Daily Archives: December 7, 2009

Peas and Carrots

Atheists insist the existence of God can’t be verified, then like a Fundamentalist looking at the line of Popes, they deny the blatant evidence of miracles that happen every day.

A while back, my dad told me the vocation story of a priest he’d heard. . . .

One day, when the future priest was in college, he was sitting at lunch, with peas and carrots on his plate.  He happened to notice a young lady staring at him across the cafeteria.

A thought came into his head, “Only eat the peas, not the carrots.”

So he ate the peas, but not the carrots.  The woman got an increasing look of shock on her face.

After he finished, she came over to him.  She said, “I’m an atheist.  I was just over there looking at you, and I said, ‘If you exist, God, tell that guy to eat his peas but not his carrots.”

The woman became a Catholic; the man became a priest.

One of the popular Hollywood Christmas motifs is the story of the guy who doesn’t like Christmas because he didn’t get the present he wanted from “Santa” one year when he was  a kid.

That’s what atheists are.  At some point in their lives, they felt disappointed by the apparent non-answer to a prayer, and they become theological Grinches because their prayers weren’t answered.

As Fr. Mitch Pacwa put it, if you pray to win the lottery, God might not give you a winning lottery ticket, but He’ll probably get you a better job, or a raise, or some other help in your financial situation, which is what you’re really praying for.

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The origin of the blogger

There are two stories of how my parents met.

According to my mother, who was staying in a room at the home of her boss, her boss/landlord was having a party.  Dad’s band was playing for the party.  Dad was crooning away on his accordion when Mom came downstairs, angry at being unable to sleep, walked up to dad and said, “It’s three o’clock in the morning–would you please shut up?”

Dad insists they had run into each other prior to that, so that wasn’t their first meeting.  Technically, IIRC, their first official date was set up by the mutual friends in question.

So, you could say that there’s some doubt as to how, exactly, my parents’ relationship got started. 

Does that cast into doubt the fact that my parents exist, that their marriage exists, or that I exist as the offspring of that marriage?

Regardless of how they got here, they’re here.  Regardless of how I got here, I’m here.  Would it really have any effect on my parents’ relationship with me if they had met some other way?
What if it turned out, through some freak accident, I was switched as birth (highly unlikely due to genetic testing, let’s just ignore that fact): would I love them less if for some reason they turned out to be not my biological parents? 

Again.  They’re still my parents.  How they got here and how I got here are interesting stories, but they’re not really relevant to the relationship itself.

Nor is the mechanics of how God created me relevant to my relationship with Him.

I don’t believe in the existence of Barack Obama

Barack Obama doesn’t exist.

I have no evidence to prove to me that Barack Obama exists.

The guy on TV might be an actor, after all.  Then there’s the whole birth certificate question.  I’ve never met Barack Obama.  He’s never spoken to me, personally.  He’s never done anything that I can tangibly recognize in my own life.

So how do I have any evidence he actually exists?

Therefore, Barack Obama doesn’t exist, and I’m going to just yell over and over, “Barack Obama doesn’t exist!” and insist I’m right, and if you say otherwise, that’s just “gibberish” that I don’t want to listen to.

Sound irrational?

Of course.

So are the claims of atheists.

More Wisdom from _Bones_

I’ve posted previously about profound comments made on Bones.  The recent Bones episode, “The Gamer in the Grease,” offers an insight apropos to both my post on adultery the other day and my in-depth study of Theology of the Body.  The episode has a subplot (involving a blatant plug for James Cameron’s Avatar) where three of the geeks in a show about geeks–Fisher, Hodgins and Sweets–are taking turns in the line up to see the aforementioned film in its first screening.  Fisher has brought a small tent, a chair and a cooler of snacks and drinks.  They take shifts of approximately 2 hours during the day and come up with excuses for being away from their jobs.

Early in the show, Fisher (one of Dr. Brennan’s rotating grad students) brags that he has fornicated with close to 100 women.  This has the other two guys a bit envious. 

Dr. Sweets is in an immoral but committed relationship with another of Dr. Brennan’s graduate students, named Daisy.  While waiting in line, Sweets is tempted by a rather attractive young woman (who apparently must be on peak day of her fertility cycle), and keeps chanting “I have a girlfriend” to resist her advances.

Eventually, when the grad student shows up to take his shift, Sweets gives her reason to turn her sights to his allegedly polyamorous friend, and the two end up in the tent together.  In the scene I’ve embedded below, Sweets and Hodgins are discussing Fisher’s alleged “conquests” and the feelings of inadequacy Sweets feels about apparently not being so appealing to women.

OK, so here we have the problem in a nutshell: man in his fallen state has been enslaved by baser animal instincts.  He comes to see the ideal of masculinity not in the virtue and self-mastery demonstrated by St. Joseph, but rather in the power and fury of the gorilla. 

This is of course one of the age-old dichotomies of human thought, getting to the origins of the word “virtue” itself, as it comes from the Roman word for “man,” and the Latin word “virtus” can mean “virtue,” “manliness” or “strength.”  For Romans, strength was virtue–both because strength is achieved by hardwork and because might makes right.

Whether he evolved from apes or was molded from clay, primitive man was a hunter.  Biologically, the male impulse is to conquer, to acquire.  The male role is to acquire and to protect. 

The natural instinct to acquire lies at the root of adultery.  First, we all know how time seems to telescope.  So a man spends the first part of his life, and some of life’s most vivid and emotionally charged years, seeking a potential wife.  Certain mental habits are formed during this stage that can be hard to break, even for the happiest of husbands: habits of scoping a room out for pretty girls, etc.

