Thursday, December 29, 2011

Traditional Marriage: The nature and purpose of sexual relations

Perhaps the most contentious part of the tradition marriage fight is viewpoint of the nature and purpose of sexual relations.  No aspect of this debate is more fraught with disagreement (and vehemently so) than the views regarding sexual relations between persons.

First we must be clear what we mean "nature" and "purpose."  Roughly speaking, "nature" is defined as what a thing "is."  The components of a particular entity or the properties of such.  "Purpose" refers to the targeted goal of an entity.  This can also be understood as "what a thing tends towards" or "function" and is a property of an entity.

The contemporary view of sexual relations (in particular the organs for such relations) are primarily for pleasure and recreation, with varying effects of generating feelings of closeness and mutual affection.  Procreation, the generation of a new human being is at best something to control and at worst an unwanted byproduct of such relations.

The implications for same-sex relationships are obvious.  If sexual relations are simply for pleasure and possible mutual affection, then the same should readily be available to same-sex pairings.  Indeed, it seems not only silly but wrong to deny that such pairing are just another form of sexual relationship.

Contra such erroneous ideas is the "Natural Law" view of sexual relations.  By nature, the purpose of sexual relations is procreation.  That is the primary purpose.  It is the natural end of such relations.  The primary purpose of half of our physiology is intended for (or tends toward) reproduction.  As such to attempt to sever the relationship between sexual relations and reproduction is to do violence to the very nature of sexual relations, by frustrating the very purpose of those relations.

A secondary, though still very important, purpose is the drawing together of the couple.  The nature of sexual relations naturally draws the couple together.  It is a part of the nature of such relations as procreation, and to separate this from the acts also does violence to sexual relations.

I will only treat one objection in this post as it is the one I often come in most contact with either explicitly or implicitly.  Some would argue that the development of the euphemistically named "reproductive technologies" has rendered the natural law understanding of sexual relations obsolete.  By preventing the conception of a new human being we have redefined what sexual relations are.

My counter to this is that one does not change the nature of a thing simply by frustrating the intended purpose of the thing.  If I were to stick a cork in the barrel of a gun I have not changed the nature of the gun.  All I have done is simply impeded the bullet firing out of the barrel.  The gun is still a gun, and the purpose of the gun (to fire a bullet out of the barrel) is still its purpose.

Because of this we now begin to see that in order to use sexual relations properly we must be mindful of this understanding of sexual relations.  And that by the nature of sexual relations same-sex pairings are excluded by nature.  To do otherwise is to do violence to the nature of sexual relations and by extension to ourselves by attempting to frustrate the natural end of such relations.  The long and sad history of sexual relations in the modern era, with single women who become pregnant, abortion, and the proliferation of STDs is but one aspect of this tragic new understanding.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The true scandal of Wisdom

My wife once as a compliment called me an intellectual.  I wondered how she could hurt me so.  If there is one thing I take from my political conservative upbringing is a distaste for what I would call the intellectual culture. An attitude of superiority among those considered "educated" within the top tier universities.  That they are somehow "better" than the "average Joe."

This attitude has always had the whiff of hypocrisy to it.  The posturing of intellectuals telling us that all men are equal and reminding us that they are superior for telling us so.  Those who decry injustice and double standards while employing both trying to convince you of their views.  

I have written before about how I feel about intellectuals.  The modern charlatans who would pose as our learned men all the while dismissing the idea that truth can be learned only saw off the branch they are sitting on.  What is at the heart of this is the lack of distinction between "intellect" and "wisdom."

Intelligence is simply the accumulation of facts.  The intellect is the knowledge about events and properties of the natural world and things such as the history of mankind.  These things can be useful but that traditionally has not been the reason why men have taught their children about things like history.  

Wisdom is the discernment of higher truths, acquired through the practice of virtue.  It is not the result of a college education (though ideally education can assist it) but of a life lived in the practice of a disciplined life oriented outward.  It allows us to use what we know to understand the higher order of truths and grants understanding about things like the human condition.  

Without wisdom intelligence is simply a matter of who knows the most trivia.  This trivia can be "useful" in a strict material sense but does not yield the fruit that wisdom provides.  The intellect becomes vapid and shallow.  The boast is a hollow one.

So what is the scandal of wisdom?  It is simply that wisdom is available to everyone.  The Oxford professor is on the same plane as the Oxford janitor.  Wisdom offers her gifts freely to those who seek it regardless of one's station in life, so long as one is willing to work for it.  This work is in the form of virtues such as humility.

The reason why it is a scandal is that Wisdom does not play favorites.  The Oxford professor is not more important than the Oxford janitor.  One does not need to hold a professorship or even a job.  No degree is required, no distinction is afforded.  For neither is there Ivy league or community college, neither professor or janitor.  All are the same in the eyes of Wisdom.

And that is the real scandal.  We can no longer look down on the lowly janitor because he did not go to Harvard.  We can no longer hold in contempt the religious farmhand because he is not versed in the ways of evolutionary biology.  We can no longer award prestige and worth based on the notion of advanced degrees.  Wisdom rewards any who would pursue her.  And for those who would prefer that she be beholden only to those who hold such prestige, they find Wisdom a woman of poor taste and reject her.  Such is their loss.   

Friday, December 23, 2011

On original Sin and redemption

This is not so much an apologetics post as some musing on my part in light of the Immaculate Conception and the upcoming holy day of the Birth of Our Lord.  It is as such open to critique from a logical standpoint.  Nevertheless it is good to stretch the mental legs a bit.

As I stated in my article for Ignitum Today on the Immaculate Conception Mary is a sign of who Man was supposed to be before the Fall of Man.  We as a race were once sinless.  We had complete control over ourselves and our inclinations.  The Fall and Original Sin destroys this harmony.

If there is anything I believe about the Catholic Faith is that there is a brokenness about Man.  Our capacity for self-destruction has quite an impressive historical record.  We seem to have a knack for acting against our own best interests, even when we agree on what those are.  Even when we are convinced about what we should be doing we fail to do it and sometimes fail to even try.

C.S. Lewis states in Mere Christianity something that I've found to be most profound.  He proposes two indisputable facts (reproduced here from memory as I'm too lazy to find the citation):
  1. We all believe in some kind of moral standard.
  2. We all fail to live up to that standard.  
So what happens when we realize this and we try to save ourselves?  Well we get such winners as the French Revolution and the Communist Revolution.  Millions of bodies later we may think (if our pride hasn't completely blinded us by then) that the last Final Solution wasn't all that hot.  We then take those same bad ideas, give it a new name, some new technology, and repeat.

Let's face it, fellow humans.  If it is up to us to save humanity from this cycle of self-destruction, we are screwed.  The fact that we can't even agree on what it means to be human let alone how to go about ordering a just society seems to indicate that left to our own devices either we or our children are going to mess things up down the line.  We need help.  Now.

And wonder of wonders, God answers.  He sends His Son not just to save us, but He shares in our humanity.  He is our Savior.  He points us back to our origin and says not only will He restore us but we will now be more than what we were supposed to be.  And this is why we celebrate the 25th of December.  To commemorate the day Our Lord was born into this world.  The light of the star in the sky against the black of night announces the Light that came into the world of darkness.  And with that, what can one do but Rejoice?

Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scientism's weakest link - science

Stacy's question regarding if science can deal theology a blow (which as of this writing appears to be down) reveals to my mind to be the weakest aspect of what is called scientism, that is, the belief that all knowledge that can be truly knowable is found using the scientific inquiry, or more generically, physical evidence based methods.

Scientific inquiry has yielded benefits for man that no one can deny.  From extending life expectancy to our understanding of the physical universe, modern science has provided benefits for mankind in a variety of ways.  This is indisputable.

In a classic case of "suffering from too much success" though people have elevated scientific inquiry as the be all and end all of inquiry.  "It is the only reliable method of inquiry" so says the followers of these proposals.  In its most extreme form this turns into a kind of Physicalism, a belief that the only aspects of reality are its physical properties.

But there is a tiny issue with assuming this principle.  How did we arrive at the notion that the scientific inquiry is in fact the only reliable method?  If one appeals to the method itself we are arguing in a circle, assuming what we are trying to prove.  If we assume it outright it is little better than any dogma of a religion.

