My notes on “Double… Standards,” chapter 6 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
The two visions of Christmas Yet to Come I am about to show you are wildly different. Let’s start with the first, which I’ve dubbed the “Vision of Christmas Yet to Come… if the Militant Atheists and Secular Liberals Have Their Way.” [Kindle location 1625]
Palin takes her readers on two imaginary trips into the future where she visits her grandson Tripp in college. Spoiler alert: She isn’t going to win a Hugo.
Karly sighs. “You might have a problem. Most of the Christian organizations have opted not to participate in our inclusive community, so we have no knowledge of their schedules or activities. You’d have to contact them independently, and I can’t offer their contact information, but their events would be decidedly off campus.” [Kindle location 1716]
Later, Palin makes more clear that “opted” is more of a code word for “forced.” One of the main themes of her dystopian future is that Christian groups are oppressed but non-Christian groups are welcomed.
This section more than any other in the book so far highlights how thoroughly she misunderstands “liberal” views of religion, and how badly she is misrepresenting her opponents’ positions by treating them as if they are held by the entire group. I have not personally seen a group that was trying to get only Christianity out of a public institution while welcoming other religions.
“It used to be that Christmas events happened all over the campus.” “Yes, but times change,” she says, looking at me with concern or pity. “We don’t have slavery anymore, either.” [Kindle location 1720]
I actually laughed at this and then got sad when I realized that Palin probably wasn’t joking. Then again, I have definitely heard from some atheists who would be very comfortable equating religion with slavery.
“Oh, that’s our ‘natural nativity,’” she says proudly. “It’s recognizing the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun.” [Kindle location 1746]
Palin says that almost everything she mentions in this dystopian section is based on a real event, one way or another. This particular quote refers to a display that the Freedom From Religion Foundation put in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda.
From the FFRF’s website about that same incident: “‘We nonbelievers don’t mind sharing the season with Christians,’ added FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, ‘but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really “stole” the trimmings of Christmas, and the sun-god myths, from pagans.’”
It doesn’t sound to me like they’re trying to get rid of Christmas, but that’s what Palin’s story seems to imply.
I found it interesting that Christian groups that weren’t deemed “inclusive” are forbidden to be on campus. [Kindle location 1761]
This is actually a legitimate question. Should a college officially recognize non-inclusive student groups? I personally think they should. For example, I think a support group for women who have been abused shouldn’t be required to let men join, a group for African Americans should be allowed to exclude white students, and a Christian group shouldn’t be forced to allow an atheist to run for group leader.
“Is that a… crucifixion scene?” I gasp. “Why, yes, it is,” Karly says. “One of our clubs put that up to make a statement against the ‘religious’ aspects of the holiday season.” I look more closely. There, on the wooden cross, a plastic skeleton hangs, wearing a red Santa Claus hat. [Kindle location 1768]
The actual incident Palin is referring to involves such a skeleton being put up outside a courthouse as a protest. Very different, in my opinion, from a display that is tacitly endorsed by Palin’s fictional university that clearly wouldn’t allow a similar display by a group with the opposing opinion.
That’s when I see the welded metal sign hanging above the door: RESTROOM AND FOOT-WASHING STATION [Kindle location 1782]
Palin is referring to the University of Michigan–Dearborn which was the center of some controversy when it installed foot-washing stations in a couple of bathrooms on campus. The university wasn’t doing this as an endorsement of Islam, but because 10% of its students were Muslim and sinks were becoming dirty and being damaged from frequent student foot washing.
I know that quite a few atheists disagree with me, but I don’t see a problem with a public institution using funds to meet a not-unreasonable student need, particularly when it is doing so to save on repair costs. I don’t think that the fact that the need is based on religious practice is particularly relevant.
“Oh, I see.” I look at the tiny print. “UAA believes traditional Christian theology is sexist, patriarchal, racist, and”—a nice touch—”homophobic.” [Kindle location 1824]
If a university published a statement like this, I’d also be against it. Not all Christian theology meets these criteria.
Though society has yet to resemble the story above, we’re edging ever closer to that kind of reality. [Kindle location 1849]
Not really, no.
Instead of going into the future we’re careening toward at an alarming rate, let’s journey into an America of true religious freedom and tolerance. [Kindle location 1851]
One nice surprise in this section is that Palin doesn’t eliminate all of the protests against Christianity. Rather, she allows for discussion on campus. I disagree with some of what she presents, but at least her heart appears to be in the right place on this.
“So,” I hear her say to the guy next to the display, “you laugh and mock, you thump your chest proclaiming atheism, but you asked so I answered: That’s why we believe this whole ‘manger’ and ‘ass’ story. Now, are you sorry you asked?” [Kindle location 1889]
I have run into a great many religious people who think this is how a conversation would go if they ever had a chance to talk to an atheist. They think they’ll have a clever answer that will stop the atheist in their tracks and that will be the end of the conversation. Sure, this sometimes happens, but not nearly as often as some Christians believe. It turns out that there are lots of atheists who really have given a lot of thought to their position.
“In national news, President-elect Romney is preparing to finally move into the White House.”
“I guess the sixth time’s the charm,” I say. [Kindle location 1913]
This is one of two times in the book that I thought Palin was actually pretty funny on purpose. (The other involved her future self not being recognized by anyone except for a person who mistook her for Tina Fey).
Well, I didn’t just make up those almost unbelievable examples. Everything in that section (except our Triple Threat growing up in the blink of an eye, obviously) is based on true-life events that have already happened in America. [Kindle location 1948]
I don’t know how honest it is to say that these stories are based on true-life events. Context is pretty important, and all of these things happening in the same place is very different from them happening separately (because it implies a coordinated effort on many fronts).
In a sort-of similar vein, I could say that a story of my father driving his car at 80 miles an hour through the center of town was based on a true story if he had once driven at 80 through a ghost town. Knowing the real story might significantly change your impression of my father.
The foot baths are examples of colleges spending tens of thousands of dollars to make select students feel more welcome, even as they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defund traditional Christian groups and toss them from campus. [Kindle location 1958]
The college wasn’t setting up foot baths to make certain students feel more welcome, it was doing it to protect its plumbing. Even if it was to make a significant number of students feel welcome, I could see an argument for it.
I don’t think Palin mentioned defunding before. If university funds go to on-campus groups, then I can see an argument for only funding “inclusive” groups — particularly if there is legal liability in doing otherwise. What I’m not clear on is why not funding a group would equate with throwing the group off campus. I’d like to hear details.
CHRISTIAN GROUPS BEING KICKED OFF CAMPUS FOR NOT BEING “INCLUSIVE” ENOUGH:Vanderbilt University—located in the “buckle of the Bible belt”—made Christian groups sign contracts that said they’d be open to having atheist and actively homosexual leadership. The Catholic and evangelical Christian groups refused to sign the contracts—except one that chickened out and signed—leaving hundreds of Vanderbilt students without spiritual leadership on campus. Sadly, Vanderbilt is only one of dozens of colleges that have tried a similar tactic. [Kindle location 1973]
I had to look this one up. The school’s policy, so far as I can find, said nothing about allowing atheist and homosexual leadership. Instead, it said that religion couldn’t be used as a criteria when choosing leaders.
