130 left-wing fascist groups petition Obama to end religious liberty in America

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

Christian Daily has the story.

A group of 130 organizations sent a letter to President Obama asking for a review of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), worried that a 2007 Justice Department memo allows for federally funded religious organizations to discriminate in the hiring process.

The letter requests President Obama to direct Attorney General Loretta Lynch to reevalute a 2007 memo from the Justice Department that interprets the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as allowing for faith-based groups to be exempt from nondiscrimination laws.

“RFRA was intended to provide protection for free exercise rights… to federal laws that substantially burden religious exercise. RFRA was not intended to create blanket exemptions to laws that protect against discrimination,” the organizations contend in the letter to Obama.

[…]However, Derek Gaubatz of the Federalist Society asserted in a 2011 article that the decision on whether to reverse the 2007 memo or not “will affect the ability of faith-based providers who engage in religious hiring preferences to compete with secular and other faith-based organizations for federal social service grants.”

[…]The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a federal law that ensures the protection of religious freedom and had been enacted in 1993.

That story is also being reported in the mainstream media, e.g. – the Washington Post. BuzzFeed has the full text of the letter and the list of organizations who signed it.

If Obama chooses to act on the letter, it would be a federal level fix which would expose Christians in the entire country to lawsuits of the kinds we are seeing in “non-discrimination” states, where Christian florists, bakers, photographers, etc. are being dragged before tribunals, forced to pay huge fines, forced into sensitivity training, and forced to celebrate things that are against their religious liberty and conscience.

Once again, here are the states where anti-Christian bigotry is legal:

States with non-discrimination laws
States with non-discrimination laws, which allow Christians to be put on trial

The 130 groups are going for a federal 50-state implementation of these laws. The Democrats have actually already introduced the “Equality Act”, which I wrote about before. This bill would achieve this goal, so the letter is really to get Obama to push for that and sign it. That goes to show you how the secular left feels about tolerance and diversity, by the way. They want to push their views and values on others, using the government, in all 50 states.

One of the groups, the Human Rights Campaign, had previously got caught trying to squelch the free speech of pro-marriage activists.

From the Daily Signal in June 2014.

Excerpt:

Two years after activists for same-sex marriage obtained the confidential tax return and donor list of a national group opposed to redefining marriage, the Internal Revenue Service has admitted wrongdoing and agreed to settle the resulting lawsuit.

The Daily Signal has learned that, under a consent judgment today, the IRS agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage as a result of the unlawful release of the confidential information to a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, that is NOM’s chief political rival.

“Congress made the disclosure of confidential tax return information a serious matter for a reason,” NOM Chairman John D. Eastman told The Daily Signal. “We’re delighted that the IRS has now been held accountable for the illegal disclosure of our list of major donors from our tax return.”

The have the background to this story as well:

In February 2012, the Human Rights Campaign posted on its web site NOM’s 2008 tax return and the names and contact information of the marriage group’s major donors, including soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That information then was published by the Huffington Post and other liberal-leaning news sites.

HRC’s president at the time, Joe Solmonese, was tapped that same month as a national co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

[…]HRC is among organizations and activists advocating same-sex marriage that routinely describe NOM as a “hate group” or “anti-gay” for making the case for preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The Human Rights Campaign is a group that had previously condemned the Family Research Council as a hate group. This is the same Family Research Council that was later attacked by a convicted domestic terrorist / gay activist. After the attack, the HRC continued to denounce the FRC as a hate group. This is the group that Obama hires out of.

Shouldn’t there be criminal charges for whoever leaked the donor names to the gay activists? There should be, but…:

Unauthorized disclosure of confidential tax information is a felony offense that can result in five years in prison, but the Department of Justice did not bring criminal charges.

The Department of Justice did not press charges because they are on the same team as the leakers.

Andy Bannister and Michael Ruse discuss how atheists find meaning in life

Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!
Two horses fight it out, and may the best horse win!

I’m summarizing the most recent episode of the Unbelievable show.

Details:

Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse joins Justin as we spend a second week looking at Andy Bannister’s new book ‘The atheist who didn’t exist’.

