Friday, December 31, 2004

The Irony...

The irony is that I think I got 10% of my 20% from saying I thought Bush rocks. I'm not sure where the other 10% is from... it's pretty easy to know what the 'correct' answer is on this one.
I AM 20% WHITE TRASH!
20% WHITE TRASH
I, my friend, have class. I am so not white trash. . I am more than likely Democrat, and my place is neat, and there is a good chance I may never drink wine from a box.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Religion as a political icon

Somebody going by the name Pericles put up ten ideas that "Democrats should think about for 2008" at Daily Kos back in late November. I've only just found the post through Dissect the Left. Pericles isn't dumb but a lot of what he says is foobar. I want to address two of them (it's too long to go argue point by point, but I do recommend giving the whole thing a quick lookover). I think the root of most of Pericles' errors is that he thinks that people are inherently good and rational (wrong) and that the government is (in some way that really isn't clear), synonymous with the people (wrong again), making it virtuous too. He also seems to have no understanding or appreciation for the kind of distributed decision making (think Linux) that small government minded people favour, or how such a system could create benevolent societies to support the poor morally (teaching and example), and provide money well spent (as opposed to just spent). His big government approach has Microsoft written all over it - top down, one size fits all. Pericles' comments are in blue. Mine are black. 2. Morality is not sex. Sex barely scratches the surface of morality. If your moral code instructs you to bring honesty, integrity, and compassion into all your human relationships, it's not clear that you need any special rules about sex at all. When Jesus listed the admission standards for Christians to get into Heaven (Matthew 25), not one of them concerned sex. The key idea was "Who did you help?" not "Who did you sleep with?" I dunno about this. Sex is one place where a good set of public expectations can do a lot of good. It's true there is more to morality than sex, but it is also true that if you get sex right you cut off a lot of potential problems. The traditionalist view is that sexual modesty is liberating. It is preventative because it attempts to give kids two parents to learn from, two people who can attempt to model restraint, morality, modesty and, yes, how to deal with failure in those areas. In my thinking I try to leave as many things as I can manage to an individual person and God to sort out. I don't like drugs but I think this is something people have to find out for themselves. Sex isn't like that. Sex affects everyone; the bedroom is no barrier to disease, abortion, or the social corrosion of infidelity and divorce. Inviting someone to let it all hang out sexually is like inviting them to put on a millstone and run the marathon of life. The restraint learned in sexual issues better enables people to restrain themselves in other issues as well - such as saying no to useless products that are constantly paraded before us. People with less of a millstone around their neck are people who have a greater the potential to help others. People enslaved to lust are too helpless and self absorbed to help anyone. They'd rather use them for their gratification. Warning people about this, that might qualify as helpful, don't you think? You're also blatantly overlooking the teaching that even looking with a lustful eye is sinful. This Frankenstein-like 'Christian hedonism' is just not going to hold together. 4. The Religious Right are Pharisees. Christianity belongs to us. For those liberals who don't read the Bible -- that's part of the problem, by the way -- I'll explain. All through the gospels, Jesus is being heckled by the Pharisees, a group that promoted a strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. Again and again, Jesus sides with the spirit of the law against the Pharisees' loyalty to the letter of the law. (For what it's worth, the Pharisees look much more reasonable in Jewish versions of history, where they are not foils for someone else.) The law, Jesus argues, needs to be tempered by compassion and common sense. In the Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), for example, the priest and the Levite who cross to the other side of the road (rather than help the injured man) aren't just being jerks. They're obeying the letter of the law. They're maintaining their ritual purity by not coming into contact with blood or possibly a corpse. But the Good Samaritan ignores all that in favor of a higher law: Love your neighbor as yourself. The difficult thing here is the assumption that God fits into our little box labeled left or right, ideas that only go back to the late 1700's. I doubt very much that he fits in either. Furthermore, it is simply false to say that all of the religious right subscribes to a rule based morality. It would be simpler for the left if they did, but if you want to make progress you need to move beyond cartoon characterizations of your opponents. This kind of political demonization afflicts both left and right. I might appear to do this on my own site from time to time, but I try to do this only on positions that I see as inordinately ideologically skewed. In other words, I don't demonize people who are centrists or sympathetic to soft leftists because I think we all want good things for this world. What I will try to draw attention to in people like that is ill conceived policy, policy that won't have the result intended. Often that will mean arguing in favour of less policy, so I don't think the "right wing rule obsession" accusation sticks. There are people who call themselves Christian who do subscribe to a more rule centered life but I've never considered them the last word on anything much. Liberals seem to love red tape and rules in the economic sphere, and somehow they are the ones who are "in the spirit and not the letter?" I'm not buying it. Furthermore, secular people have their own unwritten rules and can be cruel in enforcing those. Marriage and the rules surrounding it is a fact in the bible, but economic regulation is not to be found. You have in some ways turned teaching on 'the spirit and the laws' on its head. Charity and kindness belong to the public realm and steadfastness to the rules is more appropriate to sex and marriage.

When he's not talking about sex, the Pope is actually a flaming liberal.

It is one thing to argue that employers ought not to abuse their workers, it is something else again to move from that to a noose of economic regulation. Oh, sure there are voices in the Vatican that sound almost socialist. There are also voices who do not. The Vatican belongs to neither. Pericles goes on to say that Jesus is a cultural icon and that Dems must learn how to use it. Oh, that'll go over well: "use the cultural icon." Insincerity is a huge Dem problem on matters of religion and this cultural anthropology thinking certainly won't improve things. It is also hard to reconcile the party's hard line pro abort policy with Christianity. You need to do, not just say. As it stands, Christians are not comfortable with the Democrats. You need to ask them what's missing and listento what they say. Trying to fool them isn't going to cut it. *********

I was going to say more, but it's just not worth it. 'Jesus the cultural icon wants to you to pay a lot of taxes' is too stupid to bother with. Most people, for most of history, have understood The Faith to say that we are to give, not take. We don't do evil, that good may come of it. We are to give freely our own time, and our own money to those in need, whoever they may be. That is how we learn and grow. Paying taxes and saying, 'well, I guess I'm off the hook' is hardly the Sermon on the Mount, and neither is "Hey you! You need to give more." If it isn't freely given it isn't worth a can of beans. Grace is not at all the same thing as coercive taxation. In fact, I think there might be something in that old book about abusive tax collectors...

Yes, there is a secular eschatology

"Pie in the Future" Bill Vallicella (aka The Maverick Philosopher) strikes again, this time on the weird relationship between the radical left and islamist terrorists. Loved this line:
Perhaps we could say that the utopianism of the Left is a quasi-religion with a sort of secular eschatology. The leftist dreams of an eschaton ushered in by human effort alone, a millenial state that could be described as pie-in-the-future as opposed to pie-in-the-sky.
After making several good points, he concludes that leftists are "nuts." Well, that's my word. What he actually said is:
... the leftist in his naivete fails to grasp that religion, however we finally resolve the question of its validity or lack thereof, is deeply rooted in human nature. As Schopenhauer liked to point out, man is a metaphysical animal, and religion is one form the metaphysical urge takes. As such, religion is not a merely contingent expression of a contingent misery produced by a contingent state of society. On the contrary, as grounded in human nature, religion answers to a misery essential to the human predicament as such, a predicament the amelioration of which cannot be brought about by any merely human effort, whether individual or collective. Whether or not religion can deliver what it promises, it answers to real and ineradicable human needs for meaning and purpose. In their dangerous naivete, leftists thinks that they can use radical Islam to help destroy the capitalist USA, and, once that is accomplished, radical Islam will ‘wither away.’ But they will ‘wither away’ before Islamo-fanaticism does. They think they can use genuine fascist theocracy to defeat the ‘fascist theocracy’ of the USA. They are deluding themselves. Residing in their utopian Wolkenskukuheim, radical leftists are wrong about religion, wrong about human nature, wrong about the terrorist threat, wrong about the ‘fascist theocracy’ of Bush & Co., wrong about economics; in short, they are wrong about reality. (emphasis mine)
Ouch.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Good News Dep't

I could tell you what it is, but I don't want to steal Rebecca's thunder. It is a big step and we are very happy about it. I was pretty sure it would be affirmative, but nothing beats knowing it for sure. That approval letter can't get here fast enough.

