Archives for June 2016

The effort to save Simpsonwood

BridgeImagine what it would feel like to reach into your pocket and find a lottery ticket you didn’t remember buying. You check the numbers and discover that you’ve won the jackpot. That’s sort of what it felt like to buy a house in Peachtree Corners a few months ago, only to discover that our back yard borders with Simpsonwood Park.

Of course the real estate agent mentioned something about the woods behind our new house had been purchased from the Methodist Church by Gwinnett County, but we had no idea what Simpsonwood really is — a chance to experience what heaven must be like, a pristine natural experience hidden in the suburbs north of Atlanta.

Simpsonwood Park is “223 acres of unspoiled natural beauty on the Chattahoochee River” according to a postcard sent by the people associated with the website www.savesimpsonwood.com. Though I have no official affiliation with that organization, I have decided that I firmly support their cause and plan to attend the meeting to be held this Thursday, June 30th, at the Simpsonwood United Methodist Church located at 4500 Jones Bridge Circle in Peachtree Corners.Arbor Trail

According to the organized opposition to the plans to develop Simpsonwood Park, hundreds of trees will be cut down to allow for paving roads, sidewalks, and parking lots. These changes will be in spite of the fact that Jones Bridge Park, located only about a mile from Simpsonwood and has much easier, more direct access to the general public. Conversely, the main entrance to Simpsonwood can only be accessed by making several turns and using roads that navigate through residential areas.

Obviously, Simpsonwood Park must get fairly continuous use for the ubiquitous bare dirt paths to be so well established and easy to follow. Not only are joggers, bike riders, hikers, and dog walkers on these trails every day, plenty of wildlife also enjoy the serenity of Simpsonwood’s natural beauty. Even when the temperature is above 90 degrees in the direct sun, the trails in the park are well shaded and comfortable, even in the heat of the day.

The last thing Simpsonwood Park needs is for large numbers of trees to be cut down and tons of concrete to be poured. The people that extensive development will impact most (and the wildlife, of course) hope for minimal changes to the existing infrastructure.

Please don’t simply take my word for it — I’m relatively late to the protest movement. Please learn more about this issue by visiting the website at savesimpsonwood.com. The more organized opposition will educate you far better than I can in the limited amount of time left before the public meeting.

Once the damage to the park has been done, it cannot be undone. This travesty must be stopped before it ever starts. The problem (as I understand it) seems to be that county officials have our tax dollars burning holes in their pockets. A government bureaucrat will screw up a steel ball unless we the people don’t allow them.

If you support preserving the natural beauty of Simpsonwood Park, please consider attending the meeting this Thursday to make your voice heard:

Public Meeting @ Simpsonwood United Methodist Church
4500 Jones Bridge Road
Peachtree Corners, 30092

Road River

In memory of Frank Boccia

author Frank Boccia

author Frank Bocci

I never had the pleasure of meeting Frank Boccia in person, but I grew to have a deep and profound respect for the man.

We became “virtual” friends on the internet, via Facebook, once Frank and I realized how many interests we seemed to have in common.

We both loved and pampered our dogs. Frank spoiled Mr. Smith rotten, but I’m no one to talk. When I eat steak, so do my furry babies, sliced on top of their kibble.

We’re both patriotic Americans and published authors of nonfiction books — Frank’s story was an exceptionally interesting and powerful one. He survived a literal hell on earth, and somehow managed to walk away from Dong Ap Bia, the infamous “Hamburger Hill” battle in Vietnam. Frank was a true American hero.Crouching_Beast

Frank saw the senseless, savage brutality of war, up close and personal. However, his most serious wounds from the war were invisible — Frank’s psyche had been damaged by the carnage he witnessed.

After the war Frank struggled to understand how he had cheated death, when so many friends and other good men had not been so lucky. America didn’t treat our fighting men as heroes returning from the field of battle after Vietnam. For the most part, we treated those who fought and died for us like dirt.

About his book Frank said,

“I want to convey the real face of war, both its mindless carnage and its nobility of spirit. Above all, I want to convey what happened to both the casual reader and the military historian and make them aware of the extraordinary spirit of the men of First Platoon, Bravo Company. They were ordinary men doing extraordinary things.”

He would know. Frank led those extraordinary men into battle.

Later in life Frank spent a lot of time thinking about luck and probability, which is perhaps why certain sections of my book Counterargument for God seemed to interest him. We had some great “offline” philosophical discussions about how luck and statistical probability might factor in a world created by divine intervention. I was very honored when Frank submitted something that he’d written with permission to publish it on my website.

Frank considered himself a very rational person, which he was — and his mind was as sharp as a tack. With time, Frank managed to heal himself and slay the demons that had followed him home from Vietnam. He found happiness in the love of his family and a good woman who filled his heart with happiness. He even got married. In time, Frank found peace.

