Monday, December 31, 2012

My New Year's Resolutions

Well it is time for that yearly tradition to cite New Year's Resolutions.  I'm pretty sure the definition of "New Year's resolution" is:
A promise you make to yourself that you pretty much know you aren't going to keep.
 So instead of simply saying quietly to myself what I intend to do I'm going to put all of mine out there.  This way I can at least be honest and upfront and we can all share in my failure.

  1. Pray more:  I found a book on Dominican Prayer that I have yet to pick up and try.  Starting in the New Year I will keep on this blog a daily journal (as the book suggests to keep a journal) of my experiences with such.  Should be interesting.
  2. Go cold turkey on video games during Lent:  I'll have to wait until Lent on this one, but I have decided that the only way to cut back on video games in Lent is to do it completely.  This includes Sundays.  Readers will remember that my last attempt to limit my time was an epic disaster.  So this year I'm going all out.  I have the local insane asylum on speed dial just in case.
  3. No commenting for three months:  I have come to realize that comment boxes are little more than an occasion of sin.  The very rare case where an intelligent conversation can occur is eclipsed by the far too numerous incidents of flame wars that I routinely get sucked into.  I'm convinced that people who post in comment sections of Facebook posts to lash out in empty-headed fashion are working through emotional issues that logic and reason have no way to touch.  I am tired for my part and have no interest in contributing to such a toxic environment.  So for the next three months I refuse to post comments anywhere.
  4. Learn the Korean language:  I have been flirting with this for far too long.  But this year I will finally jump this hurdle and learn the Korean language.  Or at least I hope so.

So there they are.  The die is cast.  The gauntlet has been thrown down.  Life, I challenge you to a duel.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

In the stillness of the night

So Christmas at our house was quite subdued.  It was a little depressing honestly but I think I am the better for it.  But first a little background.

My wife and I have been battling a cough that has persisted after a cold for the past month or so.  It has been quite annoying to say the least.  We had recovered sufficiently to decide to carry on with our planned trip to New York.

We were there until Christmas Eve and we had a lovely time.  Not without cost however.  My wife's cough came back with a vengeance and she had quite a bit of trouble sleeping on the trip.  When Christmas Day came she was so ill we didn't even make it out to Mass that day. This we will be confessing later, not that we think we did wrong by missing Mass due to illness but like missing any big event you still want to apologize to your host for missing a party you wanted to go to.

So there I was late at night with my wife finally able to sleep and eating McDonald's, I began to feel lonely and depressed.  It was the first time I could remember not being around family on Christmas.

As I sat though I began to think about Christmas for the first time.  To simply sit and meditate on the awesome nature of God who became Man.  In the stillness of the night I found the true meaning of Christmas.  There is such a thing.

It is more than hope.  It is the new reality.  The night that the battle had been joined by God to win Man back.  It impressed me in that quiet how the true meaning of Christmas shines forth and the modern world seems hell bent on distracting us from that truth.

The work of the Cross and Resurrection begins at Christmas.  In fact one could say that evil was defeated on Christmas day.  In that singular moment the defeat of darkness was sounded.  A new day was dawning.

Christmas has one true meaning.  The coming of the Christ.  It is the defining moment in the history of the world.

In a night just like the night I experienced all was still on the earth.  But on the spiritual plane a cannon shot went out.  The first salvo of return fire from the Lord of Hosts against the Enemy.

Though it wasn't how I intended to spend Christmas I learned quite a bit from my forced silence.  To drink in the true mystery that is the coming of God into the world.  History pivots on that moment.  For this realization I am thankful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The best comment on the media evar!

Not Mark Shea's article about Human Toothaches Who Happen to be Atheists (though in my experience there is a strong cross-section) but a comment left during the ensuring discussion:
TMLutas: It is quite common to see thoughtful people believe in the media narrative in every area except for areas where they have personal expertise. There, they know that the media is babbling more often than not. But it is much less common to extend this very common observation that the media are getting a lot of things wrong and the narrative is also very often wrong in areas where you don’t have the facts at hand to check and correct for them. To do so is to strike out into deep waters without a backup plan. It is very scary but it unfortunately is true. We have an awful media that does not gather basic facts well and we are largely living our lives informed by narratives that are at least as likely to be wrong as they are to be right.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The "Real" Problem of Evil

I originally planned to post this on Friday, but in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut I found myself drained from the news.  I typically don't react in such a way to such news but for some reason I could not bring myself to post.  After sifting through my thoughts I began to realize why.

We have heard of the problem of evil.  As one of the only two good arguments against the existence of God, the existence of evil continues to this day as a stumbling block to Faith.  How can an all-good God exist when there is such suffering in the world?

The logical side of the problem of evil has several answers actually.  In fact according to Aquinas the only way evil can exist in the first place is if God is goodness itself.  The argument from the point of reason is answered in a variety of ways.

The real problem of evil is that the answers are not "satisfactory" when a soul is hurting.  Evil wounds us.  We see the horror, pain and death that evil causes.  It pierces our minds and souls.  We react with sadness, confusion and anger.  However right the reasons may be they are of little comfort when we ache.

That is what evil is though.  Irrational.  Damaging.  We make justifications for it in our own lives even as we know it damages us.  We accept the twisted and irrational framework necessary to do evil.  In our more honest moments, we try to work ourselves out of that evil.

But when confronted with the horror of the shooting in Connecticut, the glamour and rationalizing of evil falls away.  It grieves us.  It confuses us.  It turns a world of reason and order into irrationality and chaos.  The anger, hurt and pain that we feel is another product of that evil.  

This is the way we should react to all evil.  Evil is foreign to this world.  We recognize this when we first encounter it.  We accept it as part of life, but like any invader we'd like to kick it out.

Blinded by pain and anguish, we being to question good.  Is it worth it?  We begin to question God.  Is He there?  Like any powerful emotion the hurt and anger begin to derail our reasoning.

This is not to say the emotion isn't worth something.  It is.  This is how we should react to evil.  Evil SHOULD repulse us.  It SHOULD hurt us.  We should avoid it at all costs.

What we cannot allow it to do is to damage our Faith and reason.  Evil by its very nature is irrational.  And it encourages us to think irrationally.  To allow it to crush our reason is simply to perpetuate evil.

This is the real problem of evil.  Our souls react quite rightly at the horror of evil.  In that grief we can question how such a God could allow such things.  And the explanations appear hollow in the face of our pain.

But given the power of that reaction we can blind ourselves to the truth.  Past the pain and the anger we know what the truth really is.  And the choice presented to us is to embrace or reject the True Comforter.  And like any choice between good and evil, we can choose either the true source of comfort or allow the grief to define us.  This is the choice everyone will face at some point. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayer and Silence

Given the horrific shooting that occurred today I'll post my thoughts later on the subject.  For now the only response I can muster is prayerful silence.  I suggest we all do the same.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How Gay Marriage will destroy our Society

Alright I admit that the title is link bait but hear me out.  I have been quite ill getting over a cold that I suspect I'm not quite done with yet.  My head is swimming in medications.  Yet somehow I managed to get sucked in yet again in a "discussion" about gay fantasy, otherwise know as gay marriage.

Now I will reiterate my disclaimer about this topic yet again.  I find gay "marriage" as an issue to be appallingly dull.  I see it simply as the latest degradation of marriage in this culture.  Why I wind up getting sucked into such debates is that appalling bad arguments are routinely brought forth in support of this fantasy.  And since I am drawn to bad arguments like a moth to a flame, once again the subject took up far more of my time than I'd care to admit.

Particularly striking about this encounter was my opponent's insistence on having to justify "banning gay marriage" from a legal basis.  Never mind that my entire argument was that gay marriage is an oxymoron and so "banning" it is a non-starter.  Never mind that I pointed out that having the discussion in purely legal terms was also a non-starter as I was maintaining it was a moral issue.  The counters to my points ranged from "You are wrong! Period!" to "You are a liar for disagreeing with me still!"

Now wiser people would have realized by now that trying to conduct a civilized discussion during what was quickly becoming a pissing contest would have recognized the situation and backed out.  But no, oblivious to the signs I soldiered on.

