Total Depravity


The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
JONATHAN EDWARDS
"Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God"

I am someone who believes that ideas have consequences. Whether these ideas are true or false is beside the point. Those ideas influence your worldview and your behavior. For instance, if you believe that your job is your holy calling from the Almighty as the Puritans did, you will most likely do it with enthusiasm. If you believe that your job is merely exploitation as the Marxists do, you will most likely do it with considerably less enthusiasm. Those same worldviews may also effect your voting, your concern or lack of concern for the poor, and your own notions of self-worth. As such, ideas can have large effects on the quality of your life and your happiness. It is important that we get those ideas right.

I want to tell you a story about an idea. It may not seem like much of a big deal, but it is an idea that has had a huge impact on the way I live my life, how I regard other people, and my own happiness. This is the idea of total depravity.

Total depravity is an idea from the theology of John Calvin. It is the belief that all humans are hopelessly wicked. Now, many Christians believe in the doctrine of original sin, but total depravity goes beyond that doctrine. It is the belief that humans are incapable of doing anything good. It is a belief that humans are so hopelessly depraved that even the good things they do are utterly wicked since they are always done from impure motives. Calvinists cite many Scriptures in support of the doctrine. I will simply refer those interested in those Scriptures to the Wikipedia article here.

Total depravity is the kernel of Calvinism. It is the reason for the necessity of predestination. Totally depraved people are denied free will because their wickedness makes them incapable of ever choosing God. God must choose them. And this state of being totally depraved does not alter or change even after conversion as the taint of sin remains with the sinner always in the Reformation doctrine of simul iustus et peccator--simultaneously justified and sinful. This doctrine teaches that humans remain scumbags, but they are off the hook for the penalty for being scumbags. This is good news for those not wanting to go to Hell. It is not good news for those wishing to become saints. In a nutshell, you are diagnosed with a horrible and incurable disease that will disfigure you and turn you into a monster. But the good news is that the disease is no longer fatal. But the bad news is that you will be so hideous and disfigured from the disease that you will wish you were dead. (Remember this disease analogy for later. We will use it again.)

I will not get into whether or not this doctrine is actually correct at this juncture. Instead, I will simply tell you about the consequences of this idea. I came to believe in this doctrine at the time I was 21 years old or so. I was in college at the time, and a friend of mine lent me a compend of Calvin's Institutes. I would go on in later years to read the entire work, but that short treatment of Calvin's thinking was enough to influence me. My evangelical Baptist background was scant on doctrine, and this taste of Calvinism was like a revelation for me. As someone tinged by Arminian doctrines, I believed that I was a sinner, but I still retained enough goodness and free will to choose God's offer of salvation. Calvin obliterated such childish notions for me. Instead, I came to realize that I was a loathsome piece of shit that God wanted to flush down the toilet into the sewers of eternal damnation, and I believed in Him only because He chose me to believe in Him. The result of this revelation was a feeling of immense gratitude and love because I was so grateful for the salvation that I did not deserve and could never merit.

My Calvinist friend was delighted at my conversion to his way of thinking, and I would follow him later to a Calvinist seminary. I switched from being Baptist to Presbyterian. I drowned myself in this new world of Reformed theology reading as much as I could lay my hands on and putting Calvin and Luther alongside Jesus and the Apostles. I was also surrounded by likeminded Calvinists who I could always engage in bull sessions. But total depravity was working on me. It was polluting my soul and mind.

When you believe you are totally depraved, everything you do becomes a work of evil. You do good, but you always see in yourself the selfish impulse that made you do the good work. In time, your good works and bad works become indistinguishable. They all spring from a wicked heart. Now, it is always better to strive to be good rather than bad for no other reason than to live a sane life and be agreeable to your neighbors. But I was not living a sane life, and I was not agreeable to my neighbors. When you see yourself as a loathsome piece of shit, you become a loathsome piece of shit. This might seem like conscience working in you, but it isn't. It simply blunts your conscience in much the same way that constant trauma produces scar tissue or a callous.

