Category Archives: atheism

Is God a Cosmic Sadist?

Question: “Why would a loving God send people to Hell?”
Answer: People choose Hell over God.
Question: “Why would anyone choose Hell over God?”
Answer: Because they’ve spent their lives preparing themselves to make that choice.”
Question: “How could a Christian make that choice?
Answer: By formulating and clinging to a false notion of God that makes us recoil when we see the reality, or by allowing ourselves to be so attached to sin that we don’t want to be relieved of the attachment even in Purgatory.
Question: “Well, why did God make it so hard.  Doesn’t that make Him some kind of Cosmic Sadist who just wants to torture us?”
Answer: That’s a mystery.  The Old Testament basically says that’s what God is, at least from our perspective, and we just have to accept it because He’s God and we’re not.  New Testament atonement theology doesn’t help much, and there are many interpretations that try to get us out of that trap.

The simple answer is love, and the personalism of St. John Paul II.  Yes, God could have made us differently than He did. He could have made the angels differently than He did.  Maybe He has made other life-forms that are different–He certainly seems to love diversity and possibility.  But the fact is, He made us, and He made us such that, just as each specific kind of plant or animal needs certain nutrients and environmental factors to thrive, so people function to our fullest potential when we live according to God’s design and intention for us.


The New Testament tells us over and over that God has “imprisoned all in disobedience” that He might show Mercy to all, that He prizes the sheep who stray and come back more highly, and so on.  Again, it might seem like a weird way to set things up, but the more we understand it as a relationship of love, the more sense it makes.

To be free to love we must be free to reject, and I believe strongly that Christ gives us the freedom to reject Him. I believe that we have to pray to Christ to shape our understanding and our will to accept Him, just as spouses must both try themselves and pray for the grace to improve ourselves to be better people and to love our spouses for who they are, not who they want them to be.

I believe we set ourselves up for rejecting Christ when we form images of Him that conflict with Who He really is and refuse to allow those images to grow. In marriage, we start off with an idealized Other whom we love. As we grow, we realize the Other doesn’t always match that Ideal. The Ideal gives way to the Real, we try to make ourselves more like the Other’s Ideal, and one day hope that we will be together, perfected, in Heaven, where the truly Ideal and the truly Real meet.
The same is true of our relationships with Christ, but the difference is that He is unchanging.  We are mutable and weak, and blessed with the gifts of ignorance and unknowing that He gave us to give us the opportunity to grow.  However, we start with an “ideal” of Christ that we tend to cling to.  If we take our mistaken view of Christ, whatever its basis, without trying to grow in our understanding, we end up like Javert, confronted with the reality of Christ and too proud to admit we were wrong.
In this sense, the ancient Christian tradition, reflected in both Catholic and Orthodox sources, tells us that it might sometimes be easier for a pagan or an atheist who has gone through life with an attitude of sincerely seeking God, to embrace Jesus when she meets Him than for a self-proclaimed Christian who is too self-confident to admit being wrong.
This is also why we must caution ourselves against the extreme of presumption–we use the rather extreme example of someone who has lived a life of erstwhile holiness potentially “snapping” and committing a murder-suicide, but the far more realistic example is that we are too attached to *something* to let it go for Christ when called to do so.
Paradoxically, one of those attachments can itself be scrupulosity.  We can often be the worst Javert’s to ourselves–indeed, in the book, Javert resigns his position, writes a confession, and commits suicide because he has broken the Law by not arresting Valjean on sight.  He cannot forgive himself for being forgiving–the ultimate paradox of the damned.
The possibility of damnation does not make God a Cosmic Sadist–though, as C. S. Lewis, St. Francis de Sales and the Book of Job all tell us, even if God *is* a Cosmic Sadist, we don’t have any choice in the matter so we might as well play by His rules.
At judgement, we put God in the Dock, as Lewis says–we judge Him.  We say, “I can’t accept Your Mercy,” or “I can’t accept Your Justice,” or both.  In Lewis’s Great Divorce, souls are first tempted — not with the more obvious ones but tests of pride, impatience, etc.–and then greeted by Saints they have the biggest grudges against.  This is similar to the Orthodox theory of the “toll booths”—that personal judgement is a journey, where we must stop and confront different temptations that plagued us in life, and if we don’t built up the resistance to them now, we won’t be able to resist them then.  As well as the tollbooths, like in Lewis’s story, the soul is called to both by the Damned and the Saved, and if the soul has kept bad company in this life, she will be drawn to the appeal of the Damned to join them.
It’s like the joke about the millionaire who is told he can decide between Heaven and Hell and after seeing Heaven, he is taken to Hell for his three day preview.  He spends three days at a luxury resort, with every pleasure imaginable, and all his friends and family are having a big party.  So he decides that Hell has been misrepresented and tells the angel he wants to stay in Hell.  He finds himself in torment, with his friends and family chained nearby, cursing him and each other, and the handsome concierge now revealed as Satan, and he asks what happened.  “That was sales pitch.  You purchased.”
The other mistake we can make with every conception of judgement, even the “tollbooths,” is that we think, “Christ forgives everyone.  He will forgive me.”  We presume that we haven’t bought into Satan’s sales pitch.  We presume we will be able to withstand any temptation in our final journey or that we won’t find ourselves agreeing with all the celebrities and internet combox atheists who say that they’d rather be in Hell because all the interesting people are there.
We have to shape our minds, our lives, our desires to make God, as He has revealed Himself to be, desirable to us, and to recognize when the World is trying to make us think differently of Him.

What the Pew Poll on Catholics can tell us about Muslims.

This week, yet another Survey came out showing that most who identify as “Catholic” are not,morally.  Whatever happened to Catholics needing to “believe all the Church believes and teaches”?  Where would we be if the priest who gave Dietrich Von Hildebrand instruction hadn’t required him to accept everything?

Yet we’re told that, because the vast majority of “Catholics” use contraception without batting an eye, that means it’s O.K.  for Catholics to contracept.  The majority of Cstholics think the Eucharist is a “symbol,” which in the old days would have meant anathema, yet somehow that tells society that “the Church” (including much of the hierarchy) thinks differently than the Magisterium, but those of us who *do* believe (and go to Confession when we fall short rather than literally parading our sins) are “extremists.”

So, when the media, politicians and even well meaning Catholics insist “Islam is a religion of peace, the majority of Muslims are peaceful,” I don’t buy it.

I went to a nominally Catholic high school where, for “religion,” we once had to sit through a lesson on Islam from one student.  Back then, everyone said, “‘Islam’ means ‘submission.'”  That’s what my classmate said in a pro-Islam talk.  It’s what my professor and textbook in the Islamic history class I took for my multicultural requirement said.   Only after 9/11 did it suddenly start meaning “peace.”

Jesus Christ preached to fight spiritually, not physically.  As Tim Rice puts it, “To conquer death, you only have to die.”  He was crucified–in part, because the crowds rejected Him for *not* conquering.  Yes, Moses and the Judges took the Holy Land by force, and that is a Mystery in understanding God (most straightforward answer is that, before Christ, all mortal sin was literally mortal).  Regardless, we regard Vlad the 

Impaler, who protected all of Europe for a generation, as a monster.  Do 

Muslims do the same to their impalers?  No, they honor them as caliphs because they follow in the footsteps of Mohammed.

That is the difference.  Even when we honor those who’ve fought in just wars as Saints, it’s usually for what happened after more than before.

Yet why, in Islam or Christianity, does society point to the majorit’s beliefs and actions to represent the religion?  As Fr. Dubay put it, you don’t judge a belief system by those who do it badly.  You judge it by its heroes who best e employ its teachings.

“but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

A few years ago, we tried brick and mortar.  We had our girls in a pretty good Catholic school and our son in a pretty good public school.  At Christmas that year (kindergarten), he started talking about the (alleged) religious symbolism of the candy cane.  We asked if he’s heard it at CCD, Lord’s Brigade, or on EWTN.  He said, “No.  From [my teacher].”  Indeed, our town’s general homeschool community, which my wife follows on Facebook to keep up with events, Is largely made up of secularists who find the local public schools too religious!”

But, still, even if you set aside questions of the moral and psychological dangers, bullying, peer pressure, subversive agendas, disputes about curriculum or teaching models, ability of the school to accommodate learning or physical disabilities, and so forth, those  two years, and the continuing aftermath, have highlighted a dilemma that troubled me my whole life.

My children’s generous uncles and aunts, starting with the Wii that I expected to be a one-time capitulation, have given them a steady stream of video game systems, so each of them now has at least one DS-whatever, and they’re constantly talking about the next thing they want.  I recall when I was laying in the hospital two years ago, watching my daughter play her DS, and thinking–whether I was actually hearing this or hallucinating, I may never know–the nurses, the hospital patieht rep, and others complaining about my kids having so many video games when we always say we’re struggling financially.  We are, and we’ve purchased very few of the games they have, and of course games have horrible resale value.  The point is that they’ve been roped into a materialistic cycle I’d always wanted to avoid.

