I Win

Thursday, January 22, AD 2009

Let’s sit down and play a game. I’m sure some of you are familiar with it, but for those who are not, the game may need a little description. First, the game is entitled “I win.” No, no, come back, it is a fun game, I promise! Here’s the rules: I win. No matter what you do, I win. If you follow the rules, I win. If you don’t follow the rules, then you have forfeited, and I win. Pretty simple, right?

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4 Responses to I Win

Wyoming News: Mission Abort and Sin Tax Errors

Wednesday, January 21, AD 2009

At the advent of a presidency that has been accused of being the most pro-choice in history, there’s some good news.

Wyoming is now considering jumping on the bandwagon of trying to make abortions more difficult. There are currently three bills before the legislature dealing with the topic of abortion. The first, and one that draws all manner of painful cries from NARAL and other pro-choice organizations, is the requirement that any pregnant woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound performed. The complaints here focus on the lack of equipment in some regions of the state, supposedly barring some women from being able to undergo the procedure. To this, I have to roll my eyes. There are people in Wyoming who have to drive two or three hours to reach a grocery store. You have to spend at least an hour on the road to go from one significant town to the next. I think travelling to Casper or Cheyenne or one of our other “large” towns for such an “important” procedure shouldn’t be beyond most Wyomingites’ ability. Of course, the real point is that if a woman sees her baby in the ultrasound, she’ll be smitten with a bout of guilt and won’t be able to go through with it. There’s a reason why we have the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind.”

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5 Responses to Wyoming News: Mission Abort and Sin Tax Errors

  • Regarding the ultrasound procedure: Who is afraid of science now?

    Maybe the next pro-life demonstration can include big paper-mache ultrasound machines to mock the science-fearing pro-aborts.

  • Ryan,

    pregnant woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound performed

    It is my experience involved with the pro-life crisis pregnancy movement, that all pregnant women have ultrasounds before having an abortion committed. This is so that the abortuary can determine how much to charge for murdering the child, the older the child the more it will cost. In fact we routinely find that they often exaggerate the age when the client can afford the higher cost. The problem is, it’s an absolute policy that they do not show the ultrasound to the mother, as it is very likely to change her mind. That is the incredible success with our ultrasound programs (80%+).

    So, not only, as daledog points out, are they anti-science, they are in fact anti-woman, and anti-“informed choice”… they are just… pro-abortion.

    On the sin taxes, in principle it is not the government’s place to baby us. However, given that the taxpayer’s bear a significant health-care cost burden due to such ills, and, given that taxes must be collected, I am not that uncomfortable with a disproportionate, but not prohibitive tax on things that are universally bad for us. I don’t know if this case is excessive or not, if it is then the actual amount of tax collected will drop do to people choosing other vices, or via the blackmarket… either case defeats the purpose of the disproportionate tax. I think it’s naive to think that the response would be actual reduced consumption any meaningful sense.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I think it’s naive to think that the response would be actual reduced consumption any meaningful sense.

    I guess that depends on what “meaningful” is. I did a little hunting around to see if sin taxes are effective at all, and they do make a notable difference. But then, statistically significant (i.e. outside the margin of error) does not necessarily mean a big difference, either, and it was hard to pin anyone down on actual numbers (which is a reason for my ambivalence on the issue).

  • Ryan,

    i guess it’s possible they make a difference, but I think that’s a diminishing return, as the tax becomes oppressive, then the black market takes over and they become widely available without paying it at all. There is of course, many bad effects from this black market.

    Again, if we are to be taxed at all, let it be on vices (tobacco, gambling, speeding, etc.) more than on good behavior, such as, oh, being financially responsible and productive.

    Matt

  • When society as a whole becomes so decadent and corrupt, the government can either sit back and let its people self-destruct (all the while subsidizing that destruction through tax-payer-backed medical procedures), or it can act, like a stern mother with her willful children, to curb the excesses of the populace.

    Third option: don’t do tax-payer-backed medical procedures.

    I’m really uncomfortable with the gov’t setting sin taxes, possibly because of the ease they can be turned on any easy target.
    (side note: so, where’s the sin tax on condoms? ^.^)

The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

Most of us are familiar with some concept of artificial intelligence, be it Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, C-3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Skynet from The Terminator, or Joshua from War Games, to name a few popular examples. We’ve long been introduced to the notion of the struggle to determine if artificial intelligence constitutes life whether these beings, which we have created, deserve rights. We’ve also come across the notion of whether we need to restrict these beings so that they cannot turn and extinguish human life (think Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and movies like The Terminator and The Matrix, where the artificial intelligence has turned on humankind). Yet we very rarely hear the debate as to whether such artificial intelligence can ever be a reality. In fact, and partially due to the promises made in the 50’s and 60’s, many people think that super-intelligent machines are destined to occur any day now.

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15 Responses to The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

  • The books of Father Stanley Jaki pretty well cover the topic.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    Ryan! It warms my heart to see this post and that statement. I was just having a conversation with my wife the other day about this very thing. (I think we’d just watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica and the whole Cylon thing sparked it.) I was telling her about my grad school class in math modeling and operations research, and how random number generators always need algorithms with seeds. My take on the whole problem is the same as yours. If the cosmos is just colliding atoms without supernature, how do we escape determinism? Just how sohpisticated would a computer have to be to mimic a human mind and be self-aware? What is “understanding” and “meaning” in such a universe???

    Sometimes I just don’t get materialists…

  • In your introduction you state that we rarely debate whether AI is actually possible. Actually I think that there is way too much time spent on this question. All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable. If anyone can prove, or even find any evidence at all that there was a part of the universe (such as the human mind) that was not Turing computable that would be a huge revolution in physics bigger than anything since Newton.

    And that’s the problem with any contention that AI is not possible. A scientific demonstration that AI is not possible would amount to such new physics as I just mentioned above. Without a scientific demonstration you are left with saying that you could have something which passes every test you can devise for intelligence and yet you do not regard as being intelligent (likewise concious etc.). This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented.

    I should also point out that Turing computation isn’t the only possible determinist framework for physical theories. But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind. Hypercomputation is a research interest of mine and take it from me there is no evidence that my research is physically relevant (let alone relevant to the philosophy of mine)!

  • “This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented”.

    This is asking to prove a negative. If AI is possible, it is AI that must be demonstrated. Among the great problems [as usual] is that of defining intelligence. I take it to be the ability to make connections [inter legere] without having to install the connections in the machine. In a phrase, can the machine make its own connections.

  • It isn’t asking you to prove a negative because there are examples of evidence that would make the contention that AI is impossible more plausible:

    1) Finding a problem class which can be solved by minds (reliably) which is not Turing soluble. An example would be the Turing halting problem and another the word problem.

    Technically you’d need to show that the minds can do this without significant external input to rule out nature containing the necessary information but this is a logical subtlety.

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    If the laws of physics, relevant to the functioning of the human brain/mind, are Turing computable and we reject a solipsistic position then artificial intelligence is possible (or at least as possible as normal intelligence!). Now in order to contend that it is not, one would have to show that there are laws of physics that are relevant to the human brain/mind which are not Turing computable. A solipsistic position wouldn’t help because then you could not demonstrate that other people were intelligent.

    As I said before demostrating either (1) or (2) would qualify you for a nobel prize. This doesn’t mean you can’t! But it does make me doubtful.

    Furthermore the argument I am trying to make is for the possibility of AI in principle. Thus it is not necessary for me to exhibit an AI to prove my point. I doubt anyone will do that for at least another decade or two.

    Incidentally I meant “the philosophy of mind” in my original comment.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other. You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will? A computer program which uses true randomness in combination with algorithmic rules does not have free will. Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    But even so, you don’t set up any implications between lack of these qualities and lack of intelligence. The Chinese Room thought experiment is interesting but hardly settling!

  • I will insert my admittedly uneducated, and largely intuitive perspective on this.

    If AI is possible, it would not look like human intelligence, making it a questionable possibility. Take for example this discussion, it demonstrates considerable intelligence among other capabilities in both interlocutors…. AI may be able calculate amazing scientific possibilities, but when it comes to non-material ideas there is no comparison between man and animal, nor do I think that there could be a reasonable comparison between man and machine.

    As a common person, in order to accept true intelligence in a machine it would have to be capable of developing abstract, non-material, and original ideas.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

  • Response to Matt: My inuitions and yours differ here so I’m not prepared to accept an argument based just on your intuitions.

    I think the problem with your argument lies in the very dubious assumption that people have an unbounded capacity for abstract reasoning and for creating novel ideas (in the absence of significant environmental input). Sure we have some capability but your argument needs that capacitiy to be unlimited. Given what we know about the human brain/mind this would be a very speculative assumption.

    Artificial intelligence programs may well have limits to their ability to engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts but the issue is whether its possible in principle to produce a program which has about the same level of limitation that humans have.

    In summary in order to show that AIs could not be intelligent (at the same level that humans are) you must not only show that artificial intelligence will be limited but you must also show that human intelligence is not likewise limited. But the same reasoning (based on the halting problem) that shows that AIs will have certain limits can be applied to humans if the laws of physics that are relevant to the brain/mind are Turing computable.

  • Well, thanks all for the interesting comments. I’ll try to address some things that caught my eye as demanding a response.

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    You then misread what I was meaning. For the first half of your response, you’re talking about seeding the generator or otherwise taking in random input to help produce numbers at random. I’m saying that no algorithm can, of itself, produce random numbers because the whole notion is contradictory. We cannot use deterministic means to produce random effects. As for taking in input to produce random effects, that does very well in practice, but does not alter my point. I’d also warn about paying too much attention to entropy in the matter of randomness, as the two are not necessarily correlated. Indeed, I can produce (with enough time) from an algorithm that takes in no input, a sequence with maximal entropy for any string length. Our standard compression algorithms increase the entropy of files by removing redundancy.

    Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    Self-awareness is the understanding of the concept “I” as distinct from “you” or “it”. Thus having data on processor temperature, failure status of devices, what devices are present, and whatnot does not constitute to self-awareness. Have data on “my” processor and “my” devices and whatnot is closer.

    You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will?

    As I feel nondeterminism is a component of free will (not necessarily the whole shebang), and we cannot compute nondeterministically, I felt the case sufficiently made there, though. You do have my back against the wall with:

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other.

    Tying these together is hard to do, and my attempt basically went like this: Suppose intelligence does not depend on free will. Then intelligence is deterministic (denying truly random in nature) and thus equivalent to a giant lookup table. Since I deny that intelligence is simply a lookup table (asserted by appeal to appeal), intelligence must depend on free will. This argument is full of gaps, so if anyone else would like to take a stab at it, I’d love to see what others can say!

    Thanks, C. Le Sueur!

    All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable.

    I have a hard time with that one. I think you’ll need to clarify “universe” in this discourse, because my universe contains abstract concepts that are not computable in any paradigm. And then I would appeal to the seemingly truly random events in nature, mainly those posed by quantum mechanics–particle decay, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, superposition of states of particles, and so on–and ask how you justify the computability of such phenomena. Do you hold to hidden variable theory?

    But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind.

    Assuming that intelligence, thought, etc are actually phenomena of computation, I would maybe concede that this statement is essentially correct. However, I’m not a student of mind/brain interaction, save on the theological side, so I can’t really add more to this argument than what I’ve said in my post. Theologically speaking, thought, self-awareness, and intelligence in general are manifestations of our spiritual souls, which in themselves have no parts, which to me denies that there is any computation (hyper or otherwise) going on in us. But I doubt that’s a satisfactory answer to your charge (indeed, I think I’m just copping out…).

