Hello TAC, it is good to be posting again after a prolonged illness that left me unable to do anything but make half-conscious Facebook updates. I have been following the news, and for the sake of our collective sanity, I am going to refrain from extended commentary on foreign affairs. Instead I wanted to share with you an interesting discussion I had recently with some rather confident, cocky atheists on the question of free will.
It had begun as a debate on the so-called “problem of evil.” They think we have a problem with evil; maybe some Christians do, but I don’t. But I do think atheists – by which I mean Western, science-worshiping, philosophical materialists – have a problem with evil. Namely, how do materialists who reject free will (either explicitly or implicitly, depending on how well they’ve thought it out) even speak of such a thing as “evil”? Assuming we are speaking of human acts, and not things like bad weather, to describe an act as “evil” or malicious or malevolent or something similar assumes and implies that it was freely chosen. No one speaks of a lion’s decision to tear apart a zebra for sustenance as an “evil” act. What mindless animals do has no moral significance whatsoever. What people do has significance solely on the assumption that we can choose otherwise. In other words, free will. Without the assumption of free will, morality utterly collapses into a meaningless rubbish heap.
I am heartened to see that abortion has become a central issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. I am even more happy to see that the Democratic Party is spending far more time discussing it this time around than the GOP. While I certainly hope the Romney-Ryan ticket steps up and delivers a strong pro-life message in the final months before the election, the fact that the Democrats are now making such a big stink about it demonstrates that even they must acknowledge the awesome power of the pro-life movement.
This movement, of which I consider myself a small and rather insignificant (but eternal) member, is more than political lobby. Unlike the various lobbies that represent the special interest groups and key demographics that prop up both the Democrats and the GOP, the pro-life movement represents a group that can’t vote, can’t contribute to campaigns, and can’t even speak for itself, the truly least among us.
Given this new-found interest in abortion, the sort of things people are likely to hear as the DNC continues to unfold this week, and the fact that I believe basic refreshers are good from time to time, I want to discuss the pro-life point of view a bit. I cannot be comprehensive here, but I will raise some of the issues I think are fundamentally important in this debate.
Many of our opponents do not really understand what it is that motivates us and drives us. To them, to quote one pro-choice radical feminist I recently witnessed on a news program, we pro-lifers apparently believe that “a fetus has more rights than a pregnant woman.” Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. We believe in accordance with the Declaration of Independence, that all men (males and females) are endowed with inalienable rights at the moment of their creation. The life inside the pregnant woman is not more valuable than the pregnant woman; they have the same value and are worthy of the same protection under the laws of a just, civilized, and humane society.
The reason for the blatant harassment?
TSA agents did not cite any specific threat, but insinuated the Paul family was a threat to Mitt Romney, claiming the nominee “might be nearby.”
If I ever needed concrete proof that what the TSA does is not only a violation of human dignity and absolutely intolerable in a country that claims to be free, but also completely unnecessary and politically-motivated (after all Paul publicly criticizes the TSA), this is it.
Love or hate his politics, the idea that Ron Paul, his wife, or anyone else in his family poses a threat to Mitt Romney or anyone else is an absolute joke. Incidents like these make me ashamed of my country, and I am more than disappointed that this is one problem that the GOP in neither able or willing to address.
There is no level of security that is worth this level of invasive and perverted government intrusion into our lives. If the price of “security” is seeing children traumatized, old and disabled people humiliated, women sexually violated, and citizens in general being treated as potential enemies and threats by a fraternity of uniformed government thugs, I will gladly do without it.
Live free or die, America.
Likes: Romney did a fine job undermining the hysterical “war on women” propaganda being shoved down our throats 24/7 by the DNC. Undecided voters in the battleground states will be less likely to accept the notion that Romney is a “dangerous extremist” who wants to send women “back to the dark ages.” He stated his willingness to defend innocent life and the institution of marriage but did not press the point.
I appreciated his emphasis on family, community, and religious faith comprising the foundation of social and economic life in the United States – this, in contrast to inefficient welfare bureaucracies and self-appointed nannies deciding what is best for us. The best social safety net is a spouse, a job, and a church.
I also appreciated his insistence that success in business is not something to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate, and that private-sector experience is an asset to the Presidency.
Dislikes: Of course my co-bloggers and half of my readers will disagree (and that’s ok), but the reassertion of America’s old foreign policy really strikes a sour note with me. I wasn’t particularly thrilled when Chris Christie called for a “second American century” either. A country with financial problems and cultural divisions as deep as ours, and with a serious and unattended crisis on its southern border, cannot afford to be the policeman of the world.
