Get your Rapture hats ready, kiddies! The sky is falling, and our wise gift of nuclear winter will propel us all into the loving arms of the all-knowing and all-everywhere G-d.


[Peaceful CoExistence]   all snips here from

Ms. MacDonald ignores the fact that many of the most reprehensible and destructive mass movements of recent times in Western society were spawned by the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment has produced many wonderful advances in human society, but the jury of history is still out on its ultimate "heritage." Some thoughtful philosophers have even decided that the Enlightenment has failed as a search for a purely rational basis for morality.

I think Ms. MacDonald sets up a straw man by positing the dichotomy of faith and reason. As I've posted previously, on more than one occasion, the realms of faith and reason are not incompatible. One need only read John Paul II, C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton, among many others, to discover that this is true. Although they operate in different spheres, and Catholics believe, as John Paul II described it, that faith "purifies" reason, there is no "reason" that "reason" alone cannot lead a person to adopt the same political principles as would a person of faith. As a Benedictine monk once asked a "skeptical" conservative who made such an argument on another blog a couple of years ago: "That's where your reason takes you today. As C. S. Lewis asks, how do you know what you 'ought' to do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that? It's moral relativism dressed up as 'ethical realism', a castle built on a foundation of sand."

I have respect for the struggle that conservative atheists must have every day to "stay the course." I also admire people with intellectual honesty. Nevertheless, there is a profound difference between those conservatives with religious faith and those without it.

I'll leave it to Michael Novak to give a more considered (and considerate) response to Ms. MacDonald,that both clarifies this difference and why it has consequences and yet asserts that the skeptical (atheist or agnostic) conservative and the believing conservative must approach one another with respect. Although Mr. Novak seems to struggle with his answer to Ms. MacDonald in an attempt to describe the experience of faith, a personal encounter with God on a realm other than purely intellectual that the nonbeliever has chosen to forego, in the end he asks and answers the right question, I think.

The fundamental question of our age is this: Can humans really maintain a civilization if a predominant majority live etsi Deus non daretur, as if there is no God? If there is no God, humans are likely to live one way, at least in a few boundary territories, such as life, family, and daily, humble self-sacrifice. If there is a God (the true God, no false gods before him), at least some—and not altogether minor—decisions are likely to be taken in a quite different direction, along a different axis.

The answer to the question “Who am I, under these stars, with the wind upon my face?” is quite different in the two cases. To choose not to believe is to choose for oneself an identity quite different from the identity of one who chooses to believe.

Both choices, springing from the most profound of inner sources, are worthy of infinite respect. From the Christian and Jewish point of view, the Creator himself set before every single individual this inalienable choice and thus gave to every human being a dignity higher than that of any other creature on this earth.

This difference in radical choices is, therefore, the epicenter of human dignity. Each person is created free. This fact demands more than tolerance—more than the mutual agreement, for reasons of peace, merely to put up with (tolerate) each other. It requires, not tolerance, but something higher—mutual respect.

Mr. Novak's emphasis on "mutual" respect means that Ms. MacDonald must suppress her expressions of annoyance at the religious expressions of believing conservatives and resist the temptation to attack their beliefs as irrational. In return, believers must suppress their annoyance at the nonbelievers' irrational refusal to accept what God reveals. Such respect requires that in a society in which believers and nonbelievers must live with one another, both must  appreciate the "goodness" of others who share and adhere to their "values," if not the fundamental basis for their holding such values. This is so even though the believer "knows" the differences between the two groups have consequences beyond the social realm.

Can a man be good apart from revelation and the grace of Christ? Thomas [Acquinas] answered, as he almost always did, by making a distinction (his method was “distinguish in order to unite”): If you mean, can a man be good within the boundaries of the civitas, make a good citizen, be a good person according to the canons of reason, then the answer is yes. Just look at Aristotle. There’s some of the evidence.

But if you mean, Can a man be saved without the grace of Christ, the answer, alas, is no.

Religious conservatives must respect skeptical conservatives even while praying for their conversion and salvation, and skeptical conservatives must silently suffer those prayers with good humor.


The nice part of being only one of "the nerds" is you get talk nerd-talk one-on-one with an uber nerd. Our Pastoral Associate has advanced degrees in philosophy. Prior to his conversion to Roman Catholicism, he was a pastor of an Anglican congregation, and a skilled apologist, i.e., debater, for his brand of Christianity against Catholics and other "wrongheaded" Christians. His biggest personal whipping came when it was time for him to admit to Catholics that he'd defeated in formal debates, that while he might have won the day, they were ultimately "right," at least as he sees it today.

That topic was one of the sidebars of our one-on-one last Tuesday night. I'm fairly familiar with the The Enlightenment philosophers (but only at a much more superficial level than people of true intellect and depth of knowledge). We basically agreed on most points of his lecture, although I may have trouble living with his central tenet that as human beings, we can never be certain that our interpretation of the truth is "The Truth." In other words, we have to be respectful of the fact that only God ultimately possesses absolutely certain "knowledge," and that as human beings, the best we can do is interpret what He chooses to reveal to us about Himself. Being fallible, we might get some or much of it wrong. As a group and as individuals, we have to engage others of differing opinions with a sense of humility and respect.

