Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New linkies

I did some link-juggling, ending up with two new ones on the sidebar. I visit these regularly, so I figured I might as well put them in a convenient place.

1. Juan Cole's Informed Comment involves daily posts on news from the Middle East, including summaries of news stories Arabic and Persian language sources. One of his more interesting claims: Iranian President Ahmadinejad is not calling for the violent destruction of Israel. If he's right, then a great deal of what the mainstream media are telling us about Iran (and its President) is wildly inaccurate, which might raise some interesting questions as to why that's so.

2. I discovered Real Live Preacher shortly after converting (I linked to his Preacher's Story in my coming out post), and over the course of a few days I worked my way through his entire archive. He's a preacher who isn't always sure that God exists, and doesn't personally care about heaven or hell. Also he really likes The Big Lebowski. I think it's a pity he lives in Texas.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How to write philosophy

(...in lieu of actually writing philosophy, which is what I'm supposed to be doing...)

From the preface to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Remarks:
I would like to say 'This book is written to the glory of God', but nowadays that would be chicanery, that is, it would not be rightly understood. It means the book is written in good will, and in so far as it is not so written, but out of vanity, etc., the author would wish to see it condemned. He cannot free it of those impurities further than he himself is free of them.
And two quotes from Kant (via Hannah Arendt's Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy):
I would find myself more useless than the common laborer if I did not believe that what I am doing can give worth to all others in establishing the rights of mankind.
And most horrifyingly:
Every philosophical work must be susceptible of popularization; if not, it probably conceals nonsense beneath a fog of seeming sophistication.
Some nice standards to live up to, but, come on, that last one is just unfair, and also a bit ironic, coming from Kant.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fight AIDS, not the heathens

From the BBC:
Call to boost churches' Aids role

The Christian aid agency Tearfund is calling for more recognition and more international funding for Africa's churches in the fight against HIV/Aids.
Based on the 5 minutes I just spent looking up info on Tearfund on the web, it sounds like they generally do excellent work. But this "call" of theirs is problematic.

First, the obvious. When it comes to the problem of AIDS in Africa, a great many churches have a lot of explaining to do. Or, rather: they have a lot of repenting to do. There is at least a nod to this:
The Tearfund report does say that some attitudes - including opposition to condom use, condemning people who become infected as sinful and the failure to talk openly about sex, need to be addressed.
Well, that sounds decidedly weak. On the other hand, I know that religious folk (well, lots of other religious folk) tend to be soft-spoken, so maybe I should hold out hope here that "address" is actually polite-church-code for "smack those fools upside the head until they recognize that they are contributing more to the problem than to the solution."

Leaving that aside, I think there's something very wrong with calling for more funding for churches in particular.

In fact, personally I would prefer organizations responsible for dealing with such pressing problems as the AIDS epidemic to have no religious affiliation at all. My general feeling is that such problems are ones that do not recognize parochial boundaries, and so they are best addressed by organizations that do not recognize such boundaries either. Nonreligious organizations are more likely to fit that bill than their religious counterparts.

But maybe I'm worrying too much about that. I think it would also make a lot of sense to have no preference either way. But I'm pretty sure that that's as far as one ought to go in that direction: no preference. Tearfund, though, does go further, and ends up advocating support for churches, as opposed to organizations not affiliated with churches.

Naturally, they don't explicitly say any such thing. But if more money is going to go to churches fighting AIDS, then less is going to go to non-churchy organizations fighting AIDS. Unless, of course, funding for the fight against AIDS increases overall--but if that's the goal, then why not just call for overall funding to increase, rather than funding for churches in particular?

Maybe I'm not being completely fair here, because I haven't seen the full report summarized in the BBC article. But I'm having trouble seeing any way around these implications. So, I'm left wondering: How does Tearfund rationalize privileging churches over other organizations in this way?