12

Jordan Peterson: The Problem With Atheism

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

  Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 

 

 

A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such.  The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this.  Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:

Dear Sir,

I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For, without the belief of a Providence that takes cognisance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasons are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face.

But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantage of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a great deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?

We found out in the last bloody century the answer to that question.  When we believe in God a dignity is conferred on each man and woman as a fellow child of a loving God.  Abraham Lincoln saw this clearly:

These communities, by their representatives in old  Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We  hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are  created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with  certain unalienable rights; that among these are life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic  interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their  lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of  the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to  all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their  enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and  likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded,  and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole  race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized  upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide  their children and their children’s children, and the countless  myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise  statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity  to breed tyrants, and so they established these great  self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man,  some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that  none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look  up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to  renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth,  and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues  might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would  hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles  on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

If men are fellow children of a loving God, then our worth is infinite.  If we are merely animals with pretensions, our lives of no more significance than those of gnats, we should not be surprised that men who believe this rubbish will act as if their lives, and the lives of their fellow men, are very cheap, and very meaningless, indeed.

 

6

Follow Him No Matter What

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, ” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, ” he said. “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

1 Samuel: 3: 3-10

 

The Old Testament reading today ends too soon.  The most impressive part is just after this passage where the Lord tells Samuel what He is about to do, which is to doom the House of Eli because Eli knew his sons were blaspheming God by their actions and he did not reprove them.  Samuel tells Eli this bleak prophecy.  Eli has served God all his life and now he learns that his family will be blotted out by God.  Rather than rage against God and accuse Him of injustice, Eli says:

“It is the LORD. What is pleasing in the LORD’s sight, the LORD will do.”

We are ever ready to accept blessings from the Hand of God and ever ready to avoid the chastisements He might send us.  This of course is a very human reaction and it is also a very wrong reaction.  God is All Just, just as He is All Good and All Loving.  From His hands we receive only good, no matter how bitter that good may be in mortal terms.  Here below in this fallen world we discern God dimly, our wits befuddled by sin.  In the next world perhaps all may be made plain.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps God will give the same answer to our queries as He did long ago to a question in Judaea:  “What is that to Thee?  Follow thou Me!”.  Our duty is to follow Him, not to follow our own doubts and folly.

 

 

13

Conversing with Skeptics

You may have run into this yourself. If not, it’s at least good to be aware of it. When conversing with atheists and skeptics over the years, I’ve learned to be careful with three terms:

1) God:

The word “God” can be an overgeneralization; it means too many different things to too many different people. One may be thinking of a fairy in the sky or flying spaghetti monster (one thing among many). Another thinks of the ground of all being or being itself, or the one “unconditioned reality”, or perhaps…“Father”. I have been told that is inconsequential in discussing God’s existence, and I always object because thinking matters. What we think relates to what we believe and ultimately what we do. Two people may use the term “fetus”. One is thinking of a person in the earliest stage of life just as valid as any other stage (a person exists). Another is thinking of a non-person with no right to be alive (a person does not exist). The difference is life and death.

Another allegory I use is about two small fish in a vast ocean debating the existence of water. If one fish thinks of water as just another thing in the ocean (one thing among many), then the search for water would be basically the same as the search for a rock, a sunken ship or a swimming seaweed monster. The search strategy would be completely different if the thinking was different. In general we do not think about water being in the ocean. We are more apt to say the ocean is water.

2) Atheism:

Just as there are different kinds of “believers” there are different kinds of atheists. I’ve heard the term “weak atheist”, which to me is basically the same as a lazy agnostic. When pressed with some deliberate questioning, a lot of answers from the weak atheist are “don’t know/don’t care” or “no way to know.” A strong atheist is more “evangelical” and eager to prove their point. In general, if you push with some hard questions about The Good, The Beautiful and The True, you’ll quickly find out if you are dealing with a strong or weak atheist. Lately however, I prefer the term “skeptic” to cover all levels of atheism.

Beware that general topics about The Good, the Beautiful and The True can trigger many tangents about specific Church teachings, Church history, Church scandals and things in the Bible that are positioned as not so good or beautiful or true. Jumping into these topics right away with a skeptic is like debating the interior design of a house before the basic structure of the building is thoroughly considered. All of it is important, but the foundation comes first.

