[SOC]

I have been experiencing a change in my thinking lately that I have taken to calling the "Moral Revolution." I am always changing my thoughts in the light of new ideas, but these changes are often marginal. They never strike to the root or core of my beliefs. This would be growth. Instead, I am experiencing what the Greeks call "metanoia" or the changed mind. This is not growth but conversion.

I am not an atheist anymore. I have been one for over a decade, but the nihilistic acid burning in my soul is turning me into a monster. Atheism is nihilism. Atheists will endeavor to dispute this, but it is simple logic. Nietzsche saw it. Sartre saw it. Camus saw it. The New Atheists refuse to see it. But in a world without God, all things are permissible. This is an awesome world for a libertine until the other libertines sodomize the living shit out of you. Then, it isn't so awesome.

I think moral law or natural law is normative. It exists, and this moral law is not the product of blind evolution but a guiding hand of divinity. Others can debate the fossil record and Anselm and Pascal and Hume. I think those are a pointless waste of time. The issue is much simpler and basic. It is about good and evil. They exist, and people prefer the good to the evil. Unfortunately, they have a high propensity to do the evil which is mindboggling. This is the Catholic idea of concupiscence.

This moral sense is my proof for God. It is the only one that matters to me. Believing in it is less about evidence than necessity. You have to believe in the good because the alternative is madness, chaos, evil, and Hell. Even atheists sneak God in the backdoor in order to live and function. No moral judgment can ever be made without an appeal to this divinity and normative standard. The best an atheist can do is describe a cause and an effect of a choice, but that atheist can never say that anything is good or evil. Those judgments are rendered as nothing more than personal opinions. Since atheists are fond of making moral distinctions, the result of atheism is an intellectual schizophrenia.

Christians are not the first people to make this point. Pagans and philosophers also smack into it repeatedly. The Deists of the Enlightenment were on stronger ground than today's atheists in this regard. Human life and civilization is not possible without the moral law. What makes humans human and better than mere chimpanzees is this moral law. What makes life worth living is this law.

My new guides in this world are writers like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Chesterton writes, "Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable." This describes the atheists completely. They deny God in order to have their slice of evil. But they want God back the moment someone else wants their slice of evil. The atheist will retort that morality is merely the product of game theory and evolution. All this does is make morality selective with a take it or leave it proposition. Selective morality is no morality at all. Altruism is no different than survival of the fittest.

People have always made the comment over the years that for an atheist I seemed awfully decent and moral. I confess that whatever morality I have retained is the product of my Calvinist twenties and my Baptist teen years. All my atheism ever did for me was give me a license to fornicate without guilt and a fierce anger over the idea that the pieces of shit I encounter in the world would in most likelihood get away with it. Anger is merely the unfulfilled desire for justice.

I have already heard the criticism that my turn from atheism is the product of marrying a Catholic. This is partly true. My wife is a saint, but my change of mind is not to appease her. She has simply been a match to my box of tinder. Protestants have tried for years to reach me, but they are simply not equipped for the job. They can't agree among themselves much less get me to agree with them. But I have already learned of three atheists now turned Catholic in just the last few years. Catholicism kills atheism.

The moral revolution extends to my politics which is why I am dealing with Edmund Burke. Burke has been burning in my brain for two decades. But I see the problems in our society less as political problems than moral problems. It is fashionable among libertarians to blame all social ills on the evils of big government, but this isn't true. Big government is the product of social ills and moral relativism. This is why France got Napoleon after the French Revolution. Moral people get freedom. Mobs get tyranny.

It is hip being a libertarian, but I find myself becoming more like my old man who watches Fox News all day. I think today's conservatives are a shame in contrast to Burke. But I retain my fondness for Thatcher and Reagan. I think libertarians are actually libertines, and libertines don't have the morality or virtue to actually be free. This is because liberty requires altruism to advance. But the libertarian message is fundamentally not altruistic. For instance, why should I expend time, money, and energy to legalize pot when I don't smoke it? Why should I fight for the freedom of other people when it may cost me my own? What would Ayn Rand do?

I have always believed in the free market, and I think I always will. But the variable for me has been the extent of social freedom. The free market rewards moral behavior, so it is a good thing. People don't want to buy from crooks. But the social freedom side is troubling. Libertarians argue that people should be free to live as they please. But what happens if those people are Marxist Occupy Wall Street types? This is essentially what happened in France during the French Revolution. I think it would be great if everyone in society lived by the non-aggression principle. Unfortunately, aggressors use their freedom to aggress. This is why we take away their freedom. Underlying all libertarian hopes is a belief that everyone in a society will be libertarian and agree not to do bad shit. But this isn't reality. The reason we got the US Constitution was because something worse would have taken its place. This is the usual timeline of a revolution as the previous tyranny is replaced with a fresh tyranny. The Constitution merely installed a republic to forestall a dictatorship or reconquest from Britain. It was also a compromise.

I think the fundamental difference between a libertarian and a conservative is the fundamental difference between hope and reality. As the Federalist Papers put it, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." If all freedom needs to flourish is freedom, then why was the French Revolution such a calamity? The reason is because the entire nation of France at that time was a cesspool of shit.

The problem comes back to morality. Immoral people can't be free. Government is necessary to keep those immoral impulses in check. Unfortunately, socialism and the welfare state merely serve to feed those immoral impulses. Corporatism does the same with crony capitalists. And as other writers and thinkers have pointed out, a good monarchy beats a bad democracy. Everything hinges on personal moral conduct.

