Memebuster: Science mocks religion. God responds.

I haven’t done memebusters in a while, for no other reason than Facebook memes haven’t been terribly interesting lately.

But “God” (the Facebook one, that is) got my goat, so I felt the need to respond.

“God”‘s a hoot, ain’t he.

I’ll let the LORD answer for himself.

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
    when it burst out from the womb?—
when I made the clouds its garment,
    and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed bounds for it,
    and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
    and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place,
so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
    and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
    and it is dyed like a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked,
    and their uplifted arm is broken.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
    or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
    Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
    and where is the place of darkness,
that you may take it to its territory
    and that you may discern the paths to its home?
Surely you know, for you were born then,
    and the number of your days is great!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

“Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no one lives,
    on the desert, which is empty of human life,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
    and to make the ground put forth grass?

“Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen.

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
    or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,
    or can you guide the Bear with its children?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,[c]
    or given understanding to the mind?[d]
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
    Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
    and the clods cling together?

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
    or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God,
    and wander about for lack of food? 

Job 38:2-41

The premise that science and religion can’t co-exist with one another is idiotic. God, who created everything, is not a being that can be categorized, and therefore examined. He just Is. It is because of Him that nature is intelligible, and can be observed and understood through science.

Yet New Atheists constantly mock religion in general, and Christianity in particular, because God refuses to submit to being examined under the very particular methods of inquiry demanded by a subset of creatures that is so small, in relation to all of creation, that it is impossible to calculate.

Is it any wonder why God hasn’t responded to their demands?

That’s because we have everything we need to determine that God exists.

Hey New Atheists, you think you’re smart, right?

Figure it out.

Memebuster no. 14: Abortion rage

The following meme was shared in the liberal Facebookesphere:

abortion-rage

 

The meme was published by The Reprimand Project. Its Facebook page describes it as posting:

Common sense messages to level the playing field as the GOP wages its legislative wars on Constitutional rights and law-abiding citizens.

Apparently killing innocent humans is a Constitutional right.

Astonishingly, the meme does not deny that abortion actually “kills innocent humans”. Rather, the charge is that those sanctimonious Republicans who oppose abortion are hypocrites, because of all of the reasons cited.

Notwithstanding the meme’s righteous indignation, I have just a few questions.

Can one be against the killing of innocent humans while believing that environmental regulations hurt property rights and the economy more than help the environment?

Can one be against the killing of innocent humans while believing that gun control laws will prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves against criminals with guns?

Can one be against the killing of innocent humans while believing that minimum wage and living wage laws hurt the very people those laws are designed to help?

Can one be against the killing of innocent humans while believing that laws requiring the purchase of health insurance do nothing but raise the cost of health insurance and medical care, thereby preventing poor people from obtaining both?

According to this meme, apparently not.

The meme is yet another example of liberals who confuse good intentions with good policy. Like all good people, liberals want good outcomes for everyone. Unfortunately, they do not understand how economics works. They do not see that their policies hurt the very people they want to help. Meanwhile, they ironically demonize their opponents as “arrogant and ignorant” for opposing bad policies and not wanting innocent people to be killed.

So much for common sense messages.

 

Memebuster no. 13: Has the Left Lost Its Soul?

Before presenting the meme this post will address, I have to make one point. I grew up in a liberal Democratic household. My grandfather and uncle were union members. As a union member, my grandfather was particularly loyal to the Democratic party. I grew up believing that the Democrats stood up for the worker, the little guy. While my political views have evolved significantly since childhood, I will always remember that my family held political beliefs that were genuine.

It is with this preface in mind that I present the following meme:

I can’t think of a more insincere, dishonest, and logically twisted meme than this one. Let’s start with the end.