Nasty Chasuble alert!

We have a winner in the Nasty Chasuble contest!

Slippery Identity

Checking out Colby Cosh's blog (yes, the guy that the National Post let go) led me to Tart Cider, a blog that he recommended. I'm always interested in new blogs, looking for things that are new an interesting to read. Cider isn't to my taste for many reasons, some of them being nothing more than personal taste (I utterly refuse to wax nostalgic for the 1970's, even when it's camp). What I did want to comment on is Chris Selly's idea that SSM is about rights, while polygamy is about freedom of religion. Selly writes that conservatives ought to stop using the threat of SSM leading, via a 'slippery slope', to legalized polygamy. Slippery slope arguments can be problematic, no doubt about it. I think the problem here is that when polygamy is brought up as the boogeyman in the SSM closet, there are two arguments at work. One is that polygamy will follow SSM in a temporal sense. If that is a slippery slope argument, I don't think it is a controversial one, and more importantly it is not where the weight of the argument against SSM rests. The second argument is the one from which the temporal argument derives. Logically, what is being argued is not that SSM will lead to polygamy; what is being suggested is that the two things are related through a practical identity. They are, in important ways, the same. SSM and polygamy both dilute the importance of self sacrifice in family life. In a well functioning traditional marriage, both man and women give up opportunities for sex and money and give themselves instead to the creation and raising of children. SSM couples have a tenuous relationship with monogamy, and one can see the problem - they are naturally sterile. One can add adopted children or children from previous families, but that doesn't really put the relationship between SSM and monogamy on much better footing. Biological parents really are fused together in the form of their kids and their love for the kids can lead them towards a deeper bond with one another, and it can get them through hard times, failure and temptation. An SSM couple with kids is not the same kind of entity, and may be more prone to wander even before the lack of physical fusion is considered. Men especially ought to know this. Generic polygamous 'couples' can see themselves fused into children who surround them, but they face a different hurdle - in effect they are placed in a position of trying to be in two places at the same time. Jealousy and resentment seem inevitable. In reality polygamy almost always means one man with many wives, and that means wives and children neglected by a lack of access to Dad's time and money. B.C. has a polygamous community called Bountiful and there is no end to the number of tearful stories of neglect and abuse brought forward by women fleeing that community. This has been going on for years and years now. Selly writes: "public opinion is far more forcefully against polygamy than it is against gay marriage, and that whereas homosexuals always numbered in the millions, the tiny number of Canadian polygamists means that public opinion is far less likely to shift." I have no doubt that what he says about Canadian public opinion is correct- and quite beside the point. In arguing against the right of Canadians to have a say on this issue via a referendum, people always point out that minority rights are not subject to a public vote. That means that polygamists will be able to claim the same standing before the courts that gays have claimed. If public opinion is all that we are standing on, we are on a thin reed indeed. Properly functioning courts ought to ignore public opinion and rule on matters of fact and law, and the fact is that from a practical point of view, SSM and polygamy are logically similar. They are about breaking and / or diluting the relationship between spouses, and the relationship between parent and child, and replacing them with a relationship that has more to do with individual rights. A referendum on the issue would not be a ruling on minority rights, but a ruling on what limits, if any, the Canadian people are willing to place on their government and courts, and on how far individual rights go. Is everything under government rule? Are there no free standing traditions and institutions? Must everything be rationalized according to merely present whims? Isn't that a bit like saying that each of us must build our entire physical and emotional support system anew each day?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Few Words About Eggs

Chesterton and The Dumb Ox Tonight I have been flipping through some G.K. Chesterton, as I am prone to do when I am restless and in need of good, solid company. As usual, he does not disappoint. The following is from his book on St. Thomas Aquinas:
... The philosophy of St. Thomas stands founded on the universal conviction that eggs are eggs. The Hegelian may say that an egg is really a hen, because it is a part of an endless process of Becoming; the Berkeleian may hold that poached eggs only exist as a dream exists; since it is quite as easy to call the dream the cause of the eggs as the eggs the cause of the dream; the Pragmatist may believe that we get the best out of scrambled eggs by forgetting that they ever were eggs, and remembering only the scramble. But no pupil of St. Thomas needs to addle his brains in order adequately to addle his eggs; to put his head at any peculiar angle in looking at eggs, or winking the other eye, or squinting at eggs, or winking the other eye in order to see a new simplification of eggs. The Thomist stands in the broad daylight of the brotherhood of men, in their common consciousness that eggs are not hens or dreams or mere practical assumptions; but things attested by the Authority of the Senses, which is from God. Thus, even those who appreciate the metaphysical depth of Thomism in other matters have expressed surprise that he does not deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of recognition of any reality is real. The answer is that St. Thomas recognized instantly, what so many other modern skeptics have begun to suspect rather laboriously; that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask... a man can be a fundamental sceptic but he can never be anything else; certainly not a defender of fundamental scepticism. If a man feels that the movements of his own mind are meaningless, then his mind is meaningless, and he is meaningless; and it does not mean anything to attempt to discover his meaning. Most fundamental sceptics appear to survive, because they are not consistently sceptical and not at all fundamental... A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but solipsism, and added that he often wondered it was not a more common philosophy. Now solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it. To this question "Is there anything?" St. Thomas begins by answering "Yes"; if he began by answering "No", it would not be the beginning, but the end. That is what some of us call common sense.
The whole bit about eggs comes about as a play on the latin -ens, "the present participle;" in philosophy it means something like "entity," something that exists. A few pages later, Chesterton points out how remarkable things follow from Aquinas' first step:
Perhaps it would be best to say emphatically (with a blow on the table), "There is an Is." That is as much monkish credulity as St. Thomas asks of us at the start. Very few unbelievers start by asking so little. And yet, upon this sharp pin point of reality, he rears by long logical processes that have never really been successfully overthrown, the whole cosmic system of Christendom.

Tsunami

I have been watching the disaster response on the other side of the planet and the horribleness of the event is such that I am quite speechless. A fine thing, that. Here I am in my comfortable house, my family intact and I have before me a plate of Christmas cookies. And over there - well, none of that. My heart goes out to those whose lives have been turned upside down and I hope and pray for the souls who are departed. It makes no sense to me, but I must remind myself that I have merely one man's perspective. My mind and my faith tell me that a peaceful, long life is not the purpose of living, and my desire for just that may be among the larger impediments to any understanding I might have. Awareness of that clash between what I want and what really is helps only a little. In instances like this it is faith that props up the mind, which, left to it's own devices would simply spin its wheels until they were bald. Currently the death count sits at about 50,000, which, if it was applied to my home town of Abbotsford, would claim the lives of every second resident. South Asians are the largest minority here, at 15% of the population, and I wonder how many of them have been directly impacted by what has happened. I suppose the stories will emerge in the local media over the next few days. Hats off, of course, to the Red Cross and all of the agencies working save those remaining form further harm. I will remember your heroic response the next time a donation request crosses my path.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Lorvic back on track

A few days ago I tore into Lydia Lorvic for a pro SSM column that was an opinion piece without the solid backing she claimed it had. She's back with a better effort, this time about an idiot who wants to be able to use the local Ladies Only Fitness Club. Oh- and he's a man. Lorvic compares the man wanting access to the women only gym to the big fru fru this summer over a Vancouver Golf Club's having a bar that did not allow women. She correctly concludes that women cannot have it both ways. If they insist on attacking the golf club, they must accept this man into their fitness gym. I think sending the trouble makers packing is the best solution in both cases. If men want to create a place where they are free of women, that's fine so long as the women have the same right, to create a club with no admittance to men. People who don't like voluntary sex segregation can choose not to visit such establishments and to tell others why they shouldn't either. Pickets and legislation are way over the top. Like SSM, the issue of voluntary gender segregation is about treating different things differently. I also want to point out that if men are different from women, an assumption underlying Lorvic's take on gender segregation, it follows that a SSM is of a different nature than a traditional marriage. If that is so, then treating it as such is no different and no more offensive than a women's only gym.

