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Pundit Roundtable

Welcome back on this lovely Sunday afternoon to another edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your maître d', Ken McCracken. Here are our topics for this week:

Topic 1: What are your thoughts on the Big Guy in the Sky, theology and religion? Why is there Being rather than Nothing, anyway?

Topic 2: What is your favorite meal? (Give us recipes if you got 'em).

I am very pleased to introduce a new guest to the Roundtable, Tim Blair. Hello Tim, what do you think?

"I'm not religious at all -- confirmed an Anglican in 1978, I quit in 1981 -- but I maintain a fondness for Christianity, and (possibly due to domestic Italian influence) am increasingly interested in Catholicism. It's an abstract interest, mainly related to earthly rather than spiritual Catholic ideas.

My family mostly tend towards special-day (Christmas, Easter, baptisms, funerals, etc) church attendance. The Catholic wing attend weekly. The Baptist wing ... well, after they organized a family reunion at which no alcohol was served, we all kind of avoid them.

Why is there Being rather than Nothing? Beats me. You know, this might be a fun question to ask a pro-abortion person, considering their eagerness to consign potential Beings to the void.

Topic 2: Steak, rare, with Dijon mustard. Crayfish, lobster, and yabbies, served chilled with lemon juice and rock salt. Live rock oysters. Wasabi-hammered sashimi.

I had to look up yabbies to find out what they are. "Yabbies are an Australian freshwater crayfish and live in rivers, streams and dams. They can make good, low-maintenace pets because they can be kept in fish tanks (with lids) at home and only need to be fed every two days or so."

Next is returning pundit Laurence Simon, with his thoughts on these matters. Laurence?

"Is there someone looking down at us all?

Yeah, but It's usually Piper or Frisky looking down from the top of the bookshelf.

Topic 2: My favorite meal is the thin-crusted pizza at Kennealy's Irish Pub here in Hosuton, washed down with a few pints of Guinness.For home cooking, I grill stuffed jalapenos on my Weber. Nothing quite like a jalapeno filled with cheddar, a port wine cheese ball, or Havarti.

I am so glad that Pundit Roundtable regular Mark Coffey of Decision '08 (Because It's Never Too Early!) has allowed us to bring him back. Mark, what do you say?

"When considering religion, theology, and the big questions, the first thing we should note, since we're all political junkies, is that there is no compelling reason to leave religion out of politics. A religious person should be free to express himself, completely, in any sphere, as should an atheist. Our founding fathers fought against the establishment of an 'official' religion, but I don't believe they wished to exclude religion from the public sphere.

On a personal level, I consider myself a 'believer', but my concept of God is a bit unusual. I suppose some might call me a deist, or a follower of the 'blind watchmaker' theory, in that I believe that there is some underlying force of nature that set the rules of the cosmos. Some people pit religion against science - I think that's a shame. If you believe in God, you must believe, it seems to me, that He gave you the tools to think. I've always considered science and math to be, in a way, the very language of God. In that sense, I'm a bit like Einstein, with his talk of the 'Old One' (though, of course, I have only 1/500th of the ability of Einstein to decipher the Old One's clues).

I do believe that there is an underlying morality in the universe, as well, though, and that's where I part with the deists. I'm not a fundamentalist, in that I prefer to see much of the Old Testament as parable rather than history, but I do think that the sons of Abraham, be they Christian, Jew, or Muslim, have tapped into a well of knowledge that is divinely inspired.

As for Christ, well, I profess to be a Christian, but that's a somewhat private affair. Suffice to say that, even for a person who doubts His divinity, His teachings have a resonance that speaks through the ages.

I'm certainly not qualified, philosophically, to give Sartre or Hamlet a run for his money in considering the why of existence. It seems to me that humans are both blessed and cursed - we understand too much to avoid the awful knowledge of our impending doom, both individually and collectively, yet we know too little to answer the deepest mysteries that might provide us with some perspective and comfort.

Ultimately, religion and science are opposite sides of the same coin: both are humanity's attempts to at least make a start at that knowledge of the age-old questions.

Topic 2 is easy: pizza, pizza, pizza! The recipe - pick up the phone and call in!

Mmmm . . . lovely pizza.

I like mine with pepperoni and fungus.

The Host's Last Word: I was raised as a midwestern Unitarian, which is an extremely radical sect of protestantism, so radical that it is literally unrecognizable as christianity. I think I learned more about the Dhammapada in Sunday school than I did about the New Testament. The first sex education class I ever had was in Sunday school if you can believe such a thing. So, growing up, the whole God thing came with a pretty skeptical point of view.

I am an atheist, more or less. Too much evidence to the contrary for God's existence in my opinion, particularly due to the presence of evil in the world. I have a hard time believing that an all-knowing, all-powerful and loving God allows it to exist. Does not compute.

I think Being exists because Nothing got bored of itself, and decided it needed something to play with. Nothing merely negated itself, and voilà! here we are.



