A long and detailed essay on the topic is available at The Gates of Vienna. A very small sample:

The end of religion, thus, didn’t herald an age of reason; it led to a new age of secular superstition and new forms of witch-hunts.

This will take at least an hour of your time, perhaps more, but it’s worthwhile.

As a quick follow-up to Ray’s post yesterday, be sure to check out the work of Arthur C. Brooks on charitable giving. The spring issue of Religion & Liberty featured an interview with him, and his book, Who Really Cares?, was the basis for a special focus on ABC’s 20/20 (hosted by John Stossel):

John Stossel: “But it turns out that this idea that liberals give more is a myth. These are the twenty-five states where people give an above average percent of their income, twenty-four were red states in the last presidential election.”

Arthur Brooks, Who Really Cares, author: “When you look at the data, it turns out the conservatives give about thirty percent more per conservative-headed family than per liberal-headed family. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money.”

Connecting the links between so-called “red” states, conservatism, religiosity, and the south are interesting and instructive exercises.

I remember riding back to seminary in Kentucky a couple years ago with a young lady and we pulled off the expressway to grab a bite. As we were getting ready to pay our bill, the young lady, who happened to be from Mississippi, said, “God is telling me to give 100 dollars to this young man behind the counter of this restaurant. ” Needless to say this young man was thankful of God’s decision to speak through the young woman in this manner.

An article by Heather Donckels and a study by empty tomb, inc shows that Southerners as a group give the most to church and religious organizations. Empty tomb, inc. is a Christian research organization in Champaign, Illinois.

If there are any Southern evangelicals who have been a member of a church during a building campaign, this study makes even more sense. Midwesterners placed second in the study. While Southerners lead in overall charitable giving, they give less as a group to charities outside of the religious domain.

Donckels notes in her piece:

The North American Religion Atlas, using data from the 2000 census, shows a high concentration of Protestants in the South while Catholics dominate the Northeast. For example, only 8 percent of people in the South are Catholics, compared to 42 percent of New Englanders.

Francis Butler, president of the Washington-based Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, said research shows Catholics give about 1 percent of income to charity. Protestants, meanwhile, generally give double that, he said.

While this may be one factor of many, there is obviously more to giving than denominational demographics. One obvious factor may be that religious participation and church attendance is higher in Southern states, compared with other regions. Cultural differences are probably more of a factor than denominational factors.

Also in the article, University of Mississippi professor Charles Reagan Wilson is quoted as saying:

The South’s approach to giving has stressed private charity over governmental assistance. Southerners have long tended to be conservative on issues of government, stressing provision from family and churches rather than government intervention in times of crisis.

So it seems, there is still a flickering spirit of Jeffersonian political philosophy alive in Dixie.

Blog author: jcouretas
Friday, October 12, 2007
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For those of you following the case of Paul Jacob, here’s a link to John Powers’ column in the Chicago Daily Observer.

For those of you catching up: Jacob, the Senior Advisor at the Sam Adams Foundation, has been indicted on charges related to his work leading a petition drive in Oklahoma. Jacob is charged with a felony of conspiring against the State of Oklahoma in collecting signatures in favor of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights by an out of state resident. After 300,000 signatures were gathered by Jacobs and others, signatures removed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court keeping the petition from making it to a ballot.

Writes Powers:

It seems sort of like arresting mom for making apple pie, but it is indicative of the current low-brow nature of politics in the United States. Rather than facing an opponent on the issues, rather than campaigning on facts, rather than organizing support for a cause, there is a grand group of autocrats that would rather imprison their political foes than wage a legitimate campaign against them. It is also quite telling that outside of a few Libertarian blogs (and of course the Chicago Daily Observer), the media has completely ignored this story from any angle except day to day uninspired coverage of court issues in Oklahoma.

The Sam Adams site has a deep archive of resources, articles and blog discussions on L’Affaire Jacob here.

Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, was interviewed by Radio Free Europe’s Jeffrey Donovan today about the Vatican’s reaction to a letter sent this week to Pope Benedict XVI by more than 130 Muslim leaders. The letter urged peace and understanding between the faiths, warning that the “world’s survival” could be at stake.