More on Enlightenment

Enlightenment as Sympathetic Liberty The Enlightenment is interesting both as a historical event and as an idea. At Policy Review Peter Berkowitz examines the same book that Jonah Goldberg looked at on NRO a few days ago, Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. I find much to admire in the English and American experience and find the French positively frightful. England:
[Edmund Burke] best known for his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which defends the wisdom embodied in tradition and condemns the French revolutionaries for seeking to remake political society on the basis of abstract theories of political right, Burke is often thought of as a leading figure of the counter-Enlightenment. But, as Himmelfarb observes, though a conservative, he is a conservative defender of liberty. He argued that free-market economics was essential to prosperity while insisting that the institutions and sentiments conserved across the centuries work to keep a commercial society from deteriorating into barbarity. Moreover, in The Sublime and the Beautiful (1774) Burke places the passion of sympathy — by which we enter into the concerns of others, see and feel as they do, and take pain at their suffering — at the center of the moral life. His credentials as an Enlightenment figure are further enhanced by the progressive stands he took on foreign policy. He supported the cause of the American colonists, insisting that England had a duty to respect their rights. And he criticized British policy in India, not because he opposed imperialism but rather because he favored, as Himmelfarb puts it, “a benevolent imperialism — a liberal imperialism, it would later be called — an empire worthy of an enlightened England that would respect the rights of the Indian people and the traditions of an ancient civilization.” ... the British example shows that enlightenment needn’t be seen as diametrically opposed to religion. Most of the outstanding thinkers were deists for whom reason and faith could coexist peacefully and who believed that both mandated the principle of toleration. Moreover, argues Himmelfarb, some explicitly religious thinkers should be considered members in good standing of the distinctly British Enlightenment. She makes the case for John Wesley and Methodism. Focusing on the feeling and experience of faith, Methodists left individuals free to form their own opinion. Insisting only on the desire for salvation of the soul, they prescribed no particular form of worship. Articulating a religious ground for the moral sense, Methodists preached the obligation to relieve the suffering of the poor and the sick.
Nor was it only for the devout that the British Enlightenment flowed readily beyond the realm of ideas. The eighteenth century was also the “age of benevolence” for the British in practice. They formed civil or voluntary associations in abundance. They established clinics and hospitals, reformed prisons and workhouses, cared for orphans, and sought to abolish slavery. Their ambition, Himmelfarb approvingly notes, was not to remake society from the ground up but to improve it.
I don't have any difficulty with Enlightenment of this sort. It is the more radical thinking of the French that is prickly:
Whereas intellectuals in England were closer to and exchanged views with those who governed, intellectuals in France sought to elaborate abstract principles for good governance and did so in complete independence of those who had responsibility to administer the state. The literary expression of their surpassing confidence in reason was the Encyclopedia, which aimed to provide a comprehensive account of human knowledge. Such was the advanced state of understanding, French thinkers believed, that they could conclude without hesitation that religion in all its forms was false.
The idea that religion and science are polar opposites is extremely commonplace today. It might be described as a bedrock idea of modernism. In other posts, I have tried to show that sound religion is the bedrock of good science, providing the axioms from which we begin. The shortest proof I think I can give is the painful circularity of the statement - "There is no such thing as Authority." Modernists don't see a problem and postmodernists embrace it as funny in a tragic, funhouse kind of way. Either way, embracing that malarkey impairs our ability to think about the existence of anything objective, leaving little room for the sympathy Burke represents:
Reason as understood by French Enlightenment thinkers issued in universal laws good for all human beings everywhere. From their point of view, there was no reason in principle that an enlightened despot could not elaborate and administer these universal rules and good reason, given the typically low opinion French Enlightenment thinkers had of the people, for believing that only an enlightened despot could grasp, and govern in accordance with, the dictates of universal reason.
This French Absolutism is in fact the rallying cry of the Starbucks' philosophe gnashing his teeth over things like the 'electoral hijacking of the Red States.' He rails against the result and cares nothing about due process. In such a line of thought, there is nothing about social ends and how to achieve them that we do not know; we fail only when we don't push the common man, who is a pig after all, hard enough. Mercy and sympathy are corruption and dissent is darkness. This Absolutism is the lodestar of people who embrace policies like Kyoto, the bicycle helmet law, the gun registry and so on. Today they like to call one another Progressives. They like it best if you don't ask them where they are progressing to or why, however. That might lead them to let it slip that their end game is 'Enlightened Despotism,' and they'd rather not let that cat out of the bag. The pigs don't like it, so what else can you do? As for me, I stand with Burke and voluntary sympathetic association.

What kind of soul are you?

You Are a Retrospective Soul
The most misunderstood of all the soul signs. Sometimes you even have difficulty seeing yourself as who you are. You are intense and desire perfection in every facet of your life. You're best described as extremely idealistic, hardworking, and a survivor. Great moments of insight and sensitivity come to you easily. But if you aren't careful, you'll ignore these moments and repeat past mistakes. For you, it is difficult to seperate the past from the present. You will suceed once you overcome the disappoinments in life. Souls you are most compatible with: Traveler Soul and Prophet Soul

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Miscellany

I hope your Christmas Day was wonderful. I wanted to do a short post of a few bits of Christmas things. For appropriate background music, click here (*.ram music file on this page requires Realplayer). Angels We Have Heard on High is my new favourite Christmas Carol and the words don't at all do it justice. You have to hear the Gloria to get it (it has a lot of O's in it).
Angels We have heard on High

Angels we have heard on high Sweetly singing o'er the plains, And the mountains in reply Echoing their joyous strains.

CHORUS Glo----ria in excelsis Deo, Glo----ria in excelsis Deo.

Shepherd, why this jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong? What the gladsome tidings be Which inspire your heav'nly song? CHORUS

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing. Come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the newborn King. CHORUS

With Christmas Day, Advent comes to a close and The Twelve Days of Christmas begin, lasting until January 9th. You would never know that by looking the media, which have nothing to do with the culture that does not involve a kickback. If they are your lens into the world you will have myriad problems - and not just with Christmas. As far as they and their advertisers are concerned, 'Christmas' is that period beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on boxing day. That tells you a lot about their focus: Buy, buy, buy, wham, here's your one or two days, now get over it. That sort of Christmas is a drag and when I hear people grumble about Christmas I have to fight the desire to smile and whisper - conspiratorial like - "psst! There's a better way, you know. There's more" and then let fly the secret. The last day of Christmas is known as Epiphany (that's more than than twelve days and I'm not sure why that is. Does Anyone know?). After January 9th, the priests' vestments will return to the green used to mark Ordinary time. White vestments are used only for special times like Christmas or Easter.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, which does not usually fall on the day after Christmas. This feast is a relatively new one, going back only until 1921, when it was pronounced as a response to the atomizing effects of modernism was and is having on the family. From today's readings:
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.
Merry Christmas everyone! **** Julie at Happy Catholic points out that Epiphany is Januray 2nd this year. We're not sure why though...

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!