The problem lies in that the assumption that the scientific inquiry is the only reliable method for knowledge that is knowable is that the scientific inquiry cannot verify itself.  One has to assume it is valid in order to use it.  Hence we must arrive at some other means of validating the scientific method.

This leads to another problem however.  If we must arrive at the validity of the scientific inquiry via other methods, then because these methods do not have the validity that the claims of science have (according to our main premise), then the scientific method itself rests on these "lesser" methods.  And therefore anything that the scientific method produces is just as suspect as the method itself.

Ultimately the assumption that the scientific inquiry is valid is a "philosophical" one.  It is the product of a reasoning process (albeit a poor one).  And if it is arrived at via reason, then it is only as valid as the strength of the process of logical reasoning.  Which in turn again invalidates the claim that scientific inquiry is the only reliable process to obtain reliable knowledge.

The inescapable conclusion of this is that the scientific inquiry is only as reliable as the philosophical underpinnings that prop it up.  And if we can use philosophy to arrive at the scientific inquiry, what else can we arrive at with the same strength of reliability?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Traditional Marriage: The nature of the male/female distinction

One of the underpinning philosophical assumptions underneath the gay "marriage" framework is the interchangeability of the sexes.  That is, an advocate of gay "marriage" argues that the relationship between two partners of the same sex is the same as the relationship between two partners of the opposite sex.

This stems in a lot of ways I think from the radical feminist notions of interchangeability of the sexes.  It is proposed that men and women are no different in qualities that matter.  A woman is just as good and capable as a man at everything.  The biological differences are a triviality of nature and nothing more.

The implication then is that the if the sexes are interchangeable, then the pairing of a man with a woman has no distinction from paring a man with a man (or a woman with a woman for completeness sake).  Thus if there is no "real" distinction between a man and a woman, a man or a woman can fill any role, including that of a spouse, despite the sex of the other partner.

Contra this erroneous notion is the view of natural law and of traditional morality.  What natural law states is that man and woman are different "ontologically."  The distinction is not just at a surface level but goes to the very core of one's being.  Men and women are different beings in that regard.

Now both men and women share the nature of being human.  This means that both have equal dignity as befitting the human.  But male and female are also complimentary.  We are different.  We have different views, traits, and skills that compliment one another.  This is due to the complimentary differences between the sexes, both bring strengths and weaknesses to the table.  And in that complimentary nature we find the full meaning of the human being.

This complimentary aspect is no more pronounced in the area of reproduction.  Both sexes have half of the functions necessary for reproduction.  Apart they are incomplete.  But together they form a whole system that ultimately results in a new human being.

Now an objection might be raised that the point of reproduction is challenged by modern technology.  While a full refutation is beyond the scope of this post let us say that from a purely natural point this complimentary nature of the sexes is unique.  Two men do not form a whole reproductive unit.  Neither do two women.  Even when modern technology is thrown into the mix this brute biological fact is still in play.

While in and of itself important this point of the male/female distinction is not sufficient to demonstrate the limited nature of marriage.  But it does show what marriage advocates assume when they say there is a unique aspect of male/female complimentary that same sex relationships cannot fulfill.  This is important when we come to understand the nature of marriage.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

passes on to the next life.  Let us pray he finds the peace we all seek.

Bad arguments redux

I suppose this is an equal time moment as I have been writing about the logical and philosophical gaps that exist in contemporary atheist thought.  But today I will be going over a rather unpleasant encounter I had from what I can only assume is a "Traditionalist" Catholic.

On Stacy's blog she wrote a post asking if science can deal theology a blow. It was an interesting discussion sadly marred by an encounter when I proposed that the Church has not, in dogmatic and definitive terms, defined that there was in fact a literal Garden of Eden.  In other words, that the Scriptural description of the garden that Adam and Eve tended could be figurative, in the same sense as the "days" described in the order of creation.

Now aside from accusing me of being a heretic and other bluster my accuser used the following for evidence of his position:

First the citation from the council of Trent:
"If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God *in Paradise*, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema."
And the second from the Bible:

"And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed. [9] And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. [10] And a river went out of the place of pleasure to water paradise, which from thence is divided into four heads.
[11] The name of the one is Phison: that is it which compasseth all the land of Hevilath, where gold groweth. [12] And the gold of that land is very good: there is found bdellium, and the onyx stone. [13] And the name of the second river is Gehon: the same is it that compasseth all the land of Ethiopia. [14] And the name of the third river is Tigris: the same passeth along by the Assyrians. And the fourth river is Euphrates. [15] And the Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it."
 Now for the observant we see a problem with this evidence.  In fact the problem is that there is no evidence.  The Council of Trent citation does not prove that Paradise cited here actually refers to the space-time location where the action occured.  In fact the citation does not define Paradise at all. 

Now this is not to say Trent could not have defined Paradise elsewhere in the documents.  But as it stands Paradise is not defined anywhere in the citation, which makes the citation next to useless.  In fact as I point out:

Let's try a thought experiment:
""If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God ****in the physical location known as Paradise****, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema."

This is the essence of what you [ed. my accuser] are saying.

My turn:
"If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God ****in state of Original Innocence known as Paradise****, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema."

If anything interpretation of Paradise as the state of Original Innocence actually makes the statement flow more concisely, whereas yours almost is a tangent, a triviality that detracts from the overall flow of what the Council Fathers are trying to point out.
Now for the other citation.  In essense what I found odd was quoting Scripture in the first palce beyond establishing what text we were referring to.  The whole point of the discussion was if the Scriptural passage was in fact trying to convey a physical location of the Garden OR is Scripture using figurative language to describe the idyllic state of Man, the Original Innocence of Man at the beginning.

Now in no way do my points prove me right.  For all I know I could be dead wrong about the literal interpretation when it comes to Paradise, but my reading of the Catechism and the Pontifical Council in 1909 defines what we need to believe as Catholics:

"...the creation of all things which was accomplished by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from man; the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the divine command laid upon man to prove his obedience; the transgression of that divine command at the instigation of the devil under the form of a serpent; the fall of our first parents from their primitive state of innocence; and the promise of a future Redeemer." (from Acta apostolis sedis, 1 [1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission], pages 567-69, translated in Rome and the Study of Scripture, 7th edition, and cited from Origin of the Human Species by Dennis Bonnette, page 145)
 indicates to me that this is still an open question. 

The point of all this is my accuser makes the classic mistake of assuming what he is trying to prove.  The only way any of these texts "prove" that Paradise or Eden is in fact a literal location is if one assumes that the Council Fathers and Scripture are talking about a literal place.  But if one does not assume that, then the citations don't prove anything.

All this goes to show that one has to be careful about one's assumptions.  That my accuser couldn't see that he assumed his own defintion of Paradise was primarily the sticking point in the whole discussion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Traditional Marriage: The relationship between being and actions

The first point is in some respects the most important from at the very least in the public relations department.  The first thing we must distinguish is the distinction between being and action.

It is a modern fallacy that the inclination toward homosexuality, or stated another way, the attraction of a person of a sex to be attracted to another member of the same sex, as validation of the homosexual act.  That is, by the fact an individual is attracted to another person of the same sex the homosexual actions are morally sound.

Logically speaking there is nothing to connect the ideas between an inclination and the moral soundness of that inclination.  That one may be inclined to kill another simply for fun does not indicate the moral soundness of the action to kill someone for fun (or even the moral soundness of the inclination itself).

By the same idea the inclination toward a particular action does not in and of itself indicate the moral soundness of the inclination.  There are a variety of inclinations that are by nature harmful, such as alcoholism, that those afflicted with this inclination still struggle with on a daily basis, with full knowledge that the inclination itself is morally unsound.

The Catholic Church expresses this distinction in her teachings:
2537Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2538 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
 We as human beings are inclined to do things that are by nature harmful to us at times.  In that respect the inclination toward homosexual attraction is similar to the inclination to have relations with someone that is not a spouse.  That the inclination exists does not make the action morally sound.

At the same time the person is not defined by either the actions or the inclinations.  The fact that an action or inclination is not morally sound does not take away from the dignity of the person under the inclination.  The dignity of the human being is intact, regardless of the inclinations or even the actions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The fight for traditional marraige: The bad war

Timothy Dalrymple writes how the pro-life fight is analogous to WWII while the fight for traditional marriage is like Vietnam.  I think at the very least one who stands for traditional marriage gets far more heat nowadays than those who stand for the unborn. 