3) Evidence:

Some come off as self-proclaimed authorities on evidence. Only sensory/empirical/scientific data is valid evidence. Data from metaphysics, philosophy, witness testimony, inferences and other modes of reasoning are generally dismissed. This is contradictory because saying empirical data is the only valid way to prove something is a philosophical statement that cannot be proven empirically.

Besides the inherent contradiction, please note that everyone believes things they can’t prove…at least not empirically or via a scientific method. Every skeptic I’ve ever dialogued with was both pro-choice and pro-gay to some extent…if the topics ever happened to come up. Can you name the scientist that proved human life does not begin at conception, or the science that confirmed an unborn baby is actually a non-person? You can’t because there is no such scientist and there is no such science. There is no proof, yet people accept these things as dogma. Is homosexual behavior normal? What do we learn from biology and the design of certain body parts? What kind of behavior is ordered to the design and what kind of behavior is disordered to the design? What does the evidence tell us? I’m often reminded that homosexual behavior is observed in some animals, so this proves it is natural and therefore normal. I often need to remind others that some animals will also eat their young. When we look to animal behavior as a guide for human behavior the effect of original sin that dims the intellect is easy to see.

Conversing with skeptics can be very interesting if it’s done civilly, but it is regrettable how many scholars need to spend a lot of time showing how God exists rather than taking that time to help discern God’s revelation in the modern world. It’d be like continuously debating your own existence as opposed to discerning the best way to live. Years ago I too was a skeptic, but I made a decision to enter the faith experiment in the laboratory of my life. If I had not made that decision, I may have been permanently paralyzed by wrapping my own head around a metaphysical axle, as I see many others doing today. No wonder the end of the Bible seems to push us for a decision…

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16)

Interesting Aside:

This article from the New York Post describes yesterday’s Texas shooter as a militant atheist. Not to pick on atheists, but if the shooter were militantly religious, I’d bet we’d all know about it quickly. If he were militantly Christian, we’d never hear the end of it.

 

 

Top photo by Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7937579

 

3

God and Superstitions

 

 

Man is hardwired to worship.  If the does not worship the God who created all that is, he will revel in superstitions and worship degrading substitutes for God.  Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest nails it:

Human beings feel instinctively that the visible reality that we live in day to day is connected to something larger and more mysterious. When belief in God goes away, the hunger for meaning and connection with a truth beyond the business of daily life remains. The New York Times:

Like many Europeans, Marianne Haaland Bogdanoff, a travel agency manager in this southern Norwegian town, does not go to church, except maybe at Christmas, and is doubtful about the existence of God.

But when “weird things” — inexplicable computer breakdowns, strange smells and noises and complaints from staff members of constant headaches — started happening at the ground-floor travel office, she slowly began to put aside her deep skepticism about life beyond the here and now. After computer experts, electricians and a plumber all failed to find the cause of her office’s troubles, she finally got help from a clairvoyant who claimed powers to communicate with the dead. The headaches and other problems all vanished.

People who think themselves too rational for religious belief end up believing in “astral forces”, ghosts and other phenomena. Sometimes these superstitions take the deadly form of political ideologies that fanatical believers take up with religious fervor—communist atheists murdered tens of millions of people in the 20th century in the irrational grip of an ugly ideology. They scoffed at the credulity of religious believers even as they worshipped the infallible insights of Stalin. Similarly, the Nazis presented their faith as an alternative to the “outgrown superstitions” of historic Christianity.

It’s something very much worth remembering: a world without faith in God wouldn’t be a more rational or more humane place. Continue Reading

5

The Gift of Life

Michelangelo-Creation-Hands-SM1

Are you afraid of death?
Well, I can’t say that I have
any great affection for it.
Look below you, my friend.
For 70 years,
I’ve watched the seasons change.
I’ve seen the vibrant life of summer,
the brilliant death of fall…
the silent grave of winter.
And then, I’ve seen
the resurrection of spring
the glorious birth of new life.
And my father and my father’s father
have seen it before me.
Nothing ever dies, my friend.

Prince of Foxes Screenplay, 1949

 

 

My twins’ godmother wrote this to Donnie my surviving son this week:

 

Happy baptism anniversary!  I’ve been thinking lately about how precious the gift of life is.  I wrote an article on it for the parish newsletter.  I was thinking about Larry when I wrote about people with different abilities.  I had a chance to stop by his grave on my way back from a workshop on Saturday.  So I thought I’d share part of the article with you:

 

The Gift of Life

 

God loves you.  God just loves you. And the best evidence that God loves you is that he created you.  God can create anyone that he wishes to and he can see how each person will grow and develop, so he’d be nuts to create someone that he didn’t love.  But he’s not nuts.  He has chosen to love you.  His love is the spark of life in your soul, the beat of your heart, and the breath in your lungs.  When we “die,” his life in us changes, but does not end.  We continue to live as his creation, deeply, deeply loved by him forever.