The dawn from on high shall break upon us Christmas Eve. Spend time with your family. Remember your Christmas traditions. Open one present after diner or after Mass. Enjoy some food and enjoy all the lights. Don't worry about whether you've done enough. The glass is not half empty, it's half full; and though not one of us has earned it, it is available anyway.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Death Meme

This is making the rounds through some of the blogs my wife likes to keep in touch with (and me too!). No one stuck me with this, but that doesn't mean I can't take the initiative! ******* Three names you go by: Curt Sonny Grubby Three screen names you have: Curt (that's it) Three things you like about yourself: My ability to stay calm under pressure My work ethic People underestimate me Three things you hate/dislike about yourself: I can make unwarranted assumptions I can be hard on myself and others I can be shy Three parts of your heritage: German Austrian Italian Three things that scare you: Being broke Poor health Family misunderstandings Three of your everyday essentials: Internet Coffee Country music Three things you are wearing right now: Long sleeve T-shirt corduroy pants Slippers Three of your favorite bands/artists (at the moment): Gretchen Wilson Alan Jackson George Straight Three of your favorite songs at present: Nothin' Bout Love Makes Sense John Roland Wood Somebody Like You Three things you want to try in the next 12 months: Keeping up with my Bible readings Losing weight Automotive Three things you want in a relationship (love is a given): Honesty Fidelity Faith Two truths and a lie: I met my wife on the internet I have a PhD I travel 80 kms to work and back every day Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeals to you: Hourglass figure Long hair Large... eyes Three things you just can't do: Be cruel Stay away from chocolate Eat Sauerkraut Three of your favorite hobbies: Walking Blogging Reading Three things you want to do really badly right now: Take a long road trip with my wife A few fix ups around the house Adopt Three careers you're considering: I'm happy where I am Three places you want to go on vacation: Italy England Austria / Germany Three kids' names: Mary Elizabeth Molly Three things you want to do before you die: Be a Dad See Europe for the first time since I was seven Be accepted into the Catholic Church Three people who have to take this quiz now or die a painful death: Johnny Dee Andrew Ben

Enlightenment and Restoration

NRO's Jonah Goldberg takes look a two new books critical of France and drops not one, but two interesting observations about the Enlightenment, both of which have profound implications for those of us who call ourselves Conservative. More people should know this first bit. A lot more:
The French have long tried to claim that the American Revolution was merely an offshoot of the French Enlightenment project. Himmelfarb disagrees. She shows that the French took a different road to modernity than the British and Americans, who took similar but slightly different routes themselves. The British valued virtue more than liberty; the Americans had it the other way around. But where the French differed is that they sought to replace the religion of old Europe with a new cult of reason. They even made the Notre Dame Cathedral into a "Temple of Reason." The philosophes' Encyclopedie proclaimed, "Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. Grace moves the Christian to act, reason moves the philosopher." By making a religion out of politics, with the state at its center, the French never embraced liberty the way Anglo-Americans did. It was this legacy that lent intellectual heft to all the great dictators — Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. (A similar impulse also transformed American liberalism for the worse, but for that you'll just have to read my book, whenever it comes out.)
Conservatives do have to seek the seats of power - parliament, the courts, the media and key points in the culture - but the most important thing for them to hold is the culture as a whole. If we do that, we limit what Liberals can do while they are in power. They would be hobbled by their desire for power, and held back by public opinion. To have people govern themselves by conservative principles would be a victory in both the means and the ends. To think that by merely winning an election and placing a conservative government on the throne is enough to breed deep and sustaining change for the better is to engage in French / Liberal politics of 'legislated improvement.' Using Liberal means to 'conservative' ends is a hollow project. Even those who are not themselves religious need to recognize that the churches will be the means through which any conservative restoration will be achieved. The churches are how the masses spontaneously organize themselves. Atomized idividualization does not appeal to people who know they can't compete one on one with the doctors and the technorati. If you want to get them onside, you need to get them to combine and cohere to the point where their quality of life is competitive with most obviously talented. When their private family lives are rich and fulfilling, a government safety net isn't all that attractive and the taxes that support it are annoying. I also love this story because it supports another thing that I really think is true: the modern elevation of reason, and reason alone, in spheres other than hard science, is Left / French thinking, and it leads to all the problems of modernity. Goldberg:
The Enlightenment was that moment when mankind allegedly first threw off the shackles of superstition, tribalism, and tyranny and embraced reason, universal human rights, and democracy. I say "allegedly" because there are still quite a few friends of mine who resist the idea that the Enlightenment was a major step forward intellectually. This is a more interesting debate than you might think.
I think that debate is more interesting and sustainable than most are willing to concede. I'm not anti Enlightenment and I'm not remotely anti science. I do think the Enlightenment's best success was in the sciences and that we have largely failed to carry that success into other spheres of human endeavor. That failure has been expensive. Our efforts have lead to a serious neglect of religion, to the point that very large numbers of people are unable to comprehend the foundational documents of our culture: to read them, think about them, comprehend them with anything approaching the kind of depth that would have been taken for granted in anyone who called themselves educated only a hundred years ago.

Reality bites; deal with it

Micheal Leeden from NRO, commenting on Iraq:
The clear strategic conclusion remains what it should have been long before Coalition troops entered Saddam's evil domain: No matter how strongly we wish it to be otherwise, we are engaged in a regional war, of which Iraq is but a single battlefield. The war cannot be won in Iraq alone, because the enemy is based throughout the region and his bases and headquarters are located beyond our current reach. His power is directly proportional to our unwillingness to see the true nature of the war, and our decision to limit the scope of our campaign.
It doesn't matter that I've thought this since before the war started, it still creeps me out. But I don't see an alternative. The issue reminds me of Nixon in Vietnam, when he was faced with enemy troops resting and re-supplying in Cambodia, which was beyond the border and the jurisdiction of the American war effort. Nixon did a few raids if I recall, but it was too little too late. You can't fight a war half assed. You can't give the enemy civilized graces if he won't return them. If he insists on hiding in churches and hospitals, blow up the churches and hospitals. If a country claims it is neutral but is aiding one side, it is not neutral. To say so is not belligerence, it is a just assessment of reality, and it must be responded to.

The House Speaks

More on Class The Tiger in Winter sent along some class conscious quizzes yesterday. I did the Furniture one today. I like my result, I think: Old Money. I also got a smattering of New Money and Middle Middle. My taste for electronics dragged me down. Dang! (is that Old Money?) It wasn't too hard to see where most of the choices would take you, but I was baffled, baffled I tell you, over the floor covering. What is wrong with pile carpet? They claim it isn't even middle middle - it's lower class. I would have said that about deep shag...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Conservative?

There's a short, interesting comment on the relationship between the term "conservative" and support for SSM at the Anal Philosopher. I like and agree with Burgess' conclusion. He says that although people can disagree over terms, he:
... conceive[s] of conservatism as traditionalism. There is no human institution that is older, more traditional, or more important—given its connection to childrearing—than monogamous heterosexual marriage. Claiming to be a conservative while supporting homosexual “marriage” is like claiming to be a Christian while denying the divinity of Jesus.
There are some whose conservatism is only support for a free market. That's great but guys? It's hard to sell that to people who know that they won't be able to compete very well.

