Monday, April 30, 2007
Wendee Holtcamp, a Christian bohemian evolutionist and author has a new blog worth checking out: The Fish Wars. It is a commentary on Christian faith and and science.
I've always been fascinated by the debate between science and religion, and have done some interesting research on it, as well as looking at the debate from a philosophical perspective. Let me state a few facts about this debate for the record:
1. Christianity has done far more to help foster science and research than it has to thwart it. While there are those who love to hold up examples like the persecution of Galileo, it should be noted that when major paradigms of thought are overthrown, there is often a backlash. This is not just a science vs. religion issue, but even within the scientific community, perhaps especially within the scientific community, there can be tremendous resistance to new, revolutionary ideas and theories. (Those who have done a bit of research into the history of science know what I'm talking about.) No where on earth has science and technology flourished more bountifully than in Protestant Christian nations, especially those of the former British empire. The reason for this is that freedom of speech and thought, long supported by Protestant Christians, have allowed paradigm shifting ideas to develop without too much fear of retribution. (Though that fear can never be completely eliminated, nor should it...)
2. The modern debate between science and religion is really just a one-horse buggy: that buggy being evolution. Christians, especially conservative Christians, are very suspicious of evolution, not because it thwarts the creation account of Genesis, but because it's biggest proponents have been militant atheists, starting with Thomas Huxley, a.k.a. "Darwin's Bulldog." (Note: early atheists like Huxley and famous lawyer Clarence Darrow used the term "agnostic" rather than "atheists" mostly for public relations purposes. Upon close examination of both men's thoughts and world views, they were both militant atheists in all but name.)
3. With the exception of evolution, Christians, even very conservative ones, have no problems with other scientific disciplines. For example, there is no backlash against chemistry or physics, or even most aspects of biology. It is evolution alone, and those who promote it that raises the suspicions of many Christians, let alone people of other faiths. Even young earth creationists often resort to scientific explanations for their beliefs!
4. This may surprise many of you, but evolution is far from a proven fact. There are still a lot of biological problems that evolution does a poor job explaining. You will not find much about this on the web, but such issues are discussed and studied in academic circles. One of the problems that has has a bit of public exposure is the problem of stasis. The fossil record, surprisingly, has little if any truly transitional forms. Often the earliest instance of a creature will change very little from it's last instance, even when hundreds of millions of years are involved. Also, almost all of the animals that exist on earth today have very close, if not identical ancestors that go back to the days of the dinosaurs. If evolution is true, why is there so much evidence of stasis in the fossil record, and so little evidence of transitional forms? An attempt to solve this problem is the theory of "punctuated equalibrium" put forth buy Stephen J. Gould.
5. Evolution is not a repudiation of the Genesis creation account, nor is the Genesis account a repudiation of evolution. Genesis functions more like a parable than a journalistic account of what exactly happened at the moment of creation. Nor does evolution does not do way with the need for a creator, as there is still a need to explain origins of life and the universe. Evolution can give us a "how" but not a "why" answer to life itself.
6. The denial of evolution as an explanatory means for the origin of the species is not just a religious issue, there atheists who have problems with it as well, even atheistic scientists. Just like there are Christians who are in complete agreement with evolution.
7. While evolution is not a proven fact of history, it's negative impact on humanity certainly is, especially when you realize its philosophical and theological implications. The most evil regimes of the past 100 years, including Nazi Germany and various communist regimes were all completely in favor of evolution and it's implications, while usually being entirely opposed to religion in any form. However, even here in America, the science of eugenics (now mostly ignored) was a direct response to the ideas of evolution. Looking at history since the publication of Origin of the Species, one can be very hard pressed to find any beneficial effects it's ideas have had on humanity.
There are some amazing people on this earth, who more than make up for those of us who are merely mediocre. Two such people are Rolland and Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries; a trans-denominational Christian ministry with a charismatic flavor. They have dedicated their lives to helping the poorest of the poor: the citizens of Mozambique, Africa. As just one part of their ministry, they run an orphanage caring for 6,000 children!!!
I'm going to reprint an e-mail newsletter that Rolland sent out this past March, to give you an idea of the work they do in Africa in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a ministry of ultimate suffering, and tremendous miracles. If you would like to know the lastest about Roland and Heidi, I highly recommend their blog.
I also highly recommend supporting this ministry any way you can. Many people I know have gone on short-term mission trips to Mozambique, and they all come back testifying to the reality of the miracles, and the amazing work that Iris Ministries does on a daily basis.
Here's the March e-mail from Rolland:
Floods of revival
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
6 March 2007
Photo gallery/refugee camp photos: http://www.irismin.org/march2007.htm
Morrumbala, Saturday, 3 March 2007
Heidi and I have one more day in the flood zone before we fly our Cessna back to Pemba. So we are up early at the World Vision compound in Morrumbala, loading our Land Rovers and big trucks for a trip to more refugee camps. We would especially like to get to the flooded Shire River and paddle our way in dugout canoes to people stranded on isolated islands.
Our little convoy heads east on a dirt road through the pristine African bush. The mountains and skies are in their full glory, wild, clear and beautiful. Brilliant cumulus clouds perfectly accent the deep blue heavens overhead, hiding a dark fury that has been unleashed on this land for two months. Heavy rains and cyclones have pounded southeast Africa until now over 300,000 people in this area have been forced from their houses and have lost everything.
A thousand feet above the flood plain, the countryside around Morrumbala is poor, but lush, green and relatively dry. We are racing and swerving over the rutted, winding road to make time. We raise clouds of dust, climb hills, dip into valleys, wave to children in villages, and press on to the infamous river.
But suddenly we encounter a camp we didn't expect. It is huge. We can't just drive by, so we pull off the road and stop, surrounded by a desperate crowd. They find out who we are, and they are thrilled. Many of them are already in our churches, and so we start singing and worshiping even as we discuss the situation with their leaders.
These people haven't eaten in weeks. The rising waters forced them from their houses along the river plain, and they slogged on foot through muddy swamps until they reached high ground and gathered in huge camps. When they arrived they had nothing but the ragged clothes on their backs. The people literally sat on the ground in pouring rain, thunder and lightning with no shelter, food, or visible hope. Children were sick, crying and screaming. Some ran naked like animals. The desperate tried to eat nasty roots and worms out of the ground. Skin and eye infections, intestinal disorders, malaria and an array of other health problems began to spread.
After some days the people began building primitive little huts out of nearby sticks and grass, and now there is a sea of these huts for the six thousand refugees in this one camp (see photos!). But still the people sit and sleep on the dirt with absolutely nothing -- no flashlights, toilets, CD players, sleeping bags, cots, Coleman lanterns, tea kettles, bug spray, fans, water bottles or hot dogs. They just wait
-- tired, hot, dirty, hungry and sick. Our visiting doctor, Koos Le Roux from near Cape Town, begins to treat cases, and says he's never seen such a needy medical situation.
While some of us discuss food logistics, we preach too, and pray for the sick. Terry Inman and Rodney Hogue, pastors from the San Francisco Bay Area, flew immediately here to help us minister, and they passionately pour their hearts out with Heidi and me. No one resists the Gospel. Everyone is eagerly listening to every word, responding to every call, wanting prayer for everything. Many already know Jesus, as we have probably several thousand churches in this one province, but now they understand all the more how much they need Him.
We brought tons of rice, beans, blankets, plastic tarp and other supplies, but not enough for the whole camp at once. Organizers are afraid if we feed only part of the camp, there will be rioting and bloodshed. But no other supplies have come to this camp yet, and we just can't take the food away. We are assured other organizations will bring additional food immediately.
Meanwhile, in the hot sun and under trees all around, Jesus is saving and healing. Four deaf people hear this morning. Our own Mozambican pastors are praying throughout the crowd. We always have good news, we tell the people. Jesus knows your suffering. Through all of this we will seek Him more, and He will reveal Himself more than we ever thought He would.
We have to go, but will be back with much more. We only made it to the edge of the actual flood waters, and never got to an island, but Jesus knew what we had to do.
Two days later in Pemba
Three hours' flight to the north, we are preparing more teams to drive south and help in the relief effort. The poor of our own church in Pemba pour their hearts out in generosity, some giving up months of salaries and their humble but most valuable possessions. As our first sketchy reports get out, churches and friends are responding from around the world. As a relief organization, Iris Ministries is just a little child with a lunch to give, but we are so pleased to give it and see what Jesus can do.
