Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thank You Still, President Bush

I'm getting ready to sit in on another Bible study with an old buddy, on Isaiah 40. My emotions caught me, because some words of the prophet are irrevocably attached to a memory, painful, but good. The loss of the space shuttle Columbia, on February, 1, 2003. President Bush quoted these words:

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power
not one is missing."

The president said the Lord called them by name, and though we can't see them anymore, not one of them is missing. It was powerful stuff, the kind of thing that makes people give him the benefit of the doubt, when they wouldn't, or shouldn't.

It's that unfailing empathy that marks this time of good feelings toward "43". Others could learn from him.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Dude, the Queen didn't even meet Prime Minister Boris in person this week. This is getting serious.

4. No Olympics. Boo.

3. Our US fatality rate is starting to jump up. This isn't ending anytime soon.

2. Let's cut the mess. Paul Young's version went to #1, but I'll take the recorded version or any live version of "Every Time You Go Away" by Daryl Hall and John Oates.

1. Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Cuomo Follow-Up

We've long had a "progressive" elite that preached sexual "freedom," while they themselves did otherwise. They suggest the national government to address all sorts of problems, but wealth insulated them from the effects of norms they'd encouraged the average people to flout.

We're facing what happens when you build a nation on the idea that we're all autonomous individuals who can define our own meaning, while you destroy the social support networks that make us happy, and help us to flourish.

Opioid addiction, suicide, gun violence and mass shootings (and many other things) are simply manifestations of being simple cogs in a machine. We're producing, but not flourishing. We're busy and (usually) healthy, but not satisfied.

We must use this time afforded by the pandemic to re-evaluate what matters, and not simply spiritually. The spiritual is inevitably political, and political reality reflects our spiritual health, or lack thereof.

Cuomo Is Right, But

I can't help myself. The only lives which are not priceless are those of unborn children. It's the same "profits over people" philosophy, better hidden. The blessing of Trump's crudity is that the brutality of this philosophy is out in the open. Segments of the Right are starting to say, "It's only 3%, and they're not productive, anyway!"

Sexual "liberation" is big money. I don't think the entertainment industry spends all that money upending norms about family, marriage, and society just for kicks. Left and Right are functionally united in the belief that we are simply consumers. If they can't sell us anything, or we're not useful as cogs in the money-making machine of someone, we don't matter. The sooner we see it, the sooner we can build a different philosophy.

The entire American experiment has become the utilitarian nightmare that it was destined to be.

What's The Point? The Merciful Inconsistency

"It is better to be inconsistent with good principles than to be consistent with bad principles." Just stop and think on this one. I think it's true. Not that it's easy to see in this culture. In this culture, the worst thing you can be is a hypocrite. "At least I'm not a hypocrite!"

I'm glad the guy who says there's no meaning and purpose in the universe loves his Mom, and helps his elderly neighbor with her garbage. That's better than Ted Bundy, to say the least.

I love the film, "Interstellar". (2014) It's like "The Ten Commandments" for secular, agnostic types. What's hilarious about that is, it's subversively Christian, in many respects. One protagonist, Coop--the avowedly secular, embittered widower scientist guy--literally risks himself for no sensible reason, on the absurdly small chance that he will survive a trip through a black hole (News Flash: not happening) to see his elderly, dying daughter, to whom he promised to return when she was 12.

The villain, meanwhile, was proclaimed as the noblest of all the scientists by everyone throughout the film, even appearing so until the twist. He is the one who ruthlessly applies the logic of "survival of the fittest" consistently.

When it really matters, Coop acts against what he says he believes, because at his core, what he truly believes is this: Love binds the universe together.

Thank God for that.

