The Atlantic publishes a video on The Church Militant

The video is entitled “Church Militant: Right-Wing Media Empire in the Making”.

On the whole, it is a well-balanced short documentary. It allows Michael Voris and his organization to speak for themselves on what they believe. It also shows Voris as a human being who has fought his own demons and has worked tirelessly to care for his parents as they have dealt with cancer and aging.

One thing that struck me about Voris is that while his Catholicism is quite traditional, Church Militant operates very much in the spirit of how John Paul II acted while he was pope.

Voris and the Church Militant propose rather than impose. They make arguments, and they explain why they hold their positions. While they call out sins as sins, they do not seek to hurt anyone. If anything, Church Militant views their mission as saving as many souls as possible.

I’m sure that Church Militant’s views will not resonate with The Atlantic’s liberal audience. However, I’d go so far as to say that the manner in which Church Militant goes about their proselytizing is rational and respectful of each individual’s ability to think and decide for themselves the best course of action.

We certainly can not control how people react to an argument. However, we can control how we conduct ourselves when we make our own arguments.

In my humble opinion, Michael Voris and his colleagues at Church Militant are very good models of how one should conduct themselves when presenting controversial views to a hostile audience.

 

Did you know libertarianism is incompatible with Catholicism?

Me neither!

Fortunately, Holy Inquisitor Mark Shea has cleared it up for us:

Libertarianism is the religious superstition that individualists don’t need the help of society, that the state only does evil, and that your average FOX brainwashing victim on a fixed income will be fine because the 1% totally care about him and certainly will defend him when the Party of Trump robs him of Social Security and Medicaid.

He writes more, but it’s at the same level of detritus as the above.

There are three points I’d like to make about the above gordian knot of silly accusations disguised as a series of indignant j’accuses! against the demon spawn known as libertarians.

First, to claim that individualists don’t need the help of society is hogwash. If anything, the opposite is true. Civilization flourishes through voluntary interaction, not coercion. The economy, which provides the material support for a civilization, flourishes through the division of labor, the nexus of exchange, and the accumulation of capital. Libertarians simply believe that none of these three functions require the state, which is a monopoly of violence in a given society.

Second, regarding the nature of the state, need I remind Mr. Shea of Augustine’s observations on the matter in the City of God?

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.” (Book IV, Chapter 4)

I’ll address Shea’s accusation about how libertarians view the state once he addresses how Augustine views it.

Finally, where in the hell does Shea get the idea that Trump wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare? Because Shea clearly knows, or at least ought to, that Trump has no intention of getting rid of either.

When Donald Trump was elected president in November, it was on the heels of numerous campaign promises. One of those key promises was that he would leave Social Security and Medicare as is. Trump has suggested that America has an obligation to its seniors to honor its commitment to pay their Social Security benefits.

And yet Trump’s assurances about both programs don’t prevent Shea from conflating that a) Trump really really does want to eliminate them, and b) libertarians control Fox (if only), and 5) the 1% really want free markets, when more and more of them have become rich through crony capitalism.

(By the way, Mark, crony capitalism means that big companies use government connections to create laws and regulatory burdens that reduce competition and increase profits. For them. Just so we’re clear.)

Beyond the ridiculousness of the above sentence, there’s one particular string of words, which when written by a more charitable writer would be called a paragraph, I want to address.

Libertarianism is Murray Rothbard’s belief that a child is a parasitic invader with no right to life because it cannot pay its parents for the property and labor it demands in order to be carried to term and raised to adulthood. If they choose to do so, they may. But if they decide to abort it or drive the child to a remote location and abandon it they may do that too. They owe it nothing.

It may come as a mild surprise to Mr. Shea that libertarians, who believe individuals have free will, do not always agree with Rothbard.

I mean, it’s not like Rothbard is a god or anything…

Sure, he wrote profusely, and was a genius when it came to economics and political philosophy. However, my Catholicism (you know, Mark, the thing you claim that I don’t believe) informs my strong disagreement with his view that a pregnant woman has the right to abort her child.