We learn that there are more than thirteen refugee camps near Morrumbala along the Shire River, which flows into the Zambezi from Malawi. Many more camps of refugees have formed along the Zambezi and other rivers that have also flooded. These camps are remote and very difficult to access by road, and some can only be reached by helicopter. Two thousand people a day are pouring into them.
We were persuaded by disaster relief personnel that we should take complete care of one camp of nearly three thousand, instead of trying to help many camps in some smaller way, dividing and confusing the work of different aid agencies. However, we have received news that no further food and supplies were delivered by anyone else to the camp we last visited, and that in fact many other camps are not expected to receive any aid at all from anyone unless Iris can respond. Now we are being told that many thousands of lives are dependent on Iris supplying the necessary relief and filling the aid vacuum in the months to come.
In the big picture, 100,000 acres of crops have been destroyed at the height of the growing season, and this follows last year's major crop failure due to severe drought. And still this is only the beginning of March, and weather forecasters are warning of more flooding until the rainy season is over.
At the moment, the Zambezi River has subsided, but is still past the flood stage. The discharge of water from the Cahora Bassa dam on the river has been reduced to one-third of the 8,000 cubic meters per second that it was releasing at one point when it was in danger of structural failure. When Heidi and I arrived in our plane several weeks after the initial emergency, the flood waters had receded some, but the land left behind was still soggy, swampy and unusable.
Following the Good Shepherd's example, we have always tried to set a pattern of going to most remote and forgotten areas we can, and now in this crisis the result is that our people are looking to God and to us for help that is not forthcoming from other directions. A wave of humanity in Mozambique is again left without any hope but Jesus. And again we are in a position to participate in the building of the Kingdom in the most unlikely places, and to see another level of revival that we could not have predicted or imagined. We don't know yet all that God will do in this country among our Mozambican people, but He surprises us every day. Reports of miracles are flowing in from the camps. Four blind people saw and two deaf people heard today. Our pastors and visitors are being filled with new energy. The gifts of the Spirit are being stirred up. More revival than ever is brewing. The word is getting out, and the church is coming together. May we see His glory in the faces of the redeemed in the Zambezi Valley. As one eleven-year-old in America prophesied, "I have to tell you what the Lord told me. He said that the rains will cease, but the flood has just begun. Mozambique is a community cup, and all who drink from there will be saved!"
We thank with all our hearts everyone who has responded so far, including churches and ministries who have already taken amazing offerings. May Jesus multiply all that you give in an unprecedented way, and return to you vastly more than you anticipate!
As always, donations can be sent to our U.S. support address, P.O. Box 493995, Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA, or to our offices in Canada and the U.K. as listed at the end of this newsletter. Additional inquiries concerning involvement with our relief effort can be sent by email to Mary Chico at
In Mozambique you will be directed to our coordinator, Angela Olson, at
+258-82-420-2825. If necessary regarding transportation and other
details they will refer you to Betty Johnson at
tel: +258-82-886-4700. In the Morrumbala area of Zambezia Province our relief coordinator is Herbert Barbutti at
tel: +258-82-708-7885, and our Mozambican staff member Carlos at
+258-82-025-8650. South of the Zambezi our relief coordinator is Claudia
Bernhardt in Dondo near Beira, at
All inquiries regarding shipments to Mozambique can be directed to Gordon Haggerty at
May you all be hugely encouraged by the power, wisdom, love and joy of the Lord!
In Jesus, Rolland
Thank you for praying for us during this difficult time of flooding and cyclones. We are feeding many thousands of people each day in various camps in Caia and Zambezia. We are also rebuilding churches in Cabo Delgado that were washed away in the floods.
I just finished interviews with several journalists from the Mozambique national radio station. As I shared with them about the needs and our desire to help, they were visibly touched. Please pray the Lord will use these interviews in mighty ways!
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for people who have been helping us "for such a time as this." The Lord spoke to me from John 6 that Iris Ministries is an example of the boy with his bread and fish. We have handed Jesus our lunch and He is multiplying it for the multitudes. Tens of thousands of people have given their hearts to Jesus in these last weeks! The deaf have heard, the blind have seen and the poor have heard the Good News. I don't think I have ever seen such suffering and hunger as I encountered in the camps in Zambezia. We thank God every day for your love and concern for the poor.
Please pray for the favor we need with the government of Mozambique as we are having a difficult time receiving the containers duty free. We have just received a phone call today telling us that we passed the first phase of approval from the government's emergency coordination commission, and we are awaiting the national director's approval now.
Much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi Baker
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 275
U.S. office for mail, support and information:
Iris Ministries, Inc.
PO Box 493995
Redding, CA 96049-3995, USA
Iris Ministries Canada
3092 Shannon Crescent
Oakville, ON L6L 6B4
(905) 847-7749; fax (905) 847-7931
Contact Janis Chevreau, Trustee
Iris Ministries (UK) Ltd
PO Box 351
Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1WQ
irismin.org (newsletters, photos, Rolland and Heidi's blog, etc.)
irismin.com (admin, travel schedule, support info, missions school, applications, products, etc.)
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Now, Peggy Noonan sounds in with the same concern I have, and that is the fear factor that television is bringing to the lives of children (let alone adults!). Here's an excerpt from here recent column in the Wall Street Journal (do yourself a favor and subscribe--best journalism in the USA is in the pages of the Journal.)
For 50 years in America, whenever the subject has turned to what our culture presents, the bright response has been, "You don't like it? Change the channel." But there is no other channel to change to, no safe place to click to. Our culture is national. The terrorizing of children is all over.
Click. Smug and menacing rappers.
Click. "This is Bauer. He's got a nuke and he's going to take out Los Angeles."
Click. Rosie grabs her crotch. "Eat this."
Click. "Every day 2,000 children are reported missing . . ."
Click. Don Imus's face.
Click. "Eyewitnesses say the shooter then lined the students up . . ."
Click. An antismoking campaign on local New York television. A man growls out how he felt when they found his cancer. He removes a bib and shows us the rough red hole in his throat. He holds a microphone to it to deliver his message.
Don't smoke, he says.
This is what TV will be like in Purgatory.
It's not only roughness and frightening things in our mass media, it's politics too. Daily alarms on global warming with constant videotape of glaciers melting and crashing into the sea. Anchors constantly asking, "Is there still time to save the Earth? Scientists warn we must move now." And international terrorism. "Is the Port of Newark safe, or a potential landing point for deadly biological weapons?"
I would hate to be a child now.
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal: 27 APRIL 2007: We're Scaring Our Children to Death
So would I. We live in a culture of violence and fear that is 99% the creation of our mass media. It doesn't have to be that way, but sensationalism sells, and fear mongering is the best sort of sensationalism.
HAT TIP: Relapsed Catholic
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Well, it's been a little while since that fateful day when a young and very angry Korean resident alien shot-up Virginia Tech, firing something on the order of 170+ rounds of ammunition during a romp through Norris hall, unleashing death and destruction like some sort of devil incarnate.
Let me state for the record that this I deplore and condemn the actions of Cho Seung-Hui, and find it to be a work of despicable evil. His actions cannot be justified, nor admired by any reasonable human being. But then again, this was not the act of a reasonable human being, at least not from my perspective.
My interest is the Virginia Tech shooting is simple: I don't want to ever see this happen again, and one of the best ways to understand how to prevent this is to understand what caused the killer to do what he did.
While everyone and his brother are throwing the "psychopath" label at Cho, I hesitate to do so for a very simple reason: it does not really explain anything.
While it has been discovered that Cho was diagnosed as being mentally ill, there does not seem to be any information as to what he was diagnosed with. According to information that I've seen, it seems that Cho was extremely depressed and suicidal. Also, it seems that he was diagnosed with autism when he was a child, which is something that does not go away when one gets older.
Autism often has other psychological disorders that go along with it. Hence, Cho was probably dealing with more than just autism. But please don't mistake autism for being retarded: children and adults with autism can be very intelligent, and many, with proper help, can lead fairly normal lives. But getting proper help is the key.
I have a feeling that Cho Seung-Hui never got the help and support that those who suffer with autism need, especially when they are young. It is also a fact that Cho was regularly on the wrong end of quite a bit of bullying and name calling when he was young, which is not unusual at all for those who suffer from mental illness. Take from a parent: children can be rather evil and demonic when it comes to bullying and mistreating other kids, especially those who are weaker or a bit strange. Children are not born civilized, they are not nice people.