Granted I didn’t expect Romney to say anything about the broken border tonight, but in my view this is the most serious national security threat and the one that ought to be the top priority. One of the reasons I supported Ron Paul in the primaries is because I agree with his foreign policy views – and reject those of the rest of the GOP.
But since I don’t really believe that Obama’s foreign policy is significantly different, at least for my tastes, this is really a non-issue for me as far as the election itself goes.
Details here. I’m not calling for Democrats to be as hysterically anti-Muslim as they are hysterically anti-Christian at the moment, but their willingness to suppress cognitive dissonance rivals if not surpasses that of the sheep from Animal Farm.
I haven’t heard much about the ongoing dispute between the Russian government and the Western media over the fate of the faux “punk rock band” ***** Riot in the American Catholic media. But this is a dispute in which I believe we ought to take sides as Catholics.
[No, I will not give the vulgar hate group the sociopathic pleasure of having yet another Christian publication use their name]
Three members of the vulgar hate group were arrested following their desecration of Moscow’s largest Orthodox cathedral. They have now been sentenced to two-year prison terms, with the six months spent at trial counting as time served.
My position on this incident is pretty clear. I stand 110% with the Russian government, the Orthodox Church, and the tens of millions of Russian Orthodox who have condemned the vulgar hate group – and I believe all Catholics in all countries ought to do likewise.
Not simply because this appears to me to be a deliberate ploy encouraged and promoted by anti-Russian elements in Europe and the United States; not simply because in all of the Western countries hypocritically condemning Russia these same actions could be and likely would be regarded as hate crimes according to their own established laws; not simply because the right to free speech does not, never has, and God willing, never will mean the right to invade any space one chooses and defecate on the floor; not simply because I respect the religious sensibilities of the Russian people; not even because I am fairly certain that being on the opposite side of whatever cause the degenerate celebritariat is championing is almost always the best and wisest choice – ???. Not just for those reasons.
Brace yourself for the latest meme to hit the politosphere: the word is now that Paul Ryan has “softened” his views on abortion. Ryan has long opposed abortion in all cases save in a few cases where he believes it may be necessary to save the life of the mother. This means that he has opposed abortion in the case of rape. But in this post-Akin political environment, so the narrative goes, Ryan, in the interests of being a team player, is renouncing his opposition to rape exceptions.
What set this off? First there was the statement made by various Romney campaign spokespeople in the aftermath of Akin’s blunder:
“Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape”
Then there were Ryan’s responses to some reporters who were pressing him on the abortion/rape issue, and focusing particularly on some legislation he previously supported which made distinctions between different types of rape. Ryan said to the reporters:
“I’m proud of my record. Mitt Romney is going to be president and the president sets policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction.”
One the basis of one or both of these statements, major news outlets and some in the Catholic blogosphere are claiming that Ryan has “softened” his views on abortion. Or, to put it in Mark Shea’s words, Ryan has “partly renounce[d]” his position. In response to a comment I made on Mark’s blog, he elaborated further:
I just don’t see how anybody can regard movement from “It is always gravely evil to deliberately kill innocent human life” to “I am opposed to the murder of innocent, unborn children except in cases my boss tells me not to be opposed,” or, “unless I feel it jeopardizes my chances of becoming VP” and maintain that Ryan is not compromising.
It is quite obvious to me that Paul Ryan has not said or done a thing to warrant the attribution of such cynical and selfish motives to him – though I do believe he, like most pro-life politicians and even people such as myself, is willing to compromise on a few points to make significant gains, a point I will elaborate on below. In any case, Mr. Shea goes too far. Because I often find his commentary to be fair-minded (even when I disagree), I am surprised at this rather unjustifiable attack on Ryan’s character but also willing to grant the benefit of the doubt. So I will offer my take on these comments and Mark can reply if he feels it’s worth his time.
The words “Ryan” and “poverty” are almost never more than a few words apart these days. Here at TAC, and elsewhere in the politosphere, Paul Ryan’s views on government spending and poverty are just about all anyone can talk about. The main anti-Ryan talking point is that he is a heartless Objectivist who is fundamentally opposed to the interests of “the poor.” If the definition of “racist” these days is “anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal”, the definition of “Objectivist” these days might be “anyone who is winning an argument with a Catholic liberal.”