It’s worse when even the natural desire to seek out a wife becomes distorted as a desire to seek women.  Testosterone fuels a man’s desire to hunt, his desire to fight off attackers, his ability to perform difficult challenges for his family, and his desire to make love to woman.

Because this same hormone fuels these different motives, they can become confused.  I think this, in a nutshell, is the biochemical explanation of most bad male behavior, but that’s a different subject.

Woman becomes a conquest, something to be acquired.  Two related impulses can take control.  In most areas where a man acquires, he desires to acquire much: whether he is a hunter or a stockbroker, in whatever manner he provides for his family, he desires to acquire more and more goods for his family.  So the natural instincts that drive him to hunt more deer or kill more enemies on the battlefield, driven by testosterone may lead him to think that he has to acquire multiple women.

Secondly, whether a man is promiscuous before marriage or not, his instincts may, if not properly controlled, lead him to think, “I’ve successfully acquired this one; now I need another,” like a man who, having just purchased a new car, begins researching the next year’s models.

Now here is where, even arguing from the view of fallen man, and leaving out John Paul II’s  confusing language and idealized concept of disinterested love, we can apply a key point of the theology of the body.

This one is unique.  What we get when we try to put the theology of the body into fallen man’s terms is pretty much what is said in the above clip.

If a man has intercourse with 100 women, has he really “acquired” them?

Has he really proven his desirability to women?  Maybe to some degree, but why does that matter?  Somewhere in our psyche, the need to be not alone, the need to be accepted, gets translated into a need to be accepted by everyone, and, sexually, men often think that they need to be attractive to lots of women to feel fully masculine.

Yet the truth is just the opposite.  As Dr. Hodgins says so eloquently, if a man has 100 one night stands, that’s all he has.  He hasn’t really “acquired” or “conquered” these women, even if he wants to use that language.  The soldier may kill multiple enemies.  The hunter may kill multiple deer.  But, in the end, the soldier hasn’t conquered the enemy unless the enemy surrenders in defeat and stops coming on.  The hunter takes home the deer he kills and eats them.

A man who claims “conquest” by philandering is really not conquering anything . He’s certainly not conquering himself, and he is not conquering the women he has sex with.  They go on their ways and never see him again.  Indeed, if they’re truly one-night stands, they may not even say much about his own particular attractiveness: the women may themselves just be, as we put it in regard to animals, “in heat.”  Her libido may just be extra high because she’s in phase 2, and like the poor girl in the Bones episode, she may be desperate to have coitus with any man who will take her.

On the other hand, the instinct to conquer can precisely be channeled for the good in marital fidelity, if the man comes to realize that “this one is mine,” even if objectifying his wife, he sees her as a unique gift for him, as someone who has surrendered her entire self to him, as someone whom he truly has conquered.  He should hardly worry about his attractiveness if he has a woman who has chosen to dedicate her whole life to him, who continues to find him attractive after knowing all his faults and failings and weaknesses, who has seen him at his best and at his worst.

Who’s really looking for “easy answers”?

The basic claim of atheists is that they are superior to believers because, in their view, believers look for easy answers.  In their view, belief in God boils down to an easy explanation for all matters scientific, even though that is the last thing on the mind of most believers.

My contention, especially when I hear atheists speak, is just the opposite.  When I hear people like P.Z. Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins speak, their attitude is not one of scientific inquiry but one of “closed book”: “I read Darwin, and Darwin had all the answers!  I didn’t have to believe in God anymore!”    They are the ones who have intentionally sought out a reason *not* to believe in God.  Why have they done this, if belief in God is such a simple answer?

God does not answer questions: God opens up a whole new realm of questions.  In reality, the study of science always opens new doors: first the molecule was thought to be the basic unit of matter; then the atom; then the proton, neutron and electron; now we have nuons, quarks, tachyons and other theoretical sub-nuclear particles.  What happened before the Big Bang?

For the theologian, the questions extend far beyond the big bang.

Scientific and philosophic minds ask these questions.  Atheists do not.  They settle on the easiest answers science provides and say, “God does not exist.”

Belief does not answer questions; it creates more.  It also doesn’t provide an easy way of life, since belief requires morality.  Atheists balk at the notion that atheism is inherently amoral, yet there really is no basis for any objective morality without a moral lawgiver.  Atheists can only be positivists, at best, and usually are moral solipsists, at worst.

What is the more challenging belief system?  One that says we evolved from apes, therefore we are little better than apes, therefore we can justify any action that we commit as due to our genetic heritage?

Or a belief system that says a higher being created us with a special dignity that we must live up to, that we are spiritual as well as incarnational beings, that our intellect and spirit should ultimately have control over our body?

This, of course, is why Darwin is so all-fired important to them.  Nevermind that it’s been perfectly obvious from day 1 that there are things in the Bible that are not miracles yet not sensical, either (such as blatant historical errors).  The Fathers taught that, if it comes to the Bible versus science or history in a matter of science or history, you go with science or history.

Whether God made Adam out of clay or out of a primate, it doesn’t really make a difference, but to atheists, who want an easy out, it does.  Darwin is so important to them because, with Darwin, they can discount Genesis, and it’s not the first part of Genesis 1 they really care about; it’s Genesis 2 and 3.

When Darwin becomes your Gospel, then you can discount Original Sin.

Who’s really looking for easy answers?