Coincidentally this exercise has demonstrated to me another hazard of online apologetics.  Given that I've been insulted so much I've more or less become completely immune to it.  While good for my health and psyche I realized I no longer recognize when the discussion has simply broken down and nothing further can be accomplished.  When your opponent is outright calling you a liar and a hypocrite, the only thing one can accomplish is looking like a particularly savvy liar and hypocrite.

Anyway, what I was stuck by was this blind insistence that I must come up with a legal reason to ban gay marriage.  Given that the entire framing of the issue was based on principles that I was directly challenging, I refused, and stated why.  This was taken as a sign of surrender, and the tap dance in the endzone of this absurd game was conducted.

It was this discussion that finally led me to realize why gay marriage is so dangerous.  Understand up till now I understood the danger purely at a theoretical level.  I understand that morality is important and a society that drifts from the true nature of man will collapse under its own dead weight.  But this discussion has finally allowed me to break through the intellectual barrier so to speak.

A society that allows for gay fantasy to be enshrined in law is completely vulnerable to a tyrannical takeover.  When our thinking is reduced to "can we come up with a legal argument for it" regardless of the moral soundness of or even common sense, to the point of forbidding discussing from any standpoint other than a legal one, we are in trouble.

Think about it for a minute.  The exclusion of a moral discussion about our laws allows for a state to usurp total control so long as the law can be tortured to justify it in some sense.  This is why the state claims the right to torture terrorists.  This is why it has executed a citizen of the U.S. without trial.  So long as the state can exclude the moral component from the legal one, genocide is perfectly fine so long as a legal justification can be made.

When one pretends that the moral and the legal exist in separate worlds the state no longer recognizes any boundaries.  As long as it can rip bleeding from the text what they want, there is no way to stop it.  We live in a country of lawyers and judges that redefine life to suit the whims of those in power.  And we as a people have surrendered the weapons of justice and integrity to avoid conflict.

As I reflected on this last night I could not help but admire the cunning of the Enemy.  Had it gotten as bad as it is I would never have seen the connection.  Well played, Satan.  Well played.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Posting issues

It has been a strange month for me healthwise.  Nothing major but a relatively allergy-free year has yielded to a bad month of mental haze and runny noses.

Last Monday's miss though was because my poor wife has the worst head cold.  I am finally at my desk which is where I usually write on breaks.  But yesterday's caretaking is why I missed the post.  Apologies and asking for prayers that I can get back on track.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Silent Retreat

Alrighty so I am heading out of town on a silent retreat sponsored by the Diocese of Austin.  Which basically means from 6:30PM today till noon Sunday I will shut up.

Hey hey HEY!  Put down that champagne!

Anyway, no blog today.  But please pray for a friend whose mother passed away last week.  The funeral is today and the family is asking for prayers so I'm rounding them up.  Many thanks and have a great weekend.

The Management   

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A few thoughts on the last election

Now that people have beaten to death the results of the election and my allergies are starting to clear up I've decided to offer a few thoughts about the last political fracas.

First and foremost, while the electoral college paints a bleak picture (suddenly it is the friend of liberals everywhere and not the bogyman of 2000) the polls reveal a divided nation right down the middle for the most part.  Also worth mentioning that the Republicans offered quite possibly the only candidate that could lose to Obama and decided that he was their guy.  A most impressive display of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

That's all for inside politics.  The fallout however for Catholics faithful to the Church is more positive.  While the election itself is a disappointment for those of us who cherish liberty and religious freedom it has begun a great deal of soul searching amongst us.  Several things we learned this November, and a lot of people are taking the lessons to heart.

First and foremost the landscape of ideas are against us.  This has been true for some time but there was always this notion that if things were bad enough the fictitious "Moral Majority" would rise from slumber and oust the current rabble of politicians.  This election has demonstrated that such a majority does not exist, and it is wishful thinking to suggest that people who don't vote are going to suddenly participate in a system that they feel is broke.

The second is that we need to have a serious conversation with ourselves about how best to explain why freedom and especially religious freedom is so important.  The tide is against us as people simply don't seem to care that religious liberty in this country is under attack.  The "War on Women" propped up by the Left, ridiculous as the view was, worked. People either fell for it or simply didn't care.  Neither explanation holds hope for the future of our country.  

Finally one thing is for certain.  Evil is now out in force.  The world has decided it is time to put the screws to the followers of Christ.

It happens in every age.  Evil, when it is weak, seeks accommodation   Then when it is powerful, it seeks submission to itself.  It is a refreshing honesty, to be told that the State will not abide any other contenders for the title of King.  The naked use of force that the government is using to break the will of the Faithful is now a matter of routine.  Obviously it is not at the level of killing us for sport, but the march to marginalize, exclude, and shame believers into second-class citizens is in full swing.

Things will likely get worse from here on out.  The continuing trend of secularists to ignore and deny any attempt at accommodation is increasing.  The notion of conscience rights and the dignity of the believer is rapidly disappearing.  We are already being told that outside the home or Church we are not allowed to practice our Faith, either in business or politics.  And this line of thought is not open to cross-examination.

But the question is not if the Church will survive, but the State.  Should the State continue this self-destructive course it will only shatter to pieces against the Rock the Church is built on.  And then the Church will be there to pick them up.  The only real question is how much suffering will the Faithful have to undergo before the State collapses under its own dead weight.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The breakdown of the conversation

We see it all the time.  A particular group of people will believe something, and by virtue of believing that something believe that they are superior to those who disagree with them.  Simply by virtue of disagreeing with them.

Mark Shea writes a post about evolution as a metaphysical fig leaf.  While he is talking about another issue with New Atheism I notice a continuing trend in this us vs. them mentality that is exhibited by adherents of Darwinism.  The belief (seriously, belief is the word they use) in evolution that distinguishes the intelligent from the dangerous and unenlightened.

This coloring of people who disagree with them is not a new invention.  People have been doing it as long as there have been opinions (and for that matter people).  What is particularly striking is the fear and hatred that is being fomented now against those who don't hold evolution as the be all and end all of explanations.

 As we become more polarized and continue to isolate ourselves from the opinions of those we disagree with, two effects begin to emerge:

  • We become less able to defend our own ideas
  • We begin to fear the ideas that we disagree with
The first effect is due to laziness.  We only hang out with those who agree with us.  We only read that which we agree with.  Like Obama in the first debate, when you are surrounded by yes-men and sycophants you get soft.  Your ideas are not challenged.  You perceive yourself to be smarter than you are. 

This leads to a horrible inability to defend one's ideas.  The intellectual shallowness gives way to an emotional defensiveness that relies on ridicule and derision rather than engaging an actual position.  The ideas one holds become a part of one's identity.  Without a rational basis to defend such ideas, the adherent feels that they are being personally attacked when a disagreement arises.

The second point is more obvious.  If one cannot defend one's own ideas logically, it makes it almost impossible to understand let alone argue against the ideas of another.  This ultimately is why dialogue in this country is dead, and the ability to have an intelligent conversation as well.

Understanding another's views requires a deep understanding of one's own ideas and how they contrast with others.  This is something we are unable to do in modern discourse because we are not used to thinking about our own ideas very deeply.  The points of conflict where people disagree requires an exchange of diverging ideas, and often the core of the disagreement is rather up the chain of reason rather than the immediate disagreement.

We face a time where the ability to defend the rationality of the Catholic Faith is all the more important.  Presenting rational ideas to an irrational world may seem like an exercise in futility.  The human mind longs for reason even if our fallen natures would convince us to reject reason for the sake of immediate gratification.  This is why we labor to explain, defend and propose the Faith.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Okay well

allergies refuse to let up and so I have nothing to talk about.  So I'm calling it quits for this week until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Seriously, I haven't felt well since two weeks ago and its getting worse.  Nothing serious but I'm tired all the time and my brain refuses to cooperate.

Thank you for your patience and hope to have posts up after the holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Once again

feel horrible today.  Sorry for no blogging.  Hopefully I'll be back with posts for Monday and Wednesday before the Thanksgiving break.

Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lazy minds

It is a strange thing that most modern conversations resemble fighting with strawmen rather than the actual exchange of ideas.  Most exchanges resemble attempts to defend one's own view rather than the attempt to exchange intellectual goods.  As a result the insulation of ourselves from ideas that are not our own continues and worsens.  