First Lieutenant Frank Boccia had the heart of a lion. But even lions don’t live forever. I just learned the news that Frank had passed away earlier this morning. His time on this earth has finally run out. Rest in peace, my friend. Thank you for your sacrifice, and your service to our country.

I look forward to meeting you one day, when my time here is over.

David Cohen’s appeal to authority

DavidCohenDavid Cohen is (allegedly) a Constitutional law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, the very city where the Declaration of Independence was penned in the days leading to July 4th, 1776,

Why someone would pay this man to teach law students about the Constitution is beyond me, because the drastic solution he proposes won’t solve the problem he thinks is epidemic — gun violence.

In a recent op-ed published in Rolling Stone magazine, Mr. Cohen argued for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment on the grounds that the Founding Fathers “got it wrong” when they granted ordinary citizens the right to bear arms (radical liberals: ‘bear arms’ means the right to own a gun.)

Mr. Cohen began his embarrassing article with the somewhat pompous declaration, “I teach the Constitution for a living.”

This statement is intended to imply to Mr. Cohen’s audience that he possesses superior knowledge about the Constitution, even to the Founding Fathers (implied by his “correcting” them and identifying things he claims were mistakes in the original document, and only in his own mind, of course) — an appeal to establish his opinion as authority – which by doing with his very first words, commits a logical fallacy. Mr. Cohen continues:

“I revere the document when it is used to further social justice and make our country a more inclusive one. I admire the Founders for establishing a representative democracy that has survived for over two centuries. But sometimes we just have to acknowledge that the Founders and the Constitution are wrong.

What is this nonsense about social justice? Where can those words be found in the Constitution, pray tell? Personally, I revere the Constitution. Period. End of Sentence. New Paragraph, even.

It is the very foundation for our government, defining the rule of law for what has been until now the greatest nation in the history of man on Earth. The United States has been the greatest nation in the history of civilization for one reason: freedom. But now we have college professors purporting to teach Constitutional law who openly brag about lacking respect for their area of expertise.

Were I the president of Drexel University, I would recommend that Mr. Cohen seek a new line of work.

Mr. Cohen wasn’t completely wrong about everything he wrote. He accurately pointed out that the Founding Fathers were forced to compromise between slavery for some, or slavery for all. Otherwise, colonies that depended on the barbaric practice of slavery to rapidly expand economic growth would not join the revolution against England, and the United States of America probably would still not exist. But then again, slavery didn’t officially end in England until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed by Parliament, a full 60 years after our declaration of independence from Great Britain. Sure, practically everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson, the man who literally wrote the Declaration of Independence (with considerable help, of course), third U.S. President and founder of the Democrat Party, owned slaves.

And less than a century later even when Abraham Lincoln, the first President elected from the anti-slavery Republican Party, issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he only freed slaves being held in Confederate states. The barbaric practice of human slavery did not officially end everywhere in the United States until Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865, which the states ratified.

Presumably, a Constitutional law professor would know all of this already.

Therefore, finding fault with the Founding Fathers because the Constitution required an amendment to permanently resolve the problem of slavery seems awfully petty and judgmental, especially for someone with extremely questionable judgment, as we shall soon discover. It turns out Mr. Cohen has a rather sinister agenda.

The most troubling words written by Mr. Cohen (I’m reticent to give his appeal to authority any credibility by referring to him as ‘Professor’) were these: social justice.

What does that even mean?

Well, according to one internet source, social justice is a fancy way of saying “government redistribution of wealth”, which of course, is a form of socialism.

However, if we click on the words ‘social justice’ in the Rolling Stone article, strangely enough, the reader is taken to a page about abortion and Roe vs. Wade. What on earth does abortion have to do with social justice and Constitutional law? To unravel that mystery, the first question I asked myself was this: on what grounds did the U.S. Supreme Court find that abortion was legal, according to the Constitution? After all, the U.S. Constitution is the sole determining factor the Supreme Court is supposed to use when they rule on a case.

In the case of Roe vs. Wade, it turns out the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was cited as the reason abortion became legal. Roe’s attorney argued that Roe was being denied due process and her right to privacy was being violated denied the choice of aborting her pregnancy in the first trimester. Prior to the ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion had been considered a form of infanticide and treated as a criminal act.

If I’m following the logic of all this correctly, in effect the court’s decision determined that the unborn child (now called fetus) was technically not human, and therefore not entitled to due process.

13 weeks into pregnancy

13 weeks into pregnancy

Therefore, it has now been ruled legal to kill this “thing” or blob of tissue that would become a baby if nothing happened, even if it happens to look exactly like a developing unborn child.

Again, what does abortion have to do with gun control, anyway? Was it a mistake by Rolling Stone? Of course not.