Academic Rights

David Horowitz has drafted what he calls an Academic Bill of Rights. After a quick look see, I tentatively think I like the document. These points I see as valuable, because I saw why they're needed when I was a student:
5. Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty. Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination. 7. An environment conducive to the civil exchange of ideas being an essential component of a free university, the obstruction of invited campus speakers, destruction of campus literature or other effort to obstruct this exchange will not be tolerated.
As a student more than ten years ago, I has classes in the Political Economy of the Canadian Media that were relentlessly Marxist. You could write from another view, but you never heard it in class, and it wasn't in the textbooks. I also saw an effort to create a right leaning newspaper lead to copies of that paper being destroyed. Who took them might be hard to prove, but I think the act was so thuggish that if those who did it were caught, I would have expelled them. Horowitz comments on the document here, and says he consulted others on it:

By adopting the Academic Bill of Rights, an institution would recognize scholarship rather than ideology as an appropriate academic enterprise. It would strengthen educational values that have been eroded by the unwarranted intrusion of faculty members' political views into the classroom. That corrosive trend has caused some academics to focus merely on their own partisan agendas and to abandon their responsibilities as professional educators with obligations to students of all political persuasions. Such professors have lost sight of the vital distinction between education and indoctrination, which -- as the AAUP recognized in its first report on academic freedom, in 1915 -- is not a legitimate educational function.

Because the intent of the Academic Bill of Rights is to restore academic values, I deliberately submitted it in draft form to potential critics who did not share my political views. They included Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Michael Bérubé, a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University at University Park; Todd guideline, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University; and Philip Klinkner, a professor of government at Hamilton College.
I'm curious to hear what others might have to say. Were you also subjected to indoctrination in the classroom? My studies were in English and Mass Communications; I got the whole Chomsky Marxist deal to the point that I snapped and became the rapid right winger I am today. Tip: The Buck Stops Here

Social Class

You scored as Middle Class. You're content in your position and would prefer a house or a family than a seven figure pay cheque. But you have your moments of weakness when you buy a lottery ticket in the hope of knowing how the rich and famous live.

Middle Class

75%

alternative

63%

Upper middle Class

58%

Luxurious Upper Class

46%

Lower Class

21%
What Social Status are you? created with QuizFarm.com
Tip: After Abortion

Fahrenheit 12/25

The guys at Cox and Forkum strike again. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Filling the void in the West

Secular isn't neutral David Warren, excellent, as usual:

... even where, as in the United States, they still form a majority, Christians are the targets of molestation that becomes ever more serious if it is not resisted. It ranges from the petty campaigns to remove everything from Christmas crèches to Salvation Army bell-ringers from all public places by the "politically correct", to the fact Canadian churches are already bracing for the removal of their charitable status, as the legal weapon most likely to be used to force them to "sanctify" "gay" "marriages". Italy, the figurative heart of Catholic Christendom, is where the action is, in the West this year. All across Italy, school and municipal authorities have been banning traditional Christmas displays from public property, on the grounds that they must be offensive to Muslims -- even while prominent Italian Muslims repeatedly condemn their "excessive zeal". As they and others have observed, it is the Italian left using the Muslim community as an excuse to advance its own anti-Christian agenda. "Multiculturalism" is used in the same way here -- as the cover for the ACLU and other doctrinaire organizations to assemble a "crusade" against Christians in particular.

This is it?

This is the best they can do? I read Lydia Lorvic's pro SSM bit in the Vancouver Province while I was at work yesterday and I was astonished at the majority of her arguments. This is what passes as editorial comment in the MSM in Canada today? No wonder I don't pay to read any of the papers anymore. Now I've found her editorial on line and will attempt my first fisking. Lydia is in blue, and my comments are in black.
Mon, December 20, 2004 Let them eat (wedding) cake By Lydia Lovric -- Winnipeg Sun As a staunch conservative on many issues, this may come as a bit of a shock to my friends on the right. Rarely do I agree with the Liberals. For the most part, I think they're merely well-paid fence-sitters who couldn't take a stand if their hefty pensions depended upon it. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, I think the Liberals (most of them, anyway) and NDP are on the right track. Gay people should have the right to be just as happy or miserable as the rest of us. While the religious right in this country may be appalled at the thought of same-sex marriage, last time I checked, Canada was a secular nation. Although many of our laws are based on Judeo-Christian principles, we must recognize and uphold the separation of church and state. Lydia doesn't know what the word secular means. Maybe she pronounces it like George Bush pronounces nu-clear. Secular does not mean Canadians cannot vote in line with their religion, and that holds for voters and public officials. What it does mean is that Canada does not have an official religion. In practice, it means we don't bar people who are not a member of that religion from office. It also means no specific religion is barred from public office. It says nothing about 'check your religion at the door to power.' In practice, only someone appealing to a broad majority could get elected anyway. Unless we adopt some type of proportional representation. I'll laugh until it hurts when that system brings hard core social conservatives to power ahead of the Greens. It pays to be careful what you wish for... The strength of a secular nation is that people of differing religions can hold office and run as best as they see fit, subject to existing law and how rapid and deep a level of change the public will tolerate. The line between church and state is notoriously fuzzy and it is wisely left to voters to decide if someone has crossed that line. Lydia has inverted the meaning of the word 'secular.' What she describes is a national church called Secularism, which she holds to be the official church of Canada. I have no idea why she thinks we all ought to be forced to bow at her little altar. It strikes me as rather bigoted and intolerant. No one's ever voted for that in this country and I doubt if they ever will. I'm no lawyer but check out some of the Canadian Law Lydia is up against: The Canada Act of 1982 begins thusly: ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories QUEEN, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. It's her title and she is our Queen. We are a constitutional Monarchy after all. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so dear to our Liberal party begins like this: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law..." So, Lydia dear, God is in da Canadian house. The question is and has always been, how do we interpret that? What does God want of us? In Canada the answer to that question is to be defined by the interaction of the public and their elected members. It is not a question for you alone or any other person who thinks they know better because of something they saw on Friends. Your made up definition would require a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that. Oh, and how often does the word 'Secular' appear in those documents? Zero. None. Nothing. Zilch. Here's a hanky. There isn't anything about the separation of church and state either. What is does say is that there will be 'religious toleration,' which is quite a different thing. Keep in mind that priests or rabbis will not be forced to marry same-sex couples. Gays or lesbians wishing to marry would be united in a civil marriage through a justice of the peace or by a minister who is not opposed to same-sex unions. So what's the big deal? Why would anyone believe that? Why do you believe that? What you describe would last only until a gay marriage zealot got a case before the supreme court. I doubt it would take very long. The Supreme Court, in its recent reference to Parliament, refused to speculate about how the traditional definition of marriage would fare if it came before the court. That's a huge, gaping hole. How nice for them. Many religions preach that sex before marriage is wrong, but I have yet to hear religious groups demand that pre-marital sex be deemed a criminal offence. Infidelity is likewise immoral, but do we really want to throw adulterers in jail? Taking the Lord's name in vain is considered sinful, but should we start handing out fines? If someone eats meat on a Friday or works on the Sabbath, how great should their penalty be? The point is, just because something may be regarded as morally wrong doesn't automatically mean it should be illegal. This is all quite true. As far as I know, no mainstream group is advocating any of those things. I suspect Lydia is simply beating the drum of religious bigotry here, stereotyping there, and fear mongering all over the dancefloor. Let me ask her: If something is regarded as morally wrong, does that mean it must automatically be legal? Isn't that what her cock eyed definition of secular would do? "Let's see, this here concept of 'murder' is religious and we in Canada hold to a firm separation of church and state..." So religious thinkers can be opposed to same-sex marriage and claim that it goes against divine law, even though state law allows it. They can be against it except in all of the places where it counts. They can't discuss the issue under the stupid rules our never ending Liberal rule has created. At least, not during an election, not without the threat of losing their charitable status. Hey Lydia! Get your rotten hands off my church! Mind your own F-ing beeswax! What about freedom of speech? Despite all the grumblings on this issue, I have yet to hear one compelling argument against same-sex marriage. This might be a good place to mention that the burden of proof is on those seeking change, not on those upholding the law as it stands. Question two is, how hard have you looked, and with what kind of bias? Same-sex unions don't result in children. Well, neither do some heterosexual unions. If a husband and wife are unable to unwilling have children, does that nullify their relationship? Besides, there are many gay people who already have children of their own and wish to raise their kids in a two-parent home. Fertility is not a switch that can be turned off and on at will. You can't use chemical birth control until you are thirty seven, stop, and hope to get pregnant right away. This might be a shock, but yes, the culture lies. Does Lydia not know anyone who has ever had fertility problems? Does she live under a rock? Has she never looked at a fertility discussion board on the internet? Even couples that fully intend to have children can find themselves infertile. Should we mock and scorn them in their pain, and rip their marriage away too? Do we want the state further meddling and recording people's deepest biological secrets? Even a couple who does not intend to have children can change their minds. The attempt to create life is rightly a deeply private matter. Biology counts and only someone transfixed by the ideology of "equality" would suggest it doesn't. A more difficult problem arises when we allow the elderly to marry. I look at it like this. Imagine a long married woman who has never lived alone. Her husband dies and her world comes apart. In time she finds someone to fill some of that gap. She has never been with anyone outside of the bonds of marriage and believes doing so would be a terrible breach in her relationship with God. Allowing her to keep her dignity seems like the charitable thing to do. People in same sex relationships are not barred from living out those unions. There is no need to give them the word marriage because some of them (yes, there are gays who think the whole thing is a terrible idea) think it will give them respect. What a terrible reason to get married! So people will respect you. Not to give or to share, but to aggrandize myself and my sexual choices. If it is a two parent home gays want, they have the same right to them that anyone does. That home could even be same sex. It just would not be a married home. Same-sex unions will eventually lead to our extinction. Nonsense. There are billions of people who are more than willing to do their part to propagate the human race. Allowing same-sex marriage will not spell disaster when it comes to Earth's population. Agreed. What we'll see are weaker family ties, and the result of that will be more poor families. I doubt very much there will be fewer children. The cause of that is birth control and a culture that sees children as a burden instead of a blessing. Same-sex unions will diminish traditional marriage. Please! With a divorce rate approaching 50%, we'd be more than a little hypocritical to blame homosexuals for ruining the institution of marriage. We've done a fine job of that all by ourselves. The commitment I share with my husband will not suddenly change just because same-sex couples are granted the right to marry. SSM will diminish traditional marriage. We are already very confused about what a marriage is. If we weren't, we wouldn't be having this debate. It's true that there are traditional marriages in which people fail to live up their vows. I fail to see how allowing gays, many of whom the think very concept of monogamy is something to be mocked and derided, to "marry" will encourage straights to do better. I can see this scenario: "Bill and Bob have an open marriage, Betty, and they have been together for ten years. Why can't I do it with Brenda? Why can't we both do it with Brenda?" The fact that you're too dim to see that scenario is too bad. It won't happen overnight but you'd better bet it will happen. Certain conservatives are now clamouring for a referendum on this issue. How ridiculous. You can't hold referendums on something like this. When it comes to something as fundamental as basic human rights, it doesn't really matter what the majority thinks because sometimes the majority is just plain wrong. What a referendum would do is decide if it is a human rights issue. You're just assuming that it is. You've overlooked the first step. If the majority of people want the option of keeping slaves, would that make it right? If the majority believe women have no business casting ballots, should our right to vote be rescinded? Don't forget that when Adolf Hitler held a referendum, 90% voted in favour of the Fuehrer. Obviously the questions above are not about majority rule. Women are different from men, and there are differences in some racial features, but these differences have no impact on the ability to vote, or to be free. The ability to have a monogamous union, and the ability to present healthy male - female domestic relations are the factors that make a marriage. Straights might fail to live up to their obligations, but the opportunity is always there. I have no idea what Nazi referendum she's talking about. How about a name, a subject or a year? If she's talking about the Nazi party gaining power, they did that in a coalition. They never won an outright majority. Yet another example of why our first past the post system is a good thing. Frankly, I think Lydia is fairly foaming at the mouth right about now. That's usually what it means when someone drags Hitler into a debate. The majority can't always be trusted to do what is good and right. Lydia thinks this rule does not apply to Supreme Court justices. It only applies to you and me.
There hardly a good argument in this, and The Sun chain splashes her across the country? What there is, is plenty of is bile and slander.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Church Challenges