Evangelicals practice a fake niceness and a form of plastic Christianity where their consciences are concerned about trivial things like tobacco, dancing, and rock music. Calvinists smirk at such things and become wise asses. Where evangelicals try to fake it until they make it, Calvinists are merely converted scoundrels who revel in scholarship and depression. They trade in the plastic for a cold hearted cynicism which is both serious but at times humorous. It is said that comedy springs from portraying people as being worse than what they really are, so Calvinists tend to have a sardonic funny bone. Most of my seminary professors seemed to compete with each other as comedians in a nightclub. But laughter in this vein is often a mask for crying inside. Depression is dark comedy if you can laugh. It is tragedy when you can't laugh.

When you believe in total depravity, you have to learn to cope with it. This is because you start to hate yourself. You also start to hate everyone around you as well because they are also totally depraved. The world becomes a darker place, and you want to be a better person. The only problem is that you can't. Prayer and church become acts of utter debasement as you grovel before an angry God who really hates your guts. The reason you inflict this pain on yourself is because you feel so good when it stops. The routine goes as follows. You are a piece of shit. God forgives you. Here's a little juice and bread as a reminder along with the sermon. Come back again when you forget that forgiveness. Leave now and return to your sinning, you miserable wretch. Hallelujah!

This is the Calvinist gospel. Like all heresies, it has some element of truth in it. But it is distorted. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we deserve Hell. Yes, we will always battle with sin. But we are not wretches. We are not pieces of shit. And Christ really does save you, and this is not mere salvation from punishment for sin. It is also salvation from the corrupting effects of sin. It is a salvation that actually turns you  into a saint. It is salvation that actually makes you a better person. And your actions in this regard really do matter. But you can't get this salvation in a Calvinist church. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Calvinism is simply misanthropy elevated to a theology. It teaches you to hate yourself and by logical extension to hate your fellow man. At this point, Calvinists will balk and say this is a misrepresentation of their position and blah blah blah. But I was in it for years. Don't tell me I had it wrong. Don't tell me to be charitable to a heresy that is without charity. And don't tell me not to judge when Calvinism judges all humanity as fit for nothing more than as fuel for the fires of damnation.

My love affair with Calvinism ended with a tragedy. It was not my tragedy but someone else's. I was just a mere spectator as I watched helplessly as an idea reached its logical conclusion in someone else's life. His name was Ross. He was a fellow Calvinist and seminarian. He was also a housemate to me and a friend. We met in the commons area of our seminary where he would spend many hours smoking cigarettes and navel gazing as he contemplated his own depravity. He was a morose and depressed person. He was also wickedly funny and a thorough Calvinist. His intellect was immense. But that brain of his was doom. He always saw a little further and clearer than me. It is a mistake to think that depressed people are delusional. This is not true. They have a clearer picture of reality than you will ever know. Depression is the absence of delusion because it is delusion that nurses us along day by day.

Ross hated himself. Unlike most of the other seminarians, Ross had a secret. He never told me what it was, and I only discovered it after his death. Ross was homosexual. Now, it is the fashion these days to be open and accepting of these things, and this fashion was picking up steam in those days when I met Ross. But among people in the church, it was a scandal. Ross had plenty to hate about himself already, but this was a little extra to make it worse. Ross was the most devoted Calvinist I have ever known which means he saw himself as the most depraved. And there was nothing I could do to assuage that self-hatred because I did not know his secret, and I could not tell him a gospel he did not already know. So, one morning, I found him in his room dead from a self-inflicted injury. Ross had killed himself.

I always hate telling his story not because I find it traumatic anymore but because many people are stupid. They want to dwell on details involving blood and razors or whatever. But the shock for me was a spiritual shock. No one gets that, and I doubt anyone will. Ideas have consequences. Ross was the casualty of a bad idea. People want to go all Freudian on it and suggest maybe he needed meds, or they want to blame his mother or something. But this is all nonsense.

Imagine you have committed an unspeakable crime. Let's say you sexually molested a child. In our day and time, this is as awful as it gets. Even murderers and rapists will try and kill you in prison because they find it so abhorrent. Now, what would you do to yourself? Everyone I have ever asked said they would kill themselves if they had ever committed such an atrocious act. Once you get a true picture of total depravity, suicide becomes a very logical choice. It makes sense. It makes it right. You want to atone. You want to do something to undo what was done. You want absolution. You want forgiveness. You want release from this awful thing you have done.

