Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Monday, May 3, 2021

It’s Iimi! Asking the Right Questions

Rick asks Iimi why she believes in God instead of Thor, hoping to make her look foolish. Iimi points out that there is a lot that Rick needs to learn—such as why monotheism over polytheism—in order to make a coherent argument along those lines. If one assumes that “all religions are fake” and never tries to learn, their questions merely sound ignorant.














Friday, June 5, 2020

Double Standards: Not All Injustices Are Viewed as Equal, But They Remain Unjust

“When you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

—Bill De Blasio, Mayor of New York City

“However, as public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators' ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders.”

—Open Letter of 1200 health care professionals

One thing that shows up during the protests#—just as they have any other time there is injustice—is the attitude of “But, what about X? Why are you focusing on Y instead of X?” Alternately, we see “Why are you focusing on this now when you were silent all these other times?” These comments usually spark internet brawls, where the people who think Y is more important than X respond with anger, thinking that these objections show that the people who say them “don’t care” about injustice.

It’s true that some people do say these things because they don’t care. But others have legitimate concerns about injustices that others either don’t care about or don’t understand. I think the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12a) is important here: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. If we want others to care about the injustice we suffer, that shows caring about the injustice others suffer is a moral imperative. Saying Y is more immediately urgent than X is one thing. But holding a double standard based on one’s own biases of what is important and what is to be guilty of injustice as well. 

In other words, before you say, “That’s different,” remember that some people think the same way about your cause. If you don’t want others to dismiss your cause, don’t dismiss theirs, even if you think one cause is in more urgent need of correction than another.

I began reflecting on this when New York City mayor De Blasio announced that he was going to tolerate protesters violating quarantine rules but keep them in place for religious services, because these cases were an exception to the rule. Since the (presumably) peaceful right of assembly is included in the same amendment as the freedom of religion, we have a clear-cut case of the double standard. If the laws of health are so important that religious groups cannot hold services because of the risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19 then, logically, the risk of thousands of people gathered in close spaces to protest must be held to the same standard. And health experts are expressing grave concern over the rioters spreading contagion. Some “health professionals” have apparently signed a letter saying that the need to protest outweighs the need to quarantine, but it’s the same double standard. What determines a “need” is based on what the person considers important and what others consider a need is not.

But that’s precisely the attitude behind the injustice that is currently being protested—the recognition that the treatment of certain people and issues are being handled unjustly based on what those in charge think is important and what they don’t care about. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the protestors’ perception§, they resent that what they have seen as injustice for decades was dismissed as not important or not as bad as they thought. 

This is why the Golden Rule is important in all times and all circumstances. If we want to have people treat our cause justly, we must make sure we treat the causes of others justly. That doesn’t mean “give in to everything.” Justice is giving to others what is their due by right. A human being must be treated like a human being in all circumstances. But when a demand unjustly harms others, giving into it is not just. For example, we cannot give into the demands of a manifestly unjust group like Planned Parenthood in the name of “justice,” because their promotion of abortion harms other human beings, treating them as less than human.

Having one standard of treatment for one group, and a different standard for a second group is unjust, regardless of whether the second group is treated better or worse than the first. If seeking the public good is a requirement of good government, it cannot be selective in making or enforcing laws out of sympathy for one group or antipathy for another.

In dealing with the quarantine laws, regarding the protests and the freedom of religion, we must not have different standards for different people. If the conditions of contagion bar large groups from meeting, we must apply that to all large groups. But if the conditions do not bar all large groups, then we need to make clear what differences make one group safer than another.

Otherwise, especially if it becomes clear that the different standard is based on indifference or antipathy to one group, we’re guilty of injustice.    

 

____

(‡) At the time of my writing this article.

(#) When I speak of protests, I am of course speaking of peaceful and lawful protests, not rioting.

(†) For example, I find it sad to see some people are angrier over the symbolic actions taken to protest the death of George Floyd then they are over the actual death of George Floyd.

(§) I’m more inclined to think now that they have a valid objection than I was ten years ago. That’s because I have ten more years of experience in what goes on in the world and ten more years of studying Church teaching than I had before.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Two Senses of "Religion" and the Danger of Denying Them

Introduction

There are two senses to the word "religion." The first sense comes from the belief that it is true. The second comes from the belief it is not true. The importance of being aware of both senses is important to avoid the loss of religious freedom.

The first sense of the word is the sense of the believer. A religion makes claims about the nature of reality that impacts everybody whether they believe it or not. For example, if God exists, then the atheist worldview (which denies the existence of any type of divinity) must be false. If Jesus Christ is God in the sense that Christianity believes Him to be, then logically the religions that claim He is not must be false. That's the law of non-contradiction at work. It lets us know that truth exists about the accuracy of religious claims—which means we can find out truth about religion if we choose to seek it. And once we find it, we live in accordance with it. That's a binding requirement of everyone, whether they believe in a religion or not.

The second sense is the sense of how one who does not accept a religion as true can approach it.  One can know about a  religion even if he or she does not accept it as true. In this sense we can know about religion as an organized understanding of how people believe the universe works and how they believe people should live in it. Whether or not you believe a particular religion to be true, one can understand what the beliefs are and not be jerks about not believing the claims. For example, if I invite Rabbi Cohen to dinner, I don't prepare a meal of ham. If I know it's Ramadan, I don't invite a Muslim coworker to meet over breakfast. I don't believe the Jewish dietary law and the Muslim fasting are binding on me, but it is respectful not to put the believer of a religion in a situation where he has to choose between his beliefs and his friends or business etc.

