John S explained why he hates Christmas last year (and the year before that), but it’s all still true:
It probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to you to hear that I hate Christmas: For one, I like hating things that are popular. More substantively, though, Christmas combines two of my least favorite things in the world: religion and consumerism. At Christmas, people are encouraged to buy a bunch of stuff that they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of a god that doesn’t exist. Continue reading »
Loyal NPI readers will know that I’m a very proud atheist. In fact, atheism is one of the few intellectual positions that I try to actively promote—in some ways, I consider it the defining ideological debate of the modern era.
But for all my staunch pro-atheism, I care surprisingly little about anti-atheist “discrimination.” Every so often a new study will come out showing that atheists are the least trusted, or least tolerated, or most feared “minority group” in America. While I find these facts disconcerting, I don’t really expect anything different. A recent op-ed in The Washington Post, though, referred to the “bigotry” that atheists face:
“As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s.”
This kind of hyperbole is far more upsetting than the facts themselves, and is often counterproductive to the goals of atheists. Continue reading »
If John S can rerun his attack on Christmas, Tim is compelled to react in kind. Here’s his breakdown of Christmas specials from last year.
Unlike my I-can’t-believe-I-still-call-him-a friend, John S, I love Christmas. It is, without doubt, the most wonderful time of the year.
The week before Christmas, I indulge in one of my favorite traditions: sitting down in front of the television and watching about 12 hours’ worth of Christmas specials. Now, not everyone has the time to consume all that holiday goodness (which admittedly gets a little repetitive at times), so here’s the official guide to what’s worth your time.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The standard to which all half-hour holiday specials should be held, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) highlights Charlie’s all-too realistic desires to understand Christmas amid the haze of Christmas cards and commercialism—here represented by things such as aluminum Christmas trees, Snoopy’s Christmas decorations, and Sally’s Christmas list (about which she explains, “I only want what’s coming to me. I only want my fair share”). Charlie’s depression around the holiday is legitimate, and its ultimate solution—provided of course by his best bud, Linus—is one of my favorite scenes ever from television, with a little help from Luke. Continue reading »
One of the (many) great things about Christmas is getting the chance (and the social leniency) to listen to Christmas music. Like most Catholics and Christmasphiles and unlike most everyone else, I love Christmas music.
I understand the complaints about Christmas music. I even agree that, for the most part, it sucks. Like, nine out of 10 Christmas songs played on the radio and in malls and other stores are indefensibly terrible.* Nothing promotes lazier “creativity” in music than Christmas, with popular artists knowing that an album of a dozen shoddy covers of public-domain classics will sell tremendously, since everyone knows someone who likes Christmas music and thus thinks buying that person a Christmas CD is a great and thoughtful gift.
*To be fair, this isn’t much different from the usual ratio on the radio these days.
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Everyone knows this is true. For one, there are several obvious negative statements that pretty much everyone knows are true and can easily prove (“George W. Bush is not the President,” “Red is not the same color as blue,” “Carlos Mencia is not funny,” etc.). On a less mundane level, whether a statement is positive or negative is a matter of how it is constructed—every positive statement (p) can be restated as a negative (~ ~ p).
And yet you will still hear people—smart people—resort to the obvious fallacy that you cannot prove a negative. Most commonly, you hear it in discussions of atheism. I’m sure even I have resorted to such a claim in my defenses of atheism. Even the brilliant Daniel Dennett erroneously invoked it here to explain why he couldn’t disprove God:
“You can’t prove a negative… I think it was Bertrand Russell who once said that he couldn’t prove that there was not a teapot orbiting Mars. So he’s a teapot agnostic. I’m a teapot agnostic with regard to God, too. I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.” Continue reading »
“Jews Exist in Every Part of the Country, Some Parts of Other Countries, Are of Different Races, and Sometimes Did Not Start Out Jewish”
Should there be a mosque anywhere near here?
In discussions of religious pluralism—like the one going on about the “Ground Zero mosque”—I always find myself in an odd position. I’m generally a fan of diversity and tolerance, but I absolutely hate religion. So even though I risk aligning myself with irrational, hate-mongering bigots like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, I still essentially agree with them: I don’t think that there should be a mosque near Ground Zero.
Now, I should clarify that I also agree that this is a local issue, and that the government should not restrict the rights of Muslims to practice their religion. With that said, most of the plan’s opponents have acknowledged this, and maintained that even though the Cordoba House (or Park 51, or whatever it’s officially called now) can be built, that doesn’t mean it should. After all, the Nazis were allowed to march through Skokie, but that doesn’t mean they ought to have. By the same logic, just because the developer is allowed to build a mosque doesn’t mean that any clear-thinking individual ought to approve of the decision.
Similarly, the fact that the Cordoba House isn’t actually at Ground Zero is germane, but not decisive. It’s foolish to pretend that proximity doesn’t matter. The location, specifically how near it is to Ground Zero, was a key selling point for the group that bought the site—they wanted a site for moderate Muslims to “push back against the extremists.” If the mosque is close enough to make such a point, then it is close enough to draw criticisms of being insensitive.
Nevertheless, the main argument in favor of allowing the mosque is more principled. Put simply, it is that the moderates behind the plan for the mosque (or Islamic community center) should not be conflated with the extremists who perpetrated the attacks of September 11th. The moderates are not to blame for the actions of the terrorists. Continue reading »
I know; I thought he would be No. 1, too. But this is the “Top 173 Things in World History” and not the “best.” And while Jesus may have been the best thing in world history—at least according to me—he didn’t do quite enough to get the top spot. You know, his ministry did only last like a year.
But, regardless where you stand on Christianity and religion in general, it’s difficult to deny the transformative significance of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the most influential individual human being of at least the last 2000 years and probably going back even further, into those years we define by how far they were from his birth. You can interpret that influence as good or bad, but you cannot reject it. Continue reading »
It’s been nearly eight months since we started our journey by placing the Second Amendment in its rightful place: last. The problems that plagued the Second Amendment—lack of clarity and dubious public policy justifications—are perhaps the greatest strengths of our first-place finisher,* the Fightin’ First! I present to you the First Amendment:
*Of course, its clarity and phenomenal public policy justifications are its strengths.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment is wide-reaching: It protects freedom of speech and of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition. It also has the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, which manage the relationship between religion and state. All these components have contributed to the First’s first-place finish, but what propels the First Amendment to the top of these rankings is its first and deservedly foremost freedoms of speech and press.
Freedom of speech and the press
The U.S. is unique among most countries in its seemingly unqualified* protection of freedom of speech and the press.** The European Convention on Human Rights provides for Freedom of Speech except when restrictions are necessary “for the protection of health or morals,” “for the protection of the reputation and rights of others,” and for other concerns like national security. In France, free speech may be limited “[if it is necessary] to respond to the abuse of this liberty, in the cases determined by the law.” Accordingly, in France, publicly denying the Holocaust and inciting racial hatred are not protected by free speech. In Germany, free speech may be limited “to protect personal honor” or “young persons.” England abides by the European Convention but has additional limitations, including the criminalization of the incitement of racial and religious hatred and ridiculously strict defamation laws. In India, freedom of speech may be limited “to protect the integrity of India” and for “decency and morality.” Some countries, like China, claim to protect freedom of speech but ignore their constitutions so blatantly that the words have little meaning.
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