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H. Richard Niebuhr on Being Part of Something Glorious

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Sometimes we feel in the midst of these many tasks in our vast world as though we were laborers in a giant factory where something is being made that we can never see. We are being required to stamp out this piece of sheet metal, to make this handle, to tighten this bolt — and to do all this over and over again without knowing what the whole process is all about. … But for the most part we fundamentally believe that something is going on, something is being accomplished. … We dimly see and hope that this is something glorious in which we are engaged. Something which, if we knew what it was, we could take pride in acknowledging as a work we had been allowed to serve.

Iñaki Ábalos and Renata Sentkiewicz on Dualism in Architecture

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Much historic architecture takes its compositive tension from two theoretically incompatible morphological organizations that correspond to different universes or languages. This technique leads to a certain kind of monster or hybrid characterized by dualism. One of the basic monster assembly techniques involves the union of two organizations with one degree of compatibility and another obvious degree of incompatibility. Unions between different forms and materials can be carried out physically or by processes of chemical fusion. “Dualisms” may refer to limited scopes or can expand and infect all the scenarios affected by architecture, starting with its disciplinary definition, which is challenged by the view that the struggle between two disciplines is intrinsic to the project, or by incorporating a material, formal and geometric contradiction. Likewise, space can be conceived by introducing tension between the lower and the upper parts, or between interior and exterior, or by means of intrusions of varying depths and differing configurations.

Scott McCloud on the Hostility in Humor

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The piece is an attempt to explain Freudian humor theory, especially the idea that humor stems from disguised hostility. “Most humor is a refined form of aggression and hatred,” Spiegelman writes. “Our savage ancestors laughed with uninhibited relish at cripples, paralytics, amputees, midgets, monsters, the deaf, the poor and the crazy.” I’ve taken this idea as a jumping-off point in my own work. Whenever I’m considering why something’s funny or not, I always tell myself: find the victim. Humor is targeted. It may be aimed at an individual, at an institution, or the entire superstructure of rational thinking. But something is always being skewered. ¶ The leadoff joke of “Cracking Jokes” is one case in point — finding the victim helps us articulate why the joke is funny. We’re laughing at the patient. Despite the doctor’s well-meaning (and self-assured) intervention, the patient can’t escape his delusions. It’s a vision of humanity as impervious to logic, impervious to rational thinking, impervious to progress. That’s a pretty bleak notion. And yet the depiction of humanity as this series of malfunctioning bumper cars, forever careening about and crashing into each other and failing to make any kind of progress—well, it’s delightful. It skewers the very idea of progress as the natural order, of learning as the natural order. What better target for one’s disguised hostility than the whole institution of education and progress? These normalizing societal forces constrain us, keep our ids forever hamstrung. And so — through humor — we fight back.

Pope Benedict XVI on Leaving a Clear Path for Evil

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Wolfgang Pauli took up the thread of the discussion and agreed… “The complete division between knowledge and faith is surely just a temporary stopgap measure. In Western society and culture we could for instance, in the not-too-distant future, come to the point at which the parables and images that religion has used up to now are no longer convincing, even for simple folk; and then, I fear, traditional morality will also very rapidly break down, and things will happen that are more frightful than anything we can imagine.” At that time in 1927, those taking part in the conversation could have at most a vague suspicion that soon afterward the unholy twelve years would begin, in the course of which things did indeed happen that were “more frightful” than could previously have been thought possible. There were of course a good number of Christians, some of whose names we know and some who have remained nameless, who opposed the demonic forces with the power of their Christian conscience. But on the whole the power of temptation was stronger; those who just went along with things left a clear path for evil.

Kim R. Holmes on Manufacturing Human Rights

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Yet this principle of inalienable natural rights — fundamental rights that government neither creates nor can take away — isn’t the same as the thoroughly modern idea of “human rights.” ¶ Although both are universal, natural rights most emphatically do not come from government. Government only secures these rights, that is, creates the political conditions that allow one to exercise them. Human rights, as popularly understood, are bestowed by the state or governing body. In addition, natural rights, being natural, do not change over time. All men, at all times, have had the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Human rights, on the other hand, constantly change. A whole cottage industry has sprung up to advance a bevy of new “economic and social rights” conceived of, defined by, and promoted by activists, governments, and international bureaucrats. ¶ Many Americans are unaware that these manufactured rights are not the same as the natural rights endowed by God or nature. What are often called “human rights” today are social constructs. They either sound like high-minded aspirations — equal rights for women and minorities — or like trivial and harmless concepts such as the “right to leisure.” ¶ These concepts are in fact neither high-minded nor harmless: they are fundamentally incompatible with the Founders’ understanding of natural rights.