My son’s hand me down DS broke over Thanksgiving.  His uncle sent him a hand me down Of what .i thought was the latest middle for first communion.  

Today, I took the kids to the park to fly a kite we bought at a dollar store.  We were having a good, old fashioned, inexpensive, fun time, but while I assembled the kite, I heard him talking about how he wants to save up for the latest model, which apparently is literally the “new 3DSXL.”  Within what I thought was reasonable for his fragile psyche, I lost it a bit and got a bit preachy.  We had a moment, hugged it out, but when I tried to talk about living in the moment, he said how at school they always talked about preparing for the future and planning for emergencies.  In his mind, having a second DS in case one breaks qualified as an emergency.   I’d been enjoying those 6 months when he carried around a box of Legos.

But how do you teach your child to be humble, to have poverty of spirit, to put others first, etc., when schools, and ironically Catholic schools especially, teach pride, ambition, and competitiveness?

The Jesuits have always been controversial for their accommodation of local cultures, and for their frequent interference in politics,  but I do not understand how an Order which rarely produces bishops or cardinals and has taken 500 years to produce a Pope because it teaches against pursuing advancement has contributed so much to the competitive approach to education we find in modernity.

When a dress code is not just about teaching modesty and obedience but wearing a “blue blazer with brass buttons,” is that teaching children to follow the examples of John the Baptist, Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, or Pier Giorgio?  Even the Monarchs who’ve been canonized generally dressed below their stations.  

When a school advertises its “high academic standards,” makes students compete for titles like “valedictorian” even to the point of destroying friendships, gives awards for “perfect attendance,” etc., his is that teaching children to live the Beatitudes?   Help that homeless person you pass on the way to school, get a few minutes late, lose perfect attendance and lost the edge on being “#1.”  Besides, helping the homeless is dangerous, might be illegal, and you need to direct them to proper charities.  Is that a message that teaches kids to be Saints..

I know I could do a lot better as a parent, but I also know that what Ai consider better is the opposite of the World.

That’s why I homeschool.

T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes”: More and Less than you may think

I was looking up T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes” today, and found that one of the top “hits” on Google is an essay from some literature class. I don’t know whether it was written by the instructor or a student, but on content alone, I’d have given it a “C” at best. The author presents his reading as authoritative, yet provides no basis for several assumptions, either in the text or in third party citations. The style is pretentious and pedantic yet offers little clarity or substance. As for my own credentials, I have never published on Eliot, due to focusing on teaching and family life, though I have published on C. S. Lewis, and Eliot is one of my research interests. A week into my freshman year of college, when I was 16, I checked out a stack of books on Eliot. The librarian said, “A research paper, already?” I said, “No, this is pleasure reading.”

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The poem:

I
THE WINTER evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps 5
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots, 10
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
II
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer 15
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes, 20
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

III
You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited; 25
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back 30
And the light crept up between the shutters,
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where 35
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.
IV
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block, 40
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties, 45
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle 50
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

1) “Preludes” is one of my favorites and a great example of Eliot’s work, but it should be noted, contra this author’s generalization, that its popularity in anthologies stems from several key factors:
a) Eliot left strict instructions on how many lines of his poetry could be anthologized. This requires breaking up his longer poems, and “Preludes” is one of the only ones that fits.
b) Those who want to present a biased and inaccurate view of Eliot’s work, as the author of this essay does, want to favor the “Prufrock” era and reject his later, more overtly religious poems.
c) “Preludes,” in particular, has been used since the 1980s because it and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” were used by Trevor Nunn as sources for the lyrics to “Memory.”
d) Eliot’s early poems fell into public domain many years ago, but, due to changes in copyright law, nothing published after 1922 will fall into public domain until 2020.

2) You must first remember that Eliot is a Formalist. Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” This was paraphrased by another overanalyzed formalist, David Lynch, with the line in a Twin Peaks dream sequence, “This is a formica table.” C. S. Lewis, who in context was, ironically, responding to Eliot’s over-analysis of Hamlet, says that we cannot understand Shakespeare unless we first realize his plays are written as popular entertainment. Eliot is, per his own theory in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” trying to use poetry to provide a multi-sensory experience. He gives us sights, sounds, smells, and sensations through words. Eliot himself, when asked what “Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree” means, said, “It means ‘Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree.””

3) Eliot himself, upon reading this, would have likely been enraged, and said something like the above. He was so annoyed at critics asking the “True meaning of The Waste-Land” that he published the “Notes on ‘The Waste Land'” years later, *then* many years after that said the notes were a prank (cf. Kirk, Eliot and His Age).

IMG_2799
He repeatedly emphasized that poets write poetry for a reason, and if he’d wanted to explain what he was “really saying,” he would have. Nonetheless, there was one critic he said understood him, and that was Russell Kirk. Indeed, if you read *one* book about Eliot, both in terms of literary biography and analysis, read Kirk’s Eliot and His Age.

The writer who inspired this post is right that the world of Prufrock and Other Observations is hellish, but Eliot is not saying that this is all there is. According to Kirk, the “Prufrock” and “Waste Land” era are a kind of Inferno to which “Ash Wednesday and “Journey of the Magi” are the Purgatorio and Four Quartets, the Paradisio. Yes, much like Dante, people seem to find the Hell more interesting than the Heaven, but Eliot never believed the atheistic nihilism you’re reading into this. During the period of his rejecting his family’s Unitarianism (for not being theological enough), and adoption of Anglicanism, Eliot experimented with Buddhism and other Eastern spiritualities. He was always a Theist. The hopelessness of this poem–which I personally see is actually a hopefullness in recognizing Christ even in the city street–is not Eliot’s own but the hopelessness he sees in those around him.

The article has part of the puzzle but is missing a lot. One way we can tell that Eliot’s poems are part of a larger whole is that they often include “call backs” or allusions to his own work–in this case, the final lines remind us of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

4) Thus, there are three impulses at work here. Eliot, a self-described, “Royalist in politics, classicist in criticism and Anglican in religion,” hated modernity but he also despised the romantic view. So he used modernistic realism to parody romanticism, critique urban living, and yet see the street as reminiscent of “the infinitely patient, infinitely suffering” Christ “stretched across the sky.”

Liberals say . . .

The Constitution means whatever they want except what it says.  Animals have rights, but people don’t. Babies aren’t babies unless you want them to be. Gender means whatever you want. Sex and marriage are about self-gratification and not procreation and child-bearing. Life is about pleasure and should be “terminated” if it isn’t pleasurable. Money can be created ex nihilo but the universe wasn’t. If you suggest it’s more important that kids learn in school about how their bodies actually work than about dinosaurs, evolution, and various forms of pleasure seeking, you’re “anti-science.” And they call us “wing-nuts”. . . .

Why believers make better doctors

In our pluralistic society, the notion of choosing a business or professional based upon faith is considered discriminatory. We hear a lot about businesses refusing to provide particular services based upon moral principles, but not about customers, unless it suits the Left’s agenda. “I will “I will gladly be your doctor but I will not prescribe contraceptives” becomes “He refused to give me health care!” On the other hand, a doctor pressuring a woman to *use* birth control is perfectly fine, and if she refuses to go to that doctor, she’s the one who’s considered extremist.

As I’ve written many times, and is one of the founding principles of this blog, it is very difficult to find doctors who support patients’ moral choices: not to profit from or participate in fetal tissue or embryonic stem cell research, not to use artificial birth control, etc. People who don’t include morality in their medical decisions–and those who do but take a very broad interpretation of “remote material cooperation”–seem to not understand why this is important to some of us patients. I’m sure many people would rightly object to eating at a restaurant with a sign saying “whites only.” They would understand why supporting a business owned by a KKK owner is objectionable. However, they don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to support a medical business that engages in practices we find morally repugnant: this is both because they think it’s wrong to *consider* those actions wrong and because they refuse to acknowledge that medicine is a “business.”

So that brings me to why, even if we’re not talking about moral issues, I find it’s important to generally choose, when possible, doctors who are people of faith. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re Catholics, or even Christians, but they have to believe in some sort of “higher power.” I believe it’s a saying, but I’ve often found that doctors who don’t believe in God think they are God.

If a doctor thinks that religion is stupid and irrational, what does he think about patients who are believers? If he doesn’t trust your discernment about spiritual and moral matters, will he trust your discernment about your own health and healthcare decisions?

If she doesn’t believe in God, when difficult moral issues do arise (e.g. end of life issues), will she be more willing to take the easy way out?

