All Right, I Can’t Let This Pass: Reading Comprehension At The Chicago Tribune, Or Why Do We Rely On People Like This?

THINK, Jack---if the best of the breed was a biased dimwit, why do you still want to trust these people?

THINK, Jack—if the best of the breed was a biased dimwit, why do you still want to trust these people?

I am grateful for the Chicago Tribune website readers who have followed blogger Eric Zorn’s link to the Ethics Alarms Noah post, but is it too much to expect a major newspaper’s  columnist to read and comprehend the plain meaning of a post before criticizing it? Zorn, who authors the Trib’s Change of Subject blog, was cheering on Bill Maher’s atheistic take on God, the Bible and the Noah story, and then quoted me, writing…

I found this refutation of Maher particularly unconvincing and circular:

“God makes the rules, he is literally incapable of being immoral; it is a contradiction in terms. If God kills, it is by definition right and good, because God himself defines right and good. Does Bill really not get this? … If you don’t believe that God “works in mysterious ways” and that everything he does in the Old Testament is justifiable as part of some greater plan, Maher is indisputably right. God is a mass murderer.”

How more wrong could Zorn be?

1. I wasn’t refuting Maher, but defending his anti-God statement as completely accurate from his narrow and biased point of view, which includes a basic misunderstanding of what morality is and what it means to believe in an infallible deity.

2. Zorn, like Maher, also doesn’t comprehend the concept of morality. Morality consists of conduct values imposed on others by an authority with the power to enforce them. God is the ultimate example of a moral authoritarian. I repeat, if you believe in God, you accept that “God himself defines right and good.”  To answer my question, no, Bill apparently doesn’t get this. Neither does Zorn. And people who don’t know what morality is should probably not be writing about it in newspapers and blogs, or making assertions about it on HBO.

3. Well, yes, Eric, that reasoning IS circular, but I wasn’t making the circular argument, I was explaining the logic that is the basis for religious faith. No religion can survive with the concept of a fallible God, a deity that screws up, makes mistakes and does evil things. A universe overseen by such an unpredictable force is by definition chaotic, and faithful Christians, Muslims, Jews and others would be in despair. Thus the position of all such religions is that when such a deity seems cruel and, in Bill’s charming description, “a dick,” it is because we poor mortals who are to Him as the mindless ants crawling beneath our feet are to us, and thus we cannot possibly understand his plan, and certainly have neither the intellect nor the moral standing to judge it. That’s right, Eric, it’s an air-tight construct, which is why religions still have followers. Such a belief, which is circular, repels all counter-arguments, common sense and logic. Criticizing the foundation of religious faith as circular is accurate, but useless as well as naive.

4. My point, which was clearer than most of my points, is that Maher cannot make his “dick” argument in a religious context, for the reasons just cited. Thus he is saying that religious people are worshiping a mad killer, which is a diagnosis of God’s conduct only non-religious individual could make. Similarly, and this is why I did not “refute” Maher, it is absurd for the faithful to attack Maher for seeing the Bible the way he does, because if you don’t believe God is infallible, you must conclude that he is violent, unjust, arbitrary and unjust maniac.

5. Zorn quoted me out of context, making it appear as if I was attacking Maher as a blasphemer and infidel. Either he was just sent that one quote by someone, in which case he is lazy, or he didn’t read the whole post, in which case he is irresponsible, or he read it but misunderstood, meaning that he has comprehension problems. As anyone who has visited here with any regularity knows, I am exactly as religious as Bill Maher. I’m just not hateful and and disrespectful toward all religious Americans, like he is.

You know, it is amazing to me that after all these years, my reflex approach is still to believe that any journalist, reporter and broadcaster actually is careful, informed, educated and intelligent, when in fact the majority of them are careless, biased, under-educated, over-opinionated and not especially bright. In 2004, talking about Osama bin Laden, Walter Cronkite, the unimpeachable standard for wisdom, objectivity and truth in journalism when I was growing up, told Larry King, “I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, that he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.” Oh, fine. A Truther. Walter was a fraud and a dolt too. Yet I am still surprised and disappointed when I encounter anyone working for a respected news organization who demonstrates poor comprehension of language and inadequate analytical abilities.

Talk about irrational faith.

16 thoughts on “All Right, I Can’t Let This Pass: Reading Comprehension At The Chicago Tribune, Or Why Do We Rely On People Like This?

  1. Yes, I find it amusing when someone says, “If God thinks _____ (homosexuality is sinful, divorce is wrong, abortion is wrong, etc.), then that is not a God I would want to believe in.”

    To me, that usually translates as: “If I don’t like reality, then i won’t believe in reality.”

    They do not seem to see any problem measuring God’s actions according to their own standard. The arrogance, hubris, and hutzpah of such a position is comical. And, Maher is a perfect example of that.


    • Actually its illogical to expect a god to create homosexuality then despise it. If this god is ALL KNOWING, and the CREATOR of EVERYTHING, EVIL for example is included…. sorry, u religious folks are the ones with a problem with reality 🙂

  2. I like Maher’s tautology:

    “If you would just think like I think, you would see how stupid the way you think is, and then you’d stop thinking like you think and start thinking like I think!”

