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Righting Religion

Christianity's disparagers. Schoenberg's dissonance. Also: Hold on to your helmets. Cool about the warmer. Sad for Anna. Early runs. Plus more.

2.20.07

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MEGAN BASHAM REPLIES
Re: "unsigned"'s letter (under "Culture Wars") in Reader Mail's The Real Democrats and Megan Basham's Blogging With Bile:

First, the Edwards camp chose these two bloggers precisely because of their popularity among the far left base -- this indicates that their views are supported by enough people that they caught the attention of a national presidential campaign, and that makes what they wrote very relevant.

Second, though I wasn't speaking specifically of higher education, but rather of the party leaders they produce, classes on university campuses that "honor Buddha and Allah" while disparaging Christ abound. (Political science, history, and literature classes jump most readily to mind. Math and Science courses are, I believe, for the most part still safe.) My intent was to briefly describe the Republican Party before grassroots Christian organizations had begun to wield influence within it.

Finally, I do not argue anywhere in my column for the suppression of hate speech against evangelicals or Catholics. And at no point did I suggest that legislators or the courts do anything to mitigate Marcotte et al.'s bigotry. In fact, I clearly said there is nothing we can do about such attitudes except reach out on a personal basis to those who espouse them.

I wonder: does the writer who wishes to remain anonymous think that African-Americans who object to racist opinions are trying to impose their views on others?
-- Megan Basham

Mr. "Unsigned" seems not to want anyone to suggest a "specific set of religious beliefs" should "influence government policy." Too late for that....the Founding Fathers framed their documents and based our laws on a specific set of religious beliefs. He seems to have overlooked that minor detail.
-- Sue Gray
Roswell, Georgia

HELMET COOL
Re: Reid Collins's Decider Rider:

The helmet law debate is typically one of personal freedom vs. public expense. But this debate rarely considers the motorcycle helmet's meager percentage of effectiveness. Nor does it consider precisely why motorcycle helmet laws save lives, which they indeed do. Underneath it all, however, there seems to be a double standard when it comes to public perception and motorcycle safety.

The primary reason that helmet laws save lives is because they discourage riding, far more than by any other factor. This is backed up by DMV data from states that switched from one side to the other on helmet laws. While new motorcycle registrations will stall or even drop under the shadow of a helmet law, the percentage of motorcycle accident victims killed remains essentially unchanged. And there is no direct measurement that indicates an actual reduction of risk to the rider.

If there were a mandatory helmet law for convertibles, you'd see the same effect. As with motorcycles, gross fatality totals could "prove" that helmet laws save convertible drivers' lives as well as the public's dollars. But the real lifesavers would be garaged convertibles -- gathering dust and rust. Yet stubborn convertible drivers would face exactly the same degree of risk out on the road, with or without a helmet law. And convertible helmet law advocates would be just as wrong as the current bucket brigade.

When mandatory helmet laws come into force, there is less incentive to buy or ride a motorcycle. Conversely, encumbered riders flock to bordering states that let them choose. And many touring riders conspicuously avoid spending time and money in states with mandatory helmet laws. With fewer bikes, there are fewer fatalities. It's that simple, and the data is indisputable.

But what about the actual benefits of wearing a helmet? According to accident data from NHTSA, helmet laws reduce gross fatalities without reducing risk to riders. For starters, helmets don't prevent accidents, and riders in accidents almost always get injured. So helmets come into the equation only after an accident happens. Yet about 3 percent of riders in accidents get killed, regardless of whether there's a mandatory helmet law in effect. If helmets were as effective as seatbelts are, you'd see a stark difference. But it just isn't there.

Let's suppose that helmets really are the magic bullet they're cracked up to be. Why stop at motorcyclists, who account for less than one-tenth of all serious head injuries? There are slightly more pedestrian fatalities. Our senior citizens are notorious for conking their noggins, too. In fact, there are several groups that account for more than motorcycle accident victims. But reporters never cap off these stories with "and he wasn't wearing a helmet." Who'da thunk it?

Auto accident victims account for the lion's share of serious head injuries -- almost half of the total. And using NHTSA's own prediction formula, we'd save five times as many lives by mandating helmets for automobile drivers. But there's a reason that nobody is clamoring for helmets in cars or crosswalks. It's because helmet laws are okay as long as they apply to the "other guy."