Quoting Fox News: “‘Our nondiscrimination policy applies equally to all registered student organizations,’ [Vanderbilt vice chancellor of public affairs Beth] Fortune said. ‘We’re simply saying if you are going to be a registered student organization and use the Vanderbilt name and university funding, and have the privileges afforded a registered student organization, then you need to comply with our nondiscrimination policy.’”
The article on Fox also points out that un-registered groups aren’t asked to leave campus.
A similar publication at the University of Michigan mocked Bible believers in this way: Some texts of the Old Testament are used to condemn homosexuality. Taken literally and out of context, biblical passages can be used to justify slavery, prohibit the wearing of red dresses and eating of shrimp and shellfish, and to reinforce the inferiority of women. [Kindle location 1983]
I don’t know that this belongs in a university publication (it depends on the context), but the statement is true. In fact, it even takes pains to point out that using the Bible to justify slavery, etc., is done by taking the book out of context. I’d say that’s generous because when read in-context the Bible does pretty clearly justify many of these sorts of things (again, depending on context).
Were you led to believe radical liberals were all about “separation of church and state”? Hardly. They’ll stuff their theology down your kids’ collective throats before you’ve had a chance to unload their dorm gear from your trunk. [Kindle location 1988]
Any “radical” group is like this, conservatives included. But Palin’s hand-wringing aside, the large-scale attack on Christian existence just doesn’t exist in America.
Tomorrow, on to chapter 7.
In: Books · Tagged with: Christmas, Sarah Palin
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
A Christian talking to her daughter’s boyfriend in her living room
Eleanor: Deborah should be out in just a few minutes.
Farley: Thanks, Mrs. Clark.
Eleanor: I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to ask you something while we wait for her.
Eleanor: Well, since you’re dating my Deborah, I’ve taken a look at your blog and your Facebook.
Farley: Oh, great!
Eleanor: Yes, well, particularly on your blog, you seem to talk about religion quite a lot.
Farley: That’s true. It’s largely what the blog is about, really. I’m not against religious people, though. I know you guys are Christians, and that’s fine with me.
Eleanor: I’m glad to hear that, but right now that’s not really what I’m concerned about.
Eleanor: You call yourself an atheist, is that right?
Farley: I’m an atheist.
Eleanor: When you say that, can you tell me what you mean exactly?
Farley: There’s not much to it, really. I just don’t believe in any deities.
Eleanor: You mean God?
Eleanor: That’s what I thought. I’ve been thinking about and praying about that quite a bit, and it seems to me that for someone who says that he doesn’t believe God exists, you sure spend a lot of time talking about Him. Why do you spend so much time talking about someone you don’t believe in?
Farley: Whether or not God is real, He’s important to our culture.
Eleanor: That’s true about Santa Claus, too, but I don’t see you writing a whole blog about him.
Farley: I’ve never had anyone tell me I’m immoral for not believing in Santa Clause or try to pass a law that says I have to study Santa in school. Because I’m an atheist, religion impacts my life in a certain way. That’s what I’m reacting to, and that’s why I talk about religion so much. If Christians didn’t care about atheists or didn’t do anything that made atheism difficult, I’d hardly talk about God at all.
Eleanor: Hmm. Have you ever thought that you might not be being completely honest with yourself? Even in what you just said, you really were focusing on God quite a bit. It seems to me that maybe you are so obsessed with God that for your peace of mind you feel you have to deny Him instead of truly having nothing to do with Him.
Farley: No, I’m pretty secure with not believing in God. In reality, what I’m focusing on is religious people and their actions. I don’t think about God at all.
Eleanor: You say that, but you’re clearly having some doubts about your atheism. If you weren’t full of doubt about God, would you really talk about Him so much?
Farley: Maybe I’m not making myself clear — I really don’t talk about God much at all. I talk about religion, I talk about people’s beliefs about God, I talk about religious peoples’ attempts to prove that God exists, but I don’t talk about God. Even on those occasions when I might ask a question on my blog like "why would God do such-and-such," I’m really not talking about God. Instead, I’m challenging people to think about their beliefs.
Eleanor: All right. You’re still very young, and I’m sure that in time you will be able to figure out what it is that’s troubling you. You seem like a nice boy and Deborah is certainly fond of you, so I’m sure she can help you figure things out.
Eleanor: She’ll be out in a minute and I’ve got some things to do in the back. There’s a Bible on the table if you need something to read while you wait.
If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
An atheist and a Christian sitting on the beach
Fabian: It’s been a nice day.
Grace: It’s been pretty perfect.
Fabian: I appreciate your just letting me relax. I know you prefer running around and having long conversations, but I really wanted to just sit in the sun and listen to the water.
Grace: Any time. Besides, I knew you needed to wind down, and I knew that if we started talking I’d say something about nature or God that would get your atheism in a twist.
Fabian: Come on, I’m not that bad.
Grace: Sometimes you are. I try to be reasonable about it, but you have to admit that you get pretty irrational sometimes.
Fabian: Since when? When have I ever been irrational about atheism?
Grace: Since pretty much always. For example, what’s your favorite argument against God?
Fabian: You know, ever since Northridge, it’s "Why would a loving God allow earthquakes?"
Grace: Exactly, and that’s an irrational argument.
Fabian: How is that irrational?
Grace: To even ask that question, you have to think "If I were a loving God, what would I do about earthquakes?" But putting yourself in God’s position assumes that God is like a human, and if God were like a human He wouldn’t be divine at all, so there would effectively be no God. By asking what God would do, you’re assuming atheism, and since atheism is the answer you expect to the question, you’re begging the question. That’s a logical fallacy.
Fabian: That’s ridiculous. I’m not asking what I’d do if I was God, I’m asking how it can be logically consistent for an all-loving deity to allow natural evils.
Grace: It’s the same thing. If you admitted that we as humans can have no real understanding of the nature of and infinite God, you wouldn’t ask the question in the first place.
Fabian: You ask "What would Jesus do?" all the time. Isn’t that the same problem? Assuming you know God’s mind?
Grace: Jesus had a human part, so the question is about what Jesus would do as a human. It’s completely relevant.
Fabian: You yourself talk about what God wants and why God did things. You do it all the time.
Grace: I know some of what God plans and wants through the Bible. I’m not attempting to put myself in His place.
Fabian: Then how do you know that God will keep His promises and that what He says in the Bible is true?
Grace: God has always kept His promises, and God is all good so we can trust Him.
Fabian: How is God’s past performance any promise that His future performance would be the same?
Grace: Because He’s all good. I said that.
Fabian: How does God being all good tell you that you can trust Him?
Grace: Why isn’t that obvious?
Fabian: Because of what you said before about begging the question. You can’t believe God’s promise because He is good and good people don’t lie, because that would be treating God like a person and assuming atheism, right?
Grace: You’re twisting my words. This is exactly why I didn’t want to get a conversation started. It’s logically obvious that being infinitely good is incompatible with lying.
Fabian: It’s logically obvious that being infinitely good is incompatible with letting people die in earthquakes.