Anyone who believes that the media has been unfair to Hillary is lying to himself. It has been clear for weeks, if not months, that the mainstream media has been working very closely with the Clinton campaign. To take one extremely glaring example, Donna Brazile, a DNC operative who had been working at CNN for years, passed debate questions to the Clinton campaign while working at CNN. The only reason CNN severed ties with Brazile is because the evidence Wikileaks disclosed was too obvious to ignore. Ms. Brazile is but one element of a media machine that has been working tirelessly to demonize Trump and elevate Clinton. It is one thing to disagree about the media’s role in the presidential election. However, to characterize it as the opposite of the increasingly obvious practically requires demonic powers to do so.

Now let’s look at how the meme talks about Trump. What a devil he is! Look at how obfuscacious he is compared to Clinton! And the last one is a zinger: it may say “foreign interests”, but we all know (wink wink) that he’s in bed with Putin.

Anyone who thinks that a person who doesn’t want to fight a nuclear power for no good reason has some sort of relationship with that country is insane. To characterize a healthy aversion to unnecessary, existential-threatening violence as nefarious is itself nefarious. The rest relating to Trump are tired rehashes that didn’t resonate before, and I see no reason to revisit them now.

And now we turn to Hillary.

You know what they say: when all you’ve got are lemons, make lemonade. What happens when you don’t have a damn thing? You get this.

Anyone who thinks that Clinton is transparent is delusional. How can anyone argue that someone who is clearly not healthy but refuses to be provide clear information about her health is transparent? How can anyone argue that someone who deleted over 30,000 emails while she was Secretary of State is transparent? How can anyone argue that someone who maintained an personal email server for government business is transparent?

The “logic” of this meme is twisted under the best of circumstances. However, it came out after the news that Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a key Clinton campaign staffer, had tens of thousands of Abedin’s emails on his laptop. And this is the best the writer could come up with?

To put it all together, this is one of the most ridicuously false memes I’ve ever seen on Facebook. It would be funny, even hysterical, if the meme didn’t resonate with a voter base that is determined to vote for Clinton at all costs.

Let me put the consequences of this type of thinking more plainly. This type of thinking is diabolical, for it leads to good being evil and evil being good. This type of thinking leads to abortion being considered morally acceptable. This type of thinking leads to wars and holocausts.

Do Democrats really think this way nowadays? If so, have they lost their soul? Is holding onto power so important that truth must be twisted with fallacies, lies, and leaps of logic into such a gordian knot?

Lord Acton and G.K. Chesterton, pray for us!

Memebuster no. 11: Thank goodness Noah saved the penguins!

It has been a while since I’ve addressed a New Atheist meme. However, whenever I find a new one, it rarely disappoints:

Noah is dope!

I don’t know know if there really are grown adults who really believe this. Maybe there are. However, far too many New Atheists get into their “Nailed it!” pose after making this “argument” alone. And their Inner Robert Frosts are most content. Don’t remember him? Allow me to remind you:

tolkien-pipe

He looks pretty happy, doesn’t he?

The problem with this meme, like most New Atheist memes, is extremely simple: it gets the basic facts wrong. Specifically, it assumes the wrong genre when interpreting Genesis. As Robert Barron writes:

One of the most important principles of Catholic Biblical interpretation is that the reader of the Scriptural texts must be sensitive to the genre or literary type of the text with which he is dealing. Just as it would be counter-indicated to read Moby Dick as history or “The Waste Land” as social science, so it is silly to interpret, say, “The Song of Songs” as journalism or the Gospel of Matthew as a spy novel. By the same token, it is deeply problematic to read the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific treatise. If I can borrow an insight from Fr. George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and astrophysicist, no Biblical text can possibly be “scientific” in nature, since “science,” as we understand it, first emerged some fourteen centuries after the composition of the last Biblical book. The author of Genesis simply wasn’t doing what Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Hawking were doing; he wasn’t attempting to explain the origins of things in the characteristically modern manner, which is to say, on the basis of empirical observation, testing of hypotheses, marshalling of evidence, and experimentation. Therefore, to maintain that the opening chapters of Genesis are “bad science” is a bit like saying “The Iliad” is bad history or “The Chicago Tribune” is not very compelling poetry.