Non-riders -- people who can't even drive a motorcycle around a parking lot without crashing -- are often self-styled experts on motorcycle safety. And these same people are overwhelmingly in favor of mandatory helmet laws. Perhaps it's because they think motorcyclists are crazy enough to ride at all, and are therefore in need of adult supervision. Or perhaps it's because they remember seeing a couple of Darwinian nut cases on bikes, but don't seem to notice the thousands of responsible riders on the road.

In our safety-obsessed culture, the outward appearance of risking your health is a big no-no. And perception is nine tenths of the flaw. Hypocrisy easily covers the rest.
-- Douglas Findlay
State Director,
ABATE of Virginia, Inc.

Boy, this is tough one. Freedom is a very important part of the bike riding experience. There's something about getting on my Electra-Glide and just riding; doesn't matter where as long as I'm riding.

But this helmet thing, to me, isn't an issue of freedom. It's a necessity! I was forced of the road last year and ended up dropping my bike at about 5-10 mph. That doesn't sound too fast; heck, people can RUN that fast. But I bounced and rolled a number of times along the side of the road. Banged up both knees and shoulders and they still bother me. But the scariest thing of all was looking at my helmet afterwards. Prior to the drop, it didn't have a scratch on it. Afterwards, it looked like someone had beaten it with a spike strip. There was one real major gash just above the right temple. That could have been my bare head.

I don't care WHAT the laws are, or what the riding conditions are, that helmet will ALWAYS be on my head while riding a bike. There were times last summer when it was 100+, I was stuck in a traffic jam, but I would NOT remove that helmet.

Now, let's talk about those bike riders wearing sandals. Jeez...
-- Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

Freedom of speech, freedom of association, and (most important) freedom FROM governmental nanny-state intervention is a mainstay of life in Big Sky country. I've lived all over the United States, but I've never lost the Montana "leave me alone" pseudo-libertarian consciousness, and I hope I never will. When I tell folks from New Jersey that I grew up in a place that had open range laws, no sales tax, little (if any) gun control (and, therefore, little if any violent crime...gee, I wonder if there is a connection there?) and for a short, glorious period, a speed limit that required drivers to take responsibility for their own safety, I get nothing but incredulous stares. It is quite difficult for a lot of people to understand the dual concepts of individual freedom and personal responsibility, but for Montanans it is simply taken for granted.
-- Daniel McNamee
Somerville, New Jersey

I have no objection to (motorized or otherwise) bike riders going about without wearing helmets -- if, and only if, laws are passed to make such action an automatic (And not revocable by rider or family) offer of body parts for transplants and other medical uses when such persons are declared brain dead after an accident. (As opposed to their being brain dead for not wearing a helmet).
-- James Pawlak

Motorcycle riders could wear helmets or not wear helmets -- they could get killed by not wearing one -- but they have got to realize that somebody has to clean up after them.
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

HATING BUSH, LOVING GORE
Re: The Washington Prowler's Convenient Truths:

I'd like to comment on two of the subjects. First Mr. Bush will get little mileage from "friendly fireside" chats with the media. The media has pathology when it comes to Republicans and President Bush particularly. The President would be much better off talking to the American people.

Second: It is good to be the Prince of Tennessee, he of whom little is expected and even less delivered. Mr. Gore cares not a feather or a fig about global warming. Mr. Gore cares about Mr. Gore and keeping his now rustically casual figure in the public eye. And why does no one ever ask where this son of a poor Tennessee farmer turned Senator, always underpaid, and himself never having held any kind of real job gets all this money? Prince Albert gets by with a little help from his friends, just like the former king of Arkansas, King William the Gross does.
-- Jay Molyneaux
Denver, North Carolina

LEARNING FROM ANNA
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder's A Trip to the Bakery:

Messrs. Mason & Felder's attack on a woman who was not their intellectual equal and who has died extremely young was at best tasteless, at worst uncharitable.

Although I personally made every effort to avoid reporting of Ms. Smith and her actions during her short life, the facts remain that she failed to see her 40th birthday and that a small child has been left motherless.

