Pharyngula

The United States has some serious problems: an ugly war, a shaky economy, a bad government (on the way out, at last). It’s been a rough eight years. So of course it must be someone’s fault, and Daniel Henninger has a simple explanation: blame the atheists. Especially blame the atheist’s successful war on Christmas. He says, “A nation whose people can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.” You see, we’ve all lost the important values of “responsibility, restraint, and remorse” that Christianity inculcates.

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.

Wait, what? The country has been run for the last eight years by a gang of amoral atheists? Bankers are atheists? All those people who borrowed money unwisely are atheists? Christians don’t default on loans, don’t exploit lax banking rules, don’t start wars, don’t torture?

I would like to visit Mr Henninger’s alternate dimension.

Here on my planet, of course, this country has been run by the evangelical wing of the Republican party, the vast majority of the population are Christians, it’s almost impossible to get elected to positions of any power without being a professing theist, and the religious right has been deeply tangled in political decisions, while atheists do little more than write books. Nobody has banned “Merry Christmas” — militant atheists like Dawkins (and Myers) happily put up Christmas trees every December, although of course we do regard it as an entirely secular holiday.

I’m not at all concerned about people who say “Merry Christmas”, and don’t really think whether you say the magic mantra or not has much of an effect on the economy. I’m much more worried that the editorial staff at the Wall Street Journal, who all seem to be delusional loons, might be influencing the management of our economy.

Maybe Mr Henninger needs to read Kathleen Parker, who at least has noticed that the Republican party has become the god-walloping know-nothing party, and that maybe that has something to do with the state of the nation.

Comments

  1. #1 Reginald Selkirk
    November 21, 2008

    militant atheists like Dawkins

    Ha! Do you think it’s going to help your cause to enlist the name of that cold-blooded killer?

  2. #2 Sabazinus
    November 21, 2008

    I discovered this article last night. Made me laugh quite a bit as I don’t think I’ve seen something quite so amusing all week.

  3. #3 clinteas
    November 21, 2008

    It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous

    Im not sure where this guy has been hiding for the last 8 years,but his detachment from the reality of american politics is rather amazing……

  4. #4 Lago
    November 21, 2008

    Why does this pop into mind when I listen to this guy?

    “For example, given the premise, “all fish live underwater” and “all mackerel are fish”, my wife will conclude, not that “all mackerel live underwater”, but that “if she buys kippers it will not rain”, or that “trout live in trees”, or even that “I do not love her any more.” This she calls “using her intuition”. I call it “crap”, and it gets me very *irritated* because it is not logical.”

  5. #5 Steve
    November 21, 2008

    The tree is pagan, so you and Dawkins are good.

    This guy has obviously never been to a school where they teach journalism, logic, or argument. Basically, he’s whining that atheists took Christmas away, and that caused the economic meltdown. It’d be laughable if it weren’t so damn sad.

  6. #6 Holbach
    November 21, 2008

    The insane religionists ascribe to atheists a power that their imaginary god is incapable of. Why doesn’t their god come down and beat the crap out of us and show who’s boss? This is beyond the stage of absurdity and in the realm of abject insanity.

  7. #7 Diagoras
    November 21, 2008

    Well – they are the slingers of bronze-age myths. It should come as no surprise that informing themselves with such modern implements at the internet or the vast array of printed words, television, paying attention to reality – plays little role in their decision-making process.

    So – God hating gay and lesbians = hurricanes; God hating inclusive holiday greetings MUST = economic collapse. How did I miss that?

  8. #8 Richard Harris
    November 21, 2008

    Reg @ # 1, re. the late Jesse Kilgore: “He was pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong,” the relative wrote. “I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences.

    It sounds like this guy was really screwed up. I wonder if it was all the years of religious indoctrination that contributed to that?

  9. #9 Bjørn Østman
    November 21, 2008

    I am continually amazed at how some conservatives seem able to plainly state things the exact opposite way that they actually are. Hopefully that tactic will be abandoned as useless in the next couple of years.

  10. #10 Sastra
    November 21, 2008

    American culture has turned faith and the power of positive thinking into magical virtues which can conquer all. “If you have faith, anything is possible.” Being really, really certain and making a commitment to never doubt or second guess yourself (“you can’t blink” — Palin) leads to all sorts of excesses. Obviously. To blame the current economic crisis on critical reasoning and epistemic caution is a hoot.

    Same with equating atheism with hedonism. They’re the ones complaining that atheism is too sad and depressing and insufficiently flattering to be true. Theists are the ones insisting that you need to “listen to your heart” and “follow your instincts” to derive conclusions about what the facts are.

    I think atheists and humanists should come up with a new slogan for the busses:

    “CHRISTMAS — It’s Not Just For Christians, It’s for EVERYBODY! Merry Christmas for all!”

    Let them then snarl that this is “ruining Christmas.” Who’s the Grinch now? Ho, ho, ho.

  11. #11 Lago
    November 21, 2008

    “Ha! Do you think it’s going to help your cause to enlist the name of that cold-blooded killer? ”

    Oh effin’ my!

    Now I get it! You’re told that this is the only life you may have, so kill yourself and make it even shorter? Why do I doubt that this was the kids only problem in life? Maybe they should see if Ozzy or Judas Priest has a new album out too?

  12. #12 Hawk Of May
    November 21, 2008

    I stopped my WSJ subscription when they published the editorial by John Yoo (He worked for the Office of Legal 2001-2003 and helped write the torture memos).

  13. #13 SC
    November 21, 2008

    Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth. In this instance, the system has been badly used — by mere people.

    Could anything be more expressive of market fundamentalism, or a clearer demonstration of how akin it is to existing religions?

  14. #14 Dunc
    November 21, 2008

    Shorter WSJ: It was nothing to do with us, honest! Look – lemurs!

  15. #15 Steverino
    November 21, 2008

    “It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous.”

    What about “deZuesing” or “deFlatEarthing”…or “deMoonCheesing”???

    So, a continued belief in myths is needed to keep American moral???

  16. #16 afterthought
    November 21, 2008

    The WSJ editorial page has been stupid for a long time, but I suspect we are starting to see the influence of Rupert.
    I think it is best to start getting even the straight business news elsewhere post-Murdoch since the slide into stupid might be frog-boil (legend?) slow, but would be as sure as death and taxes.

  17. #17 Ouchimoo
    November 21, 2008

    Uh, really? What did you expect to come out from that newspaper? After all, it is owned by the same guy who owns Fox “News”.

  18. #18 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    November 21, 2008

    Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

    I just loved this little bit of left over Civil War resentment. Those Southern evangelicals have such a fine record of supporting human rights.

  19. #19 raven
    November 21, 2008

    Well the War on Halloween was disappointing as usual.

    The War on the War on Xmas is actually going slightly better. But really, only a few retrograde morons are prosecuting it this year. Most people are too busy enjoying the holidays to care or watching the USA go down for the third time on its way to drowning.

    It is amazing how the Theothuglicans can wreck the country and then blame it on the fairies, real fairies (gays), elves, or atheists. Their favorite is becoming Obama. Never mind that he won’t be president for 2 months, it is somehow all his fault.

    The GOP earned its place as irrelevant incompetents by these sort of outright lies and general stupidity.

  20. #20 CJ
    November 21, 2008

    Well it needed to be said. It’s been obvious to me for years – the reason the wall of the US economy is showing cracks is all those damn people refusing to wish everyone a proper Merry Christmas. My Henninger is a beacon of clear thought for this troubled time.

    (Anyone else read it and find it hard to see anything but “DAMN THOSE JEWY JEWS!!!!!!!11″)

  21. #21 Dark Matter
    November 21, 2008

    Rupert Murdoch buying the WSJ provided the catalyst I needed for deleting my MySpace page. I suppose I should be grateful, but articles like this make me depressed. Fortunately, I was taught to ignore the bleating of delusional, obsolete twats with no actual vision of reality.

    Anyway, if you want economic news The Financial Times is much better. And it’s British, so they actually talk about the American economy in realistic terms. It’s great.

  22. #22 Sastra
    November 21, 2008

    “I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences.”

    I’m going to guess that there may have been some miscommunication here. The atheist may have been trying to say that murder was wrong because it had social consequences: it harmed other people. The Christian then translated this into thinking murder is wrong because if you get caught, then you have the social consequence that you go to prison. Frankly, I don’t see how that second line of thinking is any different than believing murder is only wrong because God will catch you and send you to hell, and you can be sure of that. If you ignore the ‘social consequences’ to others, all you’re doing is holding back psychopaths with more or less effectiveness.

    By the way, the article on the reaction to the AHA slogans on the busses was reprinted in my local paper this morning, and there was a part which made me laugh out loud, a quote from an American Family Assoc spokesperson.

    “It’s a stupid ad. How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”

    Why oh my, yes. That’s why all the Christians agree on what the Bible really means and says. And it’s why ALL the religions agree on what God means and says, too. I mean, it’s certainly not like we are each “choosing for ourselves” what religion is true. Oh no. If you want to find consensus and happy harmony among people, bring up religion. And if you don’t want a crazy world, be sure people believe that the supernatural is real and true, and demons and angels walk among us doing magic.

    Nitwits. How can they miss all this?

  23. #23 llewelly
    November 21, 2008

    We should all be proud. We, atheists, have the power to destroy both Christmas and Capitalism.
    I’m headed down to the bar. I’m going to tell they must give me free drinks or Atheists Will Destroy Easter.

  24. #24 NoAstronomer
    November 21, 2008

    Pretty much every thing the scaremongers said about Newscorp taking over the WSJ has come to pass.

  25. #25 Dianne
    November 21, 2008

    frog-boil (legend?) slow

    Legend. A frog in gradually heating water will attempt to hop out when it gets too hot.

  26. #26 Jakob
    November 21, 2008

    Such a sublime load of bull! I wonder if that insipid little fool in any way can point to something that’d support his view, and also how he’d then explain away the fact that among the ten least corrupt nations in the world you find the Nordic countries, New Zealand, the Netherlands and other oh-so-godfearing places.

  27. #27 Moses
    November 21, 2008

    Wait, what? The country has been run for the last eight years by a gang of amoral atheists? Bankers are atheists? All those people who borrowed money unwisely are atheists? Christians don’t default on loans, don’t exploit lax banking rules, don’t start wars, don’t torture?

    For the record, Utah has one of the highest bankruptcy rates in the US and routinely has more bankruptcies per-capita than any other state. It’s also one of the reddest states in the US. It’s also, if include Mormonism, one of the most “Christian” states in the US.

    And that’s in good times or bad.

  28. #28 TSC
    November 21, 2008

    CC debt is the reason for the season. Nothing reminds you of disenfranchisement quite like xmas shopping. Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way…

  29. #29 druidbros
    November 21, 2008

    So – God hating gay and lesbians = hurricanes; God hating inclusive holiday greetings MUST = economic collapse. How did I miss that?

    Its covered in the POSTgraduate classes.

  30. #30 Mike O'Risal
    November 21, 2008

    Hmmmm… blaming a minority for the economic and political collapse of a country. Berlin, 1933, anybody?

    That this comes out at just about the same time as the report concluding that the US has peaked in terms of global hegemony and has begun a decades-long decline in which its singular role as a superpower is being replaced by a multipolar situation with India, China, Russia and Brazil achieving ascendancy… that should give us pause. There are going to be a number of religious nuts, like Henninger, looking for infidels to sacrifice to their angry Father Christmas.

  31. #31 Steverino
    November 21, 2008

    Ok…I’m signing up people for the War on Good Friday. It’s a low-overhead thing…but there will be plenty of coffee and doughnuts.

  32. #32 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    It’s most probably the other way round : America’s abnormal religiosity for a developped nation has a lot to do with this mega-crisis.

    Whaaat ? Americans believed in miracles ? They believed that false prosperity could be built on easy credit and economic freedom ? They believed that one could go to war and avoid the necessary sacrifices, and yet enjoy the largest boom in real estate ? They believed one could legalize and completely deregulate gambling on stocks, bonds and all kinds of financial instruments (what are CDSs if not that) without any risk ? They believed buying large pickup cars and other gas guzling SUVs could continue forever and the big 3 American manufacturers would never have to adapt ?

    The net result of this fantastic 25 year shopping spree is that the debt to GDP ratio (private and public) has more than doubled at an unbearable level of more than 350% of GDP (the only time this level was reached was in 1929!), and on another hand, the household savings rate has decreased from its long term stable 9% level to now -2 %.

    The U.S. is the country in the developed world with the lowest savings rate. Canada and Japan are trying to keep pace. Germany and France have social programs which allow for a comfortable savings rate of 10 to 12%. The US may come in last in savings, but no other country in the world can spend like them.

    Well, I’m afraid it’s now time to stop believing in miracles, no prayers will help, it’s a hard dose of rationalism that’s needed, not until American households get back to a personal savings rate to pre-bubble times of 9% will they have an econmy that starts functioning properly again.

  33. #33 raven
    November 21, 2008

    The GOP is disliked by most Americans. Henninger is part of their problem, not the solution. As the book they supposedly revere says, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” They are still stuck in a hole, digging it deeper.

    Just 34 percent of Americans in a Gallup Poll released Thursday say they have a favorable view of the party, down 40 percent from a month ago, before the election.
    What’s worse: 61 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

  34. #34 Cardinal_Shrew
    November 21, 2008

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone here have a problem with christmas or anyone wishing them a merry christmas? I don’t. Well, there is all the stress and money and all those reasons it is a pain but I certainly don’t mind giving or receiving gifts or the decorations. Where is this war on Christmas they speak of. I would think we would be involved if there was one.

  35. #35 Jeff Eyges
    November 21, 2008

    The most frightening thing about that article is the bevy of comments beneath it commending him on a job well done.

  36. #36 Tim
    November 21, 2008

    The Rethuglicans certainly don’t act like they expect a judgement day, at best, they’ll cruelly toy with the fundies and they won’t respect them in the morning, or even use lubricant.

  37. #37 Larry
    November 21, 2008

    Read the WSJ for the financial information. Read the WSJ editorials for their hilarity. I think the finance page editors and writers are from planet Earth. The editorial page writers and editors are from planet Okoboingo located on the fifth planet from Tau Ceti.

    Its the only explanation.

  38. #38 Alex
    November 21, 2008

    It becomes more apparent to me that perhaps religionists fear the ability of atheists to live comfortable, happy, productive lives without needing to rely on a deity. Furthermore, there frustration mounts when competing with non-theist ideas. Ideas such as Evolution, geology, science in general, acceptance that homosexuality is natural, etc.. When discussion focuses on any of such topics, they are unable (typically) to compete because the atheist will rely on empirical data, evidence, logic and reason. All the religionists have is bluster and rhetoric. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to defend ancient myths and supernatural beings that never show up when they’re needed the most.

  39. #39 Michelle
    November 21, 2008

    And here I thought that a secular holiday based on buying stuff would actually help the economy.

    I guess that good christians spend more than bad evil atheists who accumulate wealth or something? Cuz Jesus said poor’s cool? I have a hard time following that douche’s logic really.

  40. #40 woody
    November 21, 2008

    Every year for the last 10 or so, I have donned my store-bought Santa suit and made myself available to spread “Christmas Cheer” (for a very reasonable price: $75/appearance). I’m a “true-beard,” who cultivates a long, white NATURAL beard year-round…

    In the course of playing this role (which is quite fun, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is beguiling pretty women to sit on my lap), I have found it necessary to utter the “Merry Christmas” line repeatedly.