Grace: God is serving a greater good by allowing natural evils. You know that. I’ve explained it to you.
Fabian: Maybe God could serve a greater good by lying sometimes if it got people to behave properly.
Grace: Lying never leads to a greater good.
Fabian: So lying to your enemies in a time of war isn’t good?
Grace: For humans, maybe, but not for an infinitely good being.
Fabian: Didn’t God once help the Israelites fool their enemies into thinking their army was larger than it was?*
Grace: I don’t remember anything like that. If something like that’s in the Bible, either you’re misrepresenting it or God had good reasons for what He did.
Fabian: Then you’re saying that we can’t use the fact that God is good to make predictions about what God would do.
Grace: Right! Doing that assumes atheism.
Fabian: Then what’s the point of saying that God is good if "good" doesn’t describe God’s behavior?
Grace: It perfectly describes His behavior, we just might not understand how since we’re not on God’s level.
Fabian: Doesn’t that mean that there’s no possible way to tell if God is good by His behavior? Since any conceivable action by God is compatible with a "good" deity whose nature we don’t understand?
Grace: Nothing that God does could be incompatible with goodness because God is infinitely good.
Fabian: Which would you say is worse: begging the question or circular reasoning?
Grace: That’s not circular reasoning. Come on — can we just enjoy the last of the day? The sun’s going to set in a little bit.
Fabian: Fine. But, for what it’s worth, you were definitely right about not getting me talking before.
Grace: I’ll remember to remind you of that constantly in the future.
*2 Kings 7:6: "For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us."
If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.
My notes on “Bad News, Good News,” chapter 5 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
Our second president, John Adams—who was present at most every key moment in the formation of our nation—wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” [Kindle location 1361]
There’s a small bit of irony here since John Adams was a Unitarian and would, therefore, have a very different view of Jesus (and, presumably, Christmas) than Palin has.
This makes me wonder whether or not Palin realizes that there are Christians who don’t feel the same way she does. For example, I question whether Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly enjoy being wished “Merry Christmas” by merchants.
A democracy without respect for individual liberty is just a tyranny of the majority. The right to vote doesn’t guarantee virtue. The point is, freedom is the only answer. [Kindle location 1373]
Palin clearly doesn’t think that government sponsorship of religion is disrespectful to personal liberty. I’d have to disagree there. She also complains about people pressuring businesses away from being exclusively Christmas focused, but putting on this kind of pressure is part of what individual liberty is about. I don’t think she sees her particular majority as capable of tyranny.
Are Americans emphasizing the values that made our nation great, or are we rejecting them? If we reject those values, what kind of nation will we create? [Kindle location 1375]
I wish she’d define “values that made our nation great.” Male domination? Forced labor? Expansion through military force? I assume Palin is just picking those values she agrees with (even if she’s just agreeing because she misunderstands them) and saying they shouldn’t be rejected, but I’d say that part of what makes America great is a tradition of questioning authority and pushing against the status quo.
Once again, he’s learned a lesson: There’s something wrong with sharing faith in public. [Kindle location 1420]
This is the conclusion of a story about a boy who’d converted to Christianity over the summer and wanted to sing a religious song in the school pageant. What he should have learned was that there is a time and a place for sharing your deeply personal beliefs, and a school play isn’t it. I’m guessing the school would also have objected if he wanted to sing a song about politics or how happy he was to be homosexual. Hopefully he’ll learn this lesson before he gets an office job, or he’s going to end up having a very uncomfortable conversation with HR.
“Well, at this school, we don’t say the words ‘under God,’” the instructor says in a lowered voice. “It makes some of the nonreligious students feel excluded. Besides, do you think God only blesses America? I’m sure you understand, kiddo.” [Kindle location 1452]
This is Palin talking about the dangers of peer pressure, using the example of a boy saying “under God” during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance on his first day at a school where they use the original wording (not that Palin admits it’s the original). It’s weird to me that Palin is so concerned about the impact of peer pressure Christian children, when the opposite scenario — a non-religious child being forced to say “under God” — is far more common, and she doesn’t seem concerned about that.
An atheist family sued Acton-Boxborough Regional School District in Massachusetts to get them to stop saying the entire Pledge, saying that it was unfair to the atheist students who didn’t want to even hear it. [Kindle location 1461]
As I understand the suit, it wasn’t that the atheist student didn’t want to hear “under God,” but that he didn’t want to be required to say it. Even if Palin agreed that the child shouldn’t be forced to say it (and I think she probably would), the school is still making it clear that the government associates religion and patriotism, and I’d say that’s Constitutionally problematic.
First, they claim that words like “under God” and songs like “Little Drummer Boy” are so important (even dangerous) that they are justified in using the power of the state to censor them, filing federal lawsuits to have them removed from schools. [Kindle location 1469]
Nobody’s trying to say that “Little Drummer Boy” is dangerously powerful. What we are saying is that the government is powerful, so even the appearance of government endorsement of a particular point of view is significant.
Even worse, as the moral fabric of our country frays, we turn to the government to make up for our personal failings. Yet we can’t print enough currency or food stamps or free Obamaphone vouchers to compensate for failing families. [Kindle location 1491]
This sounds to me like Palin is implying a link between poverty and immorality. I hope I’m misunderstanding her.
Take Joey, for example. Though he belonged to a Christian family, his parents didn’t notice as the school and society gradually but certainly began poisoning their son with the unmistakable message that their faith was unmentionable… that good manners would dictate he change his message for the comfort of others… that society is better off without faith. [Kindle location 1500; ellipses in original]
Don’t good manners always dictate that you watch what you say in front of others? Isn’t Palin herself saying that she wishes people wouldn’t wish her “Happy holidays”?
And speaking of messages, what about the message that society is better off keeping the government out of religion? (Apologies to the dead horse I’m beating here.)
America is a nation “under God,” and it’s worth fighting to tell that truth. The Left certainly thinks it’s worth fighting to deny it. [Kindle location 1509]
Actually, if by the “Left” Palin means atheists, we aren’t fighting to deny that America is a nation under God because we don’t believe in God in the first place. When Palin says things like this, it bright-yellow-highlights the fact that she has no clue about how her philosophical opponents think.
A few years back I read a book that told a startling story about a suicidal person about to jump from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, causing a traffic jam as the first responders tried to talk him down. While this was going on, some angry commuters started shouting, “Just jump!” This happened in arguably the most liberal city in America—the birthplace of the “Summer of Love,” for crying out loud. Some of those “loving” citizens—who may think of Christians as hate-filled bigots—cared more about the convenience of their commute than a desperate man’s life. [Kindle location 1510]
Statistics predict that the majority of those yelling “Jump!” weren’t atheists. Even in San Francisco.
In America today, we are killing unborn children at a catastrophic pace. [Kindle location 1530]
This may be a good place to remind everyone that this is a Christmas book.