It is true that it is far easier to argue about abortion because the dimensions of the argument are much smaller.  There is at the end of the day only one point in contention.  Is the fetus a human being?  Both sides agree (mostly) that murder is wrong in all circumstances.  Also agreed upon is that humans have these things called "rights" and foremost is the right not to be killed.

Gay "marriage" is a far trickier debate to get into for a number of reasons.  Marriage itself and how one conceives it tells a lot about the arguer's world viewpoint.  Major assumptions are made and the moral and philosophical frameworks that support the arguments are often unstated and misunderstood by both sides.  To argue about gay "marriage" is more often than not a futile enterprise unless both sides work to define the frameworks from which the views come from.

Major points must be discussed including but not limited to:
Without even this basic discussion arguments for/against same sex "marriage" goes off the rails in a hurry.  Both sides misunderstand each other and in our polarized culture assume the worst of motives.  The problem ultimately lies in the fact that the frameworks between the arguers are vastly different and as such they talk past each other.

Over the next few posts of so I will sketch out the various points above and how they pertain to gay "marriage".  It is vital that these points are discussed if any understanding between the two (multi) sides can be met.

But the above shows why the fight for actual marriage against the fiction of gay "marriage" is so difficult.  It is far tougher to argue with an opponent when the frameworks the two sides operate from differ vastly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Utilitarianism: Another form of moral relativism

Utilitarianism proposes the following principle: That an action must be weighed on the amount of happiness that the action will result in.  In other words, a "good" action is an action that will make the most people happy. 

 On the face of it this would appear to provide a stable foundation for evaluating actions.  Actions should strive to attain happiness.  And other people's happiness should also be considered in evaluating my actions.

The problem is how does one evaluate such actions.  As stated before given our own limited experience, how does one go about evaluating another's happiness?  Do we use our own viewpoint?  Do we consider the other person's view?  What if my happiness is in conflict with another's?  Does the other win out simply because the other side has more people, even if it doesn't yield the happiness that they think it will?

The questions do not themselves invalidate the idea, but consider that the whole point of utilitarianism is to maximize happiness.  If we as human beings do such a slipshod job of evaluating what makes us happy (beyond a very shallow notion) then how do we determine what actually makes us happy?  Or worse, what will make others happy?  Indeed if the goal is to maximize happiness but we have great difficulty knowing what that would be for the entire human race, then it seriously brings into the question the (ahem) "utility" of the philosophy.

There is a more serious problem, however.  Utilitarianism is simply another form of relativism.  If the goal is to maximize happiness of the most people, then the right action is based on the viewpoint of the majority who will become happy at the expense of the minority.  In other words, the rightness of an action is relative to the viewpoint of a majority who consider it so. 

Consider the ancient city of Carthage.  One of the rituals of the city was to sacrifice a newborn baby to the god Moloch.  This made the people "happy."  Today we consider this to be barbaric.  So which is true?  Was it right because it made people happy then or is it wrong because we find it disturbing?  Or is it both?

The only difference between moral relativism and utilitarianism is the number of people involved.  The former only considers the individual and the latter simply adds more people.  The problem is still the same, a fluid moral philosophy that really isn't a moral system at all.  It becomes arbitrary and moral principles are meaningless.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Our regularly scheduled posting for Wednesday has been moved to tomorrow as I am scheduled to write about the Immaculate Conception for Ignitum Today (formerly  Please watch this space tomorrow for the posting.

The Management

Monday, December 5, 2011

Atheism: The default option?

One of the more common "arguments" (a terrm I use loosely for this article) is the notion that atheism is the default option.  Or put in another way, that atheists state that the correct default assumption is to state that God does not exist until proven otherwise.

There are actually quite a few problems with this "argument" however.  The first is the assumption that there are only two positions to take on the God existence question.  That the question of God's existence is either true or false.  There is actually a third, that of the unknown.  It is possible for a person to not know either way if God exists or not.  We call these people agnostics.

The atheist would object that for all functional purposes an agnostic and an atheist are interchangeable.  This is true at the functional level.  But it is not true at the proposition level.  An agnostic does not say that God does not exist.  An agnostic states that he doesn't know if God exists or not.  An atheist asserts that God does not exist.  An atheist is not netural on the question.

A theist points out that the atheist has no standing either on the question.  But at this point the atheist employs a sleight of hand.  The statement is that since it is impossible to prove a negative (i.e. God does not exist) it is only proper to assume that God does not exist and prove that He does.  This is absurd for two reasons. 

The first is that as pointed out above we are not locked in by two positions.  The "default" is the stance that we cannot conclude one way or another.  Thus the assumption should be that we dont' know if God exists or not.

The second problem is that if it is impossible from the evidentiary standpoint to prove a negative, then there can be no such thing as a rational atheist.  It is not possible to prove the non-existence of God by the rules set forth by the atheist.  The only thing one can conclude in the negative is that we do not know if God exists or not.  There is no way to assert that God does not exist if evidentiary arguments are what is required.

What the atheist in this case is claiming is "I cannot prove God does not exist.  Thus I will simply assume I'm right and force the theist to do the heavy intellectual lifting."  It is ultimately an argument in bad faith.  The atheist assumes something he cannot possible know by his own framework.  It is an intellectually lazy position to take, and one that reason cannot argue against because if taken on its own terms reason was not how it was arrived at.

The theist should rightly point out that this position is absurd and force the atheist to concede or argue against three things:
  1. That under this framework there is no way to prove God does not exist.
  2. That the atheist position as the default has nothing to support it.
  3. That evidentiary arguments are not necessary (indeed that they are not even appropriate) for determining the existence of God.   

Friday, December 2, 2011

A day in the life 2

So I recently got my DEXA exam as part of the University of Texas Get FIT program.  Overall the results were positive.  I lost about 10 lb. of fat, or 4% and put on about 4lb of muscle.  I'm assuming that muscle is hidden because I certainly do not see it.  In any event the instructors seemed more excited than I was.  This is not to say that  I wasn't happy.  Overall I felt I made progress and was quite content.

My wife has been working longer hours at the lab.  This is annoying as eating dinner occurs around 8:30/9:00PM.  This is a little stressful but not too horrible. 

The biggest time consumer is the new Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword game.  I love it to death but since we get home so late I find that I intend to play for only about a hour and before I know it the time is 2 a.m.  This self inflicted sleep deprivation has got to end.  Just one more dungeon......

Where was I? 

I am in week 6 of writing my short novella.  There are times when my word count is easily met.  Other times it is a trial of unimaginable suffering.  But all in all it is remarkably rewarding.  Here are some of the highlights of Bill Dodd's How to Write Your novel in Nine Weeks:
  • I'm actually writing a novel.  Soon it will be real as opposed to all those other stories that are in my head.
  • It creates a habit of writing. 
  • I've overcome the idea that my novel MUST be perfect or it is not worth writing.
Here are a few downsides though:
  • The word count is really low and thus constricting.
  • It is hard to keep doing it everyday (six days, we get a break)
  • Sometimes the word count is really high.
Overall the word count is fairly low which is a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, it can feel suffocating as it seems I cannot fit everything I wanted.  On the other hand, it limits me to the high points and doesn't allow me to include everything I wanted.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Critical thought and truth

It is a staple of current popular thought that critical thinking is the most important skill a person can have. A person who cannot doubt and deconstruct ideas is not intelligent, but little more than a gullible moron.

Critical thought is indeed important to the thought process of evaluating truth. It treats all ideas, old and new alike as propositions that need to be tested. In doing so it attempts to separate fact from fiction by subjecting ideas to cross examination.

But critical thought is simply a tool. It allows us to look at ideas and test their consistency. It asks if a proposition is valid and can withstand the scrutiny of reason.

Critical thought however has limits to what it can discover. It can demonstrate ideas are valid. That is, that ideas are logically consistent. But the truth of an idea, the proposition that an idea possesses the quality of being true, is beyond the ability of critical thinking.

Critical thought at it's heart doubts all propositions. It subjects each and every proposal to the notion that an idea is false. It cannot, by process, prove something is true. It is not equipped for the task.