    I don’t mind. It’s part of the part I play. Pay’s pretty good, too…”Hohoho, Merrrrrry CHRISTMAS, one and all.”

    Out of Santa mufti, I bestow on folks my favorite holiday greeting: “JOLLY HOLIDAYS!!!”

  41. #41 Tim H
    November 21, 2008

    The Great Atheist Conspiracy will be victorious. Henninger and his ilk (once again those pesky ilk rear their ilky heads) have fallen for our deception operation. While the faithheads continue to obsess over the stale War on Christmas, our plans are near fruition. They will be caught utterly unprepared for our surprise attack. The REAL blow will fall on Feb. 12, 2009, when, in commemoration of the 200th anniversery of Charles Darwin’s birth, we launch The War On Lincoln’s Birthday! Those superstitious twits don’t stand a chance.

  42. #42 woody
    November 21, 2008

    It becomes more apparent to me that perhaps religionists fear the ability of atheists to live comfortable, happy, productive lives without needing to rely on a deity.

    what they are is terrified that they’ll awaken one morning to the truth that they’ve wasted so much time, effort, energy, and money on something that is less tangible than a fart in a hurricane…

  43. #43 Glen Davidson
    November 21, 2008

    It’s all context, so it’s indeed possible that a decline in religion could be associated with societal decline–and vice versa.

    Perhaps, though, Henninger should pay attention simply to what virtue is, which is generally understood as not being the denial of reality and lying through your teeth. The fact that a large portion of religionists in this country do both is far from virtuous or helpful in making people face up to the facts.

    This country needs virtue, and ignoring the lack of important virtues in too many religious Americans is not the way to get it.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  44. #44 SharonH
    November 21, 2008

    At least he admits that religion doesn’t have to be true. It’s just really useful for getting people to do what you want them to.

    As for Christmas, I find it really annoying but I mostly just ignore it. It’s annoying in a secular way, not a religious one.

  45. #45 Michael
    November 21, 2008

    I blame Daniel Henninger for causing the current financial crisis. If he hadn’t created that straw man, none of us would be in this situation.

    Thanks a lot, Henninger’s straw man! I hope you get knocked over!!!!

  46. #46 The skepTick
    November 21, 2008

    Henninger should consider that one of the reasons for our current economic woes might in fact be that we’ve lived with an administration who, for the past eight years, has been celebrating Christmas every day! They’ve pretty much gotten everything they’ve wanted, even with two years of democrats running the House.

  47. #47 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    I’d love to reply to that editorial with the following, simply put:

    Dear Mr. Henninger,

    Merry Christmas, you ignorant, foolish, credulous, self-righteous, blathering turd of an excuse for a human being. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry bloody fucking Christmas.

    See? I can say Marry Christmas and you’d still be an asshole and I’d still be right.”

  48. #48 Diagoras
    November 21, 2008

    @druidbros

    Well. Darn.
    I got a JD instead of a degree in Espousing-casual-contempt-for-everyone-else-in-the-universe-except-the-people-who-believe-exactly-the-same-nonsense-I-do.

  49. #49 Prof MTH
    November 21, 2008

    Maybe they should see if Ozzy or Judas Priest has a new album out too?

    AC/DC has a new album out.

    Really, why do newspapers, not just the WSJ print such crappy Op-Eds! Do they not understand the concept of quality control?

    But hey, they are a gold-mine of logical fallacies that help me in teaching informal fallacies.

  50. #50 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    And now to add to Poe’s law and Godwin’s law we can add “Henninger’s law”.

    Henninger’s law: All the ills and evils in society boil down to the fact that Atheists are trying to kill Christmas.

    Bask in the glory, Mr. Henninger, for your stupidity is now forever immortalized on the inter-webs.

  51. #51 Jello
    November 21, 2008

    @1

    I feel sympathy for that poor kid. As someone who also had to go through the painful process of realizing that the supposed truth you were taught as a child were in fact impossible to be true and I was raised in a fairly mainstream manner compared with this kid. This is an example of what dogmatic instruction does to the human mind. It leaves you utterly incapable of dealing with inner conflict in a rational and measured manner. When you spend your entire life operating under the premise of the two option approach and discover that the option you consider the right option is not possibly correct then the wrong option becomes the inevitable choice. Once he discovered that God did not exist he made the only decision his upbringing allowed him to make, that life is meaningless. Sadly, modern psychology has more then enough documentation of what happens to a person when they no longer believes their life has any purpose.

  52. #52 Steverino
    November 21, 2008

    “Yeah, well…was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Habor???”

  53. #53 afterthought
    November 21, 2008

    I like this:

    I can imagine how frustrating it must be to defend ancient myths and supernatural beings that never show up when they’re needed the most.

    I also like someone else’s suggestion to read “The Financial Times”.

  54. #54 pikeamus
    November 21, 2008

    Did anybody read the article linked at the bottom of the suicide story? http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=43734

    Its long but if you want to read some completely retarded apologetics (and anti-atheist scare mongering) it’s almost guaranteed to put you in a bad mood.

  55. #55 Thoracantha
    November 21, 2008

    So unregulated securities trading, a housing bubble, and rampant deficient spending on all levels of the economy, all of which were promoted by the Christian Republican and the very Christian Bush Whitehouse had nothing to do with the current meltdown. But if I say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Chirstmas” I send the entire economy down the crapper.

    I never realized I had that much power. If I state that the Easter bunny and not the cross is the official symbol of
    Easter, does the moon blow up or something?

  56. #56 Nick Gotts
    November 21, 2008

    Well I do hate Christmas! The ghastly kitsch and tat in the shops, in the streets and on houses, the puerile carols and Christmas pop songs blasted at you from every direction, the religidiots on every bloody TV channel telling us not to forget its “real meaning”, the sentimental garbage re-shown on said TV channels for the umpteenth time, the consumerist orgy! BAH! HUMBUG!!!

  57. #57 Christie
    November 21, 2008

    I don’t know a single person who is an atheist and doesn’t wish everyone they know a merry christmas. Where do they get this stuff? If anything it’s other religions against those words – you know, the other ones with holidays at that time of year.

    Although, I kinda like the super-villain stature. Did you know we’re all-powerful? Wait… isn’t that supposed to be someone else’s job?

  58. #58 Cuttlefish, OM
    November 21, 2008

    Financial instability
    On this year’s global scale
    Can’t possibly be understood
    In every last detail
    By educated modern types
    From Harvard Business School
    With economic data points
    And science as their tool.

    The modern world’s a scary place
    With bankruptcies and such;
    The thoughtful man suggests it needs
    A bronze-age mystic’s touch.
    The Wall Street Journal’s Henninger
    Just makes me want to laugh:
    Let’s fix the economic mess–
    Just sacrifice a calf!

    The atheist–a bogeyman
    And whipping-boy du jour,
    The one who dares to say that work,
    Not prayer, must be the cure–
    The atheist must take the blame
    So take them by the throat,
    Lay all our sins upon their heads
    Then sacrifice that goat!

    Slightly more rant at:
    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/11/atheist-as-scapegoat.html

  59. #59 Geoff
    November 21, 2008

    We’re ripping this story up over at the Raytractors too.

    http://raytractors.blogspot.com/2008/11/wsj-editorial-war-on-christmas-caused.html

  60. #60 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    If I state that the Easter bunny and not the cross is the official symbol of Easter, does the moon blow up or something?

    Goodness I hope not… that would kill all those poor Quakers…

  61. #61 Becky WS
    November 21, 2008

    #1 #22 and #51: Jesse Kilgore

    I find it especially telling and tragic that he felt it necessary to hide the book under his mattress, and his father quotes a friend’s email after his death:

    “He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react. … and that he knew most of your defenses of Christianity because he himself used them often”

    Sound more like this young person was deeply afraid of the effect on their family that giving up their faith would cause. I don’t think it can be blamed on Dawkins or the book, but rather on the intolerance of religious people towards those who choose to leave the faith. Dawkin’s book is very positive about life not negative.

  62. #62 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    @ Nick Gotts

    Well I do hate Christmas!…

    A-HA!!! So this is all your fault then… I might have known…

  63. #63 amphiox
    November 21, 2008

    #52: With regards to our hypothetical alternate universe where the Germans bomb Pearl Harbor, said bombing, (occurring after the invasion and conquest of the continental US, the retreat of the US government to Hawaii, the Nazi capture of San Francisco, and subsequent launching of the Kreigsmarine Pacific Carrier Fleet) would indeed, very likely, have been the end of the war.

  64. #64 aaron
    November 21, 2008

    This is awesome!

    Atheists are the new Jews!!

    Think about it! We already comprise of almost all the top scientists, now this guy seems to think we’re going to own all the money.

    Pretty soon we’re gonna own Hollywood as well!!

    (Passion of the Dawkins anyone?)

  65. #65 Paul Burnett
    November 21, 2008

    Only slightly off topic: Keeping in mind that all children are born innocent atheists, some poor schmuck has decided that the atheists are responsible for his son’s suicide, after the kid read ‘The God Delusion.’ Poor kid – realized his dad had lied to him, his church had lied to him, his belief system was a lie – but certainly it’s not their fault – must be the atheists. See http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=81459 (And then the cowardly website doesn’t allow comments to their hate-filled lies.)

  66. #66 Becky WS
    November 21, 2008

    #54 Pikeamus,

    I only managed to get down to the bit where he says:

    “Somehow, atheism – just like homosexuality, which used to be considered shameful and something to hide – is now becoming hip, sophisticated, even a badge of honor”

  67. #67 Dunc
    November 21, 2008

    Really, why do newspapers, not just the WSJ print such crappy Op-Eds! Do they not understand the concept of quality control?

    No, they just understand the real purpose of op-eds: to promote views that make the owners and shareholders happy. Op-ed writers are the court astrologers of our era.

  68. #68 Loren Petrich
    November 21, 2008

    That editorial is absolute bullshit. He presents no evidence that fundie religion is successful as a “nurturer of useful virtue”; the Bible Belt is not exactly luxuriously rich and financially solvent.

    And he whines that one is not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” — what a big baby, calling himself a victim. Which right-wingers never tire of whining about, people calling themselves victims.

    He whines about a Mad Max society, but that is what will result if many right-wingers get what they seem to want. They never tire of whining about government, which makes them seem like anarchists. And anarchy tends to produce a Mad Max society.

    As to a secular name for Christmas, I suggest the old Germanic name: Yule. Evergreen trees are a symbol of this season because they keep their leaves and don’t appear to die during the winter. So let’s celebrate the Yule season and our Yule trees.

  69. #69 Alex
    November 21, 2008

    Bravo Cuttlefish.

  70. #70 RamblinDude
    November 21, 2008

    The state of the economy, of course, has nothing to do with it. In good times and bad, all that is relevant is that we bow and scrape before Jesus. (Gotta keep the working class in line–always. Right, Murdoch?)

  71. #71 Evolving Squid
    November 21, 2008

    >>Why doesn’t their god come down and beat the crap out
    >>of us and show who’s boss?

    Because He works in mysterious ways. That’s part of the mystery. Remember, God created atheists… because, after all, God needs to fill up Hell. It’s easier to create atheists and use them as cosmic land fill than it is to just make Hell go away. Omnipotence is funny that way.

  72. #72 Alex
    November 21, 2008

    “No, they just understand the real purpose of op-eds: to promote views that make the owners and shareholders happy.”

    So you mean pandering. Funny how the simplest answers can be the most persuasive.

  73. #73 Alex
    November 21, 2008

    “They never tire of whining about government…

    Only because our government is not their theocracy.

  74. #74 Drew
    November 21, 2008

    @ Celtic_Evolution

    YES!!! I’m all for that. Someone needs to get started on the wiki page immediately.

  75. #75 Xavier
    November 21, 2008

    I am beginning to see why it is that there is a concatenation between the religious and the right.

    Free-market capitalism works because it is the lowest common denominator, the Steady State. Everything has a price and everyone works to maximise their personal self interest so any new philosophy (such as Marxism), whilst potentially a greater good in the long term, has an immediate cost that makes it unable to get a foothold. Everything has a price, including human life, so slavery, prostitution, assassination for hire and numerous other abominations are all sanctioned.

    Obviously we never let the society get that far, but put in place social rules of behaviour through education and direct state intervention from the police. Now, the religionists claim to believe that these rules are somehow sacrosanct and policed by a higher power. Thus they are able to push the idea of the free-market, the police state and the expansionist/warrior agenga in the sure knowledge that (their little subset of) people will be saved from the ultimate abominations.

    The more liberal-minded people are actually trying to keep these rules themselves in order to ‘do gods work’ (and be a little more inclusive about who gets to be saved) whilst the atheists see that we have a personal responsibility; some sort of rules MUST be enforced by ourselves on us all.

    It is the belief in an absolutist, external imposition of fixed morals that allows the religious to trend towards the “Every man for himself” political stance in the expectation that it will never be allowed to go to far. Since there is no sky fairy stopping the slide, horrors like the Prosperity Gospel, killings in the “Pro-Life” name, the socially ingrained brutalisation of young minds (and bodies) within church schools and the endemic fraud amongst the televangelists and megachurches are rife.

    There is, in fact a force that stops these hucksters from going too far: the more extreme their mendacity, the more people begin to side with rule-demanding, excess-curtailing liberals (who are also following their path out of self-interest, a self-interest that says we must stop ourselves from committing these atrocities and ruining our own lives, because no-one else will.)
    Unfortunately, to get a majority on the side of self-limitation only happens when the religionists have pushed things far towards the side of depravity, because
    most of that majority still believe that the sky fairy is still there and wouldn’t let things go seriously wrong. They can’t really believe that the disgustingly wealthy, depraved bigots and liars who are at the forefront of the rush towards barbarism, could do so by invoking the name of the sky fairy without being punished from on high.

    On a happier note, another of the many-fold benefits of the world-wide economic collapse (along with the gelding of the USA expansionist hegemony and the environmental boon of removing most of the disposable income form mindless middle-class consumers) is that people’s minds will be focussed more on the material and will be less willing to believe in the ultimate Good which so clearly does not exist. The return of the more socially-minded elements of US politics to power should allow the slide into turpitude to be reversed quite some way before the religionists switch back to thinking that their god has fixed everything afterall and they can go back to business as usual.

  76. #76 woody
    November 21, 2008

    @ #1: I a m sure the kid’s suicide had nothing whatever to do with the fact that he’d just spent a couple of fun-filled months slaughtering innocents and blowing up kids and dogs in Iraq for no ascertainable purpose…

  77. #77 Sastra
    November 21, 2008

    Cardinal Shrew #34 wrote:

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone here have a problem with christmas or anyone wishing them a merry christmas? I don’t.

    I don’t either, but apparently atheists could be divided into roughly 3 groups:

    1.) Christmas is a religious holiday which is really about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Therefore, they will not celebrate it themselves, and they resent the implication in the universal “Merry Christmas “that everyone does. They either celebrate Solstice, Human Light, Festivus, or nothing.

    2.) Christmas is a mish-mash of pagan, Christian, and other traditions, the true meaning of which lies in the universal humanist values of love, fellowship, peace, and charity. So there’s no conflict with an atheist celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday. Jesus is not the Reason for the Season. Merry Christmas!

    3.) Christmas sucks for reasons which have nothing to do with whether it’s religion-based or not. No ‘happy holidays’ either.