I think it has a lot to do with the intellectual shallowness that we moderns have with ideas.  Most of the arguing is a hyper-reflexive response to the fact that someone is challenging the ideas that one holds.  While we are used to our ideas challenged we are far more preoccupied with the opposition than with examining our own ideas.

I find this tendency exhibited in myself.  I am preoccupied at times with New Atheist shoddy arguments and complete inability to see religion beyond what Michael Flynn terms "Bill and Ted's Most Excellent Bible Shack."   They are completely incurious to the fact that most of their arguments aren't even on the same planet compared to what people actually believe.

But yet I find myself on occasion going to atheist sites or reading atheist arguments despite the fact that the only new things out there are just new distortions about religion in general, by which they usually mean Christianity, and Catholicism in particular.  Why would I do such a thing if I was convinced that these ignorant and usually vile people have nothing to offer?

I read my friend JC Sander's piece about reality and Hell for Ignitum Today and found this:
The conformity of the mind to reality is knowledge, and it is an innate desire. It is how the intellect responds to truth, which is in a sense the response of the soul to Truth, that is, to God. Truth, like reality, is something which transcends us—both truth and reality are among the transcendentals  That is, they are things which are outside or above and beyond us, things which are “more” than us, and thus which we can grasp only in part and not in whole.
I began to think about how it seemed to me that while we do desire to be right modern thought seems to go about this not by finding the best argument for one's view but by going out and destroying the competition.  Our preoccupation these days is not "Am I right?" but "others are wrong, here's why."

Intellectual shallowness is nothing new but it has reached critical mass in the modern age.  People don't know honestly why they hold the ideas that they do.  Look at any discussion and see who if anyone is actually defending their ideas vs. attacking ideas that are not theirs.  The lopsided trend toward the latter is obvious.

I know the reason why this is.  I do this all the time.  The reason why this is the case is because it is easier to attack an idea than it is to defend one.

Shooting down an idea requires no compromise on our part.  Nothing is at stake for the attacker.  All it requires is the ability to find holes in another's position.  It is a stance that requires nothing of us nor does it threaten to destabilize our view of the world if the attack fails.

Denying objective truth or its know-ability requires no cost to any of our ideas.  When one denies that truth can be knowable all one has to do is to destroy how people came to know the truths that they hold.  It is in short a way for a lazy mind to think it is thinking when all it is really doing is casting down others.

And to be honest this is what I do far too often, so I should know.  When I am preoccupied with what others are doing I am not doing what I should be doing.  Instead I am distracting myself from the work I should be doing.

So I will get back to that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

When Your Train of Thought is a Runaway

My mind works in overdrive sometimes.  Some days my mind will just continue to go on and on with no respite.  It interferes with my sleep and concentration can be difficult or even impossible.

Initially I thought in arrogance that this was just how geniuses thought.  A genius to my mind was simply someone who refused to let go of a problem until it was solved.  And so I just went with the flow even if that meant stress and anxiety over whatever I was pondering.

At this time I was also dealing with depression.  While I was working through the ideas and issues that caused me to be depressed I was finding that my mind still held on to thought patterns despite my best efforts to think in different ways.  Perceived slights from others and feelings of loneliness still haunted me regardless of the evidence in my life that such things were not true.

After much "pondering" I seemed to be out of ideas.  My mind continued to spin as I tried to find the answers to these riddles that kept turning over in my mind.  They appeared to be riddles without answer, and still I couldn't escape the conclusions that my mind reached.

But the grace of God at times will cut through the noise our minds make.  I don't remember exactly when it happened.  I cannot recall the exact moment.  But at one point I was presented with irrefutable evidence that my mind was not processing events properly.  The question finally emerged:  What if my mind is just not disciplined?

I came to realize that my thinking was not thinking at all.  There was to be sure "reasoning" to some degree.  But my thoughts always went down one track, as if it thought on its own and I was simply along for the crazy ride.  Because of my previous lack of discipline, I could not steer my mind to the truth.  It would not process new evidence, only reinterpret evidence to fit the existing view.

My mind was stuck on a one way track.  And it was a runaway train.  I had no control over it.  It thought, and I simply let it run roughshod over any and all evidence to whatever I saw.

The mind requires discipline.  Not just in terms of learning how to reason and follow a train of logic, but also to know when to quiet the mind and absorb information.  To learn when to relax and to learn when to engage.  Like our physical bodies the mind requires tempering and the will to train it properly.

Most importantly the discipline to know when to use the mind.  The mind requires rest like anything else.  A restless mind is just as bad as a lazy mind if not worse.  A lazy mind may perceive that it is lazy.  A restless mind is usually not aware that it is so.

Our thoughts and workings of our "brilliant" minds are not as impressive as we think they are.  Often they are a result of a lack of discipline.  Our digital age only aggravates this situation with instant access to information in bite sizes.  Darting from one thing to the next we don't take the time to process and digest what we have learned, if anything.

There are ways to discipline thought however.  This we will discuss later.  For now, simply know that our modern minds are not superior simply because we are moderns.  In fact, we could use some medieval thought discipline in our lives.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day off today

I'm beat, and just got worked over in weightlifting class.  No thoughts in my head.  Have some ideas though so check back Monday.  Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


on Thursday!  Check back here tomorrow!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heading toward the end

Mercifully the election will be over by this time Wednesday.  Dear God it has taken so long.  Yet if the trend continues the press will start wondering who is a viable candidate in 2016 before the swearing in ceremony.

Sadly neither outcome offers much solace.  While I hope Obama loses I'm not entirely sure what that would mean.  In theory it would mean that the HHS mandate would be killed before having to go through the lawsuits.  Also it would depose someone who is hostile to religious freedom and replace him with someone who is at least ambivalent about it.

For myself I'm old enough to remember when candidates seemed to at least have some divergence in viewpoints.  Nowadays that has all but disappeared.  Different faces, same bad ideas.  Yet one would think that we are worlds apart in this country.

It is tempting to give up on it all.  Many have done so.  Despite the "stakes" only half of voting age citizens vote these days.  Not surprising then that people are so disillusioned with American "values."

I honestly think this is causing some soft of existential crisis.  Chesterton said that America was the first nation to be founded on a creed.  If that creed turns out to be false, then who are we?

Not that other countries aren't experiencing such crises as well.  Islam's continued spiraling as it deals with its homicidal radicals in its midst while trying to figure itself out on the world stage is a haunting issue.  Secularist are ahead of the game in crisis as they imagine theocrats attempting to take over the world.

Economic crises typically force us to reevaluate what is actually important.  But I do wonder if we as a people have the knowledge to perform that reevaluation.  Catholics emphasize reconversion.  That everyday is a chance to recommit to Christ and the Truth.  Lent is set aside for precisely that.

But what if you don't have anything to recommit to?  Our culture has done away with God and truth.  We wax poetic at times about family and "the important things in life" but we don't seem to believe it ourselves.  We have severed our ties with the past, and in doing so seem to have crippled ourselves for the future.

I've always been far more of a pragmatist.  I typically follow idealists and work to make the dreams come true.  Idealists tend to not see the work ahead.  For pragmatists, that's all we see.  

There is always hope for Man, so long as he is alive.  The same is true for a country.  There is always time to turn around.  Our problem is we don't know where to turn back to.  We keep looking at the superfluous (relatively speaking).  The economy.  Jobs.  Education.  When all we are concerned is economic status, it isn't surprising that we cannot move forward.

To me the question is not how the election turns out but how will we as a country react.  I think either way tough times are ahead and we'd do best to prepare ourselves.  Personally I do not think that the average American citizen has the moral fortitude for tough times.  But then again maybe that is the point.  Through suffering comes strength, etc.

In any event, at least it will be over soon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I have no idea

My mind is a complete blank today.  It might be that I am coming down with a cold that is making the rounds among work and family.  Or it might be the late night XCOM video game binge that I stayed up till two playing.  Yeah, that's probably it.

I find myself tired.  Work is kinda slow as we are prepping for the Texas Legislature to start the 83rd session soon.  I don't talk about my job too much as it is like every other programming job with some unique aspects of working for the state Legislature.  But this is a unique aspect as we are gearing up for supporting session.