Religious ideas, like philosophical ones, are either true or they are not. Critical thinking can reveal inconsistencies in religious tenants, just like philosophical principles. As such critical thinking can help us with the evaluation of religious ideas by showing that if they are not valid, then they cannot be true.

But critical thinking cannot prove something to be true. It can only show that ideas are valid. In order to find truth, at som point the thinker must choose to believe. The transition from "possible truth" to actual truth requires an act of will.

That is what faith is at the intellectual level. The holding of valid ideas to be true. It is an act of will as much as reason. We can test our faith to reason, but we will not be able to believe by doubting. It is the wrong tool for the job.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 28, 2011

Misconceptions in Objective Morality 3: Objective Morality is not knowable

Continuing with the common misconceptions is the notion that objective morality is not knowable.  That is, while one may conclude that objective morality may exist, it is not useful because determining what is objectively moral is impossible.

There is admittedly some truth to this notion.  The human individual is limited to his experience. His perception of his actions and the results of his actions are limited.  He cannot see the effects of those actions in their entirety. 

But is that the whole story?  Is the blanket statement the whole truth about objective morality?

Consider the statement itself.  If we can claim that objective morality is "unknowable" then we have effectively stated an aspect of objective morality.  But how could we if objective morality is unknowable? The only way one could definitively state that objective morality is unknowable is if objective morality is knowable in some fashion.  If objective morality were truly above knowledge, the most we could say is, "We don't know if objective morality is knowable or not."

But if we can discern that objective morality exists, it follows that it is possible to discern other properties of objective morality.  For if we determine that objective morality exists, we have discovered some knowable aspect of objective morality (the property of existence). 

A comparable idea is the notion of God.  If we determine that God exists (which arguably we have if we accept the notion of objective morality) then we concede that it is possible to discern aspects of God.  But we also know that we will never comprehend God completely, given that He is far and above our experiences and perceptions.

The same is with objective morality.  We can determine aspects of objective morality but we will never comprehend it completely.  At the same time however objective morality can be comprehended in certain aspects. 

But how does one cross the limits of human reason?  In order for man to transcend the limits of natural reason requires the higher entity to assist in that knowledge.  That is ultimately the purpose of religion, the statement of truths that bridge the gap between what the human can know and what the human knows cannot be known without the aid of God.  St. Thomas Aquinas' statement then makes perfect sense, "I believe that I may know."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The purpose of moral principles

These days it is strange to hear talk about moral principles at all, let alone any talk that is coherent.  The moral plane is so fluid, so contingent on situation and circumstance that we are effectively living the moral relativity nightmare.  It is perfectly alright to start wars, but don't you dare raise taxes.  Feeding the poor is good, but poor people should murder their children (in utero, not out). 

Policy has replaced principle.  People are no longer defined as moral or just, but "conservative" and "liberal."  Your views on sex are your own, but if you want to increase/decrease government regulations you are either a hero or a villain. 

How did we come to this?  When did someone become defined by what their views were on tax policy or environmental regulations? When did we become a people of "issues"? 

I suspect at heart is the misunderstanding and erosion of the concept of moral principle.  The incoherence and fluid state of mind among the moderns is due to the denial of an objective notion of truth.  Without a firm foundation on the notion of moral truth, we have effectively denied any means by which to judge the character of a person or action.

Moral principles are at heart statements about the nature of man.  They posit the fundamental notions of what man is and how man acts in relation to one another.  As such they establish boundaries about actions that man can take with regard to situations.

Moral principles define in a negative sense the lines which one cannot cross.  They propose absolutes.  Rules to abide by and provide a guidance to right action.  They provide boundaries, and in uncertain situations define what actions cannot be undertaken under any circumstances. 

The modern mind eschews such notions.  The rejection of truth results in the rejection of boundaries on the actions of man.  In doing so the modern man has no direction, no guiding light, no ability to discern what is proper and what is not because he has rejected the notion that forms what is and is not moral.

He justifies this because there are "hard cases."  The principle of "murder is wrong" is generally agreed upon until a difficult situation arises, such as an unplanned pregnancy or one caused through rape or incest.  Thus, the modern mind says under certain circumstances it is ok to murder an unborn child.

But this is not logic.  It is not even common sense.  The principle is not changed because the situation is hard.  In fact that is the point of moral principle.  To guide us when our temptation would have us commit an evil to avoid a hardship.  The principle defines what actions CANNOT be undertaken. 

In this case the right thing to do is not obvious.  But the wrong thing is.  A principle is not invalidated because following it is hard.  Murder is still evil.  It does not become good simply because the real good is difficult. 

Our modern world cannot find good because good is difficult follow.  Thus we prefer evil.  It is not that we cannot decide what is good or bad.  It is simply the case that for most moral dilemmas the good path is hard.  And even where the good path is hard to find the evil path is often identified easily enough.  We only tempt ourselves to choose evil because it is perceived to be easier.

When we choose evil though we only destroy ourselves (and often have victims on our conscience).  When we commit evil we bear witness to a lie, and in doing so erode our ability to do right.  And once we cast off the limits of our actions we can no longer see how our actions relate to any form of truth.  We become lost.  Adrift in our attempts to justify the unjustifiable. 

Until as a society we understand the concept of moral principle in its proper place we will not solve the issues that plague us.  We will continue to argue over relatively meaningless notions of tax policies and proper regulations.  The problem that the modern mind faces is one of the soul.  A deep and abiding true longing for truth.  But we have chosen the easy way.  The way that demands nothing, asks us to sacrifice nothing, but ultimately offers nothing in return.

In order to do this however we must rediscover that there is such a thing as moral principle and it does define who we are and what we can do.  Without that we will continue to drift.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Misconception of Objective morality 2: Subjective has no role

Though new to me there is a notion of objective morality that exists in the blogsphere that states that if objective morality is true, then the subjective view of an moral agent plays no role in the moral evaluation of the action.  To phrase it more simply, right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of the actor's knowledge.  The argument against objective morality then proceeds to show obvious examples about an actor's knowledge influencing the moral weight of an action.

The problem with this is that objective morality does not exclude the subjective actor's knowledge and/or motivations.  In fact in order to evaluate any moral action we must have some sort of objective standard with which to evaluate the moral agent's actions. 

We will consider some cases to illustrate how the subjective experience influences the evaluation of a particular action.

First, at the risk of invoking Godwin's law we turn to the only person that all Western society can agree was evil.  I present for our first case, Adolf Hitler.  The murders and crimes he committed against the world are quite well know and with few exceptions condemned.  Thus objective morality states that the actions of Adolf Hitler are evil.

Now let us ask the question: Are the actions of Adolf Hitler evil because he knew they were evil?  Or are the actions evil in and of themselves?  The Catholic Church holds that the actions are "intrinsicly evil."  That is, there are no circumstances where the actions of Hitler can be justified.  This is objective morality in the first sense:

That there are actions that are by nature evil in and of themselves.
Now let us consider a second example.  A man is walking down the street and sees a man approach a woman with a knife in his hands.  The streetwalker leaps into action and attempts to stop the attacker, killing him in the process.  The woman screams and points out that the "assailant" and the "victim" are play actors rehearsing. 

A contrived example but it illustrates an important point.  In this case the streetwalker hero is actually a murderer in the strict sense of the term.  He has killed an innocent human being.  Objectively speaking this was an evil act.  However, the personal culpability of the streetwalker is greatly diminished.  His subjective knowledge of the circumstances curbs his personal guilt in this matter.  But this does ot change the objective nature of his action, the murder of an innocent human being, as an evil action.

A final case illustrates how the subjective nature of a moral agent DOES influence if an action is a particular evil or not.  Let us suppose that you go to an auto mechanic, say "Bob's auto shop" and are cheated out of your money.  Sometime after a friend asks for a recommendation for a mechanic.  In your recommendations you mistakenly says that "John's auto shop."  In this case, while the information is false, the intent to deceive is not present.  As such calumny, the intentional spreading of false information, has not occured because the intention to deceive was not present.  There is the evil of false information being spread however.

For the case above objective morality has a second formulation:

X bad action under Y circumstances is evil.
X good action under Y circumstances is good.

In order for certain evil to be committed, the circumstances which oftentimes includes the disposition of the agent performing the action, must be present for the action to be evil. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Survivor: Executive Edition

A thought occured to me that I feel would solve several problems of how to determine which companies get bailouts and bring both sides together.  I call it Survivor: Executive Edition.