    The group which is (most) uniform in disliking “Merry Christmas” are non-Christian religions. To them, the fact that part of the holiday is associated with another religion and “Christ” is part of the word ‘Christmas’ is very, very important. They celebrate other holidays, and find it anywhere from maybe just a tad disconcerting to downright insulting to be greeted with another religion’s terms.

    Actually, saying “happy holidays” in recognition of all religions is far less subversive to the RR agenda than secularizing Christmas. It keeps the Christ in Christmas. Turning it into the equivalent of “happy holidays’ takes the Christ out of it.

  78. #78 Moggie
    November 21, 2008

    #57:

    I don’t know a single person who is an atheist and doesn’t wish everyone they know a merry christmas. Where do they get this stuff? If anything it’s other religions against those words – you know, the other ones with holidays at that time of year.

    Of course. “Happy holidays” is a commercial greeting, primarily by retailers, who believe that being inclusive (and reminding people to spend for New Year, not just Christmas) is better for their bottom line. So, apparently the economy is being destroyed by… capitalism. Well, we knew that.

  79. #79 Nick Gotts
    November 21, 2008

    Celtic_Evolution@62,
    Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

    BTW, anyone remember “Blackadder back and forth”? Victorian Ebenezer Blackadder goes from being a paragon of Christmas cheer and generosity (i.e. a sucker – exploited by all), to being as selfish and nasty as all his ancestors, after being shown two possible futures. In one, following from him being nice in the present, his descendant ends up a slave to Baldrick; if he’s nasty in the present, however, said descendant becomes ruler of the universe. A touching moral tale!

  80. #80 Jeeves
    November 21, 2008

    Yeah, I wish I could write that Kathleen Parker is the bee’s knees. But a quick perusal of her Townhall.com page shows she is really just another neoconservative with a modicum of heart and brains.

  81. #81 genesgalore
    November 21, 2008

    Mary, Kiss my ass.

  82. #82 JHS
    November 21, 2008

    Right on, Daniel. Based on that logic, I’m sure he’d agree that global warming is clearly a result of the decline in international piracy as well.

    Gasp! That would make him…a closet Pastafarian!

    What’s supremely ironic to me is that these right-wing nutballs like him, O’Reilly, et al, are the ones “militating,” inventing this “war on christmas” and thereby inserting all this hateful rhetoric into an otherwise peace-and-luv kinda holiday, whether you celebrate christmas, hannukah, solstice, or just the coming new year. I can only imagine that when they say “Merry Christmas” or whatever, it’s with a scowl, spittle-flying. And they alone – not any atheist I know – have created that.

    This all gets back to the idea that because someone, anyone, simply *exists* who doesn’t believe the exact same thing you do, doesn’t speak the same way you do, doesn’t sleep with gender you do, etc etc, it’s somehow a “militant attack” on you. It’s insecurity, inadequacy, whatever you want to call it. Someone out there doesn’t celebrate Christmas? Threat detected! Someone out there doesn’t celebrate anything? Epic threat detected!

  83. #83 IST
    November 21, 2008

    @Pikeamus #54
    I just took the time to read that steaming pile of horseshit… well phrased.

  84. #84 Quiet_Desperation
    November 21, 2008

    Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.

    COOL!!!

    I am *so* supercharging my Mustang GT. Better saw off my shotgun and find a scrappy canine companion as well. I might still have some leathers from my BDSM days.

  85. #85 gypsytag
    November 21, 2008

    Everybody knows that the true meaning of christmas is to buy things that you neither need nor can afford and anyone who doesn’t do so is a godless communist.

  86. #86 Pyroclasm
    November 21, 2008

    Has this guy been paying attention to who’s been running the country for the last eight years?

    Here’s a hint, it wasn’t the atheists.

  87. #87 Quiet_Desperation
    November 21, 2008

    So – God hating gay and lesbians = hurricanes;

    No, no. It’s the butterflies causing the hurricanes.

    Although the butterflies might be gay.

  88. #88 Nick Gotts
    November 21, 2008

    Sastra,
    Well actually I do wish people “Merry Christmas”, “Enjoy the holiday” or whatever seems socially appropriate – I’m not curmudgeonly enough to scowl and say “Bah! Humbug!” even if that’s what I’m thinking!

  89. #89 Ferin
    November 21, 2008

    ….wow.

    That man has to be the biggest tool in the universe.

  90. #90 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    To expand on Sastra’s point in #78, and others before him… it’s really a canard that’s propagated by christian’s that atheists hate Christmas and won’t say “Merry Christmas”… this is just not true, by and large. And Sastra’s description #2 is where, in my experience, most atheists lie.

    Similarly (and this has been stated before on an earlier thread on this topic), I have no problems whatsoever calling the 3rd and 4th days of the week Wednesday and Thursday, despite the fact that I don’t worship Woden or Thor. For me, like Christmas, they are simply traditional names that have become part of the common vernacular, but don’t necessarily hold any real significance to their original source.

    The insinuation that atheists have some grass-roots movement to abolish Christmas because of the word “Christ” in the name is largely a mud-slinging tactic on the part of hard-core christians meant to galvanize and in some ways “mobilize” the “three-times a year”, mildly practicing christian.

  91. #91 Sastra
    November 21, 2008

    Jeeves #80 wrote:

    Yeah, I wish I could write that Kathleen Parker is the bee’s knees. But a quick perusal of her Townhall.com page shows she is really just another neoconservative with a modicum of heart and brains.

    I used to occasionally enjoy Kathleen Parker, but she lost my respect with an absolutely horrible column she wrote right after 9-11. As I recall, she said that the important lesson Americans learned from that horrible tragedy was that this country depends on its collective belief in God to keep it going. Atheists could never be real citizens, she wrote, because they denied the comfort and meaning that gives strength to the American ideals. We unite under God.

    Religious fanatics flew a jet into a skyscraper in order to fulfill the will of God — and her response is that this means everyone now has to respond by being even more certain that they believe in God, and trust Him even more. More faith and dogmatic certainty. Not less. More scorn heaped on atheists. Great solution. Wonderful inference.

  92. #92 Jeanette
    November 21, 2008

    @Reginald Selkirk, first post: That just makes me sick. It sounds like that kid didn’t have any support from anyone in his life, and that’s what he needed. I think it must be devastating for some people to realize that they’ve been brainwashed into lies all their lives, and the situation is much worse if there’s no one close to them that they can confide in to help them get through it.

    The gay community often has programs at community centers where counselors are there to talk to teens who are dealing with coming-out issues. We have all of these blogs and forums and things where budding atheists could seek answers and support, but is there anything specifically for teens?

    And on that idiotic Wall Street Journal article, first they claim that we atheists can’t be moral without god. And now our refusal to say “Merry Christmas” is making other people be immoral, too? Wow, who knew such a tiny and mostly non-vocal minority could have so much power?

  93. #93 mothra
    November 21, 2008

    Henninger may have done an unintentional good turn. By analogy, early in my grad school career, 25 y.b.p., my Philosophy of Science teacher used the Wall Screed Journal’s editorial pages as examples of ‘scientific thinking’ in the market place. His chicanery caused me to spend more time examining relevant issues. Henninger’s blathering and frothing could have the same effect (assuming his audience is not quite brain-dead).

  94. #94 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    The problem with the economy, is that it’s even worse than with Science, you’ll get absolutely any completely ignorant economic illiterate like this Mr Henninger to give his opinion.

  95. #95 Sastra
    November 21, 2008

    Celtic_Evolution #90 wrote:

    And Sastra’s description #2 is where, in my experience, most atheists lie.

    In my experience, the atheists who are most adamant that Christmas is a religious holiday (and other atheists who celebrate it are hypocrites) were raised in very religious households, where the focus was firmly placed on Mary in the Manger and the message of salvation bringing Joy to the World. Those atheists who for one reason or other got heavier doses of Santa Claus and Rudolph tend to think of Baby Jesus as an optional add-on, sort of like deciding whether or not to put tinsel on the Christmas tree.

  96. #96 Matt Heath
    November 21, 2008

    Although the butterflies might be gay.

    The whole order Lepidoptera is gay. And the steel industry. And Broadway too.

  97. #97 Chris Davis
    November 21, 2008

    I’ve considered Henninger’s hypothesis carefully, but on balance I still think the actual blame lies with the Rolling Stones and their so-called ‘rock music’.

  98. #98 Blake Stacey
    November 21, 2008

    As I said over at the Friendly Atheist’s place, I really didn’t care for that Kathleen Parker column. This is what Parker says:

    … it isn’t necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world’s architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.

    Equivocation on aisle 3!

    The Declaration of Independence, which makes specific references to a Creator endowing rights, is a document with cultural but not legal weight; the Constitution is thoroughly secular. One might justifiably say that respecting these documents, particularly the latter, involves “belief in something greater than oneself”, but that “something” would be the ideal of democracy, the principles of Enlightenment and liberty, and so forth. Likewise for the universities: the “something greater” at work there is the Great Conversation, the transmission of knowledge.

    None of these equate to “faith” by any reasonable definition of the word. They do not make a pedestal for the Creator to sit in the public square, nor do they support some uniquely “Judeo-Christian” values. “Judeo-Christian” is, at any rate, a hideous portmanteau which glosses over the very real history of Christian anti-Semitism and the factiousness of Christianity itself — it’s an adjective comparable to “Capitalist-Marxist”.

    And as for those “architectural treasures”, well. . . you have to have more than faith to put up a cathedral. You also need the architectural know-how to make those pointed arches, which you ripped off from the Arab cities in Spain which you invaded during the Reconquista. And what does it say that a treasure of faith like Chartres is planted down in a country which ended up famous for laïcité?

    Parker will be several steps closer to sense when she jettisons the tiresome pablum.

  99. #99 Norman Doering
    November 21, 2008

    Sastra wrote:

    American culture has turned faith and the power of positive thinking into magical virtues which can conquer all. “If you have faith, anything is possible.”

    Don’t blame “American culture.” Blame the New Testament. The NT is where you find Jesus telling people that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains and let you walk on water.

    … making a commitment to never doubt or second guess yourself (“you can’t blink” — Palin)…

    And that’s when Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30)

  100. #100 tacitus
    November 21, 2008

    Argh — I tried to post a reply to Henninger, but the topic was locked, so I’m posting it here, since I invested the time to write it!

    What utter, self-evident rot, Mr. Henninger. If the current economic collapse can be blamed on a small decline in religious observance in America (it is still, by far, the most Christian nation in the developed world), then how on earth can you explain why countries like the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden, have managed to thrive in the free market world this past two decades and more, in spite of their being “post-Christian” societies, as you would likely see them?

    All these countries (and more) are have a majority or near majority of non-believers — atheists and agnostics — and have an active Christian population at or below 10%. According to you, their economies should have been complete basket-cases years ago thanks to the masses of “evil” atheists wreaking havoc with their evil, anti-Christian ways.

    And when it comes to money, there is absolutely no evidence that those “Southern evangelicals” are any better at reigning in their greed and avarice than the rest of us. How else to explain the great success of the Prosperity Gospel ministries amongst the most religious people in our country? “Sowing your seed” in the expectation that you will quickly “reap ten, or a hundred-fold increase” (in worldly goods) is eerily like the way the Wall Street bankers behaved to precipitate the economic crisis.

    And to cap it all, in case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas has been a mostly secular holiday, even in the USA, for decades. If you look at the amount of time and money families invest in all the various activities during the holiday, you will find that for most, religious observance is probably around number five on the list in order of importance after Christmas shopping (capitalism, woohoo!), family gatherings, parties, and Christmas dinner (prep and eating). None of this will change if America continues to become more secular. The Christmas holiday is still the most important national holiday all over the Western world (well, except maybe in Scotland — Hogmanay after all!) and will remain so in America for a long, long time to come.

  101. #101 Qwerty
    November 21, 2008

    Gee. I seem to remember that everyone said “Merry Christmas” back in the 1930′s when the great depression brought an economic downturn that lasted 10 years.

    Notice how he brings in Social Security and Medicare. Two government programs that conservatives hate. It seems we need to “fix” those programs too. (Like privitize so Wall Street brokers can make more money!)

    This guy is a Grinch in Chritian robes. Reading the good book (Bible) and saying “Merry Christmas” doesn’t keep greedy bastards from ruining the economy or inside those “chalk lines” he blathers about. Bush, our idiot-in-chief, has been doing it for eight years.

    And the chalk line thing at the end. Ohhhh…. I chalk this column up to massive blame the atheists (no one likes tham anyhow). In reality, it is a load of crap. And bad crap at that!

  102. #102 mothra
    November 21, 2008

    Mariposa translates as both gay and butterfly in Mexican Spanish. (@96- that comment ‘sucks’ most Lepidoptera having no mandibles.)

  103. #103 SteveM
    November 21, 2008

    as I recall, this whole “war on christmas” started with Bill O’Reilly opining on Wal-Mart switching from saying “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”. As if by trying to be more inclusive they were somehow excluding Christians. There have been controversies over Nativity scenes for years and years before there was ever a “War on Xmas”, I guess “Happy Holidays” was the last straw. But I just can’t understand how acknowledging everyone’s celebration is somehow anti-christian. I guess it comes from the same place as how letting more people get married somehow damages your marriage. I mean how can someone really believe that if those two guys over there get married then my own marriage is meaningless? How can “Happy Holidays” be considered offensive? WTF?

  104. #104 Erik A. Kruger
    November 21, 2008

    I just sent the following e-mail:

    Mr. Henninger:

    Your utterly inane article will probably solicit several comments, but I’d just like to point out a few fallacies and prima facie incorrect statements.

    “One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.” This is not a “theory” in either the scientific nor the popular sense. It’s just a non-sequitur.

    The people who tend to have greater access to positions of power from which to “ruin the economy” tend to be more religious, not less. The financial community, the political community, the lobbying community–the hack journalistic community–all of these are hardly known for their secularism. Quite the opposite.

    I would be curious to see how the economy would fare under scientists, artists, and philosophers. Like, say, in ancient Greece (tougher times, but not known for any major financial meltdowns not directly the result of foreign invasion). Your entire article founders before it’s even begun to stand up, let alone walk.

    “Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth.” “Free-market capitalism” has never existed. We have a mercantilist system–the same sort of system in play in the British East India Co.; also the same system which, in that context, Adam Smith warned his readers against. If you want to discover the origins of financial crises, you will need to delve deeper than mere slogans.

    Also: when did the system you think we have “proved its worth”? You state “several centuries,” but the system you think we have didn’t take off until the nineteenth century. The improvement of life in Europe beginning in the 17th century (not elsewhere until the 20th century) was a direct result of science and secularism . . . i.e. Enlightenment, and it *resulted* in capitalist notions of a “free market” (again, to date, invisible). Religion-dominated societies tend to have some form of *command* economy: no markets.

    If you don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past which have led us to this rut, you need to at least know a smidgeon of history.

    You say that “Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down.” Yet the same Adam Smith I refer to above–and whose works I recommend, since you obviously don’t know them–wrote an entire treatise on “moral sentiments” . . . which he tied to nature, not culture (including religion). These qualities are part of our bodies, and can not be “learned.” If anything, religion takes these natural instincts and warps them into such stupidities as racism, sexism, and homophobia.

    Then again, Smith was a close friend of David Hume and the Baron d’Holbach . . . and was almost certainly an atheist.

