You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 20, 2009.

I’ve been seething about the whole Twilight New Moon release thing all week.  This spoof, however, almost makes it all worth it:

Oh, ha ha ha!!!!

This article strikes me as another piece of evidence that God has a droll sense of humor:

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.

With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.

Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.

Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.


Mr Mason has been supplementing his income for years by giving photographs to agencies who sell them on to newspapers and advertising campaigns.


The Atheist reponse?  Parents shouldn’t be teaching foisting on their children any value system!

The British Humanist Association said that it did not matter whether the children in the posters were Christians. “That’s one of the points of our campaign,” the association’s education director, Andrew Copson, said.

“People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy or that no child should have any contact with religion or learn anything about it should take the time to read the adverts and think about their message rather than rely on their own assumptions.

“The message of the posters is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘Humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children and that young people have the right to choose for themselves in line with their developing capacities as they grow.”

Oh, Mr. Copson, Mr. Copson!  When I was a child, I thought as a child.  (Get the quote? Of course you don’t!)  But when I grew up, I gained some sense.   Show me, please, how throwing a  young person out into the big bad world without any anchoring system of values by which to make the choices you claim to care about once they’re old enough to do so demonstrates that you have any.

Silly, nihilistic clap-trap.

 Recently on a whim (and what things don’t I do on a whim  these days?) I purchased a copy of Eddie Rickenbacker’s Fighting The Flying Circus, his memoir of his service in WWI.

My copy arrived yesterday and I left it out on the kitchen counter.  This morning, the eldest gel came down stairs, clapped eyes on it, and burst out in indignation, “Hey! He stole that name from Monty Python!”

I patiently explained the origin of the term to the gel, and I’m happy to say that Captain Rickenbacker has now been forgiven.

(BTW, I’ll let you know what I think of the book when I’ve read it.)

I just love this resolution to make next Wednesday National Quit Yer Bitching Day.

Maybe we could use some of that stimulus money to hand out smiley face buttons?

I was both delighted and appalled to read this article:

Children as young as five are simulating sex acts at school because they are exposed to pornography on satellite television and the internet, a senior MP has warned.

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, said he had been told recently of the “disgusting” behaviour seen by teachers in primary schools.

The Labour MP for Huddersfield complained that Britain is “awash” with material promoting sexual activity too early in life.

Mr Sheerman called for tougher measures to protect youngsters’ from the “disturbing” amounts of pornography available on satellite television and the internet.

He also launched a withering attack on Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, which he said was the biggest carrier of pornography in the world.

Addressing a Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech, Mr Sheerman told MPs: “We are a country awash with focus on early sexual activity.

“I think it is very serious the access to pornography to children … you go to infant schools now and teachers say to me: ‘Children come here at five and six simulating sexual behaviour that they should know nothing about.’

“That is something pretty disgusting.”

Mr Sheerman said he was angered to read that Mr Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation in Europe and Asia, wanted to see BSkyB become more trusted than the BBC.

He added: “I had only read two days previously that not only is the Murdoch empire the biggest carrier of pornography in the world but have now bought a major supplier, maker of pornography in the US.

“I don’t know what trusted and loved is but a company that puts that sort of filth, makes it available to children, does not impress me.

“Our children should be protected from that sort of pornography whether it is on BSkyB or whether it is on the internet. I believe that childhood ought to be protected.”

“Great Heavens, Robbo!” you are no doubt saying to yourself, “Why would you be delighted by such an article?”

Well, the simple reason is that it’s one for the Home Team: In the year between my graduation from college and my entry into law school in the late 80’s, I worked for Sheerman as a research assistant.  Yup, spent the year living in a  house in Wandsworth (shared with an American crackpot and a French babe), commuting into Westminster and occassionally getting up to Yorkshire for some constituent work.  (And I will tell you that there is nothing scarier than a hall full of socialist Brit union shop stewards.  “Keep your mouth shut and try not to look American,” was Barry’s advice as we went in.) 

As for the appalling part? Well, I heartily agree that children should be protected, but what word is missing from this article? Begins with a “P”.  Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? How about……..PARENTS!!!!

Nice going, Barry, but if you leave Rupert in loco parentis, don’t be so shocked and surprized at what you get.