Maybe TAS could have hired Theodore Dreiser to write her obituary by seance. He might have understood Anna Nicole Smith rather better than the obituarists she got.
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

The world goes steadily to hell in a hand basket, it seems, yet gazillions of column inches in print, hours of radio and TV air time and incalculable numbers of key strokes have been expended on the late Ms. Smith and now her demise. While her lifestyle's instructive in many ways, for sure its final tragedy, which seems to promise a life of its own for years, is leaving this child to a world that seems to only care about it as physical currency among greedy adults and ambulance chasers, and fodder for talk-show hosts, opinionists and gossip columnists. May God have mercy on the kid and protect it from all this madness -- and bring it parents who care about it, not the funnel of money it might be.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

It was often said that Anna Nicole Smith's life was "a train wreck waiting to happen." Well, from the death of her son on the day she gave birth to her daughter, down to the day she died, it was a train wreck happening. Now there's only wreckage to be cleaned up, all under public scrutiny.

It's sad. Very sad. But maybe it can serve as a warning for someone else.
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

DO RUN-RUN
Re: Peter Hannaford's Karl Rove Was Wrong:

If these political campaigns keep starting earlier and earlier, they will become background noise. Just another piece of yesterday's and today's ho-hum news. But how egos will get stroked. Lots of people will get employed as advisers and advisers' advisers, apologists, revisionists, go-fers, etc. And the punditry will keep rolling out whatever pundits do.

And in the case of wannabes such as Hillary R. Clinton -- who denied for how long that she wasn't running, wasn't gonna run, etc.? -- it'll give potential voters the opportunity to scorch the honesty and integrity of politicians and berate them, yet one more time.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

Don't know where you folks get your information from, but this political junky just shuts the news off as soon as it turns to the candidates. Listening to the political hype this early on is about as useful and interesting as watching paint dry while listening to my grass growing in the back yard. There is a war on, folks, and we seem to have a Democratic Congress hell bent on making certain we turn tail and run. Defend America by staying vigilant and don't let the Murthas of this country out of you sight because left up to the Murthas, we will be fighting terrorists in our neighborhoods and cities. There is plenty of time for presidential politics down the road. Let's support the president we have shall we?
-- Jim L
East Sandwich, Massachusetts

GRID PRO QUO
Re: William Tucker's Tilting at Wind Energy:

Many of your columns I have read are lucid and seem to have a grasp of technology and a few of the basic constructs of the laws of thermal dynamics.

You obviously researched the basic numbers in "tilting at windmills". I only beg to differ with dismissing the technology altogether as medieval or primitive. It is far from primitive technology and contributions from all energy producing technologies may ultimately be what are needed.

Also note that the science of power conversion improves every year and the openings for "community" or private dynamos of all power origins making a contribution to the grid expands with increases in that technology. Lookup vanner.com, (among others) for example, as small companies making grid tie appliances with technologies that existed eight years ago.

Note the "eyesores" you describe dotting the country as windmills are exceeded in number and visual frequency by the common "cellular tower." For those driving in the countryside, losing contact, appearance of an ugly cellular tower down the road is a thing of beauty. Likewise will be the perception of those viewing common "eyesores" of a more cellularized grid of the future.

The glass is half full. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.
-- Allen Kelly
Contract Senior Power Conversion Engineer
Endicott, New York

NOT A LEAVE US ALONE VOTER
Re: Ron Schoenberg's letter (under "Culture Wars") in Reader Mail's The Real Democrats:

Ron Schoenberg's letter, hitting as it does on almost every known liberal cliche, is worthy of a response. Here goes.

"[On abortion] Why can't they leave my family alone?" -- If one of Mr. Schoenberg's vigorous daughters should decide to reduce his grandchild population from seven to six, should we leave that alone, too? One can reasonably argue that abortion and infanticide are not the same thing. That would be an argument. Saying abortion is a private matter is not an argument, it is a canard.

"Why do they want to force me to pledge allegiance to a god I don't believe in?" -- I am not aware of anyone being forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. If Mr. Schoenberg were to actually read it, he would find that the pledge is to the United States, not to God. "Under God" is intended to describe the object of allegiance, a description 95 percent of its citizens would agree with. Mr. Schoenberg is free to skip over the two offending words, or replace them with "under Hillary". We really don't care.