    You reference “the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America.” This is a chimera. A rhetorical device. There is no evidence that there has been such an effort; and if there *had* been, it was obviously a complete failure. The United States is the most backward and therefore religious of all of the industrial societies–approaching the Third World in levels of naiive acceptance of superstitious ideas that one would have thought exploded into insignificance in the aftermath of Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and (especially in this context) Spinoza.

    In closing, you state: “The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.” Society in the European Middle Ages was much more dominated by religion (i.e. Christianity) than any European society before or after. The most popular form of entertainment was stripping people naked (especially women) and breaking them on the wheel while the nobility set out picnics and the mob hurled taunts and stones. Crow cages were ubiquitous at every intersection, and on most of the important buildings. Life was nasty, brutish, and . . . well you know. (Do you?)

    The chalk lines you describe were those of a crime scene.

    Erik A. Kruger.

    ” . . . after all, it is so degrading to be told that your finest thoughts are made from well-ordered meat.”

  105. #105 Jeeves
    November 21, 2008

    @Sastra #91,

    For a few months after 9/11 every column of hers is just drooling and screaming for some damn bombs to drop on some people’s heads. One of my favorite openings (there are so many to choose from)is from an article titled “For warrior symbolism, Bush is pitcher perfect”. The opening is as follows:
    Bill Clinton may have his Rhodes; Al Gore his book ‘n beard. Dick Cheney may have his gravitas; Bob Dole and John McCain their military medals. But George W.’s got a pitch that won’t quit.
    As wartime symbolism goes, it doesn’t get any better than that. His perfect pitch to open the third game of the World Series in Yankee Stadium this week was nothing short of brilliant. It was a public-relations homerun as well as an act of stupendous courage.

    See, all those mean, nasty books about George Bush never took into account how great of a ceremonial pitcher he was. Greatest ceremonial pitching president ever! Also, the whole damn article is about how great he is at throwing a strike and how that ties in to courage and majesty. I don’t know, it was insane. But seriously, there are so many articles where she screeches about dropping bombs on the Middle East, namely Aghanistan, devil may care without mercy or discretion.

  106. #106 Celtic_Evolution
    November 21, 2008

    Sastra @ #95

    Yes… that’s probably a fair representation… although like anything else, there are exceptions. I grew up in one of those “Three-times-a-year” christian households, but was part of a very strict Irish-Catholic parish in Boston. Like most kids i grew up with back then in the 70′s, christian or not, I remember learning about Santa, Frosty and Rudolph long before I learned about the whole “baby-jesus, virgin mary, chrsitmas star” stuff. As an atheist now, I still think first of Santa and Rudolph and the (pagan) tradition of the Christmas tree, before any religious attachment comes to mind.

    On a side note, another interesting phenomenon is Christmas music. Despite the fact that I’m an atheist, I love Christmas music, regardless of its religious implications. My wife often gets confused over this seeming contradiction with me, but I explain to her that to me, they’re no different than singing nursery rhymes or reciting ancient poems… they are enjoyable, fictitious melodies often with a positive message. I have no problem with it… but that’s just me…

  107. #107 Breakfast
    November 21, 2008

    One of the things that bothers me by far the most about this widespread sort of religious belief is the utterly impoverished view of psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc., that it engenders.

    So many millions of people believe that there is exactly one axis along which a human being’s entire life can be described: sin vs. not sin. Anything at all that occurs in that life is subsumed into this one-dimensional analysis. Anything happening on the national scale is directly tied in as well. Moral and practical matters and fortunate or unfortunate events that happen from the outside are all intertwined. So somehow it can seem perfectly rational that a moral degradation causes natural disasters or economic disasters (Henninger’s logic is nearly as threadbare as that of the ‘This is God’s punishment!’ types). It’s horrifying ignorance.

  108. #108 MartinM
    November 21, 2008

    BTW, anyone remember “Blackadder back and forth”? Victorian Ebenezer Blackadder goes from being a paragon of Christmas cheer and generosity (i.e. a sucker – exploited by all), to being as selfish and nasty as all his ancestors, after being shown two possible futures. In one, following from him being nice in the present, his descendant ends up a slave to Baldrick; if he’s nasty in the present, however, said descendant becomes ruler of the universe. A touching moral tale!

    That was Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, actually :P

  109. #109 Norman Doering
    November 21, 2008

    Erik A. Kruger wrote:

    The people who tend to have greater access to positions of power from which to “ruin the economy” tend to be more religious, not less.

    Where do you get that assertion from? In a country where 80 percent claim to be Christian and where atheists are something less than 10 percent of the population it’s rather remarkable that most of our wealthiest men are atheists, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and George Soros.

  110. #110 Jeanette
    November 21, 2008

    Oh, I don’t know how I missed that part about the kid’s military service; I read that article too fast. I can see how fighting in a war would make any reasonable person question the existence of a god.

    I was ready to place all of the blame on the family, but now they can share it with George W. Bush. I’m sure he isn’t the first and won’t be the last young person to end his own life after that. Wave after wave of our young people are being sent over to be killed, maimed, or have psychological damage that will last a lifetime, however long (or not) that may be.

  111. #111 Nick Gotts
    November 21, 2008

    MartinM,
    So it was!

  112. #112 Robert Thille
    November 21, 2008

    Why the hell don’t the believers pray us out of this mess? Why don’t they pray for the non believers to be struck down and for god to miraculously heal our economy? Oh, they’ve been doing that? Doesn’t seem to be working…

    – Science, because we sure can’t pray ourselves out of this mess.

  113. #113 Leslie in Canada
    November 21, 2008

    Larry@#37: I think that you speak the truth. In my job I read a lot of business press and I could never understand how the WSJ could have such good, stylish factual articles (sometimes quite critical of business) and Op-Eds written by apparent madmen. That the Op-Ed writers come from Oikobongo is the must logical explanation. I recall when the senior editor died a few years ago and I read all the obituaries. He seemed like a brilliant, forceful writer until you actually read what he had written and it was clear he was a nitwit.

    I do not believe that people spend too much because they are immoral but because they have not thought about the consequences. The fact that default rates are very high in conservative Red States (as are divorce rates) suggests Mr. Henninger is firmly in the WSJ tradition of nitwits.

  114. #114 Leslie in Canada
    November 21, 2008

    On the subject of atheists and Christmas, I too admit to a fondness not only for German Christmas music but also for German Christmas cookies and cakes! If this be commercialization, bring it on!

  115. #115 DaveL
    November 21, 2008

    You’ve got to admire the kind of Christian responsibility and remorse it takes to blame all your troubles on some marginalized minority.

  116. #116 william e emba
    November 21, 2008

    Read the WSJ for the financial information.

    Only in the sense of raw data.

    The WSJ financial reporting and financial columns are mediocre. An interview question I had once at a private trading firm consisted of me reading a WSJ column and then explaining why it was completely incompetent. I’m happy to say I got the job. And on the job, every so often, a particularly egregious column was shared for the laughs.

    It’s really just a glorified business gossip daily. They have very little understanding of business or finance, and none whatsoever of economics.

  117. #117 mandrake
    November 21, 2008

    Hm… Mr. Henninger is from Cleveland, Ohio. That’s part of the South now? Or is he an honorary Southerner due to his Christian morals (there’s too many jokes there, can’t choose…)

  118. #118 Bostonian
    November 21, 2008

    Honestly, the right wing really baffles me these days. I like to think of myself as sort of a centrist nonpartisan, but it’s getting increasingly hard not to call myself a liberal when the sort of nonsense presented in this Op-Ed is regularly passed off as intellectual opinion.

    Henninger is wearing the same brand of beer goggles that led so many people on the right to see the governor of Alaska as a good presidential candidate, and as such diatribes usually go he disregards all of human history in order to focus the reader on his shoddy economic theory. The US suffered severe depressions and recessions before this downturn, and those happened without atheist books on the New York Times bestseller list. (Or does our influence extend backward in time?)

    Here’s a better theory of what’s sending us into a Mad Max post-apocalypse: Daniel Henninger. Remember the Nazis? That was Henninger’s fault. (Never mind how old he was, you detail-oriented eggheads.) Remember 9/11? Henninger. And now we’re in an economic crash that has embroiled the western world. Will Henninger never stop?

    It’s as solid a theory as the one he presents, and despite lacking any evidence it’s probably up to the WSJ’s quality standards as well. Perhaps they’ll publish this post.

  119. #119 H.H.
    November 21, 2008

    Henninger writes:

    Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth. In this instance, the system has been badly used — by mere people.

    But of course the system was manipulated by “mere people.” But the strength of a market is judged on its ability to weed out and punish bad actors, something which clearly failed to happen here. That absolutely is an indictment against free market capitalism. That’s why regulation is essential. Regulation which Henninger would clearly love to avoid.

    So Henninger’s basic argument is “We wouldn’t need regulation if no one ever tried to cheat someone else.” This is about as convincing as stating we don’t need laws or policemen, we just need to convince everyone to act morally. Forget pragmatic realism and planning and just pretend everyone will voluntarily adhere to an impossible standard. It’s the sort of argument only a criminal would make.

    Blaming atheists and secularists for the lack of morality in society is simply further misdirection. Henninger is a conman. He’s tying to tell theists how smart they are by letting him pick their pockets. The funny thing is, when you read the comments, most “southern evangelicals” are stupid enough to buy into it hook, line, and sinker. Guess that shouldn’t be surprising.

  120. #120 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 21, 2008

    Sound more like this young person was deeply afraid of the effect on their family that giving up their faith would cause.

    Completely in accordance with the prophecy:

    Matthew 10:34-36
    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

    ————————

    Actually, saying “happy holidays” in recognition of all religions is far less subversive to the RR agenda than secularizing Christmas. It keeps the Christ in Christmas. Turning it into the equivalent of “happy holidays’ takes the Christ out of it.

    R?men.

    So, apparently the economy is being destroyed by… capitalism. Well, we knew that.

    ROTFL!

    the “three-times a year”, mildly practicing christian.

    Three times? Christmas, Easter, and??? ~:-|

  121. #121 DaveL
    November 21, 2008

    So many millions of people believe that there is exactly one axis along which a human being’s entire life can be described: sin vs. not sin. Anything at all that occurs in that life is subsumed into this one-dimensional analysis. Anything happening on the national scale is directly tied in as well. Moral and practical matters and fortunate or unfortunate events that happen from the outside are all intertwined. So somehow it can seem perfectly rational that a moral degradation causes natural disasters or economic disasters (Henninger’s logic is nearly as threadbare as that of the ‘This is God’s punishment!’ types). It’s horrifying ignorance.

    Equally as appalling is a phenomenon that might be considered a corollary of this: these same people tend to view the effectiveness of policy “X” in acheiving its stated purposes as a matter of faith, not of evidence.

    If your faith says that teaching about birth control leads to abortion and unwanted pregnancy, then it must be so! If rates for both are found higher in areas that withold such education than in those that allow it, why then it’s clearly because of the wickedness and lack of faith among the young. If your faith says “God will provide”, no matter how many children you have, then if you lose your home it must be because you’re being tested. The policy may never be questioned: if bad things happen, it must be because you aren’t believing hard enough.

  122. #122 JSug
    November 21, 2008

    I was right there with him up to the paragraph where he started actually making his point:

    Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of “Merry Christmas.”

    So basically, if you aren’t a religious person, you don’t have any moral values, and therefore you’re ruining the country for everyone else.

  123. #123 Kagehi
    November 21, 2008

    Was “attempting” to post this:

    Wow! Atheists have some huge fracking juju. Why, I bet if I wrote, “Oga booga booga!”, the author would simply vanish. After all, I am an atheist, who believes in “rational” solutions, unlike the Prosperity Ministries (as one example) who are dropping like flies in this crisis, in no small part because they believed that “believing” their god would repay all their loans at some point. What? The author is still here? He didn’t drop off the face of the earth? Well hell… Maybe if I didn’t put up the Christmas tree and light this years and said more bah humbugs, that would do it.

    Seriously, there is no “War on Christmas”, it was made up by the obnoxious idiot Bill Donahue a few years back, as a way to bleat loudly about yet another imaginary nonsensical “attack” on Catholicism, and the far right, which **apparently** includes the author of this piece of fantasy, thought it would be a useful strategy to “attack” secularism. I mean why not. They make up things the founders didn’t actually say, make up things secularists and atheists supposedly think and believe, chop up quotes, statements and books written by those they don’t like, with even more fervor than they mangle their own Bible by cherry picking the bits they “want” to follow, then lie, lie, lie and lie some more.

    Truth is, if the so called “evangelicals” are right about God existing, which, despite the claims otherwise, atheists just consider a) very improbable, and b) impossible only if you are asking if “described” gods, like the Hindu, Pagan, or… Christian, versions are real. But.. Just for the sake of argument, if “their” version is real, then the only reason they are not all burning in hell already for bearing false witness against ***everyone***, is that their God hasn’t finished the refurbishing necessary to fit them all in.

    Oh, and, everyone but the author, and his collection of pharisaic friend and money changers, “Have a Merry Christmas”.

    Or “X-Mas”, if you are a member of Chi Rho, spelled, in Roman letters, XP, and the single most world famous “Christian” chior.

    Or just “Happy Holidays”, if your are one of the money grubbing 90% of the US that own businesses, ar Christian, and **yet** decide to “celebrate” Thanksgiving, by selling Christmas ornaments a week *before* “that” holiday.

    But, apparently they saw me coming. Or.. Maybe they just automatically block postings once its either a) over two pages, or b) someone “actually” refutes some of their points, which a few posters did.

  124. #124 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    It’s the sort of argument only a criminal would make.

    Or a Libertarian maybe ?

  125. #125 John Ephin
    November 21, 2008

    I have read in several surveys that roughly 40-60% of U.S. citizens living in the U.S consider themselves good Christians who go to church on a regular basis. I work at a company that is involved in the current mortgage crisis. The job involves phoning people who are going into default. Out of curiosity I started my own little survey. After engaging with the clients for a few minuites I would ask them about their religious afilition. A little over 98% would respond to these questions. Of the people who responded about 89% of these people considered themselves good church going people. Over 98% of these people said they simply borrowed more money than they could afford to repay. Almost all of the 2% claimed they had medical problems that substantialy changed their cercumstances. After 9 months of these conversations (over 8000 people who would respond) I believe it is the good church going christians who caused the current problems by not being good stewards of the wealth their god had given them. Perhaps what the world needs is more good athiests who try to live within there means.

  126. #126 Brownian, OM
    November 21, 2008

    It was written somewhere long ago in a book unread by most Christians that “blessed are the poor”.

    Perhaps the Christians caught in the current mortgage crisis have merely and unwittingly fallen in the trap of living Christ’s teachings.

    I suspect if we reminded them of this fact they’d smarten up and go back to fucking each other and everyone else over for their pieces of silver while bleating their piety poste-haste.

  127. #127 Alex
    November 21, 2008

    #125

    Funny John. I remember looking for a home loan last spring. After finding a condo I liked with the realtor, I finally sat down in front of the loan officer. The whole process took about a month. After looking at the numbers and doing a little math, it turned out they wanted 50% of my monthly income to pay for the load. I left. They kept calling. Sure it’s predatory, but who doesn’t know the 32% rule? Or is it the 35% rule? Whatever, I knew my budget could not accommodate a hit like that.

  128. #128 Robert W
    November 21, 2008

    Is “dereligioning” really a word. I think not.

  129. #129 Brownian, OM
    November 21, 2008

    Is “dereligioning” really a word.

    Of course it is. It’s the process of undoing what has been done to ligion a person a subsequent time.

