Notes, comments, and links

  • The owner of a chain of free newspapers in central and west London has decided to print only good news:

    Mappin acknowledges that for local papers, there is also a clear financial motive. “Any sales person will tell you that the way to sell a product is not to give a customer lots of bad news before you offer the product.” He says advertising revenue has increased sharply since the introduction of the new policy, and that readers have written in to applaud the editorial stance.

    He would not turn away an investigative story that exposed malpractice, says Mappin, as it would amount to a good news story. Even so, his stance is unlikely to resonate with hard-bitten journalists.

    There is also his insistence on including stories relating to the Church of Scientology, of which he is a follower. Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta might practise this faith, but it is regarded with suspicion in Britain, especially in the press. Mappin says he is not a “spokesman” for Scientology, and that his papers run positive stories about Judaism, Sikhism and other religions. He points out that he was married in a Muslim ceremony to his Kazakhstani wife.

    We love good news, but when it comes to the Scientology business, it would be irresponsible not to alert people to the stream of bad news produced by that pseudo-religion.

  • Speaking of good news:

    The Dutch capital Amsterdam has retained its position as the 10th most livable city in the world, according to the latest “quality of life” report from the Mercer Human Resource Consulting agency.

    Mercer studied the living conditions in 215 cities across the globe and while Amsterdam retained its 10th position achieved in the survey published in 2003, traffic congestion also remained a thorny issue, news agency ANP reported.

    That’s my home city, and yes, it’s over 700 years old, and thus not made for modern-day traffic.

  • As you may know, Religion News Blog is a service of Apologetics Index – a site that provides research resources on apologetics and countercult issues. ‘Apologetics’ is the logical presentation and defense of the Christian faith.

    Christians need to have an understanding of basic Christian apologetics in order to successfully dialogue with a lost postmodern world and ready their minds to hear the Gospel, Norman Geisler said Feb. 12 in a chapel message at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

    Geisler, a leading evangelical apologist and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, N.C., pointed out that the entire evangelistic technique employed by many Christians today is predicated on the belief that God does exist, a notion many postmodernists may not be willing to embrace.

    Therefore, Geisler said, pointing to the Apostle Paul’s defense of the faith at Mars Hill in Acts 17 as an example, Christians must be able and willing to reason with the lost, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

    “If a person doesn’t believe in God,” Geisler said, demonstrating the evangelical imperative behind his apologetics, “they cannot believe in the Son of God. You cannot separate apologetics from evangelism.”

    Given the context in which the church finds itself today, he said it is increasingly important that Christians argue for the existence of God and absolute truth, a belief that has fallen out of fashion to many today.

    “Every pastor must be an apologist,” Geisler said. “If you speak the truth of the Gospel and they don’t even believe in [the concept of] truth, what good does it do you?

    “Every system of unbelief has a self-defeating argument,” Geisler said, referring specifically to the claim that absolute truth does not exist, which is itself a truth claim. “You can’t deny truth without affirming truth. Anyone who denies it affirms it.”

  • Many American Christians voted for George Bush simply because he claims to be a Christian. He may well be a Christian, but – as he has demonstrated over the past few years – it does not automatically follow that he is fit to run a country. We – the publishers of Apologetics Index – think the man is dangerous. Increasingly, Americans (many of whom chided us for daring to speak out against US human rights violations) have also seen the light. Someone who claims to be a Christian, but who starts illegal wars, violates international law, violates human rights (e.g. Guantanamo Bay), and takes away civil liberties, should not be in charge of a country.

    Two timely books (among many…):

    The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America
    by Eric Alterman and Mark J. Green

    Examining the Bush administration’s record on domestic and foreign policy issues, Alterman (What Liberal Media?) and former New York City public advocate Green see a pattern of dissimulation to promote the interests of the religious right, big business and neoconservative radicals. The two progressive champions make no effort to hide their dislike of Bush, branding him an “affirmative-action-legacy student” lacking knowledge and brain power. But the weight of their evidence and their reasonable tone make it difficult to dismiss them as ideologues. Though David Corn recently covered this territory in The Lies of George W. Bush, Alterman and Green provide more up-to-the-minute information on several issues, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s withholding of information about potential health risks to residents of lower Manhattan after 9/11. They also document a disregard for truth displayed by other administration officials and by Bush’s federal judicial appointees. From this voluminous record emerges a portrait of Bush as an ideological bully who knows how to “fake left and drive to the right,” passing himself off as a populist while launching initiatives that benefit only his hardcore supporters. Expect liberal cognoscenti to back this book in droves as the election campaigns heat up. (Publishers Weekly, posted at

    The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power
    by George Soros

    The legendary investor and philanthropist issues a pointed, astute, and intensely critical analysis of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

    Long known as “the world’s only private citizen with a foreign policy,” George Soros combines his razor-sharp sense of economic trends with his passionate advocacy for open societies and decency in world politics to come up with a workable, and severely critical, analysis of the Bush administration’s overreaching, militaristic foreign policy.

    Soros believes that this administration’s plans abroad come from the same sort of “bubble” psychology that afflicted our markets in the late 90s. They have used a real fact, our overwhelming military supremacy, to create a deluded worldview, that might makes right and that “you’re either with us or against us,” in the same way that the recent boom used a real fact, the growth in technology, to lead to a delusion, the “new economy.” .

    Like the best of the books that have responded quickly to world events, The Bubble of American Supremacy, has a clear, intriguing, comprehensive thesis that makes necessary, and compelling, order of our seemingly disordered world. (Book description, posted at

  • This item reminds me of a sign I used to have in my office: “33% of all statistics are wrong.
  • Two-thirds of Americans polled last month said they support the idea of televising executions � and 21 percent said they�d pay to watch Osama bin Laden put to death.

    Eleven percent said they would pay to see Saddam Hussein executed.

    As members of Amnesty International, the publishers of Religion News Blog oppose the death penalty – not in the last place because America’s ‘justice system’ all too often results in wrongful convictions. And then there’s this kind of stuff:

    Judge Laura Denvir Stith seemed not to believe what she was hearing.

    A prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened on the basis of new evidence, and Judge Stith, of the Missouri Supreme Court, was getting exasperated. “Are you suggesting,” she asked the prosecutor, that “even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?”

    Frank A. Jung, an assistant state attorney general, replied, “That’s correct, your honor.”

  • On a positive note:

    Food for thought
    Siobhan Doran, a Chicago reader, regarding President Bush’s chief economic adviser suggesting that people who work at fast-food restaurants, because the act of making a burger “combines inputs to ‘manufacture’ a product,” might be considered to have manufacturing jobs, writes:

    “Who said the Bush administration isn’t making progress? Under Reagan, ketchup became a vegetable. Under Bush, burger flipping becomes a manufacturing job.”

    Next: The Bush administration notices that many fast-food workers are wearing shirts with white collars.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday March 3, 2004.
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