The gift of life is the evidence that God loves us, not just you, but each of us.  Perhaps this is why we value life so much.  The love and respect that we have for every person is an expression of the love and respect that we have for God.  Emergency workers, for example, often risk their own lives to save others.  What we share with others God counts as having been shared with himself.  Parents, for example, give more than they thought possible to care for their children.

God’s love for us does not depend on our age or abilities.  It begins when he begins to knit us together in our mother’s womb and continues forever.  Before our bodies are formed, before we think our first thought, before our talents are known, before our parents know of our existence, God has chosen to create us because he loves us.

As we grow through life, all of us are loved by God.  Whether we’re athletically gifted or klutzy, whether conventionally beautiful or unattractive, whether we find it easy to love and trust others or not, whether intelligent or simple, whatever our gifts and talents, we are loved by God.  Even if we are hurt by abuse, or trauma, or addiction, or accident, God loves us.  We know that he loves us because of his gift of life.  And the loving care that we have for others, regardless of their gifts, shows that we are learning to love as God loves.

No matter how we leave this life, God’s gift of life continues.  If you die in an accident, if you are struck down suddenly by disease, if you linger for many years as dependent as a child, if you die gently in old age, no matter what, God loves you and his gift of life continues forever.  The respect and care that we have for those nearing the end of this life shows that we get it, that we understand how precious is God’s gift of life.

Life never ends and God’s love never ends.  They continue in the next life.  It may be that the only way we can continue to express our love for those who have passed on is by our prayers.  And this, too, shows that we have learned from God how to value his gift of life.

October is Respect for Life month, but respect for life is an everyday thing.  We constantly express it in the way we love and care for others, regardless of their age and abilities, but simply because God loves them, as he loves us.  But it’s good to recognize everyday things and to appreciate their value. 

Continue Reading

1

Both Prayed to the Same God

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural

 

 

A look at religion in the Civil War from the internet series the Civil War in Four Minutes.  Most people on both sides, as Lincoln noted in his Second Inaugural, assumed God was on their side.  Some viewed their causes as crusades.  Typical of those who embraced that interpretation is a Union officer who upbraided a chaplain who had given a stern sermon to the men of his regiment on the pains of Hell, and informed him that every one of his boys who fell in this great fight for human liberty was going straight to Heaven and he would allow no other doctrine to be preached while he was in command of the regiment.

Perhaps the most insightful view was that embraced by Abraham Lincoln, Robert  E. Lee and others who saw the War as the punishment for national sins.  Rather than a crusade, the War was a chastisement that God was using for His purposes.  I think there is much wisdom in this view.  God often brings good out of human weakness, folly and even sin, and out of the Civil War, with all of its ghastly loss of life, came freedom for the slaves and a united nation. Continue Reading

36

End of Summer, Feed Is Working Again, and The French Revolution

It’s the unofficial end of Summer and it’s my annual gratuitous post of myself day.  The pic below was taken in mid-July, but I waited to fix the feed to The American Catholic in order celebrate the Summer.  Needless to say, it’s fixed and the Summer is almost over.

During the Summer I asked my fellow blogger Don for some book recommendations for the French Revolution.  Of the few he did mentioned, I picked up Simon Schama’s ‘Citizen’.  The reading is in-depth, interesting, and balanced.  I’m a bit over halfway finished of the 948 pages and am so far impressed.  Considering that we are in the post-Cold War era, I wanted to know a bit more on the French Revolution since their errors have already engulfed Europe and has almost metastasizing here in the United States.  The book is good and if there is any criticism of Simon Schama’s work it’s that he views Christianity, in particular the Catholic Church, through a materialistic lens.

My opinion on the subject is that the French Revolution is the confluence of anti-Christian ideas emanating from the so-called era of enlightenment.  These very same ideas unleashed the short-term devastation of the rape of nuns, the execution of priests, and the degradation of houses of worship.  The long-term affects have furthered the cause of eliminating God from all aspects of life blossoming further in the Communist Revolution in Russia and continued to bear the fruit of death in World Wars I & II.  From this compost grew what we now call modern liberalism & democratic socialism.

