Thursday, December 09, 2004

Flew Flees Atheism

Thanks for the Memory to Ricky V at Ya Think So?

An interesting AP Article:

One of the World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less

The thing I found most interesting in the article was this note:

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Given the conclusions he has now reached, and how he reached them, there's a serendipity, almost a symmetry, to this connection to Lewis, which will be apparent to anyone who has read Lewis' autobiographical Surprised By Joy. Lewis made a similar journey through Atheism and Agnosticism to Deism, then to Theism and eventually Chrisianity. In the end, he converted because he concluded that Christianity was the truth. As Lewis writes in the book,

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

Signs of Intelligent Life

Thanks for the Memory to King of Fools.

First, there was Alawi offering a handshake to the Israeli ambassador in the UN General Assembly. Now there's this from the Jerusalem Post:

Used Israeli buses end up in Iraq

Dan Gerstenfeld,
Dec. 9, 2004

Some 150 decade-old buses from Israel were sold to Iraq in recent months, general manager of Shasha Tours & Transportation Udi Shasha told The Jerusalem Post.

Shasha, who is part of a trade delegation visiting India, said that his company was approached less than a year ago by a Jordanian company asking it to buy dozens of used Israeli buses for Iraq.

"They called us and said they need as many buses as possible immediately," he said. "They were looking specifically for 10-year-old Mercedes 303 buses as they have spare parts for those buses in Iraq."

Shasha has managed to buy some 70 buses, which were exported to Jordan through the Allenby Bridge and were driven from there to Iraq. An additional 70 buses were acquired by the Jordanian company directly from Israeli Arab car dealers.

The buses, which were originally used by Egged, were purchased from different tour companies. Shasha said he has also sold four or five other buses from the same model that could not be fixed, for spare parts. The buyers have asked for more buses, but Shasha said there were hardly any such buses left in Israel.

"I believe that the buses are used by the American army to transfer civilians in Iraq," Shasha said. "I don't think there are private merchants in Iraq who have enough money to buy so many buses."

The buyers have instructed Shasha to strip the vehicles of all Hebrew signs and to take out the video screens from the buses that had them.

"They were under real pressure to buy the buses and they didn't even check them before the delivery. Any bus that was moving was taken right away," he said. "We managed to send them all the buses within four to 30 days."

The buses were sold for $25,000 apiece, some 20 percent above their market price in Israel.

Shasha said he had received a request earlier this week to try and locate Volvo buses manufactured in 1990-93 and he believes they would also be sent to Iraq.

Passionate Support

Thanks for the Memory to my friend Lisa.

Apparently Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ has been nominated for a Peoples Choice Award, and the American Family Association has launched a campaign to get out the vote for Mel.

I can't think of a film this year I'd rather see win this. Lisa pointed out to me that Passion and Fahrenheit 911 will probably be going up against each other for the Oscar. Given the attitudes of the Hollywood crowd, I have my theories about how that will turn out. But the People Choce Awards gives us as regular people a chance to let our voices be heard BY Hollywood. They're so keen on free speech, let's sow them how it's done.

You have two options:

You can register with the AFA so they can track the success of their efforts,


You can go directly to CBS's site and vote there.

Either way, I encourage you to vote.

Who Hates Whom?

Thanks for the Memory to Andrew Sullivan.

I know, I know, the referenced blogger is persona non grata among many conservatives. And to be honest, I'm not a big fan either -- I usually don't even bother paying attention to him. But when someone says something worth considering, the reasonable thing to do is consider it. Ironically, I only stumbled across the entry in question by following a link from another blogger (who shall remain anonymous) who was disparaging Sully. But this day, AS had posted an intriguing quote from a Jerusalem Post article. Admittedly, this is a source with a specific slant, but it raises some very good points:

by Amir Taheri
Jerusalem Post
December 2, 2004

In his recent foray into Ramallah, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw identified the Palestine-Israel conflict as the most important issue between the West and the Muslim world. Straw was echoing the conventional wisdom according to which a solution to that problem would transform relations between Islam and the West from what is almost a clash of civilizations to one of cuddly camaraderie.

But what if conventional wisdom got it wrong?

I have just spent the whole fasting month of Ramadan in several Arab countries, where long nights are spent eating, drinking coffee and, of course, discussing politics.

There are no free elections or reliable opinion polls in the Arab world. So no one knows what the silent majority really thinks. The best one can do is rely on anecdotal evidence. On that basis, I came to believe that the Palestine-Israel issue was low down on the list of priorities for the man in the street but something approaching an obsession for the political, business, and intellectual elites.

When it came to ordinary people, almost no one ever mentioned the Palestine issue, even on days when Yasser Arafat's death dominated the headlines. When I asked them about issues that most preoccupied them, farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and office workers never mentioned Palestine.