How to move forward? Oswald Sobrino at Catholic Analysis explores how Hispanic Catholics struggle with the Catholic Church they find in America. Part of the problem, he says, is in the way we handle the Bible:
[Hispanics] find the Protestant preacher always talking about the Bible in a way that is quite different from the typical American Catholic homily. The Protestant evangelical likes to "dig" into the Bible and tie different parts of the Bible together. It is even routine in Southern Baptist churches to hear the preacher refer to the original Greek in his sermons. Contrast this approach with the typical American Catholic homily: begin with a non-biblical anecdote about sports or some other secular event or with a sentimental story, then draw platitudes from the lectionary readings. It is a mediocre exercise that challenges no one: neither the preacher nor the audience. Instead of digging to give the people something solid to fascinate them with Scripture, we are left with vague exhortation reminiscent of some sort of self-help therapy. The preaching has to change. Struggling immigrants want spiritual power, not suburban pap.
Catholics are, in the mass, reflective and introspective of what is in their hearts. Protestants are, by their nature, aggressively searching with their heads. Sola Scriptura and all that. No church is all head or all heart, but the balance in a Catholic Church tends towards a greater proportion of the experience being one of deep listening. There is heart in Protestant churches too, but there the balance is more on seeking and thinking. The sort of experience that the Sobrino seeks is more likely to be found in a prayer group or a book club of some sort. I think the homily is not always what it could be, and I too would support some of the deeper readings he seeks. But I am aware that the mass is for everyone with a capital "E." Mass is not just for the smart. The homily is also not the heart of the Mass; the Eucharist is. I think, historically, that this need to reach everyone is why the Catholic church has always used what is sometimes derisively referred to as "bells and smells." Historically, in many places and many times, quite a few of the people attending the Mass could not read or write. How do you reach them? Bells, smells, statues, garments, ceremony, etc. I think Catholics still do that quite well. Times have changed, however, and a few more challenging homilies would not hurt. For those still not satisfied, I suggest a reading group. For myself, the big thing that I wonder about is this: Why isn't Religious Commitment more aggressively advertised? In the newspaper, on the radio, and heck yeah, on the internet? I think a few good campaigns could create quite a tonic. The Nuns and Monks who did so much of the Church's good work in the past are a shadow of their former selves. A lot of teachers in Catholic schools are not even Catholic, they're hired guns. It's not like young people no longer seek to commit themselves in a passionate way to the betterment of the society they find themselves in. Where is the Dorothy Day of our time? The monasteries and nunneries emptied themselves out in the 1960s and 1970s and they are sloowly begining to come back. Most of the nuns you see today, if you see them at all, are old or from non Western countries. There's nothing wrong with those people - we need those people! - but why can't we produce them in large numbers anymore? A healthy conservative society begins with the creation of conservative culture. The seats of power follow the culture, they do not lead it. An increased birth rate would allow families to joyfully give a son or a daughter over for the betterment of society. It used to be a very proud thing to do! And each one of those is capable of doing so much good, teaching and setting an example. Imagine all the hoopla and chaos of the next anti globalization riot channeled under responsible leadership and directed towards programs for children, the poor, and the elderly. Imagine someone with Naomi Kein's charisma in the ads. That's how I think we move forward.

And the Nominees Are...