Bullying and name-calling is difficult to handle when you are mentally sound, but when you are under the burden of something like autism, it can be very, very difficult to deal with. Autistic people, frustrated with their inability to fit in or even have the control of their bodies and minds like normal people do, can easily get worked up into a rage, and they can hurt others. This is nothing new. They simply do not have the self-control nor the ability to deal with conflict like the rest of us, anyone who has worked with autistic people/children can testify to that.
I'm one of the few people who was glad to hear that Cho left a manifesto, small portions of which MSNBC has made public. (I'm also probably the only person who would like to examine the entire manifesto, and not just snippets that MSNBC feels we should be allowed to see.)
When Cho expresses himself in his own words, there are three things that are very obvious: he was very angry, he was very depressed, and he had a difficult time expressing himself verbally. It is also evident that he was an intelligent person, proven by his choice of firearms (Glock & Walther), his use of technology, and the way he was able to plan his mission of vengeance. He even made time to go to the post office and overnight a package to MSNBC, in between killing people.
For Cho, the killings were not an act of terrorism or the mad ravings of a lunatic, rather he believed that he was avenging himself, along with all others in this life that end up on the wrong end of bullies and snobs. He mentions the persecution and bullying he was subject to, and explains quite clearly that he is now going to be doing a bit of bullying himself.
I myself can clearly remember a time when some little pipsqueak wanted to have some fun at my expense. At first I just tried to ignore the person, but that just seemed to encourage him all the more. I said nothing and did nothing in my defense, but he just continued to carry on. Then something in me just had enough, and I grabbed the little squirt by the neck, and proceeded to choke him, which had the immediate effect of stopping his increasingly insulting monologue. While I did not break his neck, nor choke him to death, I very easily could have, and was very much tempted to do so. Needless to say, after I put the fear of God into him, he never felt felt impressed to ridicule me again.
I bring that up to say this: people can be ridiculed and insulted into violence, even if they themselves are not violent by nature. Do this to someone who is having a hard enough time dealing with mental illness and flush with hormones, and you have the makings of one very angry, vengeful person, who will think nothing of killing his fellow man, and himself.
It was obvious that Cho was not just "picked on," but it is clear from the news reports and Cho's own writings that he was subject to constant ridicule and abuse, and was getting quite tired of it. He does not mention who is tormentors are by name, at least not in the information we have, but that many not be relevant.
What is relevant is that we live in a society and culture that glorifies those who kill for vengeance. We glorify all sorts of bad behavior, foul language, and rebellious attitudes. Then we all act very shocked and dismayed when someone actually acts out this behavior in public. Well, what did we expect? We reap what we sow, and Cho is just some of the first fruits of what is looking like a bumber crop.
Friedrich Nietzsche, no matter what you think of the man, was quite prophetic in his forsight in terms of seeing that the 20th century was going to be one of the most violent ever, thanks mainly to the increasing acceptance of a atheistic, nihilistic world view. After the past 100 years, you would think that such a world view would be tossed in the ash heap of history, but instead it has grown even stronger, even more bold, and it's already looking like the 21st century will make the 20th look like picnic in the park by comparison; especially since nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are within easy reach of even the lowiliest thug.
Cho, and those like him are a product of a culture than has grown increasingly narcissistic. It doesn't matter how poorly or badly we made Cho feel, it only matters that we made ourselves better by ridiculing him. Even in death, he cannot escape our collective ridicule and disdain.
Yes, I do condemn Cho's actions on that fateful April day at Virgina Tech, but I refrain from condemning Cho himself. Rather, I feel great sadness, both for him and those who were the object of his wrath.
But for those who were guilty of the systematic bullying of Cho, for them I have no sympathy at all. The earth would be a much better place without them.
May God have mercy on Cho's soul.
"Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter."
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The NY Times has a very well written, descriptive account of the Virginia Tech massacre from the killer's point of view. It goes back to his early childhood. Very interesting piece: New York Times: 22 APRIL 2007: Before Deadly Rage, a Life Consumed by a Troubling Silence.
HAT TIP: Drudge Report
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Cho left South Korea with his family in 1992 to seek a better life in the United States, Kim said. The family never visited their homeland, and Kim said he did not recognize his nephew when his picture appeared on television as the shooter.
"I am devastated," he said between heavy sighs. "I don't know what I can tell the victims' families and the U.S. citizens. I sincerely apologize ... as a family member."
Cho's parents have receiving official protection since the shooting, South Korea's ambassador to Washington said today.
"We've confirmed that the parents are being safely protected by U.S. investigative authorities," Ambassador Lee Tae-sik told MBC Radio.
Lee said U.S. authorities declined to say where the parents were "because they move from place to place everyday."
The parents had been working at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington.
In South Korea, they ran a small book store in Seoul, Kim said. The family lived in a two-room apartment no larger than 430 square feet.
"They had trouble making ends meet in Korea. The book store they had didn't turn much profit," the uncle said.
SOURCE: Chron.com: 20 APRIL 2007: Va. Tech shooter did not talk much as a child, relatives say
I highly encourage everyone to read the full article. Very interesting.
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho told The Associated Press on Friday that they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost," and "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence." "He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," said a statement issued by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, on the family's behalf.SOURCE: Breitbart.com: 20 APRIL 2007: Va. Gunman's Family Feels Hopeless, Lost
It was the Chos' first public comment since the 23-year-old student killed 32 people and committed suicide Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
Raleigh, N.C., lawyer Wade Smith provided the statement to the AP after the Cho family reached out to him. Smith said the family would not answer any questions, and neither would he.
"Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us," said Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 Princeton University graduate who works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees American aid for Iraq.
"We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced," she said. "Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."
HAT TIP: Drudge Report
Thursday, April 19, 2007
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) - Long before he snapped, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he talked when he was a schoolboy in the Washington suburbs, former classmates say.SOURCE: Breitbart.com: 19 APRIL 2007: Va. Tech Shooter Was Laughed At
Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., with Cho in 2003, recalled that the South Korean immigrant almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation.
Once, in English class, the teacher had the students read aloud, and when it was Cho's turn, he just looked down in silence, Davids recalled. Finally, after the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," Davids said.
"As soon as he started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, `Go back to China,'" Davids said.
The high school classmates' accounts add to the psychological portrait that is beginning to take shape, and could shed light on Cho's state of mind in the video rant he mailed to NBC in the middle of his rampage Monday at Virginia Tech.
He shot 32 people to death and committed suicide in the deadliest one- man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
HAT TIP: Drudge Report
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004.
The poses in the two images are similar, and the plot of the movie, “Oldboy,” seems dark enough to merit at least some further study. Following is The Times’s plot summary:The film centers on a seemingly ordinary businessman, Dae-su (the terrific Choi Min-sik), who, after being mysteriously imprisoned, goes on an extensive, exhausting rampage, seeking answers and all manner of bloody revenge.
SOURCE: NEW YORK TIMES: THE LEDE: 18 APRIL 2007: Updates on Virginia Tech
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Sometime after he killed two people in a Virginia university dormitory but before he slaughtered 30 more in a classroom building Monday morning, Cho Seung-Hui mailed NBC News a large package, including photographs and videos, boasting that “when the time came, I did it. I had to.”
SOURCE: MSNBC: 18 APRIL 2007: Gunman sent package to NBC News
UPDATE (6:45 PM CDT):
A vulgar, but interesting comment from the Little Green Footballs blog:
#33 Pawn of the Oppressor 4/18/2007 2:27:44 pm PDT9 JammieWearingFool
Did he ask for Olbermann?
Seriously, this is fascinating. Suicide massacreists now distributing "multimedia manifestos" directly to the press, a la Osama, almost in real time as they commit their murders? Think about that for a second. This kid killed, took a minute to make a statement, and then left his dorm to kill again. About the only way this could get any crazier is if he had taken a streaming webcam with him, or posted cell phone videos of his handiwork to Youtube while he was reloading.
This is the blood-drinking Drive-By Media's wet dream.
SOURCE: Little Green Footballs: 18 APRIL 2007: VT Killer Contacted NBC News (Comment #33)
I'm old enough to remember the glory years of Evel Knievel, an extremely famous motor cycle stunt man who jumped over trucks, cars and buses with his motorcycle, back in the late 60's and early 70's. His most famous stunt, however, was an attempt to jump over Idaho's Snake River Canyon in a rocket powered "motorcycle". (Looked more like a rocket than a motorcycle!) After the failure, and stupidity of that stunt, Evel's star started to set, and most of us forgot about him.
