Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Give Him the Knife

Mandatory spending cuts are set to kick in on Friday and Mr. Obama continues to forecast woe and debacle. It's a lot like the Y2K scare. Remember that? Ramirez offers a visual to place the sequester into its proper perspective:
Senators Imhofe and Toomey are advancing a plan that would allay Mr. Obama's fears about what will happen when these cuts kick in: Simply allow the president to decide where the cuts will occur.

If Mr. Obama is concerned about essential services being cut indiscriminately then let him make the cuts where he thinks best instead of simply demagoguing the issue as he has been for the past couple of weeks. I think this is an excellent idea, and we here at Viewpoint even have a few suggestions, should Mr. Obama deign to ask us, as to where he might start.

He could, for example:
  • Postpone the navy's program to switch machinery to run on biofuels which will cost more than $2 billion a year more than conventional fuel.
  • Postpone the army's $28 billion battlefield intelligence processor that has failed operational tests.
  • Use the savings from the Afghanistan conflict which is now being wound down to fund other military needs.
  • Stop spending $1.7 billion a year on maintaining unused federal property.
  • Stop giving $115 billion a year in benefits to people not entitled to them.
  • Stop giving out $1.6 billion worth of free public cellphones.
  • Cancel the $100 million in grants awarded by EPA to foreign countries.
  • Cancel the $51.6 million being spent to promote Obamacare.
  • Cancel the $4 million spent each year to maintain a television studio at the IRS.
  • Cancel the $1.2 million spent by the National Science Foundation to teach senior citizens how to play the World of Warcraft video game.
Surely it's easy to find fat to cut out of the government, and I'm confident that if Congress gives Mr. Obama the paring knife he'd set about slicing it away just as he promised he would when he was campaigning in 2008.

What's the Point?

Philosopher Helen De Cruz at Prosblogion notes the emergence of churches for atheists and contemplates the question whether there is any point in an atheist going to an atheistic church. My answer is, not if you have to get up early to do it.

At any rate, her discussion of the question is pretty interesting as are the comments. Here's how she starts:
I am deeply intrigued by atheist religious practice. An atheist church in North London has opened last month. It proves to be very popular; as a matter of fact, vastly outstripping the neighboring Anglican evangelical church in congregation size. The ca. 300 members of this church congregate to sing secular songs, celebrate life and the natural world, have readings from secular texts, like Alice in Wonderland, and have secular sermons, on topics like "life is all too brief and nothing comes after it."

The atheist church fits in a broader tendency of atheists to incorporate aspects of religious practice, including Alain de Botton's temples for atheists. Is there any point for an atheist who is attracted to religious practice to attend atheist ceremonies, structured in ways similar to traditional religions?

When discussing the matter with a friend, who is a member of the Episcopal church, she thought it was pointless (and verging on the ridiculous) for atheists or agnostics to attend such a church. Couldn't an atheist who likes ritual and religious practice just make use of the structures that already exist, bracketing or privately denying the doxastic elements? In fact, as Gutting observed, many religious people (I suspect many religious academics, for instance) are agnostic at best about the doxastic aspects of their faith.
This last remark is interesting. I wonder how many people recite the creeds of their church, but don't really believe parts or even much of it. How many people who attend church or synagogue fairly regularly do so for the social or aesthetic experience and simply bracket out the doxastic elements of the service? I suppose there's no way to answer the question, but, like Cruz, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a significant number.