Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Americans are Angry with O'Reilly

Americans are Angry with O'Reilly

A lot of good Americans are extremely angry with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly right now.

Fred Bieling is my writing partner at Syracuse Progressive. He is a veteran of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Fred has had it with O'Reilly's smears.
Here's what he had to say to Mr. O'Reilly this week:

Mr. O'Reilly,

I would be honored if you'd add me to your "enemies list." As a veteran of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a proud American whose patriotism WILL NOT be besmirched by the likes of you, let me say that you should be ashamed of yourself. If there is anyone in the media today that undermines America more than you, encouraging terrorists, smearing good citizens, ect, ect, I don't know who that would be.

I'm so proud of Fred. It's time to put an end to this new McCarthyism. Bill O'Reilly can add me to his "enemies list," too - and I would be just as glad to have the exposure so that all Americans could see for themselves that I love this nation and refuse to have some pompous ideologue intimidating me - or you - or any intelligent and concerned patriot of this country.

Reason and Faith: What Does Winning the Culture War Mean?

Reason and Faith:
What Does Winning the Culture War Mean?

Fred Hutchison lays out his case for why he believes that Christianity and reason will be essential to winning the "culture war." What "winning" is supposed to mean here is unclear to me - Mr. Hutchinson has the right to his political views and so do you and I. This posting of mine is to point out the fact that we do have politically different perspectives, and the personal values to which our faith brings us as individuals should be discussed openly - and often. The freedom of exercising individual conscience was the focus of the Declaration of Independence, which was the only founding document that mentioned the Creator. I do not appreciate the way Mr. Hutchinson portrays Deism in the article. In my opinion, he waters it down to a belief that is under-developed - - a faith that a high-schooler would possess today. In truth, many of the founding fathers were committed and serious Deists.

The fact that Mr. Hutchinson is calling upon Christianity as a major power in "fighting for reason" will confuse some people, I'm certain. To clarify the path on which Mr. Hutchinson is taking us, he explains that it's his belief that Jonathan Edwards embodied "all the best traits of a great culture" and that we can "learn about the culture by observing" him. Mr. Hutchinson says that some Christians have forsaken the cause of reason, thinking that it is a realm of futility and a distraction from the cause of Christ.

I've formed many scars from the constant knife-in-the-heart betrayal of my religious values by the extremist leaders of the far religious right, who are more interested in taking over the Republican party in God's name than in actually being on God's side. Those scars have sometimes hardened my longing to speak of my personal faith in the public square.

I think it's high time for us to take back our faith in public debate about American and have open discussion about the politics that shape our society; our morals, ethics, and common faith-based values; and how we treat the least among us. To me, that is precisely what "winning the culture war" is about - social justice, peace/war issues, empathy, compassion, honesty, truth, and a full scope of life issues - not just the narrow one that seeks to criminalize an already-agonizing and desperate choice.
[Jonathan] Edwards, a man of extraordinary rational intelligence, found his mind utterly baffled with the idea of an empty void. It is an idea contrary to reason. In contrast, the idea that an eternal being has always existed is a necessity for the highest flights of reason. Like aircraft, which cannot fly in a vacuum, the flight of reason requires the atmosphere of an eternal omnipresent deity.

In contrast, an atheist must believe in a cosmic void prior to the mysterious appearance of the universe and an empty vacuum beyond the galaxies. Furthermore, the human mind must reason in a dark, empty, inner room unsupported and uncomforted by a divine presence. Edwards said that such an idea produces "convulsions and confusion" in the mind and a "contradiction" of the soul. Indeed, when one debates with an atheist, one finds a mind entangled in convulsions of thought, confusion of concepts, and contradictions of what it means to be human. In accordance with Romans 1:28, the atheist has a debased mind. Such ruined minds are quite common among postmodern liberals who are fighting against reason in the culture war.

Mr. Hutchinson says that he believes that atheists have thrown up the most intense defenses against reason and that some of the liberals he has debated are not far behind in their defenses "against reason." (Reason - meaning Mr Hutchinson's philosophical views on Reason, naturally). When he says that the absence of transcendent spirituality in the modern churches breeds cynicism which drains the intellectual energies in fending off irrationality in our culture, I admit that I pause and recall times when I've seen opportunity for meaningful debate that was dulled by a watered-down (and narrowed) understanding of Christian theology within the modern churches and shut off by a divisive mistrust of anyone in politics who might be wearing their faith on their sleeve.
Reason, of course, cannot rise to its highest potential without faith, and without the metaphysical anchors supplied by the existence of God. Why cannot the Christian philosophers of the modern era rise up to match the rational philosophers of prior centuries? It is possible, but very difficult. The ubiquitous presence of cynicism drains the intellectual energies in fending off irrationality in the culture. The mind is distracted from the mountaintop of reason by constantly having to quibble over first principles with skeptics. The strange absence of transcendent spirituality in the modern churches leaves the individual believer to a private quest to find God in the fullness of his majesty and glory, as Jonathan Edwards did.

The task of this generation of Christians is to restore transcendent spirituality to the churches, to win the culture war, and reclaim and reestablish reason throughout the land. This will make it possible for philosophers of a future generation to again produce works of world-class rational philosophy, which is part of the heritage of the West.
I hope there will be a lot more public discussion of faith in the public square. This nation has been damaged in ways we don't yet understand. Our sense of invulnerability was shattered on 9/11. Our President and his administration lied to us about the reasons he was sending our troops to war while his administration plotted out some evil political manipulations. If the war had been a success, the public trust may never have been damaged, but Bush's Iraq war was poorly planned, strategically wrong, morally wrong, socially unjust - in short - it is a disaster despite the best efforts of our loyal Military. On the homefront, the rich are getting richer by the day while poverty increases among the poorest. The middle class is shrinking - and most are going the route of the "working poor." This nation is divided; non-trusting; bruised; spiritually impoverished.

Our faith and our common values may be the only rational thing we have to hold on to at a time when all other institutions fail us. I believe that an honest and respectful debate about reason and faith is the only thing that is going to save this nation. While atheists are just as American as any other citizen, there is no moral superiority in their claiming that Religion is "magical thinking" - especially when you consider that the notion that God will cease to exist through an willful act of denial is also 'magical thinking.' Atheists and extremist secularists cannot blink and hope that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Wiccans will disappear from the public square. Respect is key to public debate about where we draw the line between our common (often faith-based) values and the rule of law.