It turns out that Mr. Cohen is co-author of a book titled Living in the Crosshairs: the Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism.

How many untold stories of murdered abortion doctors have there been? Did the murder of Dr. George Tiller go underreported? If so, I must have missed something.

According to Wikipedia (admittedly not the greatest resource of information, but this is a Saturday and I’m feeling a bit lazy about getting into more serious research) between 1993 and 2015, there have been a grand total of 11 murders of abortion doctors.

Between the years of 1973 and 2013, a whopping 56, 405, 766 legal abortions have been performed. Murder can never be condoned or justified, no matter how appropriate it might seem to end the life of another. If the person is guilty of a crime, then they should be punished according to the law. Even the horrific, murderous butcher Kermit Gosnell deserved a fair trial. He probably should have been executed for his heinous crimes, but rotting in prison will have to suffice, because that’s what the court ruled. Vigilantism is not justice.

Shooting abortion doctors can never be justified, no matter how many innocent children are “terminated” in the womb. If the law permits abortion, it is legal, even if not moral. Murder of the abortion doctor is both illegal and immoral. Any such murderer who claims to have committed his crime because of his Christian faith must have been asleep when Matthew 7:3 was read in church.

In my opinion it should not have been legal for doctors to have ended the lives of more than 56 million children in the womb, either. Obviously, there must be some agreeable compromise between zero and 56 million abortions.

Before we completely forget what started this conversation in the first place, let’s get back to the 2nd Amendment, which Mr. Cohen says we must repeal because the Founding Fathers didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t know about AR-15 rifles, which is technically true.

The Founding Fathers were much more familiar with muskets and cannons that were manned by occupying British armies fighting on behalf of a tyrannical foreign government that believed in taxation without representation than they were prescient about modern weaponry.

Automatic weapons (which are currently illegal for civilians to own) had not been invented yet. You know what else never occurred to the Founding Fathers?  Fifty-six million abortions of unborn Americans. Mr. Cohen might know parts of the Constitution better than I do, but he apparently doesn’t know much if any of the history of our Founding Fathers. The colonists most certainly understood the value of human life — remember how many people were killed in the Boston Massacre?

Five. And yet they still called it a massacre. The Founding Fathers realized that freedom could be taken away from the people if the people could no longer defend themselves.  A “well-regulated militia” wasn’t referring to the police department or a branch of the military.The most frequent scenario to the police responding to the scene of a crime is that by the time they arrive. the criminal has already left.

there-are-90-million-legal-gun-owners-in-the-us-trust-me-if-theyDespite Mr. Cohn’s mistaken opinion, the Founding Fathers did actually know exactly what they were doing, which is why another amendment to the Constitution would be necessary to repeal the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, to prevent people with tyrannical ideas…people like Mr. Cohen, for example.

Such an amendment is highly unlikely to pass because of the popularity of gun ownership. The overwhelming majority of gun owners are honest, law abiding citizens. Too many people like to hunt for the 2nd Amendment to be successfully repealed. Too many people like to watch Duck Dynasty.

Gun control isn’t really about guns. It’s about control.

Currently, there are 27 amendments to the Constitution. To pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution would require veto-proof 2/3 majorities of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, then ratification by 3/4 of the individual states, which means 38 out of 50, by my calculations.

Attempting to disarm 90 million law-abiding citizens by force would be a very bad idea and cause a great deal of social injustice, because only criminals (and police) would be left with guns, and the criminals  will not surrender their guns willingly.walter-williams

Walter Williams is not a Constitutional law professor; he’s an economics professor at George Mason University. He’s got some strong opinions about social justice with which I strongly agree.

When it comes to the Constitution, I also prefer Professor Williams’s ideas about how the Bill of Rights might be amended.

Professor Williams says that the Bill of Rights only needed to include those first five words: “Congress shall make no law…”

Radical liberals and the rights of others

FacepalmBefore I say the first word about politics, I need to be clear that I’m neither a registered Democrat or Republican; I am a independent voter who holds both political parties in pretty much equal disdain. They don’t even bother trying to represent me in Washington.

I’d love to be able to think of myself as a liberal — it sounds wonderful, at least in principle. Some of the synonyms for the word ‘liberal’ are generous, abundant, copious, and plentiful.

And of course, the antonyms for liberal include intolerant, stingy, narrow-minded, mean, and greedy.

Really…who wants to be thought of as mean, or intolerant? I certainly don’t.

But the problem with self-identifying as a liberal is that the political ideology and the dictionary definition of the word appear to have very little in common with each other.