Its amusingly titled chapters include ‘The Peculiar Case of the Postmodern Penguin (or: Why Life without God is Meaningless). Michael and Andy debate whether it’s a problem that atheists can’t have meaning with a ‘capital M’.

I think this discussion is a nice follow-up to a recent post, in which Neil Shenvi gave a scientist’s assessment of meaning and purpose in the naturalistic worldview, and explained by people should consider Christian theism instead.

Anyway, here is a summary of the discussion between Ruse and Bannister, and my comments below the summary.

The MP3 file is here.

Summary:

  • Ruse: ultimate questions are serious questions, and some religions are attempting to provide serious answers to those questions
  • Ruse: there is a psychological element to belief in God but it’s not a complete explanation, but it can apply to non-belief as well
  • Bannister: there are psychological reasons why people would prefer unbelief (quotes Thomas Nagel and Aldous Huxley)
  • Bannister: (to Ruse) what do you think would follow next if you got new information that caused you to believe in God?
  • Ruse: I’d feel scared, I’d think of all the reasons that God would dislike me, rather than any reasons why God would save me
  • Bannister: according to the Bible, God is not so much interested in mere belief, but in active trust in him
  • Ruse: without being smug, I just completed 50 years as a college professor of philosophy, and I have a sense of worth from that
  • Ruse: if God turns up, and says that 50 years of being a professor is not good enough, well, I don’t know God, I’m sorry, I did my best
  • Brierley: Andy, explain to us this story of how a penguin explained to you how he invented a subjective meaning in life for himself?
  • Brierley: (reads the story)
  • Bannister: when it comes to reading a book, the real meaning is the meaning the author intended the book to have
  • Bannister: readers can inject their own meaning into the book that has nothing to do with it, but the author gives the real meaning
  • Bannister: meaning in life is like reading a book – you can make up your own meaning, but the author’s meaning is the real meaning
  • Brierley: (to Ruse) on atheism, is there any objective meaning?
  • Ruse: “obviously, someone like myself cannot have meaning with a capital M in that sense”
  • Ruse: the real question is and atheist can find a sense of self-worth, “I find that I’m happier within myself, I can find meaning”
  • Bannister: what would you say to someone who drinks away the family inheritance and gets the same sense of happiness you have?
  • Bannister: what would you say to all the people who are unable to get “a sense of self-worth” from their career, because of where they are born, sickness, etc.
  • Ruse: I have nothing to offer them, some people are born into such awful situations that they are bound to be bad people
  • Ruse: these unfair accidents of birth, etc.,  fits with atheism better
  • Ruse: what we should do is change society so that more people can build a sense of self-worth through achievements
  • Ruse: that way, they can say to God “I used my talents” so they can create feelings of self-worth and happiness (apart from God)
  • Bannister: meaning in life cannot be answered without answering questions related to identity, value, which are rooted in the overall worldview
  • Bannister: on the Christian worldview, you have an infinite worth, your value isn’t determined by circumstances, earnings, friends, etc.
  • Bannister: your value comes from what Jesus was willing to pay to save you, namely, giving his own life for you
  • Bannister: when I travel to meet other Christians in other parts of the world, they have a happiness that should not be there if they are getting happiness from wealth, fame, achievements, etc.
  • Bannister: but when you come to the West, many people who have wealth, fame, achievement, etc. are unhappy
  • Ruse: well maybe who look after a flock of sheep every day may get a sense of self-worth from that, or from other jobs
  • Ruse: I do take Christianity very seriously, it is a grown-up proposal to answer grown-up questions – it works if it is true
  • Ruse: we don’t have to follow Nietzche’s statement that if there is no God, there is no meaning in life – we can find a middle way, we can achieve meaning in life by using our talents to achieve things
  • Bannister: I disagree with Michael, I don’t think that the meaning you invent for yourself is authentic meaning
  • Bannister: distracting yourself with amusing things and happiness is not an answer to the problem
  • Brierley: (to Ruse) are you saying that you have searched for ultimate meaning, and you are settling for subjective meaning?
  • Ruse: my subjective meaning is not second class to objective meaning, “I feel a real deep sense of achievement, of meaning, of self-worth, of having used my talents properly, and I don’t feel in any sense a sense of regret” (what matters to him is how he feels)
  • Bannister: notice how Michael keeps bringing in value judgments. e.g. – “use my talents well”, that implies that there is a right way and a wrong to use your talents, which assumes an objective scale of right and wrong, which makes no sense in atheism
  • Bannister: an atheist can sit in a sun room and enjoy the feelings of happiness generated by the light and heat of the Sun, without asking whether there is a Sun out there
  • Bannister: ultimately, at the end of the day, my concern is not whether something makes me happy or makes me feel fulfilled
  • Bannister: ultimately, at the end of the day, I think there is only one real reason to wrestle with these questions of meaning, and that is to find truth
  • Ruse: sometimes we reach a point where we cannot get to true answers to some questions, sometimes we look for truth, but then give up and confess “I cannot find it” and then move on from there

