Showing posts with label belief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label belief. Show all posts

Monday, November 13, 2023

It's Iimi! You Bet Your Life!

 When her friends have prior commitments at lunch, Iimi accidentally encounters Rick and Mike, discussing belief and disbelief. When Mike says that he should consider skepticism because he doesn't know whether God exists or not, Iimi explains the concept of Pascal's Wager and the proper approach you should take when… You Bet Your Life!

Post-Comic Notes:

It should be noted that Iimi's presentation is a modified version of Pascal's Wager. Certain parts of the original seem to presume Jansenist tendencies (such as: "In the state of fallen nature no one ever resists interior grace," which opens the Wager to accusations of "fake it until you make it."). Iimi's take is more of a Mollinist approach, trusting that God will reach out but emphasizing the importance of using free will to respond when He does.

Rick's objections are the ones that always turn up on atheist sites that make fun of Pascal's Wager. The problem is these objections show they have a superficial focus.

The text and explanation of Pascal's Wager can be found HERE.

Art Credits:

The Page wallpapers were created from AI and Clip Studio assets except for…

Page 15: Wallpaper by Figu Design

The Cover is AI. The man playing Roulette is Blaise Pascal, as imagined by AI.

Monday, August 8, 2022

It’s Iimi! (Not) A Typical Anime Beach Episode

What would you get if you took an anime-style Beach Episode and removed the fanservice, the love confessions, all the hijinks and replaced them with a Socratic dialogue about why Jesus can’t be other than what Christians profess Him to be? You’d probably wind up with something like this comic, which is … (Not) A Typical Anime Beach Episode

Pre-Comic Notes: This episode makes use of terms that are familiar to fans of anime/manga, but may not make sense to other readers.

The “Beach Episode” and “The Bathhouse” are two recurring anime/manga themes. In Japanese culture, families do go to the beach during summer break, and communal bathing (sex segregated) is common. 

In anime, these tropes are often used as an excuse to showcase the female characters in skimpy outfits and sexualized poses (“fanservice”) with male characters trying to get glimpses of them. Frequently this is done with the teasing of a (never quite successful) attempts to confess love and/or possible intimacy between the male and female leads. It’s aimed at the male reader. 

This comic is a subversion of these tropes, replacing “fanservice” with theological dialogue, and poking fun at how western anime fans would be uncomfortable if they actually found themselves placed in these situations that anime and manga treat as common.

Post-Comic Notes: You didn’t think it would be that easy for Iimi to succeed, did you? It’s one thing for Kismetta to find flaws in Islam. It’s quite another to move towards accepting the chief claim of Christianity after years of claims made against it. Apologists aren’t God. They can help remove stumbling blocks in the path. But only God can give the grace.


Accounts of Muslim converts to Christianity all point out the difficulty of overcoming the belief that Jesus was only a man. A holy man to be sure, but still only a man. It’s not just Muslims of course. As far back as the Pagan Romans, we could see philosophical monotheists finding the idea of God becoming man to be offensive… that was seen as beneath the dignity of God.


This is why it’s important to pray for those who struggle with accepting our beliefs. We who were brought up in our faith do not have to unlearn the things that contradict it, so sometimes we don’t grasp just how hard it is for those who come from outside to do that.

Monday, March 21, 2016

In Times of Trouble, Remember The Lord

Way of the wickedSee how the wicked string their bows, fit their arrows to the string
to shoot from the shadows at the upright of heart
[Psalm 11:2]

It is easy to feel depressed or discouraged about the state of the world. Whether it is news of the persecutions of Christians overseas, news of injustices by our government against the faithful of the Church, or the moral quagmire of the 2016 election season, it is easy to see all of the negative actions at work against us and fear we will be overcome by evil. It seems even more discouraging to see our fellow Catholics behaving with hostility when their views on what should be done differ from ours. It’s also a temptation for us to find a scapegoat when things go wrong. The Pope should have said more about X, the bishops shouldn’t talk about Y, it’s the fault of the modernists, the traditionalists, the establishment, the outsiders, the conservatives, the liberals, the Democrats, the Republicans...

