Category Archives: atheism

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.

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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.”