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    There’s something about this statement I just don’t like, and I’m not sure I can put a finger on it. What specifically do you mean by laws being computable? I can think of a couple possible meanings of this–the effects of the laws can be simulated, or the laws are derived algorithmically from a set of axioms–but you’ll need to clarify.

    Now, I don’t mean any insult, but you do brandish “Turing computable” around like a magic sword, and I’m tempted to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep use that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” You said hypercomputation is a research area you’re interested in, but also spoke of being in philosophy of mind, so I need to ask. What is your field?

    I agree, though, that just about any “test” we can devise to prove or disprove intelligence runs the risk of being an argument for solipsism.

    Thanks, Barnaby! I hope we’ll hear more from you.

    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

    Matt, this touches on exactly the problem I have with even producing good evolutionary algorithms, much less artificial intelligence. Programmers set up the environment, and so the whole process is completely determined from square one, even if we have a hard time seeing all the ramifications. (After all, there are only a finite number of chess games, at least once we include the 50 moves without a capture draw, but that finite number is so big that we could never examine every single game.) From a practical standpoint, I’d then argue that in order to produce A.I., we have to be able to fully understand our own intelligence, and that’s still a work in progress.

    Thanks, Matt!

  • Barnaby,

    i guess if you put enough artificial constraints then it’s impossible to prove ANYTHING is impossible.

    We know that man’s capacity to “engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts” is not limitless, because that would make us God. But you’ve yet to show that AI is capable of ANY original thought let alone limitless.

    It seems to me that AI could achieve the level of intelligence of the highest animals short of humans, and with massive computational power, but that is distinct from human thought.

    Just curious, are you a materialist? It seems that you’re treating man as just a higher animal, rather than possessing an eternal soul.

    If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.

    Matt
    ps. snootiness aside, do you REALLY believe intuitively that AI could ever participate in such a discussion?

  • Careful, Matt. I don’t think Barnaby is being snooty. Rather, I have a suspicion (and I hope he’ll either confirm or deny this) that he’s in a particular field like philosophy, rather than theology or computer science. I say this–and I’m not being mean-spirited, Barnaby, I promise!–because he seems to have appropriated the term “Turing computable” and is twisting it slightly to fit his field. Now, all fields do that to some extent (A.I. itself borrows heavily from psychology, and in ways that make psychologist flinch), so I’m not in any way calling him down for it. (If you want an example of something gets grossly pulled out of context, just think of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems!) With a little more clarification, we should know exactly where each of us stands, and hey, we might have even more insightful dialogue!

  • Barnaby,

    I meant no offense by the “snootiness”, but a little sarcasm, and for that I apologize. I guess I was just trying to reject the idea that intuitive ideas ought to be rejected out of hand, or are not worth discussing. It’s my understanding that Einstein developed the special theory of relativity triggered by an intuition that it was the case.

    I think Ryan has very effectively placed a lot more intellectual rigor into the points I was trying to make.

    Matt

  • Response to Matt:

    No offense taken. I’m arguing that if AI is impossible then that would imply a revolution in physics. And I am concluding that until further evidence emerges we should assume that AI is possible.

    “..AI capable of ANY original thought..”. I would argue that you have not shown that people are capable of any original thought either by the exceedingly stringent definition you appear to be using. I am arguing that by any reasonable definition if people can reach a certain level of intelligence then that level can be reached by a suitably programmed, and powerful enough, computer.

    I don’t think the term materialist is very well defined so I wouldn’t call myself one. I do think that the laws of physics are Turing computable where they are relevant to the human brain/mind.

    I think there is a much bigger difference between today’s computers and ‘higher’ animals than between ‘higher’ animals and people. But never the less I really am convinced that artificial intelligence is possible! Furthermore my intuition that AI is possible is as strong as my intuition that other people think and feel. I am fascinated by the fact that others lack this intuition or have an opposing one. I try not to be over reliant on my intuitions, however, even when they are this strong.

    “If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.”

    This is only true if you think the idea that the universe involves hypercomputation is not compatible with being a materialist. Do you assume a materialist must believe the universe has a finite number of laws of physics? Because if not then a materialist could in principle reject the possibility of AI (realised by faster computers of the type we have today rather than hypercomputers).

    Response to Ryan:

    “You’ll have to clarify universe in this dialogue”.

    I normally use the definition: “Causally connected region” and for ‘our universe’ I use “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”. I do not try to separate the universe up into domains such as material and spiritual.

    “Do you hold to hidden variable theory?”

    I meant to add the caveat: OR Turing computable with some random noise added. In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.

    “What is your field?”

    I am a mathematician working within set theory on hypercomputation. If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough. I didn’t say at any point that I work in the philosophy of mind (I don’t). I just mentioned the area.

    “What specifically do you mean by laws being computable?”

    I mean that the predictions of those laws can be calculated (with initial conditions as input) by a Turing computer. Richard Feynman proved that quantum mechanics is computable in this sense. Strictly speaking the same is only true of general relativity under the assumption of a space time like the one we observe in our universe (but this is enough).

    “Intelligence, thought, etc. are actually phenomena…”

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Now that was a very long response! I’ve enjoyed this discussion and regret I may not have the time to continue it (I have my research to write up).

  • Barnaby,

    The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter, and is considered a form of physicalism. Fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions; therefore, matter is the only substance.

    What I am saying is that we believe that there is more to man than the sum of his biological parts. Our thought processes extend beyond the material world to the non-material world. We possess an immortal soul which gives us this ability, which a purely material creature or construct could not. I suggest that this capacity is a critical component of human intelligence.

    Matt

  • Barnaby,

    Hey, thanks for clearing things up! Forgive my misconceptions. And now I’m curious. Can you pare down in a few sentences (they can be incredibly technical and terse, I don’t mind) what you’re looking into as far as hypercomputation? I admit, the extent of my knowledge of hypercomputation is limited to things like letting a Turing machine compute for infinitely long (which then removes concerns of computable reals among other things). Or do you have a paper you’d point me at? So… Any thoughts on the P v NP problem? Equal? Separate? Independent?

    “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”.

    As I note, I just have to laugh. This is so a mathematician’s answer! And I can say that, ‘cuz I ar one, too.

    In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.,

    If you’re simply talking about the predictions being computable in that sense, then I suppose I don’t have too much to quibble about (other than maybe asking whether we’re talking completely computable, or probabilistically computable…). I certainly haven’t researched any into the computability of the laws physics in that regard, but then, your answer suggests you were stating a much weaker proposal than I originally thought.

    If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough.

    Well, now knowing that you’re mathematician working within the realm of hypercomputation, it now makes perfect sense why you’re fairly strident at saying “Turing computable”. In my field (resource bounded measure and dimension), all the notions of computability we work with are polynomial-time equivalent, so we tend to just say “computable”. I definitely retract my flippant Montoya comment.

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Well, this comes down to fundamental views of mind/brain interaction. If we suppose that all human thought, intelligence, and whatnot is determined by physical laws, if there’s nothing more than the brain at work, that’s one thing. If there’s a spiritual soul, which we can’t prove or disprove mathematically, but which is a doctrinal statement of the Catholic Church, then there’s more at play than are touched by physical laws. That’s the only point I was trying to make.

    Thanks again, Barnaby! Now, I should probably hit my research, as well.

17 Responses to Theology, Sanity, and Homosexuality

  • We are not to conform to the world but conform to the kingdom of heaven which Jesus preached as love, care, concern for one another. If same sex couples are called to love care and concern for one another then they must follow their truly formed consciences. Sin occurs when we turn away from love. Christians must follow Jesus and Jesus is not made in our image but we in is. Follow love and allow otehrs to do the same. Love is AND not OR.

  • Ryan,

    an excellent post!

    Ken,

    actually Christ also called us to sexual fidelity in marriage, or celibacy. He defined marriage as one man and one woman. There’s no loophole for “loving same sex couples”.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Ryan,

    Thank you for explaining the role of the Holy Trinity. That is one aspect that I am still a novice at understanding how the family roles are to be understood.

  • Tito,

    Glad you liked it, though I wonder if I truly did it justice. There’s so much to say on that one particular topic, especially in addressing concerns of how we can compare such a physical, material action with the spiritual nature of God, and how the condition of man as both matter and spirit applies. In addition, I still feel like a novice myself about it.

    My wife suggested that I glossed over a lot of things in my post that would have made it better, especially with leaving out statistics. For example, I could have (and maybe should have), for example, linked in to Catholic Answer’s tract on gay marriage, or searched out the studies themselves to cite the negative consequences of homosexual acts. She also felt I more or less wimped out (PC style) in denouncing homosexual acts as sinful. Any thoughts?

  • Great post. I’ve enjoyed the whole series, especially this one.

    Maybe you could write more about infertile couples and how a love that is “open to life” even when it is not likely to occur is still sacramental and valid. I get very irritated when people compare infertile married couples to homosexuals. Like you wrote, love is not more important than procreation. But sometimes we can be made to feel inferior because of our infertility. We want to be both unitive and procreative. I’d like to have a short but effective position statement on why male and female are still important, even when procreation is not possible.

    Are there any good Church documents that explore infertility and adoption in more depth?

  • Ryan,

    Good post. I think a sincere and candid discussion about the nature of homosexuality is so vital and yet so far away with the politicization of everything in society.

    It is very, very difficult to grasp the understanding you have presented with a poor understanding of metaphysics and how things relate to one another. The Theology of the Body which is fundamentally what you’re arguing is a metaphysical presupposition of a certain ordering and arrangement of things.

    I’ve heard it argued and in the past, have argued that homosexuality is natural. What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural. There are actually documented cases of homosexual behavior in hundreds of animal species. However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design. Cows are different from dog. The nature of a dog is different from that of a cow. A cow cannot live a life as a dog and still be a cow. What is natural to a dog is not natural to a cow. It does not fulfill the cow’s nature. Cows do not go about sniffing and burying things. So, it follows what is “natural” to animals is not necessarily “natural” to humans. In fact, some animals can change their sex. Male seahorses bear life. This is not the case for humans; hence, animals should not be the objective point of reference for human behavior. But with a reductionist mentality and with little sense of Christian metaphysics, it is rather difficult to get people to see this point though to us it seems self-evident.

    In my own life, I came to a startling realization and it is clearly based on Christian metaphysics. The sexual design — which goes beyond sexual activity — is wired into our very nature and to participate in its fulfillment by the act of free will is to flourish and be human.

    However, when I became suspicious of whether or not — and I’ll say it is my view that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but I don’t believe it to be the sole cause — God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of, to act on homosexual desires is destructive because it’s an attempt to abolish the very order written into human nature and thus harmful at every level.

    One can begin with the most obvious — the physical — it seems curious as to how it is so readily never considered how it could not harm a man to suffer rectal trauma by being penetrated repeatedly through an opening clearly designed for a radically different function.

    Emotionally and spiritually, the harm is not as self-evident, but I think, more pronounced. Consider the emotional harm: if God designd the male-female pair to complement and balance one another, then it follows that same-sex relationships drive each partner to extremes — instead of balancing, the two reinforce one another.

    If one considers — presupposing one actually believes this — the fact that because men are more inclined to be promiscuous than woman because a difference in physiology as childbearers that makes women more conscientious, unbalanced by women (this is not considering contraception) such inclinations ca lead to anonymous no-brakes promiscuity of men who have sex with hundreds of other men. On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    I think much sociological evidence confirms such notions not to mention basic concerns of health — active male homosexuals on avg. have a lifespan 20 years shorter than that of heterosexual males from a variety of reasons.