Now people who know me personally know that I’m not really a confrontational sort of person, but neither am I the “go along to get along” sort of person, either. I’m about ten times more likely to initiate a conversation about the upcoming football season for the Georgia Bulldogs than politics or religion, but I’m also not shy about expressing my opinions or correcting the record whenever it seems necessary. I have this very annoying tendency of stubbornly refusing to concede that I could be wrong about something in lieu of better evidence. I’m also very unlikely to simply take your word for anything if the argument from authority has been invoked.

Naturally, being radically liberal is a political orientation, not a religious one. It has been my experience that the behavior of a typical liberal will literally become the antithesis of the dictionary definition, more often than not. Granted, my interactions have most often been with a particular subset of liberals, specifically atheists. Not every atheist is a liberal, nor every liberal an atheist. On the other hand, I could probably count the number of conservative atheists I’ve encountered on one hand, without having to use most of those fingers. Conservatives who are atheists seem to be few and far between, or they must have better things to do than attack religious beliefs, and people who identify as theists.

Many of my friends (and family members) may refer to themselves as liberals, but their behavior is more like that of a moderate, “normal” person. In fact, several members of my personal church are loyal Democrat Party voters, at least according to their bumper stickers. The difference between these friends and family members and a truly radical liberal are obvious — the latter are vicious, and love to hate their perceived enemies.

For the most part, liberals don’t want to be stigmatized by their ideological stereotype — many prefer using the term progressive to calling themselves liberal, in an effort to create the illusion that they are forward-thinking, and not reactionary, which is what the majority of liberals actually are.

In reality, radical liberals tend to be very intolerant reactionaries frankly incapable of critical thinking. Obviously they fear the caricature image of liberals as hysterical, wild-eyed ranting lunatics — which many of them happen to be.

For example, a radical liberal will demand that Christians not only tolerate gay marriage, but they must also prepare the cake for the ceremony. If the Christian business owner refuses to make the cake, they will be forced out of business. Then in order to justify their draconian punishment of Christian businesses, liberal judges and politicians usually make a false comparison between exercising the freedom of religion and Jim Crow laws. However, politely refusing to make a cake is not discriminating against the color of a person’s skin, but rather a personal and business decision that reflects the content of a person’s character.

The Christian business owner isn’t actively protesting against gay marriage, or preventing the gay couple from getting married. They are simply asking the customer to find another bakery that would be more comfortable baking a wedding cake for a gay couple. But the people demanding tolerance won’t put up with that — nothing less than total submission is acceptable.

Fortunately, my friends who are gay tend to be conservative and they know my heart. I don’t feel the need to preemptively apologize or qualify my remarks so they know these comments don’t apply to them. My friends also know the radical Islamic terrorist wants to commit mass murder in gay bars, while the typical Christian wants to pray for the victims, and to donate blood and money to help.

Yes, there are a few jerks in every crowd, but some crowds are full of jerks. With the gay marriage battle apparently won, radical liberals have turned their attention to transgender bathrooms. They quickly label anyone who express concerns as homophobic, transphobic, etc. , as backward and hateful people.  Granting equal treatment and “freedom of choice” to identify as something other than one’s natural biological sex trumps any concerns other citizens may have about sexual predators exploiting this new opportunity to physically abuse innocent women and children. An overdeveloped desire for compassion leads to the death of common sense.

It may seem like I’m just generalizing all liberals as radicals and classifying certain types of behavior as such, but I have both family and friends who think of themselves as liberals. However, they tend to act more like moderates, at least around me. No one whom I know personally has dared attempt the “in-your-face” tactics of radical liberalism on me.

This morning a friend of mine posted an open letter on the internet that among other astute observations, included these words:

Negative campaigns, the demonizing of people with different opinions, discounting the legitimacy of their views, all works. Because *you* let it. While you are calling the “other” stupid, ignorant, etc., keep in mind that is exactly the same rhetoric the “other” is using on you. If you discount the legitimacy of their views, you don’t have to listen. But people generally have reasons for holding the views they do. If you don’t take time to understand them, and alienate them with nasty rhetoric, you’ll never even try. Which is what your “leaders” want – because if you apply the same standards of reason to them as you do to the “other”, you’ll find neither holds up too well.

I wish I could take credit for writing those words. I don’t claim to know all the answers to difficult questions, and I’m not suggesting that I’m even smart enough to have asked all of the right questions.

Now I know that I am not stupid. More importantly, I don’t appreciate being treated as if I’m stupid. It tends to bring out the worst in me, especially if the attack was unprovoked. I’m not claiming to be the smartest person on the planet — I’m not even claiming to be as smart as my wife, or as smart as my friend whose thoughts I pilfered without permission (which is why I haven’t given him credit by name.)

But neither are most, if not all of my critics.  Personally speaking, I’ve found that it’s inherently risky to assume that the other person involved in a discussion is stupid before listening to what they have to say. It’s also very rude to pre judge. But that won’t stop some people.