My wife points out to me repeatedly the failures of businesses and free market economics. It isn't that making money is a bad thing, but how that money is made. What gives capitalism a bad name are actually capitalists. I have pointed out the same thing with my essays discussing that a parasite class exists in corporations just as much as it exists in Washington, DC. The fact that Walmart told its workers to get on government welfare is a case in point. Today's Walmart is not the same as Sam Walton's Walmart. Never has a company been so successful while at the same time been so hated even by its own customers.

It is fun to abstract these things and discuss policy as if people were merely pieces on a chessboard. But people are moral actors, and their decisions are what ultimately effect how things are done. We now have companies that actively mistreat customers, and this is considered good business. This isn't the product of government regulation but the corporate culture created by business school grads. This is why you get frustrated navigating a phone tree trying to get a human being on the line that speaks the English language, and this madness is called "customer service." This is why Walmart will make sure you get organic Asian pita bread, but they only have two registers open to check out a hundred customers. Modern capitalism is less about customer satisfaction than a game to see just how much bullshit you will tolerate before you flip the fuck out.

All of these things are fundamentally about a decline in morality, decency, and values. Public service is now public predation. Management is now about fucking over your loyal and gullible workforce. Taxes are about how much wealth can be extracted from hard working people. Meanwhile, the rich are oblivious because they bought their tax breaks and loopholes. Nevermind that the working man has even less cash to buy goods and services. Money is now made from cheap Fed money lent to those without cash. This state of affairs can't last, and it isn't a public policy problem. It is a moral problem. It is theft. We are a nation of con artists and thieves.

I will stop here. Big day ahead for me. The moral revolution continues.

The Trouble With Libertarians



What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?
It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as they are disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves.Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
EDMUND BURKE


 I recall watching a video from the awesome Stefan Molyneux where he discusses how to advance liberty. Molyneux is an anarcho-capitalist and an atheist, but he makes the case that any advance in liberty has been due to moral claims as opposed to utilitarian/consequentialist claims. I have always rejected this idea/strategy on the basis that it rests upon natural law which atheists would want to avoid for obvious reasons. But I have come around on the idea lately and started to rethink my libertarianism. This has led me to the writings and thought of Edmund Burke. As all of this swirls around in my brain, I have reached one inevitable conclusion. There is no liberty without morality.

The trouble with libertarians is very simple. Their thinking is abstract. This is because the libertarian philosophy is an Enlightenment philosophy, and the Enlightenment was concerned with abstract principles. This is where Burke comes into the picture. Burke is considered either a friend or foe to liberty depending on when you read him and in what context. Concerning the American Revolution, Burke sounds like a Ron Paul of his day. Concerning the French Revolution, Burke starts to sound like Rush Limbaugh. The reason for this is obvious. Burke did not deal with the abstract but with the real. This reality aspect is what separates libertarians from conservatives.

Libertarians and progressives share a belief that their ideal social arrangements exist in the future. Naturally, these futures are utopian whether it is the progressive egalitarian state of the liberals or the libertopian anarchy of the libertarians. These futures do not exist except in the mind. We can envision them but realizing them is another matter completely. This is where the French Revolution educates us to reality.

I think Burke was at heart a libertarian. He may have disavowed his earlier opinions as satire, but I see Burke as a man who passionately desired liberty while having a healthy distrust of power and the state. The French Revolution sobered that outlook considerably and taught Burke and us that as bad as things are at the present, they can be made much worse in the name of the purest ideals. And what made the French Revolution and the ensuing Reign of Terror so bloody? In one word, it would be "abstraction."

Abstraction is the realm of philosophy. In philosophy, everything can be made perfect. Reality is not perfect. Reality is messy. When philosophers reign, the imperfect must die which is virtually every human being. This is why left wing people end up stacking bodies when given the power. Perfection is the justification for atrocity.

For Burke, liberty emerged as people formed social bonds and communities and lived by a common morality. Overturning this community, this morality, and the traditions and institutions that undergird and promote community and morality is a recipe for disaster. This is where conservatism comes into play. For conservatives, liberty is not found in the abstract. It is found in the present and in the past. We shouldn't look to hypothetical abstract futures like the philosophers. Instead, we should be historians and see what actually does work as opposed to what might work in theory.

One of the cornerstones of conservative thinking is the acknowledgement that society and humanity will never be perfect. Whatever system of government and social order we have will be a compromise. This may seem depressing, but it is less depressing than envisioning a utopia that you know will never exist. As they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Once you relinquish that utopia in your brain, having a good and decent society instead of a perfect society becomes tolerable.

What makes US and Western society so damn good relative to other regimes in history has been the Judeo-Christian ethic. Even an agnostic like Hayek could agree with this. While looking over the latest ideas from the atheist Steven Pinker, I could not help but notice how he credits everything but this Judeo-Christian ethic for the relative benign state of human society in the present day. Pinker thinks it is government and Enlightenment values, and I can agree somewhat with this. But the great civilizer is not government or philosophy but morality and religion. When you have a large body of people agreeing to respect the life, liberty, and property of their neighbors without threat of government force, the result is more life, liberty, and property. And how do you get people to voluntarily agree to this? The only answer to this is morality.

Morality comes from natural law. This law is written in the human heart. Codes such as the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule only heighten the sense of this natural law. And it is this natural law that Stefan Molyneux posits as being the way to get people to accept libertarian principles. I agree. My own consequentialist/utilitarian arguments have yielded zilch.

So, how should liberty be promoted in light of this? The answer is clear from history. The best governments in history have been republics. Whether it was pre-imperial Rome or modern day America, a republic trumps democracy, monarchy, dictatorship, and anarchy. It has been republics that have given the most liberty to their citizens, the most rights to minorities, and the most prosperity to their societies. Republics are essentially a compromise among the different elements of a society clamoring for power. They act as a brake and a constraint on the concentration of power. The most common refrain I hear about Washington is that they never get anything done in DC. This is a good thing.

