I was hesitant to write this because I don’t like picking battles with atheists. At first I didn’t see how anyone would take this idea about free will and our judicial system seriously, but it seems some people are. So I offer the following with the hope that if more people know about this discussion, more people can see it for the nonsense that it is.
Victor Stenger, Ph.D. particle physicist and best-selling author of God and the Folly of Faith has written an essay at Huffington Post “Free Will is an Illusion“ and it took an unexpected turn. Certainly, the atheistic consideration of free will is nothing new, but Dr. Stenger also makes a connection between free will, or the lack thereof, and our judicial system in the United States. This position has disturbing societal implications.
Keep in mind, this is the man who popularized the phrase: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” He has also published such titles as God: The Failed Hypothesis and The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. Victor Stenger has made it known that he thinks science can prove there is no god, and that he considers religion dangerous to society.
In this Huffington Post essay he references a book by another physicist, Leonard Mlodinow, who says that the unconscious plays a dominant role in human behavior. As Dr. Stenger puts it, “before we become aware of making a decision, our brains have already laid the groundwork for it.” He goes on to say (read carefully), “This recognition challenges fundamental assumptions about free will and the associated religious teachings about sin and redemption, as well as our judicial concepts of responsibility and punishment. If our brains are making our decisions for us subconsciously, how can we be responsible for our actions? How can our legal system punish criminals or God punish sinners who aren’t in full control of their decision-making processes?”
He also references the book Free Will by neuroscientist Sam Harris and title-quotes him in stating that “free will is an illusion.” Dr. Stenger writes, “We don’t exist as immaterial conscious controllers, but are instead entirely physical beings whose decisions and behaviors are the fully caused products of the brain and body.”
So, essentially having established that humans are determinant blobs of matter with no free will, he then makes the case to the Huffington Post readers that “our largely retributive moral and justice systems need to be re-evaluated, and maybe even drastically revamped” if the people in society are going to be able to protect themselves from “people who are dangerous to others because of whatever it is inside their brains and nervous systems that makes them dangerous.”
That is, he is calling for a new system of morality and justice based on the the presumption that no one is ultimately responsible for his actions, and remember, he’s made it clear who he thinks the “dangerous” people are. This is eerily like the argument used to justify abortion, only we’re all blobs of tissue now.
Update III: The USCCB Pro-Life Director Richard Doerflinger and Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey agree with me that this “accommodation” or “compromise” is unacceptable. Sadly Sr. Keehan of the the Catholic Health Associate found this “satisfactory”. It looks like Obama will be happy that Sr. Keehan is on board. Of course, Planned Parenthood and Sr. Keehan agree.
Update II: Rumor confirmed. Insurance, that Religious Institutions pay into, will provide contraception, ie, it is still a violation of the First Amendment.
Update I: Rumor is that “Hawaii” compromise will be offered, but the bishops have already rejected this. So basically it’s a poor attempt at stalling and not really offering a solution.
The buzz this morning is that Obama is “caving in” to the pressure and will announce a “compromise” today at 12:15pm Eastern.
The news reports are saying that Religious Organizations won’t have to offer birth control, only the insurance companies that these Religious Organizations provide will offer birth control.
Yeah, that’s the compromise.
If these reports are true, this is dead on arrival. Changing the meaning of the words won’t do it.
Pope Benedict, judging from this address on January 19 to American bishops in Rome, apparently understands the high stakes in the outcome of this year’s election, even if many American Catholics do not:
Dear Brother Bishops,
I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.
One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such. Continue reading
“Seriously!” I can still hear that word echo through my brain even though the event took place this past summer. At a social gathering a young gentleman and his lady friend (and I use that term loosely) were gesticulating wildly when someone in the crowd told them about Tim Tebow beliefs. Evidently they weren’t football fans, so someone brought them up to speed about Tebow. At this point in his career many now say, “he’s a nice kid but…,” However, at that point they didn’t even say that; they simply used words like a “Bible thumper” or someone “lost in the 50s.” Now they have to throw him a bone by at least saying, “He’s a nice kid, but…” However, wait until next year when someone connects the dots and assumes he probably won’t vote for the Obama-Biden ticket. The secular left is going to throw everything at him including the kitchen sink.
I was recently asked by someone to give a Catholic perspective about Tebow. I had to explain to this individual that Pope Benedict XVI probably doesn’t even know who Tebow is, but that I am sure the Holy Father would appreciate his earnest approach. Now I also quite convinced that our friends on the Secular Catholic Left probably wish Tebow would shut up or at least voice his concern about their favorite make believe topics such as man made Climate Change.
I heard as much recently while channel surfing. A glutton for punishment I stopped briefly on MSNBC to hear one of their emasculated males go on some sort of tirade about Governor Rick Perry because the Texas Governor (in a Iowa TV commercial) said he believed in marriage between a man and a woman. This particular MSNBC host seemed to really enjoy his own commentary because he concluded by saying he was surprised that the particular Perry Commercial wasn’t in black and white because it seemed right out of the 1950s.