Well, Evel is back in the news, but for a stunt I would not have predicted in a billion years: he led several hundred people to Christ while giving the testimony of his conversion at the famous Crystal Cathedral in California. It was a small scale, but very real REVIVAL meeting!
Here's an excerpt from an article on the Christianity Today website:
On Palm Sunday, hundreds responded to Robert "Evel" Knievel's testimony by asking to be baptized on the spot at Crystal Cathedral. Speaking alongside the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, Knievel told the congregation in Orange County, California, how he had refused for 68 years to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. He believed in God, but he couldn't walk away from the gold and the gambling and the booze and the women.
"I don't know why I fought it so hard," he said. "I just did."
But Knievel knew people were praying for him, including his daughter's church, his ex-wife's church, and the hundreds of people who wrote letters urging him to believe. And then something indescribable happened during Daytona Bike Week this March.
"I don't know what in the world happened. I don't know if it was the power of the prayer or God himself, but it just reached out, either while I was driving or walking down the sidewalk or sleeping, and it just—the power of God in Jesus just grabbed me. … All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ. I did, I believed in him! … I rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, 'Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my life.' … I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go."
SOURCE: Christianity Today: 13 APRIL 2007: Evel Overcome With Good
HAT TIP: Maurice Smith @ The Parousia Network
HAT TIP: Maurice Smith @ The Parousia Network
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
A note from the person who provided the copies of these plays:
AOL News has obtained two plays a classmate says were written by Cho Seung-Hui. Ian MacFarlane, the former classmate and current AOL employee, provided us with the plays. A note from Mr. MacFarlane and links to the works appear below.
What happened yesterday:
When I first heard about the multiple shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday, my first thought was about my friends, and my second thought was "I bet it was Seung Cho."
Cho was in my playwriting class last fall, and nobody seemed to think much of him at first. He would sit by himself whenever possible, and didn't like talking to anyone. I don't think I've ever actually heard his voice before. He was just so quiet and kept to himself. Looking back, he fit the exact stereotype of what one would typically think of as a "school shooter" – a loner, obsessed with violence, and serious personal problems. Some of us in class tried to talk to him to be nice and get him out of his shell, but he refused talking to anyone. It was like he didn't want to be friends with anybody. One friend of mine tried to offer him some Halloween candy that she still had, but he slowly shook his head, refusing it. He just came to class every day and submitted his work on time, as I understand it.
A major part of the playwriting class was peer reviews. We would write one-act plays and submit them to an online repository called Blackboard for everyone in the class to read and comment about in class the next day. Typically, the students give their opinions about the plays and suggest ways to make it better, the professor gives his insights, then asks the author to comment about the play in class.
When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of. Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn't pressure him to give closing comments.
After hearing about the mass shootings, I sent one of my friends a Facebook message asking him if he knew anything about Seung Cho and if he could have been involved. He replied: "dude that's EXACTLY what I was thinking! No, I haven't heard anything, but seriously, that was the first thing I thought when I heard he was Asian."
While I "knew" Cho, I always wished there was something I could do for him, but I couldn't think of anything. As far as notifying authorities, there isn't (to my knowledge) any system set up that lets people say "Hey! This guy has some issues! Maybe you should look into this guy!" If there were, I definitely would have tried to get the kid some help. I think that could have had a good chance of averting yesterday's tragedy more than anything.
While I was hesitant at first to release these plays (because I didn't know if there are laws against it), I had to put myself in the shoes of the average person researching this situation. I'd want to know everything I could about the killer to figure out what could drive a person to do something like this and hopefully prevent it in the future. Also, I hope this might help people start caring about others more no matter how weird they might seem, because if this was some kind of cry for attention, then he should have gotten it a long time ago.
As far as the victims go, as I was heading to bed last night, I heard that my good friend Stack (Ryan Clark) was one of the first confirmed dead. I didn't want to believe that I'd never get to talk to him again, and all I could think about was how much I could tell him how much his friendship meant to me. During my junior year, Ryan, another friend and I used to get breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Shultz Dining Hall, one of the cafeterias on campus, and it was always the highlight of my day. He could talk forever it seemed and always made us laugh. He was a good friend, not just to me, but to a lot of people, and I'll miss him a lot.
SOURCE: A0L News Bloggers: 17 APRIL 2007: Cho Seung-Hui's Plays
The suspected gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Cho Seung-Hui, was a troubled 23-year-old senior from South Korea who investigators believe left an invective-filled note in his dorm room, sources say.SOURCE: Chicago Tribune: 17 APRIL 2007: Sources: Virginia Tech gunman left note
Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.
A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.
Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, the Associated Press reported.
Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."
"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."
She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was.
Cho, from Centreville, Va., a rapidly growing suburb of Washington, D.C., came to the United States in 1992, an investigative source said. He was a legal permanent resident.
His family runs a dry cleaning business and he has a sister who attended Princeton University, according to the source.
Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression. They are examining Cho's computer for more evidence.
HAT TIP: Drudge Report
Monday, April 16, 2007
Here's an interesting bit about the shootings you won't see on CNN: a student sent blogger Michelle Malkin an e-mail giving his eye-witness account of incident:
Dear Michelle,SOURCE: Michelle Malkin: 16 APRIL 2007: Carnage at Virginia Tech; Readers point to campus ban on self-defense;
I was in Norris Hall today when the shootings took place. I thought I'd give you my account in case you wanted more information.
It was just a regular day in class; the door was open and we heard a pop-pop-popping noise. Sounded like some kind of construction but it was getting disruptive so we went to close the door, and one of the girls stepped out in the hallway to see what it was. She saw the gun and ran back inside the room and slammed the door shut and we all got down on the floor.
We heard pretty much continuous shooting for the next minute or so, and I said, "Shouldn't we barricade the door," because we were sitting ducks with no way out inside that room if he opened the door. A couple more people floated the idea that "We need to barricade the door, NOW." But I was too scared to even move, much less move the teacher's desk.
Finally one of the guys in the front of the classroom was brave enough to get up and move the desk in front of the door to prevent outside entry. About twenty seconds later, the shooter rattled the doorknob trying to get in. When he couldn't get in he fired two shots through the door (single solid piece of wood) and left. We heard him go in to 206 (the room across the hall) and shoot the people in that room. If we hadn't put the barricade up when we did, I and all my classmates would be dead.
When the police arrived five minutes later we heard them call for him to surrender his weapon and some more, irregular shots. Another five minutes later the police knocked and yelled "Police!" and we yelled "How do we know?" and when a second voice confirmed that it was in fact police, we opened the door. An officer came in and told us to line up single file, take nothing with us (I grabbed my coat) and run out the door single file while another officer escorted us.
We entered the hallway. Blood, bullet casings, and empty pistol clips were everywhere; this was definitely the most horrifying sight of my entire life. We ran past quickly. A door to the stairwell had been opened and there was a massive trail of blood; we found out later that a class had tried to escape only to find that the monster had chained the doors shut before starting his rampage. They were all killed.
We all ran to a nearby building and stayed there until we could be processed, and that was the end of it. Thank you all for your concerns and prayers, but please mostly pray for those who were seriously injured or hurt today.
Also, let me say that the response from the campus, local, and state police was exemplary. Within five minutes of the first shots, police were gathering outside. In another ten minutes, the threat had been neutralized and the building was secure. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the brave men and women who kept us safe today.
junior, Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech
More video, plus student e-mail
One of the sad ironies of the legalization of abortion in the United States is that the legalization did not automatically make the procedure either ethical or moral. It is one of many things in life--like telemarketers--that are legal, but who's ethical and moral bearing are certainly negative.
Abortion is both unethical and immoral in the vast majority of the cases in which it's performed, where a perfectly healthy female simply decides that having a baby would be just too inconvenient. In other words, most abortions are nothing more than radical attempts at birth control, after the fact of conception.
Here an excerpt from the article:
Britain is facing an abortion crisis because an unprecedented number of doctors are refusing to be involved in carrying out the procedure. The exodus of doctors prepared to perform the task is a nationwide phenomenon that threatens to plunge the abortion service into chaos, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has warned.SOURCE: The Indpendent: 16 APRIL 2007: Abortion crisis as doctors refuse to perform surgery
More than 190,000 abortions are carried out each year in England and Wales and the NHS is already struggling to cope. Four out of five abortions are paid for by the NHS but almost half of those are carried out in the private sector, paid for by the NHS.