So in the first sense, Religion teaches us to conform to the reality it reveals. In the second sense, we are respectful of a religion we don't agree with because we recognize it has behaviors which members voluntarily take upon themselves because they feel obligated. Even when we believe their behavior is wrong (as opposed to a difference of opinion), we behave like civilized people in doing so.

The Failure to Respect Either Sense Leads to Persecution

Unfortunately, in modern society there is a growing tendency to reject both aspects of religion. Basically, there is no interest in seeking out the truth and no interest in respecting the conscience of believers. This has the result of doubly violating the freedom of religion.

In denying freedom of religion in the first sense, it is believed that there is no binding truth, therefore no person can claim that there is an obligation to behave rightly when doing so goes against the edicts of the state. There is a right way to act, because truth exists (for example, if the fetus is a person then it can never be right to kill the fetus by abortion). But if one denies the obligation to live according to truth, then moral obligation is seen as nothing more than personal preference. Opposing the legality of abortion is seen as no more reasonable than not eating pork. So the person who believes abortion is wrong is accused of "forcing your views on people." Even if a majority of Americans should happen to believe Christian morality is true, trying to pass laws that reflect that belief

In denying religious freedom in the second sense, our nation has de-evolved to the bigotry we claim to have moved beyond. Who gives a damn if the Catholic believes he can't support paying for contraception? Who gives a damn about a Muslim or Jew believing he cannot eat pork? If your religious beliefs interfere with my whims, then your religious beliefs must be opposed!

Logical Errors that Lead to Ignoring the Consideration of Truth

Whenever the appeal to religious freedom is made, one common response is to deny that the obligation to live according to what is true has any binding force, and deny that practitioners of religious practices can believe themselves bound to such a practice. These denials root themselves in a belief that "Well I don't believe in what you think, so why should laws exist that tell me I can't do what I want?"

Another response is an appeal to fear. The Sharia is mentioned (for example the behavior of ISIS/ISIL). Or perhaps the Satanists want a monument to counteract the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse. The argument is, "You wouldn't want to give these things  authority over you. So don't try to put your own beliefs into law."

The problem is, both of these objections overlook the obligation of seeking the truth and living in accordance with it. Two hundred years ago in America, many people simply refused to consider the question of whether enslaving people was moral, even though 400 years before that, religious teaching had condemned it. In America, we know now that slavery is wrong—very few people think otherwise. But the fact is, if we go by the (lack of) logic that rejects a moral claim because of its religious origin (that's the Genetic Fallacy by the way), then we have to reject the opposition to slavery on the grounds that it is imposing a "religious view" on others.

Just because a person personally disagrees with a law because of they see a religious motivation, does not make that law merely a "religious law" that is unjustly imposed on others. The murderer, the rapist and the thief may think laws against murder, rape or stealing should not be imposed on them. Regardless of whether one believes that murder is wrong because of the Ten Commandments or for some other reason, it is reasonable for a law to exist that forbids and punishes murder . . . it doesn't matter whether you're a Christian, a Buddhist or an atheist. So when Christians believe abortion should not be legalized, the response is to ask whether their claim about the human person is true.

As for an appeal to fear like the imposition of the Sharia or the erection of a Satanic statue on the Steps of an Oklahoma Courthouse, what we have is the fallacy known as the Category Mistake. One thinks these are the same thing as the religious freedom and moral obligation Christianity calls for. But they are not the same thing.

The general objection to the Sharia is not the fact that it teaches that a thing is wrong, but the fact that it mandates punishments we consider unjust. There's a difference between saying "we must stone an adulteress to death" and saying "abortion kills a human person." Likewise, the reason we can reject the erecting of a Satanic statue is because the purpose of it is not the same as the erection of the Ten Commandments. The erection of the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse basically makes the statement that there is objective good and evil. It does not show preferential treatment for Christianity. But the Satanic statue, on the other hand, is erected to be confrontational—basically it's the same bad behavior as the cretins from the Westboro Baptist Church who show up at the funerals of people who died from AIDS or while serving in the Persian Gulf. In both cases, the presence is intended to distress people whose behavior or beliefs they disagree with.

Understanding the Implications

When we recognize religion in the first sense, it makes sense that people who share a sense of right and wrong will want to see the government reflect that sense. Provided they do so in a civil way, in compliance with the law and do not use coercion on others, they have this right under the First Amendment (Freedom of Religion and the rights "of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.")

Recognizing religion in the second sense means that when members of a religious minority believes they are obligated to avoid doing certain things that they believe to be evil, the elites in power do not force them to do these things.

Recognizing and respecting these senses of religion are the difference between a truly free country and one that is not free. Unfortunately, today, America is falling into that second category. I don't say that as an exaggeration. We behave differently than the cases of totalitarian nations, yes. But it is a difference of degree, not of Free vs. Not Free when it comes to religion.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thoughts on Religious Freedom, Conscience and Truth

Religion and Religious Freedom

The first thing for people to realize—whether you believe in a higher power or not—is that religion is humanity living in right relationship with the Divine.

Once you realize that, we can recognize that Religious Freedom is the freedom to live in accordance with this right relationship with the Divine without the state interfering.

Understanding this, the violation of Religious Freedom is the coercion to compel a person to act against what he believes is the right relationship with God or forbids him to do what he believes he must do. So when the government, society, or the employer threatens the life, liberty or property (behave this way or be dead/imprisoned/fined/fired) of the person or group for living in right relationship with the Divine, this is the violation of religious freedom.

