Sunday, 1/4/15

  1. Mitch Daniels is Optimistic
  2. God is not a scientific hypothesis
  3. Mike Pence in Israel
  4. Religious freedom fighting to survive
  5. Huckabee’s baggage


Purdue University President Mitch Daniels says New Year’s is like opening day at the ballpark. “Optimism comes naturally, and that’s a good thing, as no other operating philosophy makes any sense,” he says. You can be “wary” about the economy, Mr. Daniels adds, “worried” about terror threats or “weary” of partisan animus, but you still return to the questions: “What nation would you like to trade problems with? What era of history would you like to move to?”

(Peggy Noonan) Well, that kind of puts a damper on the jeremiads, doesn’t it? At least briefly.

Happy New Year (omitted from earlier 2015 blogs).


For example, the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine – even if it is one that had always existed – does not stand or fall on the material nature of its parts, i.e., whether it is made of hamburger, wood, or cookie dough, or some combination. Rather, it depends on the nature of the machine. So, even if the sciences could give us a seamless and gapless account of the universe’s natural phenomena, it would have no bearing on the rationality of belief in God.

Although Metaxas’ heart is in the right place, the “success” of his approach requires that he forfeit large swaths of philosophical real estate to the landlords of unbelief. It is not a price that serious theists should ever be willing to pay.

(Francis Beckwith, God is not a Scientific Hypothesis) This isn’t going to be a “beat up on Eric Metaxas” blog, but a followup on some current science and/versus religion buzz.

In 2007, Beckwith converted to Roman Catholicism from Protestant Evangelicalism – a pretty high-profile loss for the team that includes Eric Metaxas and tends to dominate the airwaves and popular media depictions of Christianity, since Beckwith was President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (or some such thing; I may have the name wrong). God is not a Scientific Hypothesis corroborates that he is not himself, despite (past?) affiliation with the Discovery Institute, a proponent of Intelligent Design. Another public philosopher, David Bentley Hart, is Orthodox and already has penned an analogous critique of such approaches.

The point is that Intelligent Design theory and other more explicit scientific apologetics for crypto-deism (it’s not really theism) are more common among well-formed Evangelicals than among well-formed adherent of more historic Christian traditions.

That disparity isn’t a random factoid. It reflects, I’m convinced, a pretty deep fissure between Evangelicalism and historic Christianity, and is of a whole with Evangelicalism’s abandonment of most Christian mysteries/sacraments and its reduction of the two remaining ones to mere obedience or reminder.


Saying fabulist things about Israel is commoner among Evangelicals, too, for reasons I’ll not revisit here. My Governor is a recidivist, and Daniel Larison isn’t ready to let it go since Pence keeps getting mentioned as a potential GOP candidate for President.


As noted earlier, an Indiana legislator is planning to introduce an Indiana analog to the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which (by Supreme Court decree as I recall) does not apply to the States. I worried that his fine-tuning might mess it up.

But he hardly could mess it up worse than did our local newspaper, which incited much foaming at the mouth with a tendentious “rapid response” description of the as-yet-unseen Bill:

Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, plans to introduce a bill he says will shore up gaps in Indiana’s “religious liberty framework.” The bill would allow small business owners to refuse to provide services that go against their personal religious convictions. The bill was spurred, in part, by efforts to protect businesses that don’t want to cater to same-sex weddings. What do you think of that concept?

How’s that for a loaded-for-bear description? It sounds as if the Bill says “No small business needs to provide any services that offend the owner’s delicate religious sensibilities. Period. Full stop.”

But the inspiration of the draft bill reads thus (and passed Congress with 99.4% in favor, just three votes opposed):

(a) In general
Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Exception
Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

(c) Judicial relief
A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. Standing to assert a claim or defense under this section shall be governed by the general rules of standing under article III of the Constitution.

Note that RFRA says nothing about businesses refusing services (yes, that’s a possible application of a neutral law to protect religious freedom from any unwarranted intrusion by government) and allows a law that’s narrowly tailored (“least restrictive”) to a compelling governmental interest to override even substantial religious objections. Nothing limits laws trivially burdening “personal religious convictions” or gives a heckler’s veto to bogus claims of religious grievance.

It’s interesting, though, that our local rag chose to whip up frenzy based on the occasional conflicts between bakers or photographers and gay couples. Is the frenzy a tacit admission that forcing such artisans to lend their skills substantially burdens many people’s religious beliefs without narrow tailoring to any compelling governmental interest? That would be a true and accurate admission.

But instead one senses that that opposition is based on “We hates it! Yes! We does!” E.g.,

When the Taliban attempt to force their brand of religion on the public, we call it terrorism but when this senator does it, he calls it religious liberty. He is no better than them and should be arrested and sent to Guantanamo. Stop using your religion as a weapon.

Hearteningly, a surprising number of writers who apparently credited the tendentious description still supported the bill – perhaps proving that those writers aren’t so amnesiac as to forget that today’s supreme constitutional right to orgasm with any consenting adult man, woman or beast was a few short decades ago unthinkable, and that people might reasonably hesitate even now.


Oh, what fun! Mike Huckabee has left Fox News to consider a 2016 run for POTUS.

Although I was surprised at the extent of my agreement with Huckabee during his first run, I’ve changed since then, and I may or may not agree now. Foreign policy is a much bigger deal for me now than ten years ago, for instance.

But funnest of all, I can imagine the opposition research people poring over archival video for snippets of Foxesque nonsense or even just sitting by as someone else said something certifiably insane.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.