Ross was not as evil as some child molester. If he was, I do not know. But he had such an acute sense of his own wickedness that he felt about himself the way you and I would if we had committed such an unspeakable act. Given a shallow gospel and the single sacrament of baptism and a sham communion with no way to confess and receive absolution, Ross destroyed himself. It is my sincere hope that God will grant him the mercy and grace he was deprived of in this life. I light candles for him and pray for him often. I can only hope.

My faith in God died with Ross. I could not understand how God could allow someone like him to endure such torment and anguish. It was a needless tragedy. I became convinced as I remain convinced to this day that Ross died as a consequence of his erroneous beliefs. Having no correct belief to turn to, I turned to the only one available to me. I chose to stop believing. I stopped praying. I stopped going to church. I dropped out of that seminary. And leaving all of that felt like sweet relief. I traded heresy for atheism. Atheism is not much better, but it is like trading cyanide for heroin. Heroin kills you slower.

So, is humanity totally depraved? Of course not. This is ridiculous. The nature of this heresy is by design to put you in an inescapable trap of self-hatred. The Catholic Church utterly condemns this heresy. The documents from the Council of Trent and the Catechism declare this doctrine of total depravity to be anathema. If we are totally depraved incapable of doing anything good, why do anything? But 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." If all our works are depraved, how can they not be vain?

Original sin can be seen in two ways. It is here that I will return to my disease analogy from earlier. In the Calvinist view, you have been infected with an incurable disease that will be with you all your life. This is sin, and it will never leave you but infect everything you do. In the future, this disease will be taken from you, and you will be restored to perfect health. In the Catholic view, you have a disease, but it does not infect all that you do. It will kill you, but there is a cure. It is called grace. This grace cures the disease and also removes the scars and effects of this disease. Deprived of grace, the disease will increase in you once more and kill you. Partaking of grace, this disease will fade away until it is no more. You will not be finally cured until you reach Heaven, but you aren't confined to a hospital bed either. You can't cure yourself. But you can take the medicine. The more you cooperate with the treatment the better you will feel and become.

Why did Calvin teach total depravity? The answer to that is obvious. Deprived of the real cure, the quack doctor must sell you a counterfeit and explain why it isn't working. His "cure" is a repeated promise that he hopes you will buy. Keep reminding yourself of that promise. This is why no Calvinist can be a saint in much the same way that Kool-Aid can never cure cancer. Grace is not an empty promise. It is a efficacious cure for what ails you. And you won't need to be reassured that it is working because you will see it working in you.

St. Paul gives it away in Philippians 1:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Folks, this is not total depravity. In every bit of this passage, you see Paul exhorting his flock to continue in the grace and good works they already have. The good work has already begun in them and will be perfected in glory. He prays that their love will abound even more than it already does. They are to be sincere and BLAMELESS until the day of Christ. They are filled with the fruit of righteousness.

Calvinists are not righteous people. They do not abound in love. They are not sincere and blameless. They are death in a whitewashed tomb where they meet each Sunday. And how do they know they are one of the elect? Because they make a lot of money. They do get one thing right. This is depravity. Fortunately, for them, God does not make garbage and even they can be saved from these errors and put on the right path.

There are no Protestant saints. There are some nice people in Protestant churches just like there are some nice atheists. Naturally, there are lots of bad people in churches including the Catholic Church. But if you want saints, you have to look to Catholicism. This is because it is grace that makes you a saint. It is God's cure working in sinners to make them whole. If God can work in them, He will certainly work in you. Salvation is a process. It isn't the mere legal declaration of Luther and Calvin. It is the living God abiding in you and changing you and transforming you from a monster into the best version of yourself. This is what God wants for you.

I see people in this error, and it breaks my heart. I see my old departed friend in all of them. But I love them, and I forgive them because they don't know any better just as I didn't know any better. But once you know the truth, to reject it is evil. It is easy to pardon ignorance, but there is no pardon for those who know and reject the truth. This rejection hardens the heart and closes the ears. But we must always hold out the hope for their repentance.