The audio of the interview is not available online. What follows is a transcript of Kishore’s comments to Donovan:

“The Vatican is actually withholding comment until it’s had time to read and study and mull over the letter, which is already a quite different reaction than, say, from the Anglican communion, which has been much more willing to chomp at the bit and get right to praising the letter for its measure of goodwill.”

“What the pope was trying to say to Muslims [at Regensburg, Germany, in September 2006] is something that’s not mentioned in this letter by 138 Muslim leaders. There is no mention of violence in the name of God. There’s no condemnation of Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism, there’s no mention of the hijacking of Islam by terrorists. These are obviously the real issues. I think until Muslim leaders come out with outright, simple, easy-to-understand condemnation of these things, it’s pretty hard for most people to see how a sincere inter-religious dialogue can take place.”

“The pope is a theologian. His first question would most probably be, ‘What is the nature of God and Islam?’ There are obviously differences between the Islamic understanding of God and the Christian understanding of God. There’s constant reference in the letter to ‘there is no God but God and God has no partners or associates,’ which I take to be maybe an implicit reference to Christianity, where you have one God but three persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I do not think Muslims can accept that, as Muslims.”

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction, with Gore and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

In recent years, the Nobel Committee has shown itself more and more willing to name the Peace prize for political reasons. In awarding Al Gore and the IPCC the Peace Prize, however, the Nobel Committee has lost all pretense to objectivity. Not only are Al Gore and the IPCC shamelessly partisan choices, but also irrelevant ones. Whatever one thinks of their crusade to convince the world of catastrophic, human caused global warming, it has precious little to do with furthering world peace.

Gore seems to have anticipated the criticism. In his first statement, he explains: “The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.” Methinks this issue has much to do with ideology, and little to do with science.

[Ed. note: Hear Jay Richards discuss Gore's peace prize on the G. Gordon Liddy show here.]

A stony-faced Al Gore reflects on his failure to win a Nobel Prize for Science.

In a stunning turn of events, the Nobel Committee failed to award a Nobel Prize for Science to Al Gore, instead opting to present him with the Peace Prize despite the scant evidence that his recent climate change-related activities have contributed anything to the advancement of global peace.

The award can be seen as something of a consolation prize for Gore, however, as in recent days even the British judicial system has ruled that “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore’s global warming documentary, is full of “alarmism and exaggeration.”

Gore joins other non-luminaries of the global peace pantheon who have also won the award, including Kofi Anan and the United Nations and Yasser Arafat.

More: Czech President Vaclav Claus:

“The relationship between his activities and world peace is unclear and indistinct,” the statement said. “It rather seems that Gore’s doubting of basic cornerstones of the current civilization does not contribute to peace.”

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 11, 2007
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“The mission in Iraq may be on the way to being accomplished…” So says Bartle Bull in Prospect magazine (HT).


Maybe we should start thinking of the first declaration of “mission accomplished” (May 1, 2003, pictured above) as a sort of D-Day, and the imminent(?) “mission accomplished” as a sort of V-E Day (that’s also a common analogy used to describe the “already/not yet” dynamic of the times between Christ’s first and second coming.)

See also, “Democracy in Iraq.”

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 11, 2007
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Freemasonry has been deemed to be worthy of protection under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).

Does this mean that freemasonry is a “religion”? A California court of appeals statement said in part, “We see no principled way to distinguish the earnest pursuit of these (Masonic) principles … from more widely acknowledged modes of religious exercise.”

That’s a stance the Christian Reformed Church would probably agree with. As I’ve noted before, the CRC’s position on membership in the Masonic Lodge, and other “occult” societies, has been, “There is an irreconcilable conflict between the teachings and practices of the lodge and those of biblical Christianity, and therefore simultaneous membership in the lodge and in the church of Jesus Christ is incompatible with and contrary to Scripture.”

This is also one of the three opinions that have historically separated the CRC from the Reformed Church in America (hymn-singing and use of English in worship being the other two).

See also, “The Freemasonry Threat.”

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
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Society is changing as economic freedom and diversification gradually creep into the Middle East. Dr. Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, explores the effects of free trade on nations including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates and, in turn, the effect those nations are having on their neighbors.

The diversification of economies, notably the development of new products and services for export, allows nations to grow out of reliance on oil production as the main source of capital. The emerging economies create an entrepreneurial atmosphere open to all and encourages foreign investment. The result is a rise out of poverty and more open foreign relations.

Read the full commentary here.