It’s certainly not fair to say that the lawyers with the ACLU who blamed Christians after a Muslim man claiming allegiance to multiple terrorist organizations murdered 50 people in a gay nightclub during the month of Ramadan are stupid, but political correctness and personal prejudices compelled them to make a very stupid claim. When atheist Sam Harris went on the Bill Maher show and said, “Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They’ll criticize white theocracy. They’ll criticize Christians. They’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984. But when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us,” Ben Affleck blew a gasket and incorrectly labeled Harris a racist, when he’s not being a bigot, either. He’s simply stating a fact — radical Islamic terrorists have been responsible for the majority of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. No one is saying that all Muslims are future mass murderers, but almost all of the recent mass murderers around the world have been inspired by radical Islamic ideology.

Once upon a time, as I was preparing to debate a rather prominent atheist, he recommended that I read something like Religion for Dummies (I can’t remember the actual title.) 

I didn’t get mad at my debate opponent, but I did believe that I was supposed to be offended or insulted, albeit in a joking, sort of a light-hearted way.

Similarly, when my debate opponent promised a friend of his that I’d agreed to pay a $10,000 fee for a professional videotaped record of the event, I didn’t get upset because I took it for the joke it surely was — I even replied that I would honor my opponent’s commitment of my funds, as long as payee wouldn’t be upset that Milton Bradley issued the currency.

I appreciated the fact my opponent wanted to inspire me to prepare, and flattered that I was considered a worthy opponent.

But rather than reading Religion for Dummies or whatever it was that my opponent for the big debate suggested, I had a much better idea…I watched videos of his previous debates, and took copious notes of his past arguments in favor of atheism.

Preparation gave me plenty of confidence. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t embarrass myself and things worked out okay…but standing up in front of an audience to argue with someone isn’t my idea of a great time. I prefer to express important ideas in writing — I don’t know how to edit or proofread the words before they come from my mouth. It’s much more difficult to express hateful sentiments in writing, unless you don’t think about what you write before publishing. It’s sort of my job to think about content and the messages I want to convey through my writing, even if it’s something I’m giving to readers for free, through my blog. Why should you be tempted to buy one of my books if I can’t even communicate concise ideas somewhat effectively in two or three thousand words?

Rather than trying to explain what I consider to be the differences between a radical liberal and a normal person, let me give you a couple of examples as an illustration:

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Recently I offered a radical liberal (an atheist, in this case) a free electronic copy of my book, Counterargument for God, so that he could faster come up to speed on the evidence I would offer to support the points I planned to make.

Now ordinarily when I personally receive a gift from someone, I’m not normally prone to irrational outbursts of uncontrolled anger directed at the giver, even if the gift is something I didn’t really want or need. A polite, even if insincere “thank you” is usually in order.

Rather than reading my book and then expressing his opinion, within a matter of minutes this person launched into attack mode, beginning with this:

I’m trying to say that rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of the relevant evidence. No exceptions. Do you agree? If you don’t, your epistemology is rotten at its core. And that will pollute everything you say or write. You must disagree since the Bible disagrees. Read the book of John. Read it in Greek. The Bible itself is rotten at its core.

Interestingly enough, I had not even mentioned the Bible, nor made any claims of having superior knowledge of the Bible. Because I wouldn’t. The Bible isn’t even mentioned in the first 200 pages of my book, which are entirely focused on the available scientific evidence to support what I have coined my Big Picture argument. The Bible is only referenced in the latter section of the book that presents a brief defense of my Christian faith, when I took and then graded Dan Barker’s open Bible test.

This individual had immediately tried to characterize my beliefs based on his own interpretation of a theistic worldview, without bothering to learn what my beliefs are — so desperate to pass judgment on my epistemic approach to acquiring knowledge as “rotten at its core” that he neglected to learn what my approach is. He simply assumed that he knew.

At some point, I managed to explain that I don’t read Greek, and received this barrage:

I read the Greek New Testament 11 times in Greek. I also have a degree in philosophy. Your epistemology is clearly flawed. Yeah, you’re just another Christian asshole. You’re ignorant, and you’re arrogant. John you’re an idiot. Face it. Your (SIC) pretender who does not know the Bible as well as I do, and you know epistemology far less. John is best (SIC) if you just care less and stop talking about things you know nothing about. What a shameful show for Jesus. If you know little about the Bible, stop defending it. For a while there, I had hoped you had something of substance. How disappointing.

Wow! Just imagine what might have been accomplished if I had actually put a little effort into annoying this person. Though I won’t mention his name, I will add that this person claims to be an academic and a college professor with this caveat — people can claim to be anything they want on the internet, though I usually try to give them the benefit of my doubt.

On the other hand, one of my other critics has claimed to be an astronaut for NASA, a lawyer, professor at Oxford and a published author, so the benefit of my doubt must have some limits.