Our nation actually uses the power of the state to protect the “right” to kill children in a mother’s womb—for any reason or no reason at all. Do we worship ourselves so much that another human has to die for our personal convenience? [Kindle location 1532]
There’s a reason why voters don’t necessarily like voting for an atheist. Voters don’t want to give power to someone who doesn’t believe he or she will someday have to answer to the Ultimate Authority. [Kindle location 1536]
Quoting Wikipedia, “In most of Europe, atheists are elected to office at high levels in many governments without controversy.” Not wanting to vote against atheists isn’t a logical conclusion or a universal human state, it’s simple bigotry.
Dr. Thomas Sowell reviewed Adam Hochschild’s book Bury the Chains, which discussed the world’s first antislavery movement. [Kindle location 1542]
Again quoting Wikipedia: “The Spanish government enacted the first European law abolishing colonial slavery in 1542, although this law was not widely enforced. Later, in the 17th century, English Quakers and evangelical religious groups condemned slavery (by then applied mostly to Africans) as un-Christian…”
According to Amazon, Bury the Chains is about a British anti-slavery movement in 1787. This is what Palin says was the first anti-slavery movement in the world, when it wasn’t even the first in England.
I know that, considering the source, the lack of fact checking shouldn’t be surprising me, but seriously…
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., rightly celebrated along with Washington and Lincoln as one of America’s greatest citizens, was a Baptist minister whose message to the American people was saturated in faith. The black church was the backbone of the civil rights movement. [Kindle location 1549]
Note that, unlike Palin, Dr. King fought against what many people considered “traditional values.” She doesn’t seem to hold this against him.
There’s a helpful thought experiment to determine whether Bible-believing is really such a bad thing, brought to you by radio host Dennis Prager. He once asked his listeners to shut their eyes and imagine that their car has broken down one night in a not-so-nice neighborhood. A group of young twenty-something men are walking down the street toward the car. He then asked listeners if it would make them feel safer knowing that the young men (a) just got out of a local movie theater after seeing the latest shoot-’em-up action flick, or (b) just got out of their weekly men’s Bible study group? The answer is obvious to anyone who is intellectually honest. [Kindle location 1553]
Here’s a helpful thought experiment to determine whether Bible-believing is really such a bad thing. Shut your eyes and imagine that you’re a young woman who is walking from her car to a medical clinic so you can get a routine test done. A group of young twenty-something men are walking down the street toward you. Would it make you feel safer knowing that the young men (a) were a bunch of atheists coming home from an atheist-philosophy class, or (b) were calling it a day after spending the morning protesting at an abortion clinic?
This kind of question isn’t about religion, it’s about stereotypes. In Prager’s original, I’d honestly feel better about any group of people who’d just come from any kind of intellectual, meditative, or otherwise non-violent group activity. This includes religious worship, a book group, college classes, a visit to Disneyland, chess club, and barbershop-quartet practice. Similarly, I’d feel relatively more wary of a group that had just engaged in any emotional or violent activity. This includes attending a college football game, seeing a violent movie, attending a political rally, playing roller derby, and heckling a barbershop-quartet competition.
Third, Christianity is the source of these ever more illusive “values” we’ve been talking about. [Kindle location 1560]
I think it would be very difficult for Palin to make a meaningful list of so-called Christian values that didn’t pre-date Jesus.
Liberals tend to believe people are good, and institutions like the church or the traditional family are actually oppressive. Get rid of these bad institutions, or fundamentally transform them beyond recognition, and people will thrive and flourish. Ahhh, man-made Utopia. [Kindle location 1578]
Not even close to what I believe. Either Palin is wrong, not all atheists are liberals, or both. (I’m voting for “both”).
They even try to change the definition of marriage, to elevate adult desires over the societal cornerstone that’s built the family since the beginning of time. [Kindle location 1589]
I’m willing to bet that there were families long before there was marriage. I’m also willing to bet that Palin wouldn’t define marriage in a way that agrees with all societal practices “since the beginning of time.” Heck, even the Old Testament seems to define marriage in a way that American “one man; one woman” conservatives should take exception to.
Our Founders implemented a system of checks and balances not because people are good but because people can’t be trusted with power. And because we’re not that great, we need constant reminders of our need for God. [Kindle location 1597]
Another pair of sentences that apparently aren’t aware of each other. The Founders were fully aware that there needed to be checks and balances on the majority. We can’t have the majority voting that the government should endorse it’s religion, now can we?
Chapter 6 is next, but it looks like I’ll have a lot to say about it. It may take me an extra day to post about it. We’ll see.
In: Books · Tagged with: Christmas, Sarah Palin
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
An atheist and a Christian walking down the street after seeing a near-miss traffic accident
Liam: Did you see that? That car almost hit her!
Marissa: Why’s she in the middle of the street?
Liam: I don’t know. What a moron. She almost got creamed.
Marissa: God was definitely watching over her.
Liam: Then He should have told her to use the crosswalk.
Marissa: That’s not funny. Come on — why do you always have to make fun of me when I talk about God?
Liam: You know I don’t think there’s any God.
Marissa: Maybe you should at least think about the evidence instead of just making fun.
Liam: What evidence?
Marissa: There’s plenty of it.
Liam: Then why haven’t you mentioned it before. I’d like to see this "evidence."
Marissa: That sarcasm is exactly why I haven’t brought it up. You’re an atheist, so no amount of proof would ever be enough for you. No matter what I say, you’ll just say that it isn’t enough or it isn’t compelling.
Liam: Then let’s do this the other way around. How much proof is needed to prove God? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Marissa: That’s not true — they don’t need extraordinary evidence, they just need sufficient evidence.
Liam: Then what’s sufficient evidence?
Marissa: We’re just getting back to the same problem. No matter what I say, you’ll say it isn’t sufficient. It’s like this story I read in an old Superman comic. There was this little girl who won a day with Superman, but she was blind so Superman couldn’t convince her he was real. He took her in his arms and flew her around the world, but she said it was probably just a helicopter pulling them around on wires.
Liam: Do you think she was wrong to think that?
Marissa: She was wrong. It’s that simple.
Liam: It’s not that simple. Do you think that, given the evidence she had, the girl should have concluded that Superman existed.
Liam: If some stranger blindfolded you, picked you up, and flew you through the air, you’d conclude that the guy was Superman?
Marissa: No. Of course not.
Marissa: Superman’s not real.
Liam: Did the girl in the story believe Superman existed?
Marissa: I don’t think so.
Liam: Then why should she conclude Superman existed when you’d conclude that he didn’t? You’re using the same data.
Marissa: The difference is that I know that Superman doesn’t exist.
Liam: I know that God doesn’t exist.
Marissa: No you don’t. God’s real.
Liam: And your evidence of that is that if I knew God was real the evidence would convince me that God was real? That’s not very convincing.
Marissa: Only because you have a closed mind. You need to honestly consider all the options.
Liam: Then the little girl would have believed in Superman if she’d considered all the options.
Liam: Even if she really had been being carried around by a person attached to a helicopter.
Marissa: No. That’s not evidence for Superman. Why even bring that up?
Liam: Because you keep saying that evidence is either compelling or not compelling based on whether you know the truth before you see the evidence. That’s not how it works. For example, if you see a magician — a mentalist — who can reproduce a writing someone did on a pad of paper, do you believe the mentalist is really psychic?