The right relationship with the Divine affects all aspects of the individual's life . . . which includes the right to vote and legally influence the government to do what is right and just. The person who recognizes God exists has the obligation to live life in accord with His will

Now we will have to dig deeper, because what I have written above can be twisted to justify anything. Yes, some belief systems contradict other belief systems, and the balancing act of society is how to prevent one group into coercing another group into behaving in a way that is evil without opening the floodgates to "anything goes."

Religious Freedom and Conscience

Bl. John Henry Newman described the problem this way:

Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a license to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will. (Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 5)

We have rights because we have obligations to obey our conscience—a word which is grossly abused today (and in the 19th century). People confuse conscience with the autonomy to do anything that doesn't personally bother you. The problem with that standard is, a sociopath may not feel anything telling him his behavior is wrong. But that doesn't mean what he does is not wrong. It only means he is not aware of anything telling him it is wrong . . . which is a terrible way to run a society.

So let's look at  the truth of "Conscience has rights because it has duties." Conscience must be formed. A person knows nothing about a topic, he or she may not realize that there is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in relation to that topic. So it's not enough to say "I don't see anything wrong with X so it must be OK." One has to look into the truth of the issue in order to form the conscience correctly.

Conscience and Truth

So that gives us another key to the puzzle. Conscience must be formed in relation to truth, not to opinion or what is culturally acceptable. If the culture goes wrong, it is not a good guide to follow what it approves.

ThirdReich

This is why we can't rely on what society accepts to determine right and wrong

 Truth is to say of what is, that it is and of what is not, that it is not (to borrow from Aristotle). We have to know what is true and what is not true when it comes to determining how we must behave. That does begin with investigating the teachings of God. If God exists, and we are obligated to do as He teaches, then determining right and wrong must be in agreement with that teaching.

Combining the Chain: Truth, Conscience, Freedom of Religion—and God

Truth is the basis of conscience and conscience is the basis of freedom of religion . . . and every other right in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment could be called "The Truth Amendment." The freedoms of religion, speech, the press, assembling peacefully and petitioning the government for redress of grievances all deal with:

  • Seeking the Truth
  • Living in Accord with the Truth
  • Sharing the Truth with others (peacefully)

All people have this obligation. It's an obligation no government can interfere with.

In the Declaration of Independence, we are told:

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.

Note that it is the Creator, not the state, that has granted these rights. Because they are given by a source above and beyond the authority of the state, the state cannot interfere with these rights.

Unfortunately, in America we are seeing the usurpation of these rights. Factions who have the ear of the government try to tell us we cannot refuse providing services that we find interfering with the right relationship with God, that we cannot  speak out or pass laws against behavior that is harmful to people.

Ultimately, the actions in America interfere with seeking, following and sharing the Truth. This interference with the truth interferes with the ability to carry out our responsibilities. Because of this, our freedoms are impaired.

Phony Rights

Yet at the same time we are prevented from carrying out our responsibilities in right relationship with God, the state is inventing rights, which have nothing to do with responsibility.

10516649_10203475582082078_4787081454201098087_n

When Autonomy Replaces Obligation as the basis for a Right

Abortion and "Gay Marriage" are not issues where we have the truth leading us to moral obligation. They are issues where proponents want to be free of moral obligation. In other words, modern society has stood the idea of freedom on it's head. There is no truth to the claim that a person has the power to kill another person arbitrarily . . . but that is what abortion does. There is no truth to the claim that two people of the same gender can marry when the essence of marriage is one man and one woman can form a permanent union with the intention to being open to the transmission of life. In fact, it is impossible for a same sex relationship to do this.

With no truth, there is no moral obligation to carry out these acts. With no moral obligation to carry out, there is no right to do these things. Even if a permissive group should say "We see nothing wrong with this," it doesn't mean the person has the right to do it. Indeed, to say "I don't see anything wrong with it, so it is OK to do it is the argument from ignorance fallacy: I don't think it is wrong, so it must be ok.

Argument from ignorance

 Just Because You Don't See Anything Wrong Doesn't Mean It is OK

Conclusion

Ultimately, it is the failure to recognize that the chain of truth—»obligation—»right that plagues our country. We believe "rights" mean freedom of activity to do as we wish. Thus we get bizarre rulings from the courts, like the"right" to abortion, contraception, and "gay marriage." At the same time we see that genuine rights rooted in the obligations brought on by truth are spurned and attacked as being bigotry.

That's where the person of good will who seeks the truth has to pause. If the concept of the obligation to seek out, follow and share the truth is denied, our nation becomes unfree, no matter how many "rights" the courts and the politicians may invent.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two Attitudes. Two Questions. Two Considerations

Two Attitudes

I have noticed two common attitudes towards religion who try to avoid thinking about it.

The first is the attitude of indifferentism. Indifferentism is basically the attitude that all religions are pretty similar and the differences between them are minor quibbles that don't matter as long as we are all "nice" to each other. (Never mind the fact that what qualifies as being "nice" differs from religion to religion).

The second is the attitude of skepticism. Skepticism also looks at all the religions and sees the differences. The attitude of the skeptic is to look at all the differences and say, "we can't know which one, if any, is true so it doesn't matter if we just opt out of choosing."

These two attitudes—two sides of the same coin—make a universal conclusion out of the differences. Either they are insignificant or insurmountable and therefore religion doesn't matter. Accept or reject religion as you like.

Two Questions

I think these two attitudes can be addressed by two questions. For the Indifferent, the question is:

How do you know they're all equally valid?