I think I'm just tired.  Tired of the election.  Tired of the HHS mandate.  Tired of having to justify to hostile people that just because I believe in God doesn't mean I'm an idiot.  And that those who say I am are usually more worthy of the moniker.

I guess the thing that is crazy is how much hate, anxiety, and fear that exists today.  Everyone seems to have this impression that no matter what happens we are heading off a cliff.  Things just seem too big, too broken, too much damage that has been done.  We all seem to agree on this yet are at each others throats as to how to fix it.

In my mind it's because in order to fix it we have to give up how we live right now.  I have had this nagging feeling for a long time that the wealth and prosperity of Western Civ is an illusion.  The massive debt that we have seems to indicate that we have borrowed our children and our grandchildren's prosperity to keep the broken machine going just a little longer.

Sorry for the downer.  I am typically a "worst-case scenario" planner.  Not as a professional worrier (though I get that way when tired for long time) but that I derive comfort when having a plan based on how to react to the worst possible outcome.  But lately I see no bottom for our society.  Everyone seems to know that this society is going to go belly up yet no one knows what that actually means or what will happen when it does.

I've come to realize why Hope is a theological virtue.  It is something that God has to bestow on us through grace.  We can despair, and that is a sin.  But Hope is something that only God can give us, and Hope in Him is the only logical response to such a mess.

If there is one thing that has always indicated to me the Truth of Christianity is the complete and utter wreck that is humanity when it divorces itself from the Divine.  Our society has completely rejected God, and far from making us happy we are now in the midst of self immolation.  The people who throw God out of their lives seem most often to be the ones who are most unhappy.

I take comfort in the fact that if it were not for God I would not be where I am today.  Grace, when open to it, transforms lives.  When closed, it corrupts.  And like a person a nation, a culture, a society can close itself off to grace.  This closing of the culture is now bearing the evil fruit.

But if Christ gave Himself on the Cross for us, He must have seen something worth giving His life to save.  Christ did not offer His life out of a hopeless love, but one beaming with the Hope that is God.  If Christ is willing to do that, then I have no right to be so down.

Here's hoping the weekend is nice and quiet.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's Halloween!

No post today, cuz I am lazy.  Have fun!  And remember that Nov 1 is all Saint's Day!  Holy Day of Obligation!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Prudential Judgement

One of the phrases that gets thrown about in the Catholic blogsphere with reckless abandon is "prudential judgement."  This phrase when used properly distinguishes that which Catholics can legitimately disagree about.  But often times it is used as a short hand for "I can believe whatever I want."

Prudential judgement comes from the virtue of Prudence, which is used when making decisions about everyday life in conformance with the Church's teachings.  It is more than that however.  It is also the virtue of determining the good and evil in things, and knowing what one ought to do and what one should avoid.

When used properly prudential judgement is a key virtue in living our lives.  It allows us to live by the Faith in everyday actions and informs the decisions we make in order to derive the most good out of a given situation.  It also allows us to discern what is good and what is bad, allowing us to make sense of situations where the good is hidden or evil that lies in wait.

What it does not mean is that decisions that are of prudential judgement cannot be either right or wrong.  It means that unlike things that go against the Faith directly matters of prudential judgement require reason and discipline to find the good and avoid the evil.  There is still good to be had and evil to avoid.

Prudential matters involve questions such as "what is a just wage?" and "how can we best improve the lot of the poor?"  These questions are difficult and require understanding of the particular circumstances as well as the moral principles of social justice.  As a result people of good faith can disagree about the answers to such questions.

What it does not mean is that there is not a right or wrong answer.  There is such a thing as a just wage for our current circumstances.  There is a right and proper way to help the poor.  While these things are the subject of much debate, there are correct answers to them.

What all of this means is that while matters may require prudential judgement, it does not mean that matters of prudential judgement are places where relativism resides.  We do not have the luxury of simply pretending that what we want to be true is true.  Matters of prudential judgement still have a right and wrong answer.  And it is our moral duty to discern the correct answers to such questions for our time.

It is one of the strange ironies that relativism has rendered discussions about prudential judgement as hostile as they are today.  Relativism promises that there is no real truth.  So we should not get so worked up over disagreements.  Yet our political discourse is hotter than ever.  This is because of two reasons.  One is our pride and we hate to be wrong.  The other is that deep down we know that these things matter even if we've forgotten why.

Prudence however is a virtue that reminds us of the importance of truth in our everyday lives.  It calls us to use our reason and to discern the good in all decisions.  We owe to to God, our fellow man, and ourselves to discern and work for the good that exists in all of our decisions.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The new blacklist

For all the complaining about McCarthyism, the Left has now fully embraced the strategy they once decried.

Collective Guilt Part 5

This is the fifth part in the series on collective guilt.  It has been a while so for those who follow my blog should read up on the previous four sections.  And once again as stated in the first section this is simply my own musings and am open to correction where my thought may not be in line with Catholic teaching on the subject provided one can demonstrate such.

We last discussed this question we pondered if one who was under another's authority could be punished for the sins of the superior.  We finished by asking the question:
But how is this fair?  And when has this principle ever been applied?
The nature of authority presumes its existence is for the benefit of those under the charge of the superior.  Our world naturally organizes itself into a hierarchy of persons responsible for decisions that range from those that have minimal impact to very wide ranging consequences.  The hierarchy exists not only for beneficial reasons but given situations a necessity.

This hierarchy exists for the benefit of all in theory.  One can see this in the family, where the parents by nature have dominion over their children.  This authority is for the benefit of the child, as the child is not able to interact with society at the level necessary for survival on their own.  While this may seem trivial, when one thinks about it the family reveals at a very basic level the notions of authority as they are meant to be.  It is no accident that the Church calls the family the fundamental unit of society.

If we clearly derive benefits from authority and the proper use of such it only stands to reason that the improper use of authority can be punished and that punishment can be enforced on those under the authority abuser.  The fact that we benefit from the proper use of authority practically demands that the punishment for abuse of that authority be distributed in a similar manner.  To not have some form of punishment distribution would be a violation of justice, not its execution.

Having said this it must be pointed out that oftentimes the "punishment" for the abuse of authority happens naturally.  The employees whose corrupt CEO who runs a company into the ground are deprived of their livelihood.  The child of the father who goes to jail is deprived of their natural provider.  The teacher who neglects their duty to teach deprives the students of an education.  Oftentimes the nature of the sin results in the punishment of those under the authority of the sinner on its own, requiring no further action due to the fallout of the sins themselves.

Other times however further action is justified.  An aggressor state that is defeated in a war should be forced to pay reparations.  Employees who directly benefited from corruption but otherwise not involved may be required to pay some compensation for cheated customers.  And in an example that hits close to home, a church can be forced to make restitution for the sins of the pastor.

All of these are legitimate examples of those who are punished for the sins of the one in authority.  And in such cases the punishment is demanded by justice instead of being against justice.  This does not mean that direct action needs to be taken, as the fallout from the punishment of the authority can harm those under their charge.

Next I will discuss the origins of this arrangement.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A virus for good

I probably need this:

On the concept of "personhood"

Personhood is often invoked as a yardstick for determining if a member of the species homo sapiens deserves the protection of the state.  The problem as always with such concepts that deny rights to humans is that upon inspection the concept of "Personhood" breaks down.  The proponents of abortion will cite Personhood as the thing which a fetus lacks, and thus can be "terminated" without violating the right to life of "persons".  But when asked for a definition is when things begin to go south.

Personhood has no real definition.  Unlike the distinction between the color of skin, ethnicity, age, geography, and sex the concept of Personhood has no distinguishable traits that mark a fetus as a "person" vs. a "non-person".  This is not to say that traits won't be invoked.  As a whole however Personhood as an operational definition is poorly defined, especially for the potential stakes at play.

Before we look at the real problem with the term let us examine some traits that are marshaled toward its definition.  A problem will become apparent soon enough:

The ability to feel pain - This is often the first trait that is invoked to distinguish "persons" from the fetus.  This is obviously problematic given conditions such as the inability to feel pain in otherwise "fully formed" humans. This is often the first metric to be countered and dropped like a hot potato in discussion.  More on this afterwards.