Marissa: No. It’s a magic trick.
Liam: How does he do it?
Marissa: I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a trick.
Liam: How do you know?
Marissa: Magicians do that kind of thing all the time.
Liam: And something isn’t real magic if it’s something a magician can do by fakery.
Marissa: You’re talking about things that are obviously tricks.
Liam: Like Criss Angel walking on water.
Liam: So anyone who walks on water isn’t doing real magic, because it’s something a magician can do by fakery.
Marissa: You’re trying to get me to say that Jesus was a fake, but that won’t work. Jesus could really walk on water.
Liam: Then maybe Criss Angel can, too.
Marissa: No, he can’t. He’s just a magician.
Liam: Given two people walking on water, how do you know which one is doing it for real?
Marissa: Jesus is doing it for real.
Liam: Because Jesus can walk on water.
Liam: And again, you make a conclusion from the evidence based on whether or not it matches what you’ve already decided.
Marissa: At least I’m right.
Liam: At least you think you’re right. I think I’m right, too. In fact, I’ll bet you that girl thought she was right when she walked into the street without looking for cars.
Marissa: She turned out okay.
Liam: Only because she was lucky. I’d rather not rely on luck for things that are so important.
If you have a conversation that you’d like me to consider publishing on this blog or in an upcoming book, please see the conversation guidelines.
My notes on “True Grit,” chapter 4 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
Since you’re always going to offend somebody, you might as well do what’s right. [Kindle location 1008]
What if “what’s right” is offending as few people as possible?
What did we learn? The public is starving for high-quality businesses that also honor the community’s values—and don’t retreat from a fight. [Kindle location 1065]
Palin is talking about the large response to a call of support for Chick-fil-A from the Christian community. At best, it seems like what she’s saying here is that businesses should specifically favor the majority, even if it’s to the exclusion of a minority. The problem is that I’m not convinced she’d change her mind about Christmas (and other issues mentioned in this book) even if her opinion was in the minority.
Then I make the kids listen to me read these two stories. On our kitchen table, we place a candelabra and Hanukkah candles, as a way to acknowledge Christianity’s Judeo-Christian roots. See, I embrace diversity. [Kindle location 1099]
She’s so diverse that either she doesn’t own a menorah, doesn’t know the word, or is worried that using the word might bother someone. And it might only be me, but this seems as sincerely diverse as inserting the dreidel song into a Christmas pagent.
I don’t think it’s correct to say that a nod to Judaism acknowledges Christianity’s Judeo-Christian roots. Christianity doesn’t have Judeo-Christian roots — it has Jewish roots. Something can’t be its own root.
I bet Charles Darwin never understood this. If the world could be described as truly “survival of the fittest,” why would people collectively be stricken with a spirit of generosity in December? [Kindle location 1162]
I’ve heard this argument before — that generosity or charity somehow flies in the face of theory of evolution (and not just because “survival of the fittest” isn’t a scientific term). It’s a mischaracterization of evolution, and it assumes that Darwin didn’t discuss the possible evolution of altrusim (which he did).
“Although the circumstances, leading to an increase in the number of those thus endowed within the same tribe, are too complex to be clearly followed out, we can trace some of the probable steps. In the first place, as the reasoning powers and foresight of the members became improved, each man would soon learn that if he aided his fellow-men, he would commonly receive aid in return. From this low motive he might acquire the habit of aiding his fellows; and the habit of performing benevolent actions certainly strengthens the feeling of sympathy which gives the first impulse to benevolent actions. Habits, moreover, followed during many generations probably tend to be inherited.” — Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
Why would parents worried about braces, college, and taxes suddenly write a check for victims of hurricanes or tsunamis? Why would children empty their piggy banks for orphans in need, even if it meant they’d do without their new baseball gloves, bicycles, or the coolest new clothes? [Kindle location 1163]
Yesterday my child — a 15-year-old atheist — sent $10 to a typhoon relief charity, acting on personal initiative, without any parental hinting or nudging. Why? Because moral people do good things.
And yet, spooning out the potatoes at the high school cafeteria somehow soothed my soul. With each person coming through my line, I felt my heart become lighter and less burdened. [Kindle location 1186]
You don’t have to be a Christian — or even religious — to get that feeling. I have trouble comprehending why some people seem to believe that fath is a prerequesite for feeling good about helping others.
He didn’t have to come as an infant. This has to be one of the most incredibly counterintuitive moves ever recorded in the Bible. “That’s one of the reasons I believe Christianity,” wrote one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis. “It’s a religion you couldn’t have guessed.” [Kindle location 1295]
I could have guessed it. Jesus starting out as a baby is no surprise at all. In fact I think I can confidently predict that any person who claims to be the child of God, God incarnate, or anything like that will have started out as an infant.
Tomorrow, on to chapter 5.
In: Books · Tagged with: Christmas, Sarah Palin
My notes on “The Real Thing,” chapter 3 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
“I sure have missed the ‘dancing hem of heaven,’” she said, using a common description of the northern lights. “They don’t have this in Kirkland,” I teased. She was attending college in Washington State, and I liked to joke about how far south she now lived. [Kindle location 615]
Is it just me, or is this a little condescending? Isn’t it common enough knowledge that Washington is south of Alaska that the joke doesn’t need explaining?
I always tried to judge the gift from its box, which is harder to do than you might think. [Kindle location 631]
Because nobody else has ever tried to guess what’s in a present from the box. This is definitely feeling either condescending or like the author thinks that everything she does is somehow special. Okay, I’ll do my bet to set my impressions of the author aside for the rest of these notes, since they’re completely subjective.
Gift giving is great fun, but also pretty superfluous to the actual meaning of the holiday. Christmas is, of course, based on a historical event: the birth of Jesus. [Kindle location 705]
A few comments on this one. First, what we do on holidays is almost always superfluous to the historical meaning of the holiday (think about Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, etc.) I think that for Americans the one that get’s closest is Thanksgiving, and even that’s a far cry from historical truth.
Second, Palin is seemingly denying the validity of any “meaning” of Christmas other than her own. The day has a lot of meaning for me, and the day’s origins are largely incidental to that meaning.
And third, the statement that Christmas is based on a real event, the birth of Jesus, has to be defined pretty carefully in order to be true. More on this later in the chapter.
Most believe they chose this time of the year to coordinate the Christmas festivities with the already existing ancient pagan festivals—for example, the Roman Saturnalia and the winter solstice traditions. But over time those old pagan celebrations faded into obscurity because they weren’t grounded in much of anything but myth, while Christmas gained ever more prominence and meaning. [Kindle location 710]
Palin is implying that “true” holidays will triumph over those based on myth. History doesn’t treat this statement well, as can be seen by how well the religious significance of All Hallows’ Eve has been overshadowed by Halloween.
(Does that mean Christians won the “war on Saturnalia”? You bet. And it shows the incredible power of even new traditions to shape culture.) [Kindle location 713]
In this and the previous quote, Palin is freely admitting that the date for Christmas wasn’t set on Jesus’ actual birthday, but that it was chosen to counter pagan celebrations. That makes it harder for her to make those who are trying to secularize Christmas seem obviously in the wrong. It also makes it harder for her to defend Christmas based on its being part of this country’s culture and history — which the various solstice festivals certainly were in many places back in the day.