So what is the author of Genesis trying to communicate? In Barron’s words, an “exquisite theology”:

[T]he opening of the Bible gives itself to us in all of its theological and spiritual power. Let me explore just a few dimensions of this lyrical and evocative text. We hear that Yahweh brought forth the whole of created reality through great acts of speech: “Let there be light,’ and there was light; ‘Let the dry land appear’ and so it was.” In almost every mythological cosmology in the ancient world, God or the gods establish order through some act of violence. They conquer rival powers or they impose their will on some recalcitrant matter. (How fascinating, by the way, that we still largely subscribe to this manner of explanation, convinced that order can be maintained only through violence or the threat of violence). But there is none of this in the Biblical account. God doesn’t subdue some rival or express his will through violence. Rather, through a sheerly generous and peaceful act of speech, he gives rise to the whole of the universe. This means that the most fundamental truth of things—the metaphysics that governs reality at the deepest level—is peace and non-violence. Can you see how congruent this is with Jesus’ great teachings on non-violence and enemy love in the Sermon on the Mount? The Lord is instructing his followers how to live in accord with the elemental grain of the universe.

Secondly, we are meant to notice the elements of creation that are explicitly mentioned in this account: the heavens, the stars, the sun, the moon, the earth itself, the sea, the wide variety of animals that roam the earth. Each one of these was proposed by various cultures in the ancient world as objects of worship. Many of the peoples that surrounded Israel held sky, stars, sun, moon, the earth, and various animals to be gods. By insisting that these were, in fact, created by the true God, the author of Genesis was, not so subtly, de-throning false claimants to divinity and disallowing all forms of idolatry. Mind you, the author of Genesis never tires of reminding us that everything that God made is good (thus holding off all forms of dualism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism), but none of these good things is the ultimate good.

A third feature that we should notice is the position and role of Adam, the primal human, in the context of God’s creation. He is given the responsibility of naming the animals , “all the birds of heaven and all the wild beasts” (Gen. 2:20). The Church fathers read this as follows: naming God’s creatures in accord with the intelligibility placed in them by the Creator, Adam is the first scientist and philosopher, for he is, quite literally, “cataloguing” the world he sees around him. (Kata Logon means “according to the word”). From the beginning, the author is telling us, God accords to his rational creatures the privilege of participating, through their own acts of intelligence, in God’s intelligent ordering of the world. This is why, too, Adam is told, not to dominate the world, but precisely to “cultivate and care for it” (Gen. 2: 16), perpetuating thereby the non-violence of the creative act.

That’s all well and good, one might say, but what about Noah and his blasted penguins? Barron addresses this, indirectly, in his review of the movie Noah. Rather than focusing on whether penguins waddled all the way from Antartica before the Great Flood, Barrons sees the ark as a theological metaphor of the church:

During a time of moral and spiritual chaos, when the primal watery chaos out of which God created the world returned with a vengeance, the Creator sent a rescue operation, a great boat on which a microcosm of God’s good order would be preserved. For the Church Fathers, this is precisely the purpose and meaning of the Church: to be a safe haven where, in the midst of a sinful world, God’s word is proclaimed, where God is properly worshipped, and where a rightly ordered humanity lives in justice and non-violence. Just as Noah’s Ark carried the seeds of a new creation, so the Church is meant to let out the life that it preserves for the renewal of the world.

It makes no sense at all to read the Book of Genesis as a scientific text. Rather, the reader needs to understand the theological lessons the writer is intending to teach. It may be convenient to laugh at those who might read the book more literally than it should, but that doesn’t mean those teachings aren’t there. Whether they are true is certainly a matter to debate. To ignore them, however, is to not argue.

 

Memebuster no. 10: You bombed Pearl Harbor, so we nuked Hiroshima

Because a surprise attack on a military base justifies destroying two cities.

Pearl harbor

There have been several memes in “conservative” Facebook-land that have a similar theme. And yet, James Bradley demonstrates in The Imperial Cruise that the Japanese learned about the value of the surprise attack by the Americans.

