Home Once More:

I returned late last night, from the trip to Indiana.

This morning, I had a teleconference with David Kilcullen and others, on the subject of Iraq and the current counterinsurgency project. My full notes are available at the link.

I see a young man of eleven has had a memorable week down Alabama way. You have to wonder what goes on in Alabama.

An aside -- Stephen Dillard, formerly "Feddie" of the now-retired blog Southern Appeal, sends information on his current project. Some of you may be curious, as one of my co-bloggers is an SA alumnus, and several of us used to read the place regularly.

Hitchens, and the debate that could have been:

It was noted recently in the Hall that when Christopher Hitchens took part in a debate about religion, he and his opponent were mismatched.

That observation was brought to mind when I ran into a book review on Hitchens' book, provocatively entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The book review--actually, a criticism of a book review, coupled with a review of the book--was done by Robert Miller, one of the many scholars who write at the First Things blog.

Miller holds that Hitchens has gotten in over his head on the subject of religion. He also holds that the book reviewer--working for the prestigious New York Times--has done the reading world a disservice, by failing to note the many ways in which Hitchens has ignored learning the elementals of the philosophy of religion.

I will confess that I determined to ignore Christopher Hitchens when I learned the title of his book. A book which gives away both its central attitude and its concluding thought in the title is probably not a book which needs too much attention.

Hitchens' book (and the review, and the book-and-review review) do raise questions. Has the study of philosophy--or the philosophy of religion--become so unpopular among scholars that non-specialists are unaware of its existence? Is there a special animus against religious belief among scientists?

Is such an animus typical in certain branches of science, or is it an occasional thing?

One more (partly humorous) question arises: given Hitchens' statements in debates and writings in the book, what would G.K. Chesterton have said about this?

Off to Arvel

The Journey to the Arvel:

I will be away this week, attending to family matters. This is the first funeral I will have seen from my wife's family, so I know little of what to expect. My grandfather's funeral, though, was much in the old fashion:

Now it was the custom in those days that a high born man, before he could take possession of any inheritance left to him by his father, should hold an arvel, or inheritance feast. King Sweyn was at this time preparing to hold such a feast before taking possession of the Danish kingdom, so it was arranged that Sweyn and Sigvaldi should make one arvel serve for them both, and Sweyn sent word to Sigvaldi inviting him with all his captains and chosen warriors to join him in Zealand, and so arrange it that the greatest possible honour should be done to the dead.

Sigvaldi accordingly left Jomsburg with a large host of his vikings and two score of ships. Among his captains were Olaf Triggvison, Kolbiorn Stallare, Bui the Thick of Borgund holm, Thorkel the High, and Vagn Akison. It was winter time, and the seas were rough, but the fleet passed through the Danish islands without disaster, and came to an anchorage in a large bay near which now stands the city of Copenhagen. King Sweyn welcomed Earl Sigvaldi and all his men with great kindness.

The feast was held in a very large hall, specially built for the reception of guests, and ornamented with splendid wood carvings and hung about with peace shields and curtains of beautiful tapestry. King Sweyn was dressed in very fine clothes of purple, with gold rings on his arms and round his neck, and a band of burnished gold, set with gems, upon his head. His beard, which was as yet but short, was trimmed in a peculiar way -- divided into two prongs -- which won for him the nickname of Sweyn Forkbeard. The tables were loaded with cooked food and white bread; sufficient to serve all the great company for three days. The ale and mead flowed abundantly, and there was much good cheer in the hall. Many high born women were present, and the guests sat in pairs, each man and woman together. Olaf Triggvison had for his partner the Princess Thyra, sister of the king.
It was the first time I had seen many of my family in years, as well as others I had never met, and the last time I saw many of them in this life. In most respects, it was as fine a feast and gathering as I ever saw. So we honored him, who deserved the best from us.