Without opening up a can of worms (then or now), I asked him how one goes about discussing such fundamental issues when the approach of a nonbeliever with a believer, is, for example, "any person who has a single worldview is an ignoramus," and still keep it civil. After all, both Thomas Aquinas and John Locke correctly asserted that the "common man" (and I'm one the commonest) doesn't have the time to spend laboriously thinking through and debating all the pathways to a completely logical rationale for his or her religious (or even secular) beliefs. Having to drill down and lead such a person by the nose, kicking and screaming all the way, to the point where you are today is going to be time consuming, and I have barely enough time to spend with people and activities I believe are worthy.

His response was that he believes that such apologetic debates do not, for most of us, serve a useful purpose. Religious beliefs are rarely, if ever, changed by "debate." Ultimately, although reason leads you to faith, the ultimate decision to become a believer requires both an act of free will and God's grace. It engages the entire person, not merely the state of his reason on a particular day. Civil discussion is fine as long as it becomes more a matter of exploring common ground and differences in a nonthreatening and noninsulting manner.

Since he's our parish's representative on the local Interfaith Council, I asked him how much civil discussion he was seeing these days. While he wouldn't point fingers, he said "not much." The reason is that due to (1)the assault on Christian faith by secularists since the advent of The Enlightenment (an effort he argues - and I agree - that has not only failed to destroy Christianity, but that is in the process of spawning a counterrevolution of [retards called fundamentalists] Christian faith in the "post-secular" or post-modern" world) and (2) the schism provoked by the Reformation and the Catholic Church's defensive overreaction to it, many religious sects have hunkered down and gone into a self-defensive mode. On the other hand, as religious feeling has rebounded and continues to grow (especially in the US and many other parts of the world outside of Western Europe, Canada and Australia), atheists and others who glory man over God are starting to sweat, as well. [absurd and asinine] Sweating makes them slightly rigid and even hysterical. In addition, there are people on both sides of the religious divide (and we all know them) who are certain that they belong to a small elite group of "the saved" and that all the rest of us are going straight to hell (do not pass GO, do not collect $200). You know, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants.

As he puts it, "nothing scares me more than a person who is dead certain, without any doubt, that what he believes, in exactly the way he believes it, is 'the Truth' and the only truth."

He didn't say this, but I think it's better not to attempt to engage in discussions with such folks. It can't do you or them any good. You'll not change their mind nor will they change yours. You'll simply lower the level of discourse to name-calling. They seem to be extremely proficient at hating, especially those who do not share their specific brand of belief.

Another thing he said that struck me as essentially correct, and novel (at least to me): he opined that if God became incarnate, and sacrificed His only Son (A) to redeem the sins of mankind, (B) to spread the Word not merely to the Jews, but to the entire world, and (C) to show men the way to everlasting life, it was difficult to believe that He intended to save only a select few. Rather, His grace is intended to spread to many. For him, in light of such an infinite sacrifice (God forsaking God), a man must try hard not to be saved. Although it appears that many are doing their best to achieve just that goal, we should cut the rest of humanity some slack, because we can't presume to know how God might also extend His grace to them. There is no salvation "without" the Church; however, that does not mean that there is no salvation "outside of" the Church.

As far as the rest of humanity goes, I've simply got to start being less of an obnoxious, intolerant jackass. Man, that's going to be a tall order.

Spending two hours talking with a guy whose synapses fire at a rate far faster than mine (not that it takes much to find such people, but he certainly fits the bill) makes me humble. Add to that the additional fact that he works for, and raises a family on, "peanuts," while he tends on a daily basis to the spiritual needs of frustrating and contrary buttheads like yours truly and (if such a being exists) worse, solely out of "LOVE," and you get a picture of how far you have to go to become even remotely the human being that God wants you to be. At least, you do when you're starting so far behind, due to monumental character flaws like a bad temper coupled with (1) an acid tongue, and (2) the innate ability to turn just the perfect phrase to deeply wound your fellow man.

My wife alleges that I've come a long way in the last year simply by recognizing that I need to change. You can't run the race unless you first locate the track. Well, then, I've located the track.

Let's hope that there's still hope of finding a finish line, and time left to reach it before the race is over.