Personally, I don’t think Ryan is “against the poor.” But not for the reasons you might think. Many people are defending his budget on the grounds that it does not harm “the poor.” While I agree that his budget does not harm the interests of low-income Americans, this is not the primary reason I would defend Ryan’s ideology. I have a different reason.
I do not believe poverty exists as a meaningful category in the United States, with some exceptions that I will make clear as I proceed. Very few people in the United States are truly poor, and most of those who are live an environment of such wealth and opportunity that simply defining them as “poor” does not tell us much about their objective status. Lest I suffer the fate of Todd Akin for appearing cruel and insensitive to those who struggle with problems associated with poverty, let me clarify.
By now, most of you have heard about the monumental blunder made by Todd Akin, a GOP representative and Senate nominee from Missouri, with regards to rape and pregnancy. Here are his comments, in all of their cringe-worthy glory:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Frankly I have never heard of any doctors who claim that the female body has ways of “shutting that whole thing down”, by which I assume he means implantation or conception, and no doctors appear to have come forward to substantiate this notion. Who knows where Akin got it from. Much is being made of his use of the word “legitimate” as well, which was a clumsy attempt to distinguish forcible from non-forcible rape, a “legitimate” distinction used by law-enforcement in the classification of crimes. What Akin says next is something most pro-life advocates agree with: rapists, not the children of rape, deserve to be punished for the crime .
His comments were certainly poorly worded and bizarre. He may well deserve to lose the political race he is engaged in and perhaps even his office for a gaffe of this magnitude. So this is not a “Save Rep. Akin’s Career” type of post.
But this is one of those moments at which we must firmly reassert our opposition to abortion, regardless of the circumstances. Our opponents are seizing upon this incident to remind everyone of how utterly heartless and anti-woman the GOP supposedly is. Obama is leading the charge on this as well. He had this to say:
“Rape is rape,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the daily White House briefing Monday. “And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”
Mr. Obama added that Akin’s remarks underscore “why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”
Leaving aside the ridiculous idea that the author of Obamacare, which forces everyone to purchase health insurance, doesn’t want to “make health care decisions” on behalf of women or anyone else, let us look at the statement “rape is rape.” Yes, indeed, rape is rape: it is always wrong, and can never be condoned. Mr. Akin had it in his head, apparently, that certain types of rape make it less likely for conception to occur. If that were actually true, it would make sense to distinguish between types of rape, though it wouldn’t necessarily be a statement on the morality of rape as such, and any honest person knows this. Since it isn’t true, of course it comes of rather badly. Akin’s profuse apologizing will not change this.
So “rape is rape.” But life is also life. That’s something Obama and the pro-abortion industry cannot and will not admit. The core principle of the pro-life position is this: it is never morally acceptable to kill an innocent human being. There are no circumstances, no matter how horrific or traumatizing, that justify the murder of an innocent human being. And frankly we don’t need the sort of half-baked theories that Akin was peddling to reinforce this point. It is a self-evident truth that we can and ought to proudly defend on its own merits.
We have nothing to run from, nothing to apologize for, and nothing to hide. I hope the Romney campaign is able to deal with this issue in a way that does not compromise in the least degree on the inviolable sanctity of human life, or which does not display fear or doubt regarding the absolute immorality of the left’s position on it.
Update: Given some of the information my co-bloggers and readers have left, I’m inclined to take back my remarks about Akin’s theories being bizarre or untrue. I will say, however, that if one is not prepared to articulate in a clear and sensitive way these finer points of medical fact, one should not speak at all. And in this case, I maintain that it is not necessary to bring up any of this, since it has no bearing at all on the morality of abortion, which is all that really matters.
We are approaching the most important U.S. Presidential election for us – by “us” I mean theologically orthodox, politically conservative Catholics – possibly since 1960, when the election of the first Catholic president seemed so possible and actually occurred. I’m grateful to be a contributing member of The American Catholic during this election season, which is one of the most widely-read Catholic blogs in the country. This certainly won’t be the last thing I have to say about the presidential race, but rather the first.
When the GOP primary was getting underway, I was a firm Ron Paul supporter. I knew he would not and could not win, but I supported him anyway because I agree with him on most issues, particularly on the role of our government both domestically and abroad. To support Ron Paul was to support the drastic reduction of the federal government, to reject the arrogant assumptions of technocratic management of economic and social issues from the top-down, and to place a vote of confidence in individuals, families, and local governments to solve social and moral problems. I also believe that this is the fundamental political truth of our time: a state governed by militant secularists cannot possibly effect the common good as it is understood by Christians, people of other faiths, or even those secularists who recognize the value of the natural law tradition that has informed the politics of Western civilization since the time of Plato and Aristotle. And yet if we are destined to have secularists in power, we can at least work to limit their power by limiting government as much as possible.