Father Jim Sadowsky, who taught philosophy at Fordham and was a friend of Rothbard, disagreed with him strongly about abortion as well:

But is the infant a trespasser the moment his presence in the womb is no longer desired? Does he have no right to be there? Murray [Rothbard] and Walter [Block] simply assume that the infant has no right to be in the womb. Yet it is by no means evident that their answer is the correct one. To say that x is trespassing is to say that he is somewhere where he ought not to be. But where should a foetus be if not in its mother’s womb? This is its natural habitat. Surely people have a right to the means of life that nature gives them? If the home in which the infant grew were outside the mother’s body, we should all see that to expel him from that home would be to deprive him of the nature-given means of life. Why should the fact that his nature-given home lies within a woman’s body change the situation? What is a woman’s womb for except to house the infant’s body? It is nature that gives the child this home, this means of life. When we cast him out, we are depriving him of that which nature gave him. To do this is to violate his rights.

However, that did not stop Sadowsky from being attracted to Rothbard’s libertarian thinking. As David Gordon wrote in his obituary of Father Sadowsky:

What attracted him to the libertarian point of view was its individualism: libertarianism rejects the notion of a collective interest apart from that of individual persons. In this he found echoes of one of his favorite thinkers among the scholastics, Francisco Suarez, who maintained that political authority rests on consent. If this idea were followed to its full implications, Sadowsky thought, it would lead to anarchism, an implication he fully accepted.

You remember the scholastics, right, Mark? Or did they advocate child killing as well?

Frankly, Shea’s schtick against libertarianism is getting really, really old. It is uninformed, uncharitable, and in the end, boring.

I am going to close this post to repeat my plea.

I don’t mind if Catholics don’t agree with libertarianism. I do, however, reject any attempt to demonize an otherwise compatible political philosophy with Catholicism simply because one decides not to view it and its adherents charitably.

Hopefully, at some point, Mr. Shea will be willing to talk to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who just happen to have a different perspective than him, in the manner they deserve.

Until then, talk to the hand.

 

 

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.

The Lord is my Shepherd

Rabbi B of Men of the West wrote a beautiful meditation on Psalm 23. While the reflection should be read in its entirety, the rabbi closes by summarizing the Psalm’s essential teaching:

As long as we dwell on this earth and in the tent of this body, only goodness and mercy shall follow us, so long as our feet remain on the narrow path, pointed in the right direction, and we are headed to the house of the Lord.  Wherever life may take us, no matter the tragic circumstances that may befall us on the way, may we learn to regard it all as a gift of His goodness and mercy.  And once the days of our lives come to a close, may ‘dying’ to us be nothing more than a ‘return’ home to the house of the Lord forever.

An open letter to “God”

Dear “God”,

As you know, the massacre in Orlando over the weekend sickened me. I prayed that the killed may rest in your peace. I have also prayed for the wounded, and for the families and friends who been affected this horrible attack. In fact, it is right to pray for all of us. What happened in Orlando reminds us that we never know when we may be called to leave for the next world.

With all of this said, please forgive me for being taken aback by the question you asked rhetorically on Facebook:

Dear G--

Perhaps “taken aback” is not the best way to describe it. Shocked and appalled are more like it. After all, why would you, “God” of all people, come across as so ignorant of recent history? After all, not only are you omnipotent and omniprescient, you are omniscient. Right?

Seeing that you are, you clearly recall the tremendous suffering atheistic governments imposed on their subjected peoples. True, these governments did not kill people in the name of “atheism”. However, as you know, the 20th century experienced a number of governments that were extremely hostile to religion, for no other reason than it competed with state idolatry. The  form of government that most actively sought to eliminate religion within their borders, and force upon its people an atheistic worldview, was Communism.

As you know, Communism’s contempt with religion is linked directly to Marx. He viewed religion as a social construction (as the cool kids now say – as you know) the poor created to delude themselves that the future will be brighter than today. Religion was determined by a society’s economic superstructure. If capitalists grew rich through that superstructure by exploiting the working class, then the institutions supported by that infrastructure, such as religion, are fraudulent. As you know, Lenin agreed, writing:

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

Thus, when Marx and Lenin sought to establish communism, they also sought to eliminate religion and establish atheism as the state’s “religion”. In fact, Lenin said as much:

Atheism is a natural and inseparable part of Marxism, of the theory and practice of scientific socialism.