"We're not asking Christians to honor gay and lesbian marriages" -- oh, really? In Massachusetts just this past week, Catholic Charities dropped out of the adoption business because they are not legally permitted to disqualify gay couples from their services. Not asking Christians, indeed. They are ordering Christians.

"Religion should be about family and home" -- How did Mr. Schoenberg get appointed to decide what religion "should be about"? All religions of which I am aware not only try to explain how we should live our lives in accordance with what the Creator desires, but also how we should try to form societies of justice and equity that reflect those values. Mr. Schoenberg would deny this purpose to religion; apparently such important work is only to be left to liberals.

"If Christians would leave us alone...we would leave them alone" -- This certainly sounds (and I hope Mr. Schoenberg is not offended by this) Golden Rule-ish. Unfortunately, all I can ascertain from his letter is that he would leave alone those who agree with him, and not those who disagree. Not the same thing.
-- Glen Hoffing
Shamong, New Jersey

How seriously are we to take Mr. Schoenberg and others of his kind who protest their defenselessness before the great Christian offensive? Out of the whole world with social engineers and exotic political types trying to box everyone into their vision of the good life, why single out Christians? In a culture where Christians are being pushed around (and non-Christians working to force changes within the very sanctuaries of "private associations" called Churches), why be surprised that they push back.

All this is part of a larger battle. There is a fight between religion and liberalism over who assigns meaning. This battle has been going on since the enlightenment. Whatever one may think of Christianity, liberalism does not tolerate competing authorities. Instead Christianity is to have a clear subordinate role. As such, liberalism reaches into Christianity and with no hint of humility pronounces what its various tenets "really" mean along with what should be kept and which should be jettisoned. Contrary to what Mr. Schoenberg may believe, non-Christians will not leave Christianity alone because the "public" increasingly has been reaching into everyone's private sphere. And what can we do in a free society? Nothing. Every voice has the right to speak. (Note, however, the movements of the distinctively secular type working to make society less free. Look at the "speech codes" in our hallowed halls of learning)

One can only to be struck at Mr. Schoenberg's axiom that "Religion should be about family and home". This is a profound misunderstanding of the very nature of Christianity. Christianity is a public religion. Its work commanded by Christ is that His gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations and peoples. It calls things as they are by name and brings the light of Christ to those walking in darkness. Mr. Schoenberg is free to believe this is all a bucket of manure; but to make Christianity conform to any other standard is to force it to be precisely what it is not.

Lastly, as far as abortion is concerned, Mr. Schoenberg refuses to understand Christianity as it understands itself. Christians have no interest forcing any woman to do something they don't want to do per se. The real issue is the nearly five thousand year consistent teaching that abortion is fundamentally unjust to the weakest among us. This is a public matter. There is no more public question than who we count as one of us and to whom we will extend our protections. Abortion is a reality that will not leave anyone alone. Any nurse who has worked in a surgical hospital only to have the administration try to remove the "conscience exceptions", which protect nurses from being professionally coerced into participating in abortions, knows how little society tolerates their "private" convictions.
-- Mike Dooley

Ron Schoenberg asks a lot of questions. Permit me to take a crack at one set of answers.

"We don't care if they want to force their daughters [to not kill the babies they choose to conceive], so why can't they leave my family alone [to kill the babies that his daughters conceive]?"

The reasons are quite clear. How does medicine [and the law] decide whether Ron Schoenberg is alive, or dead? The answer today is whether Ron Schoenberg displays an active electroencephalograph. Flat line, Ron is dead. Activity, Ron is alive. If that definition is good enough to determine whether Ron is alive, it's good enough for me to determine when a baby in the womb is alive. That happens in the middle of the first trimester. In antiquity, before ECGs, medicine [and the law] defined life or death on the basis of cardiac activity. Coincidentally, that kind of activity also happens in the middle of the first trimester. If that definition is good enough to determine whether Ron is alive, it's good enough for me to determine when a baby in the womb is alive.