But when I talked to princes and princesses, business tycoons, high officials, and the glitterati of Arab academia, Palestine was the ur-issue.

The reason why the elites fake passion about this issue is that it is the only one on which they agree. In many cases, it is also the only political issue that people can discuss without running into trouble with the secret services.

More importantly, perhaps, it is the one issue on which the elites feel they have the sympathy of the outside world. For example, I found almost no one who, speaking in private, had any esteem for Arafat. But all felt obliged to hide their thoughts because Arafat had been honored by French President Jacques Chirac.

When some Arab newspapers ran articles on Arafat's alleged corruption and despotism, other Arab media attacked them for being disrespectful to a man who had been treated like "a hero of humanity" by Chirac.

Conventional wisdom also insists that the US is hated by Muslims because it is pro-Israel. That view is shared by most American officials posted to the Arab capitals. But is it not possible that the reverse is true – that Israel is hated because it is pro-American?

When I raised that possibility in Ramadan-night debates, I was at first greeted with deafening silence. Soon, however, some interlocutors admitted that my suggestion was, perhaps, not quite fanciful.

Let us consider some facts.

If Muslims hate the US because it backs Israel which, in turn, is oppressing Muslims in Palestine, then why don't other oppressed Muslims benefit from the same degree of solidarity from their co-religionists?

During Ramadan, news came that more than 500 Muslims had been killed in clashes with the police in southern Thailand. At least 80 were suffocated to death in police buses under suspicious circumstances.

The Arab and the Iranian press, however, either ignored the event or relegated it to inside pages. To my knowledge, only one Muslim newspaper devoted an editorial to it. And only two newspapers mentioned that Thailand was building a wall to cordon off almost two million Muslims in southern Thailand – a wall higher and longer than the controversial "security fence" Israel is building.

Muslim states have never supported Pakistan on Kashmir because most were close to India in the so-called nonaligned movement while Pakistan was a US ally in CENTO and SEATO.

When Hindu nationalists demolished the Ayodhya Mosque, no one thought it necessary to inflame Muslim passions.

Nor has a single Muslim nation recognized the republic set up by Muslim Turks in northern Cyprus. The reason? Greece has always sided with the Arabs on Palestine and plays occasional anti-American music while Turkey is a US ally.

When the Serbs massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica 10 years ago, not a ripple disturbed the serene calm of Muslim opinion. At that time, the mullahs of Teheran and Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were in cahoots with Slobodan Milosevic, supplying him with oil and money because Yugoslavia held the presidency of the so-called nonaligned movement. Belgrade was the only European capital to be graced with a state visit by Ali Khamenehi, the mullah who is now the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic.

And what about Chechnya which is, by any standard, the Muslim nation that has most suffered in the past two centuries? Last October the Muslim summit in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, gave a hero's welcome to Vladimir Putin, the man who has presided over the massacre of more Chechens than anyone in any other period in Russian history.

Right now there are 22 active conflicts across the globe in which Muslims are involved. Most Muslims have not even heard of most of them because those conflicts do not provide excuses for fomenting hatred against the United States.

Next time you hear someone say the US was in trouble in the Muslim world because of Israel, remember that things may not be that simple.


Maybe I should bother to weigh in with my own take on what Amir has to say. I'm not 100% in agreement. I highly doubt that Muslims hate Israel because of their friendship with the US. And I'm sure that our friendship with Israel does little to endear us to Islam. However, I'm equally sure that if relations between the US and Israel were to suddenly and sharlpy decline, God forbid, the Impact on Israeli-Arab relations would be negligible at best, and furthermore, the improvement of America's image in the eyes of Muslim extremists would be similarly less than significant.

If Amir is right, as I suspect, and the hatred of the US and Israel ARE separate issues, there may be another reason that those in the know and in power in Islam want to maintain the facade of a relationship between the two: As long as the perception is that it's our support of Israel that makes us hated, there will always be those here in America who will push for the US to abandon Israel. But as soon as we realize that the Muslim Extremists hate both countries on their own merits, the relationship between the US and Israel is strengthened -- the Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend. It is in the best interest of our mutual enemies that we view each other as liabilities. As long as Israel is viewed as the source of Muslim hatred for the US, she will be viewed by some as a liability. As soon as she is recognized not as the cause of that hatred but as a fellow target, she ceases to be as much of a liability.

My First Halting Steps

Towards Computer Nerddom....

My employers have a fairly liberal policy regarding software. I've been growing weary lately of having IE crash on me every 17.8 seconds or so. So last night, I downloaded & installed Firefox, which is what I'm using right now.

Daddy Like.