Whew! We could pass out from lack of breath blaming the people who are responsible for the state of the Church, the world or the nation. But when we face these times of trouble, we need to make a decision. Will we focus on the troubles we perceive? Or will we focus on the One who is mightier than all of these troubles?

I am a person who likes to read the old Church documents and histories of the Church. As a result, I see other crises that the Church has faced. Other overt persecutions, legal injustices and the like. For example, I’m reading currently about the Arians and the emperors who supported them, riding roughshod over the Church. It’s a dark time when the orthodox Catholic faith was against the ropes. Bishops, and even Popes, were exiled for standing up for what was right.

But God protected His Church. No doubt the Church suffered at the hands of the unjust, and individuals were even martyred, but the Church is Catholic, not Arian.

I think this is what we need to remember. The Church is attacked. Some are martyred. Many face some level of hardship. Some abandon the faith for error. These are serious trials. Throughout these trials, some urge us to compromise a little bit. Others blame the shepherds for the fact that there is hardship. But these things always were a part of being faithful to Our Lord. Indeed, He promised us we would be hated for following Him.

So, when we struggle against injustice or feel outraged at the fellow Catholic who publicly causes scandal. we need to turn our eyes to Our Lord and trust that whatever He asks us to endure, it is not too much for us. We need to constantly look to what we do and set aside that which is unjust and that which distracts us from our true calling.

That doesn’t mean we need to be passive in the face of error or persecution. Obviously we are called to call the world to living in a way that is right. But we’re not God. We can’t bestow grace on anyone. So we might be attacked for our efforts. But we cannot become indifferent to suffering or embittered when we feel a lack of support. We must trust in God that whatever evils befall us, He is not on some coffee break and he is not ignorant of what is befalling us.

This is why, when we see (or experience) injustice, we must continue to have Trust in Our Lord, no matter how bleak it may seem to our eyes. Remember that to the Apostles, Good Friday looked like a day of defeat for the One they trusted. But it turned out that Our Lord achieved victory in a way far beyond what they could hope for.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Don't Panic

Don t panic

The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).

The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it."

The world may end up unjustly oppressing the Church in ways we can’t even guess at right now (Who would have thought, eight years ago, we’d be where we are today?), and individuals need to consider the strong possibility that persecution will afflict them personally, as opposed to something that only happens to people far away. But, as bleak as things are, we must avoid the attitudes of panicking and assuming that the world will defeat the Church. We must certainly avoid the attitude of “if only the bishops had done something, this wouldn’t have happened!” (Hypothesis contrary to fact fallacy).

(Don’t Act Like This)

We Christians may end up losing this battle. But God will win this war. The thing to remember is that if the government here decides to interfere with our seeking to be true to Our Lord, this is not a defeat for God. This has happened before, when persecutions lasted hundreds of years. Reading Butler’s unabridged Lives of the Saints, shows us the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Islam and Reformation England where being a member of the Church was a punishable offense—often by death. There are many records of saints who were unjustly hauled before the courts and given the choice between going along with the unjust demands of the state and suffering for putting God first.

We, individually, cannot change the state. All we can do is to bear witness to our faith in God, and show we would rather suffer evil at the hands of men than do evil in the sight of God. Tertullian once said The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. When we show our determination to follow God, and show love for those who hate us, God uses that to bring more people of good will to Him.

So while we may be angry at the injustices done to us and the slanders directed against what we believe, we must make sure that how we live in Christ bears witness. We cannot hate our persecutors. Our task is to love and to continue to teach the world of Christ—even when the world hates and persecutes us for it.