I find myself amazed to witness the venom, and the degree of vitriol that I can inspire from someone I’ve never even met, with no real effort on my part. It’s a real shame that I get no sense of satisfaction from my success at driving people into apoplectic rage. And I loathe arguing with people about politics.

The reason I don’t like radical liberals is because they believe the opinions and rights of others aren’t important. Radical liberals are some of the most intolerant people on Earth.

 

Home Improvement(s)

IMG_0011When we bought our new house earlier this year, we realized several significant projects would need to be completed before we could relax and truly call this “home.”

Of course we needed a fence so our dogs wouldn’t roam all over the neighborhood, and the Chamblee Fence Company recently completed an outstanding installation — this is the first fence I have ever owned that the gates can only be left open if they are held or blocked, perfectly positioned so that they will automatically swing shut and close, a feat previously only managed post-installation, with a special hinge from Home Depot.southernprose_cover_AANO

There is nothing that will put fear into the heart of a pet owner quite like discovering an open gate when their dogs have been outside, enjoying the yard. Chamblee Fence has been in business longer than I’ve been alive for a very good reason.

The fence came after the rotted old timber retaining wall was ripped out and replaced the incredible crew at Bentley’s Nursery and Stone Yard.

When professional engineers have highly recommended their professional work, it was an added bonus that Bentley’s quote was considerably less than other estimates, and the quality was obviously exceptional. Check out the before…

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and after pictures!

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My final project was one that we decided to tackle ourselves, even though I need my fingers for typing, and hammers tend to place them at risk. Therefore my solution for the construction project involved the liberal use of a Paslode nail gun. IMG_0004

My wife Lisa created the design, and my son Matthew and I served as her construction engineers. I think the end result turned out about as well as I could have hoped, considering the fact that I was acting as the lead carpenter. But the plans were excellent and the shelving solid, as long as I didn’t screw the cutting and assembly up too bad.

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One significant issue we needed to solve was the location of the air vent was installed at the baseboard level, unlike the floor vents in other rooms. Our solution needed to leave the vent unblocked, so Lisa designed the bottom to look like a piece of furniture.

When writers aren’t writing, we like to read. Over time, we tend to accumulate books.

 

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I now have a room dedicated to serving as my office, and my new office has a simple, custom made bookcase. Most of my books have been living in boxes for the last seven years, because our old house was too small for me to have an office of my own.

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I think it’s about time to get back to work on my next book!

 

 

Demonic possession

Demon_2The material world is often called the “real” world by strict materialists, who believe anything and everything can be explained away as natural phenomena. In the mind of a strict materialist, a personal experience with ghosts must be explainable as either an optical illusion or figment of the imagination, but never as the disembodied mind or spirit of a dead person, no matter what sort of evidence has been offered.

Strict materialists don’t believe in God, Satan, angels, demons, ghosts, or any other type of supernatural phenomena. I do, but I would never dream of trying to convince a strict materialist that Scott Patterson’s ghost story was true. I wasn’t there.

I wouldn’t even try to convince a strict materialist that my own personal ghost stories are true. Although the experiences documented in my writing constituted empirical evidence of supernatural phenomena collected via the scientific method, they are merely anecdotes to any third parties.

It is rational, and logical to immediately seek a “natural” explanation for an inexplicable…until you run out of possible explanations that don’t defy all logic and reason. All I would say to the strict materialist is this: when you run out of other options to explain some phenomena, leave open the possibility of a supernatural explanation. Don’t completely rule out anything without evidence, or a better explanation.

Even though Jesus implies that ghosts exist in the Bible when he differentiates between the characteristics of a ghost to his resurrected form, the strict materialist will not accept that as legitimate evidence because the supernatural is never considered.

Some Christians even think that what people like me believe are ghosts are actually demons in disguise, which gives them one thing in common with a strict materialist — neither of them believe ghosts really exist. But the strict materialist rejects ghosts and demons.

What a Christian might call demonic possession, the strict materialist refers to as mental illness. People who have experienced near-death and claimed visions of heaven or hell are dismissed by the strict materialist as nothing more than hallucinations produced by chemical reactions in the dying brain. No matter if a very compelling claim of corroborated veridical information allegedly learned during an NDE has been well-documented, the strict materialist typically won’t bother to look at the evidence because it can’t exist unless the strict materialist worldview is false.

Prior to this morning, I had no evidence beyond anecdotes of demonic possession. I only believed that demons were real because of those anecdotes, both inside the Bible and modern accounts from eyewitnesses. I’ve watched a documentary on the true story behind The Exorcist, but I’d never seen any sort of convincing and believable evidence in the form of a video.

Please watch the last video embedded in this article very, very carefully. It’s allegedly a video taken by a surveillance camera in a supermarket, and only a minute long.