I never knew about this type of cooking until I went to Taiwan, where they call it tiebanshao (and, naturally, the Chinese claim to have invented it. And the chefs don't flip shrimp into their chef hats). The best meal I ever had was an all-you-can-eat (!) tiebanshao, where the cook presented me with a large slab of seasoned and garnished dofu. Every single bite had unfolding layers of rich flavors, it was just marvelous. I like dofu any way you serve it, but I never expected it to be my supremo meal.

I hope to eat at Charlie Trotter's one day.

Well that's all for this week's gustatorial edition of Pundit Roundtable - see you next time!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 4 June 2006 02:07 PM


Have you ever had Korean Bul-Go-Gi? Delicioso!

Posted by: John at June 4, 2006 02:33 PM

So there’s too much evil in the universe for there to be a God, eh? Only one problem with that statement: what’s evil? Whatever you care to pick as your example of evil (cruelty to children, cancer, Hilary Clinton…) one need only ask, what would make you call that ‘evil’? Personal preference? Genetic programming? Social conditioning?

In fact, the only sensible reason to call anything evil is if we know that there is a transcendent morality. For there to be a transcendent morality there must be at least a God along theistic lines (a deistic God wouldn’t care, would He?). Acknowledge that, and you then must deal with the evil within your own soul, and mine too. What will He do with such wicked creatures as we are? He would be just to cast us into eternal torment for our cosmic treason against Him. However, He has made it plain that those who trust in Jesus to have taken their place, to have made the sacrifice for their sins, will be saved from His wrath. Gosh, sounds so fundie and judgemental, doesn't it? Too bad; deal with it.

Posted by: Doc at June 4, 2006 05:38 PM

Too many recipes! Comes with the territory being in one of my professions. Here’s a non-chef recipe for a very simple and tasty meat pie I learned from my English grandmother. It’s a great recipe for those nights you have no idea what to make for dinner:

1-1.3 lb ground beef (stay away from the lean stuff this time)
1 can corned beef (yes, the one in that weird looking can)
2 Medium yukon gold potatoes (or other waxy potato), medium dice.
1 pack of brown gravy mix
To Taste - White or black pepper
To Taste - Salt
2 Quality Flaky pie crusts (Marie Calendars in the freezer section) or make it from a flaky pie crust recipe (Don’t be intimidated by the pie crust. They are very simple and recipes are available in any basic cookbook or on the web. And if you have any leftovers you can make cinnamon & sugar twists for dessert).

1) Medium dice the waxy potatoes (do not peel) and boil them till cooked (use small knife to test potato for doneness - should have little resistance). Strain and set aside.

2) Cook ground beef in saucepan and add can of corned beef when the beef is partially cooked. Cook beef throughly.

3) Add packet of brown gravy mix to the unstrained meat (A little fat won’t kill you. Besides, you need it to adhere to the gravy mix).Throughly combine meats with gravy mix.

4) Season to taste with ground pepper and salt. Test flavor.

5) Add meat filling to one of the pie crusts, alternating with a layer of potatoes until you’ve formed a nice mound of filling.

6) Now you cap the pie with the other crust and let the steam of the meat thaw the dough right over filled pie crust. Mend the top to the bottom crust using a fork or three fingers. Note: If you’ve decided to make your pastry from scratch then you need enough dough to cover the pie as well.

7) Cook at 350F for 15 minutes or until crust is golden (the meat filling is already cooked so you don’t need to worry about it).

8) Serve this killer pie with a beef gravy. Enjoy.

Yield: 1 heaping pie.

Prep time: Assuming you boiled your potatoes while the meat was cooking: 30 minutes
Let me know how you like it.

Posted by: Greensickle at June 4, 2006 07:47 PM

I am a HUGE pot pie fan Eric, and your recipe sounds scrumptious.

If we are wicked creatures, and God created us that way, he has a lot of chutzpah punishing us for it.

Bulgogi! The Koreans just make the best steak - I don't know how they do it.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at June 5, 2006 07:34 AM

It is a good pie and very simple to make.

I did forget one ingredient now that I look at it... you'll need to medium dice 1/2" a medium yellow onion and add it to the ground beef mixture to cook.


Posted by: Greensickle at June 5, 2006 07:40 AM


I'm pretty much a fundamentalist myself and I basically agree with your apologetic - our recognition of right and wrong in the universe implies a divine presence - but I don't see that your account of Christ's work is terribly helpful.

The essence of the Gospel is that God is good; as St. John writes: 'This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him.'

That is, God is good. Actually good, in the real sense of the word good. Not good, as in 'good, but he's on your case, bitch, and he will fry your arse given the slightest pretext. Not good as in 'good, but unless you and all the people you love and care about make themselves believe that Jew who died 2000 years ago was actually God, he is going to send all of you to hell forever.' Good as in good, actually good, like the sort of good that we normally mean when we say the word 'good.' He loves people like a mother, he watches over them like a father, he feels their pain more deeply even than they do. His anger lasts a moment , but his kindness lasts forever. He is unreservedly, without qualification, very, very good.