I’ve encountered many doctors over the years who have mocked me for praying, flat-out side, “There are no such things as miracles,” etc. A year after my 1996 aortic root replacement, some of the tissue around the stitches of my artificial valve started to leak. During my echo, the tech got really quiet. He got up and got the cardiologist, who redid the echo himself, very slowly. You know something was seriously wrong. He came in afterwards and gave us the report. He ordered me to bed rest for a year. A year later, they were worse. A year after that, I expected them to be even worse. This time, he came in with his jaw metaphorically on the floor, saying, “They healed!!” Ever since then, every doctor I’ve told that story to has had one of two reactions: 1. “Wow, a miracle!” or 2. “That doesn’t happen. He’s probably an idiot and misread the echoes.” Yeah, that’s why he did it personally, slowly, right away, to double-check the technician’s initial finding.

For a few years in Northern Virginia, I went to one of the highest-rated cardiologists in that region, and he said that prayer and “faith,” generically, is a huge part of his practice, that he finds patients who pray and meditate perform far better than those who don’t.

A Parable

A rich man dies and leaves his very young children his entire fortune, his company, and a gigantic castle, more room in one building than they or their future families could ever need–holdings around the world that they will probably never travel to. Do they claim that as evidence their father never loved them or never existed?

Does a man who gives his children a small home love them more?

then why does the size of the universe or location of the earth matter, one way or the other, as to God’s existence and love?

I know God exists because I know that “Ghosts” exist–whatever their explanation may be

A writer at US Catholic attempts to address the question “Do Catholics Believe in Ghosts?” in an article which is circulating my Facebook news feed. provides a lot of quotations from theologians and philosophers (including Peter Kreeft), Church documents, the Bible, etc., which collectively present a superficially contradictory picture.
My initial response was that he seems to skirt the distinction between the various definitions of “belief”: a) acknowledging the existence of; b) relying upon; c) seeking out; or d) being obedient to. The Catholic Church “believes in” all sorts of things under category a), but categories b-d apply only to God, and then to “public revelation” and the Church’s interpretation thereof. We’re still supposed to be cautious about applying b-d to private revelation.
Once, I came across a web article by a priest who had a PhD in physics or something, who argued that many phenomena we attribute to “ghosts” may indeed be unexplained scientific phenomena, such as electromagnetic radiation or even wormholes.
It also makes sense that, sometimes, people get apparitions or locutions from their relatives who are in heaven just as people sometimes get them from Jesus or the Saints.
There is debate over whether “malicious” entities that infest homes or possess individuals are always demons or sometimes damned souls. While, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, I’ve always leaned towards the theory that if souls in Heaven have abilities similar to those of the angels, souls in Hell must have abilities similar to demons.
Back in 1986 or 87, a priest who was a family friend, the late Fr. Gregory Kirsch, whom I’ve blogged about before, came over for a visit, bringing a tape he made of an ordination Mass that had occurred the evening before. He had not watched the tape yet before showing it to my parents and me. He had set his camera up on a tripod angled from the sacristy so you could see the altar and most of the congregation. He began the recording before Mass and turned the camera off about 10 minutes after. After we watched the Mass, when everyone had processed out, we left the tape running and talked. Suddenly, someone, I forget who, said something like “What was that?” We all saw “it” briefly while glancing at the screen. If Father hadn’t left the camera on, if we hadn’t kept the VCR playing, and if at least one of us hadn’t glanced at the screen at just the right instant, we never would have seen it, but we rewound it and watched again:

Three or four white shapes floating up from the ground past €the altar.

I’ve always described them as “wisps.” I’d say now that the shape was similar to that of the more traditional “football”-shaped halo in iconography.

It had been a new tape, so it wasn’t an old recording fading through. It was too low to be coming from the candles. There was nothing that could have produced smoke, and no one was anywhere near the camera. This was before the days of computer editing even coming close to being available to home users, plus there was no reason to fake it. I don’t know what happened to the tape. It just *was*. We watched it over again a few times to make sure. All four of us saw it.

Whatever they were, they were definitely the phenomenon that people describe as “ghosts.” Unless they were, as the aforementioned physicist priest suggested, some kind of unknown electromagnetic phenomenon, they were definitely preternatural. The Occam’s Razor answer would be angels. Whatever they were, the proved to me that some things cannot be easily dismissed.

Do you believe it because it’s True?

Recently, I started off on a train of thought, and it took me a bit differently than I’d intended. I talked about the notion of what people mean when they speak of “religion,” as if religion is some kind of recreational activity that is a way to kill time on the weekend, and how people treat their “choice” of religion with the same standards that one applies to, for example, the choice of a football team to support.
To most people, the notion that “religion” matters significantly as anything other than a source of conflict is thus completely alien. It doesn’t help that the term itself is vague. Is a “religion” a set of practices, or a set of theological principles, or something else? C. S. Lewis tried to answer that by his distinction between “thick” and “clear” religion: ritual and theology, respectively.
People will say, “You think your religion is better than other religions,” and mean essentially the same thing as, “You think the Gamecocks are better than the Tigers” or “You think that Pepsi is better than Coke.” They see the diistinction as being purely a matter of taste or preference and capable only of being discussed angrily, if at all, based upon emotion. The notion that a particular religion may be *true* is a whole other matter entirely.
I don’t see the point of adhering to a religion *unless* one believes it to be true and, thus, superior. To say, “You think you’re superior because you believe God is real and has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, and you look down on people who disagree with you” is the same thing as saying, “You think you’re superior because you believe that matter is made up of atoms, and you look down on people who disagree with you.”
Spiritual People Inspire Me; Religious People Frighten Me
Most people in our society, particularly those most likely to look down on “religious” people, would admit that it’s absurd to deny certain historical or scientific truths, yet they don’t understand why “religious” people think it’s absurd to deny what we believe to be perfectly obvious revealed theological truths, as well. It especially baffles me that people think religious conviction should lead to war any more than any other conviction. If someone wants to deny the Holocaust, or insist the moon landing was a hoax, or insist the earth is flat or that dinosaurs were put there by the Devil to deceive us, I’m not going to kill that person over it; I’m going to try to convince him he’s wrong. The same is true of theology. The same kind of people who would go to war over religion would go to war over any of those other matters, as well.

“Can Atheists Go To Heaven?”

Many mountains have been made of molehills regarding Pope Francis’s comments on the question, “Can atheists go to Heaven?” It seems the common “take” on his response to this question (which is really no different than Benedict XVI’s, John Paul II’s, Vatican II’s or various pre-Vatican II teachings) is that he’s somehow denying the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice to say that Christ died “for everyone,” and that anyone can get to Heaven by accepting that gift of salvation. Many who are tempted by sedevacantism are falling into that position.
When people ask questions like, “Do you think non-Catholics go to Hell?” the implication is that one’s “religious affiliation” is somehow immutable and inherent, like race, and that thus salvation is not a matter of a free choice but a question of arbitrary, Calvinistic predestination. Asking “Can atheists go to Heaven?” is, for the questioner, the same as, “Can Asians go to Heaven?” It’s like the atheist has no choice *but* to be an atheist.
Of course, this all derives from the two classic “extreme situations”: the catechumen who dies en route to her baptism or the pagan who dies in some Third World country without ever hearing of Jesus. As I’ve noted many times about the two extremes on this issue,
a) Fr. Feeney was really a radical providentialist who insisted God’s Mercy would not allow a person to die in such a state, and that God would provide someone to evangelize and baptize such an individual; he based this on his own experience in which he claimed to have encountered several people on the verge of death who begged him to baptize them;
b) Fr. Rahner’s (and anyone who reads me knows I’m not a fan) theory of the so-called “anonymous Christian” necessarily involves that hypothetical pagan, so it does *not* justify failing to evangelize those whom we meet. I’ve read quotations from more liberal priests than Karl Rahner who insist that even Rahner’s position is “insensitive” because “my Muslim friend would be deeply offended if I told him I thought he was an ‘anonymous Christian.'” The problem with this, as I’ve previously noted, is that the hypothetical “Muslim friend” is no longer an “anonymous Christian” once he’s met the priest.

“Don’t Think About it: it’ll go away.”

When I was a kid, and I’d have pain, my dad, not knowing what else to do, would say, “Don’t think about it. It’ll go away.” I’m laughing, kind of, because I just heard Fr. Apostoli use those very words on _Sunday Night Prime_, referring to the attitude most people have about Hell.

Hell is real. In order for God to be loving, in order for God to be merciful, there must be a justice from which He is merciful. In order for us to love God freely, He has given us the choice not to accept Him, and that choice is Hell: eternal suffering that comes from the fact that a) even though we are free to reject God, we still need Him, and those in Hell suffer from lack of His grace, while b) they require at least some of His grace to exist, and God is everywhere, so the presence of God, in spite of their hatred, forms part of the sufferings in Hell.

Ignoring Hell isn’t going to make it go away. Repent. Present yourself to Jesus in the Sacraments. Turn your hearts to Him.

Do Liberals Always Think We’re Angry Because *They’re* So Angry?