The premise is that if you are a CEO in need of a bailout you must compete with fellow CEOs, stockholders, and government cronys (cronys include any public servant who the company either gave money to received money from, i.e. our entire federal system) for the bailout of your corporation.

It should be held in Zuccotti park during the winter.  The "players" will forage for food and shelter and compete with each other in games such as "Pin the Tail on the Democrat", "Dunk the Exec" and "Hunting for Elephants."  At the end of each session voting is held to see which particpant is voted out of the park. 

To me this would bring the Tea Party and the OWS folks together far better than any policy discussions.  What do you think? 


Misconception of Objective Morality 1: Everyone would agree what is moral

One of the objections to the concept of objective morality is that people disagree about what is and is not moral.  The idea is that if there is such a concept as objective morality then people would by and large arrive at a consensus about what is moral.

Embedded in this proposition are one of two assumptions:

  1. Objective morality is easy to figure out
  2. People are smart enough to figure objective morality out for themselves
We will deal with each of these in turn.

For the first assumption, it is not apparent that objective morality would be in all instances is easy to figure out if we assume that objective morality exists.  Strictly speaking the proposition of objective morality does not state how understandable objective morality is either way. 

I would conjecture that if objective morality is true then it would be hard to obtain and apply.  Everything in life that we commonly identify as important requires struggle.  Friendships, marriage, even things such as sports require sacrifice and effort.  Given how important morality is it would only make sense that some effort would be involved in discerning what that morality is.

The proposal that the disagreement over morality disproves the notion of objective morality comes from a post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy.  It assumes that if objective morality doesn't exist we would see  people disagreeing about morality and actions.  This is true so far as it goes.  But the reverse is not true.  In fact the disagreement over morality tells us nothing about the existence of objective values.

The second assumption is to be honest a conceit of our age.  It assumes that from the moment we pop into this world we are experts in the realm of morality and spirituality.  By virtue of being human we know instantly all that there is to know about the human condition and how to order one's life. 

As C.S. Lewis states in Mere Christianity there are two indisputable facts of the human condition:

  1. Everyone agrees there is objective morality in action if not in principle.
  2. We as humans often fall short of that ideal objective morality.
No matter what humanity embarks upon, be it a moral or political or economic utopia, we as humans fall very short of perfection.  Even if we have varying ideas of morality we often do not even meet our own arbitrary criteria. 

But there is another aspect to the proposition that people can figure out objective morality easily.  Be it the atheist that proposes there is nothing special about humanity to the relativist that says human purpose is how we define it, the notion that the human condition is knowable to the human mind is based on a rejection of God.  It postulates that the human is capapble of knowing everything about the human condition because there is no other reference point. 

But this idea crashes on the notion that the human is finite.  The human did not create himself.  He came from parents.  His perception of the world is limited to only his experience.  As such the notion of the human being able to concieve his own being in its entirety is suspect as best, given the limited information available to reason alone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is objective morality?

In surveying the landscape I've come to the conclusion that most who debate God in the blogsphere simply do not understand the concept of objective morality.  To be more specific, arguments that deny the concept of objective morality often do not reflect what objective morality actually means.  The following post is an attempt to help with understanding with regard to what objective morality means and the implications of the concept.

Objective morality in short means that there is an objective standard by which thoughts, words, actions and inactions can be measured in terms of moral worth.  That is,  these items can be categorized into "good" and "evil" objectively, such that the evaluation of these items in terms of moral worth is not subject to the relative viewpoint of the observer.

Now here we will stop for a minute and point out what we have not claimed:

  1. That objective truth is discoverable.
  2. That objective truth is discoverable easily.
  3. That the subjective state of the actor has no bearing on the evaluation of an action.
  4. Actions and the person (agent) that performs the actions are not linked.
  5. That the actions of a person determine the good or evil disposition of the person.  
All that we have stated is that there is such a thing as objective morality.  This must be kept in mind as we move to the next statement.

We will now make a new proposition. 

That in order for an action to be able to have moral weight, there must exist an objective standard.
If we consider that actions such as feeding the poor or genocide to have any "good" or "bad" qualities, we must have some objective standard to meansure them by.  If all morality is relative, that is an action or thought's moral weight is realitve to an individual's point of view, then we simply do not have any "good" or "bad" actions.  One person's "good" actions is another's "bad" action.  Thus feeding the poor is "bad" according to some who have no use for the poor.  Adolf Hitler's genocide of the Jews is neither "good" or "evil" because Hitler considered it "good" for the Jews to be eradicated.

In order to form a moral judgement of actions, there must be a way to measuse the moral weight of actions in an independent fashion.  There must be a standard.  A methodology by which actions can be measued.

The next few posts on this thread will discuss the common misconceptions regarding objective morality.  These errors are the cause of much bad argumentation and confusion.  I hope that in clarifying what is meant by objective morality much useless dialog will be avoided.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why atheists are unconvincing

I typically do not post with raw emotion as I try to be measured in my writing. It is rare to find blogs that have a measure of calm in a sea of raw words and emotions. I feel it is my obligation of sorts to create that calm space in my own little corner of the Internet.

With that in mind I rather recently stumbled upon the so-called Friendly Atheist blogger. I assume that the title is supposed to be tongue in cheek as I found the blogger to be anything but hostile to religious folks.

Recently he posted a video by a young woman about why she thinks Christians do not find lose their faith after arguing with her. She states five reasons why she thinks this is, and the result is less than complimentary to Christians.

Rather than reply in kind I will list my five reasons why atheist arguments do not convince me. I hope that this will further discussion on the matter but sincerely doubt it.

1. Modern atheist arguments suck -- Now mind you the old guard of atheists do not fall into this category. But far too often the modern atheist when arguing philosophy not only demonstrates ignorance and bad argumentation but seem proud of it.

2. Modern atheists do not understand the terms they are using -- from misunderstanding the definition of objective morality to necessary existence atheists time and again seem to demonstrate a complete and utter lack of understanding about fundamental terms.

3. The only true Christian is the evangelical -- I have dire news for the atheist who thinks religion is about to die. The world is full of Christians and Catholics. Our reach is beyond the Americas. We are exploding in Africa and Asia. And most of the world's Christians are Catholic/Orthodox who look at arguments against biblical literalism regarding Genesis and shrug their shoulders.

4. Atheists don't seem interested in the truth -- Point out to an atheist that the Catholic Church has never taught a literal apple of knowledge or even a literal garden of Eden and watch the sparks fly. Accusations of "liar" and "scum" often indicate only a desire to eliminate religion, not a desire for the truth.

4.5. -- Modern atheist arguments do indeed suck.

5. Modern atheists are more often than not colossal jerks -- As St. Paul teaches that if I have truth but not love then I am an empty noise in the wind, Atheists do not feel the need to be charitable to their opponents having convinced themselves of their own intellectual superiority. Thus the self centered nature of atheists posturing their moral and intellectual superiority does not make a Christian, whose call in life is to be charitable and love others, all that convinced that snubbing those who disagree with them to be a moral improvement.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding about why I think atheist arguments are unpersuasive. Hopefully this will lead to atheists to understand that a tactical change is in order.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 4, 2011

Collective guilt Pt. 4

In our last post we discussed that a society can "sin" when enough of a society participates in evil.  Even "private" evil such as pornography can have serious effects on the moral consciousness of the whole of society.  As more evil is perpetrated in both private and public spheres, society as a whole is compromised and engages in evil.

But what about the innocent?  As in all societies there are those who abhor the evils engaged in society as a whole.  Surely they are blameless, yes?

Suprisingly the answer is yes and no.  First the yes.  It is true that with regard to the specific act those who do not engage in the action bear no guilt for that action.  One is not held accountable for the actions of another in an overall sense. 

But there is a "no" to the blameless question as well.  This comes in two forms.  The first is the inaction on the part of those who do good. 

How often have we seen evil done by others and failed to correct it when we can?  When we see an evil being performed and "look the other way" or pretend it doesn't happen we are in a sense complicit in the crime.  We do not act to prevent the crime for happening.  The inaction on the part of the individual to resist the evil surrenders to evil. 