I am a sinner, but I am not slime. Do not ever hate what God loves. This means you should not ever hate yourself because God loves you. He really loves you.

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NOTES

1. Catholic Church vs. Protestant Reformers on Original Sin, Concupiscence, and Total Depravity

2. Total Depravity--just not biblical

3. CC on the Fall and Original Sin

4. Council of Trent on Justification

5. Total Depravity--Wikipedia

[SOC] A Few Post-Christmas Thoughts

I had a good Christmas with my wife. We went to midnight Mass, and I think this was the first Christmas since childhood that I actually liked celebrating. I have always hated Christmas as an adult because of the commercialism. The merchants really ruined the holiday. My wife and the Catholic Church have done much to make me like the day again.

I am sad today because I have to go to work. I wish I could stay home with my wife and finish reading Life of Pi. But I have to do the grind. I will console myself with way too much coffee. I am also sad that I wasn't able to spend time with my new extended family because of my work. Some of us have to keep the world running for the rest.

I am also saddened by a friend from long ago who chose to end his life. I pray for his soul, and his tragedy has done more to me than he probably ever realized it would. It taught me a lesson. You can hate your sins, but you should never hate yourself. That is the mystery of the cross of Christ. That act displayed both mercy and justice. Your sins are an offense against God demanding a price be paid. But God loved us enough to pay it. And that salvation was not a mere declaration of debts paid but the opening of a door to a better destiny. The heretic said to go and "sin boldly." But Christ said to go and sin no more.

It is an awful thing to always look in the mirror and see nothing but total depravity staring you in the face. It is terrible to see in every good act some taint of evil and to add to it self-loathing. And it is an evil thing to always point out the failings in others and to never let them forget it. It is a feast of misery. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love forgives the wrongs done. And love forgets. I wish my departed friend had known these things, but I did not know them at the time. I only knew about being a wretch.

Anyway, I am off to work. Merry Christmas to you.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. THE NRA SPEAKS

The NRA finally spoke out about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticutt, saying that public schools need more armed guards along with some condemnation of cultural factors in these tragedies like Hollywood and video games. Libertarians think this is just a fascist answer favoring gun free zones instead while progressives cite the fact that Virginia Tech has its own police department, but this did not stop the massacre there which stands as far as I know as the worst in US history.

My own take on this problem is that these tend to be utopian notions. These mass shootings are not going to stop. This is because human nature is inherently wicked. The only effective way to end them is to resort to some sort of fascist police state where all guns are confiscated, and citizens must pass through armed checkpoints. That solution probably will come about because of that same problem of human wickedness. Even then, terrorism will be an issue as it is now. Israel is helpless against suicide bombers.

My view is that society needs to accept this inherent evil in people instead of pretending that evil is just some momentary fixable flaw. It isn't. The best we can do is mitigate against these unfortunate events. People also need to remember that massive casualties can result from something as simple as a book of matches and some gasoline. 9/11 was perpetrated ultimately by some box cutter knives on an airplane. Inmates are able to make bombs inside of prison. Trying to isolate evil in an object like a gun is stupid. The brain intent on evil is the true weapon of violence.

2. FACEBOOK'S FAKE LIKES

If you are a Facebooker, you will notice that you suddenly like things that you really don't like. This is not some accident. Facebook now sells this service to companies as advertising. So, you are some Marxist left leaning hippie type who despises global capitalism? Too bad because you like Walmart now, and all your fellow commies know it, too. Thanks, Facebook!

This atrocity is in the beginning stages, so people aren't aware or gotten thoroughly enraged yet. But they will be mad when they realize what Facebook is doing. I am beginning to regret being there, and now, they own all my data. What will I do?

There is also Like fraud being perpetrated by scammers and spammers using malware. Between "legit" fraud from Facebook to outright fraud from third parties, Facebook is looking like a corrupt enterprise. Google should pounce on this.