For the skeptic, the question is:

How do you know they're all equally unimportant?

Two Considerations

The fact that there are different religions and that they say different things is not a matter of indifference. If there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, then one cannot reasonably say that it doesn't matter what way is chosen. Indifference is a positive laxness that does not think that the differences mean anything. Therefore one is as good as another. But just because the indifferent person sees the differences as unimportant doesn't mean that the differences are unimportant. In the world of law, thinking differences are unimportant and ignoring them can get a person in trouble if the person enforcing the law discovers you chose the wrong understanding of what is right.

This also applies to following God—if God has made known how He wants His followers to follow Him, choosing any old way to act is acting wrongly. Consider the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, or the rebelling of Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12). This was not a matter of indifference to God.

Dr. Peter Kreeft has used this example. Imagine a mountain with many roads going upwards. How do you know they all reach the top? The wrong path will not get you to the desired destination. So if one path is the path God has made (John 14:6) and the others are manmade, then the indifferent attitude that holds that one path is as good as another is a dangerous one indeed.

The skeptic takes an attitude of negative laxness. It too looks at the differences in the claims but, unlike the indifferent, the skeptic sees the contradictions and concludes that we can't know if any of them are true so we can safely ignore all of them. But when you think about it, does that attitude really make sense?

If you should go to a foreign country and are not sure what the traffic laws are, it would be foolish to head out on the road while thinking it doesn't matter if you choose to follow none of them. You would soon be before a judge. You couldn't plead "I didn't know so I thought it wasn't important!" The judge would ask why you didn't bother to at least try to seek out the rules.

Conclusion

Now you may ask me, "with all the competing views, how can I begin to find the right path?" (Now if you ask me personally, I'll try to save you some time and say, "It's the Catholic Church." But since I presume you meant, "How do I search for the right path…?" read on). The answer is, you need to seek out what is true—which means discerning what is true as opposed to what pleases you or what you want to be true.

A lot of people stop at "What gives me pleasure" and never asks whether what feels good is actually good. People get caught up in destructive relationships, alcohol, drugs, etc. They can't see beyond the pleasure and thus can't see that they are not searching for what is truth. Self delusion and fear of losing what is safe can often lead to never beginning the search.

The truth can be described as, to say of what is, that it is; and to say of what is not, that it is not is to speak the truth. So that's the first step. Looking for what is true by seeing if it is what it claims to be. When a claim is made whether about atheism, pantheism, paganism, monotheistic faiths and Christian denominations, the question "Is it true?" must be asked concerning the claims by the group and the claims made about the group (remember, people often speak falsely about what they don't know).

A search may take a long time. God calls a person on His time, not at your convenience. (And yes, I absolutely believe God exists and loves you personally regardless of whether or not you know Him yet). But the fact that a person has not yet encountered God doesn't give him or her the right to quit searching and just say, "Close enough, I'll just settle for this."

Just remember that it is never right to say "It doesn't matter which one I pick or even if I pick none of them." If you honestly seek the truth and pray to God to lead you to Him, you will eventually meet Him.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Used To Call This Indoctrination…

When an opponent declares, "I will not come over to your side," I calmly say, "Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.

 

—Adolph Hitler.  November 6, 1933

Introduction

My sister-in-law told me about an event called "Day of Silence" put on my a group called GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network).  While this information came too late for me to write about this as a warning before it happened, I can at least comment on this so people of good will can be aware of what can only be described as propaganda aimed at indoctrinating the youth.

The claimed purpose of this event is to protest against bullying in the public schools.  However, when one looks at the materials, what we see is a concerted effort to undermine the moral teaching authority of parents and their religious faiths through misrepresentation and bad logic.  It is intended to push a radical agenda which portrays "alternate sexual preferences" as merely a matter of taste and not morality.  Because this activity happens in schools, it aims its agenda at people who are considered vulnerable with no chance defending the family religious beliefs until after the fact.

The designed exercises seem aimed to presenting their views as true while pressuring youth who know what is right to cave in or keep silent.

My sister-in-law tells me she kept her son home from school on the day of the event (4/19/13).  After reading the material, I can only conclude she is a very wise woman.  While I only found out about this event after the fact, I still think it is good to write about this so that people may be aware of this in the future and consider how they might protect their children from overt indoctrination.

Because there is so much to consider, I will focus mainly on one area of attack which happens to be my area of expertise.

Undermining Religious Beliefs of a Family

One example of their tactics in indoctrination is to ask whether Jesus condemned homosexuality in the Bible.  They answer that Jesus did not condemn homosexuality.  They point out that these condemnations show up in Paul and in the Old Testament.  The intended conclusion they want to draw is that if Jesus was opposed to homosexuality, He would have condemned it by name.

The problem is, by this logic, Jesus never condemned bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia or the like.  He never condemned incest either.  Come to think of it, He never mentioned consent either, so rape is theoretically OK by this argument. 

So are we to assume that Jesus was an "anything goes" type of person?  If we accept this kind of argument, we have to assume Jesus was in favor of all sorts of sexual behavior – behavior that promoters of homosexuality get extremely angry over when we point this out.

Actually the "Jesus never said anything about [X]… therefore [X] is ok" argument is a logical fallacy called "argument from silence."  The reason this fallacy makes the argument invalid is because silence neither proves support or hostility.  However, we can find out what Jesus thought about marriage from other things He said.  For example, Matthew 19 tells us:

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19: 4-6)

So what we see is that while Jesus never explicitly condemned homosexuality by name, he explicitly declares that God's intention (from the beginning [see Matt 19:8]) is for man and woman to be married in a lifelong relationship.