But there is another way that the innocent are "implicated" in the crime so to speak.  This stems from the notion of authority.  Just as those in high authority are accountable for the actions of those under their charge those under the authority of another are linked to the one in authority and in a sense accountable for the actions of the superior.

But how is this fair?  And when has this principle ever been applied?  The answer lies at the beginning of mankind's existence, when God breathed life into him.  And is the subject of our next post.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A day in the life

I typically don't talk about myself on my blog (except for posting excuses as to why I don't blog more often).  So I thought it might be time to talk about what I do when I'm not blogging.

Much to my wife's eternal dismay I am a video game junkie.  Having just finished Batman:Arkham City and the rather lame Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One.  The second one is sad as I love the series but co-op play was so frustrating (first two games dropped, sometimes the controller wouldn't respond, etc).  I have currently taken up with one I've been meaning to play for a while.  Epic Mickey. 

Another thing that takes away from blogging time is novel writing.  Although in all fairness it is the other way around.  See I started blogging to get me in the habit of writing on a regular basis.  As such as I am now writing in my novel on a semi-regular basis this blog has accomplished its purpose.  This is not to say that I will stop blogging, but as I intend to devote more time to novel writing this blog will not be updated as frequently. 

For those who are like me with regard to novel writing I strongly recommend three things:

  1. Get an IPad or some kind of tablet and a writing app (I use iA Writer).
  2. Order the e-book Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks. (I'll wait while you order...........good).
  3. WRITE!

I love my IPad 2.  It has helped me to focus on my wiritng by having a digital word processor without the hassle of a full laptop.  I can write when my wife and I go to a coffee shop, her lab (which we spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME IN), or just on the couch at home.  It helps me focus and iA Writer is a basic clean interface for writing.

Bill Dodd's book Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks is really how to write a short fiction story in stated time.  He offers sound advice and encouragement thoughout the process of going from wannabe novelist to the far more uncomfortable world of novelist.  It is totally worth the 3 bucks. 

Finally like Bill Dodd will tell you in order to write you must WRITE.  And keep writing. 

As for me, I intend to keep writing but the year-end blockbuster releases of Uncharted 3, Assassin's Creed: Revelation, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and a host of others will ultimately vie for my time and attention. 

Oh right, and my wife will too. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Collective Guilt Pt. 3

Continuing from where we left off with we now ask ourselves a question.  Supposing that the actions between two or more people effect each other as stated in the pornography example, why then is this interaction not limited to the participants involved? 

To answer this we can turn to the pornography example yet again.  We see in this case that the producer of pornography intends for his "product" to be seen by as many an possible.  The message that some people can be exploited for pleasure is to be mass distributed.  Likewise the consumer that buys the product agrees with the proposition.  The wider the audience, the more of those who buy into the notion that exploiting people in certain contexts is acceptable.

Once this principle seeps into enough consumers and producers it becomes part of the common culture.  The idea that exploiting people for pleasure becomes acceptable for a significant portion of the population.  The dignity of the human person in societal view is now compromised for a portion of the population. 

Furthermore the proposition of exploitation rests on shaky ground.  Why is it only acceptable in certain contexts?  What makes sensual pleasure the only purview?  Why is "consent" the criterion?  Why not in another capacity for exploitation, such as an employer working his employees to death for little wages?  The employees "consent" to the arrangement via their employment agreements.  Is this not analogous?

Our concepts and societal "values" bleed into other sections of public and private life.  What principles we espouse in private often make their presence felt in the public sphere.  Likewise, public policies have a variety of effects on the private life of individuals.  As such our actions, both private and public, help or hurt society as a whole as well as those closest to us.

Because of these ideas it is possible for a society to collectively "sin."  As individuals we do wrong, which in turn causes harm to society via direct actions as well as the bad principles we espouse to society either direct means or through actions public and private.  Society in turn accepts these principles which leads to sin at a societal level. 

But what about those who resist the evil in society?  Those who would reject pornography and the evil principles that it rests on?  Surely they are not punished for the actions of others?  This we will cover in the next post.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Collective guilt pt. 2

In order to understand collective guilt we must first have a proper understanding of how our actions affect ourselves and others. Without this knowledge we will not understand how the actions of others can affect us and those around us. In order to do this we must dispense with the notion of a total separation of actions between what we call "public" and "private".

Our last post on the subject considered that a human being is complete only when both the notion of the individual and the notion of of a community are realized. That is, the human is at the full potential only when he is both recognized as an individual and as a member of a community. To emphasize one at the expense of the other is to damage both.

Because of this notion of connectivity between the two spheres of human nature we can now explore the notion of how an action in one sphere affects how the human interacts in the other sphere. That is, every action in either the public or private sphere will affect the human in the other aspect of his nature.

Consider the notion of pornography. It is argued that even if there is something wrong with the viewing of such images that it is a "private" matter, and thus off limits in the public realm. This idea has embedded in it the idea that a clean separation of "private" and "public" actions, that the viewing pornography is entirely a private affair.

But upon closer examination we see that the participant in pornography, the viewer in this case, is viewing pictures of another as a means of pleasure. In private the viewer is cultivating a habit of using another human being for their own pleasure. This in turn impairs the viewer's ability to recognize the other as worthy of respect that a human being is due.

Now let us shift focus to the producer of pornography. The producer, either the "actors" or those who produce and market such material, adhere to the notion that it is acceptable to allow oneself two be exploited by another. This also impairs the ability of the participants to treat all human beings with the respect that is due to all human beings.

In the above example we see that the viewer's ability to treat all humans not as objects but as people is compromised. Likewise the producers are also compromised. The private action of viewing compromises the viewer, which leads to more production of such exploitative material. Likewise the public production of such material compromises both the producers and the customers.

But now we face another question. If this holds how does this affect people beyond the participants? How do their actions affect society as a whole? This we will examine next.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 17, 2011

Collective guilt Pt. 1

One of the common attempts of atheists to discredit Christianity is to paint God as a genocidal dictator.  Using texts from the Old Testament they point to God's commandments to exterminate the Canaanites.  This they argue proves that the God of the Bible is a genocidal maniac.

There are plenty of issues that arise from this argument that the atheist has to answer for.  The notion of God taking life vs. humans taking life is but one.  Taking the Scriptural text without other texts that suggest a more complicated picture is another.  Indeed there is so much to go into that it only proves that when you have a little knowledge you can make great mistakes.

But the purpose of this post is not to counter the point. Rather I would like to focus on the notion of collective guilt.  That is, there is a concept that a society can be judged as a corporate body. 

This notion makes me uncomfortable to some degree.  I suspect it is my American heritage that gets in the way.  The radical individualism that plagues the mind of the American has a tendency to isolate a human being as only an individual.   

But human beings are connected to each other.  We form societies.  Born into families, we humans interact with other humans as a regular part of day to day life.  It is as natural as breathing.  In short, the notion of human connectivity is as important as the notion of the individual.  It is only in community that the human being finds what being human is.

Now because of this notion of community with others as a natural extension of ourselves we find that our actions can affect others.  A kind or harsh word has a "positive" or "negative" effect on others.  Likewise, the actions of others can help or hurt the individual.   We are connected.  And in this connection our actions affect others and thus the community. 

But are actions such as those listed above divided cleanly into actions of the individual and actions in the community?  Is it only when I help or hurt another that the action in question is one in the community or "public" realm?  Likewise, are actions that do not involve another person individual or "private" actions?  While such actions can be classified with those categories it is not true that such actions are completely separate. 

But how can this be?  And what does this have to do with collective guilt?  These are good questions but I am out of time for right now.  Please bear with me as I will endeavor to answer them in the next post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brief Sabbatical

I find myself lacking in my prayer life lately.  I believe that this is due to many personal factors.  But the motivation along with topics to discuss.  Thus the time I would spend blogging I will devote to prayer.  Please pray for me and if you have any intentions I will gladly add them to my list.  I hope to start posting again soon.

The Management 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Judge not lest ye be Judged

It is an irony of this day and age that far too often what we accuse our intellectual opponents of is precisely what we are too often guilty of.  It becomes almost an amusement to see one accuse another of the very thing that the accuser is doing.  I can't put my finger on it but I have yet to discover why this age seems so prone to such lack of self-reflection.