In his short-lived sitcom Bob, Bob Newhart played a cartoonist who had been a popular comic book writer a generation before and was hired by a comic book firm to work with a hip young writer on reviving the superhero he created with a “gritty,” 90s approach. In the show’s most memorable scene, often used in ads, the younger writer encourages Bob to express his anger in his work.
“But I don’t have any anger,” says Bob.
“Show me your anger, Bob!” shouts the other guy.
“I don’t have any anger.”
They go back and forth a few times, until “SHOW ME YOUR ANGER, BOB!”
Until Bob finally screams, angrily, “I DON’T HAVE ANY ANGER!!!”

One of the surest ways to incite someone to anger is to claim they’re angry when they’re not, and a favorite debate tactic of liberals is to accuse conservatives of being angry, especially when we’re giving impassioned defenses of causes like the Right to Life. Ever since those early 1990s, the racist, sexist expression “Angry white males” has been used to dismiss conservatives.

So, the other day, after what I’ll admit became a bit of an angry Facebook discussion with a self-proclaimed daily Mass attending Catholic who supports gay marriage and opposes the Church’s right and obligation to tell the State what to do in matters of Natural Law, I posted a reflection on how we often speak of “poorly catechized” Catholics, but there are actually a lot of *badly* catechized Catholics. Some woman who, from what I can discern from her blog isn’t Catholic but likes to post a lot of anti-Catholic stuff, posted an extremely condescending comment with three points:

1) She claimed that my mission statement is a lie because I oppose Obama. Apparently, she thinks that abortion and eugenics constitute support of children and disabled people.
2) She approved of my interlocutor’s disrespect for the Pope, made condescending comments about how she presumed I must have been “dismissive” in my tone, and how people have to be nicer to each other when debating vital moral truths, and how I ought to be capable of seeing some good in my interlocutor’s demonic positions in support of government-endorsed sin.
3) She said she sensed a lot of “anger” in my post.

Hmm, that’s funny, since I thought in the post in question I was being fairly neutral, if not expressing dismay and sorrow that so many Catholics have been misled about what Catholicism is. I sometimes confuse Ven. Fulton Sheen’s observation that not 1 person hates the Catholic Church but millions hate what they think the Catholic Church is with GK Chesterton’s observation that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and not tried. It is also Fulton Sheen who said, after the infamous Land of Lakes convention that fomented dissent against Humanae Vitae in Catholic universities, that the worst thing a Catholic parent can do is send their child to a Catholic college.

Ironically, as I noted in my previous post, I had baited my “Catholic” interlocutor at one point the other night with a charge that he had been brainwashed by a secular education, expecting him to say he had a Catholic education–since usually when I encounter someone who thinks they way he does, that person has been to 12 years of Catholic school, and probably has an MA in theology from one of several universities.

The first time I was suspiciously dismissed from a teaching job was at the first Catholic college I taught for online, when I had been careful to do everything they said, and had even done a great deal of work, unpaid, because I had been verbally offered classes several quarters in advance, only to be told at the last minute that my classes were assigned to someone else. “Did I do something wrong?” “No. We just had to give your classes to someone we hired after you.”

Later, I applied for a job with the online program of another university. My training went well, though I was uncomfortable with the notion they wanted me to do a semester of “training” unpaid. The very last training assignment was an essay on “diversity.” I was puzzled. I had never had to talk about “diversity” at any of the public or secular for-profit universities I’d worked for, so why at a Catholic school? Then I did a more careful perusal of the school’s main site to find they had an active “LGBT” program, including a Gay Rights Week on campus. So I wrote my essay on how great it was to finally teach at a Catholic institution and be able to incorporate my faith in the classroom, and I never heard from them again.

Anyway, I’m getting off track from this post’s intent.

Another time I was directly fired from a teaching job, this time at a for-profit college, it was nominally for cause (they always emphasized how gradebook and attendance errors could be grounds for immediate dismissal, and I had a couple due to entering the information in the computer the wrong way), I felt that the firing was not due to that. I had a couple openly homosexual students, and I found myself put on the spot at one point, and in the following class session, I was being observed again, when I had just had an observation a few weeks before, and a week after that I was called in to the dean’s office and fired. I was vindicated, however, when I saw the campus advertising for a dean and assistant dean later that quarter.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, has said that he expects to die in bed, but he expects his successor to die in prison and his successor’s successor to be publicly executed. Archbishop Chaput has made very similar statements. As I’ve noted many times since last January, the Holy Father himself, addressing the US bishops at their ad limina visit, said the “gay rights movement” and the present administration pose an unprecedented threat to religious freedom in our country, particularly the freedom of the Catholic Church. The UK this year passed a “gay marriage” law that specifically requires churches to participate if they provide weddings to non-members. My interlocutor the other night kept insisting that legalizing gay marriage isn’t a threat to the church, even after I listed the number of ways that it is a threat to the Church and to heterosexual couples (for example: various government forms are now changing to say “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2”, rather than “husband and wife”), including the stated goal of many homosexual activists–and many of my students whose papers I graded over the years–that they want to see the day when the Catholic Church, specifically, is forced to endorse gay marriage.

When Archbishop Levada was appointed prefect of the CDF by Pope Benedict XVI, a lot of people were concerned because of his compromise on San Francisco’s law requiring employers to provide benefits to gay couples. After unsuccessfully suing the city, Archbishop Levada said he was going to allow employees of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to name any adults who lived with them without paying rent to be “dependents”–thus not creating a special right for homosexuals but also providing a needed benefit for adult relatives who live together, etc. In a discussion with some other Catholics who were concerned about whether this made Levada a “liberal,” some of whom were from Canada, I asked what the justification was for the “gay marriage” movement in Canada. Here in the US they make impassioned arguments about legal property rights and insurance coverage, when Canada has socialized medicine. One fellow said, “They don’t make any pretense about it. They openly say their goal is to force the Catholic Church to recognize gay marriage.”

If I say that gay marriage creates a situation where it’s harder to protect my children from sin, that means I’m a “hater.” If I say that it’s frustrating to see so many openly gay characters on television, and how gay couples are becoming more and more prominent on TV, that somehow extrapolates (as my interlocutors the other night directly accused me of saying) that I want to kill gay people or something. No, it just means the same thing as why I try not to let my children see programs involving cohabitation. They still think of the Sixth Commandment as the _Veggietales_ “Dance with who brung ya,” and they think it’s gross when people who aren’t married kiss each other.

Canada is now saying that homeschooling families can’t teach Christian morals to their kids. Canada is saying that it’s “bullying” and “hate speech” to say that homosexual behavior is wrong. Members of the “Christian Left” will respond that we are all sinners, and that’s perfectly true. The other night, one of the guys I was arguing with (there were two, but one was more active than the other) pointed out that the only New Testament passages that explicitly mention homosexuality group it with drunkenness, theft and slander. I responded that I try not to let my children get exposed to drunks, thieves and slanderers, either, and that if someone started a movement to legalize drunk driving, theft and/or slander, people would object to that. That didn’t go over well, and I was accused of confusing bigotry with reason.

Again, angry liberals like to accuse conservatives of being angry when they don’t have a leg to stand on in their arguments.

Then there’s the famous, “It’s biological,” which I’ve addressed many times. My body’s propensity to have its arteries blow up is also biological. Just because I am, as “Lady Gaga” tells her followers, “Born that way,” doesn’t mean it’s God’s intention: the Church has that covered in the doctrine of Original Sin. Sociopaths, manic-depressives, addicts and schizophrenics are all, in some extent, born that way. That doesn’t mean we allow them to *stay* that way. My autistic children are “born that way,” and autism actually has a lot of redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t mean they should be permitted to throw self-destructive fits.

If there’s a biological basis for homosexuality, that doesn’t mean God intends it or it’s something good. I often mention the “study” a few years back where some geneticists got together and debated homosexuality: normally, a favorable genetic trait leads to individual health and procreation, and if something doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a genetic defect. Homosexual behavior doesn’t lead to procreation, and it leads to all sorts of health problems. A logical conclusion would be that it’s a genetic defect, but these geniuses decided to redefine the standard for an advantageous evolutionary trait and say that homosexuality is a natural tool for population control! So much for survival of the fittest!

But, again, that’s hate. That’s anger. That’s bigotry.

When an unmarried woman gets up in front of Congress and claims that college students like herself have to spend close to $1000 a year on birth control, and someone calls her a “slut,” that’s dismissed as anger and bigotry.

I call it the little boy pointing out that the emperor’s naked.

The Bottom Line On Salvation

I saw a video on Facebook of Larry King grilling semi-televangelist/semi-New Age Guru Joel Osteen about the question of salvation. A lady caller, apparently a Christian, asks Osteen to be clear on whether he believes Jesus is the only Savior and it’s necessary to believe in Jesus to be saved, essentially pressing him to answer whether he’s really a Christian. King hounds Osteen on the question, from the other angle, of the infamous, “So are you saying Jews are going to HELL???” Osteen, thrown off his guard, stammers out a pathetic answer about yes, that’s what he believes, but he also believes God judges each soul individually??? The video is presented as “Osteen Denies Jesus is the only Savior,” but he doesn’t really deny it. He just fails to articulate any competent theology. Further, for a guy who built his name on his “discovery” that there’s no such place as Hell, Osteen even refers to Hell. For a guy whose whole message is a twisted form of universalism, that “It’s OK to live as you like, because if you don’t go to Heaven, you just cease to exist! Yay!”–you’d think he’d have a ready answer for those questions.