The reluctance of NHS staff, both doctors and nurses, to be involved has led to a doubling of abortions paid for by the NHS, which are carried out in the private or charitable sector, from 20 per cent of the total in 1997 to almost 40 per cent.
HAT TIP: Michelle Malkin
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Thirty-three people, including the gunman, were killed on a Virginia university campus Monday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At least 15 other people were injured, some of them as they leapt to safety from the windows of a classroom building.
The shootings, which took place in two locations at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, came just four days before the eighth anniversary of the Columbine High School bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. They created panic and confusion at the college, where students and employees angrily asked why the first e-mail warning did not go out to them until the gunman had struck a second time.
Nearly 50 victims
Federal law enforcement officials said the gunman killed himself after he shot dozens of people at the college in southwest Virginia. Thirty-two people were confirmed dead, in addition to the gunman.
At least 15 other people were treated for gunshot wounds or other injuries, some of whom had jumped from Norris Hall, an engineering classroom building where the second wave of shootings took place. Their conditions were not reported.
SOURCE: MSNBC: 16 APRIL 2007: At least 33 dead in rampage on Virginia campus
At this time there is no motive given or known for the mass slayings. Obviously, this was done by one angry person. It does not appear to be an act of terrorism, but rather the work of one very deranged individual.
Again, my deepest condolences and sympathy to the friends and family of the victims. May God grant you peace and comfort at this time.
No one knows the motive for the shooting at this time, but here is some key poinits to keep in mind:
The students and faculty were barricading themselves in their classrooms after what one person described as an Asian student wearing a vest opened fire.
The shooter was "wearing a vest covered in clips was just unloading on their door, going from classroom to classroom … they said it never seemed like it was going to stop and there was just blood all over," Harrison said.
Source: FoxNews: 16 APRIL 2007: Police: 22 Dead After Virginia Tech University Shooting
An "Asian" student wearing a "vest covered in clips" -- definately a pre-meditated attack, where the killer was going for maximum casualties.
It will be interesting to find out who this gunmen was, and his background...
In the meantime, my sincere condelences and sympathy to those family and friends of the victims.
Friday, April 13, 2007
While speaking on the topic of atheism...
Here are some excellent quotes from Albert Einstein about God, religion, science and atheism from the soon to be released book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. © 2007 by Walter Isaacson. (To be published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
Shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein also gave a remarkable interview in which he was more revealing than he had ever been about his religious sensibility. It was with George Sylvester Viereck, who had been born in Germany, moved to America as a child and then spent his life writing gaudily erotic poetry, interviewing great men and expressing his complex love for his fatherland. Einstein assumed Viereck was Jewish. In fact, Viereck proudly traced his lineage to the family of the Kaiser, and he would later become a Nazi sympathizer who was jailed in America during World War II for being a German propagandist.
Viereck began by asking Einstein whether he considered himself a German or a Jew. "It's possible to be both," replied Einstein. "Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind."
Should Jews try to assimilate? "We Jews have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies in order to conform."
To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."
You accept the historical existence of Jesus? "Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."
Do you believe in God? "I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."
Is this a Jewish concept of God? "I am a determinist. I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine. In that respect I am not a Jew."
Is this Spinoza's God? "I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things."
Do you believe in immortality? "No. And one life is enough for me."
Einstein tried to express these feelings clearly, both for himself and all of those who wanted a simple answer from him about his faith. So in the summer of 1930, amid his sailing and ruminations in Caputh, he composed a credo, "What I Believe," that he recorded for a human-rights group and later published. It concluded with an explanation of what he meant when he called himself religious: "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."
But throughout his life, Einstein was consistent in rejecting the charge that he was an atheist. "There are people who say there is no God," he told a friend. "But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views." And unlike Sigmund Freud or Bertrand Russell or George Bernard Shaw, Einstein never felt the urge to denigrate those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. "What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos," he explained.
In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. "The fanatical atheists," he wrote in a letter, "are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who--in their grudge against traditional religion as the 'opium of the masses'-- cannot hear the music of the spheres."
Einstein later explained his view of the relationship between science and religion at a conference at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The realm of science, he said, was to ascertain what was the case, but not evaluate human thoughts and actions about what should be the case. Religion had the reverse mandate. Yet the endeavors worked together at times. "Science can be created only by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding," he said. "This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion." The talk got front-page news coverage, and his pithy conclusion became famous. "The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
SOURCE: Time: 5 APRIL 2007: Einstein and Faith
HAT TIP: Get Religion
In Thursday's Wall Street Journal (where else?) there was a very long, interesting article (though not very well written) about the increasing militancy of the atheists of Europe, who seem to be in a war of rhetoric with their none too tolerant counterparts: Islam. However, it's not just Islam that's on the rise in Europe, as Europeans get fed-up with the emptiness and nihilism of their socialist utopias, they are turning back to Christianity, though it's only in small numbers. Still, it seems as if secular humanism has bottomed out, and the non-faith of atheism is taking note.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the human spirit; you can only fill it with so much booze, drugs and sex, then it either becomes numb or angry. The meaning of life is not the pleasure principle; only a fool would be convinced that the meaning of life is maximized pleasure by any means possible, which seems to be the only positive message that the atheists have at their disposal. It's easy to criticize religion, I do it all the time, but it's much, much more difficult to come up with a creditable alternative, and man being the measure of all things simply doesn't measure up.
So here is a nice, long excerpt from the WSJ article:
THE NEW CRUSADERS
As Religious Strife Grows,
Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit
Islam's Rise Gives Boost
To Militant Unbelievers;
The Celebrity Hedonist
By ANDREW HIGGINS
April 12, 2007; Page A1
CAEN, France -- With 40 minutes to go before show time, the 500-seat Alexis de Tocqueville auditorium was already packed. A fan set up a video camera in the front row. A sound engineer checked the microphones.
The star: Michel Onfray, celebrity philosopher and France's high priest of militant atheism. Dressed entirely in black, he strode onto the stage and looked out at the reverential audience for his weekly two-hour lecture series, "Hedonist Philosophy," which is broadcast on a state radio station. "I could found a religion," he said.
Mr. Onfray, 48 years old and author of 32 books, stands in the vanguard of a curious and increasingly potent phenomenon in Europe: zealous disbelief in God.
Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades. Religion is re-emerging as a big issue in part because of anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy. That is all adding up to a growing momentum for a combative brand of atheism, one that confronts rather than merely ignores religion.
Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and prominent British author on religion, calls the trend "missionary secularism." She says it mimics the ardor of Christianity, Islam and Marxism, all of which have at their core an urge to convert nonbelievers to their worldview.
Mr. Onfray argues that atheism faces a "final battle" against "theological hocus-pocus" and must rally its troops. "We can no longer tolerate neutrality and benevolence," he writes in "Traité d'athéologie," or Atheist Manifesto, a best seller in France, Italy and Spain. "The turbulent time we live in suggests that change is at hand and the time has come for a new order."
As with many fights involving faith, Europe's struggle between belief and nonbelief is also a proxy for other, concrete issues that go far beyond the supernatural. In this case, they involve a battle to define the identity of a continent.
Half a century after the 1957 Treaty of Rome laid the foundations for the now 27-nation European Union, Europe has secured peace and prosperity. But it is deeply uncertain about what binds the bloc together beyond mere economic self-interest. Says Ms. Armstrong: "There is a big fight going on to define European civilization."
In London last month, leading British atheists squared off with defenders of faith in a public debate on the motion, "We'd be better off without religion." Tickets cost nearly $40 but so many people wanted to attend that the event was moved to a bigger venue with over 2,000 seats. It still sold out. The audience declared the atheists the victors, by a margin of 1,205 to 778, with a few score abstentions.
In Germany, a wealthy furniture manufacturer is funding a "think tank of Enlightenment," a group of scientists and others committed to debunking religion. It is named after Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century philosopher and cosmologist who was burnt at the stake as a heretic. In Italy, one fervent nonbeliever has gone to the European Court of Human Rights with a claim that the Roman Catholic Church is guilty of fraud: Jesus, he says, never existed.
Alarm over Islam has acted as the prime catalyst for much of the polemic. Europe's Muslim populace, estimated at between 15 million and 20 million people, is growing more numerous, more vocal and, in some cases, more religious. The clash also feeds on a deeper confrontation that dates back to Europe's Enlightenment, the 18th-century intellectual movement that asserted the primacy of reason over superstition.