Examples abound.  In my own short time blogging I have found the following:
- A Facebook discussion where the post was a link to a Keith Olbermann video.  The poster then complained about the lack of civility in the discussion.
- A Vox Nova contributor posted about the need to drop suspicion only to accuse his opponents of dishonesty in the same post.
- Stacy's blog is bombarded with the Apostles of Peace and Tolerance explaining to her why her children should be raped and drown.

I am at a loss to explain what I find to be one of the biggest issues in modern discourse about...well...anything.  It is as if we have all lost a complete sense of self-reflection.  The ability to reconcile our thoughts and words with our actions.  It seems the more that we accuse others (and the volume we use) are indicators that the accuser could stand to take his own advice.

I can think of a few things that contribute to this.  The first is the rejection of objective truth.  If truth is relative, than I am the source of all relevant truth.  Thus if I am the source then my accusations are not binding on me.  Morality can be completely contradictory since I am the arbiter of such.

Another aspect is the ability of the modern mind to turn vices into virtues.  We can redefine morality as we please, so we can simply change our "values" to match what others call "vices."  We are beholden to no one but ourselves in the end.  So why define morality in a way that inconviences us?

This is not to say that those who accept objective truth do not suffer from this as well.  To me it appears to be the product of our culture rejecting objective truth.  And like it or not, all of us are products of our culture and thus subject to the blind spots that our culture suffers from.  It is encumbent that all who hold to objective truth to reflect on how our culture's rejection of truth affects us in ways we do not know about.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hope in the Politics of Fear

When we last talked about the politics of fear we talked about how fear controls us.  If we continuously live in fear, be it of the economy or of those who wish us harm, we will forever be paralized by this fear and paradoxally continue down the path that will instill more fear in us. 

The path of fear holds no respite despite our ideas to the contrary.  We tell ourselves that if only others would listen we would be alright.  Vote for this person.  Support this tax.  End this entitlement.  Grow government/corporations.  Shrink corporations.  Fear collapses problems from the real and complex to the simple and easily solved.  And in doing so we devise solutions that are both flawed and damaging. 

The only real antidote to fear is its opposite virtue, hope.  Hope allows us to escape fear, by changing the unknown from a fearful black mist to a shinging cloud.  With hope the unknown is no longer to be feared but embraced (albiet cautiously).  The problems of this world, while real, are not insurrmountable.  And as such, the problems that we experience day to day do not have the power to paralize us with fear.

Hope is a virtue, not a state of mind.  It must be practiced.  It does not achieve instant results nor does it come easily.  Oftentimes we must fight ourselves and our tendencies to become preoccupied with the problems of the world.  It is a daily challenge not to give in to despair, to see problems as either insurrmountable or to find quick (and immoral ) "solutions" to them.

But hope cannot subsist in itself.  Hope needs an object.  To hope for the sake of hope is ultimately folly.  To hope in man only is to invite disappointment and disaster.  The only logical hope is in Christ.  This is because Christ, as the living God, has already redeemed the world to Him and His Father.  He takes an interest in each and every one of us.  It is to Him that we look for our hope. 

Ultimately the economic and spiritual crisis that we experience today will not be solved until we are reduced to the point where we MUST hope in Christ.  A good economy can distract us for so long from these fundamental issues.  A bad economy can inspire us to hope or it can cause us to embrace immoral solutions to the problem.  But ultimately such a deep crisis will not be solved unless we turn to Him who is the source of life itself.  A world without God is a hopeless one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Unintended hiatus and pledge

It has been a few weeks since I have been able to post regularly.  For this I apologize as there have been several factors that have effected my ability to post on a regular basis. 

First it should be noted that my home internet connection is busted (until hopefully tonight).  This has sapped my will to write as I'm not sure when I will be able to post next.

Second I have been taking an exercise class in order to reduce the weight that we often get when we ignore our health (which you can afford to do in your 20's, not now for me).  This has really taken the wind out of me as my thoughts are often preoccupied with how sore I am after workout or how hungry I am.  There isn't a lot of room for thinking more substantive thoughts when all you can think of is that meal that you really want but cannot eat because of dieting.

So I hope to get back into the swing of things as I adjust to the schedule of the class and whatnot. 

Finally I would like to make a pledge.  I have noticed that in the history of the blog I've done more posts about the errors in assumptions and thought of the modern man than talking about Christ or the Faith.  It is one thing to talk about what is wrong.  It is quite another (and far more challenging) to propose a truth and defend it.  Just because you are wrong does not mean that I am right.  Thus I pledge to balance my posts more often with things I actually believe and not just what I find wrong with the world.

So I ask that you be patient as I climb back into blogging on a regular basis.  I hope to have something substantative in the near future.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Doctrine doesn't matter?

My friend JC posts about the common complaint from Protestants that the Catholic Church is too obsessed with "doctrine."  That is, the Church seems more concerned with people being "right" about doctrine and less about the personal relationship with Christ. 

My post is not so much about the charge. It is instead about how this notion can be true to the Protestant given his experiences. Conversely for the Catholic what is true or not often has a great impact on his daily life. 

I had often heard this idea during my days as a functioning Evangelical.  The idea that the differences don't matter so long as we worship Him is in a certain sense true.  Those who profess that Christ is Lord and Savior are all united in that truth.  And as such we should not let divisions come between us unnecessarily. 

For the Protestant worship services are pretty much similar across the denominations.  You have praise music, opening greetings, more praise music.  Then the sermon, which is often the heart of the service.  More singing.  Then possibly a just-a-symbol-not-in-any-way-a-sacrament communion service (maybe).  More singing.  Then goodbye (possibly followed with singing).

Regardless if you have TULIP tattooed on your arm or if you are in a barely Christian denomination this commonality of worship I would wager is pretty common.  Were you to go from one service in the Bible Belt to an "All are welcome, unless you come from the Bible Belt" church in the north of the states, you probably would not notice much difference in overall service types.

However when one goes from a Protestant service to a Catholic one, suddenly we are in an entirely different world.  The statues of the saints and the stained glass.  The huge crucifix in front of the Church.  Rosary beads and repetitious prayer.  Indeed during the Mass the very focus is not on the sermon but the Communion and something about a "sacrifice."  Not only is worship different, it is in a sense turned upside-down.

 It is not suprising then that our Protestant brothers are confused about how much the claims we make create such differences in worship and daily life.  If in most of Protestant worship the doctrine has little bearing then one can go from one church to another and the doctrine doesn't mean much.  But if one darkens a Catholic Church door....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The dictatorship of relativism

Cardinal Ratzinger's famous phrase at the beginning of the conclave that would elect him Pope has made me think ever since I heard it. There are so many dimensions to the phrase that each time I look at it I come from a different perspective. However over time I realized that these perspectives are related.

The problem begins with the modern denial of objective truth. This is often phrased as "There is no such thing as objective truth, all truth is relative" Immediately we encounter a problem. It is not obvious at first, but this phrase is self contradictory.

If we assume that the phrase is true, then it is true regardless of one's opinion on the matter. This then means it is objective. But this means that there is such a thing as objective truth, in this case, the phrase "there is no such thing as objective truth, all truth is relative." Thus we have a contradiction. If the phrase is true, it refutes itself. If false, then there is such a thing as objective truth.

It is a testimony to our age that this self refuting phrase has such a titanic death grip on the modern mind. When I've pointed this out I've been accused of semantics to obfuscation. Sadly, such is the confusion of our modern age that it is almost impossible to fix a mind that has latched onto this faulty assumption. This is the first aspect of the dictatorship of relativism, the imprisonment of the mind.

But there is another aspect that this dictatorship manifests itself. The problem with holding on to something that is not true is that reality often intrudes on us. We need air to breathe. We need food to eat. We also die. Thus life contains daily reminders that there are truths that exist beyond our perception of truth.

Now this obvious aspect of truth and reality is unnoticed. Since we take such things as food and air for granted as a part of life we do not stop to consider how this point of reality infringes on ours belief that truth is relative. Thus the first rift opens, that between what we believe (no objective truth) and our implicit assumptions about life.

But herein lies a problem. We often experience aspects of life that do not conform to our tastes. Something a person wants to do is "wrong" according to some. Someone does something that is wrong yet I am powerless to do anything about it. Oftentimes it is a personal wrong done to me.