All it showed me about Osteen is that he’s a shyster and an idiot and has no theological competence, but it raises some questions about that underlying notion.

It actually ties into something else I was reflecting on. I watched _Star Trek V_ the other night, and was reading up on it in the “Memory Alpha” and “Memory Beta” wikia pages. Now, Star Trek has never been friendly to Christianity, except in a more allegorical way, but I have always appreciated stories like _The Final Frontier_ that at least show the characters open to God’s existence. In the late 1990’s, Pocket Books published a series of novels–Q-Space,Q-Zone, and Q-Strike, which tried to explain some of the mysteries of “Q” in Star Trek the Next Generation as well as, as “Trek” fiction often does, provide explanations for other Trek phenomena. The back story is that, millions of years ago, “Q” was part of a band of higher-plane beings who terrorized the galaxy for millennia until the Q Continuum finally punished them and put various restrictions on Q’s companions (Q himself was exonerated for helping the Continuum fight his former friends, and his punishment was to undo the damage he did by training growing civilizations, including humanity). One of those companions was the entity from _Star Trek V_, and at one point one of the characters says, “He’s the guy who invented monotheism.” I’m glad I never read the books.

It’s an intriguing notion, for pretty much anyone with a non-Abrahamic worldview (and even some who claim a Judeo-Christian worldview), that monotheism was a deception by a power hungry “higher power” who wanted to shut everyone else out.

Monotheism, as Larry King attests and Joel Osteen shies from, is a challenge. When Pharoah Akhenaten tried to introduce monotheism to Egypt, he was solidly opposed, and the reforms he enforced were disposed of soon after his death. The Jews were a thorn in the Romans’ backsides because they were monotheists. The Romans didn’t care what you believed as long as a) you acknowledged the divinity of the emperor and b) you tolerated everyone else. Judaism held that there was one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose Name is the great Tetragrammaton, and that one should have no other gods besides Him. And while Jews did not seek to convert Gentiles to their faith, they still looked down on the Gentiles. Christians took it a step further and said that a guy the Romans crucified was the son of God–the very title of the Emperor!–and that He should be worshipped, *and* the Christians called for the Gentiles to adopt their faith and turn away from other gods, including the emperor. This was a major problem for the Romans, just as it is for today’s “multiculturalists.”

Judaism doesn’t officially even address the question of “salvation”, as the Sadduccees would gladly point out. For Sadduccees, the notion of Heaven and Hell was as troublesome as the notion of Purgatory is for Protestant Christians, for the same reason: they didn’t see where it was in the Bible. Of course, Jesus showed Sadduccees how the Resurrection is implied in the Torah, and Catholics are constantly trying to show Protestants where Purgatory is implied in the Bible. But the point is that the Hebrew Scriptures do not even directly teach about resurrection, so if Osteen stood by his teachings, and King stood by his own religion, they ought to be able to shake hands in agreement, that Larry King, if he remains Jewish, will not go to Heaven, and he will not go to Hell: according to Osteen, and the literal reading of the Old Testament, he will simply cease to exist.

The Abrahamic tradition is radical in claiming there’s only one God, but the Old Testament primarily deals with the worldly consequences of failing to properly worship that one True God. Christianity is radical in introducing the notion that there is One Savior, that no one can come to the Father except through Him, and that, yes, people will go to Hell simply for not believing in Jesus.

This is because the underlying thought of people like Larry King and Joel Osteen is that, whatever they may say, their minds are deeply secular, and they still see religion as ultimately a more sophisticated form of “Santa Claus” and the “Tooth Fairy.” People call me a nut for saying it, but this is the teaching of Freemasonry, as I say time and again. It’s one of the main points in the original Papal documents condemning Lodges from the 1700’s: the notion that all religions are equal and exist primarily to make people good citizens. This notion has so deeply infested our society that even sincere people of faith think it.

I’ve also written many times of how Our Lady of La Salette predicted these New Age “Near Death Experiences”. She said, back in 1846, that in the late 20th Century, people would claim to be back from the dead, bringing stories of the afterlife that contradict the Faith, and not to believe them because they would be possessed. So, today, people “come back” with stories of seeing “beings of light,” or “Illuminati” or “Enlightened Ones” or whatever (clear-cut Freemasonry), or people who say they saw family members, or people who say “If you’re a Christian, you see Jesus. If you’re a Muslim, you see Mohammed.” Now, there *are* true Near Death Experiences: Saint Augustine had one. Lots of people have authentic visions of nearly dying and encountering Christ and nearly going to Hell or possibly tasting Heaven, but these modern stories exist to muddle the truth.

Another common falsehood is this image of people dying and being judged by St. Peter, a popular misinterpretation of Matthew 16:19. If anything, the words of the ancient Roman liturgy say that the dead are guided to judgement by St. Michael, the Standard-Bearer, but they are still judged by Jesus, and Jesus alone. God does not sit off in an office somewhere. His eye is in the sparrow. He counts the hairs on your head. He’s going to be there when you die and not a mysterious distant person in a metaphorical office. And He’s going to be there in the person of Jesus Christ.

The plain fact is: Jesus is real.

That is the answer Joel Osteen should have given. There is One God, and One Savior, Jesus Christ, and He is a real being, a Person, whom you will encounter directly when you die, and how you react to Him when you meet Him will determine your eternal destiny. St. Faustina said Jesus told her that, in the split seconds before people die, He calls out to them three times. The Catholic Church allows a priest to administer extreme unction or even baptism for a certain period of time (I’ve heard 30 minutes) after death since we do not know when the soul leaves the body. St. Teresa of Avila says that each person, when he or she dies, will see Jesus and react instantly in either fear or love, and that is what Judgment will be.

So, that’s all there is to it, Joel and Larry. When you die, you face Jesus. It’s entirely possible that at this moment, there are some Muslims, atheists, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans making their last breaths, and they’re seeing Jesus face to Face and saying, like C. S. Lewis’s Emeth and Orual, “Really? It was You, all along? I was so wrong. I’m sorry, Jesus. I love You.” And it’s absolutely certain there are lots of Christians at this instant facing the Man they claimed to love and worship, and like Victor Hugo’s Javert, reacting at disgust that the Person they thought they were serving was not at all like what they expected, and choosing to go to Hell rather than spend Eternity with a God who disgusts them.

That’s the answer to Larry King’s question. It’s all about a Person, the Person of Jesus, and, yes, it does matter in this life, because even though there are lots of Christians in Hell and, while there may be plenty of people in Heaven who only became Christians in the seconds before death, the better we get to know Jesus *now*, the better we will react to Him when we meet Him

_Percy Jackson_ Shows What’s Right With _Harry Potter_

The other night, I had the dubious pleasure of watching _Percy Jackson and the Olympians the Lightning Thief_, and what I got out of it is that it showed why the _Harry Potter_ series is both artistically and morally laudable.

1.  While both J.K. Rowling and C. S. Lewis have been criticized for the “derivative” nature of their work, and the matter can be debated in both their cases whether they’re hacks or geniuses, it is clear from the movie, at least, that _Jackson_ author Rick Riordan falls under the category of hack, since on the surface this is _Harry Potter_ with the names changed and “god” substituted for “wizard.”  The term “half-blood” is even used.  The movie doesn’t mention Triton, but apparently the overall theme of the series is that the Percy and his “half blood” friends (including a much less friendly counterpart of Hermione and a much more competent but more lascivious equivalent of Ron) must save the Olympians from the return of the Titan Triton.  
2.  To his credit, Riordan has done his homework.  Even the film was *mostly* accurate with its adaptations of Greek mythology, which is unusual even for films directly concerning Greek mythology.  My only gripe there is that if we’re supposed to believe the Greek myths were real, Medusa died, killed by the original Perseus, and there’s no explanation given why or how she was resurrected. I’ve never understood when fantasy stories refer to “a Medusa” (or “a Pegasus” for that matter), and I’ve also never understood why stories that try to use Greek mythology don’t just use one of the other Gorgons.  Also, Medusa was supposed to be ugly to look at, even without the snakes, and while I personally think Uma Thurman fits that category, I don’t think a lot of people agree.
3.  Maybe the books do, but the film doesn’t explain why the “Olympians” are so Ancient Greece-centric (for example, the “half bloods” are wired to read ancient Greek; see below), but most of them have emigrated to the US.
4.  Apparently, Barack Obama is a demi-god, at least according to the film.  When “Grover” the Satyr is explaining to Percy about the existence of demi-gods, and showing him around Hogwarts-I mean, the summer camp for half-bloods–he says that there are literally hundreds of demi-gods (children of gods and humans) alive today, some who live completely normal lives and others who achieve great fame, “I’m talking White House famous” (film came out in 2010; I’m sure they wouldn’t have made that suggestion of the president in 2007).  So, is this supposed to indicate that Barack Obama, Sr., was actually a Greek god?  Or perhaps to suggest that BHO isn’t actually a natural-born citizen, after all?
5. All good stories, particularly children’s stories, and particularly fantasies, include some level of wish-fulfillment.  It is not hard to see how the nerdy, bullied, abused, motherless children in C. S. Lewis’s books are all shadows of himself, particularly Digory Kirk (who both reflects Lewis as a child and an adult) and Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who, like his author, hated his own name).  