  130. #130 Aseem
    November 21, 2008

    Sorry if somebody already posted this, but I found a link to this advertisement in the site in comment # 1 above.

  131. #132 Daniel
    November 21, 2008

    Here’s a WSJ video of Dan Henninger being interviewed about this article’s contents:
    http://tinyurl.com/daniel-henninger-video

  132. #133 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    I do not believe that people spend too much because they are immoral but because they have not thought about the consequences.

    Correct, but it becomes much easier to forget about the consequences in an environment where everybody does the same, where you can meet everyday the 6000 sq ft McMansion mortgage buyer BMW leaser Granite countertop upgrade Gucci belt credit card buyer 5$ daily Starbucks latte drinker, where notions of “exceptionalism”, “american dream”, “everything is possible”, “economic freedom” are cultivated, and where the President explains that Americans did their patriotic part by buying everything they could get their hands on.

    The worst of all this crazy spending came from these infamous Mortgage Equity Withdrawals (MEW). So many average Americans extracted from the paper value of their homes real dollars and spent it. Until 1997 this represented less than 2% of total disposable income on average. By 2005, it was close to a record level of 9%, in 2004 and 2005 Americans sucked more than $800 billion each year from their homes and spent it in shoes, lattes, cars, restaurants, hairdressers, etc…

    Well, unfortunately, most of these $ 1.6 trillion will have to be paid back by these tens of millions of households who have just added themselves to the contingent of the New Poor.

  133. #134 Britomart
    November 21, 2008

    On the subject of helping atheist teens ‘come out’ for Jeanette and anyone else interested, there are a fair number of IRC channels where that is a common topic of discussion. I am channel manager of Undernet Atheism and we have had a lot of kids thru the years come in and discuss clarifying their belief or disbelief, when to tell relatives, etc.

    While that is not all we discuss, come on in and give us a try. I won’t be around next week, but there are plenty of other people to talk to.

    Some times we talk, some times we don’t tho, hope you understand that just because a nick is in the channel list, doesn’t mean that some one is actually at the keyboard at that moment.

    Thank you kindly

  134. #135 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    O/T

    Obama to nominate Tim Geithner to treasury ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_F._Geithner

  135. #136 DaveL
    November 21, 2008

    I just watched the video, and it’s every bit as bad as the op-ed. The interviewer doesn’t even hint at the possibility of asking for a shred of evidence for his thesis, or of questioning a single assumption. He comes out with possibly the most garbled explanation of “moral hazard” I have ever heard, and slides right by the irony of a mouthpiece for The Wall Street Journal shifting responsibility for the whole fiaso onto some faceless beast called “secularization” without a hint of restraint or remorse.

  136. #137 Mike
    November 21, 2008

    Hey, I’m ALL atheist, and I LOVE christmas. I can’t wait for it every year. What’s this bull about us atheists hating christmas?

  137. #138 Moses
    November 21, 2008

    Posted by: Reginald Selkirk | November 21, 2008 10:11 AM

    Ha! Do you think it’s going to help your cause to enlist the name of that cold-blooded killer

    Yes, because after his parents, and society at-large, lied to him for 22-years that when he found the truth at, apparently, a particularly vulnerable time in his life he killed himself. So, of course, the Christianists exploit the tragedy and seek to blame the innocent.

    I blame his parents for lying to him for his whole life and filling it full of delusions. I blame Christians who reinforce those delusions AND told him what a rotten piece of shit every atheist really is… I blame a society that refuses to put aside bronze age mythologies.

  138. #139 EB
    November 21, 2008

    THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! Idiot religious people are now giving me 4 belly-laughs and 10 unstoppable 15-minutes hyterical laughs a day. I can’t take it anymore. All that ROTFLMAO is great to sweep the floor but I’m changing my clothes four times a day now. The Abrahamic Faiths, aka the Cult Of Blame Someone Else With A Straight Face must be put out of its misery. On the other hand, I’d miss the comic relief.

    I am sorta-kinda religious in that atheist-secular-western buddhist way, yet I rarely tell anyone, never show it, keep it out of politics, don’t bother my kids with it (in other words, it’s my problem, not someone elses) and I strongly advise relidiots to do the same.

  139. #140 Jorg
    November 21, 2008

    Speaking of blaming the atheists, I just stumbled upon this sad and yet despicable gem. These people do not allow comments; with a good reason I would think: they do not want their little bubble of ignorance burst by someone with better command of logic and facts than they possess.

  140. #141 Strange Doctrines
    November 21, 2008

    “I would like to visit Mr Henninger’s alternate dimension.”

    I think it’s known as Denmark.

  141. #142 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    Anyway, it doesn’t look like the new treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, is going to listen very much to morons like Henninger :

    in Geithner’s own words

    This crisis exposed very significant problems in the financial systems of the United States and some other major economies. Innovation got too far out in front of the knowledge of risk.
    It is very important that we move quickly to adapt the regulatory system to address the vulnerabilities exposed by this financial crisis. June 9, 2008

    I believe the most important imperative is to build a financial system that is more robust to very bad outcomes and more resilient to shocks. This means (1) a system in which the major institutions are less vulnerable to shocks; (2) a system that is less vulnerable to margin spirals and a generalized pull-back in liquidity and funding; and (3) a system that is more able to withstand the effects of failure of a major financial institution.
    Looking past the immediate crisis, a more resilient system must be built on stronger and better designed shock absorbers, both in the major institutions and in the infrastructure of the financial system…
    Simplifying and consolidating the regulatory architecture will be instrumental to these efforts by establishing a common framework of rules, clear responsibility and authority, and by reducing opportunities for arbitrage. Through close coordination across central banks, supervisors and market regulators, we need to adopt an integrated approach to the design and enforcement of capital standards and other prudential regulations critical to systemic stability. In this context, prudential supervisors, working with those responsible for setting accounting standards and capital market regulations, need to systematically examine the interaction among capital, accounting, tax and disclosure requirements to assess their effects on the overall levels of leverage and risk across the financial system. July 24, 2008

    Strange, he forgot to mention the importance of “merry Christmas” !

  142. #143 John Morales
    November 21, 2008

    Wow. I’ve never read the WSJ, but I thought it was a serious paper – apparently not.

    Regarding Xmas, I like to subvert things a little by wishing people a “happy Xmas and a merry new year”.

    And I can’t resist linking to The Carol of the Old Ones.

  143. #144 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    I thought it was a serious paper

    The Journal is fine.
    The Opinion Journal varies a lot. It depends who utters the opinion. If it’s a nutcase on a subject he knows nothing about, like in this case, then you get the expected result.

  144. #145 Alethias
    November 21, 2008

    You said “Wait, what? The country has been run for the last eight years by a gang of amoral atheists? Bankers are atheists? All those people who borrowed money unwisely are atheists? Christians don’t default on loans, don’t exploit lax banking rules, don’t start wars, don’t torture?”

    That’s not quite the point. It’s the combination of fear and envy of atheists not feeling bound by the christians horrible little god that drives the christian to such evil. This of course makes it the atheists fault that the christians are evil, so teh atheist needs to shoulder his fair share of the guilt and blame for the sins the christians have committed.

  145. #146 Natalie
    November 21, 2008
  146. #147 Paul Burnett
    November 21, 2008

    Aseem, in #131, pointed out an advertisement which contained this gem:

    “Or that giant corporations voraciously competing for America’s $150 billion teen market routinely infiltrate young people’s social groups to find out how better to lead children into ever more debauched forms of “authentic self-expression.”

    …which segues neatly into:

    “Students Start Up for Academic Freedom on Evolution” -
    Discovery Institute, WA – Nov 20, 2008 -
    “As part of our efforts to support academic freedom on evolution, we are teaming up with the IDEA Center (Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness) to help students in starting an IDEA chapter on their campus.” – http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/11/students_start_up_for_academic.html

    And guess who’s a wheel in IDEA? Why, our friend Casey Luskin, star Liar For Jesus?!

  147. #148 raven
    November 21, 2008

    Tim Geithner, we will see. Paulson is clearly totally, completely lost and isn’t even treading water anymore.

    Ironically, this crisis has made us more vulnerable to financial shocks rather than less. A lot of the companies we are bailing out were TOO BIG TO FAIL.

    So now we have merged Merrill into BofA, Wachovia into Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, Bear Stearns, Lehman etc. into other banks. The government picked up Freddie and Fannie. The mega banks got bigger and fewer. If they were too big to fail last year, this year they are even bigger.

    Our financial system is so seriously broken I’d hate to have to be the one trying to fix it.

  148. #149 John Morales
    November 21, 2008

    @144: Ah, thanks, negentropyeater. I see what you mean.

  149. #150 Jadehawk
    November 21, 2008

    raven in #149

    yeah, they’re all unsinkable. like the titanic.

    what worries me most is that the “fixing” might turn out to be nothing more than a slap on the wrist, with the result that the disaster is merely postponed (and by postponing it, they’ll make it worse)

    it would take such a massive overhaul (to the very core) of the way the business world runs to actually fix it and avert the disaster. it’s a bit like the fight on global warming: the longer we wait with the overhaul, the harder it gets, and the worse the consequences will be :-/

  150. #151 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 21, 2008

    With that kind of lunatic logic appearing in what is putatively considered the nation’s leading and most prestigious financial journal, it’s no wonder the economy is so fucked up.

    Now we see that their complete irrationality and incompetence even extends to unabashed lying and false accusation.

    In order to protect their interests and station like singing imams spreading their message across the land from the lofty tower of TWSJ, they need a fall-guy, somebody other than themselves to blame to cover up their own guilty asses.

    It is pretty amazing how low the morals and ethics of the religiously-imbued money-juggler can sink.

    Too bad wealthy readers and corporate advertisers haven’t yet considered voting the editors out of their influential positions by boycotting that now discredited and dishonourable rag. Their wealth is great and needs to be preserved, so they are understandably reluctant to rock the boat. Of course, it immediately follows they’re also too stupid to realize that their losses over the last few months is directly attributable to the kind of irrationality exhibited by Henninger. These perilous circumstances in turn provide him with the whole ass-covering motivation for his diatribe: to ensure the readership and corporate sponsors of TWSJ understands who is “REALLY TO BLAME” for their losses.

    That’s it. Keep a-talkin’ Danny-boy. I’m sure your wealthy readers and advertisers will eventually get the big financial picture. As the market strains this holiday season, do try to have a Merry Christmas, won’t you?

  151. #152 Nick
    November 21, 2008

    My email to Henniger:

    So the consistent undermining of the establishment clause of the first amendment by religious Republicans is the cause for all economic success? That’s the conclusion I’m left to infer by your assertion that atheists are somehow the cause of economic collapse. Religion and free markets have absolutely nothing to do with one another; indeed, only through a careful reason-oriented approach can the free market system work. Anyone familiar with the work of Ayn Rand, one of the most ferocious defenders of the free-market system, will note that Rand was also an atheist and a prominent critic of religion in the public sphere. It saddens me that such an esteemed (I’m beginning to wonder) organization as the WSJ would succumb to atheist-bashing as an excuse for the collapse of the economy. This article is completely ridiculous and illustrates the idiocy of religious argument. Perhaps your magic sky fairy will stop the mean old atheists, not only saving Christmas but the economy too. Oh wait, that’s completely ridiculous, just like your article. I’d suggest submitting your work to the Onion, it would certainly make more sense as satire.

  152. #153 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    Raven,

    these banks are now zombies maintained by the treasury and the fed. The big question is, why do they still have shareholders ?
    Take citibank for instance, Paulson just injected $ 35 billion of TARP money in its capital, well what’s citi’s market capitalization on wallstreet, … $ 35 billion ! So, what would be the shareholder’s equity worth without Paulson’s injection by now ? Zero !
    So, why are they still there ?
    Answer : so that when everything will be back in order again (if it does get back in order again), shareholders can fully take advantage from the bonanza years.
    And in America, nobody says anything to this incredible scandal, because of the sacro-saint dogma that it would be untinkable to nationalize a bank and wipe out entirely the shareholders.

  153. #154 Wowbagger
    November 21, 2008

    I just read the article linked in post #1 – I’ve never been to WorldNetDaily before. I’ve heard it mentioned but never actually went there.

    Scary isn’t a strong enough word. That there are people who not only think like that but are in a position to disseminate that sort of information in a way that presents it as truth and/or serious journalism is truly disturbing.

  154. #155 hooloovoo
    November 21, 2008

    Athiests are behind the economic crisis? This revelation throws a monkey wrench into my hypothesis that the current state of the economy is the fault of the Hopi tribe. I want to see Henninger’s research so I can find out where I went wrong.

  155. #156 hooloovoo
    November 21, 2008

    Just noticed I misspelled “atheist” in my other post. Oooh that’s not good. I do know how to spell it. My fingers aren’t moving so well today.

  156. #157 geru
    November 21, 2008

    Why would anyone not like Christmas, It’s Santa Claus’ birthday!

    So instead of all this commercialism and consumption frenzy, we should be celebrating the birth of Santa! Right? :)

  157. #158 Scott from Oregon
    November 21, 2008

    “And in America, nobody says anything to this incredible scandal, because of the sacro-saint dogma that it would be untinkable to nationalize a bank and wipe out entirely the shareholders.”

    What’s with all of this “nationalize it!” from your curdled mind? Who would you put in charge of running this new government bank? Who would choose this person? Would you trust the country to elect a new bank CEO? How much power would you give this bank, and would you then try to use the government’s size and taxing ability to wipe out all of the smaller, better functioning banks? You know, the ones not in trouble now and who know you when you walk in and ask to talk to the manager?

    Are you simply a masochist?

  158. #159 Bill from Dover
    November 21, 2008

    that he had lost all hope because he was convinced that God did not exist, and this book was the cause.

    Musta been one hellofa strong conviction he held.

  159. #160 Wowbagger
    November 21, 2008

    Musta been one hellofa strong conviction he held.

    Exactly. Funny how his family is blaming Dawkins when they should be asking themselves how their god could have let it happen – surely, if their god existed he’d have been able to give the boy a sign that he shouldn’t lose his faith?

  160. #161 mess
    November 21, 2008

    Did you really expect anything different once Murdock took over?

  161. #162 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    SfO,

    what’s the difference with what you got today, except that today, you got shareholders in the background who are getting a free ride funded by tax payers ?

    You really don’t get it do you ?

  162. #163 Sioux Laris
    November 21, 2008

    If this is a “Godwin”, sorry!

    Hitler or one of the top nazis supposedly said, “If the Jews had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent them.”

    Since the fall of communism, the fracturing of classic anti-semitism (it was still surprisingly hot, in certain powerful corners, in the 70s & 80s), and overt racism being driven completely underground, the fanatic right has been casting about for a new bogie with which to organize and increase their always undisciplined army of zombies.
    They made a stab at making all “libs” the Dire Threat but have ended up like Emperor Jones because they went for the cash too quickly (through – rightly – not trusting one another to show any restraint).
    Atheists are the fall-back Threat, and it won’t work. Except to the already, always insane 23% of humanity they can “count” upon, nobody’s buying it either now or later.

    Unless they have a Terminator able to go back in time and successfully complete its mission, the Culture Wars will be decided in our, real humanity’s, favor.

  163. #164 negentropyeater
    November 21, 2008

    SfO,

    the fed and the treasury are ALREADY from now on controling and running the 9 largest banks in the country. Their market capitalization is almost equal to the amount injected by the treasury into them (for those where the share price is a bit higher, don’t worry, it will be very soon). Do you understand what that means ?