Culture Wars, Life (In General), Religion | | Comments (4) |

July 14, 2006

Even If, Even If

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you  may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. --Colossians 3:13  The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.  --Mahatma Gandhi   Forgiveness is not an emotion, it's a decision.  --Randall Worley  Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it  foregoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury.  --E. H. Chapin  We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry,  or because they remain intrigued with each other,  because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . .  But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.  --Ellen Goodman  I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought  to be like a cancelled note - torn in two, and  burned up, so that it never can be shown against one. --Henry Ward Beecher  To understand is to forgive, even oneself. --Alexander Chase  He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which  he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven. --Thomas Fuller  The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness. --William Blake  Forgiveness is the final form of love. --Reinhold Niebuhr  Once, The Times of London asked famous authors to write an essay on the subject of "What's Wrong with the World?".  G. K. Chesterton wrote in the form of a letter:  "Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton."  I've been tryin to get down To the heart of the matter But my will gets weak And my thoughts seem to scatter But I think its about forgiveness Forgiveness Even if, even if you don't love me anymore --Don Henley

May 19, 2006

Let's Get Serious

Bush_blair_prayingA reader e-mailed me to inquire whether my posting yesterday of the painful scenes from The Passion of the Christ, joined with Dolores O'Riordan's haunting wail of Ave Maria, was part of a previously announced plan to drive certain readers away. If so, she said that it was working.

Well, actually, yes it was, and I see by my site meter that it has worked admirably. Certain IP addresses that used to show up regularly no longer do. "Mission Accomplished"? No, unlike our Prez, I have no illusions on that score. The power of boredom is great, as is the power of the urge to sneer. Like the Terminator (and Al Gore), "they'll be back."

Speaking of our Exalted Ruler, it's good to see his rock solid conservative base, the Religious Right, finally taking him to task for something that's been bugging me for some time: his inept praying.

President Bush, already facing the lowest approval ratings in history, is coming under fire from former supporters over what they call his "ineffectual and incompetent" use of prayer for national guidance and assistance.

"Every time the president is criticized, he insists that the nation is in his prayers," said the Family Research Council's Bob Jensen. "That may be, but it's becoming more and more clear that these prayers are either too infrequent, too brief, or not strongly worded enough to be effective."

Jensen added: "This nation deserves more than a president who just pays lip service to prayer. It deserves a president who demands that his prayers get real-world results."


In an interview on Fox News, Vice President Dick Cheney defended Bush, saying the president puts as much energy into prayer as he does into domestic policies.

"Half the time, I can't even get him on the phone because he's busy praying for the American people, the same people who are now so quick to criticize him," Cheney said. "If something's wrong with those prayers, I would suggest that it's perhaps the fault of a supernatural entity. But it's not the president's. He is doing his duty."


"There is a real possibility that the president misrepresented the number of times he invokes Jesus' power each day in accordance with the strict guidelines of scripture," said Henry Holbrook, senior fellow at the Intercession Institute, a leading conservative prayer tank. "Is he clasping his hands together tightly enough? Is he using the proper forms of the pronouns 'thine' and 'thou'? What about the verb 'hast'?"

Susan DiDomenico of the National Prayer Task Force said her organization is seeking "full disclosure" of any and all prayers Bush may have skipped or manipulated to seem more effective or holy.

This is a serious problem for many of us. I know that when I pray, I never get an answer. I keep expecting to hear a booming voice answering back "Less Filling" or "Tastes Great," whichever is the correct answer to my question, but it never comes. Later I came to realize that the answer was "Both," but that's a mystery that one must accept purely on faith.

I finally came to the conclusion that maybe Viktor Frankl was right (even if he was Jewish and, therefore, not in touch with all three parts of the Holy Trinity). He felt that God was beyond man's comprehension, but that while man could not speak "of God" man could speak "to God" through prayer. Moreover, Frankl posited (and remember, this was the guy who coined the term "existentialism") that God's failure to respond to the person praying in the same manner as the person prayed to God was not proof that God did not exist, but proof of God's infinite nature. Only looking back will we be able to determine if He has heard our prayers, and then, not always completely.

In fact, I've always thought that a "one-on-one" with God in my present mortal condition might be as terrifying for me as it was for the prophets, apostles and saints who've apparently been among the very few (outside of Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital) who've actually had such direct communication. Plugging into the mind of a Being who created all that is, was and ever will be might be a wondrous experience for the entire nanosecond prior to your mind frying, but the end result is not likely to be pretty.

But, what do I know? Bupkis, apparently. Guys like Pat Robertson get all the feedback they can handle, and that's apparently quite a bit.

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. Wednesday, he added, "there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."

What, God talked to Pat but hedged His bets? He does work in mysterious ways. Pat, did he give you the over/under? At least the line on the tsunami? 10 to 1? 8 to 5? C'mon, you're killing me here, Pat! I'm Catholic, we can gamble!

I suppose if a tsunami doesn't hit the Pacific Northwest this year, Pat will chalk it all up to an inner ear infection. You know, he didn't hear the Lord "right," and the Lord really said "3006."

I'll have to ask Pat who the Lord sounded like. Was it like Pat himself? That would be my guess.

UPDATE 5/22/06: I bet Pat's snickering at these clueless retards.

A hectic, above-normal tropical storm season could produce between four and six major hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico this year, but conditions don't appear ripe for a repeat of 2005's record activity, the National Hurricane Center predicted Monday.

"Conditions don't appear ripe." Did you boys and girls at the National Hurricane Center talk directly to God? No? Well, then: 'nuff said.

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