    I think even if a couple is not capable of giving birth to physical life, there unity is life-affirming and giving in emotional and spiritual ways. The union and activity of marital love in an infertile couple does not directly contradict the very design of the sexual order. They have a magnificent cross and will suffer a temptation not shared by many others; I read about a Catholic couple who can’t procreate because of natural reasons and to protect themselves from impurity, they practice NFP as penance. So I think there is much possibility there; at least, I don’t think it is immoral as long as the intentions are correct.

  • On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    Eric, it’s amazing how you can articulate so much better than I can the points I want to make! Thank you.

  • Eric,

    What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural.

    I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    From Merriam-Webster:
    occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature

    Just because it occurs in nature does not mean it’s “natural”.

    God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil? It seems to me that this is dangerously close to the anathema addressed by the Council of Trent regarding Calvinism (props to Peter Park on pointing this out):

    Canon 6 on Justification:

    If anyone says that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God works as well as those that are good, not permissibly only, but properly and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.

    It follows that, if God actively wills homosexuality then does it not follow that the behaviour inherent, is a work of God as well. We do not believe that concupiscence is the active will of God but a consequence of original sin, how could this particular temptation be actively willed?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil?

    Matt, I think you missed the point here. Eric was stating that these are the arguments put forward by people trying to justify homosexual acts. He then goes on to explain why those arguments are wrong. For example, he states:

    However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design.

    This clearly refutes the proposition that you (rightly) denounced but (incorrectly) attributed to him. He also goes on to state that he has examined the argument of whether

    …God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of…

    Latter, here, refers to the passive permission as opposed to the active intent. Eric is fully stating that he believes that God passively permits people to struggle with same-sex attraction, not that God actively intends people to deal with same-sex attraction and act on it.

    We appreciate your comments, but I would ask that you carefully consider what someone actually says before rebutting his arguments. (On the other hand, don’t for a moment think that I haven’t been guilty of the same many times before!)

  • Ryan,

    I’d appreciate if Eric explained his intent here, it’s quite possible that I’m misunderstanding, but your response only adds to the confusion. I certainly wouldn’t want the apparent contradiction to be left unclarified.

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I was making a distinction between the world “natural” as used in modernity in reference to anything that has a genetic cause — directly wired into one’s behavior via genes — or biological, which refers to things inborn that are not necessarily genetic. Some extend the connotation to things that frequently occur, e.g. sayings like it’s a “natural” temptation or it’s “natural” to feel that way. I clarified that this is not what Christians, in theological language, mean by the word “natural” — the word in theology implies what something’s place is in the creative order and respects God’s design. The nature, is practically synonymous, with the very essence of something. Thus, I was implying that this reality if taken to be true, redirects one’s opinion of homosexuality as acceptable to be expressed to a inclination toward a grave sin. The latter being my conviction.

    In regard to God’s will, I was making a distinction. God from a purely metaphysical basis is the First Cause, therefore, he literally holds everything in existence even creatures with free will that can choose to do evil — God wills actively that we have free will with the full knowledge we may misuse it. I once had the challenge of explaining to someone how a good and loving God could somehow be involved — don’t misunderstand my language — in creating at every moment of it’s existence, the planes that were crashed into the twin towers because any existing things hinges upon God’s creative act, which is not a one time thing, but rather creation is an ongoing activity and God is participating in it with an incomprehensible divine plan that we humans struggle to learn.

    Now in regard to homosexuality, I do believe that God allows homosexuality to exist. Nothing can exist without God allowing it. However, the question I asked myself before I converted to Catholicism, as a person who is homosexual was whether God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends, but rather permits as it were. I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t think it’s the sole cause or the cause of it for everyone. I don’t believe this reality — a physical evil — changes the very essence of human nature or implies that man should re-write his metaphysical place in creation to accomodate homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are fundamentally against the natural law and in Christian terms it is a sin.

    I didn’t think I was in anyway ambivalent on the matter, seeing that I was praising a post that made zero accomodations for morally accepting homosexual behavior.

  • Eric,

    I think I understand what you’re saying, but could you clarify that you what you are saying is that it is God’s “passive will” to allow homosexuality to occur? I guess I’m just too simple, but you seem to keep leaving that question open.

    a. active will – God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or

    b. passive will – is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends

    I think the only orthodox answer is b, wouldn’t you agree? While “a” doesn’t necessarily justify homosexual acts, I believe it is contradictory to Catholic teaching on God’s nature.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Yes. Point “b” is the position I hold and was expressing.

  • I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality.

    Just for what it’s worth, I thought I’d add my thoughts on the issue, though I’m by no means an authority.

    The question is: is homosexuality a matter of genetic predisposition or is it a psychological phenomenon? Or I should say, this is how people pose the question, and I think it glosses over a huge number of important factors, the first and foremost being that “both” is as a legitimate answer as either.

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we do a lot of training and conditioning of ourselves in matters of sexual attraction, especially in bad ways. There are many, many “fetishes” out there that people wouldn’t normally ever consider sexually arousing, but with exposure and a disordered desire for arousal and sexual gratification, these fetishes become very sexually charging.

    This is exemplified in the largest plague of sex crimes in Wyoming: child pornography (possessing, not producing, thankfully). Therapists and offenders themselves both will tell you that most people who get heavy into child porn don’t do so because they were naturally inclined to pedophilia or anything like that; rather, in their usage of pornography, and their ongoing drive for new ways to stimulate themselves, they came across child porn, and developed an association with it. Through repeated exposure (and willingness to expose themselves to it), they eventually trained themselves to be aroused by children.

    Of course, that’s on the extreme end of deviancy, and many people will protest that those people are latent pedophiles, anyway. They’ll also claim that people who go for the weird fetishes are latent perverts, as well. I disagree, for the most part, but where I do agree will wait until I hit the biological portion of this reply.

    Part of the problem of following this line of thought is that many will jump down my throat for comparing homosexuality to child porn, but I feel there’s a connection. Christopher West said that humans aren’t necessarily programmed for homosexuality or heterosexuality, but instead are programmed for sexuality, and the natural (as in the Christian “natural” that Eric defined) development of that is in opposite-sex attraction. Various influences in a person’s life lead them towards and away from properly ordered desire (positive influences like a strong, committed, loving family; negative influences like movies, TV shows, magazines, etc). Some of these influences can occur very early in a person’s life so that they’re not even aware, years later, that they even had an influence. Others are recent enough that it is easy to track back how a person ended up with a particular sexual desire.

    So yes, I do believe that there is a “nurture” component to same-sex attraction. I’ve seen too many people “nurture” themselves into a particular sexual deviancy not to believe that. And yes, I feel I’ve seen people “nurture” themselves into same-sex attraction. In some of the more “socially progressive” areas of high school and college (I’m thinking the liberal arts here, specifically theater), the pressure to be openly homosexual or at least openly supportive of homosexuality was strong enough to lead some to experimentation and to the struggle with sexual identity. Of course, one can simply say that in such a homosexual-friendly environment, homosexuals would naturally drift there, especially those who had hidden it away for so long (even from themselves). But as I said, this whole reply is a matter of personal opinion, not a scholarly treatise.

    But I also believe that there is some genetic propensity towards homosexuality, as well. This belief comes from two lines of thought. First, I believe that there is a biological imperative to see the opposite sex as sexually desirable, and if we are to believe that, then I think we must be willing to admit at least the possibility of the wires getting crossed in some people. Second, while I hold that training has a lot to do with what we find sexually appealing, I also believe that some people are more prone to various forms of sexual behavior than others. Some people naturally have a huge sex drive, others barely have a sex drive at all. Some people very easily slip into (or readily embrace) sexual fetishes, others continue to be repulsed no matter how often they come across it. Thus I believe that no only can wires get crossed, but they can cross in a spectrum of degrees.

    So, to sum up, I believe homosexuality originates first in a biological predilection (very strong in a small number of people, less strong in a few more, and weakly in others), but after that, it depends on influences and training. Some people, a very few, need practically no influence or training at all; others need only a nudge, and others still require some traumatic experience. People with only a weak predisposition (or even no predisposition at all) can still train themselves into same-sex attraction.

    So there’s my theory. It squares with what I know from my limited exposure to homosexuality (I have had a couple friends who are homosexuals, but we’ve almost never talked about it) and from my struggles with my own sexuality. However, it may not square with anyone else’s experiences, so I’m willing (and perhaps eager) to hear what others think.

    As a note, when I say that I feel people are trained or conditioned into homosexuality due to particular influences, that is not to say that they chose to do so of their own volition, or that they would have agreed to it if they knew what was happening. Indeed, my theory of influences and conditioning tends to lean towards early life experiences that perhaps aren’t even remembered. But in any case, my belief that there is training, influence, and conditioning leading to same-sex attraction does not in any way imply that anyone is culpable for his homosexuality.

  • Ryan,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Studies by the Catholic Medical Association find very similar conclusions. This a very strong argument indeed, for the dangers of the homosexual indoctrination that is being foisted on our children.

    Frankly, the attempt by gay activists to push for the genetic origin is simply a red herring. It really doesn’t matter whether this propensity is purely genetic or purely learned, it is still disordered in a moral sense, and in a biological sense.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Excellent thread.
    If some genetic material carries a ‘homosexual’ component, Why is the homosexual act described as an ‘abomination’ in Scripture?
    i.e God creates the process for this genetic material then condemns His creation…we’d better call Plantinga on this one!
    Could it be that homosexuality is not a psychopathology but rather a pneumopathology?
    Scripture also says that homosexuals will not gain heaven, but then neither will liars, whoremongers, ect., an indicator that we all require forgiveness and salvation.

  • Pingback: Catholic Moral Theology And Homosexuality « The American Catholic

A Suggestion for Israel

Wednesday, January 7, AD 2009

Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again.  His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.

As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel.  I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields.  I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.

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11 Responses to A Suggestion for Israel

  • Interesting take

  • It isn’t about money or economic development Ryan. It is all about the fact that the vast majority of arabs in Gaza and the West Bank are ashamed that they were beaten militarily by Jews and that Jews rule in arab lands. The Israelis and the rest of the world could provide a terrestrial paradise for the Arabs, and it would not diminish one iota the desire of almost all Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank to drive the Israelis into the sea. The US and the West have sent tens of billions of dollars to the arabs in Gaza and the West Bank in the form of humanitarian aid, monetary grants, development funds, etc. It has made no difference at all.

  • A very well-written and thought out point, and it makes a lot of sense.
    However, I just don’t know that it would appeal to a country that has to “sit still and take it,” so to speak, while at the same time providing aid to the perceived enemy. No doubt while Israel would attempt to pour money and resources and good will into Gaza, Hamas would still be attacking.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

  • Ryan,

    One must understand hatred and recognize the fallen nature of man. Many Palestinians hate Jews, not because of any wrong the Jews have committed against them, but because they are taught that by their religion, by their parents and by LIBERALS.

    Bribing them with goodies will do nothing but allow them to use all of their other means to build up and attack Israel again. Besides, Iran already pours massive amounts of money into the Gaza and we know what they spend it on.

    The only reasonable course of action in the interest of Israel, the innocent Palestinians and peace in the Middle East is for Israel to complete the destruction of Hamas and deny Iran it’s satellite regime.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • This past Friday, the Hamas television show Pioneers of Tomorrow (a child-indoctrination version of “Sesame Street”) depicted the bunny Assoud dying in a Gaza hospital after an Israeli attack. Assaud the Jew-eating Bunny was introduced to Gazan children in February 2008:

    The Pioneers of Tomorrow children’s series produced by Palestinian group Hamas and made famous by a Mickey Mouse-looking character declaring jihad on Israel and the US, introduced Assud the Bunny.Assud – who said in his first episode that he would “get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and… will eat them up” – replaced his brother, Nahoul the Bee, according to the translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute.