What about identity? How does the law decide what tissue belongs to what individual? This day, February 20, 2007, the answer is DNA. Take a sample of the mother's DNA. Take a sample of the baby's DNA. Send it to a lab. Are they the same? The answer is "no". The lab replies, "The two samples come from two different people". If the law says "two people", I say "two people". Once again, in antiquity, before DNA, the law defined identity by fingerprints. Yes, early babies in the womb have no fingerprints. But once they do, how do the mother versus baby fingerprints compare? The answer is, they're different, and they're two different people. What about blood type? Once again, the baby often has a blood type and/or Rh factor different from the mother. Different people. Hair color. Eye color. Sex. Half the time the sex is not the mother's. Different people, different people.

And what about Nature? To one who denies I-am-Who-I-am, e.g., Ron Schoenberg, the most important criteria for determining what happens on Judgment Day is what Nature chooses to do. Absent the abortionist's vacuum, absent the abortionist's uterine saline injection, absent the abortionist's partial-birth cerebral evacuation, what does Nature do? The answer is that Nature delivers a living baby, a process Nature has been perfecting for millions of years. Why can't Ron and his daughters let Nature do what Nature is trying to do?

"Why do they want to force me to pledge allegiance to a god I don't believe in?"

The word "force" in America is probably the most overwhelmingly misapplied word in the dictionary. Mrs. Natoli would lead you to believe that Mrs. Natoli was "forced" to walk miles in Sorrento and Herculaneum and Roma last October against her will, by the evil Mr. Natoli, but in reality nobody was "forced" to do anything. If Ron and/or his daughters choose to be silent for the pledge's "under God", Ron and/or his daughters may receive dirty looks, but that does not constitute "force".

"Why won't they allow my gay and lesbian friends to lead the same normal lives as everyone else?"

The answer is that people who limit affection for their "partner" exclusively to consensual sodomy are not living "normal" lives. As a practical matter, very few people care to peer into bedroom windows to confirm or deny whether the aforementioned consensual sodomy is or is not being committed. But some people, perhaps not even a majority, do care to see children in a home with a father and a mother, not two men, not two women, not one man, not one woman, not an arbitrarily sized kibbutz. That concern for "the children" is contrary to Ron's desire to redefine family to...no definition whatsoever.

"Christians should leave their religion at home and not try to force it on me."

Funny, but that is probably exactly what all 17th and 18th century immigrants to America heard before they left their native shores for America. And that is why the First Amendment to the Constitution includes the phrase "Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise thereof." If Ron was present at the Constitutional Convention, Ron would insist on deleting that awful phrase "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But Ron wasn't there, and the states approved the phrase. So Ron will have to get used to Christians exercising their faith, in public, or submit an amendment to revoke the right to do so.
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

We do not need people like Ron Schoenberg lecturing us about what the role of religion in a believer's life should be. What authority does he cite for his idiotic assertion that "religion should be about family and home?" Everyone is entitled to an opinion and he has expressed his; however, his superficial dismissal of people who take Christianity seriously tells me more about his ignorance than it does about any perceived injustice perpetrated upon him by committed Christians. Mr. Schoenberg may live a completely compartmentalized life, one in which he can leave his religious views at home in his closet while living by a completely different set of values away from it, but the rest of us are under no compunction to live our lives in a like manner.

Does Mr. Schoenberg think that believers should have left their moral outrage at home and chosen not to join with the Abolitionists in condemning slavery in the 1860s or not to march for civil rights during the 1960s? Should conservative Christians remain silent about the injustice of murdering innocent unborn children just because it might offend the sensibilities of those who presumably left their religion at home with their family? It seems to me what Mr. Schoenberg is really upset about is that not everybody believes what he believes about the morality of abortion and homosexuality and since conservative Christians are more vocal in their opposition to his viewpoint concerning these matters, he wants them to put aside their convictions in favor of his.

It is impossible to lead a coherent life with no immutable value system under-girding it. A person of true integrity can be counted on to behave consistently regardless of where he is or who he is with. There is no dichotomy in living this way but there is in trying to make Christianity just something you believe when at home spending time with your family. I suspect that Mr. Schoenberg believes that abortion and homosexuality are acceptable because his "religion" and the values it imparts to him tells him they are. For him to deny conservative Christians the same choice is disingenuous.
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

SHOW OF PUCK
Re: Andrew Cline's It's Mad in January and February, Too:

From a hockey fan in response to Andrew Cline's basketball article, aaaaaaaaaaaagh.
-- Tom Bullock
West Covina, California

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