Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Happy Independence Day 2014!

The Stars and Stripes

The Stars and Stripes

The Declaration of Independence

Here’s the complete text of the Declaration of Independence here.

The best book to read about the Revolutionary War is David McCullough’s “1776”, which I highly recommend. The audio book version is awesome.

George Washington and the American Revolution

Washington Crossing the Delaware
Washington Crossing the Delaware

To really understand the founding of the United States, you should read about the story of Washington crossing the Delaware. At this point in the Revolutionary War, the British commanders had achieved a stunning series of victories against the Americans. They had even sent word home to the King that the war was over, and that the Americans would be forced to surrender. But Washington did not give up. He attacked the British forces and took them by surprise – and he won the Battle of Trenton! That was the turning point of the war. There almost never was a United States of America – that’s how close the revolution came to failing.

Ronald Reagan vision of America

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

Here is a portion of Ronald Reagan’s farewell speech:

Excerpt:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stand the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after two hundred years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

This is no ordinary nation. But we need to be vigilant to make sure we don’t drift away from the vision of the Founders.

United States Air Force

United States Air Force

The Star Spangled Banner

Lyrics:

“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

America the Beautiful

Lyrics:

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!”

Here is my favorite version of America the Beautiful, sung by Ray Charles.

Remember to be grateful for the Founding Fathers, and other patriots, who risked everything for liberty in the Revolutionary war. Be grateful to those men and women still fighting abroad to keep those freedoms safe from evil. And most of all, be grateful to God that America is still the beacon of liberty.

Happy Independence Day!

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can atheists condemn slavery as immoral? Do atheists believe that slavery is wrong?

Note: For a Christian response to the complaint that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery, see this article and this article for slavery in the Old Testament, and this article for slavery in the New Testament. These are all by Christian philosopher Paul Copan. You can watch a lecture with Paul Copan on the slavery challenge here, and buy a book where he answers the challenge in more detail. There is also a good debate on whether the Bible condones slavery here, featuring David Instone-Brewer and Robert Price. My post is not a formal logical essay on this issue, it is more that I am outraged that atheists, who cannot even rationally ground objective morality, insist on criticizing the morality of the Bible. I think that atheists who are serious about finding the truth about these issues should check out those links, if they are interested in getting to the truth of these matters.

In other posts, I’ve argued that without an objective moral standard of what is right and wrong, any judgments about right and wrong are just individual opinions. So, when an atheist says slavery is wrong, what he really means is that he thinks slavery is wrong for him, in the same way that he thinks that,say, that chocolate ice cream is right for him. He isn’t saying what is wrong objectively, because on atheism there are no objective moral rules or duties. He is speaking for himself: “I wouldn’t own a slave, just like I wouldn’t eat broccoli – because it’s yucky!”. But he has no rational argument against other people owning slaves in other times and places, because their justification for owning slaves is the same as his justification for not owning slaves : personal preference.

So do atheists oppose slavery? Do they believe in an objective human right to liberty? Well, there are no objective human rights of any kind on atheism. Human beings are just accidents in an accidental universe, and collections of atoms do not mysteriously accrue “rights”. There is no natural right to liberty on atheism. Now consider abortion, which is arguably very similar to slavery. Most atheists do favor abortion in this time and place. Like slavery, abortion declares an entire class of weaker people as non-persons in order to justify preserving their own happiness and prosperity by means of violence. That’s exactly what slavery does, except abortion is worse than slavery, because you actually kill the person you are declaring as a non-person instead of just imprisoning them.

So how many atheists have this pro-abortion view that it is OK to declare unborn children  as non-persons so they can kill them?

Well, according to Gallup, the “non-religious” are the group most likely to support abortion. In fact, 68% favor legalized abortion, compared to only 19% who oppose it.

Take a look at the Gallup poll data from 2012:

Atheists are OK with the strong killing the weak

Most atheists are OK with the strong killing the weak

The Gallup numbers might actually be low, because “No religion” might include people who are spiritual, but not religious. But what about atheists alone?