    […]

    In an interview with the program’s host, a young girl purportedly named Saraa Barhoum, Assud talked about becoming martyrdom.

    “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” Assud said on the show.

    Saraa said: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”

    Assoud will join Farfour, Hamas’ copycat version of Mickey Mouse, in Paradise. (
    Farfour was “martyred” by an Israeli on May 11, 2007).

    Yes, I wish I was joking.

    I’d bet you can plumb the channels of Israeli television and wouldn’t be able to find an equivalent of Hamas’ television show — not even in the town of Sderot, subject to over 3,000 rocket attacks this year alone.

    Ravishing Gazans with economic luxuries won’t change their minds — not while infants are raised from birth in this kind of hatred.

  • Even if one did this, how would one get the truth to the Palestinian people. Many, (most), Palestinians are illiterate. Who’s to say the aide comes in and Hamas tells the people that it was their work?

    As you point out, in this conflict propaganda is important and perhaps decisive. It could also be so in the scenario you propose.

  • Just to clear the record, I am well aware of the militant hatred that a vast swath of Muslims, not just in the Gaza, have for Israel. I am well aware that that hatred is difficult, bordering on impossible, to sway. I also understand the vast propaganda campaign going on (thanks Chris for the heads-up on the despicable TV show) to keep the regular populace both ignorant and seething. I also don’t believe you can ask a nation to sit quietly and accept thousands of rockets being fired across the border, especially when the self-appointed authorities not only will not do anything to help that nation, but also blatantly cheers the aggressors on.

    I would cheer on military aggression against Hamas (and now Hezbollah) except for one thing: Israel isn’t going to wage a campaign for victory. And if there is no reasonable expectation of success (and I suppose we could argue that there could be, I would disagree from recent trend lines), then the war cannot be just.

    But I disagree with Donald and others who claim that making the Gaza an economic paradise won’t change anything. Citing the billions that have been poured into Gaza won’t sway my opinion on this, either, because those billions obviously have been redirected to, oh, rockets and whatnot, not to fixing Gaza. Frankly, I think if Israelis are willing (and this either cold of me to say, or just insane, take your pick) to risk their lives to come into Gaza and build schools and power plants and waste management systems and power lines and so on, and hire on many Gazans to aid the construction, then at least Israelis will be visibly helping the Gazan communities. That has a chance of swaying your average Muslim. So I guess talking about spending money on Gaza isn’t the key, but spending money wisely and effectively is the key.

    How to actually make sure that Israeli contractors can flood Gaza and start a massive reconstruction campaign, I have no idea. Which is probably why no one has ever tried to implement it. Indeed, the death toll could be just as high on both sides with my idea.

    But I’m willing to believe that even years of indoctrinated hatred can be swayed with a consistent display of charity.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

    Let me answer your question with a question. Who did we just elect president this past Nov 4?

  • Ryan,

    I think a deeper analysis would find that the Israeli counter-offensive into Gaza is clearly just, perhaps material for a new thread.

    What you’re suggesting is akin to the US activity in Iraq and Afghanistan… the problem is that such nation-building requires security to be effective. Kind of a chicken-egg situation. Military defeat of Gaza is a necessary precursor to rebuilding it, regardless of who sponsors the rebuilding.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Are you still defending the state terrorism of Israel?!!
    Israel kills Palestinians in their homes, in the fields and in mosques. It kills whole families as well as children with their mothers. Arab countries can – if they want – withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. But they lost the will; therefore, the Israeli war machine keeps on killing Palestinians.
    The Israeli government, gathering the remaining Nazis around the world, is trying to squeeze the last useful drop from the Bush Administration before it departs. Once again, if Arab countries want, they can pressure the US Administration in many available ways. However, they do not. The reason is that they have lost that same will.
    The Palestinians are responsible, before Arabs, for this tragic situation in Gaza Strip. The division weakened them further; the policy of Hamas killed more than 500 Palestinians in nine ominous days.
    Yet I started with our responsibility, so people would not say I am denying it. In the ongoing crime, Israel appears as a Nazi, military, expansionist nation that has no right to exist in the Middle East.
    Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak are terrorists. She is a terrorist born to two terrorist members of the Argon gang, which imported terrorism to Palestine and the Middle East. She worked in the Mossad to complete her family’s terrorism heritage. Now she is saying that all Israel wants is for Hamas to stop firing rockets. This is also the excuse of Barak, who practiced terrorism as a soldier and is still practicing it as a minister. Both of them say that war on Gaza has nothing to do with next month’s elections. This means that it definitely has something to do with it.
    Then you have the biggest liar in Israel or any other place: “President” Shimon Peres; I heard him say that Israel had the most powerful weapon in the world…Justice.
    Israel is a Nazi state that has no right to exist. The Christian West sought to establish it as a means to repent of its crime at our expense. There was never a Smaller or Greater Israel. The history of the Torah is fiction and not history. The same goes for Peres justice.
    George Bush, who promised a Palestinian State by the end of 2008 and lied or failed, is a full accessory in Israel’s murder. His administration killed a million Muslims in eight years; therefore, it is not hard for him to support the killing of 500 – or even 1000 – Palestinians. He accuses Hamas of terrorism. Yet, with his help, Israel is the terrorist nation. He also said that Hamas did not want the interest of Palestinians. Who wants it then? He or his VP Dick Cheney?
    On a rare occasion, I heard Cheney say the truth. He proclaimed that Israel did not ask for permission from the US Administration to attack Gaza. Why would it ask for permission when the whole administration is under its control and shares its war on Arabs and Muslims? But Cheney, leader of the war gang, cannot stay honest for long: he went on to say that Israel, a UN member state, was attacked by a terrorist organization. The opposite is true. Israel is a terrorist nation that has no right to join any international organization, while Hamas is a national liberation movement. What is also true is that Cheney is a wanted war criminal.
    I would like to add Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy. They both support a cease-fire, but the British PM eventually supports the US administration. As to the French President, he says one thing and does another. On the eve of the attack on Gaza, Israel was offered EU membership, one which is better than that of the original six countries that started the EEC in Rome. Israel was given all privileges without any financial or any other responsibility towards the EU. Even though the Czech Republic was deliberately held responsible, France was the country that spearheaded the campaign. Sarkozy hands it the EU Presidency then comes to us for mediation.
    After this tour of Israeli terrorism, with US-EU connivance, I go back to the Palestinian and Arab responsibility. We are so weak that we cannot win a military confrontation, not even a media confrontation. Israel has been killing, occupying and destroying for four decades, yet it managed to focus on Hamas rockets, blacking out the Nazi occupation, Hamas’ raison d’être. What does Israel expect after a long occupation? To be welcomed by Palestinians with roses and wedding rice?
    Many Israelis, including Livni, evoke the Transfer (Palestinian displacement). In return, we demand a transfer that would send the Israelis back to the countries they came from. Only original Arab Jews, who were in the lands before the establishment of Israel, would remain.
    What I am trying to say is that extremism breeds extremism. If we see a Palestinian extremism and refusal, it is because the other party’s extremism has undermined the moderates among Palestinians, Arabs and others. It made a peace seeker like me call for the withdrawal of the Arab initiative.

5 Responses to I'll Take Her on a Test Drive

  • Love “consists of a choice to devote oneself to another.” That is one of the truths that the vast majority of Americans don’t know about or cannot come to grips to. Love is a choice, it is not a “feeling”. Yes, you can have feelings of love, but the greater and correct definition of love is “the commitment of oneself to another”.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • I’m paraphrasing it badly, having seen it only once somewhere, but didn’t Bishop Fulton Sheen say something to the effect that to like is biology, to love is an act of the will?

    Ryan, this is probably your best post in this series so far. There’s a lot here to think about. Just for the sake of counterargument, one might say that you’re arguing by assertion that all premarital sex is not self-giving. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think that they’re very giving of themselves in this regard. How do you convince them that they’re holding back from that full union?

    I think your point about the “must have sex” mentality is a very good one, one that’s completely lost on our society. However, I’m sure that someone would counter that it might not be an imperative to have sex, but that it’s darn close enough. I’m not sure how to change that understanding.

  • I agree with J. Christian, an excellent post as well.

    How does one engage with secularists who live together and claim they are willing participants and thusly not “using” each other so to speak. Citing statistics that cohabitating couples have the highest propensity of divorce certainly shoots down their theory of “preventive divorce” by “living together”.

  • I would argue that any premarital sex is not self-giving, but there’s a lot of qualifications to be made about that. I’d be willing to concede, for example, that there are indeed self-giving aspects to some of the premarital relations out there, but that perhaps the selfish aspects outweigh the self-giving. That’s a very hard thing to judge for either the individuals involved, much less for someone looking on. It takes a vast amount of self-honesty to look at our sexual behavior and see it for what it is. (Of course, we can go overboard the other direction and feel any sexual behavior is reprehensible, so keep that in mind.)

    One of the questions I found myself asking a number of years ago when I was obsessed with one girl or another was, “If I can’t have her as my girlfriend, do I even want to hang out with her?” Implicit behind this is the selfish mentality. If we’re not going to have sex, do we even have a relation? I think a lot of people would be surprised at their answers if they were actually confronted with that reaction. We’ve become so inculcated with the notion that to be a couple is to have sex that we’ve grown to the point where a relationship is practically only about having sex, and then, sex for pleasure, not sex in its fullness.

    One revelation I had recently, probably back in February or so (so about 3 months before our wedding), I had to seriously stop and ask what it meant for my relationship with my wife if we could never have sex (for health reasons, for example, or simple accident in following NFP and not being in the mood during the infertile areas of the cycle). It was astounding when I realized how personally painful the thought of never having sex was, and eventually making the commitment to give up sex altogether, if our marriage warranted it, was something that has greatly strengthened our relationship.

    So how do we talk to people about whether or not their sexual relationship is selfish or self-giving? That’s hard, because sex tends to be so intimate an act you have a difficult time getting anyone to talk seriously about it. Trying to suggest to someone who is not seeking advice that, say, cohabitation is harmful is bound to turn them away in anger. The problem, of course, is the cognitive dissonance. I’m willing to bet that most people feel there’s something not quite right with premarital sex, but they dismiss it with any number of excuses. It doesn’t feel quite right because of the linger social expectation that sex should be within wedlock, or because of fear of pregnancy, or something like that. Eventually, we become so acclimated to bringing out those excuses to the fore that, for most intents and purposes, we rarely feel that discomfort.

    Perhaps the best we can do is try to, subtly, force people back into thinking about why the discomfort exists in the first place. Trying to get them to answer seriously the questions “Could you go without sex?” or “if you couldn’t have sex with her, would you still want to be with her?” could at last replant the seeds of doubt. Something else we could try is just to explain our Catholic position. Instead of trying to denounce any of their actions, simply explain why we Catholics view premarital sex with disdain. If we can get them to hear us out, and perhaps even get them to ask questions just so they know better the reasons why Catholics seem such prudes, that might also plant seeds.

    The biggest problem with secularists, especially materialists, is that trying to suggest there’s something wrong with using another as an object, or even demeaning oneself as an object for someone else’s pleasure tends not to work. They’ve convinced themselves that there’s no inherent dignity in the human person, and that’s where, I think, we have to start. It is sometimes horrifying in conversation to realize that the person you’re talking to really has no respect for the human person, believing we’re just chunks of meat with a “take what you can, when you can” mentality. To be honest, I have no idea how to uproot that, other than through prayer that God might move this person to faith.

