A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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God’s Protection or Selective Memory Loss?

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

The Miami Herald asks, “Is God protecting Fla. at Gov. Crist’s request?”

According to the story, Crist claims he’s sent little prayer post-its to the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year since his election, and lo and behold, no hurricanes have hit Florida since! Is this proof of the power of prayer?

Hardly.

First, Crist actually says that his first note went to the special holy wall in 2007. Florida’s last major hurricane strike came in 2005. How does he explain 2006’s lack of major strikes? Was it just a coincidental off year (or was the request retroactive)? Yeah, ponder that a moment before buying into this purported cause and effect of prayer/no hurricanes.

Second, let’s look at what the governor actually sent on his little indulgence requests and match it to reality. In his own words, he’s sent the exact same note every year, and it reads, “Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie.”

Ok, so Charlie didn’t exactly ask for “no major hurricane strikes”, did he? No, he begged relief “from storms and other difficulties”. Is that what happened? Not exactly.

More below the fold.

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Mr. Deity and the Really Unique Gift

Sharp as usual, boiling the biblical nonsense down to its essence.

Dear Moderate Christian

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Dear Moderate Christian,

I’d like to take a moment to address some of your remarks about how the tactics of “New Atheists” are just too uncivil. I appreciate that you’d like to have a quiet, intellectual conversation regarding the current state of  religion in America, and the marginalization of those of us who don’t believe there is an invisible zombie who lives in the sky. I understand that you’d like me to respect your beliefs, and not shine too much light on their ridiculousness. I applaud your geniality in this matter. It’s refreshing, after so many years of listening to your representatives demeaning and demonizing pretty much everyone who doesn’t bend their neck and genuflect to them. A polite, intellectual conversation about religion in America sounds perfectly lovely.

But at this point in time, I have to say

(What I have to say continues below the fold)

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The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim

The Unlikely Disciple

The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose

In the very unlikely event you haven’t heard me squawking about it all over the universe, I’ve got a book review up at Carnal Nation.

“The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim” is my review of Kevin Roose’s Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.

An excerpt from my review:

Inspired by a research trip to Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, Brown University sophomore Kevin Roose, raised a liberal Quaker, decided he wanted to know what it was like to live in the world of the fundamentalist Christian. Rather than do his research from the outside, Roose took the extreme measure of going undercover and transferred to Liberty University for a semester. He lived in the dorm, attended the classes, and immersed himself in the student subculture. His research trip takes place in the Spring semester of 2007, and he was there during the shootings at Virginia Tech, and there for the death of Falwell himself. Roose even managed to finagle a one-on-one interview with Falwell for the school paper, just a handful of days before Falwell’s fatal heart attack. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University is his story of that semester.

When Chris Hall first asked me to review Unlikely Disciple for Carnal Nation, I was ecstatic. I’d heard about it and read a few short reviews before then, and was anxious to read it myself. I never suspected that by page fifty I’d be slogging to the bathroom with the dry heaves every few pages, wishing I’d never heard of this book. Roose’s account has given me just a glimpse of what trigger warnings are all about.

Read the rest at Carnal Nation.

A Brief History of Moonbats

Lou FCD

Lou FCD headshot by Ben Zvan

Last Thursday evening was a pleasant one. It was mild and welcoming, a good night for a drive to Wilmington. I had been by the University of North Carolina campus there, but hadn’t yet been to visit. I’ve been meaning to head down there to look around for a while now, as that’s where I intend to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. The reason for this trip was mildly ironic given my intentions, as my son James and I were headed there to hear an anti-science advocate speak.

Dr. Michael Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He’s also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a well known creationist think tank whose purpose is to disguise religious doctrine as science in order to avoid the Constitutional ban on promoting religion in public schools. It was Behe that we were heading down to see.

Along the hour and a half drive, I gave my son the highlights of the full history of the Intelligent Design Creationism Hoax, parts of which he’s heard before. (Bear in mind here that I was driving, and not working from notes. I’ll be filling in details as I go that he didn’t get during our conversation.) I began with some background on the history of scientific discoveries in biology since Linnaeus. Carolus Linnaeus was Swedish doctor, a botanist, and a zoologist, who set about categorizing life’s varied forms in his long-evolving work, “Systema Naturae”, first published in 1735.

I touched on William Paley’s rehashing of Cicero’s water clock, and the the obvious logical flaw contained therein. In On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero’s character Balbus, a fictional follower of Plato, posited that because a sundial or a water clock has an obvious purpose, we can then infer that it was designed by some intelligence. Balbus went on to argue that because of the complexity of nature, we can therefore infer that the universe is also designed by some intelligence. Balbus concluded that the universe itself was divine, or possibly that the universe had a divine spirit, a sort of mono/pantheism (Collins 187 – 193). Paley bastardized the assertion in 1802, altering the water clock to a watch, and the deity in question to the Christian god (Paley 5 – 13). He failed however to remove the glaring logical flaw that we only perceive complexity in contrast to simplicity, the watch on the background of the heath. One cannot then use the complexity of the watch to argue for the complexity of the heath without undermining the original argument that the watch is itself complex and inherently different from the heath. This was important for what was to come, and I was later quite glad I had taken the time (we had plenty on the ride) to discuss it with James.

(continue reading below the fold)

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Haggard’s Sexuality is “Complex”, He Says Amidst New Scandal

Ted Haggard, infamous for being caught doing meth and a gay prostitute while preaching his raving diatribes about his god’s hatred of homosexuality, turns out to be polyandrous to boot.

While cashing in on his super-infamy by having HBO shoot a documentary of his life, he told an Associated Press reporter that his sexuality was “complex”. Yeah, I’d say so.

While it’s unlikely that anyone not brainwashed by his mega-money machine was shocked to find out Haggard is gay, or that his incessant attacks on other gay people was anything more than a manifestation of deep-seated self loathing, it may be a minor surprise to find out he is also non-monogamously gay. Ok, probably no surprise there, either.

Turns out he’s also a predator, using his megachurch pulpit as a means of access to at least one young man in the pews.

DENVER – Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard‘s former church disclosed Friday that the gay sex scandal that caused his downfall extends to a young male church volunteer who reported having a sexual relationship with Haggard — a revelation that comes as Haggard tries to repair his public image.

Brady Boyd, who succeeded Haggard as senior pastor of the 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, told The Associated Press that the man came forward to church officials in late 2006 shortly after a Denver male prostitute claimed to have had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard.

Boyd said an “overwhelming pool of evidence” pointed to an “inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship” that “went on for a long period of time … it wasn’t a one-time act.” Boyd said the man was in his early 20s at the time. He said he was certain the man was of legal age when it began.

And of course Haggard’s integrity is above question, right?

Just for a little icing on the cake, the church paid the young man’s college tuition, and got him ‘counseling’, probably of the ‘fixthehomo’ flavor. Of course, the church claims the money wasn’t hush money.

“It wasn’t at all a settlement to make him be quiet or not tell his story,” [current pastor of Haggard’s old church, Brady] Boyd said. “Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance — certainly not hush money. I know what’s what everyone will want to say because that’s the most salacious thing to say, but that’s not at all what it was.”

One has to wonder then why there was a stipulation that he not talk about it.

Boyd said the church reached a legal settlement to pay the man for counseling and college tuition, with one condition being that none of the parties involved discuss the matter publicly.

Oh, well then, move along, nothing to see here.

h/t: MoJoey