Cognition - This is the closest thing approaching actual philosophical thought given modernist assumptions about mental activity and what it means to be human.  The problem is that this is invoked not for cognition per se but brain wave activity.  The two are not the same, despite materialists tendencies to convince us otherwise.

The main problem with using cognition as a metric is that cognition is a relative quality when it comes to our ability to perceive it.  So folks with Down's Syndrome for example would appear to be less worthy of life because of lower cognitive abilities, something which normal people would reject.  As a side note this is not always the case, see Nazi Germany and "life unworthy of life".

Viability - Ironically the weakest yet the one that comes up most often in discussions about abortion.  The best definition I have of this is the likelihood of the fetus living outside the womb.  The silliness of this metric is the fact that the ability for the fetus to survive keeps improving as medical technology advances.  Which means not only is viability not static but relative but it isn't even dependent on the fetus itself.  Let's think about that for a minute.  This is supposedly a metric to determine Personhood, yet the metric doesn't involve the fetus at all.

The real problem with this type of thinking is that realistically speaking it isn't even about the fetus.  The pro-abortion mind throws these things out in an attempt to deny the humanity of the fetus.  First pain is usually cited then dropped real fast when the disorder cited above is mentioned.  Then cognition.  Then viability.

The line of thinking presented is not about determining what exactly personhood is.  It is an attempt to justify abortion by "squishifying" what it means to be human in order to justify abortion post hoc.  Personhood is not a legitimate distinction, but is simply a means to an end to dispose of "non-persons" that meet the arbitrary metrics.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quote of the day

Courtesy of Dr. Edward Fesser's blog.  From a commenter:

I have not read Noe's post, but both of the other hostile reviews display a common tendency with naturalists. First, they point out the successes of the natural sciences, where the criteria of success are wholly pragmatic and utilitarian. Then, they tell us that because the sciences are pragmatically successful, we must defer to them for our metaphysics. So they justify scientism by appeal to purely practical considerations, while demanding that we derive our theoretical conception of the world from science on those grounds alone. 
I find this maneuver infuriating; they want play pragmatist on defense and then they want to turn around and play realist on offense. But nowhere do they ever try to seriously defend the inference from "science is really pragmatically successful" to "science tells what the world is really like." All we ever get are vague declarations about "successful research programs" and our "best theory of the world." (As if there was such a thing)

The right to be insane

One of the lines coming from the Obama camp is a play on fears of Christians about Romney's Mormonism. It is a strange play for a number of reasons, such as attempting to induce Catholics to assent to what amounts to anti-Mormon bigotry given the rocky history of Catholicism in the U.S.

This got me to thinking however.  Would I rather have a Mormon than a secularist in the Oval Office.  Much like Oogway warns in Kung Fu Panda, "One often meets his destiny trying to avoid it".

By trying to get me to dislike Romney for being a Mormon I find that now I have another reason for why a Catholic might vote for Romney (not that I am mind you, but it is a thought).

The reasoning goes like this.  A Mormon believes in the supernatural.  A Mormon believes in the notion of a Divine Law.  A Mormon knows that some things lie beyond them, yet are bound by such things that transcend our complete understanding.

Obviously these are generalities.  The theology of Mormonism is "out there" when it comes to the spectrum of religious ideas.  But while the Mormon make look in a very different direction than most do, they are at least looking out beyond themselves and see something along the horizon.

Secular atheists have no such orientation.  For them law is based "purely" on empirical reasoning and rational analysis.  To search outside of the mind for any insight into Man and morality is a fool's errand.

Religion to such a mind is at best a curious superstition to a dangerous mental disease.  It regards religion as a relic of the past, and should be regulated to the private sphere.  The role of religion in the public sphere is at best minor and at worst non-existent.

Such a mindset has no interest in preserving religious freedom.  To say that one has "religious liberty" is akin to saying that one has the right to own a unicorn.  That religious ideas should have a say in forming public policy sounds like madness.

This is why a secular mind to me is more dangerous to religious liberty than someone who's theology is may be off in a variety of ways.  When a thing is not respected, the right to act on that thing is not respected as well.  It only makes sense.


Still better than the actual candidates.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Religious liberty is more than you think

Religious liberty has more or less taken a back seat to the economy in this election cycle, which is somewhat predictable given that it is hard to think about principles and fundamental truths when you are worried when the next meal may come.  While the economic situation isn't in such dire straights for most anxiety is the order of the day.

Part of the problem is that religious liberty has been so dumbed down in the public mind that Obama's "freedom of worship" is what people think of rather than the actual "freedom of religion."  The two couldn't be more different.

Religious freedom is the first right of the American citizen.  Recognized as a natural and inalienable right by the Founders, this principle is the bedrock from which all other rights flow.  The religion is the center of the moral viewpoint, and the practice of such is what distinguishes the human from the animal.

The Founders understood this when drafting the Declaration of Independence.  While the backgrounds of these men were diverse they understood the foundations of natural rights and the paramount importance of religion in society.  Far from modern secular arguments would hold, religion was to have a prominent place in the public square.

Most of the confusion lies around the First Amendment, or rather the modern man's interpretation of such.  If we are to believe what secularists would say about it the First Amendment was to protect the government from religious people influencing the laws of the land.  While ridiculous this actually carries clout in some circles under the (also misunderstood) guise of "separation of Church and State."

Let us examine the text:

The bold is mine, as it pertains to the discussion about religious liberty with regards to the HHS mandate.  Right now I will simply restate that the HHS mandate violates the bolded part of the First Amendment by forcing religious institutions to compromise their faith on life to execute their beliefs in helping the poor.  This is the work of a tyrant, not a President.

The italicized portion is where most are confused these days.  So a little background is required.  First and foremost most of the Founders came from England, where the State Church of Anglicanism was the official stance on moral issues and whatnot.  Any law that conflicted with the official religion was not allowed by virtue of that conflict.  This was a situation that the Founders wanted to avoid, had to avoid if the people were to have a say in how the laws were shaped.

The jump from saying that no religion should be established to saying that religion has no place in the public square is a non sequitur.  Yet we are to believe that any religiously based law is somehow off limits or not allowed to be passed by virtue of its origin.  This is to rob the First Amendment of its power and in actuality establish a "secular religion".

The Founders understood the importance of religion.  The purpose of the religious freedom is to allow the people to shape the laws of the land in conformance with their beliefs and their ability to convince their fellow citizens.  Thus to deprive Americans of religious background a chance to shape their laws is to violate the rights of religious citizens.

Next time I will argue why a secularist is a greater threat to religious liberty than a theocrat.  For the moment it is sufficient to say that the current understanding of religious liberty is woefully inadequate and a threat to all our freedoms.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The search for truth in the modern age

I spend a lot of time dumping on modern thought, mostly because of the poisonous effects it has on minds and thinking.  But also because it throws up huge irrational roadblocks to the truth of Christ that every man deserves to hear without the illogical and hateful attitude that inspires most of the ills that effect our thinking.

It was C. F. J. Martin who (as a paraphrase) said that the philosophers of the past issue a challenge to us today.  A challenge to prove that moderns have correct ideas and that the ancients are wrong.  Moderns fail at the challenge on a daily basis, mostly because they assume that since we came after them temporally we are somehow smarter.  Yet in reading both I have yet to see any evidence of that axiom.

The world tries to convince us that the Truth is dead.  Timeless truth however is just that, timeless.  And we owe it to ourselves to give it that opportunity to transform our lives.  To do otherwise is to twist our minds against their natural purpose.

There is always hope on the horizon.  Like a light that shines through the dense fog Pope Benedict, arguably the greatest moral philosopher alive at the moment, talks about the reasons for his hope for the future of Europe.  In particular:
A third reason, an empirical reason, is evident in the fact that this sense of restlessness today exists among the young. Young people have seen much - the proposals of the various ideologies and of consumerism - and they have become aware of the emptiness and insufficiency of those things. Man was created for the infinite, the finite is too little. Thus, among the new generations we are seeing the reawakening of this restlessness, and they too begin their journey making new discoveries of the beauty of Christianity; not a cut-price or watered-down version, but Christianity in all its radicalism and profundity. Thus I believe that anthropology, as such, is showing us that there will always be a new reawakening of Christianity. The facts confirm this in a single phrase: Deep foundations. That is Christianity; it is true and the truth always has a future.
I have seen this first hand in RICA classes where I have been either a sponsor or a catechist (God help them).  Even after dismissal from the Sunday night Mass, where energy is at its lowest, we can find deep passion for the truth among the youth who yearn for more than what the world offers.