  • Recognizing the dignity in each person is one of the basic concepts of Christianity that seems to have been fallen on the wayside in society. Part of this problem may lie in the public school system as well as parents, both of which have stopped in teaching Christianity at all (which could be an entire post in itself).

    Not recognizing the dignity in each other tends to make us more course in our engagement with others. Thus it’s easier to demean other whether physically, verbally, or any other manner.

33 Responses to Should Catholics Own Guns?

  • I do. I don’t see anything in the catechism that says I’m obliged to passively let a home invaded kill me in my own bedroom.

  • Indeed. The passages I quoted from the catechism affirmed that we have a moral duty to protect ourselves, out of the love of self derived from our existence as a gift from God. I personally believe that gun ownership should remain legal and in some places be more accessible.

    On the other hand, you have to consider the likelihood of a trespasser attempting to kill you in your home. What actually is the risk, and what is the risk of having a gun in the house? This is why it is a question of prudence. For me, since I’m not a hunter and have no training, owning a gun would pose a greater risk than an intruder, so until I get the training, a gun is definitely not for me. For my wife, who is trained and has been around guns her entire life, a gun poses much less risk than an intruder, and so a gun is definitely an option for her. How does that mesh between the two of us? Right now, her guns are in storage well away from home. Perhaps in the future that might change.

  • In addition to training/experience, there is also a moral duty to know how “strong” one’s firearm is in relation to the proximity of your neighbors. For example, using a hunting rifle (with a high muzzle velocity) to defend yourself very well poses risks to your neighbors if you miss, and perhaps even if you don’t. The flip side of 2263-65 is that you can’t risk your neighbor’s lives, either.

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  • I’ve never liked guns, and haven’t shot one since my Army days three decades ago, but I strongly support the right of people to own guns for hunting and self-defense. I agree with this line from my late father’s favorite western, Shane: : “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

  • Of course, what I didn’t argue in this post is how effective guns are at what they’re purported to do. I’ll leave that to someone else. But, to play devil’s advocate, speaking of a gun as only a tool may mask part of the issue. Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill? Under what circumstances is merely owning a gun bringing a person into the near occasion of sin? I think those are the questions that Catholic opponents of gun ownership would ask. (I don’t think the accidental death ranks near as high, since by that mark we’d have to ban cars before banning guns…)

  • Yes, Catholics should own guns if they see the need. Good luck trying to get the Vatican security details to disarm 😉

  • “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    Depends entirely upon the persons wielding the weapons Ryan. I’ve lived my life almost entirely in rural Illinois. Most of my neighbors have guns of all sorts, pistols, shotguns, rifles,etc. I have never been threatened with a weapon, even though for the past 26 years I have brought legal actions, on behalf of clients, against thousands of people who live in the surrounding area. Some people can be trusted with firearms, just as they can be trusted with knives, axes, etc, and other tools, while other people, including some of my criminal clients, could not be trusted with a paper clip.

  • “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    As Donald said, it depends a lot on the person, but for someone who’s got a basic level of moral responsibility and has received at least 20 minutes in training on basic gun safety and respect for what they can do, my experience is that generally the knowledge of what a gun can do as a tool is sobering rather than a motive towards irresponsible behavior.

    Robert Heinlein (hardly an exemplar of Catholic thinking, I know) said, “A well armed society is a polite society.”

    And while that could be taken to refer to the reserve of mutual fear, my experience is more that people who know they bear the responsibility of handling highly lethal weapons remember to be more polite, more careful, and more helpful for it. I’ve been treated rudely in church far more often than I have at the gun range.

    This, I think, is where familiarity with guns is very, very important from a safety perspective. The person you want to fear is not the “gun nut” with the AK collection who’s down at the range every other weekend, but the person who went and bought a gun that he or she has never shot — or perhaps only shot once. That’s the person who’s likely to be quick to reach for it “like in the movies”.

  • I think, for the most part, agreeable that people have a right to self-defense and the right to defend their families, and therefore, a right to gun ownership. However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I read in a book about Catholic Social Teaching (I haven’t checked the statistics that were footnoted) that some 40% of gun sales are done privately and background checks are not done. I’ve further encountered opposition to changing this reality on the basis of a slippery slope argument.

    Moreover, laws restricting the number of guns bought in day have found opposition. Does one really need to buy more than twenty guns at a time? I can’t recall the precise number, but I do not remember it being unreasonable.

    I’m just not certain why sensible gun control laws are opposed when the right to own guns is respected while seeking to minimally regulate the flow of guns.

    I am not a fan of guns. There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea.

    Thoughts?

  • There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea. Thoughts?

    Well, ever since Va. Tech….

  • I simply see no need for a Catholic to own a gun, an instrument for killing.

  • The solution to the problem of armed violence in schools is to enable everyone to be armed as to even the playing field?

  • Hey Mark,

    That is what Carl Rowan thought too.

  • Just as a follow-up, I do not own a firearm, and I tend to be ambivalent about the 2nd Amendment. I have mixed feelings about gun control, but as a Va. Tech alum the incident was a particularly jarring reminder that only those who break the law have guns in gun-free zones.

  • I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

  • However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    Probably a couple of reasons for this.

    On the unreasonable level, gun owners often start to feel fairly persecuted by the gun control lobby, and so their emotional reaction is simply to oppose everything that the gun control lobby advocates, regardless of whether it seems like a good idea.

    On the reasonable level, oftentimes laws which seem to make a lot of sense to gun control advocates do not make much sense to people from the perspective of law abiding gun owners. For example, as you point out a lot of gun sales are private person-to-person sales which currently require no paperwork to be filed in most states. I once made a private gun sale myself. I knew that a buddy of mine had been wanting a Swiss K31 bolt action rifle for some time, and I had a chance to buy one for under $200. It’s a moderately hard to find rifle (a straight pull bolt action rifle that the Swiss army used until the 50s and which the papal Swiss Guard used until fairly recently) and it’s not exactly the crowd killer — the design has not changed since 1931. So after checking with him on the cell phone, I bought it for him, and then sold it to him the next time I was down where he lived.

    Now in states that apply all the same rules to private party sales that are applied to dealer sales, I would have had to drive down to his town, take it to a gun dealer, give it to the gun dealer, who would then run a background check and hold on to it for a waiting period before letting him have it. (And generally charge a $50 to $75 fee in the process for his trouble.) Since these sales are usually between relatives or friends, that seems like a royal pain and rather unfair.

    The solution to the problem of armed violence in schools is to enable everyone to be armed as to even the playing field?

    To be fair, though, that’s not the suggestion. In all states that I’m aware of the licensing process to get a concealed carry permit is intensive enough that it’s very clear by the time you get one that you
    a) have no criminal record
    b) know how to use a gun well
    c) understand thoroughly the (very severe) legal consequences to using a gun improperly

    The change in law that they’re looking at would simply allow people who’ve already gone through that process to continue to carry (if they want) on the premises of “gun free” institutions like universities. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, personally, as you’re going to find very, very few licensed carriers among the student and faculty demographics. But to the extent that we already have a legal process for determining who’s allowed to carry, I don’t have a problem with them carrying in schools, hospitals, etc.

    I look a quick look around for data, and at least in Florida only 0.01% (out of 1.4 million) of those licensed to carry later commit crimes involving guns — so it doesn’t sound like much of a risk to me.

  • Darwin,

    On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    And on the same level, I think numbers of student/faculty gun carriers will change depending on the demograpics and the state. I think much more would have to go into analyzing such a policy.

  • On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    I see your point, though at the same time — if Criminal A has a gun he wants to sell to Criminal B, and the state in question requires that private party sales be made through a dealer, I strongly doubt that the criminals in question would feel they needed to go over to the dealer and subject themselves to a background check and waiting period. I’d have to look the statistics up, but according to nationwide statistics slightly over half the guns used in all crimes are already obtained illegally.

    So I think often gun owners (myself included) feel like these laws simply make us jump through useless hoops, while doing very little to actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals. That said, if a law really would be successful in keeping guns out of criminals hands, I personally think it’s worth some inconvenience to achieve that.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    Agreed, though due especially to the drug trade Florida has plenty of crime in some areas. Still, though I’d have to hunt for more data, I think you’ll find that people with concealed carry permits are absolutely the safest people you could possibly deal with in regards to guns. (Also, it’s hard to compare as Chicago, DC, New York, and Los Angeles all have incredibly restrictive gun laws compared to most other parts of the country. The concealed carry approach has not been tried in any of those places.)

    Gun training, background check, and knowledge of the world of trouble you’d be in for mis-using the gun ought to be roughly the best combination of factors for reducing people’s likelihood of committing crimes.

  • “I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.”

    Well, sure, but emotional reactions work both ways. If we already have concealed carry permits under state law which allow people to carry everywhere else in the state, why should colleges and universities be different? If you think there are ‘other ills’ that we are blind to here, shouldn’t we see those ills everywhere else in the state?

    If you are against concealed carry laws, then maybe the question is irrelevant, but otherwise I do not see why a university campus is significantly different than a block away from a university campus. If anything, university students and faculties are less likely to be criminally dangerous. To me the suspension of an otherwise valid concealed carry permit on university grounds seems more emotional (no guns in our pristine intellectual utopia!) than rational, but I would be willing to revise that view if there is empirical support for the ban.

  • Wow, I can’t believe this thread has been up for nearly a whole day, and Michael Iafrate hasn’t posted a kneejerk leftist response. (For someone who seems to think the most important thing in the world is to question the assumptions and beliefs that come naturally to you, he never shows the slightest openmindedness about questioning his own leftist beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with him is the enemy.)

  • Happy Advent, S.B.

  • I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

    The question isn’t necessarily are we reacting to a single incident (though I agree that many, many, many reams of paper with worthless blots of ink have been forced through legislatures everywhere in response to single incidents), but whether the single incident is indicative of a larger trend. Part of the problem with trying to learn if arming the campus deters shootings is that there isn’t much evidence one way or another. But from the one incident that we have, we can speculate that either a) having guns nearby did nothing to deter the shooter, as he still shot and killed several people or b) having guns nearby allowed several students to halt the shooting before it became a massacre.

    Frankly, I’m of the opinion that allowing guns on campus and keeping legal in all places the right to carry a conceal weapon are suitable deterrents for crime. Attempting a crime becomes like playing Russian roulette. Will there be a bullet in the chamber, or won’t there? Granted, some will take the risk anyway, just as some will still obtain guns illegally and commit crimes that way. At this point, I feel it becomes a number game determining which methods decrease deaths the most.

    The problem, of course, is that no gun law is going to solve all the problems. Fallen human nature, and all that. I know from personal experience that it is very, very frustrating to have to deal with inconvenient legalities, and it isn’t because they’re inconvenient. Rather, it is like being treated like a criminal when I haven’t committed any crime, while the legal nonsense does nothing to prevent real criminals from doing what they will, anyway. That sense of being judged before any crime has been committed has, I think, more implications than simply us crying out in frustration about punishing those who obey the law, while doing nothing to stop those who break the law.

    However, I don’t feel that such limitations as: licensing, background checks, waiting periods, and bringing a gun by at least the county office after a private sale are beyond reason. Mark is exactly right when he describes guns as instruments of killing. While I disagree with him as to whether or not a Catholic can/should own a gun, I do feel that it is important to keep in mind that a gun is a weapon. The gravity of that fact demands a healthy respect for guns. To that effect, I believe every gun owner needs to be licensed (just like anyone who drives a car needs to be licensed); I believe a background check is important, especially since it is against federal law for a felon to own a gun, or to provide a felon with a gun (so a bit of cya there); I think a waiting period is a good idea to help with those few cases where someone might need a day or two to calm down before he actually receives his gun; and I think a gun should come with a title, like a car, that has to be transferred to the new owner with a minimum sale of $1.00 (so you can then go down to the county office and pay your $0.06 tax).