Is it possible to dispense with God’s advice on your decision-making and achieve something that affects a lot of people, or makes people like you, or makes you famous, etc., and then have that please God? “Look, God, I did something I liked that affected a lot of people, and made them feel happy as they were on their way to Hell because they rejected you”. Will rap musicians answer God by pointing to 50 years of leading people away from chastity with godless music? A lot of people went to see the “NWA” movie that celebrated musicians who have an anti-Christian view of women and violence. Can NWA present their “artistic work” to God and claim that God should be pleased with their successful efforts to get rich and famous? Having feelings of achievement doesn’t mean anything to God.

So what is the standard? How you imitate Jesus – self-control, self-denial and self-sacrifice to honor God – that is the standard. If I had to choose between giving up two hours of my life to summarize this discussion for my readers, and all the fame and fortune that people who make godless TV shows, movies and music have, I would choose to make this debate summary. My goal in life is not to have fun, thrills, travel and feel happy in this world. I have a Boss. Doing without fun, thrills, travel and happy feelings in order to put points on the board for my Boss is objectively meaningful. It’s may not seem like much compared to what James Bond does in million-dollar movies, but at least I am wearing the right uniform, and playing for the right team.

I was telling Dina recently, isn’t it remarkable how rarely in our culture that people actually talk about the big questions? If you look out at the culture, everything seems to be about feeling good, having fun, being liked by others. Not much about ultimate questions, and certainly not a truth-based assessment of the alternatives. .

What difference does God make to the questions of meaning and purpose?

Dr. Neil Shenvi has had a successful career in the field of theoretical chemistry, but in his spare time, he thinks about faith questions. One of the questions he’s thought about is the difference that God makes when we are asking questions of ultimate meaning and purpose in life. And he’s even done a lecture on it.

Here’s the lecture:

(37 minutes)

Topic:

Does life have a purpose? If naturalism is true, what is the purpose of life? If Christianity is true, what is the purpose of life?

Summary:

  • Dr. Shenvi’s brief testimony and background
  • There is no purpose to the universe and us on naturalism
  • The answer to every why-question on naturalism is chance and necessity (laws)
  • Nothing in the universe has intrinsic / objective value
  • There is no hope on naturalism because of the heat death of the universe: everything dies
  • Nothing that humans do, on naturalism, matters in the long run
  • Given sufficient time, the universe will not even know we were here
  • Famous atheists like Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins agree on this

Purpose on naturalism:

  • Purpose response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up purposes
  • The monopoly in a prison illustration

Meaning on naturalism:

  • Meaning response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up meaning
  • The scrabble vs Shakespeare illustration

Value on naturalism:

  • Value response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up values
  • The subjective opinion vs objective truth illustration

Hope on naturalism:

  • Hope response: we can invent our own arbitrary made-up hopes
  • The heat death of the universe ensures that all hopes fail on naturalism

If Christianity is true:

  • The universe and human beings have an objective purpose
  • There is a meaning to life that is objective
  • Human beings have intrinsic value, because God made them and values them
  • There is hope because there is an life after death that extends eternally

Conclusion:

  • This lecture does not argue that Christianity is true because it gives us goodies
  • People should become Christians because Christianity is true
  • Christianity is actually quite difficult because it requires self-denial and self-sacrifice
  • What God has done to help us overcome with our rebellion?