Richard B. Hays on Practicing Faiths in a Public Way

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In accordance with the intention of the University’s founders, Duke Chapel maintains an explicit Christian identity and mission. For many years, the Chapel has been a center of faith Trinitarian Christian worship. Its architecture and iconography identify it unmistakably as a Christian place of worship. … In the context of these clear historic Christian commitments, Duke University is quite properly a place where people of many different faiths, as well as those of no religious faith, work and study together. The University is committed to creating a shared, mutually enriching life in which various historic religious traditions can thrive and learn from one another as part of a common commitment to education and the pursuit of wisdom. The University is not a community in which differences are suppressed; it is a vibrant “city” in which the particular ideas and traditions of different communities can be expressed openly, discussed respectfully, and evaluated critically. In this spirit, we in the Divinity School strongly support the presence of various spaces on campus where diverse historic religious faiths can be practiced in a public way. Such a commitment does not, however, necessarily lead to endorsement of the decision to explicitly identify the Chapel with another faith tradition.

Can You Be Good Without God Infovideo

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Reasonable Faith has released a very well crafted “infovideo” (as I’m choosing to call these video infographics) illustrating William Lane Craig’s moral argument for the existence of God. An excerpt: “Without some objective reference point, we have no way of saying that something is really up or down. God’s nature provides an objective reference point for moral values – it’s the standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. But if there’s no God, there’s no objective reference point. All we’re left with is one person’s viewpoint – which is no more valid than any one else’s viewpoint. ¶ This kind of morality is subjective, not objective. It’s like a preference for strawberry ice cream – the preference is in the subject, not the object. So it doesn’t apply to other people. In the same way, subjective morality applies only to the subject; it’s not valid or binding for anyone else.” (Video is after the jump.)

Michael Egnor on What Your Computer Doesn’t Know

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Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich. Your math book doesn’t know algebra. Your Rolodex doesn’t know your cousin’s address. Your watch doesn’t know what time it is. Your car doesn’t know where you’re driving. Your television doesn’t know who won the football game last night. Your cell phone doesn’t know what you said to your girlfriend this morning. ¶ People know things. Devices like computers and books and Rolodexes and watches and cars and televisions and cell phones don’t know anything. They don’t have minds. They are artifacts — paper and plastic and silicon things designed and manufactured by people — and they provide people with the means to leverage their human knowledge. ¶ Computers (and books and watches and the like) are the means by which people leverage and express knowledge. Computers store and process representations of knowledge. But computers have no knowledge themselves.

The Two Sides of Truth

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Christian Larson argues that the defect in many systems of belief is that what are partial truths are taken to be the whole truth. It is in virtue of that portion of truth that the whole “system” or world view is even plausible. As an example of such a half-truth rounded up to a whole falsehood, Larson critiques what sounds like either idealism or the superstitious belief in the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking (a la Rhonda Byme’s The Secret). Larson’s critique in this excerpt of that idea — that “thinking makes it so”, that our mental powers in themselves are so potent that they can determine reality — begs questions, since he was, after all, a major proponent of New Thought. What interests me is his more general observation that the shortcoming in many systems of thought is that they are overblown half-truths. Truths are taken for the truth. His words are one entry into an ongoing project along these lines, collected in “Half-Truths“. ~ Nate

Jacob Merrill Manning on Half Truths

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This work is not undertaken in a controversial or partisan spirit. I am no dogmatist or polemic, though my point of view, to which much patient study has led me, is the supernaturalism of Jesus of Nazareth. It seemed needful to say this at the outset, owing to the acrimonious and denunciatory style in which, for the most part, the questions between Christianity and its assailants have been hitherto debated. The natural presumption, in view of the past, is, that whoever appears on this field has only entered into the strifes of other zealots; that he comes as a warrior thirsting for victims, and in no sense as an inquirer. The terms which this ancient debate has bequeathed to us, and to some of which a certain odium still adheres cannot be now laid aside. They have such a currency, in the language of the day, that no candid person will charge it to bigotry or unfairness, but purely to the necessity of the case, that they continue to be used. It will be seen, in the title which I have chosen for this work, that I regard many forms of infidelity as half truths, at least in their origin. Believing that the human intellect naturally craves truth, I shall not easily be persuaded that any body of doctrines, which has been put forth by earnest thinkers, is unmixed error; nor shall I fail, so far as the nature of my undertaking will permit, to point out the merits of writers whom, as to their main tenets, I may feel bound to condemn. Some of those writers manifest, at times, a calm spirit of inquiry which their critics would do well to emulate. It is not only lawful, but often greatly for our advantage to learn from those with whom we disagree. Truth has not as yet revealed itself wholly to any finite mind; and the remark of Him who was the Truth, about the beam in the eye which sees the mote in a brother’s eye is not altogether inapplicable to those who are defending scriptural doctrine against the assaults of infidelity.