What this shows is we have people who are willing to misrepresent what Jesus taught in order to undermine the family beliefs and convictions.

Conclusion

So here's why you should be alarmed, whether you have children in school or not.  People who are willing to misrepresent what a person says in order to make a point are behaving dishonestly.  Even if one disagrees with Christian teaching on sexual morality, a person of good will should want to condemn a deliberate misrepresentation made in order to deceive someone (called sophistry).

If a group claims to want tolerance and dialogue, they should be open to seeking out the best possible representation of both sides to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.  But if they misrepresent, if they use false arguments, if they intimidate in order to get young people to support their position then we do not have tolerance and dialogue.

Instead we have indoctrination and propaganda.

People of good will should be aware of the fact that this sort of event engages in unscrupulous tactics to push an agenda that parents have every right to oppose.  Parents who oppose such events should be supported, and schools who try to allow such events should be opposed.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brief Reflection on "Science Saved My Soul"

Someone on Facebook shared the video, Science Saved My Soul, the upshot being the video makes the claim that science saved his soul from religion.  Watching the video and reading the transcript, I was struck by how bad it was.   So what is wrong with it?

The man has minimal knowledge of religion and assumes it to be an enemy of science.  He asks:

If God exists, God made this. Look at it. Face it. Accept it. Adjust to it, because this is the truth and it’s probably not going to change very much. This is how God works. God would probably want you to look at it. To learn about it. To try to understand it. But if you can’t look—if you won’t even try to understand—what does that say about your religion?

The funny thing is, many scientists were Catholics who believed that because God created the universe, the universe must be reasonable.  The myth of Galileo aside, it was the Catholic Church who did the most to advance Astronomy (35 craters on the Moon are named for Jesuit astronomers).   Cathedrals were built to function as observatories. 

Consider that.  Now consider the narrator's words:

Religions tell children they might go to hell and they must believe, while science tells children they came from the stars and presents reasoning they can believe. I’ve told plenty of young kids about stars and atoms and galaxies and the Big Bang and I have never seen fear in their eyes—only amazement and curiosity. They want more. Why do kids swim in it and adults drown in it?

Now consider that the founder of the theory which would become to be known as The Big Bang Theory was Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître – a Catholic priest from Belgium who was an astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain.  He founded it in 1927.  He was the one who demonstrated the expansion of space was shown by the red shift of galaxies.

(Religious person – must be ignorant of Science according to the video)

The person who says Science and Religion are in conflict may know a great deal of Science – but he or she is demonstrating a profound lack of knowledge of religion.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bleak Fourth of July

        

         “Why do you recite my commandments
         and profess my covenant with your mouth? 
         You hate discipline;
         you cast my words behind you!"
(Psalm 50:16b-17)

—From the Responsorial Psalm for July 4th, 2012

Independence Day is the day we celebrate the birth of our nation from being a colony of England.  The nation was founded on the recognition of the fact that man had, by his very nature, inalienable rights that do not come from the state so the state cannot take them away.  We have always been a free nation in principle, though tragically we have sometimes in our history failed to recognize that certain groups of people had the status of men, seeking to deny them the rights due to all human beings.

The Founding Fathers always recognized the concept of Natural Law .  They recognized that there is a way which all human beings should behave which fits into their nature of being human, not being an animal.

The point is, in our Declaration of Independence, our justification for breaking away from the British Empire was based on the premise that a government which is in opposition to the natural law must be altered or abolished.

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.

This is not "Hallmark Card" sentimentality.  This is a recognition that the government cannot do what it pleases – it must always respect the natural law and the rights inherent in being human.

Recognizing this, the Founding Fathers specifically listed in the Bill of Rights restrictions against legislation that was in opposition to those natural laws.  To go against these principles is to become a government destructive of these ends.

The First Amendment, as written, recognizes the freedom of conscience to do right before God and the need to speak out openly when the nation does wrong as one of these unalienable rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, the government cannot do the following:

  1. Interfere with religion by either promoting one denomination or preventing one from exercising their faith freely.
  2. Interfere with the ability to speak openly without fear of government reprisals
  3. Interfere with the ability to write openly without fear of government reprisals.
  4. Interfere with the ability to peaceably assemble concerning grievances against the government.

It's a wise Amendment to the Constitution.  It prevents the Government from forcing the people to do evil and prevents them from silencing condemnation when they do wrong.

Or so it was in theory.

It is a sad Independence Day this year, because some of us are fearful that the Government of the United States will interfere with the free exercise of religion by mandating that Catholic Schools and Hospitals, and Catholics who run their own businesses will be mandated to provide certain services which faithful Catholics believe go against the command of God.  The only way to avoid this, is to limit the services to Catholics alone (though I suspect a discrimination lawsuit would quickly follow).

So a Catholic Hospital must choose between disobeying God when it comes to caring for the (non-Catholic) sick or disobeying God by trivializing sex as if it were merely an "itch to scratch."

Preventing a member of a religion from doing what their faith tells them they must do – without fear of repercussions – is indeed prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Unfortunately, this is not merely a problem of a corrupt government.  We've had warning signs for years.  Pharmacists risking loss of their jobs for refusing to sell abortifacient drugs have been met with silence or a public attitude of "so go work elsewhere if you can't do your job."  Owners of a business who are religious and believe they cannot offer services supporting so-called "Gay Marriage" are sued for "discrimination."