3. DAWKINS AND RAISING KIDS AS CATHOLIC

Richard Dawkins recently made the claim that raising kids as Catholic was a form of child abuse. I often wonder what kids would be like being raised without a conscience, and I see Adam Lanza in my mind. As someone who has become acquainted with a lot of Catholics both sincere and lapsed, that Catholic upbringing makes a huge difference. As someone who is also very acquainted with atheists, I find second generation atheists to be much worse than converts to freethought that were raised in a faith tradition.

Love it or hate it, the Catholic Church is really good at giving you a conscience. You can't be raised Catholic and not get it. You might go on to do bad things in your life and be a bad person, but you will know it. And you will always feel that sting of conscience. How is this a bad thing?

Dawkins is a fool.

4. THE FISCAL CLIFF

At some point, lawmakers will feel they have catered to their base in a sufficient manner. Then, they will betray that base and give Obama what he wants. And the media play right along with this political theater.



Trash Culture, Part 3--The Practice of Cultural Hygiene


Practically all the Hollywood filmmaking of today is stooping to cheap salacious pornography in a crazy bastardization of a great art to compete for the 'patronage' of deviates and masturbators.
FRANK CAPRA

Frank Capra and Quentin Tarantino occupy opposing poles on the Hollywood continuum. Capra made such films as It's a Wonderful Life where a man finds a reason to live and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington where another man takes on political corruption. Tarantino gave us Reservoir Dogs that touched us deeply with a soliloquy to a man's severed ear and Pulp Fiction where violent anal rape was brought back to the cinema for a second round after Deliverance. In between these poles, we have varying shades of sentimentality and depravity. What are we to make of all of this?

In the previous posts in this series, I have endeavored to give you, Gentle Reader, a sensitivity to what is good and bad in the culture. But, ultimately, your judgments are going to be your own in this regard. I can't floss your teeth for you, and I can't pick what you will watch, read, or hear. But I can tell you that good habits in these areas make a big difference. We know we should eat right and exercise. We know we should show moderation in alcohol consumption, wear our seatbelts, and stop smoking. But we don't apply this same thinking to what fills our minds. The result is that we have bodies in better shape than ever while having minds that resemble a public restroom of imbecility and depravity. In short, bad culture makes you vulgar and stupid.

I don't wish to be like those fundamentalists that railed against albums from Ozzy Osbourne and lit huge bonfires for the burning of books and records. Such efforts are just as vulgar and stupid as anything in the media they are burning. But I do think that if you listen to better music, watch better shows, and read better books, you will be a better person. The habit of choosing these better things is what I call "cultural hygiene."

Cultural hygiene is a very simple practice. Ask yourself a question whenever you watch a movie or listen to a song. Does this make me better as a person? Does this elevate me? Or does it debase me? These questions are easily answered. Do you feel gratitude or regret? Would you want to experience it again? Or, do you wish you could get back the time you wasted on that garbage?

The results of cultural hygiene become obvious after awhile. You begin to recognize the true, the good, and the beautiful again. It's like when you stop eating burgers and fries and become vegan. You notice that food has other flavors beyond salt and fat and sugar. Similarly, you begin to appreciate culture beyond its ability to  titillate or shock. You develop a better vocabulary and a better ear. You rediscover your conscience. You learn to discern the sublime.

It is impossible to not be exposed to trash culture in our day and time in much the same way that fast food and junk proliferate in terms of diet. But our goal should be a preponderance of the good and a minimum of the bad. We are the product of our habits, and the habit of cultural hygiene will help us to be the best versions of ourselves.

Another added benefit to cultural hygiene is that it helps to cut much of the media clutter we are buried under today. There are dozens of movies that come out each year, but the good movies worth watching can be counted on one hand. The same is also true of television, music, and books. It is easy to produce garbage, but the good things require extra time. As such, the practice of cultural hygiene eliminates much of the wasted time from our media consumption. It also cuts down the channels on your cable tier.

When you begin this winnowing, you can eliminate the most obvious garbage. This would be porn, heavy metal, reality television, and any movie that has a former professional wrestler in it. As time goes on, you can cut it down further and further as your sensibility increases. Or, you can take the opposite approach and raze the entire edifice and rebuild from scratch. You can begin with classical music and Renaissance art and Shakespeare. Then, you can build from there.