    In a normal country, we would just call that a nationalization. But in America, Dogma prevents the use of the word, and we should also not forget that shareholders need a free ride when profits will be made. It’s just a simple way of stealing more money from the tax payer, and hide it behind dogma.

  164. #165 Kel
    November 21, 2008

    I’ve always wondered how people could believe that an entirely man-made and operated system is used by God. I’m no expert on the stock market, but I’m pretty sure every action taken on it that makes it either rise or fall are man-made transactions and workings.

    Then again I don’t get how people could say God causes hurricanes or tsunamis. It seems God gets a lot of credit for things that are beyond his control.

  165. #166 'Tis Himself
    November 21, 2008

    william e emba #116

    It’s really just a glorified business gossip daily. They have very little understanding of business or finance, and none whatsoever of economics.

    I stopped reading the WSJ years ago when they blamed Pan Am’s bankruptcy primarily on Lockerbie and the 1986 Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking. The article downplayed and ignored other reasons (Pan Am’s sell off of profitable routes for short term cash injections wasn’t mentioned and the problems of the National takeover were dismissed in two or three sentences). I was involved in airline financial analysis and had recently written a paper on Pan Am for my employer. I knew what many if not most of Pan Am’s problems were. What I knew about Pan Am didn’t come close to what the WSJ reported.

    I read The Economist and Financial Times but take both with a grain of salt.

  166. #167 shonny
    November 21, 2008
    Posted by: Reginald Selkirk | November 21, 2008 10:11 AM
    militant atheists like Dawkins
    Ha! Do you think it’s going to help your cause to enlist the name of that cold-blooded killer?

    Hm, a fuckwit and his source for maintaining/fueling the fuckwittedness?

  167. #168 shonny
    November 21, 2008

    Posted by: Jadehawk | November 21, 2008 5:19 PM
    raven in #149
    yeah, they’re all unsinkable. like the titanic.

    But unlike on the Titanic, they all think it ain’t gonna sink, that a few minor repairs will fix the leak, so they all stay on board, and go down with the ship. I wish!

  168. #169 E.V.
    November 21, 2008

    Andy Williams Enemy Of Christmas.
    Bill O’Reilly has declared crooner Andy Williams to be the major enemy of Christams.

    “I don’t care if he discovered the Osmonds – they’re probably a bunch of pinko-commie God-haters too. AND this Andy Williams guy has close ties to a convicted murderer. It’s a crying shame that Williams has made a load of cash off declaring war on Christmas with this song:
    happy holiday
    happy holiday
    while the merry bells keep rinqinq
    happy holiday to you
    its the holiday season [the holiday season]
    and santa clause is cominq round
    the christmas snow is white on the ground
    when old santa qets into town
    he’ll be cominq down the chimney down oh yeah
    hell be cominq down the chimney down
    its the holiday season [ the holiday seanson ]
    and santa clause has qot a toy for every qood qirll
    and every boy
    santa’s a qreat biq bundle of joy
    and he’s cominq down the chimney down oh yeah’
    he’ll be cominq down the chimney down
    he’ll have a biq fat pack up on his back
    and lots of qoodies for yu and for me
    so leave a peppermint stick for old st nick
    hanqinq on the christmas tree
    its the holday season [the holiday season]
    so whoop-te-doo and dickory-dock and dont forqet
    to hanq up yur sock cuz just exactly at 12 ‘clock
    he’ll be cominq down the chimney down oh yeah’
    hell be cominq down the chimney down
    happy holiday happy holiday
    while the merry bells keep rinqinq
    happy holiday to you !!!!

    “Not once does Williams give a reason for the season”, bellows the “no spin” pundit. “With his Christ-denying secular agenda he should be banned from the airwaves in this country, just like those seditionist Dixie Chicks. Hey, anyone have a falafel?”

  169. #170 wrpd
    November 21, 2008

    #60: Quakers on the moon? You’ve been reading too much Joe Smith.
    If all the butterflies, steel workers, and Broadway are gay, how come we still have caterpillars, metal cock rings, and musicals?

  170. #171 Pat
    November 21, 2008

    This crisis actually does have something to do with ecology and science, if not atheism. Looked at in a gross sense, we’re seeing the extinction of the dinosaurs. The economic climate has changed, and those giant, lumbering specialists are falling like so many trees in Tunguska. The small mammals, er, I mean local banks, are doing okay still in the midst of this crisis.

    But you can’t blame atheists and science for facts. Oh wait – the Bush administration and right-wing evangelical republicans… I guess they think you can.

  171. #172 Cannabinaceae
    November 21, 2008

    One could almost say that evangelico-conservatism is inherently vulnerable to socialism. Not because every single value endorsed by the evange-connies is vacuous and pernicious (that not necessarily being true for socialism); but because in their extremism, even their partisans defect out of rueful self-disgust.

  172. #173 erik Remkus
    November 21, 2008

    Instead of putting up a christmas tree, put a Newton tree. Newton day: atheists can celebrate the winter solstice too.

  173. #174 Cannabinaceae
    November 21, 2008

    erik Remkus: You are no enemy of Newtonmas!

  174. #175 Citizen Z
    November 21, 2008

    Sorry if I’m repeating someone, I’m not in the mood to wade through 170+ comments but take this statement:

    That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

    And try and reconcile that with things like this:

    Gulf and Prairie States Concentrated in Highest Incidence of Subprime Refinance Lending/Highest Subprime MSAs Concentrated in Southeast, Southwest and Midwest Regions. and A study by the Consumer Federation of America found that homeowners in the Southeast and Southwest are more likely to refinance with subprime loans than are owners in other regions of the United States.

    Are we supposed to believe that “Northerners and atheists” had something to do with this? Are bankers in the Bible Belt dominated by godless heathen carpetbaggers? Should we do an internet poll on this?

  175. #176 kamaka
    November 21, 2008

    Hah! It was that Santa bullshit that turned me into a wee skeptic!

    Xmas is mostly just a pain in the ass to me…playing “Jingle Hell” endlessly and everywhere. When they wish me Merry Christmas, I always answer “Enjoy your holiday”…no one catches the implication

  176. #177 DaveG
    November 21, 2008

    How strange that Henninger discusses moral structures. Christians are practically dared to be tempted – they know they’ll be forgiven. And their Operating Manual says that things were better before wisdom.

  177. #178 Miguel
    November 21, 2008

    Shorter Daniel Henninger: [wild-eyed rant]Atheists are breaking the world!!![/wild-eyed rant]

    What a douche bag.

  178. #179 Dahan
    November 21, 2008

    I became an atheist because of the power it gives me over the world. I feel like a god!

  179. #180 Scott from Oregon
    November 21, 2008

    “”"SfO,

    the fed and the treasury are ALREADY from now on controling and running the 9 largest banks in the country.”"”

    Yep. And they have no business in doing so.

    There are a host of smaller, leaner, smarter, regional banks who are doing fine who would like to have the reward of scooping up new customers and buying cheap assets from these large, ugly, evil institutions now partially nationalized.

    Me hates it.

    This is bad. Very bad.

  180. #181 Ray
    November 21, 2008

    @ 52: TOGA!, TOGA!, TOGA!

    Cheers,
    Ray

  181. #182 IST
    November 21, 2008

    hooloovoo> no sweat, man… we only critcise your spelling when it comes with wackjob fundie opinions… ad homs are poor logic but they sure can be entertaining.

  182. #183 Jack Krebs
    November 21, 2008

    I really liked that article. Thanks for pointing it out, PZ.

  183. #184 Tommykey
    November 21, 2008

    Henninger is such a moron.

    I remember a couple of years ago he commented on a news item from India wherein a man married his dog, and Henninger said, “You see, this is what legalizing gay marriage will lead to,” ignoring the fact that India does not permit gay marriage.

  184. #185 aresrichard
    November 21, 2008

    The cynic in me makes me think that Henninger and his ilk could care a toss about Christmas. Just move the target and set the PEE-ons (“Trickle” Down Theory anyone?) upon themselves. Let the witch hunts begin, while we abscond with the bailouts! And to all a good cheer!

  185. #186 Craig
    November 21, 2008

    As an atheist I never minded Xmas, enjoyed the winter festival, colored-lights, fun spirit of it… UNTIL these assholes started their “War on Christmas” line of BS.

    Now, fuck Christmas. No lights, no tree, no “Merry Christmas” from me because I just don’t want to be associated with it. I don’t want to run the risk, ever so slight, that people might think that I think like these assholes.

    Christmas used to be nice – a one-size-fits-all holiday – Religious for those who wanted it that way, Santa for those who didn’t. But they drew a line, staked a claim, and put me on the other side of that line. Fine, just expect me to ask permission or suffer insult to be back on their side of the line.

    Winter festivals are great though, so if anyone comes up with an alternative, let me know.

  186. #187 Adviser Moppet
    November 21, 2008

    Steve M. @ 103,

    The reason I think that some Christians take offense at “Happy Holidays” is because for the longest time the christmas season (November-December) was all about them. For two months, America was focused on the christians and their holiday. Now that they have to share with other religions they see that as an attack. At least that’s what I think.

  187. #188 Wowbagger
    November 22, 2008

    Adviser Moppet wrote:

    The reason I think that some Christians take offense at “Happy Holidays” is because for the longest time the christmas season (November-December) was all about them. For two months, America was focused on the christians and their holiday. Now that they have to share with other religions they see that as an attack. At least that’s what I think.

    You might be onto something there. The Christian Industry’s greatest fear is its inevitable slump into irrelevancy; they will do anything they can to try and remind people they still exist. It’s why they make a fuss over every tiny, insignificant occurrence – things like the success of the Harry Potter books, or films like The Golden Compass and Brokeback Mountain and so forth.

    What they’re really try to say is ‘Pay attention to us! We’re still important! Write about us in your newspapers!’

    I’m glad they’re losing the battle.

  188. #189 Grendel72
    November 22, 2008

    Christians take offense at “Happy Holidays” because they are anti-semites.

  189. #190 Get a grip
    November 22, 2008

    So 33 million people are in dire straits because either:

    a) a few humdred atheists vocalize their preference that Christmas to be less publicly “Christ”mas
    or…
    b) a few hundred self-proclaimed theists hold poliltical offices.

    Tough call.

    I thought it might have something to do with a few million inadequately educated, self-centered investors wanting to make some bik bucks, regardless of economic realities, or consences.

    I guess I’ll have to enroll in a UMN economics program.

  190. #191 Grip gotten
    November 22, 2008

    My my my… a glass of wine, a keyboard, and a bunch of crappy spelling….
    bik = big
    consences = consequences.

    Spelling like talking.

    Must go to bed…

    Blargghhhh

  191. #192 Ian Gould
    November 22, 2008

    So how do these people explain the recent economic success of China and India and the fact that so far secular Europe and Shintoist Japan are much less affected by the economic crisis than the US?

  192. #193 mandrake
    November 22, 2008

    Posted by: Ian Gould | November 22, 2008 2:41 AM

    So how do these people explain the recent economic success of China and India and the fact that so far secular Europe and Shintoist Japan are much less affected by the economic crisis than the US?

    Shhhhh!
    you’ve been reading some of those un-American newspapers, haven’t you?

  193. #194 Shade Tree
    November 22, 2008

    My thoughts from that article:

    1. Responsibility and Restraint are not, to my knowledge, generally embraced as principles of Capitalism–inasmuch as the link between them and Profit is at best tenuous, often nonexistent. That seems to me to be the whole reason behind Regulation: because untrammeled Capitalism is deeply and practically unworkable. Remorse, of course, is actually built into Capitalism in the form of failing banks and stock crashes–unless, of course, the public’s bailout relieves the perpetrators from the bulk of the fallout. Oops.

    2. As Christian observances go, it seems to me that Christmas has about the least to do with Responsibility, Restraint, or Remorse. At least, given the hyperconsumerist way I’ve seen it practised in the US by religious and nonreligious alike. Mr Henninger should have waited for Lent. (Besides, his article could use some serious fasting.)

    3. Merry Christmas is generally as facile a greeting as Happy Holidays. And it seems to me that both have been equally co-opted by the hyperconsumerist forces that drive the rest of this damn season. And I strongly believe that hyperconsumerism is a big factor in the economic crash.

    4. So really, I think it’s just the opposite of Dillinger’s claim: Merry Christmas, at least the way our advertisers would have us observe it, is the problem, not the solution. After all, I’m sure there’s a holiday sale for Mad Max DVDs around here somewhere…

  194. #195 Scrabcake
    November 22, 2008

    Shade tree, you don’t post much, but you make me weak in the knees when you do.

  195. #196 negentropyeater
    November 22, 2008

    Responsibility, Restraint and Remorse have of course absolutely nothing to do with the fucking Bible, nor free-market Capitalism.
    But they have an aweful lot to do with Risk.

    When euphoria takes place and humans don’t see risks anymore, they do stupid things, they build villages at the bottom of sleeping volcanoes, they perform Mortgage Equity Withdrawals believing the paper value of their homes can only go up, financial institutions make chains of CDS contracts believing nobody is going to default on their bonds anymore, etc…

    And nobody, nobody, wants to listen to the Cassandras who are warning that bad times WILL come and that risks are still there and growing, because these Cassandras might slow down growth and kill the euphoria.

    When nobody, private individuals or government, is able or willing to evaluate Risks anymore, Responsibility, Restraint, and Remorse become unsignificant.

  196. #197 Aquaria
    November 22, 2008

    Of COURSE the WSJ is willing to jump on the blame atheists bandwagon.

    There was a reason the Republican party became the party of religious lunatics and big money. They have more in common than it appears. They go about it for different reasons, but their goals benefit each other. And CHEAP LABOR is the foundation both need to prosper.

    Think of it this way: The wealthmongers are all about maximum profit. One of the best ways to get this is through CHEAP LABOR. When you have a smart, rational, savvy pool of workers, you can’t convince them to work for cheap, which cuts into your profit margins.

    Every religion’s goal is theocracy (whether or not they admit it), but to get there they need bodies in the pews. When you have a smart, rational, savvy citizenry, it’s harder to convince them to believe in your imaginary sky buddy, which cuts into your pew margins. So it behooves the religious crazies for the wealthmongers to grab all the money for themselves (with a nice payoff to the churches to keep them happy), so that people are desperate enough to need religion.

    So it’s a mutually satisfying arrangement for big money and religion.

    Nearly every single issue can come back to the cheap labor/full pews model: Abortion, birth control, science, public education, civil rights, etc. Over and over again, the reality is that restricting if not banning those is the only way both of those groups can get what they want.

  197. #198 negentropyeater
    November 22, 2008

    A sample of Mr Henninger’s foresight :

    That’s right. It’s not the economy this time, stupid. It’s terrorism. No matter how low George Bush falls in the polls the next 18 months, “what to do about terrorism” is going to be the No. 1 voting issue in November 2008 because the Glasgow/JFK/Fort Dix/Heathrow/Madrid bombers are still going to be at play in November 2008.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110010295

    Methinks Mr Henninger must have had difficulties exercising Responsibility, Restraint, and Remorse, with that predicament !

  198. #199 Charlie Foxtrot
    November 22, 2008

    Jeeberz! Why does everyone rag on the Mad Max society?

    It’d be great! Leathers, Ford Falcon XB Coupe’s for everyone, and the world would look like I’d driven down the freeway for an hour! Bliss!

