Wednesday, June 22, 2005

<i>Fatuous Statement</i> Watch

"Once 'the religious hypothesis' is disengaged from the opportunity to inflict humiliation and pain on people who do not profess the correct creed, it loses interest for many people." Richard Rorty

No doubt this explains why Americans remain the most religious people in the Western world while the Europeans have "lost interest." Americans remain embarrassingly religious because they, by and large, adhere to a faith, Christianity, that enjoins the infliction of humiliation and pain upon those who don't believe. Anyone who has read the Sermon on the Mount or the lives of the saints, Mother Teresa or St. Francis come to mind, can see this plainly. Moreover, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the story of Jesus' life and death has been profoundly struck by the encouragement he offers to those who yearn to give expression to their sadistic predilections.

It is wisdom like this that has made Richard Rorty one of the most esteemed philosophers of our time.

How to Marry Well

This Washington Times story should be cut out and posted wherever young women gather:

Christian men -- to be more specific, devout evangelical Protestants -- make better fathers than the public perceives, says sociologist and author W. Bradford Wilcox. "Many think religion plays a baleful role, pushing men toward authoritarianism," Mr. Wilcox said during a discussion at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in the District. But he said men who attend church regularly are "more affectionate, involved and strict" than fathers who do not attend church regularly.

In his new book, "Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands," Mr. Wilcox says religious men are more attentive to the needs of their families than nonreligious men. Active evangelicals, he said, spend more time with their children, have better relationships with their wives and are less likely to be abusive when compared with nonbelievers. Devout evangelical fathers also compare favorably with other Christians -- including Catholics and those of "mainline" Protestant denominations -- and with Christians who don't attend services regularly.

Mr. Wilcox said his research showed that dedicated evangelicals "tend to excel in discipline, playing and encouraging their children." Strong faith also promotes domestic tranquility, according to his research. "No one ain't happy if mama ain't happy," Mr. Wilcox joked. He said wives of churchgoing evangelicals report being happier than wives of men who don't attend church.

Mr. Wilcox said that men who have good relationships with their wives tend to be better fathers. In addition to spending more time with their children, fathers who have good relationships with the children's mothers become good examples of how men should treat women respectfully. "Children with involved, affectionate fathers are much better off," Mr. Wilcox said.

He said it is important to distinguish between regular churchgoers and men who identify themselves as religious but are not involved in church services or activities. Irregular members, he said, "use male headship to legitimize bad things" such as abuse and divorce.

Divorce rates among those who identify themselves as Christians are higher than for atheists and agnostics, according to the Barna Group, a California-based organization specializing in religious research. In September, the group released data showing that 39 percent of married Protestants had experienced divorce while 35 percent of married non-Christians had been through divorce. Such statistics, Mr. Wilcox said, fail to measure the influence of church attendance. "Regular churchgoers are more than 30 percent less likely to divorce" than people who do not attend church regularly, he said.

"The key issue is not whether one is affiliated with a church or claims to have had a 'born-again' experience," Mr. Wilcox said. "It is if they regularly attend church." He said separating active churchgoers from those who merely report an affiliation to Christianity breaks down the stereotype that traditional religions encourage emotional and physical abuse. "Assumptions make people skeptical of traditions," Mr. Wilcox said, adding that men who spend time in church and understand the teachings tend to make better fathers.

"Religion offers men opportunities to spend time with their families," Mr. Wilcox said. He said Sunday-morning services, church picnics, camping trips and conferences encourage good family structure. "Churches have been more intentional about targeting men with strong family messages," Mr. Wilcox said. He specifically mentioned the Promise Keepers organization, which conducts conferences across the nation and declares its aim to help men become "better husbands, stronger fathers. ... They want closer friendships, and to be a vital part of a community."

Mr. Wilcox said mainline Protestants have more difficulty encouraging male-only activities or services because they wish to avoid alienating women. More conservative churches, Mr. Wilcox said, are willing to take a stand on men's roles and responsibilities and do a better job preparing men for fatherhood.

Mr. Wilcox's book throws sand in the gears of the Left's anti-Christian propaganda machine. They will, however, remain undeterred by, and unimpressed with, Wilcox's research. For them it doesn't matter whether religiously serious Christians make better husbands and fathers than, well, than secular Leftists do. Since religiously serious Christians often oppose gay marriage and abortion and, worst of all, tend to vote Republican, they are ipso facto, in the eyes of the secular Left, malevolent or ignorant or both.

Two Critical Questions

The Fourth Rail offers an excellent analysis of two critical questions facing the United States in the GWOT. The questions are:

1) What does the escalation of violence in Iraq tell us about the strength or weakness of our foe?

2) How can we tell whether we're winning or losing in Iraq?

The answer given to the first question is that destructiveness always increases in a conflict as the combatants pour more of their resources into the battle in order to keep from losing it. It will continue to increase until one side has exhausted their ability to keep up the fight.

The answer to the second is that the "insurgents" have one hope for victory. They can hope that they manage to tear Iraqi society apart and throw it into civil war. Their current tactics seem to be geared to attempting just that.

The interested reader will want to check out the entire analysis, but here's a particularly interesting aspect of it:

We are not fighting in a battlespace that includes our own society. The enemy has failed to engage us there effectively since 9/11. The political sniping between Blue and Red, left and right, is not warfare. It is politics; and I think it is no nastier now than it was in the 1990s. As far as the GWOT goes, then, here is the important fact: we are fighting it entirely in the enemy's society. Our own society is not changed by the war; if anything, society is reverting to pre-9/11 mores. In the global war, then, I think we are winning -- and winning big.

Because we are fighting in the enemy's society, there are two possible outcomes: we lose the battle for that society, in which case we must try again at some other opportunity; or he loses, in which case he is destroyed. If we were fighting in our own society, the choices would be reversed. The campaign in Iraq must be seen as a battle in this wider war, and one that we have to fight and win for this reason: it keeps us fighting on the enemy's ground. The war can only be won when it is won at the level of a whole society. That means that, if we are to win, we must fight it in his society.

In other words, the worst, most foolish thing we could do would be to follow the advice of those who urge us to pull out of the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular. It would almost guarantee that the war between Western civilization and Islamic Wahhabism would shift to our homeland.