So let us continue to pray for the conversion of our nation, and pray that we may live as God calls us, regardless of what may come. Let us continue to bear witness so people may see the love of Christ in us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bellwether of Persecution

I thought this was america

bellwether |ˈbelˌweT͟Hərnounthe leading sheep of a flock, with a bell on its neck.• an indicator or predictor of something: college campuses are often the bellwether of change

I remember my youth in school and what was taught to us about America. How we were a free country and that the government couldn’t do, or force us to do, bad things. We were told how people came to America to escape places that treated them unjustly. As I grew older, I realized that this was a “rose colored glasses” view of things. That our country could and did wrong over the past 200 years. But throughout my transition from growth to adulthood, it was still recognized that the Declaration of Independence was still meaningful when it said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We were told that the Bill of Rights were essential rights to all people and that our Founding Fathers were determined to protect the people from the abuses from a government, acknowledging that there were certain things that the government had no right to do.

Right now, America has a system where laws which were based on this understanding are subject to being reviewed by courts that are free to throw out those laws which the judges happen to disagree with. The term used is “finding the law unconstitutional,” but too often, this is a code word for an arbitrary decision that reflects the political views of the judges without concern with actual concern for justice or law. This is the case when a few judges have ruled that the understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman is “unconstitutional.” Based on these rulings, people with religious beliefs that forbid them from participating in what they think is morally wrong can be forced to choose between their business and their beliefs—something the government had previously been seen as having no right to do.

Take a recent case of a Washington florist. The judge ruled that the florist’s religious beliefs, which forbade her from providing flowers to a same sex “wedding,” was illegal from the time that Washington legalized it. Think I’m using unreasonable rhetoric? Think again. Look at what the judge (Alexander C. Ekstrom) said:

"Stutzman is not a minister, nor is Arlene’s Flowers a religious organization when they sell flowers to the general public,” Ekstrom wrote. “Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly licensed business.”

The judge has baldly stated what we have been warning of for years—that a person with religious convictions can be forced to choose between business and faith (Stultzman has decided to stop doing any weddings).  Basically, what we have is this: if a law is passed defending our religious freedoms, it is ruled as unconstitutional. When a law is passed which infringes on our religious liberties, it is seen as acceptable and those who invoke their first amendment freedoms are told that it doesn’t apply—the courts continually reducing who has religious freedom to the point that a church itself can (thus far) be protected from government interference, but the institutions that church runs or the individual practitioner is not.

Decisions like this make much more chilling a recent event where lawmakers urged Archbishop Cordileone to change his policy insisting that teachers in Catholic institutions actually act—Catholic. With legal precedence like this, we can expect the judges to be more likely to side with the laws infringing on our religious freedoms. 

While such things are more benign than in other countries and other times in how they try to coerce compliance with religious beliefs they oppose, these rulings are in the same spirit as the persecutions of the past. Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints describes for us the case of St. Sadoth:

The second year of the persecution, king Sapor coming to Seleucia, Sadoth was apprehended, with several of his clergy, some ecclesiastics of the neighborhood, and certain monks and nuns belonging to his church, to the amount of one hundred and twenty-eight persons. They were thrown into dungeons, where, during five months’ confinement, they suffered incredible misery and torments. They were thrice called out, and put to the rack or question; their legs were straight bound with cords, which were drawn with so much violence, that their bones breaking, were heard to crack like sticks in a fagot. Amidst these tortures the officers cried out to them: “Adore the sun, and obey the king, if you would save your lives.” Sadoth answered in the name of all, that the sun was but a creature, the work of God, made for the use of mankind; that they would pay supreme adoration to none but the Creator of heaven and earth, and never be unfaithful to him; that it was indeed in their power to take away their lives, but that this would be the greatest favor they could do them; wherefore he conjured them not to spare them, or delay their execution. The officers said: “Obey! or know that your death is certain, and immediate.” The martyrs all cried out with one voice: “We shall not die, but live and reign eternally with God and his Son Jesus Christ. Wherefore inflict death as soon as you please; for we repeat it to you that we will not adore the sun, nor obey the unjust edicts.”