The abused, orphaned Harry Potter also provides children a character to sympathize with: what I love about the first few Potter stories is that they remind me of myself–obviously, I was raised by loving parents and Harry was raised by an abusive aunt and uncle who locked him in the closet under the stairs–but having been a misfit in general in my childhood, as I awakened to my faith, I found a sense of belonging in the Church and in academia.  When Harry found himself embraced by his teachers who saw his great potential yet unable to fit in with any but a few of his peers, that was my own experience.  

Rowling gets it just right.  While one of the popular arguments of the anti-Harry Potter crowd is that supposedly he is not adequately punished for the things he does “wrong” (violating relative, worldly rules for the greater good, which is something the Pharisees criticized Our Lord for doing, and which is also a basic tenet of Catholic moral teaching).  However, it is also very clear that while they’re trying to shape and encourage him, Harry’s teachers want him to learn obedience and humility because they know how Tom Riddle’s great power and potential had gone to his head.

Not in _Percy Jackson_.  In the first few minutes of the film, we see a discussion between Zeus (the guy from _Lord of the Rings_ who’s always popping up in “One does not simply . . . ” memes on Facebook) and Neptune, in which Zeus is accusing Neptune’s son of stealing his lightning bolt, because supposedly only a god’s son is capable of doing so.  Then we’re introduced to Percy, whom we first see underwater, saying he can only think underwater–gee, no mystery who Neptune’s secret son is, now, is there?
Percy’s horrible at English Literature, and comes home and laments to his longsuffering mother that the “special school” she sends him to isn’t working, and his ADHD and dyslexia are much too severe.  Then we are introduced to his very stereotyped oafish, abusive stepfather.  

Shortly thereafter, Percy’s English teacher turns out to be a Fury who has been sent to get the lightning bolt back from him, but she’s chased off by his mentorly and wheelchair-bound Classics teacher (played by Pierce Brosnan) who later turns out to be a Centaur.  His  best friend, who hobbles around on crutches turns out to be a Satyr.  I’m not going to summarize the whole film, but just establishing the characters here for this purpose.  The message here is:
a) people with physical disabilities are OK because they may just be hiding secret superpowers
b) English teachers probably are horrible monsters 
c) Percy is told his ADHD is just his godlike instincts for adventure, and his dyslexia is because he’s “hardwired” to read ancient Greek, not modern English.  So, people with ADHD and dyslexia, feel good about yourselves!  You’re probably like Percy, and too good for these lame-o schools.
d) Percy’s mom only stuck around with his step dad to “protect him” because his step dad stank, and the smell of his unbathed stepfather shielded the Olympians and their related monsters from recognizing his divine blood (yes, seriously, that is how it’s explained in the film).  After mom orders stepdad out of the house at the end, he finds Medusa’s head in the fridge and gets turned to stone.

Oh, that reminds me. . . . 
6.  THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S MOVIE.  PARENTS, DO NOT LET CHILDREN UNDER 13 VIEW THIS FILM.
I believe in striking the balance between being lenient and strict in all aspects of parenting.  We try to let our kids have an informed exposure to pop culture.  They know when we say not to watch something, we mean business, and they usually agree with us when we tentatively allow them to watch something we’re not comfortable with.  We tried to hold off Harry Potter till our eldest was at least 13, but my father in law kind of circumvented us on that one, but she’s well formed enough that it worked out.
But this is falling under the category of the Michael Bay _Transformers_ films: NO WAY IN THE NETHERWORLD.  

This is very violent.  There’s something about the CGI minotaur that really freaked me out, even more than the monsters in a Potter or Narnia film.  It didn’t even look like a minotaur except for the horns, and the fact that they called it that. The Minotaurs in the Narnia movies looked far more like what I’d imagine a “real” one to look like.  Granted, today’s kids are really immune to CGI special effects (“It’s OK, Mom, it’s just CGI,” they often tell their mom when she’s worried some special effect is too scary for them).  However, I dunno.  I found the creatures and violence in this film disturbing and inappropriate for anyone under 13. I don’t even think it’s the fact that the movie’s violent so much as that it’s so casual about violence.  

My dad talks of his experience trying to teach _Hamlet_ to kids in the 90s who found Hamlet’s dilemma problematic, not for the traditional reasons scholars have argued it, but for the simple fact that they saw nothing wrong with killing. “Why’s he hesitating at all?  The dude killed his father.  He should just off him and get it over with.”

That’s the approach of this film.  Got a stepfather you hate?  Stick a Gorgon’s head in the fridge & kill him.

7.  “All lives end in tragedy and despair,” says the boatman on the River Styx in _Lightning Thief_.  Interestingly, the Netherworld in this film is depicted as the Christian Hell more than the Greek Hades, and it is referred to as Hell while its ruler is referred to as Hades.  Much as in _Buffy: the Vampire Slayer_, where Hell is depicted as the ultimate reality, and “the jury’s still out” on God or Heaven, _Lightning Thief_ suggests that all souls end up in Hell, except for the select few who make it to Olympus (and presumably they have to be demi-gods to start with).  I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad thing.

8.  _Harry Potter takes place in a world where good and evil are clearly defined, in spite of those who insist that it’s morally ambiguous. This film is definitely morally ambiguous.  Socrates was accused of impiety for complaining about the moral ambiguity of Greek mythology, and this film is true to that element.  Neptune is the “good guy” among the gods, but only because we’re supposed to be cheering for Percy.  Zeus and Hades are both the “bad guys,” since their minions are both coming after him.
Grover commits adultery with Persephone, which is OK because Hades doesn’t really love her.
We are assured that all the gods are selfish (though that is by the character who turns out to be the actual “lightning thief,” but his position is never debunked).  

9.  Thus, _Lightning Thief_ completely precludes the possibility that Christianity is true.  I don’t mind fiction that suggests that pagan gods were real but that they were angels and fallen angels, or that they were aliens, or just super-powered humans, or even some other preternatural beings still lower than the true God.  Christian figures from St. Augustine to John Milton to C. S. Lewis have entertained the possibility that the pagan gods might have been or been based upon “real” beings.  I also have no problem with reenacting the Greek myths.
It is possible to take most fantasy or science fiction “worlds” and see the True God behind them.  This is what Flannery O’Connor says is the key to “Christian” writing, and I’d say it’s also the key to Christian reading and criticism: viewing the world with a Christian lens.  O’Connor says that fiction doesn’t have to discuss theology to be Christian, but merely see the world as one in which Christian moral, cosmological and spiritual principles are true, and work in practice.  This would be contrasted to a literature which is completely atheistic or pagan.  For example, while I saw _House, MD_ through to the end, I was dismayed at the middle of the second season when House hits rock bottom after breaking up with Cuddy, and he really starts to go crazy. When I saw House jump the shark–I mean, jump out of the hotel room–I said that there was no way he could return from that low a pit of despair without a proverbial “higher power” in his life.  No real person could descend so deep without committing suicide or going deeper into drug use unless he had God in his life.  

However, this movie holds that Greek mythology was completely *true*.  Zeus *is* the current ruler of the universe, though the Titans Again, all people go to Hades, and Hades is the Roman Tartarus or the Christian Hell, where the “real” Hades in Greek mythology was more like the Christian limbo or the Hebrew Sheol.  

Again, this shows what Harry Potter does right: the _Harry Potter_ books are filled with at least cultural Christianity.  There are churches, there are Christian cemeteries, Christian holidays, and citations of Bible verses.  It’s not clear that the characters are Christian in anything more than a cultural sense, but it’s *perfectly* clear that “Christianity” exists, and the overall providence and moral fabric of the stories holds true to Christian principles.  

While Rowling is not as overt as C.S. Lewis at showing the Christian God at work in her fantasies (and apparently, according to some people, even Lewis isn’t that overt, between those who insist Aslan is merely allegorical or those who insist that Aslan is a representative of “any great religious figure,” as opposed to being very clearly the Divine Word incarnate in a different way on a different world), it is still *possible* that had God chosen to give some people magical powers, and to create some kind of magical parallel world within our own where magical people could exist with fantasy creatures and practice magic freely, all that happens in _Harry Potter_ could happen in a world where Christianity is true.  Nothing explicitly violates Christian theology other than what violates known science, anyway.