As you know, Lenin put that theory into action when the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917. The Bolsheviks first sought to ridicule religion through propoganda. They encouraged the popular wave of anti-clericalism that had swept away Church lands that year. They sought to replace the worship of God with veneration of the state, making Communism Russia’s new religion.

In A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924, Orlando Figes documents with dreadful clarity Lenin’s reign of terror against religion beginning in 1921. Under the pretext of gathering resources for famine relief, Lenin encouraged the press to hysterically demand the Russian Orthodox Church to hand over its consecrated valuables for sale. As you know better than anyone else, to use consecreated items for secular purposes is sacrilegious. Thus, Lenin laid the perfect trap for conflict with the Church. Figes writes that:

On 26 February 1922 a decree was sent out to the local Soviets instructing them to remove from the churches all precious items, including those used for religious worship. The decree claimed that their sale was necessary to help the famine victims; but little of the money raised was used for this purpose. Armed bands gutted the local churches, carrying away the icons and crosses, the chalices and mitres, even the iconostases in bits. In many places angry crowds took up arms to defend their local church. In some places they were led by their priests, at others they fought spontaneously. The records tell of 1,414 bloody clashes during 1922-23. Most of these were utterly one-sided. Troops with machine-guns fought against old men and women armed with pitch forks and rusty rifles: 7,100 clergy were killed, including nearly 3,500 nuns, but only a handful of Soviet troops. One such clash in the textile town of Shuya, 200 miles north-east of Moscow, in March 1922, prompted Lenin to issue a secret order for the extermination of the clergy. (pp. 748-9)

Lenin made his intent perfectly clear when he wrote:

The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie and clergy we manage to shoot the better. (pg. 749)

Clearly, as you know, Communist governments did not only kill the religious. They sought to reshape humanity, indeed human nature itself. Therefore, they needed to get rid of those who, in their eyes, stood in the way of a more perfect tomorrow.

The death tolls under Communism are staggering. There is no way of knowing, aside from you of course, the precise number of victims. However, The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 85 and 100 million people were killed by such regimes. Seeing that you are a loving “God”, you certainly don’t, nay can’t, agree with Stalin that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.

And yet, given the immense suffering atheist, Communist regimes have inflicted on humanity, I’m beginning to wonder whether I have been far too charitable in calling you omniscient. Didn’t you think about this when you made your Facebook post? Didn’t you remember the tragedies people suffered under Communism? Didn’t you remember that Lenin sought to force Russia to conform to his Communist, atheist ideology? Don’t you remember his massacre of religious priests, nuns, and people? Don’t you remember the other examples of when that occurred?  Did all of that slip your mind when you made that post?

Dear “God”, I can only come to one conclusion. You are an ignorant “God”. A stupid “God”. A foolish “God”. “God”, I mock thee.

Given that you have clearly shown that you have no idea what you’re talking about, I have one simple suggestion for you.

Read a book.

Memebuster no. 2: Silly mommy. God is for kids!

It has been a while since I’ve posted a memebuster since the opening post of this blog. Fortunately, I’ve found a doozy to tackle:

Where did faith go

Isn’t that cute?

Yup, we know  that there is no god because there are molecules. And solar systems. And monkeys that evolved into humans.

With memes like this, perhaps we should have stayed as monkeys.

Just because God can’t be observed through scientific method doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. In fact, as smart as New Atheists claim to be, one would think that they would recognize that no one can prove the negative of anything!

New Atheists like to claim that they won’t believe in anything unless there is EVIDENCE that what they believe is true. While on the surface this may be seem reasonable, in the end it’s a ridiculous notion to live by. We all must live our lives with some preconceived notions of how the world works, why certain relationships (like family relationships) are important, and so on. To think otherwise is to have a permenantly sceptical relationship with reality, which is impossible, if not unhealthy.