“Christmas” became an American federal holiday in 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill the House and Senate had already overwhelmingly passed. [Kindle location 717]
This implies — correctly — that Christmas wasn’t a U.S. federal holiday for almost a century. My understanding is that the Puritans didn’t celebrate it, and that celebrating Christmas was actually illegal in Boston for part of the 17th century (even though it was welcome in other places in the colonies).
The point I want to make here is that what we consider a traditional American Christmas didn’t really start to form until the 19th century. I’d say this isn’t an ancient holiday in anything but name, and in fact much of the history of Christmas involves people wanting to eat and party coming into conflict with religious groups wishing solemnity, with the partiers winning in the end. If Palin wants to look to history to see who will win this “war,” then she has to be studiously avoiding seeing that she’s on the losing side.
However, if a customer typed in “Christmas,” the customer was taken to a landing page that read, “We’ve brought you to our ‘Holiday’ page based on your search.” There was a second link that would take a customer to a Christmas products page, but it’s interesting that only the term “Christmas”—not the names of other holidays—brought up the generic page. Why were Kwanzaa and Hanukkah perfectly fine to mention by name, but not Christmas? [Kindle location 764]
You really need to be careful when you assign intent to someone based on their behavior (and yes I know I’ve done a bit of that in these comments, so I’m not exactly innocent). Palin is describing a consumer website that shows search results for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah but redirects to a holiday page when Christmas is searched for. True, this could be their way of avoiding the word Christmas (even though it does, apparently, appear on the holiday page), but it could also be their way of handling an inventory that has so many Christmas items that the search results for that term would be unwieldy.
Additionally, Wal-Mart began encouraging its employees to wish customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” [Kindle location 768]
This statement comes in the same paragraph as a statement that the store carries hundreds of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa products, so it clearly has customers that might not be celebrating Christmas. Palin seems to feel that the number of people celebrating Christmas is so much larger than the number of people with other traditions that the others should be discounted. It’s true that you’re statistically likely to be correct when you say “Merry Christmas,” but you’re also statistically likely to be correct when you assume a customer is straight, an adult, or not a tourist, but businesses that deal with the general public are probably wise not to make decisions based on any of those things being true.
So let me get this straight. If you’re an offended atheist, you should make it a federal case, because hearing a word you don’t want to hear is a big frickin’ deal. Words are powerful. However, if you’re an offended Christian, suddenly the power of language evaporates. Words don’t matter, they say. You’re just overly sensitive when “Christmas” is relentlessly cleansed from our public vocabulary, and you should simply get over the fact that it has been replaced by something else. [Kindle location 781]
She keeps making the same mistake over and over. I don’t know that anyone’s offended by Christmas, per se. What bothers some people is the assumption that everyone is Christian. And it isn’t just atheists — I knew Jewish and Muslim people who don’t like this.
They want the world to believe that an atheist customer who’s outraged over a “Merry Christmas” greeting at the store is a hero, whose feelings are more important than a Christian customer who gets ticked over a “Happy Holidays” greeting. [Kindle location 787]
There’s a difference here. The atheist is upset that you’re making an assumption about their religion. The Christian is (I assume) upset because you aren’t treating their traditions as the only one worth recognizing at that time of year.
When large stores make the decision to de-Christ Christmas—the fulcrum of the so-called holiday season—they might believe they’re acting in the least offensive way. However, they’re actually offending the millions of Americans who are celebrating for a very specific reason. While there are obviously other important holidays happening in December, it’s odd and rude to lump them all into one category or to pretend the throngs of customers pouring through the doors are only looking for solstice gifts. [Kindle location 897]
I think a lot of people who argue as Palin does conflate not saying Christmas with removing Christ from Christmas. These are two different issues. In our home, we’ve pretty much removed Jesus from Christmas in all but the historical sense and we have no problem with saying “Merry Christmas” when appropriate.
I also think that there’s a big jump between recognizing that not everyone celebrates Christmas and pretending that nobody does. And why is it “odd and rude” to lump all the season’s holidays together for business reasons? I don’t get that at all.
The day after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday” because it’s frequently the first time the stores are no longer “in the red” for the entire year. [Kindle location 905]
They relish it, they prepare for it, and they profit off it. This makes their insistence on secularizing the whole experience—by refusing to acknowledge why we’re there—particularly offensive. [Kindle location 908]
They also relish and prepare for non-Christmas holidays that are going on around the same time. Probably not as much, that’s true, but it seems that treating the other holidays as non-existent would be more offensive.
One of my favorite stores really goes the extra Bethlehem mile. In 1997, the popular craft store Hobby Lobby placed full-page Easter ads in the same newspapers in which their promotions regularly appear. The next year, they did it again, but bought full-page ads for Christmas as well. [Kindle location 921]
Hobby Lobby is a blatantly Christian business. That’s fine, but it means that their practices may not fit with the philosophy of a business that isn’t religiously oriented.
The Left wants to see our faith-filled population do good deeds, serve the poor, be kind to their neighbors, and give generously, without all that messy and “divisive” Jesus and religion talk. But if they actually paid more attention, studies show Christians are America’s most generous givers. [Kindle location 935]
This is another subject that’s more complicated than Palin’s making it out to be. I agree that religious people, on average, give more of their money to charity than non-religious people. However, they also give more of their charity dollars to religious organizations, and many of those religious organizations spend a good deal of their income on religious expenses as opposed to charity expenses.
There’s also the fact that the difference in charity between religious and non-religious people is not necessarily that great (although I’ve read so many different numbers that I’m not quite sure where the truth lies). Here’s an interesting bit of data.
Without faith, we’d be, well, the secular Left—a group that data shows to be notoriously stingy with their time, money, and pleasant attitudes, and that believes “compassion” is best represented by a failed welfare state that traps millions in lifelong poverty and despair. [Kindle location 940]
No. Just — no.
Who can forget that iconic Coca-Cola commercial from the seventies? The song begins, “I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honeybees and snow-white turtle doves.” [Kindle location 947]
Palin is talking about enjoying the commercialization of the holidays, but according to Wikipedia this commercial first ran in February 1971. I’m not seeing the Christmas connection.
Or any of the Budweiser ads that feature those gorgeous Clydesdales. Bud taught us all to declare, “I love ya, man, I really do.” And we felt okay saying it. [Kindle location 951]
The commercial was about telling someone you love them to try and guilt them into giving you beer. Again, not that Christmassy.
Tomorrow, on to chapter 4.
In: Books · Tagged with: Christmas, Sarah Palin
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
A Christian and an atheist on a subway
Ulysses: Mind if I sit here?
Ulysses: It shouldn’t take long to get to the next station.
Vaughan: It generally doesn’t.
Ulysses: Then do you mind if I take a minute of your time to ask you a question?
Vaughan: If this is about religion, I’m really not interested.
Ulysses: You don’t believe in God?
Vaughan: I’m an atheist.