End of Summer Tito Edwards Simon Schama Citizens 500x625Happy Labor Day!

 

13

I AM and Us

[56] Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. [57] The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? [58] Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. [59] They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

John 8: 56-59

 

 

Father Barron has a magnificent article in Catholic World Report in which he explains why it is improper to think of God as a Supreme Being:

Now to God’s invisibility. One of the most fundamental mistakes made by atheists both old and new is to suppose that God is a supreme being, an impressive item within or alongside the universe. As David Bentley Hart has argued, the gods of ancient mythology or the watchmaker God of 18th-century Deism might fit such a description, but the God presented by the Bible and by classical theism has nothing to do with it. The true God is the non-contingent ground of the contingent universe, the reason there is something rather than nothing, the ultimate explanation for why the world should exist at all. Accordingly, he is not a being, but rather, as Thomas Aquinas put it, ipsum esse subsistens, the sheer act of to be itself.

Thomas goes so far as to say that God cannot be placed in any genus, even in that most generic of genera, namely, being. But all of this must imply God’s invisibility. Whatever can be seen is, ipso facto, a being, a particular state of affairs, and hence something that can be placed in a genus, compared with other finite realities, etc. The visible is, by definition, conditioned—and God is the unconditioned. I hope it is clear that in affirming God’s invisibility, I am not placing limits on him, as though he were a type of being—the invisible type—over and against visible things, a ghost floating above physical objects. The invisible God is he whose reality transcends and includes whatever perfection can be found in creatures, since he himself is the source and ground of creatureliness in all its manifestations. Anything other than an invisible God would be a conditioned thing and hence utterly unworthy of worship. Continue Reading

14

A Paean to Doubt

 

Kyle Cupp at The Week has an interesting post in which he celebrates Pope Francis for bringing uncertainty about God to Catholicism:

In fact, Pope Francis has explicitly endorsed doubt in the life of faith. In a 2013 interview published in America Magazine, the pontiff said that the space where one finds and meets God must include an area of uncertainty. For him, to say that you have met God with total certainty or that you have the answers to all questions is a sign that God is not with you. Be uncertain, he counsels. Let go of exaggerated doctrinal “security.” A devout faith must be an uncertain faith:

The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: “God is here.” We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.

The pope has taken a risk with all this, but not without reason. If God really is infinite and indescribable, as Catholicism and other religious traditions imagine, then an uncertain faith makes sense. At the end of the day, those who talk about God really do not know what they’re talking about. People refer to God with symbols and metaphors, stories and analogies, believing that these limited expressions disclose a limitless reality, but even if these expressions are true, they nonetheless differ infinitely from any infinite being. Undoubtedly, a lot gets lost in translation. Continue Reading

1

For Those Losing Faith in Humanity

fang mei

It is often easy to wonder why God went through the trouble of making us and dying for us, and then you read about someone like Fang Mei Qiu’s grandmother:

A 66 year old grandmother has carried her disabled granddaughter to school every day, according to news reports.

The child Fang Mei Qiu can not stand for more than a few minutes without being in unbearable pain due to a condition she was born with that made her kneecaps weak. The girl’s father left when she was young and her mother remarried leaving Fang Mei in the care of her grandparents.

So each morning since she was nine, Fang Mei’s grandmother puts her granddaughter on her back and begins the long one and a half hour walk to school up a mountain on dirt roads. She stops when she gets too tired and resumes again. Her granddaughter has never once been late. At the end of the day she does it all over again.

A newspaper column about her plight appeared, local authorities arranged for the family to live closer to the school. They also obtained a wheelchair for the young girl. Continue Reading

37

Lincoln and the Will of God

Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.

Proverbs 13:14

Today is the 204th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the many things I find fascinating about Lincoln is his view of the Civil War, a view which is not much considered these days.  Lincoln viewed it simply as a punishment for the sin of slavery.  Lincoln put this idea forth clearly in a letter to Albert Hodges on April 4, 1864.  Hodges was the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth in Kentucky and Lincoln was explaining why he had found it necessary to adopt a policy of Emancipation and to enlist black troops, neither policy being popular in Kentucky or any of the border states.  At the close of the letter Lincoln disclaimed that he had controlled the events which had led to his embracing abolition as a war goal:

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.