Basically, we have a society which tolerates injustice in the name of an ideology they support.  So, "Throw the bums out" is only part of the issue.  If people will keep voting the bums back in, ignoring the abuses if they support the preferred ideology, we will continue to have these problems until one day we might be unable to vote the bums out any longer – because they won't let us.

What is happening is the Government has taken and altered the First Amendment in practice:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If this action by the Obama administration is allowed to stand, it means that apart of the First Amendment can be ignored.  We will have permanently lost a part of the freedoms the Government has no right to take away from us.  Any future religious group can be coerced by the administration in power if its beliefs are inconvenient.

This is why I find the state of affairs so bleak this July 4th.  We are still free this year, though our freedom is challenged.  How many more Independence Days will we have before we are no longer free?

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Told You So…

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

Back in June of 2011, I wrote a post entitled "The Sooner We Realize America Is No Longer Free, The Sooner We Can Take Action."  Today I see in the news that HHS Secretary Sebelius has gone on to show that the Obama administration is without question hostile to the concept of religious freedom in America.

The announcement essentially states that religious groups are obligated to provide contraceptive coverage (including abortifacient contraceptives)  to employees, even if the religious groups believe contraception and abortifacient drugs are intrinsically evil and may never be supported.

Instead, religious groups are given until August 2013 to comply with this requirement.

As Archbishop Dolan put it:

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,”

and:

“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."

Since such an obligation forces religious groups to choose between serving God and obeying an unjust law, we are forced to become criminals because of the state.

Unfortunately, if this edict is not overturned, we will have to oppose the government of the United States by refusing to obey.  No government has the authority to compel a person to participate with evil.  If the United States takes this road, this nation will have joined the ranks of totalitarian states who use force and fear to compel people to violate what they believe God requires them to do.

That an administration should so flagrantly ignore the freedom of religion without an immediate outcry and call for the firing of Sebelius is chilling.  No it doesn't mean we're going to see "Goose stepping Nazis marching in Washington."  I doubt we'll see gulags or other concentration camps in America.  But it does mean that we have gone from a nation that says "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" to a government saying we have one year to turn our backs on God and obey the state.

I think it should be pretty clear that at this time the Obama administration is the greater of the evils when it comes to the elections, and I pray he is defeated.

Otherwise, I truly fear what our nation will become.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

TFTD: Bigotry By The 'Tolerant'

Anyone ever notice that the most intolerant people out there are the people who champion tolerance? 

When it comes to dealing with views they dislike, they are perfectly willing to spew invective demonizing their opponents and seeking to prevent themselves from operating any sort of "public" ministry (such as hospitals and orphanages) because of their "intolerance," even though tolerate itself means:

1 allow the existence or occurrence of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.

2 endure (someone or something unpleasant) with forbearance.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

We have a denial that there are any sort of absolute moral right and wrong.  Therefore opposition to certain acts are claimed to be arbitrary and imposing beliefs on others – which is seen as morally wrong….

Wait… what?

If there is no sort of moral absolute in terms of right or wrong, then there is nothing right about being tolerant and nothing wrong about being intolerant.  Indeed, under the rhetoric of "tolerance," and protecting people from those who are "pushing their views on others," they are in fact intolerant and pushing their views on others.

America should wake up and realize that a major religion which has often praised America for the religious freedom which allowed her to practice her faith unhindered now feels she must prepare for a growing wave of religious intolerance in America.  This growing wave is not from fundamentalist anti-Catholics, but from the policies of the United States government.

Archbishop Dolan writes:

The federal Department of Justice has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an act of bigotry.  As you know, in March, the Department stopped defending DOMA against constitutional challenges, and the Conference spoke out against that decision.  But in July, the Department started filing briefs actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.  If the label of ―bigot sticks to us—especially in court—because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result.

So let's cut to the chase here.  If tolerance is the rule of the game, you'll tolerate us as we try to bring to the attention of the world the teachings of Christ making sober, reasoned appeals as to why our view is correct.  If you believe we are morally wrong in our stance, then you are just as obligated to show the objective basis for your position as we are for ours.

The person who refuses to do either is certainly behaving hypocritically.  The government which refuses to do either is behaving in a tyrannical manner.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Partisan Secularism

I've been thinking about the concept of the "Separation of Church and State." In theory, it means the government gives neither favor nor hindrance to any religion.  Yet, in practice it means that the state silences religion when it comes to the matters of public affairs and shows favor to secularism which is antagonistic to religion.

So essentially, in America, we have a view which says institutions which believe in God should have no say in speaking on issues involving legislation while those which either deny the existence of God or else treat it as unimportant are allowed to interfere to the extent they choose without restriction.

So when one considers this, we can see that we have a legal system in America which stands the first amendment on its head.  Churches have to be careful about speaking out on abortion or gay marriage lest they suffer tax penalties for "lobbying."  Yet non-religious organizations can lobby without concern. 

I find it interesting that one common response I've seen in comboxes is the concept that since we're not treated like religion is being treated in China, we're not being treated wrongly.  Such a view is an either-or fallacy.

  1. Either Religion in America is [persecuted like it is in China] or it is [not treated unfairly]. (Either [A] or [B]).
  2. Religion in America is not [persecuted like it is in China] (Not [A])
  3. Therefore it is [not treated unfairly]. (Therefore [B])

The error of such a view is that one need not reach the levels of persecution in China to treat religion unfairly.

What is overlooked is that in modern times, religion is viewed as yet another institution when it comes to denying the existence and authority of God (it is not given any special heed) on one hand but treated as "pushing their views on others" when it comes to speaking out on the problems of society.