  • 24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I remember watching an interview once with a woman who had sought to buy a gun in a locality with a waiting period, and then was attacked and raped during the waiting period. In that case, at least, a waiting period turned out to be pretty harmful.

    Now you might say that such occurances are rare. And you’re probably right. But then cases where someone goes to buy a gun in order to kill someone and then changes his mind about it during the waiting period aren’t that common either. In fact, it is not obvious that cases of the former type are not more common than cases of the latter type. And unless one can establish that the latter sort of case is more common than the former, then the justification for the law would seem to be rather weak, even aside from considerations of inconvenience.

  • I wonder what Saint Gabriel Possenti would have to say?

    http://www.gunsaint.com/

  • As a friend of mine said….

    When seconds count, the police are only minutes– or hours– away.

  • blackadderiv-
    I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer, and that she was to pick up her handgun the next day….

    Yeah, worked great, eh?

  • “I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer”

    How true Foxfier. I’ve often been in court when judges issue orders of protection. The judges usually admonish the petitioners that the orders of protection are merely pieces of paper and that they still need to take precautions for their safety. The police will often tell people that they cannot guard them twenty-four hours a day. A gun is often the only means by which a physically weaker potential victim, usually a woman, has any chance against a stronger assailant.

  • I can think of a few people in the old testament who, not only owned weapons of killing, but were commanded by God to use them swiftly.

    *picks up the indiana jones whip he got for christmas and wonders… wwjd*

  • If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
    Also, if Catholics don’t own guns, only non-Catholics will own guns.

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Sex Talk from Steven Greydanus

Wednesday, December 17, AD 2008

My own thoughts on fornication and adultery in specific are slow in coming right now, but Steven Greydanus has an excellent piece up at Jimmy Akin’s blog dealing with sex, its multiple purposes, and how those multiple purposes can go right or wrong depending on intent.  I especially like

However it may work out in practice, sex must always be done in a way that is at least open to the multifaceted goodness of sex in all its levels and aspects. Whatever aspect of sex is a couple’s motivation tonight, either they take the occasion to accept the mystery of sex in its fullness, insofar as it is available to them, or they seek to reject and exclude some or another aspect, to the detriment of the act itself and their own being.

It is my hopes with my next post to speak directly to what those detriments that SGD mentions are, especially in terms of trust, deceit, relational bonds, maturity, and so on.

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As Long as Nobody Gets Hurt

Monday, December 15, AD 2008

“I think it’s okay as long as nobody gets hurt.”

That has become the rallying cry of our times, the gloss over all deeds, the excuse for practically any sin. It is the banner of the sexual revolution, the fallback position of those confronted by the “narrow-minded” religious in society. After all, who does it really hurt if teenagers have pre-marital sex, as long as they play it safe? Who does it hurt if two consenting adults decide to have a one-night stand? Who does it hurt if two men or two women decide to sleep together? More importantly, how could one possibly claim anyone is harmed if someone masturbates?

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6 Responses to As Long as Nobody Gets Hurt

  • Sorry, Ryan. The Prophet Mark Shea has explored these matters with two questions:
    1. What can it hurt?
    2. How were we supposed to know?

  • Excellent evaluation, Ryan.

    Have you read Thomas Howard’s philosophical exploration Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism? — Quick read, but very insightful. With a good chapter on sex. From which is excerpted:

    ‘Masturbation would be a form of solipsism, that is, the attempt to seize a special kind of pleasure (orgasm) that attends the carnal knowledge of the other, when the other is attendant only in fantasy; hence it would represent also a denial of the idea that authentic meaning emerges only from the real union of form (the ritual act between two bodies) and matter (the quest for knowledge of the other). That is, the individual mastubating is seeking one of the benefits of union with the other while at the same time in effect disavowing the importance of the other by acting in solitude. Even in this forlorn act there would be, perhaps, levels of pathos, with the person who at least attempts to try and summon the other in fantasy not sunk quite so far into Gommorah as the person who is aroused and gratified only by the image of his own body.”

  • Gerard E.,

    The prophet Mark Shea.

    That cracks me up!

  • Gerard,

    No need to be sorry. I’m sure you’re familiar with “nothing new under the sun”? Nothing I write to this blog hasn’t been written a million a times over, in variation. All I can do is try to represent the material and hope that maybe I touch some of those who have not been touched yet.

    I do like Mark’s writing, and you’ll probably see a little of his influence in mine.

    Chris,

    Great quote. I haven’t read the book, but I can see it would have been quite useful. Howard stated what I was trying in clearer and yet more succinct terms.

  • Behind much of the “what could it hurt” mentality is the idea that we never need discipline our actions to conform to our will. Because we do not discipline ourselves to control our impulses, the idea of conscience becomes an idea of following our desires without thought to where those desires originate or lead to, ending in the recent election time demonstration that “sin makes you stupid” as Mr. Shea says. Not to mention lack of discipline makes it very hard to act virtuously.

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Sex, the Fall, and the Resurrection

Wednesday, December 10, AD 2008

My inspiration for starting this post and continue the topic through several other posts is the “Day without a Gay” protest, which is supposed to inspire homosexuals and those in support of homosexual marriage to take the day off and perhaps commit to volunteer work (to take a little bit of the sting out of the strike).  Whenever issues like this come up (as they do at least annually here at the University of Wyoming with the Matthew Shepard Symposium), I find myself reflecting on human sexuality, the importance it plays in our lives, and the great detriment its misuse has caused, both to the nation and to myself personally.

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20 Responses to Sex, the Fall, and the Resurrection

  • Good post.

    I’d actually be interesting in talking about pornography and masturbation. I once read a statistic that said that roughly 12% of the ENTIRE internet is pornography and that the porn industry made more money than all major sport franchises and major television networks combined. It’s mind-blowing to even think about.

    I think sexuality would make a good chain of posts because it’s the clearest way to present the Catholic vision of the human person and how can we do that, if we ourselves are not equipped and ready to do it?

    I think I’d like to join you on this endeavor. Finals are almost over. I have SO much to talk about.

  • Ryan, your courage is astounding. What we need to do is accelerate efforts to educate the faithful on JP’s Theology Of The Body lectures. The esteemed George Weigel has commented that if these lectures received widespread circulation, this ol planet would turn upside down. Worth a try.

  • Ryan, Eric, et al.: I welcome this discussion, because it’s pretty clear that much of the objection to Catholic teaching (in the West, at least) is over sexual morality. I don’t need to say it to this crowd, but the debate over abortion, gay marriage, and many other issues really hinges on our concept of human sexuality, its forms and its ends. The debate might seem “over” and “lost” in many respects, but opinion can change quickly.

    I wonder, though, if the “Theology of the Body” is a tractable argument to someone who has no theology. How much can we push arguments from reason? Certainly there is solid scientific evidence to support much of the traditional view of sexuality, but is it persuasive and comprehensive enough to the person who rejects Catholic sexual morality not because he is advancing hedonism, but because he thinks “all things in moderation?”

    What I’m trying to say is, few of us know true hedonists. Most of the people we interact with on a daily basis espouse some form of sexual libertarianism — “What consenting adults do in their bedrooms is none of my business.” This is the majority in the middle that is skeptical of what they see as absolutist morality coming from Christianity. This is also the majority that sees no contradiction in telling their teenaged daughter to abstain from premarital sex, but then happily let her tart herself up for the prom. Mixed messages abound.

    As a practical matter, how do we speak to this group?

  • j. christian,

    We use words only when necessary. Some of these folks are lost, no matter what we do or say.

    And I think over 400 years of watching arguments from Natural Law become increasingly unpersuasive would give us a healthy scepticism about attempting to argue metaphysics and anthropology apart from Divine Revelation. Both are needed to make the most cogent argument.

  • Great post, and I admire your working through those struggles.

  • Eric,

    I’d love to have your collaboration on this issue. It is a huge matter to talk about, with plenty enough to for everyone to have their say and still have leftovers. My plan was to post about masturbation on Monday, pre-marital and extramarital sex on Wednesday, and homosexuality and other topics on Friday, but all that is open to adjustment. What do you have in mind?

    j. christian,

    Indeed, the argument that the misuse of human sexuality pits body against soul means nothing to a materialist (or someone from other groups that see the flesh as only temporary). About the only way to proceed with someone like that is in a Socratic line of inquiry, hoping to get him to admit that there’s dignity behind the human person, and that even with just the material to work with, the human person is more than just a body.

    But then, perhaps only a crisis situation will bring such a person about. One of things that drew me back to the Church was, essentially, that the Church’s teachings, as a hypothesis, perfectly explained the evidence I’d encountered, and that brilliant flash of insight, once kindled, burned for more. Before that, I would have argued to the death that masturbation is not only good but necessary; that pornography was perfectly legitimate; and that artificial birth control was a viable means of avoiding pregnancy.

    So to an extent, I think that one of the best things we can do is clearly state, in entirety, what Catholic thought is on the matter of sexuality. People might completely disagree with the Church, but maybe if they have the full picture, something will click. (But then, if it happened with me, it should happen with everyone, right?)

  • Following on J. Christian’s question — I think most people would, given the name, not consider “theology of the body” an attractrive term, since they’re too used to thinking of sex as being a necessary condiment to be sprinkled freely and generously on one’s life.

    And yet, for all that it’s often taken rather casually, most people (women probably more than men) seem to have a sort of Platonic first-knowledge that sex does mean something and more to the point ought to mean something.

    So I think there’s a hunger of sorts for explanations of what sex means and how it can give life meaning — though the challenge is to present this in a way that sounds like a “holistic lifestyle” (to use the new-agey parlance) rather than “a bunch of rules”.

  • http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n20_v40/ai_6701958/pg_3?tag=artBody;col1

    BTW, here is AJ Ayer’s account – to his surprise – of experiencing brain function after the body stops.

  • OK guys. This is my first post and I see a little too much inbred back slapping going on. So here is some Ultra Kudos from outside the gene pool. Great post.

    I am not Catholic. I wish I could be a member of this community, but I have two stupid divorces that I refuse to annul because I will not let my decisions when I was younger and dumber be washed away. I am very proud to be in a happy, loving marriage now because of the hard lessons I hung on myself in years gone by. I shall always see myself as an example of never give up on life’s true treasures (and let your parents fix you up when all seems lost).

    That being said, the teaching of the Church and rational for our existence on this earth, as you alluded to, are indespensible to the future of mankind and we (if I may be so bold) should never give up on the truth and meaning of our life now.

    Keep me informed. I will pass the word. Bless you all.

  • Texas Tom,

    We’re very happy to hear from you and appreciate your blessing (and passing on the word). I wonder, though: could you clarify on what you mean by “I will not let my decisions when I was younger and dumber be washed away”? Or how you perceive annulments as accomplishing this? There might be a misunderstanding here that, once clarified, might just open the path for you into the Church. (No pressure, though–if you don’t wish to discuss it, that’s fine. This can be an intensely private matter that maybe shouldn’t be just posted on the internet for anybody to see.)