God was willing the removal of slavery and gave the War as a punishment to both North and South for the sin of slavery.  This was not a spur of the moment thought by Lincoln, but rather the fruit of much anguished contemplation as to why the War came and what it meant. Continue Reading

WEDNESDAY EXTRA EDITION

A round-up of some of the best punditry in the Catholic Blogosphere, courtesy of ThePulp.it:

“Why Is Mugabe Visiting the Vatican?” – James Kirchick, New Republic

. . .Mark Stricherz of Catholic Vote wrote about this here. . .

God & Political Science – Timothy Shah, Daniel Philpott & Monica Toft, PD

Exposing the Death Dealers – Amy Welborn, Crisis Magazine

Syria Christians Fear for Religious Freedom – Reuters

Pro-Lifers Help Win Canadian Baby Battle – Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, OSV

About Face on Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ – Joan Frawley Desmond, NCRegister

Abp. Jose Gomez: You Have a Duty to Confront This Culture – Cal Cth Daily

Fig Leaves & Falsehoods (Lying & Planned Parenthood) – Janet E. Smith, FT

Quaeritur: Selling a Rosary & Other Sacred Things – Father John Zuhlsdorf

Paternalistic Violence in the New World – David, The School of Salamanca

Monster Baptism & Chemical Pregnancy – Doctor Stacy Trasancos

The Sistine Chapel, In the Depths of Wales! – Richard Collins, The Guild

_._

If you liked this roundup of the best posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, visit ThePulp.it for daily updates twice a day.

For ThePulp.it click here.

5

Fides et Ratio

Today is the anniversary of what might be John Paul II’s most important encyclical, Fides et ratio. Although I have not the time to give it a full treatment, if you have not read it I strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible. Catholicism’s eager embrace of reason & philosophy not only sets it apart from most other religions but also positions it to best respond to the philosophical failures that are hurting the modern world. If the modern world is to find some redemption, it will be because these words are heeded:

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves

51

Natural Does Not Equal Good

“Unnatural, mummy? You tell me, what’s nature’s way? If poison mushrooms grow and babies come with crooked backs, if goiters thrive and dogs go mad and wives kill husbands, what’s unnatural?”
Richard, The Lion in Winter

One of the claims to which people seem peculiarly susceptible at the moment is that if something is “natural”, it must be good. “Natural” foods are believed to be uniformly healthy. The finding that some particular behavior (say, polyamory) is found in nature is taken to be some sign that it is a good thing.

I think a fair amount of this results from our culture having lost a sense of tragic vision in regards to nature — we naturally assume that unless some active force comes along and makes things bad, that they will be good. This could not be farther from a traditional view of nature. While neo-pagans are sure that being “in tune” with nature would be a blissful and pleasant state, real pagans of the ancient world saw the natural forces that were bound up with their gods as capricious, sometimes cruel, and almost always unconcerned with the impact of their actions upon mortals.

Continue Reading

6

Scouting in a Fractured American Culture

The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.

To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.

Continue Reading

1

God Bless America by Kate Smith

Kathryn Elizabeth “Kate” Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin‘s “God Bless America“. Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, reaching its pinnacle in the 1940s.

Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia. Her professional musical career began in 1930, when she was discovered by Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who became her longtime partner and manager. Collins put her on radio in 1931.  She appeared in 1932 in Hello Everybody!, with co-stars Randolph Scott and Sally Blane, and in the 1943 wartime movie This is the Army she sang “God Bless America”.

Late in the following video you’ll see a young Lt. Ronald Reagan make a cameo.  39 years later President Ronald Reagan awarded Kate Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom America’s highest civilian honor.

Continue Reading

19

Married Priests From the First Centuries Practiced Celibacy

The practice of celibacy in the priesthood is apparent in the years following Jesus’ resurrection.  Single priests and priests who were married abstained from sex, of course with approval from their wives. Just as Jesus chose celibacy giving up a family in order to give himself to mankind, priests are called by God to imitate Jesus. In fact, the priest is able to better serve all people because he is more available.

Monsignor Angelo Amato of the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints states:

“Jesus was chaste, virgin, celibate and he defended it. His virginity distanced him from others, but it’s what made him able to show, compassion and forgiveness to others.”

Thus priests are called by God to imitate Jesus in this discipline.

By the end of the fourth century Pope Saint Siricius pushed for a celibate priesthood in order to maintain continuity with earlier centuries.  Later this became a discipline* in order to carry out the tradition of celibacy, thus priests could not marry in the Catholic Church.

Video courtesy Rome Reports.

_._

* The Eastern Orthodox still allow their priests to marry, but they must be so before entering the seminary and are not allowed to become bishops.