What you want is the true, the good, and the beautiful. You should want to fill your life with those things. Any effort towards this end will produce fruit and make you a better person.

[SOC] System Thinking, Personal Responsibility, Patience

The recent tragedy has been on my mind a bit lately but not as much as when the tragedy in Aurora happened. I worry that I am becoming desensitized to these things because of their frequency, but that isn't it at all. The reality is that my worldview has changed, and I now firmly believe now what I was merely reading about when Aurora happened. It is the simple fact that some people are just evil. Evil exists in the world.

Prior to my conversion, I believed most evil was merely the product of economics and politics. Yes, that seems absurd, but it is no more absurd than the nonsense being spouted today to explain and remedy the recent mass shooting. Basically, I call this "system" thinking. It goes like this. If you fix the system, you will fix what is wrong with humanity. This is very much the thinking of many in the political realm including libertarians. Only Burkeans and the religious know better.

Society is disordered because people are disordered. That is all there is to it. If you want to fix society, you have to fix people, and there is no system that is going to do that. We can blame guns, games, media, and all the rest, but if there is any greater cause for such mayhem, it would be the abdication of personal responsibility in society. So, here it is. You are responsible for your actions. We can blame it on mental illness or whatever, but you are responsible for the things you do.

Adam Lanza is responsible for the tragedy in Connecticut. He did it, and he will answer for it before Almighty God. And for those who embrace the universalist heresy, you gotta be kidding me. Hell is for the damned, and God would be unjust if He did not reserve Hell for the monsters of humanity. God is both merciful and just. Our only response should be patience.

Patience is something I am learning these days. Christians can neither be wrathful nor stoic. To be wrathful is to indicate a lack of faith in God. To be stoic is to become indifferent to the evil and suffering in the world. I can't be either one of these things. So, I offer up my righteous anger to the Lord, and I let Him take care of it. It is right and just to be angry over what Adam Lanza did, and he killed himself thinking he would escape any accountability for his crimes. But no one gets away with it. And to believe otherwise is to become like Adam Lanza.

It is hard to be patient. It is so hard that I don't think a mere human can do it. It takes grace. We must refrain from revenge and allow God's justice to work in His time. We watch, and we wait.



[SOC] The Great Ones, Heretics, Schismatics, Hypocrites, Apostates, CINOs, Loud and Quiet

I find myself troubled these days. I have a lot of things weighing on my heart and mind. I don't even know where to begin. Writing an SOC post is therapeutic in this regard because it helps me to get it out. I have never received a dime for doing this gig over the years, but it has been very rewarding to me in ways that I cannot count. With that said, I want to talk about the Great Ones.

My wife came up with the moniker "The Great Ones." These are the old people we see in the church, and they are really old. Some of them are still spry while others need canes to make it to the pews. Why are they the Great Ones? Because they always make it to Mass even daily Mass. They kneel on arthritic knees. Devotion, integrity, and holiness just come off of them in waves. I love those people. When I think of true Catholics, I think of the Great Ones.

The Ents from Tolkien are like the Great Ones. The Ents are tree like and very old. Yet, they are strong. When the Ents move against you, you are done. Hang it up. I don't know if Tolkien had the Great Ones in mind as he fashioned those characters, but they are the same in my brain. The Great Ones are like mighty oaks of the faith. They are immovable. But if they move against you, you will be crushed.


I have great regard for the Great Ones because they are the bedrock of the Church. If you are on their side, things will go well for you. If you go against them, may the Lord have mercy on you. The Great Ones are the ones who make and preserve the Church. All Catholics should aspire to be a Great One.

The greatest enemies of the Church are the ones I can only call the "Catholic Left." These are the Catholics who have embraced Modernism which Pope Pius X called the "synthesis of all heresies." Basically, Modernism teaches that Catholic teachings must change with the times especially in regards to Catholic morality. In a nutshell, these are the Catholics who want the Church to get with the times on issues like contraception, abortion, divorce, and gay rights. Now, if the Church actually did this, you can write it off because the gates of Hell will have prevailed against the rock of Peter.