Note that these are not arguments for God’s existence, because he covered that in a previous lecture. And this lecture is not about arguing for Christianity, because he covered that in a previous lecture.

Dr. Shenvi’s web site is here.

By the way, if you want to hear a recent debate on this question, I summarized one in a recent post. The debate featured Andy Bannister vs Michael Ruse. Ruse tried to argue that you could get a feeling of self-worth from your accomplishments and that this feeling of having meaning was enough.

Study by UCLA neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwartz falsifies materialist determinism

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

Here’s a summary of the research of UCLA professor Jeffrey Schwartz, authored by William Dembski.

Excerpt:

Schwartz provides a nonmaterialist interpretation of neuroscience and argues that this interpretation is more compelling than the standard materialist interpretation. He arrived at this position as a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD sufferers recognize obsessive-compulsive thoughts and urges as separate from their intrinsic selves. For instance, after a few washings, the compulsive hand-washer realizes that his hands are clean and yet feels driven to keep washing them. It was reflection on this difference between the obvious truth (the hands are clean) and the irrational doubts (they might still be dirty) that prompted Schwartz to reassess the philosophical underpinnings of neuroscience.

From brain scans, Schwartz found that certain regions in the brain of OCD patients (the caudate nucleus in particular) exhibited abnormal patterns of activity. By itself this finding is consistent with a materialist view of mind (if, as materialism requires, the brain enables the mind, then abnormal patterns of brain activity are likely to be correlated with dysfunctional mental states). Nonetheless, having found abnormal patterns of brain activity, Schwartz then had OCD patients engage in intensive mental effort through what he called relabeling, reattributing, refocusing, and revaluing (the 4 Rs). In the case of compulsive hand-washing, this involved a patient acknowledging that his hands were in fact clean (relabeling); attributing anxieties and doubts about his hands being dirty to a misfunctioning brain (reattributing); directing his thoughts and actions away from handwashing and toward productive ends (refocusing); and, lastly, understanding at a deep level the senselessness of OCD messages (revaluing).

Schwartz documents not only that patients who undertook this therapy experienced considerable relief from OCD symptoms, but also that their brain scans indicated a lasting realignment of brain-activity patterns. Thus, without any intervention directly affecting their brains, OCD patients were able to reorganize their brains by intentionally modifying their thoughts and behaviors. The important point for Schwartz here is not simply that modified thoughts and behaviors permanently altered patterns of brain activity, but that such modifications resulted from, as he calls it, “mindful attention”-conscious and purposive thoughts or actions in which the agent adopts the stance of a detached observer.

So mind-brain interaction is not a one-way street. Everyone knows that you can alter your consciousness, beliefs, moods, sensations, etc. by changing your brain, e.g. – with drugs. But it turns out that you can also will to focus your thoughts on certain things in order to change your brain chemistry. So the causation is not just bottom-up, but also top-down.

Now mindfulness therapies – which are documented in the research papers published by Schwartz (like this one and this one and this one)- assume the existence of free will. Naturalists don’t like these scientific publications because naturalists don’t believe in free will, as the famous naturalist philosopher Alex Rosenberg explained in his debate with William Lane Craig.

This post from Uncommon Descent explains the naturalist conundrum.

Excerpt:

The issue, for Schwartz, turns on whether or not there is such a thing as free will. The assumption of free will is critical to mindfulness therapies for practical purposes.

Philosophies and religions have various opinions about ultimate free will. The therapist must ask, is my patient capable of carrying out a program that requires that he choose to focus his attention on A and not B? In practice, this turns out to be true for many patients, which makes the therapy useful. There is neuroscience evidence for brain reorganization as a result, showing that it is not merely an imagined effect.

Now, if someone wishes to claim, as many outspoken advocates of Darwinian evolution have, for example, that free will is impossible, the only thing that a mindfulness therapist can say is, go away. Either they are mistaken or the research results from mindfulness therapies are.