We humans yearn for a deeper truth.  We crave it.  We seek it in everything we set out to do.  This is why moral relativism and the denial of objective truth will never win the day.  Humans aren't built that way.  We know in the deep recesses of our hearts that there is more than what the modern world proclaims.  We know deep in our minds that there is a Way, Truth, and we hope for a Life beyond what we are told is all there is.

The Church proclaims that Truth.  We as members of the Body of Christ are God's witnesses to the deep truth that mankind yearns for.  The world needs His message now more than ever.  It craves it now more than ever.  We have a great deal to overcome.  But like Sunday's reading says:  With God, all things are possible.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Describing modern "intellectuals" to a T

John C. Wright is.  Here is the quote to end all quotes:
This was the first time I met someone with absolutely no mental or intellectual integrity at all. He could not answer an honest question. He treated inquiry into his thoughts not as the inquire of a potential buyer willing to adopt his intellectual goods, but as personal attacks against him, slurs meant to wound his ego.

I was going to write a post about Romney's problems

but Mark Shea did the work for me when considering an argument for voting for Romney by Dale Price.  Both are presented.

We can't keep going like this

"We can't keep going like this," my mother said to me during a visit to the family earlier this year. This seems to be the thought that inhabits the most these days.  Other variations such as, "Something's got to give" and "Things have to change."  Ironically it seems to be the only thing that we can agree on in the current debate.  That is ultimately why I think Obama will lose this election, despite what the polls may say leading up to it.  I could be wrong, but from where I sit this amounts to being wrong about which candidate is going to continue the downward spiral.

I have made up my mind that I will be writing in someone for President rather than voting for Romney.  Voting for Obama is out of the question with his continued war on the Church.  But just because Obama is holding a gun at the Church is not a sufficient reason to vote for Romney.  My personal feeling is that Romney will simply put the safety back on said gun.

Given that in the past I would vote for the lesser of two evils my decision seems to run counter to my natural instincts as an American voter.  From an early age we are taught the process and the political math that leads us to conclude that voting for the lesser of two evils is the safer play.  The problem I am finding is that the lesser of two evils gets a little more evil each time around the bend.  Eventually we will be forced to choose between Satan and one of his lieutenants.

The problem I see lies in our tribalism mentality about the whole thing.  We are afraid, literally, to criticize the people we vote for.  We seem to have this notion that if we do anything to rock the boat on our end that helps "the enemy."  But all that really means is that "our side" is so intellectually shallow that any criticism will blow the whole thing wide open.  It is a sign of disrespect to people when you cannot be honest about your own shortcomings.  And it is a sign of pride.

For my part this year has been a real struggle to understand my role as a Catholic and as an American citizen.  For years I never worried that the two would be in conflict.  That I could vote purely on matters that lined up with my views, or at least a party that had a better chance of reflecting my views.  But never once did I ask how such a thing affected my soul.  Obama's war against the Church only made things worse, as I felt earlier that Romney would be a better instrument to dismantle the nightmare that is Obamacare and the Leviathan that it has created.

But just because Obama supports the annihilation of the Church's institutions (or at the least it's compromising at its core) does not mean that Romney will do anything to stop the train wreck.  I have zero confidence that either party is moving in the right direction.  That the theory that the Republicans might be "less worse" than the Democrats is hardly a reason to jeopardy  my soul for the sake of the political machine that would rather ignore my existence.

So to bring this to my original point this cannot go on.  More precisely I cannot go on like this.  Something has got to give.  It might as well start with me.  I may be throwing my vote away.  But at least it cannot be corrupted if I do.  I would rather have no impact than provide justification for more evil.  And the knowledge that my soul will be intact rather than in need of reconciliation is a better comfort than the knowledge that someone got elected who might actually care about the danger the Church is in.

Christ promised us freedom if we follow Him.  What I have begun to understand is that He didn't promise freedom to do what we pleased.  But He promised that we will be true to our nature with His help.  And that means that we will truly be free.  Free from the dominating slavery of power politics.  Free from fear that however the election turns we need not fear Caesar.  True freedom is not found in the power of princes of this world.  But in the knowledge that God rules all and His people belong to Him.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ignitum Thursday

was yesterday!  You can find a link on yesterday's post.  But I usually give myself a break so no post today. Go play XCOM or something.  Like me.

The Management

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The binary debate

A thought I have been pondering lately is the attempt to answer a question that popped into my head the other day.  It is remarkably striking how similar atheist argument forms are similar to the current political argument forms.  At the heart of most of these is this notion of a false dichotomy.  Either the atheist position is correct or Christianity is correct.

Now atheists would jump out on this as a logical fallacy, and they would be correct.  However, I have found that in having this argument with atheists this dichotomy has a tendency to bleed into the discussion.

Take for example one of the arguments I frequently hear against the Second Way of Thomas Aquinas.  After much haranguing over the argument the most often criticism I hear is the following:
Even if we accept the Second Way as a valid argument, this does not prove that God is what the Christians say It is.  All you have established is that It is the First Cause. 
To which an A-T adherent responds with a hearty "Duh!"  Aquinas would be horrified if he knew people thought that was all he had to say on the matter.  In fact he spends hundreds of pages going from this understanding of God as the First Cause to deriving several properties of God (there can be only one, existence and essence are one and the same, etc).

What really strikes me about this retort is that the atheist has declared defeat with the concession.  If such a First Cause exists, the atheist position falls apart.  The Christian may or may not be right, but the atheist is certainly wrong.

I cannot help but feel the current political "thinking" plays a large role in this.  This notion that if my opponent has not proven his point completely I can still hold onto mine even if my position is collapsing beneath me.  Most political "arguments" do not defend one's position but attack one's opponents, thus implying a false dichotomy.

Is the current nature of political discussion poisoning the debate over God?  Or is the current mechanistic view of modern thought poisoning the political discussion?  Or do both stem from a different source entirely?

While many people disagree over the existence of God or what is a good tax policy no one seems to be immune from this binary thinking.  As if there are only two sides to any question.  And I suspect that my own thinking in the matter suffers from the same limitation (paradoxes more often than not are a sign that the theory needs to be refined).

What do you think?  As always comments are welcome provided you haven't  been already banned due to jerkitude.  Only one person has been banned to date so I think I'm pretty open to any conversation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The end of the world

Update:  Apparently the game releases tomorrow!  But I can "pre-load" the game, thus I'm half right.  Sigh.

Western Civilization is on the rocks these days.  Economic stress, failing morality, and collapse of trust in our institutions have led to a morass of depression and self-questioning among the populace.

But....who cares?  XCOM: Enemy Unknown is coming out today!  As we speak it is downloading onto my computer.  Soon I will be saving the universe from the coming alien invasion. post today.  I'm giving myself a break.  Ciao!

Friday, October 5, 2012

When ideologies collide

Found on my Twitter account was this link to a story about a Chicago lawyer who proposes that women should have the right to abort children who have the "gay gene."  Gay rights groups are upset about this consistent piece of logic.  But really if one thinks about it and holds that women have a right to abortion for any reason (my body, my choice and all) then the lawyer's argument makes sense.

A public confession first.  My initial thought about reading the story was "See.  SEE!  This is where bad ideas lead you!"  But this is precisely the wrong attitude to have, as I was taking delight in the mental hurt that the ideologies are inflicting on others.  Mea Culpa.

What is important and perfectly right to point out is that since ideologies are isolated by nature they often tend to conflict.  In this case, "gay children" are caught in the crossfire.  Abortion rights advocates argue that no one can impose limits on a woman's choice to murder her child.  Gay rights advocates are horrified at this, as they argue (rightly so) that this simply means that gays are not to be disposed simply because they are "unwanted" or "would have a tough life due to discrimination."