Ulysses: I see. Did you know that with God’s help you can escape from your sinful ways?
Vaughan: What "sinful ways" are you talking about?
Ulysses: The Ten Commandments, to start with. People are, by their nature, sinners. Those who reject God do so so that they can sin without guilt.
Vaughan: I don’t drink, do drugs, gamble, curse, or cheat on my wife. I work hard and honestly, respect my parents, and I do my best to be a good example of a moral person. In fact, last year I self-published a book that helps people develop their personal morality. I don’t feel like someone who’s looking for excuses to sin.
Ulysses: You don’t believe in God, though.
Ulysses: Then you definitely are in violation of the first commandment, and likely violate the second as well.
Vaughan: Your argument is that I’m an atheist so that I can enjoy the sin of not believing in God?
Vaughan: Do you realize how weak that sounds? What’s so enjoyable about not believing in God that it would tempt me to base a worldview on it?
Ulysses: The hedonistic joy of indulging yourself without fear of divine justice.
Vaughan: That gets me back to asking what sins you’re proposing that I’m committing with impunity. And don’t say disbelieving on God again — that just leads you in a circle.
Ulysses: I hesitate to say anything personal, but you seem to enjoy the sin of gluttony.
Vaughan: I don’t mind your bringing up my weight, but you’re not exactly Jack LaLanne yourself.
Ulysses: But I understand the sin of gluttony and work with Jesus to overcome it.
Vaughan: I’m working on losing some weight myself. We’ve established that both Christians and atheists can want to lose some weight. Where does the enjoyment of sin come in?
Ulysses: You eat to excess to fulfil your base desires.
Vaughan: And why do Christians eat to excess?
Ulysses: That’s not the point. The point is that Christians realize the sin in what they are doing and fight against it.
Vaughan: I realize that overeating is bad for me and fight against it. What’s the difference?
Ulysses: Maybe I chose a bad example. I won’t ask for a detailed answer, and I know you said you are married, but think about your life and think of the number of women you have been intimate with.
Vaughan: I’ll give you an answer to that — one. I’ve never been with anyone but my wife.
Vaughan: That’s what I said. How about you?
Ulysses: We’re not talking about me.
Ulysses: The point I’m trying to make is this: were you intimate with the woman who would become your wife before you were married?
Vaughan: You mean before I was an atheist?
Ulysses: Wait — when did you become an atheist?
Vaughan: Answer my question first. Are you asking about my actions across my whole life, or only while I was an atheist?
Ulysses: Well, it may be that you sinned as a Christian and became an atheist to escape the guilt.
Vaughan: It might also be that I sinned as a Christian and stopped when my intellectual journey brought me both to morality and atheism.
Ulysses: Is that what happened?
Vaughan: I want to hear your argument before I give you the story. You’re implying that Christians don’t have premarital sex, correct?
Ulysses: Well, no. That does happen, but we know its sinful nature and fight against it.
Vaughan: I’m seeing a pattern here. Let’s jump to the finish: you aren’t saying that Christians don’t sin, only that they feel bad about it, and you’re implying that I’m an atheist so that I can avoid the guilt Christians have.
Vaughan: And since you haven’t been able to point out anything that I do that I would agree is significantly sinful and that I don’t feel bad about, then my being an atheist lets me avoid feeling guilty for things I’m not doing as well as things I don’t think it’s worth feeling guilty about.
Ulysses: You’re trying to confuse me. I think you’re lying about your actions so that you can get away from my point.
Vaughan: Even if I was lying — which I’m not — isn’t it possible that there’s someone in the world who lives a decent, sin-free life without God.
Ulysses: I really don’t think that’s likely. Atheists have no care for sin.
Vaughan: We also have no care for bigots.
Ulysses: I’m no bigot!
Vaughan: You’re making assumptions about me based on stereotypes of my group. Sounds like a bigot to me. Isn’t bigotry a sin?
Ulysses: It isn’t good, but I don’t think it’s a sin. There’s no Biblical rule.
Vaughan: Then let’s end the conversation with me pointing out that it’s the atheist here and not the Christian who took a moral stand against bigotry. We’re coming into your stop.
Ulysses: Yes. Now, think about what I’ve been saying and listen to your heart. It’s never too late to repent.
Vaughan: You, too, buddy.
My notes on “Knowing the End from the Beginning,” chapter 2 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. —RONALD REAGAN [Kindle location 429]
In the same speech, Regan said, “Well I think it’s time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.” That quote might be more applicable to this book than the one Palin chose.
The logical result of atheism—a result we have seen right in front of our eyes, in one of the world’s oldest and proudest nations—is severe moral decay. [Kindle location 494]
If that’s the logical result of atheism, then I’d say Palin’s using logic incorrectly.
Our Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our “Creator” with our rights, and it is astonishing that atheist critics think we will enhance our freedom by banishing that same Creator from the public square. [Kindle location 497]
Your atheist critics realize that the Declaration of Independence doesn’t override the Constitution.
No matter how much the liberals protest, there’s a relationship between Christianity and a healthy civilization, and we must resist their efforts to push God out of the culture, to characterize us as simple and superstitious, and to somehow say that religious education for children is even abusive. [Kindle location 503]
I reject the notion that all healthy civilizations must be Christian. I wonder what her definition of “healthy” is?
We put up Nativity scenes in tribute to the God who gave us life but also to acknowledge the very real history and identity of the vast majority of our citizens. [Kindle location 508]
That the majority of Americans are, to one extent or another, Christians isn’t relevant. The whole point of the Bill of Rights is to protect us from the “tyrrany of the maority.”
In each case, no one is required to participate, and people can vigorously disagree or even protest. Sit during the anthem, remain silent during the Pledge, or look away from the Nativity scene—each of those things is your right, and we not only respect your rights but defend them. [Kindle location 510]
Do people who say things like this really mean them? If we passed a law that said it was legal for women to be topless in public, would Palin agree that this was fine since nobody would force her to look? Would they be fine if highschool biology classes began with a “truth of evolution” pledget that children were not required to participate in?
Without God as an objective standard, who’s to say what’s wrong and what’s right? [Kindle location 515]
Somebody needs to take a moral philosophy class (or, if I may be so bold, read my book).
As we watch the unfolding train wreck of Obamacare, as bureaucratic panels of supposed “experts” are making key decisions about your life and your death, as regulators are putting out tens of thousands of pages of rules that govern your doctors and your insurance companies, do you think their values matter? [Kindle location 521]
This is off the subject, but is Palin hinting at “death panels” here? I thought we were done with that silliness.
Do you think a bureaucrat or “expert” who honors God and values life and other inalienable rights will write rules that are different from a secular leftist who views babies as expendable and older Americans as crippling cost centers? [Kindle location 523]
Yes. If experience teaches us the lesson here, the expert who honors God will make decisions based on tradition and heartfelt beliefs, even if those traditions and beliefs contradict with those of the people impacted by the decisions.
Leaders who value life as God-given, who zealously protect the inalienable, natural rights of men and women are far less likely to accumulate power, more likely to lay down the mantle of leadership willingly, and less convinced that they know what’s best for all of us. [Kindle location 525]
I need examples of this. I’m particulary interested in examples of very religious political leaders who aren’t convinced that they know what’s best for others. I may be cynical, but I don’t see a lot of this.
“I believe the Constitution deals with freedom of religion, and not freedom against religion or freedom to repress religion,” he said. “I think it is a battle worth fighting.” The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. In Freedom from Religion Foundation v. City of Warren, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote that the U.S. Constitution “does not convert these displays into a seasonal public forum, requiring governments to add all comers to the mix and creating a poison pill for even the most secular displays in the process.” That meant the mayor was well within his rights. Otherwise, “Veterans Day would lead to Pacifism Day, the Fourth of July to Non-Patriots Day, and so on.” [Kindle location 547]
I largely agree with this legal decision, and I don’t think it means what Palin wants us to believe it means.
The charge was that the city had a Christmas display (a tree, Santa stuff, and a creche) in its atrium and would not allow the display of a sign next to the display that said, “At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds. (and on the back) State/Church KEEP THEM SEPARATE Freedom From Religion Foundation Ffrf.org”
The mayor contended that any religious group that wanted to celebrate the season was welcome to display something in the atrim, but that the proposed sign was more political and anti-religious than celebratory and non-religious. I think he had a point. Certainly, atheists can come up with statements that sound more holiday-season-appropriate and that don’t have political statements on the back.
In a nutshell, the legal decision (as I understand it) wasn’t pro-Christmas, it was anti-inappropriate-politicising.
An interesting aside is that in the judge’s decision it states, “Psychological injury that results from merely witnessing an object with which an individual disagrees, however, is not sufficient to establish standing.” This seems to contradict Palin’s statement that just being offended is sufficient grounds for a lawsuit.
Chances are, you aren’t the local mayor or state governor; you’re more likely a hardworking American without ties to government titles. (If so, count your blessings.) Does that mean you’re home free? Not really. Seventy-six-year-old John Satawa’s family had been setting up a Nativity scene for more than sixty years on a public median between Mound and Chicago Roads in—once again—Warren, Michigan. Though they’d never received a complaint against the manger scene during those six decades, the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint in 2008 saying the display—you guessed it—was illegal. [Kindle location 564]
It seems to me that Palin is trying to imply that atheists and liberals are trying to attack personal celebrations of Christmas. The fact that this display was on public land ruins that effort.
While the ACLU overreaches all the time, sometimes (and this is sad to say) the law is on their side. [Kindle location 594]
From Wikipedia: “In 2006, the ACLU of Washington State joined with a pro-gun rights organization, the Second Amendment Foundation, and prevailed in a lawsuit against the North Central Regional Library District (NCRL) in Washington for its policy of refusing to disable restrictions upon an adult patron’s request. Library patrons attempting to access pro-gun web sites were blocked, and the library refused to remove the blocks.”
The ACLU has also acted in the defense of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Rush Limbaugh. Is Palin sad if the law in on the ACLU’s side in these issues, or is she trying to demonize the organization because it sometimes fights for peoples’ rights even when their exercise of those rights is unpopular?
Tomorrow, on to chapter 3.
In: Books · Tagged with: Christmas, Sarah Palin
My notes on “Angry Atheists with Lawyers,” chapter 1 of Sarah Palin’s new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas.
If someone is offended by a religious expression or speech in a public setting, then courts have allowed that offended person to sue… even if they weren’t censored, made to pray, or coerced into compliance with a different belief system, and even when they have a right to speak out and try to change public policy. Not only can people sue over hurt feelings—many times they’ve won. This means people can silence their fellow citizens for no other reason than the fact that they were offended. [Kindle location 289; ellipses in original]
No, you can’t silence your fellow citizens because you are offended. You can, however, work to silence your government if it is promoting one particular set of religious beliefs. Similarly, I can’t stop you from expressing your love for McDonalds, but I’m betting there would be a lawsuit if the government declared McDonalds to be the best place for “real Americans” to get their hamburgers.
He didn’t have to stare at the Nativity scene, nor did he have to stay and listen to the carols he didn’t want to hear at the Christmas program. He could have plopped in some earbuds, listened to his NPR app, walked out, or even written a blog post about how inane he found the elementary school program. No one forced him to do anything. However, because of this strange quirk of the law—a quirk intentionally designed to enable people to complain and remove expressions of our religious heritage from public life—Mr. McScrooge is a legal force to be reckoned with. [Kindle location 293]
This is a common argument — that there is no harm if you aren’t being forced to do something. It completely ignores the fact that when the government spends money on religious celebrations, all taxpayers are being forced to pay for them. As an aside, I’d like to know if any of the people who make this argument were among those who sought to prevent the building of an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York, even though nobody was going to force them to enter the building or even look at it.
I also think it’s interesting that Palin says this “quirk” was intentional. If it was intentional, then isn’t it in accordance with law? Does that mean that Palin won’t be arguing that current law should allow religious displays? I’ll be interested to see.
The “war on Christmas” is actually part of a much larger battle to secularize our culture and get rid of any remnants of Christ. [Kindle location 355]
I don’t think so. If that were the case, then I think we’d see people arguing that Christmas needs to have its name changed to something more “Christless.” Rather, so far as there is a war, it’s a war for the individual right to decide how to celebrate Christmas — religiously, secularly, or not at all — and to keep government out of the decision-making process.
Since 1953, churches put up these scenes, right next to the beach, for the public to enjoy. [Kindle location 365]
Here, Palin is talking about a series of Christmas-story dioramas that used to be placed along a public park in Santa Monica, California, just blocks from my home. It’s a small detail, but these aren’t “right next to the beach” — there’s a large cliff, a highway, and houses between the park and the beach.
After tiring of refereeing the religious war, the city ended its nearly sixty-year-long Christmas story Nativity tradition. [Kindle location 381]
Palin leaves out the end of the story. The dioramas were moved to private property and, to my knowledge, there was no problem after that. I seem to recall that when the dioramas were moved one of the organizers was quoted in the local paper saying something along the lines of, “Let them try and get rid of us now.” This completely misses the point that the argument wasn’t about Christmas displays, it was about the use of public land for that purpose.
In Honolulu, the Moanalua High School orchestra was busily practicing for their annual charitable program to raise money for impoverished African children. For the past six years, they had put on a concert with volunteers from the New Hope Church and had raised more than $200,000. In 2012 they’d already sold six hundred tickets and were expecting to generate more than $30,000 in donations for their charity. But four days before the performance, the Hawaii Department of Education canceled the performance, bowing to pressure from a threatened lawsuit by the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church. [Kindle location 399]
I think this misstates the situation a bit. According to articles I read, the concert was actually to be performed in the church and the church was selling tickets after services. The lawsuit wasn’t about Christmas, but was about a public school and a church working so closely together.
There is much made of how much money the event would have raised for charity. It’s a shame that the money wasn’t raised, but it’s not relevant to the argument. This is another situation where if the school was putting on a religious-themed performance in a mosque, I bet Palin and others would not be pleased.
Tomorrow, on to chapter 2.