  199. #200 scooter
    November 22, 2008

    Since you atheists are so good at destroying things like the economy and Christmas I’d like to ask for your help.

    I’m forming a worker drone Army to wage war on Mondays.

    Who does your PR?
    Wars are won with PR.

  200. #201 Fernando Magyar
    November 22, 2008

    Posted by: Pat @ 171

    This crisis actually does have something to do with ecology and science, if not atheism.

    That’s about as close as anyone here has come to the truth (in a scientific sense) as to the root causes of our financial crisis. Modern economic theory is about as far removed from reality as is religious dogma and the two seem to have much in common.

    An Overlooked Detail – Finite Resources Explain the Financial Crisis
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4770

    When Economics 101 includes the laws of thermodynamics, ecological webs and chaos theory as part of its basic curriculum maybe then we can have a rational reality based sustainable world economy but I’m not holding my breath.

  201. #202 Moses
    November 22, 2008

    Posted by: ‘Tis Himself | November 21, 2008 7:05 PM

    william e emba #116

    It’s really just a glorified business gossip daily. They have very little understanding of business or finance, and none whatsoever of economics.

    I stopped reading the WSJ years ago when they blamed Pan Am’s bankruptcy primarily on Lockerbie and the 1986 Pan Am Flight 73 hijacking. The article downplayed and ignored other reasons (Pan Am’s sell off of profitable routes for short term cash injections wasn’t mentioned and the problems of the National takeover were dismissed in two or three sentences).

    I stopped subscribing in the 1980′s when I realized that it was all post hoc rationalizations written by people who lived in a bubble and didn’t have a clue. Every day the market goes up and down. It does so based on emotionally influenced responses on a domain defined by fear and greed at opposite end-points.

    Yet the talking heads and columnists seek, on a daily basis, to assign some elaborate ’cause’ outside of that range. They’re so frequently recycled and predictable that they are, pretty much, cliched ‘standard causes’ they will use regardless of the performance of the market to explain the performance of the market.

    I think it’s funniest when the same standard cause is used to explain a down-turn on day and yet, a week or two later, is used to explain an upturn. It’s clear, they don’t have a clue.

    And yet, here they are, pontificating on the market. Pontificating on the economy. Pontificating on life itself at times.

    All while demonstrating they’re clueless.

    Kind of like the Libertarians, laissez-faire capitalists, gold-bugs, etc..

  202. #203 'Tis Himself
    November 22, 2008

    I’ve just reread Henninger’s editorial. He actually makes one important point:

    What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

    This part is reasonable and would be the basis for a discussion about the current economic problems. Deregulation, the economic mantra of Republicans and other free marketeers, does require self-regulation based on responsibility, restraint and remorse. It’s like a child stuffing himself with candy until he’s sick. A wise child will only do that once. However, the past several years have shown that poorly regulated financial institutions are not that wise.

    Unfortunately for Henninger, while he starts off well, he drops a massive non sequitur and wanders off into fantasy land.

  203. #204 blf
    November 22, 2008

    Pee Zed opines The United States has some serious problems: an ugly war …. Not wars. War. One.

    Ok, which one? There’s the War on Drugs, War on Gays, War in Afghanistan, War Against christmass, War On The Easter Bunny, War of the Wingnuts, and so on. Perhaps even a new War Against Plurals, and this was the opening shot?

  204. #205 'Tis Himself
    November 22, 2008

    Ian Gould #192

    So how do these people explain the recent economic success of China and India and the fact that so far secular Europe and Shintoist Japan are much less affected by the economic crisis than the US?

    The Japanese had their own financial problems which are still being resolved today. Compared to the present US financial crisis, the underlying dynamics were similar. A combination of mismanaged partial deregulation and regulatory forebearance gave rise to the crisis and allowed it to deepen, and only the closure of some banks and injection of new capital into others began the resolution. The Bank of Japan’s monetary policy from the late 1980s onward, however, was increasingly out of step with US or other developed country norms. In particular, the Bank of Japan’s limited response to deflation stands out as a dangerous example for the US to follow.

  205. #206 Nick Gotts
    November 22, 2008

    Deregulation, the economic mantra of Republicans and other free marketeers, does require self-regulation based on responsibility, restraint and remorse. It’s like a child stuffing himself with candy until he’s sick. A wise child will only do that once. However, the past several years have shown that poorly regulated financial institutions are not that wise. – ‘Tis Himself

    Surely for both corporations and their senior executives, when a bubble is inflating it makes perfectly good sense to take advantage of it. There will have been many, many fortunes made out of the most recent bubble by those who
    got out (or shifted enough of their assets) in time; or who can socialise their losses during the bailout (necessary though that is in some form, we can be absolutely certain a lot of already-fat cats are going to be gorging themselves further on public cream).

    Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That, published in 1930, says this of the South Sea Bubble:

    “About this time nearly everybody in London stupidly got involved in an enormous bubble that appeared at Southsea. Some were persuaded that it would be a Good Thing if all the money in the country, including the National Debt, were sunk in it; others got into it merely with the object of speculating how soon it would be before it burst. Among these was a very clever man called Walpole who got out of the bubble in time, thus bursting it…”

  206. #207 SteveM
    November 22, 2008

    “Too big to fail” is not a statement of Titanic-like unsinkability. It does not mean they can’t fail, it means they can’t be allowed to fail. There are too many people on that ship that you can not let it just sink. Small ships (businesses) can sink and the people on those ships can be picked up by the thousands of other small ships. But something like the Titanic (GM/Ford) supports so many that to let it sink can overwhelm all the other ships in the sea and sink them in its undertow as well as not being able to rescue all those survivors.

    Now, all that is just metaphor, it does not mean I am in favor of any current proposals of how specifically to keep the “Titanic” from sinking. I don’t know if it is even possible to do so at this point.

  207. #208 'Tis Himself
    November 22, 2008

    Nick Gotts #206

    Thank you, Nick, for reminding me of a book I haven’t read in years, 1066 And All That. From there my mind wandered to the “St. Custard’s” books It’s with grate great difficult that I’m not writing à la Molesworth (chiz chiz).

    Yes, one can make money by getting into a bubble as it’s rising and getting out before the burst. In a similar way, it’s possible to make money from a Ponzi scheme by being one of the early investors. However, economic bubbles are going to burst and it’s sheer stupidity to think otherwise. Many economists saw what was coming and gave ample warning. Alan Greenspan warned of the housing market bubble over ten years ago.

    Capitalism is based on an infinitely expanding market. The world isn’t infinite as any fule kno.

  208. #209 Nick Gotts
    November 22, 2008

    Many economists saw what was coming and gave ample warning. Alan Greenspan warned of the housing market bubble over ten years ago. ‘Tis Himself

    I knew many economists had. I didn’t know Greenspan had. His recent testimony seemed to imply it had all come as a complete surprise to him!

  209. #210 negentropyeater
    November 22, 2008

    There will have been many, many fortunes made out of the most recent bubble by those who
    got out (or shifted enough of their assets) in time;

    Maybe instead of writing this kind of pathetic articles, the usually brain-dead American press could start suggesting ideas about how to get back some of that stolen money, and fund the massive fiscal stimulus that’s going to be required from them !
    How do Americans believe they’re going to get out of the deep shit they’re into if nobody is willing to make any sacrifices ?
    It’s not income that should be taxed, but whatever lies in the accounts, including offshore, of all these fat-cats who made a fortune speculating on the bubble.
    And also, what’s with this ridiculous price for gas ? 2$ a gallon, when we’ve already passed peak-oil, what about a 75% tax on gas ? Wouldn’t it be time Americans start adapting to reality and paying for gas at least the same as Europeans do ?
    That’d be a good way to start paying for all the heavy investments in infrastructure, education, research healthcare, social-security, etc… that the US is going to need in the next decade, rather than continuing to believe in miracles and that China or Japan is gong to fund your debt.
    I mean, I don’t see any alternative, do you ? Unless you beleve in miracles of course.

  210. #211 Fernando Magyar
    November 22, 2008

    And also, what’s with this ridiculous price for gas ? 2$ a gallon, when we’ve already passed peak-oil, what about a 75% tax on gas ?

    Pst! That would be way too much like dealing with reality, it just doesn’t fly…

    What you say? Americans aren’t capable of understanding basic arithmetic or the exponential function? So, since they can’t understand the concept of physical limits to growth, the concept must be flawed. Right? Makes about as much sense as, if you can’t understand evolution the bible must be true.

    What we need is more drilling in the hurricane prone gulf or ANWR. Then we can surely have gas at 99 cents a gallon for ever and ever. Just ask Sarah Palin.

  211. #212 'Tis Himself
    November 22, 2008

    Nick Gotts #209

    You’re right. I misspoke. Greenspan warned about the stock market bubble, not the housing bubble. I was thinking about his 1996 remarks concerning “irrational exuberance and unduly escalating stock prices.”

    Some economists assign a large degree of culpability for the present economic crisis to Greenspan. Paul de Grauwe wrote: “Greenspan, who was at the helm of the most important monetary institution in the world, failed to take his responsibility to supervise the financial markets blinded as he, and his colleagues, were by a belief that markets and bankers know better than governments.” Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Finance Minister, said: “We must ask ourselves whether [Greenspan] is not, after bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.”

    Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Greenspan. I am not a free marketeer and distrust his trust of laissez faire economics.

    Greenspan’s opposition to regulation of derivatives was extremely misguided. In 1998 I worked peripherally with Brooksley Born, the Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Born tried to bring derivatives, specifically swaps that are traded at no central exchange, known as the dark market, and thus have no transparency except to the two counter-parties, under the CFTC’s regulatory oversight. Greenspan (along with Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin) convinced Congress not to implement Born’s recommendations. The collapse of one type of derivative, mortgage-backed securities, was the trigger cause of the present economic crisis.

  212. #213 gene
    November 22, 2008

    Re: #15…

    http://www.uclick.com/client/nyt/bs/

    (cartoon about flat earth, good on 11/22/2008)

  213. #214 negentropyeater
    November 22, 2008

    Pst! That would be way too much like dealing with reality, it just doesn’t fly…

    How many members of the American intelligentsia, politicians, journalists, etc… have you heard recently suggesting the idea ?

    Just a small question :

    Is America still living under the illusion that God is going to bail it out ?

  214. #215 Marc Abian
    November 22, 2008

    Magyar201
    I’m glad to see someone factoring in resources, but doesn’t that column ignore the gains to be made by innovating production so it’s more effecient?

    George Monbiot’s latest column was perhaps related to this but I confess I do not understand it.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/11/18/clearing-up-this-mess/#more-1154

    little help anyone?

  215. #216 Tabby Lavalamp
    November 22, 2008

    HOW DARE YOU INCLUDE THE WORDS “MERRY CHRISTMAS” IN THIS BLOG POST?!?!!?!?

    Sorry. Just practising my part in the annual oppression of the majority religion in this part of the world.

  216. #217 negentropyeater
    November 22, 2008

    Nick,

    I don’t blame Greenspan. I mean, I don’t blame him particularly.

    Everybody wanted hyper-gowth. Executive branch, Congress, Wall Street, CEOs, Bankers, small business owners, hairdressers, butchers, real-estate agents, lolipop-salesmen, ..etc He delivered hyper-growth, he was a hero. If he hadn’t, they would have said, he’s a bad secretary and fired him.
    Now people say he’s a criminal. Maybe, but then, everybody who believed that hyper-growth was a good thing is a criminal.

    As Fernando says, when people don’t understand the basic concept of exponential, AND they believe in miracles, you can’t do anything.

    Look, the world GDP has been growing over the last 50 years at an almost constant trend of 3.5% per annum (in constant $). Means GDP doubles every 20 years.
    If we’d continue that way, world GDP would be 32 larger by 2100. Think about the shitload of stuff we’d be consuming with that quantity of money ! And where are the resources, are we going to bring them from Mars or somewhere ?
    Now obviously that 3.5% must go down drastically, max. 1%, also taking into account that 85% of the population, the developing economies represnt only 35% of world GDP and should be allowed to continue to grow at a higher rythm, say 3%, then the advanced economies should naturally remain at zero growth for the rest of the century.

    Can we imagine to adapt our way of living to a zero growth economy and still fulfill the needs of people ?
    Free-market capitalism won’t work. Communism won’t work. But I’m convinced that if we can strike the right balance between the two, by leaving some parts of the economy to free-markets and private entreprise and others to the community, we can achieve that goal.
    In the free-market world, the leading indicator of management performance is sharehoder value (compared to other industry members).
    In the public world, we need to define indicators of reference so that the people can keep track of the performance of their administrations. These long term oriented indicators, and comparison amongst countries, should serve as reference to ensure performance.

  217. #218 blf
    November 22, 2008

    http://www.uclick.com/client/nyt/bs/
    (cartoon about flat earth, good on 11/22/2008)

    The turtle moves!

  218. #219 Monado in Toronto
    November 22, 2008

    Maybe it’s the result of “God loves you and you can believe yourself into prosperity–just believe in miracles(tm) and come to our prosperity seminar. Send money.”

    I watched the tree-lighting ceremony in Brampton, Ontario, last Friday. The mayor discarded her prepared “Happy Holidays” speech and wished everyone a Merry Christmas, saying that “In Brampton, we have Christmas.” About 15% of the population hails from the Punjab area. I wonder what they thought of it. I hope they didn’t care very much.

  219. #220 Monado in Toronto
    November 22, 2008

    The trend in right-wing nuttery
    Is puzzling I confess
    For while the hype grows more and more
    The sense gets less and less!

    (With apologies to whoever wrote the original verse about women’s bathing suits.)

  220. #221 Kristinmh
    November 22, 2008

    David at 120: Christmas, Easter, and either Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, depending on your sect.

    (Yes, that;s right. New Year’s Day is a day of obligation for Catholics. Kill-joy bastards)

    Aquaria, BoingBoing linked to another wonderful WSJ article the other day that managed to lay the blame for the auto-sector meltdown squarely at the feet of the labour unions. That’s right! Not the guys who designed the shitty and unsellable cars or ran the companies into the ground or paid themselves multi-million dollar salaries – the rank and file workers who put the designs together and their unrealistic demands for a living wage and a decent pension!

    PZ’s right, they should rename it the Alternate Universe Daily.

  221. #222 Ka
    November 22, 2008

    Posted by: Kristinmh | November 22, 2008 11:42 AM

    David at 120: Christmas, Easter, and either Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, depending on your sect.

    What about Pentecost?

  222. #223 Jadehawk
    November 22, 2008

    New Year’s Day is a day of obligation for Catholics.

    really? shit, my family must have been some crappy catholics then, since we NEVER went on New Years. it was church on Christmas and Easter, and the graveyard on All Saints. (and kicking the kids out on Sunday morning so they’d go to church)

  223. #224 Kristinmh
    November 22, 2008

    What about Pentecost?

    What? Pentecost is a day of obligation?!!1!?

    Crap. I’m even more damned than I thought.

  224. #225 Benny
    November 22, 2008

    Sure! We now stop reading the WSJ, the Holy Bible (the Qu’ran is ok, as long as we skip the Jesus part-wink-) and we only read guess who? But Richard, of course, and His new gospel!
    -wink (again)-

  225. #226 mockrin2
    November 22, 2008

    I love the “War on Christmas”.
    Here’s a letter i wrote to Bill O’Reilly last year.