The left has so many things going for it with their social engineering, the daily liberal propaganda they try to shove down the throats of those in the western world via the mainstream media, along with the silver screen and television; one would think they would be ecstatic. However, when they hear about Evangelicals like Tim Tebow or the increase in Catholic seminarians and young women in religious life who happen to actually believe in what the Catholic Church teaches and even goes so far as to wear cassocks and habits, well this to them is outrageous. Anyone who adheres to what Tebow or these young seminarians and women religious believe, well they must be either dolts or dangerous right wing throwbacks.
These nefarious conspirators want to throw American back into the 1950s when people actually went to church, believed in right and wrong and almost universally applauded any leader (like our current Pope Benedict XVI) who railed against the Dictatorship of Relativism. These counter revolutionaries might even want to cling to their guns and religion.
In all my days as a player and coach, I don’t think I ever really prayed for a victory. To me God has His purposes and I as a humble adherent to his message just chose to follow Him. However, that doesn’t mean that just once in a while God may actually engineer a game or two for His purposes. Maybe, just maybe Tim Tebow’s miraculous last six victories are meant to send us all a message. Believe, even when the world says there is no God. Believe, when some say God is just some sort of absent minded Mr. Magoo as Bill Maher and some of his Apatheists think. Believe, when a disbelieving world says for God “it’s all good,” and there are not right or wrongs just different shades of gray. Believe, even when leaders think abortion is a fine alternative after all they would hate to see their teenage daughters punished with a child.
Reggie Johnson and or myself might just ask Tim Tebow (if he agrees to appear) how his faith came to grow and flourish on the Christian Peschken produced television program Non Negotiable, which God willing should be on the air in 2012. By now you may have probably heard that doctors tried to talk Tebow’s parents into having him aborted since it was believed he would be deformed and probably too small to live if he was born. (You might recall Tebow and his mother appeared in a Super Bowl Pro Life ad while he was still in college.) God only knows how many others parents were probably told the same scenario. All of these factors cause those with or without beliefs to evaluate their own beliefs when someone is so adamant and happy go lucky as is Tebow with his beliefs. Continue reading
From the New York Times:
There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?
And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.
I am currently reading through one of the most fascinating and relevant books of our time, America Alone, by Mark Steyn. One of Steyn’s most provocative and convincing arguments is that demographics will decide the future of Western civilization and the entire world.
Steyn argues that while the entire planet is or will be entering a phase of birth rate decline, some areas decline faster than others. America’s birth rate is falling, but Europe’s is falling faster, and Russia’s faster still. Meanwhile countries throughout the non-Western world are falling from much higher birth rates and will take decades to match our levels. Falling birth rates are bad news for everyone, but especially bad news for those who fall further and faster.
An analogous situation can be seen in the decline of the Church, and Christianity in general, at least with respect to the Western world. The number of Americans identifying as Christian or Catholic has decreased in recent years, but it will take some time for that number to reach abysmally low European levels. Here however I think it is important to move beyond a pure numbers game and look at some of the more qualitative aspects of Christian/Catholic decline as well.
The recent success of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands has caused European and, to a lesser extent, North American leftists a certain amount of discomfort, and a silently growing segment of the population a significant amount of joy. The Islamification of Europe through what the brilliant Mark Steyn has called “creeping sharia” has finally met its first formidable and successful political challenge – in spite of its long-standing threats and fatwas against the man of the hour.
I’ll be quite straight-forward about it; I’m with Geert, at least on the big issue he confronts. Those who label him as a racist, and his position as one of “hate”, are engaging in character assassination. A symposium at FrontPage Magazine addressed the Wilders phenomenon. One of the contributors, Roger L. Simon, stated:
I believe that consciously or unconsciously those who brand him as excessive, or even racist, are living in fear that he may be right. They have to hate Wilders, because if he is correct, their whole world disintegrates. Who would want that?
I don’t hate Muslims. Not wanting to be ruled by sharia law, be reduced to second-class status, have my freedoms curtailed, and watch my fellow female citizens be subjugated isn’t about hatred of Muslims, but love of Western and Christian civilization and those who inhabit it and benefit from it along with me. It isn’t a matter of indifference to me, and it shouldn’t be to you, whether or not Western or Islamic values prevail. What happens in Europe, moreover, may well happen here in the United States in the future, and will affect us in the present.
I’m not sure I ever expected to wake up to read the New York Times coverage of a new nominee to the Supreme Court and find myself in agreement.
Of course, they think she’ll be a fine justice and I think she’s a pro-abort and could do without her. I also think she looks like Ursula from “A Little Mermaid,” which is less a comment on her than it is a comment on how many Disney movies I watch with my wife (curse you, Disney movie club!). That’s not what we agree on.