Whether the governments would have us worship the sun, burn incense to the emperor or give our acceptance of “same sex marriage,” we must not obey what is unjust or forces us to go against what God commands. It may only cause us overt persecution or it may cause us hardship, perhaps legal action, but we need to be prepared for being called on to make the choice—for God, or against God. It might not happen to you or personally, but Our Lord did warn us that we must accept this:

The World’s Hatred. 18 If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. 20 Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,* because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’ (John 15:18-25)

And so, we must prepare for darker times, which continue to come faster than I expect. We must prepare to continue to carry out our mission. As Cardinal George said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” None of us want to die in prison, let alone the public square for the faith. But if it does happen by death or by lawsuit or by imprisonment, we must respond in love, blessing and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) and seeking to convert them. This is true, whether persecution comes from unjust judges interpreting unjust laws or whether it comes at the hands of fanatics like ISIS.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflection on St. Robert Bellarmine: Something to Consider If Alarmed by the Synod

Saint Robert Bellarmine

As I read some of the Catholic blogs out there written by people deeply troubled by the summary report of the first half of the synod, I keep thinking of the letter St. Robert Bellarmine wrote to Foscarini in 1615. In discussing the new theory of the heliocentric view of the Solar System and what it meant for Scripture, the saint (who personally did not believe heliocentrism was true) said this in response:

I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them than what is demonstrated is false.

It is a good principle to remember: the truth of a source is not disproved by a misunderstanding of it, and if what we think is the proper understanding turns out to be false, we need to look to sources we know to be true and see if we have personally invested into it something never intended to be taught. For example, St. Robert Bellarmine was invested in the idea that the Scriptures were literally describing the movement of the planets and stars as geocentric. But he recognized that if it could be proved that heliocentrism was true, we’d have to recognize that Scripture was misunderstood, not that either science or Scripture was false.

The truth, as we now know, is that the Scriptures used phenomenological language—that is, language that describes how it looks from our perspective. For example, we still refer to “sunrise” and “sunset” (even in meteorological reports) because that is a description of how the sun appears, and did not intend to make scientific declarations on how the universe functioned.

But even now, there are a few vocal fringe groups of Catholics who try to argue that geocentrism is true because they have a false understanding of how Church teaching works, fearing that admitting that if members of the Church once thought wrongly about how the Solar System was constructed, it means denying the authority of the Church to teach.

I believe this is similar to the case with some individuals looking at the relatio that came out yesterday. They have a set idea on what the Church can even discuss in terms of binding teaching. They see the synod relatio mentioning reaching out to people in invalid marriages, people cohabiting and people in same sex relationships and are scandalized by things being mentioned that might be interpreted as downplaying the moral teaching of the Church. They fear that the Church might end up teaching error.

I think St. Robert Bellarmine has the attitude that should be followed. Like his faith in the inerrancy of Scripture, we need to keep faith in God protecting His Church from error. If an individual thinks that the Church cannot do a thing, and the Church does do that thing as a formal teaching, then it is more reasonable to recognize that he or she has erred than to think that the Church has erred.

We know that the Church cannot err in teaching matters essential for salvation. We know that wrongly telling people in sin that they are not sinning is an error in matters essential for salvation. Therefore we know that the Church cannot teach people in sin that they are not sinning.

We should remember this and not panic when we hear reports of the relatio and how some think it means the Church is going to change her teaching.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Understanding the Nature of the Church

With the current attacks on the Catholic Church in the United States of America, we see that a large portion of Americans and even some American Catholics seem to believe the propaganda used by her opponents – the canards of "celibate old men" who are trying to "control" people and "impose their views on others."  It is believed that if the Church were not governed by this group, it would have different teachings on sexuality.

Such a view demonstrates a lack of understanding, thinking it is about factions and not understanding why the Church acts as she does.

The first thing to realize is Christianity is not some sort of philosophy with competing schools of thought.  It is not a human system of gaining some sort of enlightenment.  Christianity is a revealed religion given to the world by Christ which is focused on the salvation of humanity – the reconciliation of God with man.  Christianity acknowledges that each person is estranged from God, but God redeems us because He loves us.