Religion plays a vital role in society as a promoter of virtue. It is no mere accident that the USA has so much religion. That religious sense goes hand in glove with liberty. Life, liberty, and property are moral values as well as political values. As Burke put it, "Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality." You can make people respect life, liberty, and property through force. But this is not freedom. Freedom comes when people respect life, liberty, and property through an internalized set of values.


Government can promote or undermine those values through its actions. If it bails out failing companies while punishing good companies, this results in moral hazard. Likewise, the welfare state discourages the work ethic and encourages theft. Aid for single mothers results in more single mothers. Easy divorce laws results in more divorce for the most trivial of reasons. We can go on and on here.


Today's heirs to Burke's legacy are libertarians and conservatives. The problem is that they are divided. Libertarians are principled but ineffective. Conservatives are effective but unprincipled. The result is that you are either a debate club moralist or a realpolitik piece of shit. The guy that seems to bridge this divide and have the best of both worlds is Ron Paul. His brand of libertarianism is influenced by his Christian faith, and he manages to hold to principle while being realistic about change.


Broadly speaking, I don't know what label you can put on the Burkean mindset. I don't see anyone today really working from that philosophical playbook. I think if Burke were around today, he would like Ron Paul but disagree with the rest of the libertarians. He would be a conservative and probably like Reagan and Thatcher. Then, there is Russell Kirk.


Kirk was the father of traditionalist conservatism and a Burke devotee. Kirk wrote, "All culture arises out of religion. When religious faith decays, culture must decline, though often seeming to flourish for a space after the religion which has nourished it has sunk into disbelief." The alternative to a society influenced by religion, culture, and morals is one that follows the dictates of reason. Yet, reason is what gave us the French Revolution, Communism, and Ayn Rand's infamous purges and rantings. The crazy thing about reason is that reasonable people almost never agree on anything. The schismatic nature of libertarians is no accident but a direct result of reason. This is why libertarians preach freedom but show remarkable intolerance for dissenters. It doesn't take much to imagine what they would do in positions of power.


The weakness of conservatism would be in the economic realm. So many conservatives end up in the Keynesian camp or getting some second hand Milton Friedman. Reagan appreciated Mises. The best political philosophy would be a marriage of free market economics especially the Austrians with a Burkean social approach. Could we still legalize marijuana? It was legal in Burke's day, so that isn't an issue. But I think we can take anarchy off the table once and for all. Government does play a needed role in promoting virtue. It can also play a role in undermining virtue as well.


The last institution that helps promote liberty is the family. People can howl and scream over this, but it is pretty clear that children benefit from having a mom and a dad. I don't see how single motherhood has helped anyone. Government undermines the family when it pays women to have out of wedlock births.


The Burkean philosophy explains a lot of things I have wondered about. From a libertarian perspective, I couldn't tell you why Haiti is a shithole relative to the Dominican Republic next door to it. But from the Burkean perspective, the answer is obvious. Haitians are pieces of shit. That may be harsh, but it is true. The only formative difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republican is that they speak different languages and have different cultures. Otherwise, they started on two halves of the same island in a natural laboratory. Haiti remains a cesspool even relative to harsher regimes like Cuba or North Korea. Haiti's problem isn't a lack of libertarian freedom. It is a lack of virtue. The same can be said even more so for Somalia.


You can't quantify cultural factors. For instance, Max Weber's analysis of Catholicism and Protestantism and the work ethic can't be quantified, but we can see that Protestant countries are richer than Catholic countries. Government can influence culture to some extent, but it does not create it. If anything, government is a reflection of the culture. A debased culture gets tyranny.  A virtuous culture gets a republic. History shows this again and again.


My own frustrations with libertarianism gaining traction demonstrate this as well. I can't understand why people reject freedom, but it is twofold. Some don't want the responsibility that freedom brings. Others know that people are too irresponsible to be free. I think libertarianism is DOA and always will be because of this. Freedom can only be attained in a marginal way relative to the virtue of the people. Slavery is a great case in point. Government did not create slavery. It did help to end it, but there was considerable moral influence from Christian abolitionists on the issue.


I don't know where I stand on libertarianism anymore, but I think I am in that narrow crack between libertarians and conservatives. I will have to think about it more, but I firmly believe that there is no freedom without morality. I will have to write more on this at some later date.


[SOC]

Lately, I have been having my worldview adjusted a bit. Well, actually, it is a lot. I am dealing with an existential crisis of sorts. It is something fundamental, and it has to do with moral sensibility. My recent post on atheism and nihilism details some of that crisis. Then, there is this fucking piece of shit that shot up the movie theater in Colorado. I am dealing with what can only be called good and evil.

I am moving away from atheism. This will be anathema to many of my readers, and I will certainly be hated for it. But I see no other way to be. What is moving me in my thinking is what I call the "C.S. Lewis argument." Lewis discusses it in Mere Christianity. The gist of it is like this. All human beings have a moral sense. That moral sense is normative. Then, Lewis reckons with the person of Christ. But for me, it is primarily about that moral sense that is in all of us. We can't make a single argument without it.

A good atheist will say that we should follow the scientific method. The scientific method depends on scientists telling the truth. But why should they tell the truth? Why not lie? Why not advance your career with shit that is false? People already do this in other areas by padding their resumes or fudging their numbers at work. Why should science adhere to any such morality? At the end of the day, science depends largely on the morality of scientists. They are not always ethical in this regard. The only antidote to bad scientists are good scientists.