This is akin to the silence of the feminists like N.O.W. regarding the "gendercide" of abortion of baby girls.  China, India, and even in "advanced" nations like England are finding that families are preferring one child and that child should be male.  There is a real unnatural imbalance in China right now (some 23 million "extra" males) who don't have a bride.  Yet this genocide of young girls is taking place without any protest and even our consent.

One thing that this does illustrate in a back handed way is how the right to life ranks at the top of the hierarchy of truths.  When the right to life is threatened, all other rights inevitably follow suit.  When we compromise on the right to life in the name of some other truth, we do damage to both.

The ideology of abortion swallows all other considerations.  Look how often it comes up.  Healthcare, legal issues, even the everyday conversations we have.  Abortion is a cancer that eats at the heart of anyone with a conscience.  We have to force ourselves to look the other way for it to even take place.  Yet it is a holocaust that dwarfs the WWII genocide of the Jews.

As long as abortion is the law of the land no right, no principle, no good is safe from its encroachment.  Evil does not bide alternatives.  It does not stop until it consumes everything in its path.  And as long as we continue to try to justify it we will undermine everything else we do right.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Series page: Problem of morality in video games

A continuing series about morality in video games:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Series page: Collective Guilt

An unfinished series on musing about collective guilt

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The Age of Miracles

Patheos blogger Rebecca Hamilton writes about a miracle story here.  Most of the non-faithful will simply write it off as a delusion or an as-of-yet undiscovered scientific explanation.  The faith of the non-religious in science is unwavering.

But the thing about these stories is that they happen all the time.  They really do.  I open my Facebook or RSS feed and everyday I get a story like this.  Sometimes they are the same story for about two or three days.  Sometimes they are really similar such that I wonder if one is a riff of of another.  By and large there are so many of these stories that I find it next to impossible to dismiss them as coincidental.

I say next to impossible because being a natural skeptic I have to force myself to check my unreasonable bias against such stories.  When I'm actually thinking it is impossible to come to any other conclusion that there is a God and He seems interested in us.  But critical thinking even when useful leads to bad mental habits of doubting something simply because it doesn't mesh with one's experience.

In the past I would wonder why God would not perform miracles for the "unbeliever."  It seemed to me at the time the most rational thing for Him to do.  Empirical evidence and all that.

The thing I've learned over time however is that humans are not rational by nature.  In fact it requires a great of mental discipline to actually think properly.  Most people are emotional first, then use tortured reasoning to back up the emotion.  It takes time and discipline of both emotion and reason to gear our senses toward the truth.  And it is a daily struggle.

With this in mind I remember the story of Jesus visiting His hometown and would not perform a miracle due to their unbelief.  Now I see that it wouldn't matter.  The human mind is ultimately governed by the will.  And the will can and does override what should be the natural reasoning process.  If we are not careful we can put ourselves in a position where nothing could make us change our minds.

It is a wonder that we live in such an Age of Miracles and yet we try to pretend as if we do not.  There is wonder all around us.  But we choose to live the life of a false narrative.  Ultimately this is due not to reason or empirical evidence, but the fact that we are afraid of the cost of changing our minds.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cartoons about the HHS mandate

can be found here.

Series Page: On the subject of history

On historical perspectives

History: Part 1

History: Part 2

History: Part 3

History: Part 4

History: Part 5

History: Part 6

History: Part 7

History: Part 8

History: Part 9

History: Part 10

Series Page: Objective Morality

A series on common misconceptions about objective morality:

What is objective morality?

Misconception 1: Everyone would agree what is moral

Misconception 2 - Subjectivity has no role

Misconception 3 - Objective morality is not knowable

Series page: Why we need Aristotle and Aquinas

A collection of my posts regarding the need for the rediscovery of A-T metaphysics:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

The tyranny of the secular state

I have often heard the claim that America was founded as a "secular state."  Religion was specifically excluded from the Constitution because our Founders thought that a state founded on religion caused great harm to society.  Thus religion has no place in American politics.

Let us set aside the question of if "religion was so dangerous why is it the first freedom afforded to us under the Bill of Rights?"  Clearly the Founders saw some merit in religion if it appears at the top of things the government should not infringe upon.  

But let us take the claim that religion has no place in politics.  If taken to its logical conclusion this would mean that one should not legislate anything that derives from a moral viewpoint.  This is where we get that phrase that couldn't be more wrong "One cannot legislate morality."

A government that has no moral outlook is like a man without a soul.  It lacks the ability to justify why it should be allowed to prohibit or compel action on behalf of the people.  The secular government cannot justify its use of power except by the fact that it has power.

To see the point I'm driving at consider some "theocracies" of the past.  The Caliphates of the Islamic world justified their rule by appeal to the Prophet.  The Western monarchs appealed to the "Divine Right of Kings."  Both point to a higher source of that authority.  

This is not to say that these principles were followed to a T.  The point is that there was the principle to point to.  And more importantly (at least in theory) a higher power that can bind the lower authority.

The secular state has no such claim to derived authority nor any bounding on that authority.  The state seeks no justification for its actions, only what it can get away with.  It seeks no purpose for wielding that power, only that it can.  The citizens are not which are served by the state, but who serve the state.

We are now seeing the fruit of the secular state as it continues to encroach on the freedoms this country once cherished.  But it is not surprising that the state will not guard them.  It neither recognizes them nor the source from whence those freedoms came.  It is sadly, the natural course of the tyrant.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

The little decisions we make

I have heard from time to time the objection that if the Christian Faith is true then what we do in this life doesn't matter at all.  The afterlife (we are told) is all that matters.  This in turn should mean that Christians are not charitable, have no concern for the earthly concern of others, etc.

I cannot speak about this criticism impacts our Protestant brethren as it seems more targeted at them rather than Catholic theology (even though critics often confuse the two).  From my observations Protestant theology makes a sharp distinction between justification and sanctification.  The former involves righteousness and the latter sanctity.  In Catholic theology we recognize the distinction but they are much closer together.

The first objection to the criticism is that the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world.  Period.  The affiliated charities, hospitals, homeless shelters, etc point to the fact that being a Catholic Christian does not mean one stops caring about the world.  As Archbishop Chaput states:
Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it. That has to be a foundational concern of Catholics and of all Christians.
So Catholics and Christians have an obligation to care about the world and the material needs of fellow man.  The "brighter" side to this is that all Man is made for Love, and since Love is an act of Will, we are made to Love and care for our neighbor by acts of charity.

While this is important I think the criticism is wrong at a more fundamental level.  If (according to classical theism and Catholicism) God is Love, Goodness and Truth, then any action that we perform brings us closer to Him or farther away.  In fact far from this life not mattering the very little acts we do lead us or move us away from God.

Telling a white lie, sending a get well card, giving someone directions.  These are all things that mean something for those who believe.  In fact the only way anything can have real meaning is within the context of a universe created by God.

Far from this world not meaning anything, every decision we make here and now has the potential to impact our ultimate destiny.  This world matters to those of the Faithful.  To say otherwise is to misunderstand our Lord, the Faith, and our duty.  And that is a very perilous position to be in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the subject of "usefulness"

One of the topics that comes up in defense of modern thought is that scientific truths are the only truths that are "useful."  Improvements in health, wealth, and efficiency are touted as truths worth pursuing in exclusion to other truths that are deemed unknowable.  Truths such as the existence of God.

As discussed ad nausem neither Christian nor atheist is disputing the contribution that science has made to sectors of human life.  What I as a Catholic dispute is that these things that atheists tend to value are the be all and end all that we can know about truth.  In particular, the notion that unless a truth is "useful" with regard to these predefined values, such truths are not only not worth pursuing, but cannot even be known.

Yet the problem with such ideas as always is the underlying assumptions to arrive at that point.  In particular, one must define "usefulness".  Without a proper understanding of what usefulness really means, evaluating truths in such a manner becomes a question begging exercise.

Secondly, the values or objectives that such truths are meant to pursue must be defined.  This is often done in an ad hoc fashion by materialists.  Usually this is based on health, longevity, and advancement of technology.

A problem arises really quickly with this.  How exactly does one come to the conclusion that such values are worth pursuing under these premises?  That technology can improve health is not in dispute.  That health is worth pursuing is what is up for debate.