The corollary of the political truth stated above is that one cannot simply discuss “the role of government” in the abstract, without considering who will actually run the state and what values and assumptions they take with them as they create and execute policies with coercive force. Who exactly will be deciding issues that affect your life and mine? Who will have coercive power over you and yours?
More important than what happens to me or my family, though, is how the Church will be affected by those who rule. Even in her most humiliated and rejected state, which the sex scandals have arguably wrought, the Church is still the light of civilization. If her light is extinguished, driven underground, or forced to hide in the shadows, then it is not simply we Catholics who will suffer (though there is certainly nothing wrong with suffering for the faith), but all of society. The Church can and has survived hideous persecution, but it is not clear that society can survive what it will inevitably become without the Church, as well as all of the other religious organizations that will be affected by federal policies, actively involved in public life. Finally, whether society recognizes its debt to the Church or not is irrelevant.
It may be that God has ordained this as a time of cleansing, a time during which the Church must be forced underground and reduced to a smaller size so that she can be tempered and purified. But we cannot know such things with any certainty. What we can know with at least a little more clarity, on the other hand, is what our duties are as Catholic citizens. It is my view that our first priority is to protect the right of the Church to publicly exist. Usually this doesn’t come up because usually the U.S. government does not enact policies that threaten this public existence. But the status quo has changed, and we now face the prospect of an open, vicious anti-Catholic regime in a lame duck Obama presidency. For this reason, I feel obliged as a Catholic to work for the defeat of Obama-Biden in 2012. In practical terms, this means supporting Romeny-Ryan for the Presidency.
Tom Hoopes at CatholicVote.org recently posted his assessment of what lessons the ”gay marriage” debate has taught those of us on the pro-tradition side. I was going to write about this myself, but I’ll go ahead and examine his four lessons as a starting point. My intention is be constructive, because as Hoopes correctly points out in his opening lines, the pro-equality side of this debate has been very successful at defining the parameters and central issues of the debate thus far. We need to assess and regroup. If Mr. Hoopes would like to reply to this, I would certainly welcome it.
“1. We learned that being grossed out by homosexuality hurts us.”
Hoopes recalls a discussion with someone raised by homosexual parents:
“What people like my mom see in the religious right is people who say, ‘Ooo, this is icky and disgusting and horrible,’ reflexively, without explaining why,” he told me. “Then my mom and her friend look at their own lives, at their sacrifice and friendship and generosity and say, ‘Well, these people are just hate-mongers.’”
“There is no reason we should feel special disgust at homosexual acts compared to any other sexual sin. And there is no reason we can’t appreciate the mutual friendship and authentic love in a long-term homosexual couple. If we know what marriage is, a thousand such couples shouldn’t in any way threaten us.”
“Disgust” is a very peculiar phenomenon in that it is neither irrational nor easily expressed with words. Animals in nature have the physical senses to warn them of potential dangers; human beings in society have certain social senses to ward of certain dangers as well. I can’t explain why rotting garbage smells “bad” (even if I can offer a scientific account of why it smells the way it does); I affix the label “bad” to it because it is something I want to avoid, and I want to avoid it because I have an involuntary gag reflex that triggers when I inhale the odor.
Homosexual behavior is repulsive to us because it is harmful to society (more on that later), and we are social beings. The comforting narrative that homosexual activists have developed – that any aversion to homosexuality on the part of a heterosexual is a sign of repressed homosexual desires – is a way of making their positions and lifestyles unfalsifable. If you accept them, great. If you don’t, it is a sign that you secretly do. There can be no legitimate opposition. If you think gay is gross, you probably are gay. A fascinating self-defense mechanism, but one not supported by a shred of serious evidence.
Next, homosexuals aren’t averse to displaying their hearty disgust with heterosexuality (their derogatory name for us is “breeder”) when it suits their own desires and interests. They also go out of their way to provoke anger and disgust with their unjustifiably obscene public marches through major cities, which I consider to be acts of violent ideological aggression against Western Christian civilization. So I’ll take their complaints about our disgust seriously when that word is publicly denounced and banished from their lexicon, and when they aren’t actively trying to provoke disgust in society at large. To imagine that you can deliberately dress, speak and act in ways that you fully know and intend to make people uncomfortable and offended and then complain about people’s discomfort and offense has a proper label: sociopathy. To acquiesce to it is a sinful act of cowardice.