"The battle over religion is restarting. It is going to be a difficult one," says Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society, an organization that was founded in the 19th century but has now gained a new vibrancy. Membership has doubled in the past four years, to around 7,000, says Mr. Sanderson. For converts from Christianity, the society provides a certificate of "de-baptism." "Make it official!" urges the society's Web site, www.secularism.org.uk2.
The atheist cause won a big-name endorsement late last year when pop star Elton John, in an interview, said organized religion turned people into "hateful lemmings" and should be banned.
The backlash against religiosity has even seeped into Europe's Muslim community. In February, Mina Ahadi, an Iranian-born woman in Cologne, Germany, set up the Continent's first Muslim atheist group: the National Council of Ex-Muslims. She immediately started getting death threats and was put under police protection.
"Our main message is: 'We don't believe,' " says Ms. Ahadi, talking in a coffee shop next to Cologne Cathedral, a towering tribute to faith that took 600 years to complete. A police guard hovered nearby.
Atheism, Ms. Ahadi says, must confront religion head-on -- and adopt its methods. Her group started with just 30 members in February and a month later had more than 400. It is lobbying European Union officials for restrictions on the veil and organizing a public meeting at which ex-Muslims will explain why they quit. "If you want to work against Muslim movements, you have to be like them," she says. "We have to go outside and say what we're fighting for."
Europe's atheist campaigners have also made a splash in America. "The God Delusion," a book by Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins, has been on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list for 28 weeks. Another British atheist, U.S.-based writer Christopher Hitchens, has written his own antireligious treatise, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," due out in May.
Christianity, once the bedrock of Europe's identity, has been losing worshipers on the Continent for at least half a century, though some opinion polls suggest the downward trend has bottomed out. Around three-quarters of Europeans still describe themselves as Christians. But only a small minority go to church. In Western Europe, according to polls, fewer than 20% do.
The number of atheists is hard to pin down. Some surveys put the figure at under 3%, but others say it is much higher.
Religious leaders are pushing back against the assertive unbelievers. The Church of England's Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, complained in a December statement about "illiberal atheists who have joined forces with aggressive secularists." He was responding to demands that Jesus be removed from nativity plays and that Christmas parties be called "winter festival" gatherings.
Mr. Onfray's atheist tract, recently translated into English, has prompted three book-length rebuttals by angry Christians and a flood of articles. To counter Prof. Dawkins's "God Delusion," an Oxford theology professor wrote his own book, "The Dawkins Delusion."
Both atheists and their foes agree on one thing: God -- declared dead over a century ago by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche -- is making a comeback, at least as a focus of controversy. "Faith is on the public agenda in a way that is unprecedented in recent times," proclaimed the founding manifesto of Theos, a new British-based Christian think tank.
Europe's atheist movement has no Vatican-like central command and springs from many different sources. Some adherents have personal grievance. Mr. Onfray spent part of his youth in a home run by Catholic priests, who he says mistreated him and abused others. Ms. Ahadi, head of the German ex-Muslims group, says her first husband was executed by Islamic revolutionaries in Iran.
Pierre Andrieu, a 63-year-old former executive with BNP-Paribas, a French bank, travels up to Caen each week from Paris for the lecture show. He makes the trip, he says, because he shares Mr. Onfray's take on faith--and fears that religion is making a comeback. "It is far more present than before," he says. "This need for religion is very, very strong. Religion is like magic. It is all about tricks."
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal: 12 APRIL 2007: THE NEW CRUSADERS: As Religious Strife Grows, Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Doctors and FaithRead the rest here.
April 10, 2007
BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
A majority of American doctors believe God or another supernatural being intervenes in patients' health, a study has found.
And nearly two in five doctors believe religion and spirituality can help prevent bad outcomes such as heart attacks, infections and even death, according to the University of Chicago nationwide survey of 2,000 physicians.
"Most physicians apply medical science while maintaining a belief that God intervenes in patients' health," Dr. Farr Curlin and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Cures 'that don't make sense'
Religious doctors were more likely than nonreligious doctors to believe this -- and to report that patients bring up religious issues.
Dr. Wayne Detmer, an internist at Lawndale Christian Health Center, said all doctors have seen cures of patients "that don't make sense based on our current understanding of physiology or medicine."
Detmer recalls one patient, disabled by a neurological condition, who was able to walk again after praying. A pastor, diagnosed with terminal lymphoma, is still alive after 13 years. And a suicidal patient has regained the willingness to live after prayer.
Detmer said he can't prove God made these patients better. But he notes the Bible says Jesus healed people. "It's not so much of a stretch to believe He can still do it."
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
This is a MUST SEE...
Last week (when it was still WARM!) a wild COYOTE walked into a Quiznos sandwich shop in DOWNTOWN CHICAGO, and sat down inside the beverage cooler!
Check it out here: Chicago Tribune: Coyote Visits Loop Restaurant but doesn't eat
Monday, April 09, 2007
From the Wall Street Journal (where else?):
Can Help You
Get a New Job
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN
April 10, 2007
Corporate recruiters have long surfed the Web to vet potential hires, but now they are also surfing blogs to unearth job candidates, expanding their talent pool and gaining insights they say they can't get from résumés and interviews.
Ryan Loken, a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recruitment manager, says he spends one to two hours a week searching through blogs for new talent or additional information about the candidates he has interviewed. "Blogs are a tool in the tool kit," he says. Since he joined the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant three years ago, Mr. Logen estimates that Web journals have helped him fill 125 corporate jobs. Most of the recruits were referred to him by bloggers and blog contributors, and some were the writers themselves.
In addition to blogs that focus on their industry or field of interest, recruiters say they check candidates' blogs about noncareer-related topics for evidence of writing skills and clues to how well rounded they are.
Most blog-related recruits are professionals in technology and media because jobs in these fields often require knowledge of the blogosphere, says Kirsten Dixson, a founding partner at Brandego LLC, a career-management firm in Exeter, N.H., that specializes in personal branding.
In June, Brian Balfour's blog, SocialDegree.com, inspired an unsolicited offer for a product-manager job from an executive at Zoom Information Inc. "I was impressed by the points Brian was making and the way he was making them," says Russell Glass, vice president of products and marketing at the Waltham, Mass., technology company. The blog also offered details about Mr. Balfour's work history and education. "It was a no-brainer to give him a call and see if he'd be interested," Mr. Glass says.
Mr. Balfour says he was intrigued when he heard about the opportunity. "It came at a time that was pretty right for me because I was just coming off selling a business and looking for where I would head next," he says. Three months later, Mr. Balfour, who is 24 years old, got the job.
Greg Sterling, a strategy consultant for Internet companies and a blogger in Oakland, Calif., describes job offers as "a natural byproduct of the exposure you get from blogging." He says he gets about 15 inquiries a month from companies and search-firm recruiters seeking to fill consulting gigs and full-time jobs. "My blog is a vehicle that keeps me exposed to people on a daily basis," he notes.
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal: 10 APRIL 2007: How Blogging Can Help You Get a New Job
Gee, maybe I should start using my real name...and post my resume too...like this girl has...(and you can see her blog here.)
The above picture is New York's Queensboro bridge...done in WATERCOLOR. That's right, just watercolor. The artist, Alexander Creswell, has got to be one of the most talented artists I've come across in recent days. His watercolors rival oil paintings in their richness and detail.
Check out a New York Times article about him and his work here.
I highly encourage you to check out his web site, and view the slideshow of his works. This artist is worthy of our attention; which is not something I say very often in the world of contemporary art.
(hat tip: New Criterion blog)
Friday, April 06, 2007
But Jesus did more than just speak truth, he WAS the truth...the literal TRUTH, in bodily form. In other words, Jesus was, and still is, God in the flesh. He didn't come just to re-emphasize the great moral teachings of the Bible and Jewish teaching, rather he came to DO, not just to teach. And his single greatest act was to demonstrate for us all that death is not the end of life, but rather the beginning.
But I don't wish to de-emphasize the importance of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus, well demonstrated by such movies as Mel Gibson's "The Passion", as it too holds an important moral lesson for us, as well as theological; a truth can be best summed up by the short, but accurate saying: "You have to go through hell to get to heaven."
Perhaps for you, the dear reader of this blog, life is just one wonderful event after the other, rich in possibilities and opportunities. But for me, pseudo Thomas Merton, life is just one, long, slow trip through Hades, with an occasional rest stop. Life has been very hard and difficult, and much too often the problems and pains of life on earth have overwhelmed me, well beyond my ability to handle them. By all rights and means, I should be, at least, on heavy duty psychiatric drugs, if not locked up in the real-world equivalent of the Arkham Asylum.