Reconciliation between God and man indicates a separation between God and man exists however.  Reconciliation also indicates a response on our part – a desire to change our lives, rejecting behaviors and attitudes which are contrary to a loving relationship with God.  The behaviors and attitudes may differ.  The person uneducated in religion may be bound up in sex and drugs, while the person who is more advanced in faith might struggle with pride and disdain.  In any case, no person can honestly claim to be without need for God's grace and no person honestly can claim to be without sin.

Second, the Church is not a "School of thought" that forms around a certain interpretation of Christ the Philosopher.  The Church is the means Christ chose to bring His salvation to the world.  From the Twelve Apostles to the present day, the Church preaches the message of salvation to the world.  She reminds the world that every person is in sin and needs to repent to enter the right relation to God.  The Magisterium of the Church is not supposed to be a career (though some have treated it this way).  One doesn't enter the priesthood with the goal of getting a "promotion" to Bishop or Cardinal.  The intended role of the clergy is to serve Christ looking after His flock.  The priest or bishop who looks it as a career looks at it wrongly.

The teaching authority of the Church ensures the teaching of Christ passed on to the Apostles remains uncorrupted.  She evaluates, accepting the compatible formulations and rejecting those which contradict this teaching.  This includes what we believe about God, doctrinally, and the moral teachings we are called to follow.

Because certain behaviors are incompatible with the relationship of God and man, the Church must speak out – both to the whole world and to the members of the faithful.  To the former to inform them there is a God who loves them and to call them to holiness.  To the latter to remind them that Christianity is not a "check the box and move on."  It is a lifelong relationship with God, constantly growing more intimate.  The Church must speak out even when such vices are morally acceptable to the world.

Third, those who would claim to be Catholic must, obviously, accept what the Church teaches.  Can you imagine the NAACP accepting as a valid point of view that blacks are naturally inferior to whites?  Can you imagine B'nai B'rith accepting the views of a member that the Nazis were right?  Of course not!  Such views are grossly incompatible with the purpose of these groups.  Nobody would accuse the NAACP of bigotry for refusing to accept as a member someone who was openly racist.  Nobody would accuse B'nai B'rith of intolerance for refusing to accept a Nazi skinhead into their ranks.

Moreover, why should someone who openly rejects the beliefs of such a group want to be a member to begin with?

But this is the problem with the so-called "cultural Catholic" who dissents from Church and wants to change her teachings.  They effectively deny what the Church believes about herself.  Given the scope of what she claims (that she is the true Church established by Christ and teaches with Christ's authority, not her own), the dissenter has a dilemma.

  1. If what she teaches is false, no sane person should even want to remain in a Church that makes such a wild claim.
  2. If what she teaches is true, the dissenter is not rebelling against man, but against God.

Either way, the attempt to get the Church to "change her views" is absurd.  If her teachings are false, she is a sect of people who dress funny one day a week.  People are free to leave such an institution.  If one thinks the Church is not Christ's, they are fools to remain in her and have no cause for complaint because the Church teaches differently than they like.

BUT, if she is what she claims to be, she cannot change what she teaches to be held definitively because to do so would be unfaithful to the God she believes in.  She then must stand firm against all the hostility of the world, when compromise would be humanly easier.  People are still free to leave her, but to do so would be to trade truth for a lie.

In the first case, the attempt to change Church teaching is a waste of time.  In the second case, it is rebellion.

I believe it is clear that the Church is not on some power trip.  Because she believes she serves Christ, she must preach Christ in season and out of season.  She must preach to the ones who are in her and those who are outside her, even at the cost of being hated.

We can then see that the bishops are not being political in opposing the HHS mandate being imposed on the Church.  They believe that the government is promoting a lifestyle which is in opposition to reconciliation with God, and they must warn them that they risk losing everything if they continue on the path.