Now note at this point we encounter the second rift. One the one hand, the mind holds that there is no such thing as objective truth. On the other hand, I have a personal conviction that there is a moral wrong done to me or to others, such as when someone steals from me or such horror has a genocide occurred in some foreign country. Hence now there is a break even in the thoughts that I have. I believe in moral wrong yet also in a principle that undermines that truth.

But now a shift happens. The focus is no longer on the notion that "there is no objective truth". We begin to shift to "truth is relative". In other words, the truth shifts from nonexistent to real, but only in the sense that my perspective is what determines truth. In this way we reconcile the denial of truth with the personal moral revulsion to things I find morally repulsive. I also convince myself that there are measurements, such as overall happiness, that determine what is moral and what is not. Thus again these measurements are subjective, but they are reasonable, because I am reasonable.

But another problem arises. That problem is people. People disagree with me about morality. They have differing perspectives. What one person says is morally wrong another calls one's personal prerogative. And since all morality is relative, there is no way to reconcile right or wrong.

But there is one way to resolve the tie. I consider myself a reasonable person. My morality is reasonable and if people agreed with me they would be moral as well. This is because morality is subjective, and therefore only the most reasonable morality should be enforced. Obviously that which proposes objective morality is out of the question. But reasonable people either agree with me (because I am reasonable) or will come around.

But some remain obstinate. Especially those who insist on an objective morality. They are not reasonable people because if they were they would agree with me or at least hold my general views. Thus they are superstitious, morons, ignorant. They hold to ideas that are morally repugnant. They are bigoted, rooted in unreasonableness and prejudice. in short, they are evil.

These are a threat to true morality and what is reasonable. They must be punished and silenced for the good of all. If they persist in such foolish notions as objective morality they can keep it to themselves. But in no way should they be allowed to have any influence over others. Only views that can be measured in empirical metrics should be used.

And now we come to the full paradox of the dictatorship of relativism. Having the mind enslaved to the notion that objective morality doesn't exist I now have become the worst of moralists. Only my views and the views of those who agree with me can influence morality. Those who disagree with me cannot be allowed a voice. Truth is what I make of it. And those who do not conform must be silenced.

Thus both the mind and (if I have the power) those who disagree with me I will enslave to my will. It is a dictatorship of the worst kind. It is one only bounded by my will. All reality must conform to my will. The only truth is that which I enforce on the world.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The politics of fear

Fear is all around us these days. It seems regardless of one's personality there is something to be afraid of. Fear of terrorists. Fear of economic collapse. Fear of losing one's livelihood. Fear of losing health and not being able to pay for care. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the future. Fear of the present.

I have been convinced for some time that our political philosophies (if one can call them that) that dominate the popular mind revolves around fear. It would seem that all sides are afraid of something. And this fear dictates how people wish the state to behave.

On the right I find that we are afraid of the external. Things we are not capable of controlling that are outside of us. This often is the foreigner, the government bureaucrat, and often our fellow citizens. This group wishes two be left alone, not to be bothered by others, and absolved from all obligations hence.

On the left we find fear of life. They are afraid of non-personal factors. they fear the health market. The consequences of their own actions, such as unrestrained appetites of the sexual nature. They fear what they cannot control internally, and feel that they must be protected from life itself and hardship.

Both sides fear things and thus are driven to embrace ideologies that would seem to alleviate that fear. Everything is a crisis. The health market crisis. The terrorist crisis. The economic crisis. The ADIS crisis. The welfare crisis. Every challenge that as a society must face as if the world would end if not treated now with drastic measures.

And so as a society we bounce back and forth between the two types of fears, the external and the internal. We exhibit all the signs of a directionless and insecure society. We have lost any sense of direction. In short, we do nothing but be afraid.

This to me is based on a false notion of control. We tell ourselves if only society would listen and control what we say should be controlled everything would be fine. It is others, are told, that are the problem. They do not listen to us. They are simply stubborn. They want to distort then country, etc.

We believe that we have a control that is actually false. We believe that we can fix the important things. That by ourselves we can simply beat those who disagree with us (and therefore are evil) and everything will be right with the world.

And when things do not go our way and our philosophical goals are not met we give in to fear all the more. We vent and fume at the those who think differently than we do. They stand in our way. Our fellow citizen is now an obstacle to overcome, rather than a partner in a solution. They are stupid, evil, and selfish.

And so we remain fearful and divided. Fearful of each other, of the outsider, of life itself. Hardship is feared like the plague. We demand quick solutions that cause us no pain, for we are afraid we cannot endure.

How does this notion of fear come about? Why are we so afraid?

And are our fellow citizens really evil? Stupid? Selfish? I believe the answer in a sense is yes. And why I the that we will discus next.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Man and ideology do not mix

When the economic crash of 2008 occurred I heard several politically conservative commentators cry out about the supposed failure of capitalism. Real capitalism hasn't been tried we were told. There is too much government interference was also said.

While my sympathies lie with this group I could not help but recall my professors in college lament the fall of the Soviet bloc. Not openly mind you. But the sense that real communism had not been tried was as much an argument for that ideology and it was deployed in much the same manner as real capitalism has not been tried is today.

This line of thinking came to me at work one day when a coworker commented, and I quote from memory, "Communism, on paper, looks great and should work. As soon as you throw the human element into it, communism falls apart.". This to me is one of the cases where my coworker is both right and wrong. He is right in the sense that the "human element" breaks communism.

But in another sense my coworker is wrong. In fact he has the problem completely backwards. It is not humanity that breaks communism. It is that communism, indeed all ideologies, are broken from the beginning.

The problem with ideology is that it attempts to reduce mankind to a particular aspect of who he is. If it is the collective social nature of communism (in a non-Marxist context) or the profit-centered nature of capitalism, ideologies reduce men from their complexities down to one aspect of human nature. This aspect is then emphasized beyond it's importance and all other aspects of men are seen though this lens.

Ideologies are attractive because they simplify the human condition in the mind. They allow us to believe that men can be predicted and therefore accounted for. Like cogs in a wheel or a specimen in a laboratory, ideologies lead us to think we can have some measure of control and predictability in life.

They also propose simple solutions to complex problems. This usually takes the form of righting a real injustice or two. It is believed that by eliminating the "real problem" (government, big business, Kinko's) we will usher in a New Age of mankind, with freedom/security/justice for all.

The problem is that when one reduces man to one's simplistic perception only harm can result. A solution borne out of a flawed misunderstanding of man's nature only leads to the suffocation of other aspects of man. In the worst cases, those who do not conform to this shallow and incomplete version of man are executed, and soon it turns into the situation that everyone is a potential victim.

But surely we are more capable than this. Is it nots the case that humans are intelligent to see when their views need correcting? This we will cover in our next post.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Called to preach, not convince

When I first began to study my faith from the perspective of defending it logically, I found myself frustrated at not being able to convince people of what I felt was my well reasoned and right opinions. I found my opponents to be curiously stubborn.

For a time I felt that my missing was to convince the world of the Truth of the Church. That I must win over the world though argumentation and logic. As our age claims we are the most rational age of mankind. Surely then logic and reason would simply carry the day.

Over time I became frustrated with what I felt was a fruitless enterprise. If people are not only irrational at times, why should I even bother? Why spend time arguing if my intellectual opponents couldn't even understand the train of logic, or refused to, then why attempt to reason with the unreasonable?

I have learned many lessons since then. In time we will discuss others. But to me the main lesson I learned when I realized that Faith was a gift from God. In my own life I often found that what led me to God was not my own intellectual steam but a number of events and a lot of grace. As such to say that I could convince others is to some extent simply folly on my part.

Another aspect came to me when reading Holy Scripture. What I discovered was that as Christians we are called to preach and to baptize. Yet I noticed something for the first time. We are not called to convince. Shockingly we are not able to force someone to come to Christ. And if Our Lord is content to allow us to disregard His word, who am I to say that someone else MUST come to the Faith?

This to me was actually quite freeing. To me it meant that as long as I attempted to share the Faith with others the rest was in God's hands. As long as I acted in Faith with the Church what I write may not be the best in Catholic writing, but it fulfills my duty to preach the Word.

As such while I attempt to write to the best of my ability I no longer become frustrated when I fail to win over converts. Ultimately it is God who wins hearts and minds. We are simply His instruments. And I am free to make music without having to fret if there is no one willing to hear. My job is simply to preach and hope for the best.