Essentially this means that a secular group is permitted to seek to influence others but a religious group is not.

When one view is permitted to act and speak freely but another is not allowed to do the same, we call this unjust and showing partiality.  We call it partisan.

Yet this partisanship and partiality exists in America today.  Religion is not free.  This doesn't mean we're overtly persecuted (as some atheists have mockingly used as a straw man).  However, it does mean the state has shown itself to show partiality to secularism – giving them a free range to speak and act while restricting how churches may speak out on issues concerning the nation.  When secular institutions which favor homosexual couples adopting children and restrict religious institutions which say this is wrong, this is in fact partisan behavior in favor of secular beliefs.

This is why I believe America is no longer a free nation in terms of religion.  Yes, I am free to write this blog, yes there is Catholic radio and TV out there which can broadcast without interference.  However, when the state shows partiality to one side it follows the other side is either hindered or not given the same rights.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God, Invisible Pink Unicorns and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

I had a drive-by atheist come by the other day anonymously posting a comment on a post I wrote over a year ago.  There was nothing especially brilliant about what he said.  Essentially it boiled down to "Prove God exists," while making use of the Argument from Silence and the Shifting the Burden of Proof.

Such drive-by trolling indicates a certain type of thinking:

  1. It presumes anything which exists has a physical existence.
  2. If one can't prove a physical existence of a thing, it isn't true.

This is where we get the concepts of the "Invisible Pink Unicorn" and "The Flying Spaghetti Monster" invoked by some atheists as a mockery of the belief in God.  (It's essentially a rehashing of Bertrand Russell's Tea Cup).

There is a problem with such materialist beliefs.  Let's use the following exercise to demonstrate it:

  1. Think of your hair color.
  2. Are you aware of your hair color?
  3. Are you aware of being aware of your hair color?
  4. Prove that your thought in #3 exists.

This is the problem with materialistic atheism in a nutshell: In order to attack the belief in God, they have to make use of special pleading (exempting themselves from the standard they demand others follow).  Anything which is not material is denied to exist.  A counter example is used.  The response is to try to explain away the counter example as not mattering.

The end result of this is to recognize some important facts.  Science is entirely limited to the physical realm of things which are observable in some way.  That's good for what it can do.  However, it becomes useless in determining something beyond the scope of the physical realm.  If such a thing exists, the fact that science cannot detect it indicates a limitation of science, not a delusion in thinking it exists.

This doesn't mean "Science is useless."  Instead it means we use science for dealing with the material world and with material causes, and recognize that to try to use it in dealing with the supernatural is just as effective as using a microscope for astronomy.

Let's consider a historical example (For a more detailed view of this example, see my previous article here).  Prior to 1492 [Let's leave aside all the other claims of who "really" discovered America as a distraction], the belief of Columbus was one could sail West to get to China.  His critics claimed he underestimated the size of the Pacific Ocean and one couldn't carry enough food to reach China from Europe.

At this time, a European speculating that a land mass existed between Europe and Asia would not be able to prove it scientifically… but that doesn't change the fact that the Americas existed.  The hypothetical European who used materialistic views to demand proof that such a continent existed, could argue that there was no evidence and since there was no evidence, it was more reasonable to assume such a land mass did not exist.

The point is: Lack of physical knowledge of a thing does not mean there is no reason to believe it exists. 

I want to offer a caveat however.  I am not saying we are free to therefore believe anything.  Reason is still important, and we should not merely go and accept Tertullian's maxim of "I believe because it is absurd."  There are good reasons not to believe in the ancient Greek gods for example and those reasons do not deny the existence of one God.  Philosophical Knowledge, Logic and revelation from one who has knowledge are all valid forms of knowledge.

Philosophical knowledge and reasoning can tell us some things about a thing that does not have physical existence (such as Justice for example), and revelation can tell us of the existence of a thing we cannot verify: If Native Americans came to Europe in 1492, they would have been witnesses to the existence to something a member of Renaissance Europe could not verify on his own. 

So to conclude, it is unreasonable to demand physical proof as the only kind of proof until it can be proven that only things with a physical existence do exist.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shouldn't EVERY Day Be a Day of Reason?

Source: CNSNews.com - Atheist Group Calls on Obama to Endorse ‘National Day of Reason' Instead of 'National Day of Prayer'

You have to shake your head with the antics of certain so-called "New Atheists."  In calling for a "National Day of Reason," it is of course designed to be a slap in the face of religious believers by implying they are not reasonable.  Unfortunately they really ought to have thought this through.

As a believer, who was inspired by Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and the philosophers they found reasonable (Socrates and Aristotle) and by modern philosophers such as Peter Kreeft, I find that every day one has to use reason in considering the attacks of the faith.

Unfortunately, I think Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association does not come across as reasonable as he thinks he is.

He objects to a National Day of Prayer, saying:

With the religious right's influence in Congress, and with the threat to our Judiciary looming large, there has never been as important a moment in which to affirm our commitment to the Constitutional separation of religion and government, and to celebrate Reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy.

During the past year we have witnessed the intrusion of religious ideology into all spheres of or government with such assaults on the wall separating church and state as:

  • Faith-based initiatives in federal agencies that give preferential treatment to religious organizations which proselytize and employ discriminatory hiring practices;
  • Restrictions on important scientific research on the basis of religious objections;
  • Attempts to introduce biblical creationism and its alter-ego "Intelligent Design" into our public school science curricula;
  • The appointment of judges who willingly place their religious beliefs above our laws;
  • Battles over the display of the Ten Commandments and other overtly religious icons in schools and on courthouses;
  • Religiously motivated restrictions on access to reproductive services and information

The irony is that he goes on to say (emphasis added):

What can you do to demonstrate your support for a Day of Reason?