That is not the case for _Percy Jackson_.  If Greek mythology was completely true, if all souls go to Hell, if Zeus is the ruler of the cosmos (and got there by force), and if beings who are part god and part human walk the earth in the hundreds or thousands, then Christianity is false.  

So that is the message that Rick Riordan and the producers of this film want to send to your children: Christianity is false, and you’re doomed to Hell, so “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

Why don’t people read the books?

The other day, I posted a slight rant about pluralism, and a certain notion that has crept in post-Vatican II. The Church rightly teaches that there is a “ray of truth” in all ideologies and religions, and that “ray of truth” is what appeals to people and ought to ultimately lead them to Catholicism. The Church, however, also holds there is a great deal of error in these other religions. Vatican II tries to emphasize building dialogue on the good things in other belief systems, but that has often manifested itself in a mentality of pluralism or indifferentism or even syncretism. So, taking for granted a great deal presuming my audience was primarily Catholics, and not intending to directly debate atheists or other non-Catholics as such, I posted a piece about how if we, as Catholics, truly believe our religion is the Truth, then that should influence how we address the issues of the Church in public life, pluralism, religious liberty, and education. We should not, in our Catholic schools even, be teaching our faith as just one option among many. In public schools, a thorough education should at least include “the Great Books,” and that includes many works of Catholic thought.

All that said, I inevitably got some spiteful replies from atheists and agnostics (or I presume so). I refused to directly engage them in a debate where I’d simply be rehashing the arguments of Catholic philosophers. I instead, per the point of my post, invited them to read some of the great texts of Catholic and Christian philosophy–some of which should be prerequisite to a proper education. The person accused me of committing the fallacy of appeal to authority. I tried to explain that I was not appealing to authority but rather referring the reader and/or interlocutor to the texts that explain things better than I could. There’s a huge difference. So this person posted yet another flippant response. Since I had said all I intended to say on the matter and saw no point in preceding in what would inevitably descend to a flamewar, I wasn’t sure the post required a response. Further, I’ve been quite busy these past few days and feeling particularly badly health-wise, so while I’ve been online and have posted a reflection or two since then, I have declined to respond immediately.

The person took my silence as a sign of defeat and posted yet another ad hominem about how I am supposedly “willfully ignorant” because I refuse to debate him or her. I wrote a lengthy response that I felt merited its own post:

Write whatever you want. Moderating a discussion to the audience and purpose I intended does not make me willfully ignorant. It makes me the moderator of this blog. There are plenty of threads on this blog where I’ve directly argued with atheist commentors. I just have no interest in doing so in this particular thread, because the purpose of it was to address the question of how Catholics should handle a pluralistic society. The post is not directly dealing with atheist-Catholic dialogue or apologetics. I don’t see how inviting you to actually read the books that I’m referring to, which make the arguments I’m taking for granted, constitutes “willful ignorance.” It constitutes willful refusal to have a discussion that would be inane without the proper context.
I have a thorough education, and I have an informal self-assigned Great Books education that I engaged in on top of schooling. I have never been adverse to studying world views that are different than mine, and I appreciate learning from them what they have to offer. However, as G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of an open mind is to shut it on something solid.”
Further, you hardly gave me that much time to reply. I realize that this Internet culture presumes instantaneous response, but I haven’t had that much time the past few days, and what time I have had, I have been having severe pain from the aortic dissection I live with. So I simply have not had interest in engaging in adversarial debates in the time I’ve spent online this past few days.

Pray for Warren Buffett

Now is the time to pray very hard for Warren Buffett. The 81 year old multi-billionaire and sometime richest man in the world has announced he has cancer.

By the world’s standards, Warren Buffett is a very rich man, and a very successful man.

In reality, though, Buffett is a very poor man. Like Citizen Kane, he has money–not necessarily “all that money can buy,” since he has lived most of his life like Ebenezer Scrooge–but he ultimately has no meaning in his life.

Buffett is an agnostic, openly hostile to the Catholic Church, has already given tons of money to “population control” and will leave the bulk of his estate to Planned Parenthood when he dies.

Like most billionaires, Buffett is a registered Democrat

I’m hoping that, at the very least, that Buffett’s recent concern for the national debt (odd for a Democrat) will lead him to change his mind and leave it all to the government, even though it would only be a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions Obama has spent on “bail-outs” for Buffett’s CEO buddies.

“But,” you say, “the Democrats are the party of the poor! Republicans are the party of the rich!” No, Republicans are the party of the middle class and of small business owners. Democrats are the party of the mega-rich manipulating the poor into voting for politicians who will use helping the poor as an excuse to give more power to the elites. Look at Obamacare: millions of people have been duped into thinking this is some kind of socialized medicine that will provide them with free health care, when in fact it’s *forcing* them to give more money to the insurance companies. More welfare for the rich brought to you by the Democrats.

But imagine the good that would be done if Buffett would give his riches to the world’s largest charitable organization. I don’t know any atheist or agnostic charities that actually help people. My family has been helped by government programs. We’ve been helped by Christian charitable groups, particularly Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Society (people who volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul are generally some of the nicest people I’ve ever met). We’ve never been helped by any secular charity. I don’t even know if there *are* such things. Secularists don’t start charities to actually help people: they start “charities” for saving the whales and killing the children.

My tendency to rant aside, I am greatly concerned for Warran Buffett’s soul, as well as the horrible damage that will be done if he leaves billions of dollars to Planned Parenthood and its ilk. Even if the federal government and every state cut its funding, Planned Parenthood could remain in business for years, making a fortune off of abortions while duping Democrats into thinking it does anything besides abortions.

Meanwhile, poor Warren, a child of God who is infinitely valuable and infinitely loved in his Father’s eyes, will most likely suffer very greatly in Hell for the damage he has done to human dignity, both through his corporations and through his support for “reducing the surplus population,” as his mentor Scrooge put it.

Our Lord warned us, speaking of a rich man, that some people will not even be persuaded if one should rise from the dead. Certainly, our society is filled with people who have heard of Christ’s resurrection and do not believe in it–Buffett is in his own spokesman’s words such an individual.

Dickens, in spite of Our Lord’s words, suggests that a rich man *can* be saved by the warning of a friend from Hell. But while Scrooge is “converted,” he is converted merely to a “joy of giving.” The Masons invented the myth that giving is inherently joyful to give a reason for alms without Christ. Of course, the Popes say that true charity is impossible without Christ (see the encyclicals condemning Freemasonry and see Benedict XVI’s _Caritas et Veritate_).

Christianity is honest enough to recognize that giving is *NOT* inherently joyful. Christians become joyful by giving because we shed our attachments and become more Christlike. But the whole reason Christians *give* is that it’s an experience of self-denial. We realize that this life is temporary, and we are supposed to store up treasure in Heaven where no thief can enter nor moth nor dust destroy. That’s why the Catholic Church, in spite of the many detractions and calumnies thrown at her by secularists, is the largest charitable organization in the world. That’s why Christians, collectively and in spite of their economic status, perform more charity than all the “billionaire philanthropists” who give of their excess to meaningless causes.

But in spite of the fact that he is like the Rich Man who let Lazarus starve to death, and in spite of the fact that his role model is Ebenezer Scrooge, we must pray very strongly that this man softens his heart of stone. Through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Nicholas and others, may Warren Buffett open his heart to the Gospel. Dear Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon him. Send him a vision. Send him the right book to read, as you sent Edith Stein the autobiography of Holy Mother Teresa of Avila. Have him open his eyes to the Scriptures. You know what it takes, and we know that, through the interrelationship of love You have made us for, You want us to pray before You act, for as you said to Your Mother at Cana, “it is not My time yet” unless we and the saints intercede first and do our small part.

So please, Dear Lord, do what it takes to convert Warren Buffet. Let him be received into the Church and receive the sacraments before he dies, even if it is a death bed conversion. Give him time to change his heart and his will. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on Warren Buffett and on the whole world. Amen.

Happy Holy Days!!

One of the points I usually make about the “Holiday Season” is that, for Catholics, it really is.  Not only do we have Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s, but we have Christmas for 12 days, Epiphany, St. Nicholas Day, Immaculate Conception, Guadalupe, etc.

However, something struck me recently about those who try to say “holidays” to be politically correct.  Just as “Christmas” means “Christ’s Mass,” “holidays” means “holy days.” I already *knew* this, but it just occurred to me that it’s a great irony that “holiday” has come to be a term to *avoid* the True Meaning of Christmas.  Indeed, calling Christmas “the Holiday” speaks to the point that it *is* “The Holy Day.”

So, Happy Holy Days to you, stupid secularists!

Kevin O’Brien as J. R. R. Tolkein

“There’s not going to be a Reagan @—— on this show”

It’s always interesting when seemingly separate news stories converge on a similar theme.  This week, this has happened with three stories about recent studies.