Further, it ought to be clear by now that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not militarily necessary. As John Denson, a brilliant revisionist historian, writes in The Hiroshima Myth, the Japanese were willing to surrender as early as May of 1945, provided that the emperor remained in power.

So why did the US bomb Hiroshima? According to Denson:

The conclusion drawn unmistakably from the evidence presented, is that [James] Byrnes is the man who convinced Truman to keep the unconditional surrender policy and not accept Japan’s surrender so that the bombs could actually be dropped thereby demonstrating to the Russians that America had a new forceful leader in place, a “new sheriff in Dodge” who, unlike Roosevelt, was going to be tough with the Russians on foreign policy and that the Russians needed to “back off” during what would become known as the “Cold War.” A secondary reason was that Congress would now be told about why they had made the secret appropriation to a Manhattan Project and the huge expenditure would be justified by showing that not only did the bombs work but that they would bring the war to an end, make the Russians back off and enable America to become the most powerful military force in the world.

If the surrender by the Japanese had been accepted between May and the end of July of 1945 and the Emperor had been left in place, as in fact he was after the bombing, this would have kept Russia out of the war. Russia agreed at Yalta to come into the Japanese war three months after Germany surrendered. In fact, Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Russia announced on August 8, (exactly three months thereafter) that it was abandoning its neutrality policy with Japan and entering the war. Russia’s entry into the war for six days allowed them to gain tremendous power and influence in China, Korea, and other key areas of Asia. The Japanese were deathly afraid of Communism and if the Potsdam Proclamation had indicated that America would accept the conditional surrender allowing the Emperor to remain in place and informed the Japanese that Russia would enter the war if they did not surrender, then this would surely have assured a quick Japanese surrender.

In other words, Truman dropped the bomb because, among other reasons, he wanted to be in a strong negotiating position with Russia after the war ended. Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with it. As a result, countless innocent people sufferred.

Now can we apologize?

 

Memebuster no. 9: Ayn Rand, therefore evil.

Someone apparently thought that this was funny:

Ayn Rand bullshit

Notice the Ayn <==> Rand <==> Paul <==> Ryan thingy going on? Clever. Unfortunately, the cleverness ends right there.

The stoopid in this tweet is so broad, so immense, that an enterprising writer could make C.D. Bales look like a stammering twit. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I am, in my heart, lazy. I’ll just focus on three things.

  1. What is it with the left’s fascination with Ayn Rand? When anyone is thought of as having a political thought that is remotely libertarian, a leftist casts Ayn Rand into that person’s political orbit, and becomes the argument against that person. I’m bored just thinking about the tactic! For those of us who came to our libertarianism through other thinkers and writers, and far more interested in aligning libertarianism with our Christian beliefs, it becomes downright annoying to inform the xx,xxxth person bringing up Ayn Rand that I can never say the words “Ayn Rand” for the rest of my life and will still have far more coherent arguments FOR libertarianism than whatever claptrap that is brought up against it!
  2. What happened to the bartender? Did he – I presume he’s a he, given the patriarchical society in which those drinks were served – get arrested for murder? Or did evil corporate interests protect him from prosecution?
  3. What happened to the bar? Did people think twice before going to the bar after three customers died the day before? Or was the bar closed that day so customers could dance on the graves of the evil people who died?

Hell, I’m in a giving mood, so I’ll bring up one more point. As a recovering liberal Democrat, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that within each liberal Democrat is an inner Robert Frost created in his or her image. Not that they’ve ever read Robert Frost. However, in far too many cases, a liberal argues by proclaiming something “profound,” after which the inner Robert Frost leans back in his chair, smokes his pipe, and contemplates the deep meaning of the words that had been spoken. The ending posture within that mind is something like this:

tolkien-pipe

Yes, I know that’s Tolkein. But the liberal mind wouldn’t care. That’s their Robert Frost, who is immensely satisfied with whatever words that had been put forth.  Facts do not matter. Logic does not matter. People do not matter. What matters is their inner Robert Frost. As far as Miss O’Kistic is concerned, He is beaming with pride over her quite astute observation.