Robert McCelland at MyBlahg has begun The Canadian Blog Awards, and nominated NWW for "Best Conservative Blog." I'm flattered. I come at things quite differently than he does, and have been put off by his some time tendency to insult first and reason second. Kudos to Rob for being big about the different approaches. I'll try to do the same. I'm not under the impression the NWW will score a crushing victory over well known and published names like Andrew Coyne. I'm also up against some blogs I read and enjoy, like Brock: On the Attack, Bound by Gravity and Babbling Brooks, not to mention Jay Currie. But if you like this blog and want to vote, well, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

For Damian

Damian at Babbling Brooks has posted the latest Red Ensign. It is wonderful and it is great. Go and read it for the next two weeks. After reading it I had to do a post for him because he, like yours truly, likes a joke:
Oh For The Irish An Irishman staggered home late after another evening at the pub with his drinking mates. Shoes in his left hand to avoid waking his wife, he tiptoed as quietly as he could toward the stairs leading to their upstairs bedroom, but misjudged the bottom step in the darkened entryway. As he caught himself by grabbing the banister, his body swung around and he landed heavily on his rump. A whisky bottle in each back pocket broke and made the landing especially painful. Managing to suppress a yelp, the man sprung up, pulled down his pants, and examined his lacerated and bleeding cheeks in the mirror of a nearby darkened hallway, then managed to find a large full box of Band-aids and proceeded to place a patch as best he could on each place he saw blood. After hiding the now almost empty box, he managed to shuffle and stumble his way to bed. In the morning, the man awoke with searing pain in his head and backside and his wife staring at him from across the room. She said, "You were drunk again last night." Forcing himself to ignore his agony, he looked meekly at her and replied, "Now, be gorrah, why would you say such a mean thing?" "Well," she said, "it could be the open front door, it could be the glass at the bottom of the stairs, it could be the drops of blood trailing through the house, It could be your bloodshot eyes, but, mostly.... It's all those damn Band-aids stuck on the downstairs mirror."
I love a good joke. I wish I could take credit for them too.

Free to be a Hero

When Ordinary is Extraordinary

I'm a man of steel. I can accomplish superhuman feats. I’m a heterosexual, monogamous, faithful man who has been married for over five years. And get this: I still want to be married! I'd rather spend time with my wife and children than time in bars with drunkards and strippers! This is the stuff that legends are made of!

OK, back to reality. There are plenty of reasons why no sane person would consider me a superhero, especially those who know me best. But in our modern culture, I've accomplished a goal that is seldom realized. When I celebrate my ten-year anniversary, I’ll indeed be beating the odds. And if, like my father, I can go through middle age without getting divorced, I'll truly be staring culture right in the face and spitting in its eye.

I admit it; I am also a radical. I don't think people are like turnips or pumpkins who are doomed to become what they are based solely on the nutrients and soil they find themselves in. I don't think calls for abstinence are futile because people "can't help it." I think the "got your rubbers?" culture is conformist and defeatist. I reject it, and embrace my freedom instead. Freedom and the Law The article I linked to from Tipperography, my disagreement with Jay Currie, and other clashes that I have had with the libertarians bloggers I read and discuss has had me pondering the relationship between freedom, religion and the law. First thought: Is there an earlier suggestion of the separation of church and state than Christs' saying, "Give what is Ceasar's to Caesar, and what is God's to God"? This is a limitation on the state, suggesting that there are things it cannot hope to deal with. It also suggests to me that the church has its limits as well, and must also defer to God on many things. As an example, I suggest Papal Infallibility, which is very narrowly defined. In comparison, the Vatican bureaucracy's views on Iraq are merely interesting, and not compelling. Second thought: There are indeed things that are wrong (sinful), whose business is not a matter of the law. Libertarians give the impression that they think they are the only ones who recognize that. Christians have an old example to draw on, and that is Jesus forbidding the stoning of the adulterous woman. There is no question that she had sinned, but it was not for man to deal with. It was between her and God. I would put some aspects of the drug culture in this category. So-called Catholic politicians often try to put abortion in this private category but they are in error. In adultery one party is grieved, not killed. Murder is more final and therefore more serious. Furthermore, if we are to be free, we are compelled to protect the weak from the predations of the strong. How can the weak be free if the strong do not respect them? Are we not all strong at some things and weak in others? When we stand up for the weak we stand up for ourselves. Finally, the notion that we do not know if the early stage baby is human and therefore under the protection of God's law is so much hocus pocus. Show me the dividing line. Can't do it? A theory without a proof is nothing more than a theory. And the burden is on the pro choice crowd because everyone (even them) agrees: it's human at point X. Starting from that point of agreement, I want to know how and when it stops holding true. Liberals think we are so free that we are doomed to conform to our material nature. That's not free, and neither is the nanny state that arises from their thinking. Liberals want to be the gardener and see us as the hapless crop. Libertarians go too far in the other direction, and would peel back the law to the point where we claw at one another in an anarchic state. They stop short of physical violence, but that is an odd and narrow definition of violence. Indifference is a form of violence too, as is score keeping that is too rigid. Both solutions - roughly: the state is the only law, and man is the only law, are exaggerations resulting from an overly optimistic view of human nature. What I'm trying to suggest is that freedom is not our natural state, it is something we create when we act in accordance with our nature in the long term. We have to give a little bit, to get a whole lot more. We see this in the family, where we must give without keeping score, and where specialized roles mean we can't treat each other exactly the same and call it fair. The law of the land is a crude instrument and cannot be expected to compel all of us in this direction. It needs to be in accordance with the Natural Law, and thus in accordance with human nature. That means in must take into account being unable compel enforcement, and being unable to account for all variables in the legislation it creates. Fines and jail time don't compel the mind or the heart to change; if they do anything, they teach respect for the strong. Local, small scale law is described at Catholic Culture.org, in a look at the principle of subsidiarity:

The solution to all this [the U.N., the world court, etc.] is the Catholic Church’s first social teaching: the principle of subsidiarity. This principle states simply that each task in any commonwealth should be handled at the lowest level possible and that, conversely, there must be a compelling reason to remove authority in any matter from a more local to a less local jurisdiction.

The principle of subsidiarity is based on a strong awareness of the dignity of each human person, and the appropriateness of each person acting through his own natural communities to order the affairs common to the group. Human dignity is preserved and honored when this ordering of life is decided and implemented as much as possible by the same people whose lives are being ordered. As long as matters can be handled in a reasonably effective manner locally, imperfections at this level are far preferable to the unavoidable drawbacks of moving things to a higher and inherently less accountable level.

Chief among the drawbacks of locating authority at a great distance is loss of freedom. In fact, it is not too much to say that, in the absence of subsidiarity, the Western ideology of personal liberty is completely hollow. The size, scale and bureaucratic character of our organizational forms result in far more public control of personal life than in many previous cultures which emphasized personal liberty less while valuing natural local institutions more

The Law has a small and specialized role but it is not nothing. It sets a floor for our behavior, and that floor sets us free: free to contemplate the ceiling and free to reach for it. Religion helps us to keep the state in check through an understanding of our nature; and it also suggests to us how we can best rule ourselves, lest others do it for us. Conclusion Libertarians and the religious seem at times to be an odd pair, who combine solely for political gain, but they have much to learn from one another. The religious can become obsessive about using the state to reach the ceiling, and the libertarians can neglect to left their eyes from the floor.

Friday, December 17, 2004

In the Absence of an Honest Answer

When I first read this story from Mathew, I was bamboozled, and did not know what to make of it. I read it again this week as it came up in this weeks' gospel readings; I think I'm beginning to understand.
Mt 21:23-27 When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them in reply, "I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?" They discussed this among themselves and said, "If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,' he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?' But if we say, ‘Of human origin,' we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet." So they said to Jesus in reply, "We do not know." He himself said to them, "Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things."
The trick here is to understand why the priests refuse to answer Jesus' question. They refuse because they can see that both of the responses they are considering will lead to a sacrifice of their power and stature. The first response would be to admit that God is active in the world, and since that is so, they must seek him out and obey as best they can. The second response would reveal that they are hypocrites, and that would result in a loss of face. In the second response we see that they are not even true to their own hearts and minds when doing so would bring about a negative consequence. Since they are loyal to nothing more than their own self interest - unwilling to admit to God's presence, and unwilling to suffer any penalty for acting on that belief - God will have nothing to do with them. The first choice is the better one, but the second is at least open to correction. The answer they give is a solopsistic nothing. And, giving nothing, they get nothing. (The story has me thinking about Clintonian "triangulation.") That is my take on this little episode. Another blogger offers his thoughts here (Tip: Living Catholicism).