The movie theater madman, James Eagan Holmes, was a student of neuroscience and a brilliant person. I don't know what his religion is, and the current Wikipedia entry says his family was Presbyterian. But that means nothing. Either Holmes is a nihilist or deeply influenced by nihilism. This nihilism is what lead to the tragedy in Colorado. While people debate mental health and gun laws, no one seems to see or understand what really lead to the tragedy. Holmes lived completely for a brief time as a completely free agent in a world without meaning. He could have easily done something heroic, but he opted to become a monster. Holmes is not simply some freak. He was an educated and brilliant young man. And his lack of remorse shows that his soul is empty. He has numbed his conscience to a point of indifference such that even his own fate is of no consequence to him. He is almost identical to Meursault in Camus.

Atheism and nihilism are the same thing. Atheists will try and refute this argument, but they can't. James Eagan Holmes is what you get from nihilism. The counter to monsters like Holmes would be the person of Christ. If James Holmes sought to embody chaos and evil, we can see how Jesus embodied the good and left the world to consider and contemplate its own evil. Naturally, atheists seek to deny that Christ ever lived and those disciples and followers of Christ were all a bunch of deluded liars. But if delusion can produce a person like Jesus, I want that delusion. This is because the "reality" is what produces someone like James Holmes.

Atheists attempt to make the argument about what is true and false, but that argument is meaningless without good and evil. Atheists are like fish that deny the existence of water. The greatest thing evolution has ever produced is the human conscience. That moral guide and restraint is what makes everything human possible including science. But is conscience really just the good habits of clever monkeys? A study of chimpanzee behavior indicates that this is not reality. Chimps routinely kill each other. They are capable of great violence against their own but also have a stunning ability to display empathy. In this way, they are not much different than humans. But why have empathy at all? Clearly, empathy confers no survival advantage and actually puts one at a disadvantage. Why should one have compassion for another individual? How does this promote yourself or the species?

There is no kindness in nature. Compassion is a luxury in a world of savagery and violence. Snakes and whales lost their limbs as they became useless, so nature edits out the unnecessary. Yet, for humans, conscience was a necessity. Why? Even insects manage to not devour their own kind. Do wasps have a conscience?

The fact of reality is that we are left with a choice between being intensely mean, violent, and self-seeking or being empathetic, compassionate, and altruistic. For some reason, we feel that we must choose well in this regard. And we are left with guilt for choosing poorly. Humans don't need guilt to do the right things since many are motivated well enough with avoiding bad consequences. Guilt seems to stick to those who do wrong things, do them repeatedly, and will probably not stop doing them. Almost any action can be justified in the name of survival, yet we lament those actions nonetheless. It makes no sense.

Lewis linked this sense of conscience to the divine. If we need proof of the deity, we need look no further than our own hearts. I will continue to wrestle with this argument, but for now, Lewis is winning.

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The Trouble With Atheists

I was watching a YouTube video of Richard Dawkins discussing an issue with a fellow atheist about moral matters when Dawkins made a defense of infanticide in certain circumstances. Needless to say, I was a bit floored, but I can’t say I was surprised. I don’t think Dawkins is pure evil or anything like that. But he clearly was struggling to come up with a set of moral values without an appeal to the divine or to natural law. The result of such endeavors leads to horror. The trouble with atheism is that nihilism is the logical outcome of a world without God.

I have been listening to Catholic apologists, and it was Father Robert Barron who pointed out that the New Atheism is childish and silly in comparison to the old atheism of people like Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus. This is because those old atheists dealt squarely with this problem of nihilism. They knew nihilism was born out of atheism. The New Atheists hardly address these issues at all making moral judgments left and right without a second thought condemning the atrocities of Islamists, Christians, and the Old Testament God of Wrath. The problem with their position is obvious. What is the basis of right and wrong? They have none. An atheist making moral judgments is akin to a child who has outgrown Santa Claus but still expects goodies in his stocking.

Dawkins makes the case that there are many moral people who do the right thing without an appeal to religion. But St. Paul made much the same case in the book of Romans when he wrote, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” (Romans 2:14-15). Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis all made the same points. What they were talking about is natural law.

Natural law is that fundamental law that governs all human actions. It was the basis of this natural law that made the 13 colonies declare their independence from the English crown. It was natural law that was used to convict the war criminals at Nuremberg even though they had broken no German laws. Somehow, there was a law higher than German law and simply following orders does not excuse anyone from obeying this law.

The true atheist cannot appeal to this natural law. An inconsistent atheist may try and slip natural law in the back door, but he will simply be in error. The old atheists were consistent. Richard Dawkins is not. He wants it both ways. He says there is no God, but there is right and wrong. Nietzsche would laugh in his face. This is what happens when a biologist stumbles into the philosophical realm. Dawkins can easily make sport of some fundie Christian quoting Genesis, but I think Dawkins would sound similarly perplexed trying to explain to a Catholic apologist why a Nazi SS officer should have refrained from putting a bullet in the skull of a Jewish captive. This is why atheists can defend animal life in the same breath as making arguments for infanticide.

Christopher Hitchens is another inconsistent atheist. The man has a long history of inconsistency in that he could excoriate Henry Kissinger for war crimes while at the same time supporting the neoconservative foreign policy and subsequent war crimes of Bush/Cheney. Apparently, it is a war crime when communists die but not when Muslim fundamentalists die. As for religion, Hitchens makes the case that it poisons everything yet seems strangely silent when it comes to the many atrocities of atheists. Mao and Stalin give atheism a really bad name, and the best Hitchens can do is argue that these men were actually religious in some sort of way. This is stupid and disingenuous.

