Democrats in Congress spending 1 billion per hour

Politico is reporting that the Democrats are spending like drunken sailors.

“In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend about $1.2 trillion between the Stimulus and the Omnibus,” McConnell says. “To put that in perspective, that’s about $24 billion a day, or about $1 billion an hour—most of it borrowed. There’s simply no question: government spending has spun out of control.”

The math: 50 days times 24 hours equals 1,200 hours. 1,200 times 1 billion equals 1.2 trillion (a thousand billions is a trillion).

H/T: Sen. Jim Demint

Scott Klusendorf makes the case for protecting the unborn

Linked here at Apologetics 315. His 35-minute presentation (no Q&A) is entitled “Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion”. There is a presentation of the law of biogenesis and the SLED test (Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependency).

A little biographical information on Scott.

For your office show-and-tell, you can buy Frank Beckwith’s 2007 book “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice”. Since the book is published by Cambridge University Press, it’s useful to show people who think that there is no respectable case for the pro-life position.

My previous post on the case for the pro-life position in plain english is here. It contains a link to a 4-part series by Beckwith on answering arguments for the pro-abortion position.

Why does talking about religion make people uncomfortable?

In a recent post, I argued against Christians who hide their faith in public. I said that although hiding your faith may make you happier and more popular, it is more loving to confront others as an informed Christian ambassador. Your goal should be to help your friends to be reconciled with God through Christ, by telling them the truth and answering their questions, if they are willing.

In this post, I want to survey a research paper by evangelical Christian philosopher Michael J. Murray. In a previous post, I surveyed his answer to the question “Why does God hide his existence from us?” in this post, the question is “Why are we afraid to discuss our faith in public?”

Murray begins with a distinction, as philosophers love to do:

…we would be perfectly happy to have a discussion of claims like…”Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first century BCE with the appearance of the Mahayana sutras.” … It is OK to speak of religion… as a historical phenomenon or a socio-cultural influence. It is something altogether different to discuss religious commitments that one owns. That is the sort of religion that troubles us.

People who aren’t religious feel discomfort about hearing about the religious beliefs of others, because those beliefs influence public policy, but (they think) those beliefs are based non-rational factors, such as place of birth, parental beliefs, peer groups, emotions, prejudices, superstitions, etc. They are uncomfortable living in a government that was voted in by people whose views are based on irrational religious beliefs.

He has some illustrations of this “theo-phobia” here:

…think about the last time you heard a devoutly religious person argue, on explicitly religious grounds, that gay marriage should be banned, or that intelligent design should be taught in the public school biology curriculum, or that abortion is murder and thus should be outlawed.

And I agree with that. I feel uncomfortable when people argue for positions from faith-based premises. But do discussions of religious beliefs necessarily have to be about faith-based personal preferences? Or is there another way to discuss religion that doesn’t make non-religious people squirm with discomfort?

In the remainder of the paper, Murray explores five reasons why theo-phobia exists in academic settings:

  1. Religion supports oppression, violence, and tyranny and is thus best ignored, excluded or perhaps even actively opposed.
  2. Religion is a personal or subjective matter and as a result can’t be subjected to canonical standards of rational scrutiny.  It thus has no place in the academy.
  3. Religion can’t have a role in scholarly inquiry since it at best plays a balkanizing role in the scholarly world.
  4. If religion is allowed to have a role in the academy it will quickly intrude into domains where it does not belong.
  5. Reason #5 is kept secret until the end of the paper.

Regarding point 1, Murray argues that religious excesses can be controlled by falsifying the religion using reason and evidence, because religions make testable claims. So, if academics are afraid of the excesses of a dangerous religion, they should falsify it by arguing that its claims are false. There is no reason to be afraid of expressions of religious belief when you are free to argue against the testable truth claims of that religion.

I repeat: different religions make different claims about the external world. Either the universe had a beginning (Christianity) or it didn’t (Mormonism). Either Jesus died on the cross (Christianity) or he didn’t (Islam). If academics are worried about the effects of some religion, they can argue against it! If a religious person is not willing to defend the testable truth claims, then they are discredited anyway by refusing to engage.

For the remaining 4 points, especially the last one, I recommend you read the whole article. Give it to your friends, religious and non-religious, who believe that faith is fundamentally different from  other academic disciplines. Some truth claims of different religions can be tested. And Christians especially should help others to feel comfortable talking to them by sticking to testable truth claims and publicly accessible evidence.

I’ll give you a hint about reason #5, from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel of New York University. Nagel is quoted as follows:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
(“The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

So we learn from Murray that religions stand or fall based on logical consistency and empirical validation against the external world, just like any other academic discipline. So long as you stick to discussing the public, testable claims of religions, there is no reason to be uncomfortable about discussing religions. Don’t discuss the parts of a religion that can’t be tested, only discuss the parts that can be tested.