Yet here I am, drug free and asylum free, and the only reason I am, is due to the love and goodness of God. Nothing that science or society has ever offered me has been of any use in my deepest problems, but that which is freely offered by God through Jesus, is better than the best the world has to offer.
CHRISTIANITY: THREE MAIN TYPES.
In the realm of Christianity, there are divisions like protestant vs. Catholic, evangelical vs. mainstream, liberal vs conservative, and so on. But rather than focus on these obvious external divisions, I'd like to point out what I've believe are the three main types of Christianity as practiced in the United States.
1. SOCIAL CHRISTIANITY -- this is for those who go to church, and claim the title as Christian, because they like the social atmosphere of church, believe in God, and feel good that they belong to an organization devoted to such an interesting guy like Jesus. Beyond that, they don't really allow their lives to be affected by the TEACHINGS of Jesus or the prophets, rather they're just in it for their own selfish purposes.
2. RELIGIOUS CHRISTIANITY -- these are the Christians who go to church every Sunday morning, or in the case of some churches, every Sunday morning, and every Sunday morning Bible class, and Sunday evening service, and anything else that happens during the week. For Catholics, a truly religious person might go to mass every day of the week. These are the people who are very wrapped up in the ritual and culture of Christianity: they take God and theology very seriously, but for all their zeal, don't really understand any of it. Yet the religious observances makes them feel good, (and rather "righteous" besides, if you know what I mean...) and often these religious Christians are thought to be the true believers and imitators of Christ.
3. SPIRITUAL CHRISTIANS -- This is a rather small subset of Christianity, and they are they least visible and the least understood. Spiritual Christians are not content just to be one outwardly, by attending church services and carrying a big Bible and so on, but they are far more interested in being a Christian inwardly. They understand that Jesus was not trying to create a new religious institution, but was rather conveying truths and insights that can literally transform a person from the inside out. Spiritual Christians are not interested in having huge churches, or being on TV and radio, or becoming household names, rather they are perfectly content to live in obscurity, sometimes even actively seeking it out. They know the great secret of the teachings of Jesus, Paul and Peter: that Christianity is about transformation of oneself through the power of God. Sure, there are rules and regulations that are important to follow, but they are only important if you follow them to where they LEAD, which is the very real existence of God himself. Often spiritual Christians are not too concerned about denominations and other divisions, but will actively support any church that preaches the truth about Jesus.
Of course these three main types are not three exclusive sets, but there is overlap, and a person can sometimes be both outwardly religious, and inwardly quite spiritual. Or a person can be a social Christian, but be quite rapped up in Christian culture and so forth. The three types are really just three points along the continuum that is Christianity, the social Christian being the lowest point on the continuum, the spiritual Christian being the pinnacle.
I've been everywhere along that continuum, but there is no reason one has to be. For the record, the Christianity that I'm advocating in this post is that of the third type, the pinnacle: Spiritual Christianity.
THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY
Christianity can be, and has been, systematized into a bunch of neat little doctrines and dogmas that one must believe if they are to be truly regarded as "Christian." I guess that sort of thing is important and has it place, but please listen to what I'm about to tell you.
Christianity is NOT a system. It is not a bunch of rules and regulations one follows in order to be worthy, or to be a better person, or to be rich and famous. While all those things are certainly possible, and have been exploited by various personalities within Christianity throughout the ages, there is something far more important at stake.
If Christianity is NOT a system of beliefs, then what is it? Quite simply, Christianity is all about relationships. And there is one relationship in particular which is paramount, the one between you and God himself.
Christianity is unique amongst all the world's religions, even unique among the "big three:" Islam, Judaism, and itself; in that the very core of the faith is the idea and the reality that you can come to know God in a very personal, subjective fashion. He's not some all powerful being that is "out there" some where in outer space or beyond (like Islam and Judaism), but rather God is so close as to be literally inside of you. But no Christian goes so far as to say that because God is inside of you, then you ARE God. That is a point made by the New Agers, but Christians understand that there is quite a bit of difference between ourselves and the Ultimate Power of the Universe. Nor do we equate God and the Universe (matter, really) like many New Agers and pagans do. Again, God is a separate, complete BEING in and of himself, and while he transcends everything, even matter, he is not matter (or "pure engergy"), nor is he us, but he is himself. "I AM WHO I AM" is the ultimate expression of unique individuality, as well as existence.
Hence, God is a being just as were are beings, and he is a being who one can come to know in an intimate way.
INTIMACY WITH GOD
The modern American understanding of "intimacy" is often used as a code word for sexual intercourse. However, that really cheapens our understanding of the term, as well as its importance. Intimacy is not about sexual union, it is about absolute trust and being able to trust another being with out fear, without pain and without suffering. Yet sadly, for an overwhelming majority of us, there is no one on this earth we can trust with the absolute assurance they will not harm us in any way. Hence, we hold back, even when we think we aren't. It's not that we don't want intimacy with another person, it's just that it seems like an ideal which is simply not possible in this life.
But what if I told you that absolute intimacy, absolute trust, can be found? What if I said there was a person who loved you far beyond any love you are capable of, and who will only ask that you try to love them in return? What if I told you this person will never, ever hold your past against you, but rather is more than willing to help you overcome all that garbage and misery in your past? Would you be interested in such a person?
Well, that person is Jesus; or you can call him God, which is just as appropriate. His greatest desire is not to make everyone into little moral robots who never do wrong, but rather his greatest priority is entering into an intimate, personal relationship with each and everyone of us. And through this intimate relationship, we learn a powerful truth that no scientist will ever be able to get a hold of through empirical methods: God is REAL, God is LOVE, and God wants the very best for us. But be warned: what we might consider the best and what God considers the best can be two very different realities.
So what is God's idea of the best for us? Simple: that we become beings that literally embody all of his qualities, and live a life that not only brings us great joy and peace, but live a life that brings forth these qualities in others. Amongst household names, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II would be the best examples of this in the Catholic realm, Billy Graham perhaps the best example amongst the Protestants.
Often we humans look for happiness and peace in all the usual places: relationships with other humans, money, fame, success, health and so on. But what if you could have all the peace and happiness those things bring, without all the work, bother and evil side-effects? Would that be something that interests you?
Why do people want money, fame and success anyway? The answer is very simple: because it FEELS good; it makes one "happy." But what if you could have the "happiness" without having to have the stuff that is normally associated with it? What if this happiness were so deep-seated, so powerful, that you wouldn't even want all the other stuff because it would diminish your happiness? Such a state of inner bliss is possible, and in one of those strange paradoxes that can only be experienced to be understood, it comes most easily to those who don't have or bother with all that other stuff.
A relationship with God is like the greatest romance you could ever imagine, times a thousand. It has all the feelings and goose bumps of earthly love and companionship, but none of the evil side-effects: jealously, betrayal, anger, and so on...well, at least not from God's side of the equation! God can do and be many things, but one thing he is not is dishonest or deceptive. He is what he is.
Once you realize that God is real, and that he wants to have a relationship with YOU, you run-of-the-mill human being, not much else in life really matters so much. Imagine someone who is ALWAYS glad to see you, always wants to spend time with you, is always willing to discuss any topic you like, and someone you can absolutely trust with your deepest darkest, secrets and needs, without fear you will be betrayed. Sadly, there is no human on this earth who can fulfill those desires, but there is one in Heaven who can.
Even more, what wouldn't you give for someone who's main desire is your own personal growth and development as a human being? Someone who can enable within you those virtues and qualities that seem so impossible? How would you like someone is completely and totally for your best interests, all the time, and will not ever enable your deep, dark failings?
Again, such a person exists, and only exists, in the person of Jesus.
While it may be somewhat confusing as to why Christians have "three gods," let me shine a little light on that topic: the Christian God is one being, but who's being is expressed in three distinct persons: the Father in Heaven, the son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Why these three? Simple: it is the way we need to have and understand God. God the Father is the ultimate transcendent being, who is beyond our human understanding and reason. God the son Jesus is the God you can talk with, joke with, and put your arm around; he is just like us! And God the Holy Spirit is that "divine spark" within: it is God within us, in our hearts, at the very core of our being. Pretty cool, isn't it? But all three are in complete unity and harmony, hence their "oneness." They don't fight, they don't argue, they never, ever have disagreements. They are always and forever in agreement and all pursue the exact same goal: relationship with mankind.