Overdue

It's the last day of my two weeks off (that sucks) and I still have not given a rebuttal to Andrew on our "monotheism vs. Naturalism" discussion. Time to put that right. His post is here, and the one I wrote that he refers to most is here. His entry also has links to previous exchanges we've had. I'll try to make this post stand alone as best I can. ******** The first thing Andrew did in his post was to dismiss the human need for a meaningful life. There are two issues I have to respond to here. The first is to admit that Andrew is quite right in saying that wanting something to be true is a lousy proof that it is true. In fact, I never staked a claim on that. Here is what I said:
The human heart, however, balks at meaninglessness. Why should that matter? A purely rational approach cannot choose either course and leads to agnosticism. Here is why the heart is important. Because the decision to think with only reason is itself purely arbitrary. There is no compelling reason to choose that over what might be called a heart and head decision, the God premise.
Andrew didn't address the second part of what I said, about how to think. He also appears to have misunderstood what was meant by the word heart. I'm not using it to describe what I want; I'm using it to express judgment about what is reasonable and what is not. ******** More detail In my post I was attempting to show how, using rational methods, Naturalism and Monotheism (not polytheism) share a certain coherence, which is a virtue. This is probably why people from such varying times and places have been attracted to them. My intention in bringing the two theories to that point was to draw out problems with the rational, deductive methodology that was used. I never made the problems explicit, however, so I'll do that now. The first and most important issue is why we restrict ourselves to deduction as if it were all that there was to logic. There is also Induction. Everyone is familiar with deduction, which yields a solid proof like two and two is four. Induction is another method of reasoning whose use frequently goes unnoticed and unremarked on. It is not as solid as deduction, but it is impossible to get through a day without using it. "The sun has come up every day for thousands and thousands of years, therefore, the sun will rise this morning" is an inductive proof. An inductive proof is considered to be stronger if more examples of it are known. "Billy crossed the street here yesterday, so he will cross here again today" is also inductive, but it is weaker than the example of the sunrise. We can see, I hope, that induction is kind of like faith. Consider: 1) The very mechanical regularity on which all scientific experimentation is based is an inductive premise. 2) Every time scientists move from a specific experiment and extrapolate from it, they are using induction. 3a) There is no deductive proof that deduction itself is the only reasonable method of thinking. The proofs for the virtue of deduction are in fact inductive: It has done X and Y for us in the past, therefore it will do more such things in the future. 3b) Deduction works best in the sciences, where variables can be highly controlled. Invoking scientific "progress" to say that someday those infinite variables will be controlled is no help. Using past progress to draw conclusions about the future is inductive. It is interesting to point out that Conservatives, relying on past successes (because that is what they want to conserve) are more empirical than liberals, whose aims are too often attached to a future than may never happen. Liberals, and not conservatives, are the religious mystics of our day. Enough digressing - Induction is not irrational. There are a few extremists who argue that it is. People like David Hume and Karl Popper, for example. Their case remains very controversial. It is often invoked by some scientists and laypeople without proof. Too often, their claims go unchallenged. What they are in fact doing, is using their faith in a certain kind of "pure" Rationalism to prove the truth of "pure" Rationalism, which is circular. It was only after hinting at the limits of this "pure" rationalism, that I said:
The God premise is unprovable, except that it is better than all the alternatives. This is not a purely rational reason, and that is part of why religious people speak about faith. Faith that we can learn and know, faith that life is not robotic and meaningless, faith that makes our troubles and pains worth suffering.
When I said it was unprovable, I meant it was unprovable to the standard being sought, which is not a reasonable standard, as I hope I have now shown. Inductive faith permeates science, which is itself very useful in many areas but limited in scope. If the ancient and medieval error was to put theology above observation, the modern one is to put a distorted vision of science in places in which it is of limited use. ******** Andrew wrote:
Humans do not need an omnipotent God to lead meaningful existences. Our free will allows us to pursue goals that matter to us (which differ from individual to individual) while pursuing the ultimate goal of any species: to survive and to reproduce. Our lives are neither bleak nor meaningless in the absence of a deity.
I respond, "if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise?" Most of us would probably say it does. It is an inductive conclusion. How about this? If I murder someone and get away with it, was it wrong? Again, most of us would say that it is wrong, no matter what happens after. Again, it is an inductive conclusion. Are those conclusions wrong because they lack empirical, deductive proof? But if what you say is true, and I kill someone to improve my reproduction (let's say a husband is in my way), and I get away with it, then I've done nothing wrong. We simply don't live that way. Those few individuals who are capable of killing without remorse are considered by the rest of us to be broken and deficient human beings. But by your measure, they're the ones who are sane. It's the rest of us who are held back by morality. That's a very unbermensch, Nazi, hard left kind of thing to advocate. I'm grateful that most people who advocate it don't, in fact, live it. This quote also contradicts the one I started with, where you said that what we want has no bearing on it's truth. ******** C.S. Lewis' and the Argument from Reason Andrew compares reason with sight and says that both are tools for gaining knowledge. I beg to differ. All the light that passes through my eyes is filtered through my brain, which makes sense of it. The brain, and not the eye, is the source of ideas that allow visual input to be useful: self and other, near and far, and distinct object from distinct object (the concept of distinct items is not in the light we see). I don't think this is a strong argument, so I won't dwell on it. ******** Andrew's conclusions are: a) Our inner aesthetics should not dictate our sense of reality. We must look beyond what feels good and discover what is. b) C.S. Lewis' Argument From Reason is not a death blow to Naturalism, and thus naturalism should not be discounted out of hand. To which I respond, A) is true and B), if it is true, has not yet been demonstrated.

Geography Lesson

76% and an average error of 61 miles. That's how this Canadian did in putting U.S. states on a blank map. It wasn't too shabby a showing, considering the only states I've seen are the ones on the west coast (Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada). My biggest error was Kansas, which I thought was much further west than it is. The tiny New England states are also very hard for me to keep straight. Give it a go, it's fun. I'd love to see Americans do this with Canadian Provinces and Territories. (Tip: Tiger in Winter).

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Manipulating Symbols

Peggy Noonan writes that the US Democratic Party is puzzling over how to better manipulate symbols. You know, like the "code words" president Bush uses to speak to his "evangelical base." Apparently, they still have some work to do. Google labs they're not.

"Have Fun. Be Good."

One of our newest Red Ensign bloggers has embarked on a small series of posts dealing exploring Libertarian Ethics. Tipperography has two of three intended posts up and I recommend them to everyone, especially those using the label Libertarian to describe themselves. Brenda is easy to read, so no excuses, jump right in. I'm especially impressed with the second entry, where I got the title for this post. Quote:

Having fun is not about egoism. And being good is not about collectivism. Both concepts are to be shunned. Having fun and being good are about altruistic individualism.

A few years ago I came up with a political slogan. A non-starter if ever there was one, but something that was nifty for me nonetheless: Less government. More caring.
Post one is here and number two is here. Tipper's stance is quite different from what Jay Currie has been posting. Jay stopped by yesterday but he didn't explain how needy, fragmented families resulting from weak, customized "marriage" contracts fit into his vision of a freer society with less government. Such families will feel they need government help and they'll vote that way. How about it? He also didn't think women's sacrifice in raising children entitled them to perpetual support, despite the perpetual damage their sacrifice may have had on their earning power. I'd like to hear it from the women out there on this one, especially women who call themselves Libertarian.