The case that Dawkins makes along with other atheists is that our morality is the product of natural selection and evolution. Apparently, compassion and altruism help us survive as a species. But so does cruelty and savagery. Why should we prefer compassion over cruelty? Why should the strong show deference to the weak? I am afraid biology does not help us here on any of these things. The flower and the honey bee may have a sweet arrangement of mutual benefit, but the lion and the gazelle do not. Likewise, Machiavelli makes the case that brutality is more reliable for the ruler than love. History demonstrates this to be true. Using game theory and biology only indicates to us that reciprocal altruism is one option among many, and that it doesn’t always work. Nothing compels us to be nice in any of these schemes. It merely explains why a Mafia don may whack one guy while showing love to another. It also explains why Dawkins can contemplate the slaughter of an infant as a morally acceptable option in the right circumstance. Ultimately, nothing is either right or wrong. There is merely that which is advantageous to the individual or the collective. Dawkins does a superb job of explaining why things are as they are, but he fails to make the case for why things should be any different. Ultimately, the Nazis were wrong because they lost the war. If they had won, they would be right. The end justifies the means.

We can come up with a hundred scenarios where the right thing would not be advantageous to either the species or the individual. Similarly, we can come up with a hundred scenarios where doing the wrong thing would be advantageous to both the species and the individual. The one that most comes readily to mind is eugenics. A neo-Nazi would make the argument that much social pathology would be eliminated if we exterminated the black race. I doubt Dawkins would agree with that, but he would have no basis to deny it. No matter how you slice it, the end result is nihilism.

The Christian has no such dilemma. Everything centers around the doctrine of the imago Dei. Humans are made in the image of God. Consequently, this champions the individual against the collective since even the least of us is worthy of human rights. Likewise, the strong must respect the weak as moral equals, and the weak must respect the strong to the extent that they are moral and just. In addition, the imago Dei commands respect for scumbags and criminals since they also share the image of God. The result is that the Christian ethic is the most humane one. No scientific, materialistic, or secular worldview is going to produce anything as humane.

The argument that atheists will make is that history is replete with Christians behaving badly. This cannot be denied. People claiming to be Christians have done atrocious things, but it is only Christians who have any ground to condemn these actions. Atheists have no moral case at all. This is because they have to use the Christian standard to judge those bad Christians. Plus, you can always throw Mao, Stalin, and the Marquis de Sade in their faces. It isn’t a good argument for an atheist to make.

A better argument would be a contest between the greatest atheist and the greatest Christian. In the Christian corner, we have Jesus of Nazareth. In the atheist corner, we have no one. I am straining my brain to find one exemplary atheist to go head-to-head with Jesus, but I can’t. Maybe if I picked someone less divine like St. Francis of Assisi. Still, it is no contest. I don’t see atheists helping people on anything like a saintly level. I am sure some atheists labor to help the sick, cure cancer, or defend civil rights. But there are no atheist saints. There are heroes but no saints among freethinkers.

The reason this issue matters to me is because of Albert Camus. Camus is the closest thing to what I would consider to be an atheist saint. This is because despite his unbelief he still had the desire to live in a Christian way and opposed Sartre over Stalin. Camus was no angel, and there is a report that he wished to convert to Christianity before his death. But I always appreciated Camus for asking a simple question. Can an atheist be a saint? His novel The Plague is an excellent examination of this question. In fiction, atheists can be saints. In reality, they aren’t.

What makes a saint? The answer to that is mysterious but simple. Saints are measured not by their impact but by their compassion. Atheists can labor to solve world problems, but they lack compassion beyond just a few people. This is because it is impossible to love more than a few people. We can only love our familiars. Yet, saints love everyone. How is this possible? Their secret is obvious. They love God, and they see God in every human being. Atheists do not love God since they do not believe in Him. As such, their compassion for others is limited and deficient. An atheist can believe in a principle or be clever at solving problems. But an atheist can never be on any level that is the same as a saint.

Jesus makes this principle clear in his parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 when He says,

'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink?When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'
The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

This is nothing more than the imago Dei principle at work. Conversely, great hatred and evil comes when we see people as sub-human. This is how the Nazis could exterminate the Jews with a clean conscience. They were sub-human. This is why all evil is preceded by a belief that our victims are not the same as ourselves. They are our inferiors. This is how Richard Dawkins can contemplate infanticide. It is not quite human.

If there is a man that I can consider the antichrist, it would be the Marquis de Sade. Sade’s evil was limited only by his impotence. Being without power, his crimes were limited to his imagination, but he gloried and desired all that was despicable and evil. His delight was in sadism, depravity, perversion, and cruelty. Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom is the book that best exemplifies this man’s evil. Sade was an atheist, but he seemed to take special delight in the blasphemous. One scene involves taking a consecrated host and using it in sexual perversion. Why does Sade do this? Why would an atheist care? But it goes back to the imago Dei principle. All of Sade’s perversions and sadism and blasphemy are directed at the same end. Because Sade hates God, he consequently hates humanity. His wish is to obliterate the imago Dei in all he sees.

Sade is the godfather of nihilism. Atheists naturally want to distance themselves from this guy. Sade is bad PR for freethinkers. But make no mistake about this. Sade was a freethinker. He was perhaps the freest thinker that ever was. Nothing was beyond his imagination. Sade would be an influence on later existential thinkers like Nietzsche and Sartre. Unlike those later thinkers, Sade had the courage to live in and embrace the depraved world of his nihilism. He was consistent.

