02 August 2004 Daily Links

Chris Weinkopf, writing for The American Enterprise, weighs in late on PBS’s “The Jesus Factor.” His verdict: the media is afraid of God and “The Jesus Factor” is a reliable inkblot test that says “‘more about the viewer than the documentary itself.” He’s half-right. The media does tend to miss how “fervent” much of the American public is, and “These odd religious creatures,” as Weinkopf thinks the media views believers, “aren’t radically outside the mainstream; they are the mainstream.” But as is common among those who lambast the media for anti-religious bias, Weinkopf seems to think that a total respect and acceptance of both the faith and how it’s used to affect public policy is a better response. I.e., if it’s mainstream, it shouldn’t be criticized. As you might guess, we disagree

“The scapegoat ritual is rooted in a profoundly dualistic worldview. It makes it clear that while the pharmakos is doomed, all those who stand with the community are safe and pure. As Bush put it: ‘He who is not with us is against us.'” Karen Armstrong, author of The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, on the religious roots and practical modern effects of the “scapegoat ethos.”

Salon’s Laura Miller finds an inadvertent eloquence in the almost-simultaneous publication of Alister McGrath’s The Twilight of Atheism and Sam Harris’ The End of Faith. Her appreciation doesn’t extend to the texts though; both books, Miller writes, “are acts of sheer rhetoric, parries and thrusts in the long jousting match between faith and skepticism, rather than genuine explorations or illuminations of ideas. Like a lot of political books published lately, they amount to ammo. Inquiring minds need not inquire here, but minds that are already made up will feel right at home. It’s enough to make you suspect that it’s no longer possible to have a real conversation about religion. ” So, “what’s the thinking agnostic to do?” Read Miller’s assessment of the “God Wars” to start. Update: Douglas LeBlanc of GetReligion raises good questions about Miller’s argument in his more thorough review of the review.

The AP reports, with no noticeable sense of irony, that John Kerry is “talking more openly about his personal connection to God and guns.” Obviously we’re supposed to read this as shorthand — depending where you’re coming from — for either “redneck,” conservative, or salt-of-the-earth “people like us.” We’re hoping at least one of the types mentioned resists this media-arranged marriage; if not the true believers, maybe the Fish and Game Club?

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