Memebuster no. 8: Jodie Foster is an ignorant Marxist! Or is she???

A particular meme has been circulating social media fast and furiously:

jodie foster

If she really said this, it would be quite easy to break down why she is wrong. However, there’s no reason to do this. There’s no evidence she actually said it.

In fact, in a Detroit Free Press article, she characterizes herself as “not a very publicly political person.” If that’s the case, there’s no reason to criticize someone who has been falsely attributed to a controversial quote.

Memebuster no. 7: A New Atheist’s charitable criticism of Christianity

Well, not really.

jewish zombie

I don’t mind snarkiness when it is well informed. As you can see, I can get pretty snarky myself. However, I really don’t like snark when it isn’t well informed. What can I say? I’m funny that way.

I could talk about how the Bible ought to be read, how theology helps interpret it, how the Bible includes different types of literature to communicate various religious truths, what those truths actually are, and so on. Yet in the back of my mind I have to ask myself if I would be wasting my time if I was talking to the writer of this meme? Looks like that person’s mind is already made up.

In the interest of time, all I’ll say is that there is a way that the Bible ought to be read, that theology helps interpret it, that the Bible includes different types of literature to communicate various religious truths, and there are particular religious truths. To those who are interested in learning more about what Catholicism actually believes in, read this. To those who aren’t interested, don’t.

Just don’t expect me to take uninformed snark seriously.

Memebuster no. 6: Conservatives are today’s scapegoats

The author of this meme makes it abundantly clear what he thinks of convervatives.

demonic conservatives

I’d like to address than from a different perspective than the point-by-point rebuttal approach that I’ve done in the past.

The author wants to give the reader the impression that there is this group of people that are called “conservatives” that have been so wrong in their thinking that, at a minimum, they should not even be considered worthy to be involved in political debate. After all, look at that track record!

It doesn’t really matter whether the statements in the meme are correct or not. What matters is whether the reader feels indignant towards conservatives after reading it. From that perspective, it’s a pretty effective meme.

The best way to interpret it is through the mimetic theory developed by René Girard. Mimetic theory holds that individuals develop their desires through observing the desires of others, namely models who they admire and emulate. Conflicts arise when the model and the model’s imitator desire the same particular goal that cannot be shared between the two. If neither gives up the goal, the desire of one becomes the mirror of the other. The conflict will be resolved only through the death of one or the other.

This analysis can be expanded to look at conflicts within a broader society. A societal conflict, which culminates in community-wide violence, will only be resolved when the community believes that the death of one of its members led to the resolution of the crisis and eventual “peace”. The scapegoat usually is an outsider, a weakeling, who doesn’t fit the mold of everyone else within the community. The scapegoat is usually dehumanized before being killed. Therefore, the death of the scapegoat usually doesn’t lead to a great deal of regret to those who murdered him or her. This scapegoat mechanism underlies the mythologies, rituals, and prohibitions of primitive religions.

Now let’s go back to the meme and apply Girard’s mimetic theory to it. Today, liberals and conservatives have been fighting over one thing: control over the federal government. Nothing else matters. As for the statements within the meme, it doesn’t matter whether they’re true or not. What matters is the impression this long list leaves to the reader. The goal is for the reader to ask to him- or herself, “Why should I listen to someone who has been so wrong for so long?” After all, all conservatives have is fear, no reasoning.

This meme reflects the mirror image of the very fear that conservatives supposedly have a monopoly over. It demonizes them and sets them up as scapegoats. If we could only get rid of those fearful conservatives, liberals plead, we would finally have peace. Yet the argument, when brought to its logical conclusion, will only lead to the very opposite of its intended objective: civil war.

P.S. A good way to get introduced to Girard’s thinking is to read I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightening.