Give your life to Mani!

February 27, 2008

In a strange twist, given my reference to the Manichees in the last post, Fred Sanders at the Scriptorium has posted some (concocted) Manichean evangelical literature. If you have read St. Augustine’s Confessions (and shame on you if you haven’t), you will find the cartoons and text very amusing. I know I did.


Oops! An urban legend’s foible

December 8, 2007

I am a long-time subscriber to the newsletter that the urban legend website snopes.com puts out each week, and they released a debunking of one today that had an odd factual/linguistic error:

A dedicated group of ex-Chevrolet stylists and franchised used-car salesmen continued to turn out close to 200,000 1957 Chevrolets, focusing on the 2-door Bel-Air model, between the years of 1956 and 1967, in a small auto assembly plant located outside Jacksonville, Ill.

[Ardell] Malowick and his associates quickly decamped and purchased their own auto assembly facilities in southern Illinois.

If these two sentences are meant to refer to the same plant (and I see no reason to believe otherwise from the context), then there is a grievous error here: Jacksonville, IL, is not in “southern Illinois” by any stretch of the imagination. Although there are of course no stringent boundaries between northern, central, and southern Illinois, Jacksonville, a town west of the state capital of Springfield, is almost never referred to as “southern Illinois” except under the paradigm (almost universally used by Chicagoans or Chicagophiles in my experience) where anything south of Joliet is considered “southern Illinois.” (I should note as well that as a central Illinoisan, use of this demarcation really irritates me.)

Of course, there’s enough in the Snopes debunking to show that this legend carries no support, but even its authors fail by not geographically characterizing Jacksonville as residents of the area would place it: deep in the heart of central Illinois.


Linguistic humor

November 27, 2007

I was reminded today of my favorite linguistic joke, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

A linguistics professor was teaching a class in a large lecture hall, and he was musing on the idea of negatives. “In some languages,” he said, “such as English, two negatives become a positive. In others like Spanish or Russian, two negatives still constitute a negative. However, there is no language in which two positives make a negative.”

From the back of the lecture hall, a voice muttered, “Yeah, right.

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The next move is yours, Chambers.

September 21, 2007

Some of you have probably been shaking your heads at the colorful (and I mean that in personality, not color of skin) Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers’ lawsuit against the Almighty for various reasons, the least of which is “terroristic threats.” Although I think it likely from Sen. Chambers’ track record that this is partially a jab at Christians and/or the religious in general, he has another expressed purpose: showing just how absurd the reasons for suits can be. (By the way, Chambers’ outrage stems from the recent case in Nebraska where the word ‘rape’ was prohibited – in a rape trial.)

The statement is an interesting one, and certainly Chambers is getting plenty of publicity for the stunt. But most of us probably didn’t expect a response from God.

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Finding common ground

August 7, 2007

A lot of what I read has an obvious theological or philosophical bent (just check out my blogroll to your right for confirmation), but every so often, it’s nice to get a non-technical perspective on these matters. As it happens, I sort of had one of these pieces fall into my lap.

Recently, I ran into an essay called “The God Fuse: Ten Things Christians and Atheists Can – and Must – Agree On” by David Wong of pointlesswasteoftime.com (the site name alone should be an indicator of the broad audience). Even though I was right on board after reading the title (I’m a sucker for ecumenicalism, even outside of religious boundaries), I have to admit that I was unsure about what the content would entail. I can safely say now that I am not disappointed. For brevity’s sake, here are a few comments on the 10(+) points Wong makes.

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Atheism and an appeal to etymology

August 6, 2007

Note: This is marked as Humor only because I find it funny. It was not meant to be a joke, as far as I can tell.

As I have written before, the argument from etymology is pervasive, and in some cases, it is used as a defense for the way a word is used currently. Of course, we established that this is invalid reasoning, but it is sometimes telling of the person making the claim and sometimes – like the following – quite ironic.

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Finally, an argument for God I really can get behind!

July 6, 2007

The argument from contrariness
If I believe in God, it will irritate Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins deserves to be irritated.
Therefore, God exists.

Note: To unlock the hidden wisdom of this syllogism, the wise person will plant his/her tongue firmly in cheek.

Additional note: Credit for this (shall we say) inventive argument goes to Andrew Rilstone, who gives a masterful (not to mention absolutely hilarious) 5-part treatment of Dawkins’ The God Delusion on his blog.