  • Ryan, a strained construction of a personal trait.
    I accept full responsibility for my actions and as far as I am, in investigating my options with regard to requesting entry into the Catholic faith, I see and annulment of my two previous marriages as the only way to be a full participant in all the Church has to offer. Annulment sounds like finding a technicality to invalidate the now “inconvenient” moral bonds. (CCC 2384-2387)
    So I can’t, as yet, see a way clear for me to accept that what I did of my own free will and in an informed state can be nullified and my conscience remain clear.
    I had no faith based training as and adult and was not aware of the ramifications of these actions. Heck, my folk dragged me to an Episcopalian church when I was 4-6 for Right and Wrong training and the free Polio vaccines at the health center that was open on Sunday to catch all the little boys and girls.

    As far as privacy… I am a great example of walking, talking oops. I learn from my errors an I always hope someone will look and note that life’s lessons are only lessons when they are known. So, I share and I feel real nice anybody takes an interest in what I have to say.

    I’ll go on a pun rampage later. For now I will curb my inner comedian. (Smile)

  • Texas Tom,

    God is merciful.

    If you accept your past transgressions, but more importantly, ask for forgiveness, then you’re good (to enter the Church).

    What you are doing to yourself sounds like purgatory on Earth. God is the sole judge to determine what cleansing you need to go through, hence why we have Purgatory.

    I’ll let the others help explain better than I can. But if you need more information here is a good starting point –>

    See defintion of Purgatory with all the Bible passages and Church teaching: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm

  • Hey, Tito. I am a happy and grateful man with a wonderful life and an iquisitive nature. Darn tootin’ God is merciful! Heck, He has this blessed life gig down pat and I’ll back his play any day. I do not punish myself or feel deprived in any way and I love being a stand up guy who can give some practical advice to someone who won’t take God’s word for it. (Ha, ha. Almost a pun)
    I will talk to a priest soon to get more first hand low down. I was in a bit of funk about having a Catholic rug pulled out from under me because of my past, but I am still very uninformed about the nuts and bolts of where I may be headed.
    Quick lesson: If you are in the dark over the answer to a question … Maybe it’s a good time to take a nap. When you wake up, ask someone who might know the answer. Then get some hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream. Chocolate is one of God’s blessing too, ain’t it?

  • Texas Tom,

    First, sorry this is so late in coming. I typical am not around a computer with access to the internet on the weekends.

    Second, annulments are not simply trying to find technicalities. They really aren’t the Catholic answer to divorce. There’s a fair amount of theology behind it, especially in how the married couple image the Trinity, but the quick and dirty is this.

    A marriage between two baptized Christians is sacramental and in no way can be broken. The question remains whether a marriage truly existed in the first place. Normally, what looks like a marriage is treated as thus, but closer examination could reveal that one or both of the couple went into the marriage with discernible reservations. A valid marriage must be free, full, faithful, and fruitful.

    A violation of the first would be if you discovered you were closely related to your intended, such as brother-sister, step siblings, in line of descent, and so on. That doesn’t happen often, but given how fractured our society is becoming, I’d be surprised if it didn’t creep up now and then. Another example would be if one of two was already married (such as divorced without an annulment, or even engaged in polygamy).

    A violation of full is best described as “I married him because I was worried he was my last chance.” Full entails full devotion, full giving of the self to the other. This is why women who marry when they discover they’re pregnant tend to be found in an invalid marriage–they married because they were scared of having to raise a kid alone, or were trying to do the respectful thing and marry the father, and either of this conditions could very easily get in the way of the full giving of self. Another, darker example, would be to get married simply because then you’re guaranteed sex with your spouse. Anytime one of the couple goes into the marriage with more of an intent to use the other (be the intent benign or malevolent), the full condition is violated.

    The faithful condition should be fairly obvious. The simplest way to describe a violation is if one or both of the couple doesn’t mean “till death do we part”, but rather “until it becomes inconvenient”. But it can also be violated by wandering eyes (even if they only wander to underwear ads in the magazine), which entail a desire for more physical arousal than what the marriage provides.

    The fruitful condition doesn’t mean that kids have to be present, but it does mean that the couple needs to be open to children in the conjugal act. A couple that marries fully intent on contracepted sex, fully intent on preventing any children in their union, is a couple that violates the fruitful condition.

    Moreover, you’ll find that most violations do not simply fall into one category or another, but span several. Sometimes the problems are obvious; other times obscure.

    The point, though, is not get out of a marriage, but to understand whether or not the marriage was valid to begin with. Getting it right is important, more so than personal pride. To top that, an annulment is a difficult thing for the couple to handle even after it is granted. Consider what happens if nullity is declared, you happen to be at fault. That means you have to do some–undoubtedly painful–soul-searching, praying, and rebuilding of your moral life before you can move beyond that declaration. Some people have received a declaration of nullity, but have been prohibited from marrying again until they show proper signs of repentance and maturation.

    I don’t know if this helps any, and it will probably be a small portion of what a priest will tell you. But the main point is this: a declaration of nullity is not a cakewalk, and it doesn’t simply give you a free pass on mistakes or broken commitments in the past. I would definitely encourage talking with a priest, and I hope that goes well.

  • As a former Catholic who formally defected from the Catholic Church over
    fake annulments, this quote, I assert with experience, is false and dangerous:

    “Second, annulments are not simply trying to find technicalities. They really aren’t the Catholic answer to divorce. There’s a fair amount of theology behind it, especially in how the married couple image the Trinity, but the quick and dirty is this.”

    Our marriage was intentionally undermined by catholic priests and the annulment process and it remain under attack, with the full knowledge of the local ordinaries and the Pope as well as the new head of the Papal Signatura, Raymond Burke.

    The Catholic Church has sold its soul to the Devil regarding marriages. I do not care what statistics you cite or the canonists or priests you have who can defend your position. I know what I continue to experience and the Catholic Church can act but WILL NOT ACT to work towards healing a valid marriage that its own Roman Courts found valid after the corrupt American Tribunals and many priests and laity have aided and abetted open and permanent adultery!

    If the Pope gave a darn he would send me a ticket with an open eneded audience to inform him of what I have seen in person. HE DOES NOT CARE! He listens to his bishops and priests who are corrupted thoroughly.

    He fiddles while Rome burns.

  • Karl, I will pray for your healing. As regards the terrible experience you have met with the clergy, I can only offer sympathies. They are as human as the rest of us, but they have a greater duty to uphold the dignity of their office. That they failed for you is a grave tragedy. Please, if you will, pray for these men who you believe have betrayed your trust, that they might see the error in their ways.

  • “but WILL NOT ACT to work towards healing a valid marriage”

    Karl the Catholic Church was not responsible for the fact that you and your wife had a marriage that fell apart. The idea that but for the Catholic Church you would have gotten your wife back is unlikely in the extreme based upon the facts that you have disclosed in the past in numerous postings on other Catholic websites. Your wife ran off with someone else and got pregnant by him. The idea that anything done by the Church would have gotten her to return to you may give you comfort, but simply does not comport with reality. When someone is willing to commit adultery the idea that not granting them an anullment will cause them to return to their spouse is risible. I think you probably know this deep down but for some reason you have decided to make the Church the target of your bitterness and grief over the fact that your wife did not want to continue to live with you.

  • Mr. Harkins,

    I will continue to pray for the Church and those clerics and the vast majority of laypeople who really do support adultery and whose support encourages unending abuses by the clergy including the bishops and the Popes.

    These clerics are hard-hearted men unwilling to listen to those of us who have seen their corruption first hand. The Pope knows well of the corruption and encourages it through his failure to address these issues with those of us who raise them and his unwillingness to provide a simple recourse against corruption. His failure to help us root out those who have done us wrong means he has joined in their wrongs and he should resign the papacy, forthwith. He coddles priests who openly encourage adultery and all types of crimes against innocent spouses. He knows his fellow bishops are corrupted and care little about truth and the damage their practice does.

    They did not fail me or our marriage. They deliberately chose to do all they could to destroy it and they still do. The evil is incredible in the Catholic clergy. To me failure means there was a desire to to good. I am certain, otherwise, about the efforts of the Catholic Church in these regards.

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Keep Christ in Christmas? The Choice is Yours.

Friday, December 5, AD 2008

It is Christmas time, and as become increasingly frequent in past years, we have atheists who are quite upset about the whole Christmas gig. This time, they have posted a sign next to a nativity scene erected at the state capitol in Olympia, Washington, which states in part:

“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens our hearts and enslaves our minds.”

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6 Responses to Keep Christ in Christmas? The Choice is Yours.

  • Jefferson was a wise man:

    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

  • Father Jonathan Morris has more to say on the topic (and is a little harsher in tone).

  • To complete the quote from Jefferson that Scott Miller began:

    “But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in
    these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and
    restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most
    venerated reformer of human errors. “”

    Jefferson believed in God but not the divinity of Christ, although he thought the teachings of Christ reflected the best morality yet propounded to the human race. Of course Jefferson was wrong. Christ was either a lunatic or he was God. As C.S. Lewis stated:
    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’

    That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic ? on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg ? or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

    “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

  • 1. Similar ban on Christmas stuff at University of North Carolina. Oh we should all go big whoop because you have the hands-down number one men’s basketball team, huh Smarties?
    2. Would guess that those in authority who ban mangers, trees, little statues of the Baby Jesus are those who grouse most about huff puff the blatant materialism rampant this time of year and we should make little arts and crafts for others and whine whine whine. Or with weird fears of Unseen People Who Might Be Offended. Who really complain about huff puff the materialism.
    3. They might also be among those secretly satisfied about the recession. Including too many pests in Washington. Still the masssive King of Prussia Mall, biggest and baddest in the land, was packed with bargain hunters last Friday. Could predict soundbites….. “I’m looking for bargains….I do this every year……I wanna big fancy toy from Sandy Claws that I saw on Nickelodeon……”
    4. I do not give out cards with Sandy Claws or snowpersons or bad Currier and Ives knockoffs or the really annoying ones with the sprinkly stuff that gets all over your hands. It’s Baby Jesus, manger, Scripture verses, seriously spiritual. No Happy Holidays. Here my secular humanist friend. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. Now go back to complaining about the materialist trends.

  • 5. But Kwanzaa is kinda cool. Particularly for all 176 people who celebrate it.

  • Actually, I tend to think that if there is a nativity scene in the state capital, this is a public endorsement of Christianity. It is not a message that the state tolerates or allows Christianity, it is that the state approves of it. I think that we have to acknowledge this, and we have to make this acknowledgment part of a justification of public religion in the government sector.

    I also tire of the “Its ok to say merry Christmas” movement. Christmas is largely a non-Christian celebration these days with the focus on trees, lights, gifts, fancy dinners, and presents–with the religious meaning an afterthought. The reason that people don’t want to call it Christmas is because the celebration of Christ part has become optional or even marginal to the holiday. People want to divorce the two. It doesn’t matter what we call the day, if the focus is not on Christ, and calling it Christmas certainly doesn’t mean the focus necessarily is where it should be.

10 Responses to American Civil Religion

  • Thanks for the summary Ryan. I had glanced at the Wikipedia page to get a general idea of the accusation. It’s an interesting concept, but it seems to me that moralistic therapeutic deism is far more widespread, particularly over the last twenty to thirty years as the textbooks have discussed U.S. history in less glowing terms.

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  • I think you should also look at the more “conservative” or even traditional arguments against American Civic Religion. What I am refering to is the condemnation of the heresy of Americanism by Pope Leo XIII. This is especially relevant in light of issues such as individualism, “exporting democracy”, and American particularism.