He is closer to each of us than we can imagine, for as St. Paul taught the pagan Athenians: 'He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else', 'We are his offspring' and 'it is in him that we live, and move, and have our being.' God is hidden not by distance but by presence; a man may struggle to make out something on the distant horizon, but he also struggles to see the nose on his own face. God is intimately present to each one of us, guiding, whispering, wooing - each of us must choose for ourselves whether to make that presence welcome or not.

My criticism of your post is this: by throwing out substituionary atonement point-blank as your message, you place what is essentially a technical piece of theology in the place of the gospel. The gospel is actually good news. We don't need to be told that we are sinners and that God is angry with us (most of us are thouroughly aware of our own inadequacy), what we need is to be reminded of the depth of his love.

I have called myself a fundamentalist; I am not a universalist. I believe (Christ leaves me no option but to believe) that there is a hell, and that people go there, not just real nasty pieces of work like Hitler or Idi Amin, but well-ajusted popular people, celebrated public figures, and even highly respectable middle-class churchgoing family people. But hell is in no sense an expression of God's character or his desire; it is in fact defined by his absence.

Christ came into the world not to condemn but to save. The reasonable objection to the God of the Gospels ought not to be 'The Christian God's a bastard' but rather 'The Christian God is just too good to be true.'

Posted by: Ben at June 5, 2006 09:06 AM

If there is a god, I think we merely bask in his indifference.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at June 5, 2006 10:51 AM

Hmmmm, well in a very brief form of a long and complex topic...

God, through the Word (who became Jesus Christ) created the universe and the angels... the head arch angel Lucifer rebelled against God the father and tried to replace him. He lead astray a third of the angels who became demons. Lucifer is now Satan. (this is all int he bible)

Because God the father can create everything except character, character is the determination to do the right thing and can only be developed by experience. The angels were created as immortal spiritual beings and the demons who turned against God will be kept in chains for all eternity..

So God created man, a physical being without an immortal soul who has a finite span of years to develop and build character, and if he doesn't and sins (which we all have) the penalty is death. God says eternal life is his gift and the penalty for sin is death. So the concept that sinning earns you immortal life in purgatory is absolutely wrong and illogical, apart from the fact that a loving God would not do that to human beings anyway.

So God put Adam on the earth, taught him, and hoped that he would choose his way and eat from the Tree of Life that would've opened up his mind to God's spirit. he was influenced by Satan (who has lost his exulted position and wants to take all of us with him) to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, so he can influence us, it closed off god's mind to us, and we can do extroadinary good things with this knowledge and just as evil things. God basically said that we had rejected him, so now try to develop your own codes, own laws to live a happy life by.

Satan has been influencing mankind for all these centuries, that is why man, with all his genius and good intentions has never devised a paradise to live in with all our good intentions. If God let him, satan would influence and give us the means to destory ourselves like we almost have done. Thats where "man's way of thinking" would lead by now, to total annihilation if God had allowed it.

God will eventually return to earth, Jesus Christ's sacrifice has paid for all of our sins if we choose to accept his sacrifice and choose to live God's way, and eventually everyone who has lived, even those who never heard of god, will be resurrected and given the chance to choose god, to choose to live his way, once Satan has been put into the pit... Without his influence the people will have the choice to choose God's way, and then he says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard what he has prepared for those who love him... that is what the wonderful loving god has in store for those who want to choose to live his life in the future... all this eternity in the fires of purgatory is a load of bull put out by church's down through the centuries so they could control their members through fear, and make a lot of money selling indulgences for sins that they have no right to excuse or pardon anyway..

At the moment god is leaving us to live the lives we wanted when we rejected him, until we learn that we can't devise a workable system with all our genius and good intentions, and with Satan still influencing us, and just before we totally destroy ourselves, he will return to establish his rule on the earth...

once again all this stuff is in the bible if you just read it...

Posted by: Casanova at June 5, 2006 09:49 PM

PS to the post aove, reading some of the other posts, just thought i might add:

Although God is a loving god and wants to give us eternal life and everything that is good, he is not like a human parent that is prepared to accept sulky rebellious members into his family that will choose him only on their terms.

He wants to make us spiritual beings that will live forever. God knows sinning often brings short term pleasure and long term pain and consequences which we sometimes might even be able to avoid in our short life spans. but when you live for all eternity and everyone would be sinning and doing their own thing, that is a recipe for disaster and god knows it.

To live happily and harmoniously, for everyone to enjoy themselves, they will need to live the way of outgoing love and care for one another (like god does) and that is to live by god's rules. He isn't saying come as you are and i will accept whatever your prepared to give like human parents might do.

That is why we will all have to choose to accept god and to live by his rules to ensure a happy eterntity, or for the sake of the pain and suffering we would not only bring to ourselves for all eternity but also to his kingdom, he will snuff out humans who continue to rebel against him, rather than torture them with fire and brimstone for all eternity... that is simply not how god works....

Posted by: Casanova at June 5, 2006 10:05 PM