This evening I was chatting with the eleven year old when she said, “Dad, my friends and I were talking today and we agreed that when we grow up we’d really like to marry guys just like our dads because they’re so good.”

Well? What does one say?

All I could come up with was a hug and a mumbled, “Well, if you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll find the right guy.”  All the time I was well aware that the window on this kind of unabashed affection is rapidly closing and it’s only a matter of time before she’s shrieking how much she hates me.

In the comments to my post below on the different assertions of G.K. Chesterton and Francis Parkman regarding Native American religious beliefs before the arrival of European Christians, regular port-swiller BNS writes:

[W]hile Parkman may be more an expert on Native American culture than Chesterton, I wonder how accepted this particular assertion of his is, or if it is disputed, and I also wonder how he reached that conclusion.

In my post, I had said that at the moment I was too lazy to look up Parkman’s assertions.  Well, my friends, in an attempt to be a proper host (and a fair commentator), this evening I hunted up the quotes.

First off is Parkman’s assertion itself.  It is to be found in the first chapter of his The Jesuits In North America, the second book of the first volume of his masterwork France and England in North America.   I won’t quote the entire discussion of the various rites, rituals and superstitions, because it’s too much to type.  Instead, I’ll simply give you Parkman’s concluding paragraph on the matter.  (Warning – He is being his least Rousseauian.  No Noble Savage for him!  If this kind of non-p.c. language offends you, either skip it or brace yourself.):

To sum up the results of this examination, the primitive Indian was as savage in his religion as in his life.  He was divided between fetish-worship and that next degree of religious development which consists of the worship of deities embodied in the human form.  His conception of their attributes was such as might have been expected.  His gods were no whit better than himself.  Even when he borrows from Christianity the idea of a Supreme and Universal Spirit, his tendency is to reduce Him to a local habitation and a bodily shape; and this tendency disappears only in tribes that have been long in contact with civilized white men.  The primitive Indian, yielding his untutored homage to One All-pervading and Omnipotent Spirit, is a dream of poets, rhetoricians, and sentimentalists.

As I say, pretty strong meat.

But what of Parkman’s sources? Well, he has something to say about that in the preface to the same volume:

The sources of information concerning the early Jesuits of New France are very copious.  During a period of forty years, the Superior of the Mission sent, every summer, long and detailed reports, embodying or accompanied by the reports of his subordinates, to the Provincial of the Order at Paris, where they were annually published, in duodecimo volumes, forming the remarkable series known as the Jesuit Relations.  Though the productions of men of scholastic training, they are simple and often crude in style, as might be expected of narratives hastily written in Indian lodges or rude mission-houses in the forest, amid annoyances and interruptions of all kinds.  In respect to the value of their contents, they are exceedingly unequal.  Modest records of marvellous adventures and sacrifices, and vivid pictures of forest-life, alternate with prolix and monotonous details of the conversion of individual savages, and the praiseworthy deportment of some exemplary neophyte.  With regard to the condition and character of the primitive inhabitants of North America, it is impossibleto exaggerate their value as an authority.  I should add, that the closest examination has left me no doubt that these missionaries wrote in perfect good faith, and that the Relations hold a high place as authentic and trustworthy historical documents.  

“Ah!” you will say, “Parkman is just relying on Jesuit bias!  And we all know what that means!”  Well, there are two responses to this.  First, Parkman himself was a staunch Protestant.  Throughout his work, he gives Rome a pretty fair treatment, but on the whole it is quite plain that he has no love for Her.

Second, if those insanely brave Jesuits at the sharp end of the Faith had discovered that their new flock already worshipped some Great Spirit that ruled over all, surely they would have trumpeted this finding?   A barbarian people who practice genuine monotheism are already three quarters of the way to accepting Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular, and I find it hard to believe that such a phenomenon would not have made it into the Relations.

As to the broader question of the acceptance of Parkman’s and/or Chesterton’s positions, I confess that this beats the heck out of me.   For all I know, there may well be dozens of books thoroughly debunking both positions!  I only offered the comparison because it was triggered in my mind after reading GKC’s take (which, btw, contains no citations or references).  They obviously have incompatible views on the subject of monotheism among North American peoples prior to European contact, and one of them, just as obviously, must be mistaken.  I have not done research any farther to determine who was right, simply noted the difference because I find it interesting.



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November 2009