First, the Census Bureau announced last week that married couples are now a minority of US households, and more people are cohabiting than married.

Second, a fellow named Ben Shapiro has royally ticked off the Hollywood elite with his upcoming book, _Primetime Propaganda_, based upon interviews he conducted with various TV executives about their agendas.  Shapiro, a Jewish Harvard grad, asked for interviews with various TV executives for a study of “social themes in television,” and thinking he was a fellow liberal, they gladly shared their agendas with him.  He also recorded all the interviews, and he has published many of the videos.

I’ve read several articles about the controversy, and mentioning some key quotations.   He’s got some real zingers from big time producers, directors, writers, etc., saying how conservatives are “stupid” and “medieval” and completely unwelcome in Hollywood.  He talks about some performers who, while not totally blacklisted, were relegated to B or C-list status merely because of their conservative beliefs.  One example was _A-Team_ and _Star Trek_ star Dwight Schults (Murdoch/Barclay), who was rejected for a role on _St. Elsewhere_ (which went to Howie Mandel) because, as producer Bruce “Gwyneth’s dad” Paltrow put it, “There’s not going to be a Reagan a****** on this show!”

Thoughts on this issue:

1.  The “Teletubby Principle”: Liberals love pushing their agenda in every avenue they can, but they hate it when their agenda is exposed.  In other words, among themselves, or when they think they’re among themselves, they’ll be completely up front about what they’re doing.  If a conservative exposes it, however, even *quoting* what they’ve said to begin with (or, in this case, showing them on video saying it!), that conservative is a nutcase conspiracy theorist.  Way back in the late 1990s, gay publications started proudly proclaiming that the then-new PBS fad, _Teletubbies_, was full of homosexual subtext.  Someone writing for a magazine owned by Jerry Falwell quoted what these gay rights activists were saying about the show, and the mainstream media spun the story as, “Jerry Falwell says _Teletubbies are gay.  What a loon!”  (Falwell for his part said he thought _Teletubbies_ was a great show, that his grandkids watched it, and he didn’t even know of the controversy till everyone else did).
The MSM, including FOX News, like to push the notion that conservatives are uneducated and anti-intellectual, but whenever conservatives demonstrate critical thinking skills or cite their sources, it’s “paranoia,” “conspiracy theories,” etc.

I spent 2 years in graduate school taking classes from liberal literature professors telling me all about postmodernism, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, etc.  It’s OK if you apply those methods *as* a liberal among liberals, but if you’re a conservative, and you turn their own methods back on them, you’re a bigot and a conspiracy theorist.  Thus, the “spin” on Shapiro’s book is not what he’s recorded and quoted straight from the horses’ mouths, but it’s that Shapiro is obviously a racist and a liar!!

2.  For example, I just saw a comment from one liberal who referred to Stephen Colbert (the liberal Catholic darling of all sorts of people) saying that “Hollywood has a liberal bias because life has a liberal bias.”  To the minds of liberals, conservatism = racism, and the existence of minorities is itself liberal.  They’re trying to spin Shapiro’s quotations to make it sound like Shapiro is uncomfortable with depictions of minorities on TV.  That’s not Shapiro’s point.  One of the most-quoted points in the book is that Sesame Street was intended for inner city minority kids.  This is no closely guarded secret that Shapiro has uncovered by deep cover spy work; it can be found in any article or retrospective about the show.  My kids and I were watching the old 20th Anniversary special on tape a couple months (OK, I was watching it; the kids left the room) back, and they talked about the same thing.  Gordon (played by a different actor then) was originally supposed to be the main character, and Oscar the Grouch was supposed to be a metaphorical racist. Now, what the liberals are taking out of Shapiro talking about this is that *he’s* a racist because he doesn’t like that _Sesame Street_ depicted minorities.  That’s not his point.  His point is that the producers of _Sesame Street_, like typical liberals, have a condescending attitude towards minorities.

His point is that _Sesame Street_, by the producers’ own admission, is designed to make children comfortable with liberal ideas like divorce, etc.  Again, watch any retrospective special, DVD commentary, or whatever about _Sesame Street_, and they’ll brag about the “expert educators” they use to determine how to integrate “social themes” into the show.  I’m a huge Henson fan, but come on, watch or read *any* real life interview with the guy, and it’s  obvious he was a pinko.  He made no secret of it.  And Sesame Street is on the Socialist Broadcasting System.  What is the big secret?  The only reason people find this notion absurd is precisely that they’ve been brainwashed by it.

3.  Does anyone think people like Susan Harris, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, Tony Thomas or Norman Lear are *not* flaming liberals?  Again, they make no secret of their agendas!!!  They say it!  The only thing that makes Shapiro’s book special is that he catches them showing what absolute contempt  they have for conservatives, and even that is no big secret.
Yet the idiots in the comboxes keep saying things like, “Don’t conservatives have something better to do,” and “Come on, it’s just a TV show.”  And we’re to believe that conservatives are idiots?

A liberal won’t let you read a book or watch a show or movie, without telling you every little theme of subtext in it, and without insisting it *has* to have subtext, but if a conservative does the same thing, the conservative is a nutjob, a time waster, a spoilsport, etc.

That brings us to the third related tidbit in the news this week: a survey which asked Americans what percentage of the population they think is homosexual.  52% of Americans think that 20% or more of the population are gay.   35% think that 25% or more are gay, which means that they think there are more “gay” people than Catholics, African Americans, Hispanics, etc.   In reality, the most generous figure of people who identify themselves as “gay” or bisexual is maybe 4%.

Another case of liberal hypocrisy I like to point out, along with the “Teletubby Principle”, is how, when Ellen Degeneres “came out of the closet” and had her TV character do the same, ABC said it was important to represent gays and lesbians on TV because they were supposedly 10% of the population.   A couple years later, when the Catholic League led a coalition of devout religious groups (Including the Jewish ADL) and pro-life groups in protesting ABC’s _Nothing Sacred_, the network claimed, “We cannot allow programming decisions to be made by what amounts to 10% of the population.”  HUH?  (And so they think that sincere religious believers and pro-lifers account for only 10% of the population??)

Joe Carter at First Things matches these perceptions up to GLAAD’s evaluations of representations of “GLBT” people on scripted “prime time” television (he notes the numbers are even higher if you include “reality TV,” news, talk shows and daytime dramas.  Now, the number of gay characters on network and cable scripted series today has skyrocketed since Ellen’s controversial outing nearly 20 years ago.  The number of prominent “gay” characters out of the total number of regular and recurring characters on current-running shows is probably about 4%, anyway.

However, Carter points out that this doesn’t match up to the depiction of Christians, which he claims is unfavorably skewed down.  Of course, a barrage of commentors have challenged Carter’s claims, arguing that people presume TV characters are “Christian” unless otherwise noted, or that studio execs are afraid of touching Christianity and courting controversy.  Yet they’re *not* afraid of courting controversy by a) insulting Christians; b) depicting committed Christians, if at all, as hypocrites and freaks  and terrorists; c) depicting *other* religions in a favorable manner; d) depicting divorce, fornication, adultery, etc.

If the argument is that characters on TV should fairly depict what America “looks like,” and so they need to have a certain percentage of gay characters just like they have to have certain percentages of black and hispanic and female characters, that’s fine.  Then let’s look at ABC’s statements about the _Ellen_ controversy and the _Nothing Sacred_ controversy again: 10% are homosexual (actually, far less)?  10% are pro-life, committed believers of Christianity and Judaism (actually, far more)?  Then there should be at *least* as many characters on TV who are sincere, committed Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Jews as there are characters who are gay.

Why don’t we ever see a TV show with a man or woman who has more than 3 kids *and is happy about  it*?

I’m pretty sure there are more Catholic monks and nuns in this country than Buddhist monks, but if TV shows want to depict someone “holy” and “at peace” and all that, they show a Buddhist monk or monastery.

People on TV shows and movies always recommend yoga and tantric meditation and stuff as ways of attaining peace, but you never hear them suggesting the Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration.

Quotes of Wisdom come from Confucius and the Bhagavad Gita and whatever, but never from the Bible.  If they do quote the Bible, it’s that one verse from Leviticus they love to quote, or maybe Psalm 23 or something, and usually it’s some made-up verse that anyone with a modicum of familiarity with Sacred Scripture knows doesn’t exist.  (One of my favorite examples of this was a time on _The X-Files_, when a “Bible verse” was cited from the Gospel of John.  I forget the exact made-up chapter and verse they used, but it implied that the 21-chapter Gospel of John had well over 50 chapters).

And people think there is no liberal bias in the media?

Were dinosaurs closer to birds or reptiles?

What was the posture of a tyrannosaurs?

Is Pluto a planet?

What is the smallest particle?

Everything in science is subject to revision with new research or new analysis.

Why does anyone take anything scientists say as absolute?