(Note: Nagel isn’t all bad, he defends intelligent design as science in a research paper summarized here). To see how religion is debated in academia, (public debates held on university campuses, that leverage arguments from published research across academic fields), look here.

William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate LIVE FEED

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

Got this in e-mail from Biola University, regarding the upcoming William Lane Craig vs Christoper Hitchens debate.

YOU MUST ACT FAST—to set up a viewing site for your church, Bible study, family, or neighborhood! Debate takes place on Saturday, April 4.

The “Does God Exist” Debate is almost completely sold out at Biola University . Nearly 4,000 people will be seeing it live. But the demand is tremendous from all over the world to view this debate as it happens between one of the finest Christian philosophers alive today, Dr. William Lane Craig, and Christopher Hitchens, who is one of the most outspoken atheists in a century.

Live Broadcast:

  • Saturday, April 4
    7:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time (10:30 pm Eastern)

Re-broadcasts:

  • Sunday, April 5
    4:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (7:00 pm Eastern)
  • Wednesday, April 8
    5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (8:00 pm Eastern)

Deadline for sign up:
Monday, March 30, 11:59 pm PDT.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?
1) Just log on to the registration web site: http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate
2) Agree to the terms, pay the viewing fee, and receive a code to log into the broadcast
3) Use your equipment to put it on a nice monitor, screen, or projector, invite everyone at your church, and enjoy!

Look here for more information, FAQ, and pricing information ($98):
http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate

If anyone’s church is hosting a feed, please post a comment below.

UPDATE: I analyze Hitchens’ case against God here, from his debate against Frank Turek.

UPDATE: Audio and video from a  panel discussion with Hitchens, Craig, etc. is linked here.

UPDATE: Information about live-blogging of the debate is here.

Why Obama’s big government socialism leads to secularism

I have been browsing on a few forums, including forums that discuss Christian apologetics. Imagine my surprise when I encountered pro-Obama, pro-socialism statements by people who are supposed to be informed about these issues.

Well, I found an article over at Mercator Net, (an Australian web site), which might be useful for Christians who are sympathetic with Obama’s pacifism, redistribution of wealth and creeping fascism. I want to argue that his policies are inconsistent with Christianity.

First of all, the article notes that Obama did gain a significant number of votes  from religious Christians.

In 2008, according to CNN exit polls, Obama won forty-three percent of the presidential vote among voters who attend religious services once a week or more, up from Senator John Kerry’s thirty-nine percent in 2004. Obama did especially well with Black and Latino believers. But he also made real inroads among traditional white Catholics, according to a recent article by John Green in First Things.

The article describes Obama’s spending, (which I discussed here), and then comments on the significance of that spending for religious institutions, like churches and charities.

To fund his bold efforts to revive the American economy and expand the welfare state, Obama is proposing to spend a staggering $3.6 trillion in the 2010 fiscal year. Obama’s revolutionary agenda would push federal, state, and local spending to approximately 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product, up from about 33 percent in 2000. It would also put the size of government in the United States within reach of Europe, where government spending currently makes up 46 percent of GDP.

Why is this significant for the vitality of religion in America? A recent study of 33 countries around the world by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde, political scientists at the University of Washington, indicates that there is an inverse relationship between state welfare spending and religiosity. Specifically, they found that countries with larger welfare states had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, had higher rates of citizens indicating no religious affiliation whatsoever, and their people took less comfort in religion in general. In their words, “Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals.”

The article goes on to explain the chain of casusation from big government to secularization. Read the whole thing.

But this should be no surprise when you recall Nobel prize winning economist F. A. Hayek’s thesis in his landmark book “The Road to Serfdom”. His thesis is that the natural endpoint to all systems of government that control the means of production is fascism.

Fascism is a left-wing ideology, in which the state substitutes its own values, meanings and purposes for the values, meanings and purposes of individuals. There is no such thing as fascism on the right, because people on the right are free market capitalists who prefer small government and individual liberty.

To see how fascism destroys individual liberty and freedom of conscience, consider:

  • Obama’s plan to force hospital workers to perform abortions against their conscience
  • Obama’s forcing of taxpayers to pay for abortions here and abroad against their conscience
  • Obama’s forcing of taxpayers to pay for embryonic stem cell research against their conscience
  • Obama’s forcing of students to attend government run schools instead of private schools of their choice
  • Obama’s discrimination against religious schools in his spendulus bill
  • Obama’s plan to force some workers to join unions against their will and fun left-wing union political activism against their will
  • Obama’s forcing individuals to let Washington run their health-care

I could go on. And on. And on and on and on. But the point is that electing a socialist put us on the road to fascism. As IBD notes, socialists want to force-feed (podcast audio) their worldview onto an unwilling populace by any means – from government-run schools to news media.

I think that Christians need to do a much better job of understanding how our religious liberty hangs on small government and the free market. And remember: this crisis that Obama is “fixing”: it’s the Democrats who caused it, while Republicans tried to stop it.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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