By the way, if you like this topic, and want a resource to show your friends, be sure and get a hold of the debate on mind vs. brain between Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Michael Shermer.

Quebec’s Bill 59 criminalizes speech or writings that hurt anyone’s feelings

Election results 2011: Dark blue = conservative, Red = socialist, Orange = English Communists, Light blue = French communists
Canada federal election results 2011: Red = socialists, Blue = conservatives, Orange = English communists, Cyan = French communists, Green = Enviro-communists

(Note: in the image above, “QC” is the province of Quebec)

Here’s an article about the latest restrictions on free speech written by the editors of the centrist National Post, one of Canada’s two national newspapers.

Excerpt:

In mid-June, when Quebecers’ thoughts were more attuned to summer plans than politics, Premier Philippe Couillard introduced two new bills in the National Assembly. One was long anticipated and non-controversial (in Quebec). The other was a bit of a bombshell.

The first, Bill 62, would shore up “religious neutrality” in Quebec. Its principal provision, the proscription of face coverings in the public sector, is largely pointless but relatively mild, as curtailments on religious freedom go, compared to the broader ban on religious garb the Parti Québécois had contemplated.

Bill 59, on which consultations are to start next week, is far more worrisome. Bill 59 assigns new powers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to combat hate speech, as well as a variety of other provisions meant to protect against extremism, by censoring speech that promotes “fear of the other.” Ominously, the bill would allow the QHRC to pursue websites that in its estimation describe and denounce Islamism.

[…]The details of Bill 59 are chilling. Article 6 would “give the QHRC the power to initiate legal proceedings before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal without having to wait for complaints from the public.” Article 3 allows members of an identifiable group as well as people outside the group to make complaints triggering suits for hate speech before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.

If this has a déjà vu quality to it, it should. Bill 59 would pave the same well-travelled road to suppression of speech and opinion that led, via the similar Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, to the infamous pursuit of journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant by Muslim activists determined to stifle normative expressions of opinion. The public’s disgust at such bureaucratic despotism happily led to its repeal at the federal level.

A  Toronto Sun article talks about the driving force behind Bill 59 – to criminalize speech that offends Muslims, in particular:

In plainspeak, the new bill, if passed, would give the QHRC the authority to commence witch hunts on its own accord, on the broadest and flimsiest of excuses, and hold people guilty based on someone’s – anyone’s – say-so that statements or postings caused fear for their equality.

If this sounds like an ultra-progressive attempt to shut up any person or shut down any website that radical Muslims find offensive, that’s because it is exactly that.

Time and again commission President Jacques Frémont has said he believes Islamophobia is one of the greatest human rights scourges in Canada.

He is convinced all sorts of people, groups and governments have used the 9/11 attacks as a pretense to single out Muslims and abuse their basic human rights.

Fremont has even admitted (boasted?) that if the Quebec National Assembly passes Bill 59, he and his human rights police intend to use the law to convict “people who would write against … the Islamic religion … on a website or on a Facebook page.”

According to an analysis conducted for the Canadian Bar Association, “the Québec bill goes further than similar provisions in other provinces, such as that which the Supreme Court upheld in Saskatchewan v. Whatcott.”

The Quebec legislation even mimics recommendations to censor the Internet brought to the United Nations by the organization representing the world’s Muslim-majority nations.

Now, it’s true that Quebec is the ultimate have-not province. It is the least intelligent, least religious, least moral province in Canada, and it only survives because it collects money from provinces where people still have morality and a work ethic. But that doesn’t stop them from digging their pit lower and lower. They are the Greece / Scotland of Canada.

If you happen to find yourself living in Canada, and you value free speech and freedom of conscience, for goodness sake, get out now and stay out. There is no free speech, religious freedom or freedom of conscience in Canada. There is no First Amendment in Canada. Anything you say that anyone finds offensive is liable to land you in front of a kangaroo court run by the secular left.

By the way, if you worry that things like that are coming to the United States, then you are right to be worried. The secular left is taking aim at religious freedom, and their champion is Barack Obama. Canada is just 10 years ahead of us. These things are coming here.

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