    Dear Friend BillO,

    Today I formally surrender. I publicly admit that I started the war on Christmas (and, no I did not take any direction from Al Franken). I received an email from someone named Olbermann informing me of my defeat, and I gratefully heaved a sigh of relief. After two years of constant battle I am exhausted.
    For the past two days I did penance by watching the History and Travel Channels to learn more about the origins of Christmas and the many celebrations that occur around the world.
    I discovered such facts that the tradition of the Christmas tree originated in Germany and that the Christmas card originated in England. I now know that for centuries many celebrations are as raucous as those that are held on New Year’s Eve. So raucous that when the Puritans came to America they forbade Christmas celebrations – amazing – you would have really hated the Puritans.
    I had never heard about the yearly gingerbread house contest or the Santa Claus competition between Las Vegas and Liverpool or the attempts to build and decorate Christmas trees that are taller than the one in Rockefeller Plaza.
    I was reminded that “Twas The Night Before Christmas” was written by the son of a bishop, and I savored the recent memory of playing Dirty Santa with my colleagues at work a week ago.
    During the two hours of TV shows about five minutes was devoted to the religious aspect of Christmas, something about someone named Jesus or Adonis or Tammuz or Osiris or Dionysus or Mithra or Zoroaster – so many with the same mythology – just can’t keep them straight.
    A revelation occurred. I realized that since inception, Christmas has always been a hugely secular holiday where people just have fun. No need to ever have gone to war. Sorta like Iraq.
    Despite this self realization I still have had a sense of not belonging because of my lack of religious conviction, but after a thorough search and careful evaluation I have found the answer. I was reborn by the touch of the Noodly Appendage of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. I have become a devout Pastafarian. Aaaaaarrgghh.
    Now I can rest and look forward to many more joyous Christmas seasons.
    Wishing you Happy Holidays and hoping that you don’t use the mistletoe as an excuse to grope too many women at your devout Fox office parties.

    Lee D. Mockrin, MD

  226. #227 Fernando Magyar
    November 22, 2008

    Posted by: Marc Abian @215

    Magyar201
    I’m glad to see someone factoring in resources, but doesn’t that column ignore the gains to be made by innovating production so it’s more effecient?

    Actually that doesn’t solve the problem and I could probably look up some information and post some links to back up my assertion. However my tanks are packed and I’m about to head up the coast a bit to Riviera Beach do do some muck diving. have to be there by high tide an I want to be in the water by about 3:50 EST so you get this link instead http://octoeight.smugmug.com/gallery/4441516_t5xef#261030467_VkzPt

  227. #228 Cletus
    November 22, 2008

    The WSJ editorial page has been getting increasingly nutso for some time. A few years back, the editorial page identfied the real winners in the economy, the “Lucky Duckies” in their words, as the people who earned so little income as to not have to pay income taxes.

    The WSJ editorial staff has been taken over by the same people who turned the republican party into a socially conservative sectarian enterprise, which is why I now voted almost exclusively Libertarian.

  228. #229 wrpd
    November 22, 2008

    #224: Pentecost is always on a Sunday. All Sundays are days of obligation.

  229. #230 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 22, 2008

    Are we supposed to believe that “Northerners and atheists” had something to do with this? Are bankers in the Bible Belt dominated by godless heathen carpetbaggers? Should we do an internet poll on this?

    ROTFLMAO!

    Thanks for saving, if not any banks, then at least my day night. :-D

    (Yes, that;s right. New Year’s Day is a day of obligation for Catholics. Kill-joy bastards)

    Yeah, theoretically. In reality, over here, the churches are as empty on that day than on an ordinary Sunday.

    What about Pentecost?

    That would actually makes sense, but, see above…

    January 6th and Corpus Christi are relatively popular over here, probably more so than Pentecost — there are no Pentecostals…

  230. #231 Owlmirror
    November 22, 2008

    A few years back, the editorial page identfied the real winners in the economy, the “Lucky Duckies” in their words, as the people who earned so little income as to not have to pay income taxes.

    Ah, so that’s what Tom the Dancing Bug was satirizing in those particular comics…

  231. #232 tguy is now dguy
    November 22, 2008

    Dear friends in Christ:

    “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

    REPEAT THIS PRAYER NINE TIMES FOR NINE CONSECUTIVE DAYS AND AFTER YOUR REQUEST IS GRANTED YOU MUST PUBLISH IT. IT HAS BEEN NEVER KNOWN TO FAIL.

  232. #233 tguy is now dguy
    November 22, 2008

    No you have not been invaded by more kooks. I meant of course, the Henninger editorial is not more dignified than the superstitious magic one finds in the classified ad section.

  233. #234 Futility
    November 23, 2008

    I wanted to post the following on the comments page of the WSJ but was informed that the ‘topic is locked’ and one cannot post comments. The WSJ is such a democratic place. They obviously are not interested in their reader’s opinions.

    Unsuccessful post to the WSJ reads:

    Now it is official. The editorial board of the supposedly intellectual WSJ is run by lunatics. I have never read such nonsense in my life as this article.

    “The path … was paved with good intentions, notably the notion that all should own a house” – NO, it was just paved with greed, plain old human greed. By the way, about 50% of the sub-prime mortgages didn’t increase the number of people owning a house but were just used to re-finance already existing mortgages (which most likely now resulted in foreclosures).
    It is safe to assume, given that most Americans when asked if they believe in God only a very small fraction does not answer affirmative, that the bankers underwriting those loans that are at the heart of the current financial crisis would consider themselves to be Christians. Where was their “responsibility, restraint and remorse”?! They simply didn’t care since they repackaged those loans and sold them off to other investors. Not their problem anymore. And they obviously didn’t understand what would happen if these practices are done on a large scale.
    It is an incredibly lazy and intellectually bankrupt argument to blame the current crisis on a minute fraction of the American population – the atheists. Only a clearly delusional mind can assign such influence to a small marginalized group. But it is obvious where the author is coming from. “Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism.” To everybody who does not view the world through the lenses of free-market ideology this statement is evidently false. But to accept this would apparently shatter the world-view of the author which needs to be retained at all costs. And the easiest solution to his dishonesty is to find a convenient scapegoat.

    (Back on earth: here’s a little something elucidating how the idea that religion is necessary for morality holds up when subjected to statistical analysis and the requirement of verifiable evidence: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article571206.ece)

    (Sorry, PZ, to mis-use your page to post a comment to the WSJ which obviously doesn’t make any sense, but who knows, somebody from the WSJ might read it.)

  234. #235 Kaji
    November 23, 2008

    I know this is off topic, but I just wanted to make one thing clear: Japan cannot really be described as “Shintoist”. Sure, it was a nationalised religion for a long time and it most definitely has an important place in the Japanese history, but I doubt a lot of Japanese people even know what Shinto is about. Very few people know its tenets or dogmas (if there are any to begin with), partly owing to the fact that we don’t have religion class in state schools.

    By the way, I don’t think Japan could be called culturally Shintoist either, because Shinto and Buddhism are so intertwined beyond recognition here that no one can really tell which is which. In all probability, no one really gives a toss.

    Again, I know it’s off topic, but it just makes me cringe every time someone mentions Shintoist Japan… ughhhh.

  235. #236 Faithful Reader
    November 23, 2008

    Well, foo– I am late to the party and the WSJ wouldn’t take my comment, which is:

    This is one of the silliest pieces of non-reasoning I’ve seen recently. A rough draft of this in my college comp class would be eviscerated for numerous logical fallacies and lack of evidence.

  236. #237 Faithful Reader
    November 23, 2008

    Well, foo– I am late to the party and the WSJ wouldn’t take my comment, which is:

    This is one of the silliest pieces of non-reasoning I’ve seen recently. A rough draft of this in my college comp class would be eviscerated for numerous logical fallacies and lack of evidence.

  237. #238 thegrenadian freethinker
    November 23, 2008

    Does Mr.Henninger have a brain? Sorry, that is an insult to brainless people around the world, like me, because even them may put forth better reasoning.

  238. #239 danmacduff
    November 23, 2008

    HELP – I’ve started a debate on a forum in Southern Illinois where the bible is belted. I seem to be a voice of reason (I hope) in the wilderness and could use some support~!! I think you’ll know which poster I am.

    http://community.cnhi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/351104611/m/3311080561/r/5401026561#5401026561

  239. #240 reason
    November 24, 2008

    Journalists like this one truly amaze me! Blaming the market down-fall on the lack of morals and religiosity? I’m sorry but his editors should fire him for lack of reason and judgment. His argument has been falsified many times and in any number of ways.

  240. #241 JBlilie
    November 24, 2008

    I wrote Mr. Henninger a long email note over the weekend. Here’s the meat of it:

    ——
    henninger@wsj.com

    Mr. Henninger:

    I read your article of 20-Nov-2008 in the WSJ online, “Mad Max and the Meltdown” with interest (no pun intended.)

    The basic message I derived from your article is that: secularists and secularism are amoral and the source of our problems.

    “It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

    The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.”

    This is simply a non sequitur. An examination of the data shows that our nation has been under the control of a conservative Christian administration for the last 8 years. And the great majority of both the lenders and borrowers at fault in this financial mess are religious believers (Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.)

    No secularist group is asking for changes to the legal recognition of Christmas (though, in fact, this recognition does violate the establishment clause of the first amendment.) No secularist I know doesn’t say, “Merry Christmas,” nor are any of them offended by the remark from others.

    You are falling into two common fallacies:

    1. Atheists and secularists are immoral or amoral “erasing the chalklines” [nice code words!]
    2. Any criticism of religion is bad, strident, nasty, regardless of its actual content

    Regarding the first:
    There is no evidence to suggest atheists/secular folk are not moral people. Atheists are represented in prisons and psychiatrists’ offices in the same proportion in which they occur in society.

    Morality is not derived from the ten commandments of Exodus: These ones have nothing to do with morality (rather, with religious practice for followers of a jealous god): “Then God spoke all these words: 1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 3. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (How is just or good to punish descendants for the offenses of their ancestors?)

    And these ones are refer to thought-crimes: 9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” I’ve never heard (elsewhere) of thought-crime enforcement seriously advanced as a moral principle.

    These ones: 5. You shall not murder. 6. You shall not commit adultery. 7. You shall not steal. 8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Are all covered by, “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you” (the “golden rule”, which is found in every culture). Or even more simply: do no harm. As noted previously, all cultures have some form of this, including those who have (or had) never seen a Bible. (All Bible quotes: Exodus 20:1-17, NIV)

    The fourth commandment describes typical useful social practice by humans everywhere.

    The part about punishing grand children and great-grandchildren for the “rejection” of parents is not moral. Why mention generations at all if the point was that “rejecters” themselves (not descendants) were to be punished? And how is a rejection of a particular religious doctrine somehow a crime worthy of punishment? And all of this dances around the frequent exhortations from the God of the Old Testament to “his people” to commit genocide and other atrocities and explicitly to discriminate, oppress, enslave, and kill on the basis of race, religion, and sex.

    Love me or burn: The central dogma of Christianity are that you must love Jesus and accept him as God and then you will be “saved” and spend eternity in Heaven after you die. If you don’t do this, you will be tormented in hell for an eternal (endless, infinite) period of time. (This is good “carrot and stick” psychological strategy to reinforce behavior: religious adherence – power, money, prestige, comfort, solidarity.) These are the simple conclusions that follow from Christian dogma (airy sophistry about mild Jesus bringing love and happiness to your life does not change the basic equation stated.) All non-Christians burn: if you are not a Christian (and many Christian sects extend this to any kind of Christian other than their brand), then you burn in hell forever, EVEN PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN A BIBLE BURN FOREVER, and there have been many millions (billions probably) of these in the history of the earth. Even insincere Christians burn: those who go through the motions but don’t truly believe. This God is asserted to be kind, loving, and forgiving. This is logically inconsistent.

    Eternal punishment in hell: Forever is a long time. Punishment is understood by humans to be just when it fits the offense committed. ETERNAL punishment even of a very mild sort (and hell is described in Christian doctrine as blood-curdlingly nasty, even without the eternal part thrown in), is, by definition, infinite in scope (anything multiplied by infinity is infinite.) The only just offense for which it could be imposed is an infinitely bad one. Humans have finite powers and therefore are incapable of an infinitely bad offense. A person’s lack of knowledge of this special God, Jesus, cannot be justly judged to be an infinitely bad offense. The dogma of hell is simply logically inconsistent with the definition Christians provide of their God: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, loving, forgiving, kind. Imposing an infinite punishment for any finite offense is unjust and evil. Therefore, it can never be justly imposed on humans, who have finite abilities.

    An atheist (or some one who has never been exposed to Christian teaching) who lives an exemplary life, deeply moral, kind, generous, forgiving, public-spirited, devotes themselves and all their possessions to the care of the poor, but who does one lick of work on the sabbath, swears, tells a single lie, has a single thought of lust for his neighbor’s beautiful wife or daughter, steals one tiny bit of food when starving (actually, given the Christian doctrine of “original sin” no action of this sort is necessary for the conclusion to follow) will be subjected to an INFINITE punishment. However, if a venally evil murderer, rapist, thief, pederast, whore-monger, child torturer reaches the end of his long life of debauchery, and simply decides to love Jesus and say he’s sorry (to whom? the victims of his crimes?) then he gets eternal bliss in paradise. This is not a just, moral, or good doctrine.

    I won’t catalog the evils perpetrated in the name of Christianity.

    Regarding the second: There are more and more atheists who are “coming out” and speaking out. They are your neighbors, coworkers, and likely even family members. Of course they are going to criticize religion.

    Religious beliefs are not immune from criticism or even ridicule. There is no guarantee against being offended in this country. In a free country, you are virtually certain of being offended at some time. “… even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge.”
    – H.L. Mencken

    And: the US is not a Christian Nation.

    The United States certainly were not founded as a “Christian Nation:” No founding U.S. document contains the word “God” or “Jesus” or “Christian,” with one exception: “Nature’s God” in the declaration which is directly preceded by “The Laws of Nature” indicating the true source of our rights. God and Jesus are not mentioned in the constitution. The constitution never mentions God or a creator. Religion is mentioned twice. In Article IV, we find a prohibition of any religious test. In the first amendment, we find the freedom and establishment clauses.

    Here is the Declaration of Independence:

    “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. …”

    The other document of interest here is the Treaty of Tripoli, signed at Tripoli, in 1796, which includes Article 11:

    “Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    This statement was made because of the long history of state-sponsored religious enmity between Europe and the Muslim nations of Africa and Asia. We were making it clear that our nation does not have a state religion and was not founded as a “Christian Nation,” “in any sense.”

    Note that this treaty was ratified by the Senate unanimously: 23 of the 32 sitting Senators were present for the June 7, 1797 vote which unanimously approved the ratification recommendation. It was the 339th time a recorded vote was taken in the Senate and only the third time a unanimous result was obtained.

    President Adams added a signing statement (signing statements now made famous By President Bush (George II) in his statements that indicate he doesn’t intend to enforce the laws passed by congress when he doesn’t feel like it; but in Adams’ day, reiterating the force of law of the treaty):

    “Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.”

    Bottom line: Please don’t blame secularists and atheists (a tiny percentage of the population and with very little political power) for the ills of our nation. The blame could hardly be less aptly placed.
    ——

  241. #242 Ralph Wiggum
    November 25, 2008

    1) your country is run by religious people
    2) Atheists are not trying to stop you saying Merry Christmas. That would be OTHER religious groups saying that phrase offends their religion.
    3) At least “Mad Max” would be based on reality and not ancient camp fire stories written years and years after their supposed events.