The Christian believes that health is worth pursuing due to his faith.  The denier of objective truth (or at least the ability to know objective truth) has no recourse.  The value of truth is determined by its usefulness.  But how we arrive at a truth's usefulness is an unanswered question.

The only way we can know what truth is worth pursuing is to have a framework with which to evaluate that truth's value.  But that framework cannot be determined, because only truth that is useful is what can be knowable.  Without such a framework, the ability to determine a truth's value is impossible.

This is the dilemma of the usefulness advocate.  If truth cannot be known unless it is useful, then truth cannot be known.  For truth to be useful, it must correspond to a value.  But the value cannot be known, because the framework must be determined independent of a truth's value claim.

This shows that the Christian view on truth is more reasonable.  Unlike the denier which biases the question, the Christian holds that ALL truth is worth pursuing.  This is due to all truth ultimately pointing to God, the source of truth.

The above does not prove the Christian view true.  But the Christian view of truth stands more of a chance to be true than the utility view.  And this is why the denial of objective truth and its ability to be known is not only wrong, but undermines itself.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why we need Aristotle and Aquinas pt 5

In my last post on this subject I talked about how A-T philosophy is always tethered to the underlying reality of the existing universe.  The philosophical premises that form the foundation of A-T proceed from the notion that nature and reality are communicating real truths.  This leads to some resistance on the part of the modern mind, mostly because the modern mind simply doesn't know that there are other ways of thinking about the universe.

The first objection to such ideas lie in the physical properties of the universe and the perception by our senses.  It is pointed out time and again that the properties that we perceive are not the whole story and at times our senses can be incorrect.  This, we are told, proves that our ability to perceive truth through the senses is unreliable.

This objection fails on two fronts.  The first is that while the physical properties of an object or entity, such as the cup from my previous post, may have different physical properties than I originally perceive does not disprove that the cup is communicating reality and that the senses perceive that reality.  In fact in order to be corrected, my senses first perceive the "erroneous" data, then with scientific instruments, learn more about object.  And even if this new data itself is imprecise, I proceed in both cases that eventually the senses, with proper understanding, will eventually understand said properties.  This is not only in tune with A-T philosophy but the scientific pursuit practically begs for A-T philosophy to be true on this front.

The second is that while the accidents of entities such as my coffee cup are important in terms of what actually defines "cupness", they are not as important as the fact that both the cup and "cupness" exist.  A-T does not get caught up per se in the minutia of accidents.  It is far more concerned with entities themselves, and the truths that are derived from the existence of things, the universe, etc.  Thus the fact that our understanding of the accidentals of entities changes does not in any way impact the value of A-T philosophy and the truths that it pursues.  

The most important contribution to the discussion of A-T for the study of science though is the connection between the reality and the theories meant to explain that reality.  A lot of the silliness of modern skeptics (who happen to be scientists) could easily be avoided if a proper understanding of philosophy and the role it plays in conclusions derived from the physical universe were imparted.  As it is, modern skeptics such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, etc, will continue to make silly arguments that a first year A-T philosophy student can reduce to cinders in an instant.

A revival of A-T philosophy and modern derivations of this as well as Platonic studies are already underway.    We have an uphill battle ahead of us.  But the sheer sense that A-T philosophy as well as other classic schools of thought are a breath of fresh air to the nonsense that pervades most academic halls these days.  I have every confidence that the reformation is underway.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Bleed effect

One may ask if it is so obvious that the Idea of the absence of objective truth is so obviously wrong then surely people do not actually believe it?  For the most part this is true at least implicitly.  The minute someone says "You are wrong" demonstrates this fact, as everyone has said this at one point or another.

But the human mind is capable of believing quite a bit of nonsense even when implicitly denying it through other means.  Humans live notoriously fractured lives, and the gap between what we believe and how we live is but one obvious gap.  Nor is this revelation new, as greater minds throughout history have attempted to grapple with this.

The reason why it is important to counter the denial of objective truth as an idea is because while we live fractured lives the beliefs we hold bleed into other areas of our lives eventually.  The ideas that we hold, however compartmentalized, begin to affect other areas of our thinking as well.

I have illustrated in other posts how the denial of objective truth has led to the destruction of things such as the arts, intellectualism proper, and education as a whole.  While many other factors contribute to this as well, my own thinking is that at the heart of a lot of societal ills lie in the embrace of this obviously wrong yet powerfully seductive idea.

I have termed this the "Bleed effect.". The first time I heard the term was in the video game Assassins Creed.  In this game the protagonist, Desmond, relives the lives of his ancestors via a machine called the Animus.  One of the side effects of this however is that Desmond, even outside of the machine, continues to relive the memories, and begins to be unable to distinguish his own life from that of those who came before him.

Ideas have a similar effect, no matter how we try to compartmentalize them. Humans were meant to live as a unified whole.  As such even the ideas that are patently absurd and cannot be lived out nonetheless have an impact on how we view the world and think about it.

If Catholics are to evangelize the Western World we must stand up to the seductive lie that is the denial of objective truth.  Our goals now are twofold.  First to defend the existence of objective truth and to point out the obvious.  The second is to make the case that the truth is worth following.  Both are immense challenges, but there is always hope.  For the human being longs for real truth and the soul seeks it, even if the mind attempts to get in the way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Never fails

As you know I will be leaving for Korea on Thursday, so this will most likely be the last post before then.  Like my previous trip, something not horrible but saddening happened.  

On my last trip to Korea I got a flat tire the day before I had to leave.  This was not too horrible as our flight left the next day, but massively inconvenient.

This time the disaster involved something much closer to my heart.  I sat down last night to play some oldie games that I downloaded for my XBox 360.  As I browsed the menu the console crashed.  A little disturbed, but no biggie.  I pushed the power button only to find:


Sadly, my XBox for the moment is kaput.  Now I have been reading some online guides to try to fix it, but for right now I have no time to explore those options.  I will most likely buy a "new" XBox as a replacement or try to fix this one.

Sigh.  Anyway, off to Korea.  I ask for prayers for a safe trip and we will resume programming on the 19th.  I may squeeze in a post or two while on the other side of the world, but no promises.  

The Management

Civility or no? That is the question

Simcha Fisher writes about going in with a blaze and ripping people new doughnut holes in the name of the Faith.  While I've certainly shot my mouth off in combo boxes and posting things I'd rather have back, I have noticed that there is also some merit to launching a rhetorical salvo.

Civility is my default stance, at least I attempt to make it my default stance.  Despite hostility encountered in a variety of online forums, I do think I can maintain an even keel.  When this can be maintained on both sides, this often leads to rewarding and valuable exchanges of information.

I have come to realize however that civility in this uncivilized age can also be interpreted as "weak."  Our society longs for civility yet lacks the discipline and the charity necessary for such to happen.  So when civility is engaged in on one side,  this is seen as an invitation to attack.

My experience with civility is that unless both sides participate, it simply will not happen.  It takes two to tango.  Civility is much the same.

Ironically enough I have found that while we should devote our energies to charity there are times when the rhetorical salvo is also necessary.  It is as if it is a separate language and a response lacking insults and demeaning remarks is unintelligible to some people.

I think there is some connection between this age's connection between feelings about beliefs and the truth of such.  Our "rational" age is replete with emotions substituting for conviction based on reason.  So unless one side feels insulted, the side assumes that the other does not take their ideas seriously.

Sadly I have found that I make much more progress initially not when I calmly point out that a materialist atheist in the Dawkins mold is wrong about Aquinas' 2nd way but when my response is much more "Hey moron, you don't have a clue what you are talking about."  It's depressing but it does work.

To me I think the trick is that we have to alternate between the two.  I find the most productive manner is to assume civility, yell when necessary, then revert to civility when the point has been made.  It is bizarre, but it does work.

Then there are those who cannot separate their emotions from the rational discussion of beliefs.  Those who emotions are so tied up in their beliefs that reason is impervious to them.  For these, reason is not how they got to their beliefs, but reason is used post hoc to justify the emotional based belief.  For these reason is useless, because reason is not how they got to their current beliefs.  These we can only pray for.