No More Heroes

As part of the relentless campaign by so-called “conservatives” to mangle, pervert and utterly debase the English language, this is to inform you that the word “heroes” is now dead. It no longer has any meaning whatsoever.

Most not-completely-insane people may have thought the word was reserved for truly great and noble figures of one sort or another like say Einstein or Nelson Mandella, or perhaps even applied to men and women of the military serving in harms way (especially those having made the ultimate sacrifice) and the brave individuals who daily put their lives at risk keep us safe from danger or provide rescue services.

But no! In the Bizzaro World of Sandy Crux, the term “Heroes” includes ignoble slugs like Richard Evans, batshit crazy lunatics like the heroically anonymous “Canadian Sentinel” and clueless, hyperventilating Islamophobes like Paul at “Celestial Junk.” Funnily enough, even Ms. Crux is listed as a “hero” on her roster of right-wing cranks and witless keyboard commandos! Heroic arrogance and self-promotion one might say.

Well, I think that tells you all you need to know about the veracity of what’s laughably referred to as the “accomplishments” of the Harper government that CC’s favourite “fellatrix” is tirelessly flogging on the wingnut-o-sphere (in spite of Harper claiming that the government’s inability to get anything done in our “dysfunctional” parliament may be the pretext for an upcoming election).

Sweet Charity & Selfishness

Amongst the “evergreen” pieces full of canned wisdom that “conservative” opinion writers routinely trot out every year are the figures released by government agencies demonstrating the magnanimous generosity of Americans compared to everyone else in the world. This serves a twofold purpose: not only does it corroborate self-serving presumptions of moral superiority, but it also supposedly confirms the myth that rugged individualism and self-reliance characteristic of a free market economy is actually beneficial to the poor and downtrodden. Another variation on the “greed is good” theme is the notion that societal wealth actually births a “culture of giving” or some such twaddle. Well perhaps, although I’m highly skeptical about that actually being the case.

The stories about American generosity got wheeled out of the shed a bit unseasonably this year because of a remark made by Barack Obama at the Saddleback forum (sorry for mentioning it again) on the weekend, when in response to one of Pastor Warren’s questions, he said that America’s greatest “moral failing” was that Americans “still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” Naturally, “conservative” pundits sprang into action, angrily firing back at the outrageous suggestion that the USA is a selfish society with an impressive array of comparative facts and figures about charitable giving showing that Americans give twice as much as the British per capita, seven times as much as the Germans, fourteen times as much as the Italians, and so on.

Struck by these statistics, “Blogging Tory” Mathew Siscoe awkwardly wrote, apparently oblivious to the irony involved, that “I always find these stats interesting, and I find the way they’re misrepresented as well.” I presume he meant that he also finds the way they’re misrepresented to be interesting. And indeed it is. While there’s certainly no denying that the amount given to charity by Americans is significant, or that “Yanks give more money to charity than virtually anyone else int eh [sic] world,” as Siscoe puts it, this still only represents 1.85 percent of the size of the US economy in recent years and therefore, by the simple reckoning of Mr. Siscoe and others, it could be argued that Americans are slightly more than 98% selfish.

A couple of things about the charitable giving of Americans should also be considered. I’ve long maintained that rather than by virtue of some quirk of human nature, part of the reason that they do tend to give more generously on a per capita basis can be traced back directly to the tax code. In this respect, it should be noted that in Canada, for example, registered charities issue tax receipts for donations, which entitle individual donors to a non-refundable tax credit worth only 16% on the first $200 donated and 29% on donations above this amount, up to 75% of the taxpayer’s net income. In the US by contrast, you can deduct cash contributions in full up to 50% of your adjusted gross income. Obviously, there’s a much greater incentive to give generously when a 100% income tax deduction is on offer.

The second thing that needs to be appreciated, at least in the context of Obama’s remarks about the Biblical precept of giving to help the “the least of my brothers” (and yes, there’s great irony in that remark in light of the story yesterday about his not-so-long-lost relative in Africa, but I digress…) is that out of the charitable giving in America in 2006, only 16.9% went directly to the areas of “health” and “human services” (32% going to religious organizations and 10% to foundations of one sort or another).

Dawkins Gets Mail

A few years ago, Newsweek religion columnist Rabbi Marc Gellman admitted to occasionally viewing atheists “with the kind of patient sympathy often shown to me by Christians who can’t quite understand why the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection has not reached me or my people” and then went on to confess that there was one thing in particular that befuddled him about non-believers. “What I simply do not understand is why they are often so angry,” Gellman lamented. “I just don’t get it.”

With that in mind, this short clip of Richard Dawkins reading some of the mail he’s received from loving Christians is quite wickedly funny.

I really wish that went on much longer, with many more examples from the deluge of hate mail he must surely receive on a continuous basis, as it would be terrifically entertaining. But more seriously, let’s turn Rabbi Gelman’s question around and ask about all the “angry believers” out there: why do they seem to be threatened by the idea of there being no God?