What we agree on is that she is a stealth candidate and that just by itself makes us uncomfortable. The official editorial reads:
President Obama may know that his new nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, shares his thinking on the multitude of issues that face the court and the nation, but the public knows nothing of the kind. Whether by ambitious design or by habit of mind, Ms. Kagan has spent decades carefully husbanding her thoughts and shielding her philosophy from view. Her lack of a clear record on certain issues makes it hard to know whether Mr. Obama has nominated a full-throated counterweight to the court’s increasingly aggressive conservative wing.
As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.
What are the shoots and blossoms? They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.
There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.
Here is a good explanation on the origins of Saint Valentine’s Day, which today has been truncated to Valentine’s Day. It is written by Ronald J. Rychlak of InsideCatholic titled simply St. Valentine’s Day.
The Catholic Church actually recognizes several different saints named Valentine or Valentinus (including St. Valentin Faustino Berri Ochoa, St. Valentine of Genoa, and St. Valentine of Strasbourg). Most people, however, trace the story of St. Valentine back to a Roman priest in the year 270. He was arrested and imprisoned for performing marriage ceremonies for Christian couples at a time when such ceremonies were prohibited (as married men were exempt from the Roman army). Valentine also may have aided other Christians who were being persecuted during the reign of Emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II).
Valentine was brought before the emperor and told to renounce his faith, but even under extreme torture he refused to do so. According to legend, couples whom he had married brought him flowers and gifts while he was in prison, which gave rise to the tradition of giving flowers and gifts in his honor.
Valentine tried to convert Emperor Claudius to Christianity, but his efforts were not well received: Claudius had Valentine executed outside Rome’s Flaminian Gate on February 14, 270. According to another legend, while still in captivity, Valentine restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. On the day before his execution, he sent her a farewell message and signed it, “from your Valentine.” That, of course, is said to have established another tradition.
More than two centuries later, in 496, Pope Gelasius marked February 14 as a celebration in honor of Valentine’s martyrdom. According to some accounts, this date was chosen to preempt a pagan fertility festival known as Lupercalia, which took place at about that same time. Lupercalia involved a lottery by which young people would draw the name of a mate for a year. With the new holiday, Gelasius instead had participants draw the name of a saint to emulate for a year.
Unfortunately, the heroic story of Valentine’s piety has been almost completely eclipsed by the “flowers, candy, and cards” holiday that we know today. Gelasius’s efforts to Christianize mid-February seem to have come to naught, and we are left in the ironic position of celebrating romance on a day named after a celibate priest.
To read the complete article click here.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
A movie which has just debuted caught my attention this morning. It is called To Save a Life, and it is purported to be a film for teens, dealing with teen issues, with an underlying but not-too-subtle Christian message. Here it is in a nutshell: a popular high school athlete’s life is changed forever when his former best friend, ditched because he wasn’t cool enough to remain friends with, commits suicide in front of everyone. The popular athlete begins to question everything, and everyone – encouraged by a hip youth pastor, he leaves behind a hedonistic life for one of Christian fellowship, and makes it a special task to prevent the next rejected loner from following in the footsteps of his deceased friend.
A few clips from the movie I’ve seen floating around on the Web initially left me with mixed feelings. The brand of Christianity being promoted in this film seems, at times, to be a world apart from my own traditional Catholicism. We hear the typical speeches in some instances about how “church” is “judgmental” and “hypocritical” – which are two words often thrown around by people who want to rationalize their own rotten behavior without having to think about it. We ought to be chastised, and another person’s hypocrisy has nothing to do with the objective truth or falsehood of their chastisement.
That being said, it dawned on me that among today’s teenagers, this Christianity-lite is radically good compared to what they are typically exposed to in the purely materialist-hedonist culture that surrounds them like a choking fog 24-7. What really sort of sealed the deal for me though, and prompted me to write this defense of a film I haven’t yet seen, were the reviews that the - yes – liberal media were saying about it. The reviews, as you might guess, are almost unanimously negative: The Village Voice, the NY Times, NPR, and the list could go on for some time, have all panned the movie. Wikipedia states that the reception has been “generally negative to mixed.”
It seems to me that marriage and family are probably the area in which different sub-cultures of our country have diverged most radically. Reading this New York Times feature about the author’s attempts to improve her marriage is in some ways a more alien experience than reading an anthropological study of some distant tribe. The instinct behind the exercise is laudable:
The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed. I’ve never really believed that you just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. I believe that you become married — truly married — slowly, over time, through all the road-rage incidents and precolonoscopy enemas, all the small and large moments that you never expected to happen and certainly didn’t plan to endure. But then you do: you endure. And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. Dan, too, had worked tirelessly — some might say obsessively — at skill acquisition. Over the nine years of our marriage, he taught himself to be a master carpenter and a master chef. He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine. Yet he shared the seemingly widespread aversion to the very idea of marriage improvement. Why such passivity? What did we all fear?