Plan a special event to commemorate the NDR, such as a protest demonstration, special lecture, or social gathering;

  • Work to have a Day of Reason proclaimed by your state or local government;
  • Hold a press conference for your local media to promote respect for the separation of religion and government, and to draw attention to the many breaches of that principle during recent months;
  • Organize a letter-writing campaign urging your elected officials to support the separation of religion and government;
  • Visit the National Day of Reason web site to sign-up as an endorser, to view planned events, or to read some of the media coverage from previous years.

It seems to be unreasonable to object to special privileges to religion and imposing of values on one hand, while insisting on what is effectively the same thing.  If it is a breach to have the government declare a National Day of Prayer, it logically follows that to insist on a day which is effectively a rejection of religion is also a breach.

If Speckhardt wishes to argue that secularism and atheism is true, and that such a day reflects reality, then let him build a reasoned case and present it to be reviewed instead of engaging in a Bulverism by declaring that it is already established that religion is false.  Let him demonstrate as true that religion and reason are separate.  Without doing so, Speckhardt is Begging the Question, which is not logical… logic of course being a part of reason.

If government is not to endorse any sort of faith based view, then let us see the AHA demonstrate why we should consider their views to be based on Reason and not a sort of faith or ideology in itself.

We don't need A National Day of Reason… we need 365 (366 in Leap Years) Days of Reason, independent of whether it is personal or national or global.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant: How It Is Misapplied to Religion

The Parable to Consider

"Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.

"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.

"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said."

"Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, "Maybe you have your reasons." This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking."

— Source: Jainworld.com

This kind of story is often invoked to justify religious indifferentism.  It claims no religion has a monopoly on the truth and each one has only a partial truth which limits them.  Is such a view accurate however?

The Parable is a Misunderstanding of Issues

I am inclined to think no, this is a false view of what religious disputes are about.  This Jainist parable looks at it as if religions are saying "The elephant only is like a pillar" or "The elephant is only like a rope" or so on.  This is inaccurate.

The dispute between religions is not over whether "the elephant" is like a pillar or a rope.  It is more like a dispute over whether the concept of "elephant" has a trunk or does not have a trunk.  If the elephant has a trunk, those who claim it does not err.  If the elephant normally (as opposed to a birth defect or accident) does not have a trunk, then those who claim it has a trunk err.

The elephant cannot both have a trunk and not have a trunk however.

So even if the truth "can be stated in seven different ways" as the parable says, there is still the case of speaking truth or falsehood.  No matter how many ways one speaks truth, falsehood is not truth.  This is the source of dispute over religion in all forms.

True or False?

When it comes to religious claims, there are several divisions which require an answer one way or another (This set of divisions inspired by Peter Kreeft's "Socratic Logic 3E"):

  1. "Is there any hope of finding the truth about religion?"  Agnostics/skeptics answer no.  All others answer yes.
  2. "Is there any type of God or supernatural reality which justifies the attitude of piety?"  Atheists answer no.  All others answer yes
  3. "Is there an ultimate oneness to this reality?"  Polytheism answers no.  All others answer yes.
  4. "Is this reality distinct from the universe and human consciousness?"  Pantheism answers no.  All others answer yes.
  5. "Is this reality a person rather than a force or principle?  An 'I AM'?" Vague Philosophical Theism says no.  All others answer yes.
  6. "Did this 'I AM' reveal Himself?"  Non-Religious Philosophical Theism says no.  All others answer yes.
  7. "Did this 'I AM' send any Prophet greater than Moses?"  Judaism says no.  All others answer yes.
  8. "Is the greatest prophet Jesus?"  Islam says no.  All others answer yes.
  9. "Is Jesus a divine person as well as a human person, and is God a Trinity rather than one?"  Unitarianism says no.  Trinitarian Christianity answers yes.
  10. "Did Jesus establish a single visible infallible Church with the authority to teach in His name?"  Protestantism says no.  All others answer yes.
  11. "Is the Pope in Rome the present universal head of this Church?" Eastern Orthodoxy says no.  Catholicism answer yes.

These divisions (wherever one may find themselves in it) show the flaw with the Jainist argument given at the beginning of this article.  Either there is hope of finding the truth about religion or there is not.  If the skeptics are right, then all others are wrong.  Either there is some kind of God or there isn't.  If atheists are right, then all others are wrong.  Either the supernatural is one or it is not.  If polytheists are right, all others are wrong.  Either God is distinct from the universe or is not.  If pantheistic religions are right, all others are wrong… and so on.

"What IS" is The Issue of Dispute

The point is, arguing over whether the elephant is a trunk or a leg or a tail is not what religions dispute.  It is over issues over whether a thing is or is not.  It cannot be both in the same context, so people who hold one necessarily must deny the other.

I think this set of divisions also shows the nature of the dispute between different groups.  If a Christian debates an agnostic, the ground of dispute is not over Christian doctrines but over whether we can know truth about religion.  When Christians and Eastern practitioners debate, it is over whether or not God is distinct from the universe.  When the Christian debates the Moslem, the dispute is over whether the greatest revelation is from Christ or not.  When Catholics and Protestants debate, the debate is over whether God intended one authoritative Church to teach in His name.

Obviously we can't believe that we can both know and not know the truth of religion, as these are contradictory.

Because of this, I really don't think this Jainist Parable is valid in approaching the disputes of religion.