Monday, March 23, 2020

What's The Point? Knowing Versus Believing

If I say that things in the universe are either necessary--that is, they have existence in themselves--or contingent--that is, they rely on another for their existence, and that there must be logically something that is the Necessary Thing, source of all existence for the contingent things, that's a logical argument. You don't need a religious text, or a special kind of faith or knowing to see the truth of it. You could argue I suppose that is a certain kind of sleight-of-hand, to call the Necessary Thing "God," especially if you are some sort of evangelist, as I am. Then again, what else are you going to call it?
Frankly, I think a lazy sort of agnostic likes to have arguments about the weirder aspects of allegedly supernatural truth, because he can point to some crazy person handling snakes in the mountains of West Virginia, and rail about the pernicious influence of religion on the body politic. But the truth is that this whole first paragraph is philosophy, not religion. It considers the question of whether God exists. To answer the question of whether God exists in the affirmative is not to instantly become a spiritual or religious person, because the question of God's existence is not a religious question. The Catholic Church has always maintained that there is a distinct difference between intellectually knowing that God exists, versus being in a spiritual relationship with God, and acknowledging him as Father.
Supernatural faith is indeed a gift from God, but when and where it exists, it is something which supplements the fact derived from reason that God exists. I do hope that everyone believes, in this deeper spiritual sense. It is in fact something that I pray for. But I also hope that what is logical and reasonable is apparent to all seekers of truth, prior to any considerations about the intimate, spiritual, miraculous, and supernatural.

What's The Point? The Legend Continues

Most ordinary people who claim to be agnostic are decent sorts, so you can rule out nihilism, because strictly speaking, it might edge pretty close to sociopathy.

Yet here is where the subscription to existentialism meets an interesting problem. If we embrace a skepticism about what reason is able to know, then it refutes the basis for a certain claim that particular divine directions--like the sacrifice of Isaac--are immoral, and the God which commanded them ought to be denied and rejected. If I cannot know anything with certainty, then I cannot know that my moral contentions, passionate as they may be, have any truth value. Indeed, the difficult passages in the Bible are difficult precisely because nearly all readers are approaching the text in a Judeo-Christian society and worldview, which accepts that God is bound by his nature. It does not seem correct or right that a good God would command the death of an innocent person to satisfy his wrath or justice. Other philosophical systems contend that what God commands is right, because he commands it.

These considerations do not erase the difficulty and the mystery of such passages, but we would do well to consider the wisdom of perhaps exploring these questions from the other direction. That is, let's set aside the consideration of miracles, prophecies, and supernatural beings, and instead consider knowing in itself. What might I be able to know through logic, or demonstration, or by deduction from first principles?

In fact, if one starts from the philosophical position that miracles are impossible, and that God who does them or permits them does not exist, one is highly likely to conclude that miracles are impossible, and God does not exist! But that's not a proof; that is circular. I can imagine or remember a few scenarios where I preferred a circular argument to the truth, but I always challenged myself with, "What are you, chicken?"

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What's The Point? Continued

Suppose I were an agnostic. Logically, this makes no sense, because contingent things don't cause themselves, and I have to have some explanation for what we observe, or can deduce. But let's go with it, for the sake of argument. I see two main ethical frameworks I might use:

1. Existentialism: a philosophy which emphasizes the willing actions of an autonomous agent, who directs his or her own development; or,

2. Nihilism: a rejection of all religious or moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.

Let me just reject (2) out of hand. A consistent nihilist would probably just commit suicide, and--going back to a first principle--existence is better than non-existence, so that doesn't seem like a good choice. It should be noted that a fair number of self-killers were likely exhausted existentialists. [Is a suffering existence better than non-existence?--ed.] I answer that, a suffering existence is indeed better than non-existence, because an awareness of some lack hopes for something better. Also, not everyone suffers at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. It would make sense to suppose that suffering will lessen, or even end. A person who no longer lives does not suffer, but they are not (presumably) aware of no longer suffering. The supposed benefits of suicide as a relief of suffering are overstated. Bluntly, what's the use, if we're not here to enjoy it?

Most people aren't nihilists, either, despite some talk of it. I find a moralizing nihilist pretty amusing, by the nature of the case. On the other hand, is it even possible to construct meaning and ethics, if nothing is provided from outside? Moreover, what does an existentialist suppose about the nature of knowing itself? If nothing can be reasonably certain, it would seem that "I do not know" is in effect, "I cannot know."

What’s The Point?

Namely, what’s the point of believing in “the Universe”? If you can ask it to bless you with good things—and you know good things from evil things—aren’t you talking about God? What’s the point of believing in a randomly capricious inanimate object?

Do people secretly know there is a good God? They must. I don’t even understand the unfocused belief in something impersonal. What a waste of metaphysical speculation!

I will quickly realize in this life that God is not a cosmic Pez dispenser. But being militantly anti-religion, whilst wishing/praying to the Universe is like talking to a wall, hoping a million dollars pops out.