God wants the best for us, but to get us to see and appreciate the best, he needs to knock down and cart away all those other ideas and concepts of what we think the best is, and this can be a rather painful and inconvenient process. For there is nothing more shocking and incomprehensible to a person than the truth, especially the truth about themselves. There is no more destructive force in all of mankind; but, conversely, there is no more powerful force for healing and wholeness. Hence the healing ministry of Jesus: it was not just a means to show off his divine power, it with a demonstration of the power of ultimate Truth.
And that idea, the idea of there being ultimate, absolute TRUTH is perhaps the most shocking thing of all in the realm of Christianity. Truth, by it's very nature, is exclusive, unique, and discriminating. In Christianity, there is always a BEST answer. Truth is, by it's very definition, narrow, tiny, and rigid. Hence truth throughout the ages has always gotten a bum rap, but never so much so as right now in our own times. How often have you heard the phrase "everything is relative." That is the same as saying there is no absolute truth, it just depends on who you are and where you came from. But the problem with the relativity concept is self-evident: conflict. If one thinks killing people who are Jewish because they are Jewish is a good idea, and another person thinks killing Jewish people because they are Jewish is a bad idea, then you have conflict. Hence, the idea that truth is relative is the greatest enabler of conflict you could possibly have, for conflicting idea are just that: instigators of conflict.
One thing a person learns who pursues a relationship with God is that truth is ultimately absolute and unique. There may be some things on this earth that are "relative" to one's perspective, but there are many things which are universally true for everyone, whether or not someone wants to notice. Truth, like facts, is a stubborn thing.
TO SEE CLEARLY
The ultimate benefit of Christianity is often said to be going to Heaven after you die, and to spend all eternity enjoying the peace, love and happiness that we are denied in our life here on Earth. But there is another very important benefit to Christianity that comes into play while we are still very much alive: the ability to see clearly.
I'm not speaking of glasses or optics when I speak of seeing clearly, rather I'm referring to the ability to know and understand truth. To be able to see into men's hearts, to see beyond the words written on a page, to see beyond the speech given by the politician or school teacher into the very core of their "agenda" if you will.
Jesus if often referred to as a prophet, and in a very real sense, he was a prophet. Often, both in Christian and secular circles, one likes to think of prophets as being those people who can foresee the future, which is certainly one element of being a prophet. But more in accord with Biblical and Jewish tradition, a prophet is not one who can accurately predict the future, but rather a person who can see the truth of a situation in the hear & now, and call a spade a spade.
To be more blunt: a prophet is a person who sees past the pomp and circumstance, into the secret places of a man's heart. When you are in the presence of a real prophet, you feel rather uneasy, especially if you have something to hide, because you literally feel like they can see right through you, right into your very thoughts: and they can.
But even more so than the ability to see what is covered up, a prophet is the most unpopular person in a society for a very significant reason: they take a stand for the truth. Truth, love and goodness are all complimentary concepts, just as lies, hate and evil are complimentary. But in the hierarchy of concepts, truth is arguably the most important, for without truth, you cannot have love nor goodness.
Hence prophets stand for what is true, and expose lies in order that all other virtues; like love, goodness and peace; can flourish. But there is an obvious problem with such a stand: it hurts people's feelings; it crushes their pride and self-sufficiency; and makes them feel "unclean." Hence true prophets are almost always persecuted unto death, just like Jesus and Socrates. Of the twelve apostles that followed Jesus, it is known that all except for John the Apostle (and Judas Iscariot) were martyred, along with many thousands of Christians who came after them. People just don't put themselves in a position to be killed by others if they know what they are proclaiming is itself a lie, a fabrication. People don't die for lies.
Now to be clear: being a prophet has NOTHING to do with self-righteousness and all that sort of garbage; rather a true prophet EXPOSES the lie of self-righteousness, for no one is truly righteous anyway, and a prophet more so than anyone else knows this very, very well. Hence the greatest enemies of the prophets are often the self-righteous, religious fanatics that are evident in every faith and non-faith. Even atheists, who of all people should know better, have their squad of militant fundamentalists who proclaim the non-faith of atheism with all the rigor and energy of a Billy Graham. Their names are very well known to those of us who are interested in science and religion: Steven Pinker, Daniel C. Dennet, Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould, Sam Harris, David Mills, and back in Darwin's day, Thomas Huxley; a.k.a. "Darwin's Bulldog." They are much more like the self-righteous Christians they attack than they are different, as if Christianity and other religions are the only ideologies that are capable of self-righteousness! A self-righteous atheist is just as ugly as a self-righteous religious nut, there really is no difference.
Yet despite the danger, a stand for truth must be taken. It does no good if you are a prophet, and seeing evil, you keep your mouth shut and say nothing. In order for evil to be eradicated, it must be exposed, and only a prophet has the ability to take a stand regardless of the consequences.
Perhaps that's why I like movies like "They Live" and "The Matrix" -- one of the main plot points in both films is that the protagonist is suddenly given the ability to "see" the actual reality around him, rather than the construct he is given. And so it is with Christians, spiritual Christians anyway. Through a relationship with God, you are given the ability to see that which is "hidden." I've put scare quotes around the term "hidden" for a reason: evil never really hides, it is brazen and it is bold and it loves lots of public attention and adulation. You don't discover a bizarre complex of conspiracies (Knights Templar, Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, etc.) when you are given the power to see, rather you find that the conspiracies are there to throw one off the scent of what the real problem is: man's near universal contempt for the truth. It's much easier for us to believe that there is a small group of men manipulating everyone and everything than it is for us to realize that we ourselves are living a lie, let alone contributing to it! Hence a true prophet is never a popular person.
Are spiritual Christians the equivalent of the Old Testaments prophets? In a word, yes, that's what we are called to be. However, too many Christians get the wrong idea, and think that being a prophet is getting in someone's face and shouting Bible verses at him. But in reality, the prophets were almost ALWAYS sent to those who were, supposedly, believers and worshipper in God! In other words, prophets were sent to the hypocrites--you can imagine how this could cause problems, for there is nothing worst than a hypocrite who has convinced himself of his righteousness, regardless of his faith or non-faith. Hence, most prophets end up getting killed; not a line of work for the feint-of-heart. Note that prophets are not killed because they are obnoxious and rude, but because they take a stand for what is true and right and refuse to compromise. When a group or movement of any type starts to resort to violence or obnoxious behavior to get it's point across, you can almost always rest assured that what they stand for is a lie, even if you know nothing about their ideology.
SO WHY BE A CHRISTIAN???
A TRUE CHRISTIAN stands for what is right and just, without being obnoxious. They do not jump on the band-wagon for the feel-good cause-of-the-day, whether it be global warming, baby seals, or consumerism. Rather a true, spiritual Christian will go after the greatest crisis of them all: the evil that lurks in every human heart, especially our own.
And once we have dealt with the evil in our own heart, we can begin helping those who wish to escape the darkness, much like Morpheus helping Neo in The Matrix film. And just as Morpheus and Neo realized, there are those who will simply prefer to live in the darkness, and will destroy anyone who attempts to lift the veil.
But a true Christian knows that life on earth is short, and it is better to live a just, good life and be killed for it, than it is to live a mediocre, half-hearted existence and live to grow old. For death is certain, and certain as anything can be certain, and whether or not you grow old is immaterial, as is the question of living your life in such a way that you are a benefit to others, and not a stumbling block.
And Christians know that this life on earth is just a testing ground, a place to try and forge the hearts of men. We do not look forward to a long life here, but an eternal life in a much, much better place than this.
And Christians know that it is not God who chooses whether or not a person goes to Heaven or Hell, but they know it is the person them self who makes the choice; they choose by the way they live their life here on Earth. If they live a life that is a lie, and a life that glorifies in lies, then they will be allowed to live in the darkness of hell for all eternity, and will never have to put up with the light of Heaven. But for those who are much more interested in living a life that is honest, humble, and simple; they have made their choice, and it will be continued in the after-life. What you do, say and think in the here & now has consequences that are truly, literally, eternal.
To be a Christian, a true Christian, is to know God, to know the truth, to know true love and true goodness, and to enjoy them to the fullest. I know of know other "system" on this earth that can deliver on these things, not one.
So if these things are of interest to you, you are more than welcome to join. All that is required is a deep, unrelenting quest to know what is true, and the belief that the truth can be known.