2

Ash Wednesday Address by Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address in English:

Here is the complete text of the Pope’s message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey towards Easter.

Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf. 2 Cor 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfilment.

Continue Reading

1

Cardinal Newman on Fasting

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

Continue Reading

61

The Coming Open Rebellion Against God

The title of this article almost sounds surreal. At first one could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of low budget End Times movie seen on some local cable access channel. However, the information contained within this article is real, fortunately, as believers and specifically those of us who are Catholic we know that Jesus promised that His Church would not fall despite the attempts of those working for the evil one. God is the truth and God is love, but the mere fact that He is both has caused many rebellions against him literally from day one. Sadly, those who often claim to be the smartest act the most childish, by at first claiming God doesn’t exist and then claiming if He does exist, He doesn’t make sense at least to them. This article will look at this behavior from the world’s earliest moments, but will mainly focus on what has happened in the last few years, right up until this very moment.

Continue Reading

5

Are You Listening Madame Speaker?

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:

In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.

Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.

Continue Reading

8

Of Geese and God

I had a pleasant surprise yesterday morning as my family and I were readying ourselves to go out of town to see a movie.  Flights of several hundred geese in their V formations flew over the town of Dwight, Illinois, heading south and honking their heads off.  This was at 8:00 AM and no doubt some of the citizenry who had made merry on Christmas did not find all the honking welcome, but I thought it was delightful and awe-inspiring.  Dwight is not on any major migratory flight paths for geese, so this was a rare event.  As I do whenever I see something in nature that inspires awe in me, I quickly thought of the Creator of nature, and I mused that after celebrating the Nativity yesterday, God deigning to become part of Nature, this sight reminded me of the delight that God takes in His creation, and why He marks the sparrow’s fall, and the honking of a goose.

17

Pope Benedict Warns Against Marxist Liberation Theology

3

Thank You to Our Men and Women in Service

On this Thanksgiving I’d like to convey my heartfelt thanks to my brother Nathan (currently overseas – prayers requested) and all those in service. I am forever conscious of the sacrifices they make on behalf of our country, including much time spent away from their loved ones.

God bless, God speed — and may you all enjoy such a welcome home.

8

Magnificent

The song is called Magnificent by the musical group U2.  It was a minor hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States in A.D. 2009 (and a major hit in Greece).

Some entrepreneurial YouTuber recreated the music video and turned it into a pretty decent contemporary ‘Christian’ music video.  The music video now celebrates the Triune God, the Eucharist, of course the love of God all coupled within a strong Pro-Life message.  There’s even a guest appearance of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI!

(Biretta Tip: Meg)

6

Chivalry: A Personal Definition

Chivalry to me is the call for men/boys to respect women/girls even if they apparently don’t respect themselves, or even aggressively market themselves as mere sex objects. The visual hardwiring for males is tough to short-circuit since it is there for some very excellent reasons- but a boy in-training to become a good man, must develop the capacity to say “No” the same as for the girls- and he must learn to divert his eyes rather than feasting on the nearly ubiquitous female forms in various stages of undress parading by our senses. It is no wonder that St.Paul said it was better to marry than to burn, and Jesus laid out some very high standards when He said that lusting for a woman in your mind was adultery- pretty clear advice from someone whose opinions form my own.

I know that girls who don’t have close and affectionate relationships with their own fathers will act out sexually at earlier ages to try to fill in a spiritual hole in their hearts. I hope that with my own girls I can reinforce their beauty and worth in the world by showering them with my attentions, my hugs and kisses, and all the verbal and non-verbal affirmations of their excellence and my love for them- with the added bonus of giving all praise and glory to God for them as gifts to me and their mother and the world. They should never have to feel that they “need” some sexually-charged teen to give them the idea that they are special and deserve physical and spiritual affection from a male in their life. I hope and pray that this gives them some invisible support to make the correct choice to wait until marriage for the very special gift of their physical selves to another.

6

Miracles

The zeal for living that my 1 year old son exhibits inspires me. He wants to explore everywhere, he is so quick to find something hilarious, he loves craziness, and he cries with passion whenever he sees his sister crying. One word keeps coming to my mind when I just look at the faces of my kids- Miracle. They keep growing and changing, but this thought keeps coming at me- they weren’t even in existence just a few short years ago- but now I can’t imagine the universe without them. They started off life as something so tiny they couldn’t be seen without a microscope- now they are undeniably eternally significant forces of life and love.

Continue Reading