If you are an atheist, you must admit that nothing is really right or wrong. There is merely the strong and the weak. There is the mutually advantageous. There is whatever you can get away with. But you can’t sneak natural law in the backdoor. Logic will not allow this. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, there are two things we know. We have a sense that there is a natural law that decides our morals, and we have broken that law. Even the Marquis de Sade knew that law because he delighted so much in breaking it.

I see atheists in a crisis. I watch guys like Sam Harris attempt to solve this moral dilemma, but they can’t. The best Harris can do is postulate how science may one day be able to bring clarity to the issue of moral relativism, but I think he is deluding himself. Alain de Botton thinks religion can inform our thinking on many issues and even encourages a religion for atheists. But this is like fake meat for vegetarians. The only conclusion that I can draw is that atheists demonstrate empirically a need for religion. I even know a few atheists that still attend church of their own free will. They just can’t let it go when so many nominal Christians have no qualms about sleeping in on Sunday. Why?

Nihilism is death. Camus knew this. Atheists are nihilists. If they deny it, they lie to themselves. If they embrace it, they become monsters. The result is a middle path of schizophrenia where the atheist attempts to have his cake and eat it, too.

---


VUILLARD

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THEATER MASSACRE

The facts are still rolling in, so there's not much I can say about this tragedy except that I expect the Obama administration to use this to push for an assault weapons ban. Other people will try and analyze the situation from a hundred different angles to make some sense of it. In the end, there is only one real explanation for what happened in Colorado. Evil exists. Or as Michael Caine put it in The Dark Knight, "Some men just want to watch the world burn."

2. CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS

Being married to a Catholic exposes you to things you never knew before especially if you grew up Protestant. One of the things that has intrigued me has been the writings and work of a guy named Scott Hahn. Hahn was a former Reformed seminary professor and pastor who converted to the Catholic Church after a long and intense study of Scripture. The conclusions that he drew were that the Catholic Church rests on firm biblical grounds in its doctrine and teachings. My personal belief was that Hahn merely deluded himself because he wanted to get with the Catholics for whatever reason. But I've read those verses and remember some from my seminary days that caused me some grief. Needless to say, it was a revelation. Hahn is right. The Catholic Church is truer to the first century church than anything that came after the Protestant Reformation. This doesn't mean I am going to become a Catholic since I am currently an atheist. But it is sort of like discovering a decade later that one of your ex-girlfriends from long ago was cheating on you. It is surprising but trivial.

My historical understanding of the Reformation has changed considerably. I now see Luther and Calvin and the rest as not people returning to a truer understanding of the Christian faith than as a bunch of people who wanted nothing else except to overthrow the authority of the Church. The doctrines of sola fide, sola sciptura, and other points of theology aren’t scriptural at all, but they do have the curious quality of delegitimizing the Catholic Church. Basically, Protestants wanted the freedom to do their own thing, and it shows in the hundred denominations and sects in Protestantism who seem to have only one thing in common which is a disdain for Roman Catholicism.


3. iPOD CLASSIC


I find it interesting that iPod Classic remains a top seller for Apple. Granted, the iPod touch sells more, but I can say I hate my touch device now. I wish I had bought the Classic. The reason is because the Classic is the perfect music player. It is simple, holds a shit ton of media, and never goes out of date. Meanwhile, my Touch is outdated and won't run half the apps I had loaded on the thing. What a fucking waste.


There is a tech lesson in this somewhere, but I don't know what it is except to reiterate that I think touch devices are a fad. That is a bold statement considering that half of the phone market today is smartphones. Here are some articles I find interesting:


The Stubborn Pride of Dumbphone Owners

A Smartphone Future? But Not Yet

The 80's Called and They Want Their Cellphones Back

I don't consider myself a Luddite, but I look at the people that own cellphones. Most of them don't read and can't afford the phones. They are simply toys, and the cellphone companies are now akin to payday lenders exploiting the ignorance of people with bad habits who should know better.

4. ODDS AND ENDS

-The only thing that Mitt Romney wants to hide on those tax returns is that he made a lot of money while paying very little in taxes.

-If you want an AR-15, you better buy it now.

-Brian Ross is an idiot. Fire that guy.

-Superman is boring. We want heroes, but they can't be invincible.

Q & A

Q: Charlie, I'm interested in your views on marriage now that you're married yourself. Can you give us an update?


A: In the past here at the C-blog, I have written some scathing things about marriage. For the most part, my argument and my position has been that marriage is incredibly stupid in an age of rampant infidelity and divorce. Why would anyone do it? Naturally, I had to go and do it.

My viewpoints on marriage haven't changed at all. I think people are expecting me to disavow those viewpoints, but I'm not. Based on the evidence and the inability of people to be monogamous, you are an idiot to ever get married. The odds are overwhelmingly against it working out for you. But getting married does demand that I make some level of qualification on the matter, so here it is.

I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with the institution of marriage. The problem isn't with marriage but with the people who decide to marry. By and large, most people are pieces of shit. That isn't some idle opinion of mine but the only logical conclusion you can draw from the evidence. People swear fidelity, and they break their vows. They take the love that one person has for them, and they shit all over it.

Marriage requires two people of character and virtue in order for it to work. I will go on to say that married love is the only true love there is between a man and a woman. I haven't been married long enough to speak authoritatively about it, but I have spoken with people who have been married for long periods who seem as in love today as they did when they were newlyweds. The character of those relationships make them worth the risk of getting burned in the marriage process. In short, marriage is a gamble that you are unlikely to win, but if you do win, the rewards are worth the risk.