At first glance, the tape looks disturbingly real. The man could be having an epileptic seizure, or it could be what the article intended the reader to believe — a case of demonic possession. If he’s acting, it’s really bad acting. Frankly, if the behavior of the man was the only thing in the video that made it interesting, it would be very easy to dismiss. It was the cleverly edited flash of images and red arrows at the very end of the video that caught my attention and held it.

Please pay close attention to the running timestamp at the top of the screen, and the reflections in the cooler door. The timestamp initially creates the impression of legitimacy for the video, but it ultimately becomes problematic for its authenticity, at the very end.

This almost had me fooled. For what purpose could be anyone’s guess.

The acting was bad enough to convince me that the focal character was not an actor — it is theoretically possible that an innocent man was having some sort of epileptic convulsions, and the female shopper could have been an innocent bystander. However, the evidence that the video has been manipulated comes from the running timer. If you watch carefully, when the mans finally falls to the floor and the “spectral” image moves through the glass just before packages of toilet paper fly off the shelf, there is a rather obvious splice in the video at o1:19:22. The clock had been updating at a smooth and continuous pace until that point, but didn’t increment smoothly at the crucial moment, which strongly suggests that the video was doctored. I didn’t actually measure the increment but the 22nd second seemed to last two full seconds. You couldn’t watch the action on the screen and the clock at the same time — you had to watch the clock continuously or the “glitch” in time would not have been noticeable. At most, the timing is only off by one second.

Evil seems to be pervasive in the world. Tomorrow in Los Angeles, to “celebrate” June 6, 2016, Satanists have planned to construct a giant pentagram that encompasses the whole city.

I don’t know why the editor of the video tried to create the false impression that the man was possessed by a demon. It doesn’t seem like your typical harmless prank, or an elaborate stunt for a television show. The motive seems sinister — fool people into believing something is real that can be debunked with a little bit of effort.

I’m a very skeptical person by nature. I don’t like to be fooled, unless I’ve paid someone to entertain me and it’s part of the show. I don’t understand how these people get paid.

What do people get out of trying to fool someone into believing things that aren’t true? Other than wasting about ten minutes of my life, what did the doctored video accomplish? I can understand why Penn and Teller might attempt such a stunt, but not amateurs. Ultimately, I wasn’t fooled.

You shouldn’t be, either. Not if you can help it…

Remain skeptical, but not cynical. First look for the logical and rational, or natural explanation. That should always be the default. Be just as skeptical of information that allegedly supports your existing worldview and feeds your confirmation bias as you would anything that you already don’t believe. Don’t allow yourself to be easily duped. Trust no one except yourself.

But don’t be lazy. Investigate evidentiary claims for yourself, especially if the claims are remarkable.

 

Hope without faith

51NMBhIfa0L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_Recently a friend of mine had an exchange on the internet with an atheist during which he asked what compelling evidence for an omnipotent (supernatural) deity might change the atheist’s mind. My friend received this answer in reply:

If all the stars were rearranged in the sky to spell “this is God communicating with you” and that everyone around the world could see it in their own language at the same time, then that would really make me change my mind.

It’s a good thing, knowing the standard for evidence of God has been set so low! (For the tone deaf, that was practically dripping with sarcasm.)

I wondered to myself: does this person apply the same level of skepticism to climate change, or the theory of evolution? Was this person even being serious? After all, sciency types and the evangelists of scientism like to huff and puff about insufficient evidence for belief in a supernatural God, but they typically become quite vague or absurd when asked what it would specifically take to pass their personal threshold of disbelief.

Then I remembered the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, who said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

At some point it occurred to me that this particular atheist might be thinking of author Douglas Adams as some sort of god. The evidence requested can be found on the pages of Adams’s classic novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  However, in that hilarious book, God’s message was not conveyed to humanity by reorganizing stars to spell words, but with letters as tall as a mountain spelled out a message to mankind. The message simply said,  “We apologize for the inconvenience,” which helped Marvin the paranoid android feel a little bit better about his life experience as a robot, just as his battery died. Discovering a message of apparent supernatural origin like that, whether it was written on Uranus spelled out using stars in the sky, would certainly qualify as very compelling evidence that an entity with supernaturally superior intellect must exist.

Somewhat predictably, the atheist talking with my friend equivocated and then qualified the hypothetical scenario that had just been presented, adding that a super-intelligent alien species couldn’t be completely ruled out as the creators of this hypothetical cosmic message as a deliberate illusion to fool humans into believing God had communicated with humanity (presumably for the entertainment value. Super-intelligent extra-terrestrials must get bored very easily.) I don’t have to literally see wind to believe it exists. Witnessing the effects of wind has been sufficient evidence for me to believe in wind.