One other thing is required: an acknowledgement that the pro-tradition side has developed rational, secular arguments in favor of its position, instead of a default assumption that it is all either based on “eww gross” or decontextualized passages from the Pentateuch.
The Catholic News Agency published some remarks made by President Obama in Denver yesterday (Aug. 9) regarding the HHS contraception mandate that are so deluded and irrational that it becomes difficult to imagine how this country can possibly continue forward. We are dealing now with a level of dishonesty that is so open and aggressive that reasonable discourse, upon which social peace ultimately rests, is fast becoming impossible.
This is what Obama said about Mitt Romney’s opposition to the mandate:
“It would be up to the employer to decide. Your boss, telling you what’s best for your health, your safety,” the president said.
“I don’t think your boss should get to control the health care that you get. I don’t think that insurance companies should control the care that you get. I don’t think politicians should control the care that you get.”
This is Barack Obama speaking. The man whose healthcare vision is about to be foisted on the American people, in which they will be forced to buy health insurance (by politicians, from insurance companies) or face official penalties, just said that he doesn’t think politicians and insurance companies should control the care that we get.
Some statements are so at odds with reality – in this case, a reality established by Obama himself – that they can only be described as psychotic. The psychosis continues with the idea that without the HHS mandate, employers would, and indeed, have been, deciding what is best for their employee’s health. It never entered Obama’s psychotic mind that a desire not to cover what HHS mandates could, and almost always does, revolve around the employer’s desire to avoid something he finds morally objectionable, in which case it has absolutely nothing to do with dictating employee’s health. No, when a man in a position of relative power, the employer, decides what he will and will not pay for his employees to have, it is necessarily an aggressive and unjust exercise of power by the master over the subordinate in the psychotic mind of the president.
It doesn’t matter that on every corner of every major street of every town and city in the United States is a CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid or local drug store that is brimming with contraceptives that are legal for anyone to purchase. It doesn’t matter that there are clinics that provide abortions and sterilizations for those who want them. It doesn’t matter that there isn’t a single employer in the nation that can legally force people to work for them and thus deny them the opportunity to work for someone who is willing to offer a plan that covers such things. All of these conditions, which collectively taken together, any sane man would recognize as a condition of freedom (at least relatively) as far as health and reproductive choices are concerned, mean nothing to Obama. They mean nothing to the hordes of bleating drones who have dutifully towed the party line on this issue either.
The layers of insanity go even deeper. Obama himself has created the conditions under which businesses with 50 or more employees must eventually provide health insurance (by 2014). He has forced this responsibility onto the employers of America. He then proceeds not only to insult them with his “you didn’t build that” remarks (some potential business owners won’t be building anything thanks to Obamacare), but to prohibit them from exercising their preferences, moral or otherwise, in how they go about doing it. And yet to hear Obama speak, one might think that employers themselves demanded Obamacare just so they could have power over their employees that they didn’t have before, and that the HHS mandate had to exist for this reason. This isn’t just a false picture of reality, but a deranged one.
Finally, Obama speaks as if employers making decisions about what they will cover or not cover in their health plans is something new, as opposed to the way it has been since health plans came into existence. All this time, apparently, bosses have been dictating to workers what is best for their health by not paying for their condoms and vasectomies. Obama has now freed us from the tyranny of having to pay for certain things we want with our own money. People who view reality this way can’t be reasoned with by people who don’t.
Looking at Obama’s recent rhetoric, a phrase keeps emerging. He keeps referring to America as “one American family”, especially when there is a tragedy in the news. Some commentators are even beginning to see him as a father figure (try not to wretch if you watch the clip). There is no doubt in my mind that he seems himself as the father of the nation, laying down rules for some of his more stubborn children, insisting that they share their toys with one another. That is how he sees the businessmen of America. And as for the religious conservatives, they are the cranky old uncle who is grudgingly tolerated but also increasingly despised by the more content members of Barack’s family. In neither case is there respect for what they do or what they represent. There is no respect for them as autonomous, rational beings with their own convictions. They’re just stubborn children or senile geriatrics, they aren’t mature and rational like Obama and his friends. He isn’t even a politician, not in his own psychotic mind. He is self-excluded from that list of people who want to “control what healthcare we get.” He isn’t controlling us; knowing us better than we know ourselves, he is guiding us, in spite of ourselves. He is our father.