    Gee, Bill, so people who agree with you agree with you? Wow.

  3. You two (JutGory and Luke) made your points so much better than I ever could have made mine. I had started a long rant, but now all I have to do is summarize:

    A person risks being a total dick to himself by paying attention to some dick calling a third party a dick for not doing as the dick thinks the alleged other dick ought. The first person would do far better to skip past the second party and decide independently whether to pay any attention to the third party – which is, I believe, what Jack typically and generally does, and has done (mostly) in the case of Maher and God. But when Jack calls someone a dick, I can usually confirm his call by direct and independent verification of the other’s dickness. I can and will trust Jack, and I can and will trust God, but I can’t and won’t trust Maher and Zorn.

  4. Your Walter Cronkite quote snippet is out of context.

    TLDR: Cronkite says “this thing” to refer to the release of a bin Laden video four days before the election; he wonders if Karl Rove may have chosen the timing of its release for political advantage.

    Here is the full quote, and context, from (emphasis to highlight portion from the EA post):

    Bin Laden Releases New Videotape
    Aired October 29, 2004 – 21:00 ET

    –{skip past intro}–


    OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.


    KING: OK, Walter. What do you make of this?

    CRONKITE: Well, I make it out to be initially the reaction that it’s a threat to us, that unless we make peace with him, in a sense, we can expect further attacks. He did not say that precisely, but it sounds like that when he says…

    KING: The warning.

    CRONKITE: What we just heard. So now the question is basically right now, how will this affect the election? And I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing. The advantage to the Republican side is to get rid of, as a principal subject of the campaigns right now, get rid of the whole problem of the al Qaqaa explosive dump. Right now, that, the last couple of days, has, I think, upset the Republican campaign.

    What’s the “Truther” here? I don’t see it.

    • You’re right, although the suggestion that Rove would and could “set up” bin Laden is certainly strange and provocative. Suggesting that Bush’s advisor is allied with Osama is a short hop and a skip away from the truther theories…unless you have another explanation? Why would bin Laden be trying to help Bush thru Rove? Doesn’t that suggest an alliance?

      • Maybe it’s just a clumsily-joking way of saying how the video might have helped the Bush campaign (better-done examples would be like people joking about how the Chinese-backed administration in Hong Kong must be made up of secret CIA agents, due to their rule mostly making the prospect of further integration with the mainland even more unpopular there).

  5. I don’t really have a dog in this fight. That being said, if there is a God, I can see that perhaps He (or for me Spirit) got disgusted with the way mankind was behaving. Noah was supposedly the only just man around along with his family. So maybe there was a flood somewhere that wiped out part of the middle east or someplace. In Genesis 9:10 it is stated that there were other animals in the world that were not wiped out by the flood. So the flood must have been limited if it occurred at all. This is probably bad theology but I haven’t studied the Bible at any seminary.

    • How can an OMNISCIENT being behave as you say? If he knew in advance (certain 100% that is) that man would do this or that, its who fault? Man isn’t the creator of his own nature, according to said bible. Cant have it both ways. GOD HIMSELF says HE created EVIL (ISAIAH 45:7) SO blaming the devil for it, is hilariously contradictory. He is ALL knowing so logically that means the FUTURE so not only did he know eve would eat from the tree BEFORE he made the tree, adam or eve, he also knew SATAN would turn on him BEFORE creating him.. tell me, if YOU knew “for certain” your child would try to kill you, would you still give that child life? Plz answer honestly

  6. It’s amazing how many people with national/near-national-level syndication have worse reading comprehension than a 20-something year old of roughly average IQ. I mean, if we’re going to complain about how life is unfair, I think the chattering classes should be our first target (or maybe it’s just an occupation particularly prone to Dunning-Kruger, given how confidentially talkative you have to be).

    Also, the fact that he included those last two sentences just makes it worse, since it means he read at least that and still seems to have thought you were trying to make a pro-religious argument.

  7. I get it, ur argument as a believer isn’t rocket science, kill all the “only people that don’t believe in our god is those who cant understand our beliefs”.. pretending like that isn’t narrowminded bigotry doesn’t make it not such. This argument is childish, “your smy daddy is a giant kid with a magnifying glass and its okay to do whatever he wants to his ants because he made them” let me see one of you sorry excuses for “moral” people, drown your own children and tell the judge in court, you made the child so you can do whatever you want to it.. I mean really, how smart is your God? He had to command a father to kill his son in order to “find out IF he would obey him/be faithul, when he is supoosed to be ALL-KNOWING, meaning he should have known ALREADY lol.. but yeah its us rational people that are deluded.

    Hmmmm, Yahweh was DEFEATED by enemies because they had IRON chariots, I guess he can’t compete with an element he supposedly “created”…

    Thanx for the laugh

    • What’s truly hilarious is that you missed the line where Jack explicitly stated he was about as religious as Maher (which is to say, not at all).

      As a fellow atheist, Mr.Science seemingly validates the research suggesting that both religious belief and the lack-there-of is more a product of non-rational mental processes than anything else.

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