Before getting married, I had resigned myself to a life of bachelorhood. I had given up. A man who reaches the age of 40 without marrying is unlikely to ever get married. Then, I met my wife. She is a good risk. Actually, she is a no-brainer. She is the type of woman you would kick yourself for the rest of your life if you didn't marry her. I did not hesitate to propose, and she did not hesitate to accept. We just knew.

Will it work out? I don't know. I can say that for most of the people reading this that marriage is not going to work out for you. My only advice is to honor those vows and refrain from being a piece of shit. Don't cheat on your spouse. Have some character. Be a good person. When two people share those values, it has to work.

[SOC]

Knowing where to begin is the hardest part of an SOC post. It's like looking over the edge of a cliff surveying the spot where you should make your leap. Of course, if the goal is to smack the bottom, any spot will do. But if you are wearing a wingsuit, you want a spot that will allow you to soar and clear the cliff side. So, I will pick my spot. My spot to soar from is a serious topic. It is one of paramount importance today. Yes, folks, I am talking about smartphones.

I think smartphones are a fad. This brings incredulous looks when I make this statement, but there it is. I have discussed this topic before, and I admit that I can be totally wrong on this. But I don't think I am. I have looked back over the short history of consumer electronics looking for something comparable, and I think the product that is most comparable was the CB radio. I remember as a kid how popular that thing was. Everybody had to have a CB radio, and my old man put one in every vehicle we owned. It was a big fucking deal. Then, the fad died out. CB radios still exist, but it is mostly truckers who use them now. For the rest of us, they are useless.

The CB radio promised a great deal of practical use. In reality, it was a novelty and a toy. When the novelty wore off, people dropped the CB in favor of listening to FM radio in the morning and evenings. Likewise, smartphones are merely novelty items. Sure, they allow you the ability to surf the internet, but you can't read a damn thing on those tiny screens. So, they now have these mammoth hybrids of smartphones and tablet computers. They are obnoxious as fuck.




The result of the hybrid is a lousy phone that is too big for your pocket. I think tablet computers suck. Their only advantage over laptops was that they allowed you to put them in your lap without setting your legs on fire. That technology is now being included in laptop computers. And don't get me going on keyboards. I have tried typing on a screen, and it royally fucking sucks.

I love my cellphone, and I love my computer. I use both very often. My only touch device is my iPod touch which I never use. Once the fun of Angry Birds wore out for me, I stopped using the thing. I even listen to podcasts and music on my desktop computer. The iPod touch was a total waste of money for me. But it was a neat as hell gadget when I first bought it. As it stands, it is on the same level of my dad's desktop CB radio that I discovered as a kid and had fun cussing it up on the air until some redneck cussed back about dirty talk on the air. It scared the shit out of my brother and me.

As I get older and crustier, I find myself making the distinction between toys and tools. Smartphones are toys. Granted, it helps to get email on the go, but the Blackberry was better for that sort of thing than an Android/iPhone. Tactile keyboards are awesome. People like buttons. A slimy touchscreen with a layer of dead skin on it is not as appealing.

I think touch devices will decline in popularity as people get tired of them. They have that neat-o factor going for them, but that is not enough to sustain these products over the long haul. Ultimately, it boils down to utility. People want products that are useful. Laptops, desktops, and cellphones are useful. The iPad is not useful. You aren't going to write your senior thesis on the thing.

I feel a certain degree of tech fatigue, and I just get tired of being told that I need to have the latest gadget. Right now, I am writing this blog post on a second hand cobbled together desktop computer running Windows XP. I mostly use the products from Google now for my creative output. I do the cloud thing. I just see the touch device thing as being out of touch with where I am in my geekery.

My belief is that we are now at the stage of marginal improvement in the computer realm much like we are in the car and television realm. The tech world is hungry for another massive leap forward in gadgets, but it isn't there. This is why we are not living anything remotely like what the Jetsons had. Once you have something at the point of perfection, you can't make it any better. No one is trying to reinvent the fork or the spoon. We already have phones and computers. Touch devices are the tech equivalent of the spork that combines the functionality of two perfectly good devices into one convenient but ultimately shitty tool.


The SCOTUS, Obamacare, and the Chief Bastard John Roberts

The bulk of the political talk this week concerns the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare. I must confess that I was a bit shocked and extremely disappointed in the ruling as were many libertarians and conservatives. I have a lot of thoughts about this topic, so I will dive in.

Obamacare is unconstitutional. This does not require legal scholarship whatsoever. But the federal government has strayed so far from the Constitution over the last century that it is pointless trying to discuss whether or not something is constitutional. This is because "constitutional" is now defined as getting the most votes in a SCOTUS opinion poll. As it stands, the Constitution of the United States is a shit stained rag, and the SCOTUS is now a legislative body of nine people. The United States now has a tricameral legislature.

Obamacare was DOA to the SCOTUS because conservatives and leftards have split the court evenly with closet libertarian Anthony Kennedy being the swing vote. Once you convince yourself that Kennedy is a libertarian, you know how he is going to vote every time. Kennedy was going to be against the individual mandate, and he was. Kennedy always champions individual rights, and Obamacare tramples individual rights. As it stood, Obamacare was supposed to go down in flames. But just when you think you've got it in the bag, it takes a piece of shit like Chief Justice John Roberts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Roberts was against Obamacare. Yet, he reversed himself. Why?! Politics is why. Roberts is first and foremost a politician. He shouldn't even call himself a judge. His ruling is utterly inscrutable with him trying to separate the meanings of individual mandates, the commerce clause, penalties, and taxes. FWIW, Roberts did strike down the individual mandate commerce clause argument as he should. He had to keep his conservative bona fides on that. But it is clear that Roberts wanted to keep Obamacare despite it being unconstitutional. So, he found a way to do it. Here comes that silly tax/penalty argument that no one buys. It was stupid. You can't make people buy health insurance, but you can tax them into doing it. Absurdity.

