Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why I'm An Atheist

The full article is below, but the money quote for me is "pope John Paul II said heaven was 'neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God, which is the goal of human life.'" The logical import of this sentence is that Pope John Paul II believed, and apparently asserted with a straight face that "the fullness of communion with God" is not an abstraction. Right. And Salvadore Dali is a realist.

Pope says hell and damnation are real and eternal
By Richard Owen in Rome
March 28, 2007 12:00am
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HELL is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, the Pope said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to "admit blame and promise to sin no more", they risked "eternal damnation - the inferno". Hell "really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more".
The Pope, who as cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of Catholic doctrine, noted that "forgiveness of sins" for those who repented was a cornerstone of Christian belief. He recalled that Jesus had forgiven the "woman taken in adultery" and prevented her from being stoned to death, observing: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
God had given men and women free will to choose whether "spontaneously to accept salvation...the Christian faith is not imposed on anyone, it is a gift, an offer to mankind".
Vatican officials said the Pope - who is also the Bishop of Rome - had been speaking in "straightforward" language "like a parish priest". He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that hell is a "state of eternal separation from God", to be understood "symbolically rather than physically".
Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, a church historian, said the Pope was "right to remind us that hell is not something to be put on one side" as an inconvenient or embarrassing aspect of belief. It was described by St Matthew as a place of "everlasting fire" (Matthew xxv, 41).
"The problem is not only that our sense of sin has declined, but also that the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created a hell on earth as bad as anything we can imagine in the afterlife," Professor Bagliani said.
In 1999, pope John Paul II said heaven was "neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God, which is the goal of human life".
Hell, by contrast, was "the ultimate consequence of sin itself. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy".
In October, the Pope indicated that limbo, supposed since medieval times to be a "halfway house" between heaven and hell, was "only a theological hypothesis" and not a "definitive truth of the faith".
The Times, London, in The Australian

Monday, March 19, 2007

Political philosophy

Given the readership, I will devote attention on this blog to political philosophy. Let's start with the basic compact, shall we? Any assertion of rights vis-a-vis others requires a submission to obligations vis-a-vis those same others. We can refer to these "others" as society. In these pages, I shall formulate a political philosophy grounded on this fairly basic, pre-government ("state of nature" if you will) premise.

For now, let's just leave it at that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Scooter Libby Verdict

My thought on this whole stupid affair is this: this was a concerted retribution effort that had nothing to do with any "agressive counterargument" to Wilson's claims. Nobody has ever disagreed with Wilson's assessment that Iraq was not trying to purchase uranium in Niger. Nobody has ever taken the illogical leap that the fact that Wilson's wife was on the panel that sent him, that this undermined the actual conclusions which Wilson drew on his trip. The suggestion that this was a "junket" is assinine. A junket is a free trip on the public dole, not the conducting of important public business at public expense. Nobody has ever suggested that Wilson didn't do the job he was asked to do by the CIA, or that he didn't do it thoroughly.

But the most compelling indication that nobody actually believed in the supposed "junket" argument, and that the whole flimsy "argument" was an obvious pretense to justify outing Plame, is that this was done anonymously. If Cheney really believed this supposed argument, why not come right out himself in the press the day the article is published and say "we never believed what Joe Wilson reported because we think he didn't do a thorough job in investigating. Rather, he treated the assignment as a 'junket,' which was arranged in part by an anonymous individual with whom he had close personal ties, offering him a free trip to Africa where he didn't do the important work he was asked to do. Therefore, we disregarded his conclusions, and relied on other information we had about Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in Africa, principally from British sources that relied on documents that many, including the CIA, felt were crude forgeries, but which we accepted because the British sources apparently accepted the documents at face value."

Is that about the worst argument ever? Would anyone have taken that counter argument seriously? Of course not, which is why the whole thing was done anonymously, and in cowardly. Joe Wilson put his argument on the front page of the newspaper with his name right on it. Why couldn't Cheney be man enough to do the same with his counterargument? Also note -- as framed above, there was an easy way to assert the argument without identifying a covert operative by name, endangering that operative's contacts and every other operative that worked for the same 'front' business, weakening our intelligence gathering on Iran's nuclear program, and destroying a career that had been devoted to US national security.