Friday, June 30, 2006

Ergo

Following the blog trail here ... I saw via Catholic convert Dawn Eden, at whose blog he sometimes posts, the Raving Atheist's dust-up with some fellow atheists recently. RA has rarely hesitated to mock religion, but (this requires a "but" for his audience) he is pro-life, believing that is the most rational position to hold on abortion. Recently, after receiving some strongly negative reactions to a friendly challenge he made to one woman to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, RA pledged not to speak badly of Christianity anymore (he also pledged to eschew sarcasm and contempt more generally on his blog). He made no representations whatsoever that he was changing his atheism, but nevertheless he has found himself being excoriated by atheists who apparently feel that if one is an atheist, one therefore must disparage or mock Christianity and any positions it happens to hold. Q.E.D. Mark Shea has some interesting comments about this reaction:

To the detached observer, it does look very much like RA's audience recognizes a link between an attempt to live a more moral life and theism. That's why they accuse RA of becoming a believer, despite the fact that he has simply been attempting to live out natural virtues that would have been no mystery to Aristotle. If you can be a good person and an atheist, why would they make this connection so automatically? And even more, why would they reflexively *hate* the attempt at virtue (an attempt made, so far as I can see, without any recourse to God)? This brings us to the next point: which is that hard atheism is *essentially* negative.

I believe one can be an atheist and a good person, of course (or a follower of a different religion than Christianity); as Mark points out, the classical virtues were propounded independently of religion. But Mark is also right to note that the suspicion with which many "hard" atheists view attempts at virtue is telling -- maybe there is something to the link between faith and virtue. That's certainly something that Christians believe, in any event. I hope RA doesn't let his commenters dissuade him from his aspirations to virtue, regardless of whether he does come to believe in God. (But I can't help but hope that also follows.)

Hey ya

Today is my birthday. Technically I'm still in my mid-20s now, but from here on out I guess I'll be wanting to hang on to this age! Anyway, I'm in a very happy mood right now because all of my family (that would be six people from all over the country!) called to say happy birthday, I got a couple of cards and a few other calls, and I get to go out to a nice dinner tonight. To share my good mood, I have to link to this cleverly-edited video that makes me laugh every time I see it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Billion dollar bonanza

I wish I could say it was hard to believe, but the news that almost a billion dollars of government-distributed hurricane relief payments were "improper and potentially fraudulent" doesn't shock like it should. The GAO has reported that FEMA debit cards went to Caribbean vacations, a sex-change operation, divorce attorneys, and season football tickets. It gave cards to prisoners and rental assistance to people for whom it was already also paying for hotel rooms. Sure, 85% percent of the money may have been used non-fraudulently, but that other 15% is, again, over a billion dollars. What a joke. One Congressman noted that all the abuse "is an affront to the American taxpayer," as it is . . . but I have little confidence in the ability of the government to fix the problem. FEMA actually was under a lot of pressure to distribute aid quickly; placing too much of a demand on people who just lost their homes to produce identification and other papers probably would have resulted in other outraged stories in the newspapers and statements from politicians. The media and government didn't exactly acquit themselves well as it was last fall. Still, apparently FEMA had the right procedures in place, it just didn't follow them. I say shame on FEMA; and I direct a few more choice sentiments towards the lowlifes buying "Girls Gone Wild" videos on my dime.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More lightsaber

I may have discovered You Tube a few months later than the college crowd, but now I am definitely a fan. As a new fan, and a certified dork, some of my first searches have been for "Jedi" and "lightsaber" - because you know fan videos on these subjects would be cool. One called "Art of the Saber" by the Ho brothers is pretty impressive, and this duel of "Ryan vs. Dorkman" is also entertaining:


Both of these I think were originally posted to TFN a few years ago, but now have a different forum and wider audience. (Ryan is now planning "Ryan vs. Dorkman 2," owing to the newfound popularity.) And the home video editing technology has only improved over the last few years, so some of the newer efforts are also impressive. As with the ten-years-ago version of fan efforts, though, (collages and slideshows), You Tube-type videos can be done well, or poorly. Which is why I think the meritocratic setup of the site works pretty well.

(Yes, I do realize You Tube has mostly non-fan clips on offer -- my fiance and my brothers have had me doubled over with some of the stuff they've found, such as the stuff by Improv Everywhere -- but the first stuff I searched for was Star Wars. So there you go.)