It would save everyone a lot of time if atheists would have the intellectual honesty to admit their minds are closed to evidence and they simply don’t want to believe in God, and nothing would change their mind. The exchange of words reminded me of what Psalms 14:1 says…

The fool has said in his heart that there is no God.

Another factoid currently stuck in my mind is that Deuteronomy 6:16 and Luke 4:12 both basically say the same thing, do not put God to the test.

Words of wisdom.

Personally, I would never have the audacity to demand evidence from God above and beyond what we already have been given, which I described and discussed in some detail in my book Counterargument for God.  But I have asked God to reveal Himself to me, and that’s why I am a theist. He did.southernprose_cover_CAFG

Which brings me to Jerry DeWitt.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that it is possible, that jealousy might be coloring my opinion of Mr. DeWitt to some degree.

Keep in mind, I’ve had six books published, but none of them made The New York Times bestseller list. USA Today and CNN haven’t produced sympathetic puff pieces about me.

Jerry’s only written one book, an autobiography. And he needed a ghost writer, just to help tell his story.

Okay, that sounded a bit snarky even to me, but I have to admit I’ve been wondering about this: what exactly makes the life story of a man with a high school education and no major personal accomplishments interesting enough to merit publishing his autobiography — other than the fact that he converted from being an uneducated Bible-thumping preacher to an under-educated atheist? In my opinion, it’s highly doubtful that a book about an atheist with a high school education who became a Pentecostal minister would have drawn the attention of a major publishing house. Just sayin’.

Comparatively speaking, after eight or more years of writing almost continuously, I’ve only managed the six books, and one brief cameo appearance in the national spotlight in the form of a brief interview on The Dennis Miller Radio Show.

Even then I wasn’t there to promote one of my books, but to discuss several articles I’d written about possible terrorist activity, published by the website American Thinker.

Lately good fortune seems to have smiled on Mr. DeWitt. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Only a few short years ago, virtually no one had ever heard of Jerry. He was a small town preacher in rural Louisiana, struggling to make ends meet — about as successful as I’ve been with my books and novels. Ordinarily, people who believe they have been called to the ministry aren’t in it for the money. But Jerry decided that he was tired of being poor and unknown. He reached out to Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and soon found himself thrust into the limelight, a poster boy for The Clergy Project.

Now Jerry’s being treated like a rock star by atheists and freethinkers all across America. His autobiography is called Hope After Faith, described on his website as “A former Louisiana pastor’s courageous memoir chronicling his conversion to atheism.”

11891218_816815018432195_8600845903106897322_nNot too sure how much courage we’re talking about here…from start to finish, Jerry describes one situation after another that either leaves him blubbering tears or quivering in fear — the words “profile in courage” never entered my mind when I read his book. Jerry couldn’t even get onto an airplane unless he felt God tell him through prayer that it was okay to fly. We’re talking about a guy who comes across in his autobiography as afraid of his own shadow.

Nevertheless, I have to give some credit where it is due — parts of his book were not only interesting, they were fascinating. Even unbelievable.

Let me give you an example that illustrates what I mean: at one point in his book, Jerry described a situation where he received a call with dreadful news — an associate’s wife had been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm (or maybe it was a tumor. I no longer have a copy of the book handy. It was a very serious, life-threatening situation.) Jerry decided to put his faith in God to the test. Without asking for directions from his location in Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama, or which hospital in Mobile, or even her room number, Jerry claims that he simply got in his car and asked God to lead him, then started driving.

Though it’s very difficult to believe, Jerry claims that he found himself in the right room in the right hospital, without ever taking one false turn. He added that he simply said a short prayer asking for the woman’s healing and recovery in the name of Jesus and just left the hospital, trusting that God would hear and answer his prayer. Then Jerry claims the absolutely impossible happened — the woman was healed. No surgery was required. The problem simply vanished, disappeared into thin air.

Question: how does a man making those amazing claims then become an atheist?

The answer is because God hasn’t answered every one of Jerry’s subsequent prayers the way he wanted, he began to pout, like a petulant child. After a close friend of Jerry’s was killed in a terrible car accident, he lost his faith because God’s answer to Jerry’s prayer was no. Oh, and he started listening to Richard Dawkins.

That will ruin just about anybody.

We’re all going to die, sooner or later. It’s simply a matter of time. What I’m not understanding is how Jerry can believe his own story and still become an atheist.

Apparently Jerry wants to be popular, and perceived as smart. Naturally he wants to sell books, and to earn as much income as possible. I can’t really fault him for wanting that.

Nobody wants to be disliked. Just about everybody wants more money than they currently have. Still, I have a message for Jerry: neither money nor fame are really important. Not in the Big Scheme of Things. Never forget this old cliche: you can’t take it with you.

Cliches become cliche for only one reason: they are obviously true statements.