Thumbs down: To Comedy Central for censoring South Park’s episode on Islam and Muhamed out of sheer cowardice. South Park has satirized many faiths, and even went after Dawkins, but only the Muslim episode was censored. We all know why: the “religion of peace” threatens to kill people who make fun of Islam, or even name a teddy bear “Muhamed.” Many thumbs down to the Revolution Muslim organization, who showed a dead body on their webpage that criticized South Park, and whose spokesman, Abu Talha Al-Amrikee, said this:
“We have to warn Matt and Trey [the producers of South Park] that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”
Not a threat? What a contemptible lie! And thumbs down to the “moderate and peace-loving Muslims” who refuse to speak up against this call for murder. A bit of Googling has failed to reveal one Islamic organization that decries the murderous irrationality of Revolution Muslim.
Thumbs down at a 30-degree angle to Michael Ruse, who continues to mystify with his bizarre mixture of faitheism and atheism. Over at BioLogos, he’s mercifully concluded his six-part intellectual autobiography, “Accommodationist and Proud of It.” He admits that religion is a “delusion”, and is not a way of knowing, but then plays favorites among the faiths. He doesn’t for instance, have much truck with Mormonism:
I really find it very difficult to respect the Mormons. The whole thing seems to me to absolutely ludicrous, from wearing silly underwear to not drinking tea and coffee, to all of that stuff about golden plates, not to mention the already-mentioned lost tribes of Israel, now supposedly alive and well and living on reservations out West. Why do I not feel the same way about Christianity? Is turning water into wine any more stupid than thinking Joseph Smith got special insights in upstate New York? Is it simply that one is older and I grew up with it? Is wearing a fancy pair of knickers anything different from wearing your collar backwards?
The answer to all three questions, Dr. Ruse, is “yes.” So why does he favor Christianity? Because it has a theology!:
I think the reason I can legitimately separate your basic Anglican or Roman Catholic from a Mormon rests on the fact that traditional Christianity (this may also be true of Judaism and other religions) has worked hard at what I will call philosophical theology. I came to appreciate this while working on Science and Spirituality, a book that goes much more deeply into theological questions than my earlier writings. Such Christianity has labored to give philosophical meaning to the claims, say, about the nature of a necessary God and so forth. I think this also holds in areas like ethics, where (to name one branch of Christianity) Catholics have tried to give some meaning to natural law and so forth. (Protestants have done similar things, as I know full well from my own background.) So as a philosopher I can appreciate the efforts to try to answer the basic metaphysical questions.
Never mind Ruse’s admission that religion is not “a valid way of knowing” (and kudos for that admission). All that matters to Ruse, apparently, is that they have tried to answer the metaphysical questions, even though, as Ruse believes, their answers are likely wrong.
Both thumbs completely down for Skye Jethani at HuffPo, who wrote a whole column showing the similarities between atheists and fundamentalist Christians without once addressing atheists’ arguments about the lack of evidence for God and the palpable dangers of faith. Jethani’s piece, as you might expect, is all about tone. As we all recognize, the emphasis on atheists’ shrill and militant “tone” is merely a way to avoid engaging our substantive arguments:
But the new breed of atheists and evangelicals may have more in common than they’d like to admit.
For example, some within New Atheism are proselytizing their beliefs with the fervor, and in come cases anger, more often associated with evangelicals. From an international ad campaign on buses dismissing belief in God, to rallies at universities inviting students to exchange their Bibles for pornography, atheists are no longer content with a live-and-let-live approach to those adhering to religion. Instead, they are actively trying to convert (or is the word un-convert?) the masses. . .
But I believe both the New Atheists (advocating life over God) and the Constitutional Evangelicals (advocating life under God) are far closer in their values and worldview than either would like to acknowledge. They are two sides of the same coin. But there is a third dimension; a third way between “live over God” or “live under God.” There is also “life with God” — the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Thumbs mildly down for The New Yorker, which continues to show an emphasis on style over substance. Its articles on books, culture, and literature are increasingly dominated by writers who don’t have much to say but try to say it in lovely prose. This often falls flat. For example, a recent article by Peter Schjeldahl on one of my favorite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, contains this sentence:
Cartier-Bresson has the weakness of his strength: an Apollonian elevation that subjugates life to an order of things already known, if never so well seen.
Sounds nice, but what the bloody hell does it mean? What’s worse, Schjeldahl manages to write a whole piece on Cartier-Bresson, including giving a potted biography, without even once mentioning the man’s nationality (Cartier-Bresson was French). Oh, and in the latest issue Jill Lepore strains to produce New-Yorker quality prose in a review of a book about the publisher Henry Luce:
“Magazines are ephemeral, timely at the expense of timelessness. They evanesce. Each new issue displaces the last; a magazine molts.”
Why not say it five times, just to make sure that the reader gets the point? Lepore reminds me of this:
‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
Finally, two enthusiastic thumbs up for Pedro Almodóvar, director of the new movie Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces). This is a wonderful, complex and layered film about uncontrollable passion, duplicity, moviemaking, and blindness. Almodóvar pulls another great performance from Penelope Cruz (they’ve made some great films together) and from Lluis Homar as the blind director.