Roberts made a political move. He wanted to punt on fourth and inches. He wanted Obamacare back in the Congress for them to sort out and deal with. In essence, he wanted the SCOTUS to not be part of a tricameral legislature and go back to being a court. Unfortunately, he used stupidity to achieve what would be a laudable aim. Roberts is right that judges should not legislate from the bench. It was an exit move on his part, but it was not an elegant exit. It was a clumsy fall down the fire escape.

Some conservatives like George F. Will and some libertarians have tried to spin this as some sort of win. This is also stupid. This is not a win for liberty. It is a loss. There is no silver lining to this cloud. This is like realizing you don't have to change the oil on the car you just totaled in the pile up on the interstate. So, what now?

People are now doing the hard work of trying to figure out what Obamacare means for them. The law is overly complex and a complete clusterfuck of legislation. I don't understand it, but I know it will fuck me in one way or another. But it really doesn't matter if you understand the law because it still isn't done yet. This is because we actually have a quadricameral legislature. The fourth house of government tomfuckery is the bureaucracy of the executive branch as they seek to implement this turkey of a law. This will require regulations, and bureaucrats can effectively expand or kill any law they see fit based on those regs. Their power is so awesome in this regard that even the President himself is powerless to do shit about it. A term limited POTUS is no match for a lifelong bureaucrat.

Where will all this lead? The answer is clear. Obamacare will finish demolishing the last bit of good in our shitty healthcare system. Obama couldn't get his knockout punch which would be a single payer system. So, he opted to work the body with a series of jabs and whatever else he could get in. Hopefully, this would weaken the opposition for a future knockout. Will it work? Absolutely.

This country is headed for single payer healthcare like the Canadian model. The easiest way to accomplish this is to expand Medicare to all people. Medicare is already a single payer system that enjoys wide popularity. It would be relatively simple to expand it. Plus, people are already paying for it and even Tea Party people like it. The only real problem with Medicare is that it is clearly unsustainable over the long haul. Projections differ, but Medicare is expected to eclipse both Social Security and defense spending as the largest item in the federal budget. The country is already bankrupt now. To make Medicare work as it stands now will involve some sort of rationing. This happens with all socialized medicine. When something is free, people take all the free they can get until it is gone. The only preventative is rationing. Private health insurance already does this in their shitty way of doing business. Medicare will be no different.

The promise of socialized medicine is that unaffordable healthcare will somehow become more affordable and better if we let the DMV run it. This is not going to happen. But this will not stop people from trying. No matter how much socialism fails, people have to keep going for it. This is because people want something for nothing. This foolish hope is undying. Getting something for something works, but it represents a compromise with reality that no shithead wants. This is why I am a libertarian pessimist. People hate freedom even when they know it works. This is because people are stupid, lazy, greedy, and averse to personal responsibility. As long as they can live at the expense of others, they will. ALWAYS.

If there is any virtue in what John Roberts did, it was letting the American public twist on the phallus they spread their asscheeks to receive. I am inclined to agree. The American people voted for this bullshit, and they deserve to get what is coming to them hard and deep. For the rest of us wanting a free market in healthcare, we must now turn to the coming black market that will be the result of this tomfuckery. But it won't be so bad. Pirate doctors working on converted cruise ships in international waters will be the new thing. You can get a tan after your appendectomy on the upper deck.

UPDATE: I have zero hope that a newly elected Mitt Romney or a GOP Congress will do a damn thing about any of this shit. Conservatives created the idea of an individual mandate, and Romney inflicted it on Massachusetts. The only thing they will accomplish is to get abortions unfunded by federal dollars to appease a constituency and call it a day. In short, the only difference between Romney and Obama is that Romney might wear a condom when he rapes us just like his predecessor. That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside for President Magic Pants.

VUILLARD

[SOC]

I have got to get back into the blogging habit again. So much has been going on in the meatspace of my life that I have thoroughly neglected this blog. Hopefully, I can get back on track.

I got married. I know. That is some crazy shit. After 40 years of being a bachelor and dating more worthless women than I can count, I found the one who was a keeper. My cynicism on all things concerning love and marriage still persist, so don't call me a hypocrite. Mencken said that love was the lie that one woman was better than all the rest. Well, I have dated all the rest, and Molly is better than all of them. She is the One.

I have hesitated writing about all of this for a variety of reasons. One of the downsides of keeping a blog is that anything holy you post here will be cast to the dogs. It is what it is. You put our life out there for people to read and comment, and someone is going to shit on it. I have a thick skin on just about everything, but Molly is and always will be my sensitive spot.

I have a weird life. I am simultaneously intensely public and intensely private. I have 5000+ Facebook friends, but I doubt any of them would recognize me in a grocery store. My Pink Floyd strategy works. You can be famous and private as long as you don't put your face on the album cover.

Molly is my private life, and I will keep her there. She is definitely my better half. There is not a day that goes by that I don't pinch myself over how lucky I am to be with someone like her.

My Bad

I'm back home and away from the corporate firewall. I am sorry that my farewell message hit the blog. I forgot to change the date again. Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

The reason I have a farewell message is that I never know when I am going to bite the dust. It could happen at anytime. So, I have the message because I don't want the C-blog to just fade into cyber oblivion after my demise. I want to leave final words and some sort of legacy.

I apologize for the fuck up. I will try and remain alive a bit longer and keep blogging. Thanks for reading.

False Alarm

Hi everyone, this is Molly. Charlie is not dead. He just screwed up. Sorry about the confusion.