Furthermore, NAs discount evidence that are inconvenient to their world views. NAs aren’t unique in this deficiency, but that doens’t discount the importance of their mistake. For example, NAs love to claim that the Bible doesn’t provide sufficient proof that God exists. However, that means that they are unwilling to accept the testimonies of the disciples of Jesus and their followers as provided in the four Gospels. The claim is that the Gospels aren’t “scientific,” and yet as Brad Pitre points out in his important book The Case for Jesus, the Gospels were written in the same manner as biographies of important people during that time. One may dispute the veracity of those testimonies, but to be intellectually honest, one must take into account as many sources as possible, and logical reasoning, when doing so. To flippantly call the Gospels lies without any basis serves no one, particularly the one making this claim.

It is true that the Bible includes many books from a wide variety of sources over long period of time. It would be impossible to think that there wouldn’t be inconsistencies among these books. That’s where theology comes in. That’s where the Catholic church comes in to sort out and interpret all of these scriptures in a consistent manner. After all, the Catholic church claims that it was founded by Jesus himself, and that he gave Peter authority over it. The doctrines and traditions of the Church seek to communicate that the Son of God came down to earth to save humandkind. Thus the saying the Old Testemant informs the New Testament, and vice verca. To mock Catholic doctrine without understanding it serves no one, particularly those who are doing the mocking.

Finally, far too many NAs hold the view that religion feels threatened by science because it somehow competes with religion over understanding reality. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As John Polkinghorne demonstrated in his little book Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, science and religion can co-exist with one another because they seek to understand from different perspectives. Furthermore, Bishop Robert Barron has mentioned in countless occassions that God seeks to be in the world without competing with humans in the process. Unlike pagan gods that battle humans and each other, the very fact that Jesus is both God and man shows that God can be in the world in a noncompetitive, nonviolent manner.

There is no either-or. When it comes to religion and science, there is no reason to think that it is anything but both-and.

Book review no. 1: Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, by John Polkinghorne

It’s a shame that I hadn’t heard of John Polkinghorne until I listened to a podcast in which Bishop Robert Barron recommended this book. Polkinghorne is a scientist and an Anglican theologian, which puts him in a unique position to discuss how religion and science interact with one another.

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Polkinghorne’s main argument is that science and religion are complementary to one another because each are seeking to understand what is real. Neither has a monopoly on knowledge, for neither seeks to understand everything. Science seeks to understand natural phenomenon, and theology seeks to understand the nature of God. The best scientists and theologians are those who search out their respective subjects with humility, and acknowledge the limits of what they can understand.

While Polkinghorne discusses a variety of issues relating to the interaction between science and religion, he is at his best when taking on the supposed enmity between the two. He quickly dispels with the notion that science deals with facts and religion with personal beliefs. As for science, Polkinghorne asserts that “there are no scientifically interesting facts that are not already interpreted facts.” Experimental “fact” and theoretical “opinion” interact in a “subtle circularity.” As for religion, he points out that religious belief can only be helpful when it is true. Polkinghorne is very critical of those who use theological arguments to explain gaps in scientific knowledge; that gap can very well be closed by a rational scientific theory, leaving the theologian’s words flying in the wind. Nevertheless, given his strong belief in the unity of knowledge, he sees no reason why scientific truth can not live side by side with the poetic discourse of theology.

An example of Polkinghorne’s clearing the air between science and religion is when he takes on the myth that religious people opposed Darwin’s ideas on evolution, characterizing it as “simply historically false.” He points out how Darwin’s ideas were increasingly accepted in Christian circles as time passed. For example,

Darwin’s clergyman friend, the novelist Charles Kingsley, coined a phrase that succintly sums up the illuminating theological way in which to think about the scientific fact of evolution. Kingsley said that no doubt God could have brought into being a ready-made world, but Darwin had shown us that the Creator had done something cleverer than that, in bringing into being a world so endowed with fertility that creatures could be allowed to explore and bring to birth its possibilities, in a process in which they ‘made themselves.” (pg. 30)

Meanwhile, many scientists contemporary to Darwin never accepted his ideas, primarily because they could not see how small differences between successive generations would occur. That problem, however, was solved a few years after On the Origin of Species was published by Gregor Mendel, who was, by the way, an Austrian monk.

Don’t be misled by the small size of this book. It may only be 160 pages, but Polkinghorne’s prose is clear, concise, and precise. Whatever perspective one may have on how science relates to religion, I strongly recommend reading this engaging and provacative book.