As a group, atheists tend to be among the most radical supporters of legalized abortion. The Secular Census of 2012 found that 97% of atheists vote for abortion. There are almost no pro-life atheists. Why is it that atheists look at unborn children and think it’s OK to kill them? Well, let’s see what atheists scholars think about morality, and we’ll find out why they think abortion is OK.

Atheist scholars think morality is nonsense

Atheist William Provine says atheists have no free will, no moral accountability and no moral significance:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Source: http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm

Atheists Michael Ruse says atheists have no objective moral standards:

The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.(Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

Atheist Richard Dawkins says atheists have no objective moral standards:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

Let’s take a closer look at Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins and morality

Here’s how far Dawkins takes his view that there is no evil and no good:

Richard Dawkins explains morality on atheism

Richard Dawkins explains morality on atheism

But wait! He goes even further than mere abortion:

So, looking at Dawkins, what kind of ethic can you get from Darwinism and atheism? Survival of the fittest. The strong kill the weak.

Richard Dawkins even advocates for adultery.

Now atheists may feign morality in order to get along with other people in a society that is still anchored in Judeo-Christian values, but they tend to vote for liberal social policies, and they oppose political action by those who still hold to objective morality. So what they are working toward, generally, is less and less influence in politics by those who favor objective human rights, objective moral values and objective moral duties. 

So do atheists oppose slavery, or don’t they?

I actually don’t think that atheists think slavery is morally wrong, although they might personally not want to own slaves in this time and place because slavery is illegal – thanks to Judeo-Christian values. But in other areas, like abortion, we can see that atheists are willing to use violence against the weak to augment their happiness and prosperity. Unborn babies are weak, like slaves. Atheists are willing to kill the weak unborn babies who stop them from pursuing pleasure and prosperity. I don’t see how they would have any objections to enslaving other people if they had the strength to do so. In fact, unjust imprisonment and forced labor are happening in atheistic North Korea right now.

But do you know who does oppose slavery enough to do something about it?

Dinesh D’Souza explains:

Slavery was mostly eradicated from Western civilization–then called Christendom–between the fourth and the tenth century. The Greco-Roman institution of slavery gave way to serfdom. Now serfdom has its problems but at least the serf is not a “human tool” and cannot be bought and sold like property. So slavery was ended twice in Western civilization, first in the medieval era and then again in the modern era.

In the American South, Christianity proved to be the solace of the oppressed. As historian Eugene Genovese documents in Roll, Jordan, Roll, when black slaves sought to find dignity during the dark night of slavery, they didn’t turn to Marcus Aurelius or David Hume; they turned to the Bible. When they sought hope and inspiration for liberation, they found it not in Voltaire or D’Holbach but in the Book of Exodus.

The anti-slavery movements led by Wilberforce in England and abolitionists in America were dominated by Christians. These believers reasoned that since we are all created equal in the eyes of God, no one has the right to rule another without consent. This is the moral basis not only of anti-slavery but also of democracy.

And, in fact, you can see Christians pushing the culture hard against abortion today, just as we did with slavery. Defending the weak is what we do. Meanwhile, most atheists think that an unborn child has as much of a right to legal protection as a cockroach.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two families fighting for their religious liberty at the Supreme Court

The Heritage Foundation reports on the cases that will determine how far the Democrats can go to undermine religious liberty.

Excerpt:

In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in cases challenging an Obamacare mandate that is trampling on religious freedom. The Hahn family and the Green family will be at the Court on March 25 asking for respect of their religious liberty and the freedom to continue offering their employees generous health plans.

Let’s meet these families and what they’re fighting for.

A Christian Mennonite family, the Hahns have run Conestoga Wood Specialties near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for nearly 50 years. A second-generation family business, Conestoga employs almost 1,000 individuals to produce quality wood products.

The Hahns have always run their family business in accordance with their faith, including offering an employee health plan that aligns with their values. Under the mandate, however, Conestoga Wood could face fines of up to $95,000 per day for sticking to their deeply held beliefs and not complying with the mandate.

Speaking of their fight for religious freedom at the Supreme Court, Conestoga president Anthony Hahn explains the magnitude of their case: “It’s not really only for Conestoga; we’re taking a stand for other businesses as well. This is a religious liberty issue that is concerning to us. We feel that the government has gone too far in too many instances.”

And number two:

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally are what we should operate our lives by, so that naturally flows over into the business,” explains Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts retailer.

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby has grown from one 300-square-foot garage to over 500 stores in 41 states employing more than 16,000 individuals.

The Greens’ faith is integral to how they operate their family business. Hobby Lobby storesclose on Sundays and are open only 66 hours a week so that their employees can spend more time with their families. The family’s faith influences not only the way they care for employees but their investment in communities through partnerships with numerous Christian ministries.

Yet under the Obamacare mandate, the government is forcing families like the Greens to violate those beliefs by funding coverage of potentially life-ending drugs and devices or face crippling fines—up to $1.3 million per day in the case of Hobby Lobby. Even if the business is forced to drop employee health care coverage to avoid the mandate, it would still face a fine of $2,000 per employee per year.

There are other victims as well, but these are the two that I am watching.  The Obama administration just recently established in the courts that parents have no human right to homeschool their children. Now there will be a fight to see if government can force Christians to violate their consciences in their business operations. We should all be watching and praying about this, and thinking about what we can do to protect our values.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Take a half-hour and watch this Discovery Institute documentary on environmental extremism

It runs for 31 minutes.

Description:

Are humans the enemy? Should pigs and peas have constitutional rights? The War on Humans is a 31-minute documentary that critiques growing efforts to disparage the value of humans in the name of saving the planet. The documentary investigates the views of anti-human activists who want to grant legal rights to animals, plants, and “Mother Earth,” and who want to reduce the human population by up to 90%. The video features Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith, author of a companion e-book with the same title.

Fascinating!

Podcasts

And there are some podcasts to go with it for those who like podcasts:

Podcast 1:

On this episode of ID the Future, hear from bioethicist Wesley J. Smith as he talks about his new book The War on Humans, also adapted as a documentary film. In this first podcast of the series, Smith discusses what makes humans unique among the creatures of the earth, and why it matters: “Universal human rights are at stake. The intrinsic dignity of human life is at stake. The understanding of our unique place in the world, both in terms of or value and in terms of obligation, they are at stake.” Listen in!

The MP3 is here.

Podcast 2:

On this episode of ID the Future, hear from bioethicist Wesley J. Smith as he continues his conversation on his new book The War on Humans, also adapted as a documentary film. In this second podcast of the series, you’ll hear about how the conservation movement turned into an anti-human movement, and how this affects humans, especially in the developing world and in marginalized people groups.

The MP3 is here.

Podcast 3:

On this episode of ID the Future, hear from bioethicist Wesley J. Smith as he continues his conversation on his new book The War on Humans, also adapted as a documentary film. In this third podcast of the series, you’ll hear about the legal movement to establish legal rights for animals, and even plants. Smith examines the meaning of the term “personhood” and its implications for human rights.

The MP3 is here.

A recent story about eco-terrorism was in the news.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

The 50 worst countries for anti-Christian persecution

Kirsten Powers explains in the leftist Daily Beast, of all places.

Excerpt:

In their annual report of the worst 50 countries for Christian persecution, Open Doors found that Christian martyr deaths around the globe doubled in 2013.  Their report documented 2,123 killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. In Syria alone, there were 1,213 such deaths last year. In addition to losing their lives, Christians around the world continue to suffer discrimination, imprisonment, harassment, sexual assaults, and expulsion from countries merely for practicing their faith.

Once again, the worst persecutor of Christians is North Korea, where an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 followers of Jesus are suffering in prison camps for “crimes” such as owning a Bible, going to church, or sharing their faith. In November 2013, it was reported that 80 prisoners were publicly executed, many for possessing Bibles. Last year, North Korea sentenced an American missionary, Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor in a prison camp.

[...]It’s chilling to imagine worse treatment than what the average North Korean prisoner has reported, including a mother forced to drown her own baby in a bucket, and tales of subsisting on nothing more than rats and insects. According to first-hand accounts from former prisoners reported by Amnesty International, “every former inmate at one camp had witnessed a public execution, one child was held for eight months in a cube-like cell so small he couldn’t move his body and an estimated 40% of inmates die from malnutrition.”

Syria, ranked as the third-worst country by Open Doors, has devolved in the last year to a horror show for Christians. The Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea noted in December 2013 a message she received from a contact in Syria who reported, “Kidnapping, killings, ransom, rape . . . 2013 is a tragedy for Christians in Syria. All Syrians have endured great suffering and distress. The Christians, however, often had to pay with their lives for their faith. Our bishops and nuns have been kidnapped, our political leader killed by torture. After our Christian villages have been occupied, our churches have been destroyed and even mass graves were found in Saddad. [T]he Islamists have put [to] the Christians the alternative: Islam or death. Why [is] the West just watching?”

Some of the most harrowing stories about how Christians are persecuted have come from the African country of Eritrea, which Open Doors lists as the twelfth worst country in the world for Christian persecution. In his 2013 book, The Global War on Christians, reporter John L. Allen Jr., writes that in Eritrea, Christians are sent to the Me’eter military camp and prison, which he describes as a “concentration camp for Christians.” It is believed to house thousands being punished for their religious beliefs.

Prisoners are packed into 40’x38’ metal shipping containers, normally used for transporting cargo. It is so cramped that it’s impossible to lie down and difficult even to find a place to sit. “The metal exacerbates the desert temperatures, which means bone chilling cold at night and wilting heat during the day….believed to reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit or higher,” Allen writes. One former inmate…described [it] as “giant ovens baking people alive.” Prisoners are given next to nothing to drink so “they sometimes end up drinking their own scant sweat and urine to stay alive.” The prisoners are tortured, sexually abused, and have no contact with the outside world. One survivor of the prison described witnessing a fellow female inmate “who had been beaten so badly her uterus was actually hanging outside her body. The survivor desperately tried to push the uterus back in” but couldn’t prevent the inmate’s excruciating death.

Lately, I’ve been blogging quite a lot about the difference between the Judeo-Christian morality and atheist morality. Christians have a objective standard to condemn what is going on in these other countries. Christians believe in human rights. Christians believe in religious liberty. Christians are grieved when we hear about these crimes being committed against followers of Jesus. On the Judeo-Christian view, every human being is made to be in a relationship with God – a relationship that lasts into eternity. That means that when Christians see someone in distress, we are rationally compelled to try to try to help them. In fact, the earliest Christians used to take in abandoned babies, because of that reasoning. If Christianity is true, then what these people are doing to persecute Christians for their beliefs is really wrong.

But on atheism, you can’t condemn violence against Christians in other countries as wrong:

Rule #1: Relativists Can’t Accuse Others of Wrong-Doing

Relativism makes it impossible to criticize the behavior of others, because relativism ultimately denies that there is such a thing as wrong- doing. In other words, if you believe that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you can’t ever again judge the actions of others. Relativists can’t even object on moral grounds to racism. After all, what sense can be made of the judgment “apartheid is wrong” when spoken by someone who doesn’t believe in right and wrong? What justification is there to intervene? Certainly not human rights, for there are no such things as rights. Relativism is the ultimate pro-choice position because it accepts every personal choice—even the choice to be racist.

And that’s why in the secular mainstream media, crimes like this are seldom talked about. Secularists have no basis to condemn these actions, they would rather crusade for late-term abortion and same-sex marriage, which is nothing but the celebration of the selfishness of adults at the expense of children.

If you would like to the difference that Christianity makes when dealing with a real threat of danger, then click through to this National Review article, which talks about Christians living in Syria.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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