to our events," say the experts. "They come forward when we make an altar call. But none of this seems to be making the long-term difference that it should.

So what's the problem?

"We've created a youth ghetto," say the experts -- "one that doesn't tie in with the larger church."

Click on the title for the article

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is there some way I could get Caesar to keep an eye on what I've been rendering unto God?

Okay, so I'm reading part two in The New York Times series on churches on the law -- the one where it says that pastors can't sue their denomination if they get fired.

And as I'm reading, I'm going, "yeah, yeah, yeah -- so what else is new?"

But then I read this:
Religious employers are exempt from Erisa, the federal pension law that establishes disclosure requirements and conflict-of-interest restrictions for employee pension plans. That exemption has given rise to several cases in which workers at religious hospitals found that their pensions had vanished because of practices that would not have been allowed under Erisa’s rules.

A related exemption frees religious employers from participating in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the government-run insurance program that provides a safety net for corporate pension plans.
Okay, that's . . . interesting.

Does anybody out there know how this affects us? I mean, even if we don't need to obey Erisa, we're still in compliance with it, right? And as for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation . . . oh well, never mind.

(By the way, the last few paragraphs of this article concern SDA hospitals. I knew that most SDAs won't join labor unions; I was a little surprised to find that our hospitals won't let any of their employees join labor unions, either.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Never mind "rendering unto Caesar" -- what about my local planning commission?

Troubling article in the NYT: Romans 13 urges me to "be subject to the governing authorities" -- but does that mean I have to obey local zoning laws? How about state regulations on child-care? And could somebody tell me how to build a baptistry that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sure glad we don't have to worry about this.

Interesting article in the New York Times about youth ministry -- right now, many evangelical churches are running scared; they're afraid they're going to lose the next generation.