    You have to understand that “exporting freedom” has been a part of America for a long, long time. This has been the unofficial idea probably since the begining, when the US was seen as the model for a liberal revolution, which caught hold accross Europe. It became the official millitary philosophy of the country since at least the Spanish American War where “American Democracy” conquered Old (and in part Catholic) Europe, and was continued in World War One and up to the Iraq war.

    Furthermore, the Individualism angle cuts in a few different directions. It is not just an economic issue. The Church has always said that the common good is more important than individualist rights, which effects social issues as well.

    The similarity of their criticism against the heresy of Americanism and the modern critique of American civic religion is amazing given their very different views and political committments.

  • The first is the importance of not simply writing someone off as “being that way”, and instead actually trying to argue things out with specifics.

    Not sure why everyone on this blog seems to think that blog comments are the place for extended arguments and complex explanations of phenomena like american civil religion. Surely you don’t expect me to be able to give a lecture on such things every time I make reference to them? I’ve written on american civil religion before. Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument, seeing how we are bloggers, and you are not my dissertation committee.

    …especially if he works under the paradigm that those who support the War in Iraq, capitalism, strict border control, and so on live in either a conscious or unconscious worship of this American Civil Religion

    Not quite.

  • Michael – don’t be ridiculous. You made an accusation. Then you refused to provide any evidence for that accusation or offer any explanation of what led you to make the accusation. We were not waiting breathlessly for you to provide a lecture on anything – just to show the common decency of trying to justify your charge. Even Kingsley did that much.

  • Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument

    Translation: “My habitual pattern on almost every occasion is to throw out insults that I can’t be bothered to explain or defend.”

  • We’re not your dissertation committee — which is probably why you haven’t been kicked out of grad school 😉 — but there’s a point at which if you want to throw around accusations and characterizations you should be prepared to explain what you mean by them.

    I don’t think you’d be impressed by a blog where people were constantly told, “You’re just one of those Liberal Catholics” and the accusor then refused to even explain what he meant by the term. Similarly, if you want to accuse people of worshipping at the altars of the state, or worshipping the military, or participating in American Civil Religion, or what have you, then you need to be prepared to explain what you mean by those terms and why you think they apply. Or at least, you need to be prepared to do that if you want to have any chance of helping people understand what you mean and perhaps even respect your opinion — if your main purpose is to blow off steam online I guess it really doesn’t matter.

    You clearly have a fairly unique political perspective, yet you seem oddly hesitant to ever lay it out very clearly. Trying to see if I was being unfair on this, I just ran down your list of VN posts back to the mid summer, and although I see a lot of quicky “Look at this horrible thing” posts and “This writer says this about Obama” posts, going back to July of this year I don’t see any where you lay out a policy proposal or write more generally about your political philosophy.

    Which made it a bit ironic when I ran across >this post where you express the laudible opinion:I am thankful to be part of a group blog that focuses on original writing and commentary on contemporary issues and current events rather than constantly pointing the finger at other bloggers.

    I’m not saying that I’d agree with you any more if you tended to write more substantively in your posts and comments, but I would at least have the benefit of knowing what it is that you think — other than that you generally react to my economic views with horror.

  • Michael,

    Not sure why everyone on this blog seems to think that blog comments are the place for extended arguments and complex explanations of phenomena like american civil religion.

    This from our comment policy:

    We would like American Catholic be a place where Catholics from various perspectives (and anyone of good will) may constructively discuss the issues that unite and divide us.

    Our intent here is not just to post articles, but have discussions. While we greatly appreciate your taking time to read what we’ve written, we’re also hoping for genuine dialogue. In a sense, we do want our comboxes here at AC to deal with complex arguments made for or against difficult issues. Now, of course, no one says you have to make long, involved comments. You have your blog to manage and probably many other things to do. At the same time, if you have the opportunity, we’d like to hear some well-argued points you have to make.

    I’ve written on american civil religion before. Sometimes I simply refer to things without feeling the need to make a long argument, seeing how we are bloggers, and you are not my dissertation committee.

    Part of the problem with saying this is that just because you’ve written about American Civil Religion before does not mean that we understand how you’re validated in accusing us of worshiping it. Now, I certainly took your advice and looked up the topic myself. I read Bellah’s original argument, and have worked through a good portion of his “The Broken Covenant” to try to get a good understanding. From there I speculated on what your accusations were precisely, and why I felt there weren’t justified.

    The difficulty, of course, is that I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know that these are your arguments, or even if they are, if you’re not seeing important minutiae that I didn’t pick up on. That’s why we ask for clarification.

    The point is that we’re not blogging to be in a void. We’re not spending hours of our time to produce something that has no impact on people. And if you feel that we’re presenting very bad arguments, we’d not only like to know that we are doing so, but how. We’ll take criticism–though we will probably argue quite a while–but we’d prefer “You’re wrong, and here’s why” over just a “You’re wrong.”

    Now, you challenged me to look into something, and I have, and I feel I’ve gleaned a good amount of insight from it. I feel sheepish that you had to rebuke me to look up “American Civil Religion” on my own, but then, that doesn’t solve the problems you see here. It reminds of the joke about a man overhearing a couple of coworkers gossiping about someone who simply doesn’t have a clue, and walks away thinking “I’m glad I’m not like that guy”, when in truth they were talking about him. Having looked into American Civil Religion, I feel comfortable in saying, “no, I don’t worship at its altar”, but maybe you’re seeing something I’m not. That’s why specifics are necessary.

  • Also, a little note on prose composition: If you want to emphasize that you’re using a proper noun (perhaps one that others should make themselves familiar with before responding), it can help to capitalize it — even if it contains the hated word “American”. Thus “American Civil Religion” or if you want to be specific “American Civil Religion as described by [Name]” might be more helpful than “american civil religion”.

    Otherwise people may not realize that you’re referring to a socialogical term rather than just tossing off an ad hoc accusation.

Life Expectations, As Viewed Through the Fiat

Tuesday, November 25, AD 2008

When I consider the malaise that has spread across our nation, I ponder where it has come from. Is it a matter of a historical discomfort, so that it has always been present and is simply more noticeable now, or is it a more recent phenomenon? Part of me wants to simply assert that in the past, we were too busy worrying about survival to really bother with such concerns, and that nowadays we have so much luxury time that we can actually sit back a think about things are.

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One Response to Life Expectations, As Viewed Through the Fiat

  • Thank you for this article, Ryan. I imagine a lot more can be said about the problems of an entitlement culture; hopefully you can continue to develop these thoughts.

Newly Discovered Screwtape Letter!

Thursday, November 20, AD 2008

What follows here is the first of a new batch of letters written by that infamous demon, Screwtape, who was immortalized in a collection put together by the late C.S. Lewis.

. . .

My Dear Wormwood,

When last I had written you, I had assumed that you had everything well in hand with your patient, and so I am dismayed to find this hastily scribbled note of panic. All seems lost, you say. Your patient has turned away from all the pleasures that sexual iniquity can provide and has dedicated himself to a chaste life, and thus has made himself nigh unassailable to our devices. I must say that I am disappointed, Wormwood, not that any mismanagement on your part has led to this setback (though we will discuss that in due time), but that you are so quick to cry defeat. The Enemy ever persists in granting his graces to these featherless bipeds, so you must remember that our work is never done as long as the patient lives.

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One Response to Newly Discovered Screwtape Letter!

  • I eagerly look forward to the next newly discovered Screwtape letter courtesy of the Infernal Post Office. I understand there may be some letters also from the hitherto silent Wormword, but since the efficiency of the postal service of the nether regions is somewhat akin to that of some terrestrial postal services it may take a while before the musings of the hapless Wormwood may finally come to light.

6 Responses to On Just Wages, Work, and CST (Part II)

  • The argument against the minimum wage is not so much that it violates the the sacred right of private property or freedom of contract as that (to the extent it has any effect at all) it serves to increase unemployment, and thus hurts the very people it is intended to benefit. You seem to recognize this (with your comment about the folly of just raising the minimum wage to the point where we can all live in luxury) but you don’t follow the reasoning through to its natural conclusion.

  • As BA said, I think the main question surrounding the minimum wage is whether it’s better to have more jobs that pay less or less jobs that pay more (with higher prices for everyone). I do not have a strong opinion either way on the answer, but I don’t think it is obvious that a minimum wage is always the best approach.

  • Yes, I did seem to forget to mention that vitally important aspect of minimum wage. For those who would like to read a little more on it, there’s an excellent post over at Catholic Exchange. I’ll see if I can’t do a little digging to have some facts on minimum wage increases and the harm it does to the economy when not handled well.

  • The utter nonsense of Catholic Social Teaching, with its implied socialist/totalitarian goals, is why I left the Church. It is this nonsense that impoverishes the backward nations of the world and enslaves a billion Chinese. No member of the hierachy has any concept whatever of economics or what elevates people above the feudal muck the Church is mired in.

  • Bob, that’s absolutely fascinating, especially considering that CST states:

    1) A well-regulated free market (one that has some oversight to prevent abuses like monopolistic price-jacking) is the most consistent with human nature, directly corresponding with man’s need and obligation to work for a living, man’s right to private property, and man’s interaction with his fellow man;

    2) Socialism is a grave evil

    3) Charity and the care for the poor and needy is best accomplished locally first, and from the state as only a last resort.

    If you left the Church because you felt it taught socialist and totalitarian goals, I suppose that’s okay, because those views are objectively wrong.

    They just aren’t what the Church teaches.

  • Bob – It seems to me that systemic corruption, a lack of respect for the rights of individuals, and a failure to consider the obligation we have to care for the weakest members of society is more characteristic of impoverished nations than an adherence to Catholic Social Teaching. There is very little evidence that Catholic Social Teaching is responsible for the enslavement of ‘a billion Chinese’ people.

3 Responses to On Just Wages, Work, and CST (Part I)

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  • There are a lot of points in this post that are worthy of comment and/or critique. My first impulse would be to write half a dozen or so long comments each addressing a different point, but if I did that each individual point would likely get lost in the volume. So let me, for now at least, confine myself to one particular point. You say:

    Associated with work is the principle of remuneration. Ideally, a man receives in return for his toil compensation proportional to the effort he has expended. It is justice that if a man expends more hours in labor, he receives further compensation.

    I sense the ghost of the labor theory of value lurking behind these remarks, and I want to send that specter back to the foul perdition from wince it came. It’s not true that compensation ought to be proportionate to the amount of labor that a man expends in performing a given task, or to the amount of time he labors. If A can do a particular job twice as fast as B, then it is perfectly fair for an employer to pay A more than B for the same amount of time worked. What matters is not how hard a person works or for how long; rather, it is the value he produces that will determine his compensation. (It is true that, for practical reasons, a lot of compensation is determined based on time worked, whether in hours, or days, or weeks, or whatever; but there is no reason in principle why it has to be this way, and indeed it often isn’t, as anyone who has ever worked on commission can tell you).

  • blackadderiv,

    Well, I hope the specter is duly banished. I wanted to keep concepts as simple as I could, as this was a long, long post (noted by how I decided to divide it into two posts). The part you have quoted here was merely the comparison of a man with himself, not with any other men. I wasn’t even necessarily thinking so much as a man working for wages in some company, even, but down even to the most basic. If you think of ancient, prehistoric man, out hunting and gathering, the idea would be this: if you spend more hours a day picking berries, chances are (there’s no guarantee, of course), that you’ll end up with more berries.

    You are exactly correct to point out that a man deserves compensation for quality as well as quantity of work. I never meant anything to imply that I denied that. On the other hand, you can’t deny quantity of work, either, at least within context. Quality, quantity, and rarity of work (i.e. special skills that only a few have) are all factors that have to be consider together when working with the whole picture. You’re exactly right about that.