Now, there are already churches that exist that cater to the viewpoints of these heretics. The Unitarian Church is one where even an atheist can be a minister, and they bless same sex unions. The Episcopalian Church is also similar in this regard for those folks who still want an old fashioned liturgical form of worship to go along with their modernism. But make no mistake about it. These people have options. Yet, they insist on staying within the Catholic Church and causing grief. Why?

The answer is obvious from a spiritual standpoint. These people really do want to tear down the Church. They can't be as honest as they would like to be, so they cloak their agenda in the guise of "social justice" as if people who disagree with their agenda hate the poor. Nevermind that many of the traditional Catholics in the Church care very much about the poor and put their money and their work to use in this regard. But the greater emphasis on social justice is simply to reduce the rhetoric about abortion. This is why the two camps are regarded as the "social justice Catholics" who voted for Obama and the "pro-life Catholics" that voted for Romney. This move on the part of these heretics is nothing more than obfuscation and chicanery. The funny thing is that I don't actually see much of anything they do for the poor and underprivileged except to lend their services to the Democratic National Convention to campaign for Obama. But I certainly see the Knights of Columbus doing stuff for the poor and underprivileged.

Groups like Catholics United and its sister-in-arms, Faithful America, are the groups pushing this modernist agenda. They support the Nuns on the Bus who appeared at the DNC but implore bishops to stay out of partisan politics. Then, they are hypercritical of the Knights of Columbus for opposing same sex marriage and abortion. Don't take my word for it. You can read about it here. Basically, if you support their agenda, you need to get political and oppose the Church. If you are a traditional Catholic, you need to shut up, not be partisan, and stop taking a huge dump on the poor. Their cynicism in this regard is breathtaking.

The opposition to this Catholic Left is a group I can only call the "Catholic Right." Where the Catholic Left has a nasty habit of not wanting to leave the Church, the Catholic Right is quite eager to hit the exits in schism. Basically, these folks have been angry with the Church ever since Vatican II. The ones who have schismed out consider the popes to be antipopes while those who remain in the fold hold out the hope that the Roman Catholic Church will return to the Tridentine Mass. There are a variety of these people, and they often schism from each other the way Protestants do. At the crossroads of these groups is a man named Michael Voris who says a lot of good things, but he seems dipped from the same barrel of vinegar as these schismatics. Voris aims his sights directly at the modernists, but he has no qualms about taking a few shots at any who do not share his same level of enthusiasm like Father Robert Barron, a man I admire greatly both for his intelligence but also his gentleness and humility. People like Voris are fond of removing specks from other people's eyes but seem blind to the beams in their own eyes.



Two people who had this speck/beam problem were Mel Gibson and Father John Corapi. Mel Gibson was raised a traditionalist Catholic, has been an ardent critic of Vatican II, and has done more to present a Catholic worldview in Hollywood than any director in modern times. The pinnacle of this achievement was The Passion of the Christ which I found moving and troubling even when I was an atheist. But whatever Gibson achieved as a director, he has undone as a person with behavior that is shameful even for an atheist. Gibson has one divorce to his credit. He has battled alcoholism and made an ass of himself. He carried on with a nasty girlfriend which is a no-no for a divorced Catholic who is called to be celibate. Then, that same girlfriend betrayed him and showed him to be a racist which has been to his shame in Hollywood. The guy is a train wreck.

I don't want to pile on Gibson because we all have our flaws. The man also has a high degree of self-awareness over those flaws which is a testimony to being Catholic. But it is a truism that those most intent in fixing flaws in others are blind to the flaws within themselves. This leads us to the story of Father John Corapi. Corapi was a lion of a priest who was very critical of corruption in the Church especially the sex abuse scandal. The irony is that he became involved in a personal scandal involving materialist excess, fornication, and drug abuse.

Seeing things like this is like sending armed troops for a humanitarian mission to rescue people from thuggery by guerrillas except the soldiers you send end up committing atrocities and rape. Such things reveal the truth about the myth of American exceptionalism. Likewise, atheists will point out that behavior like this shows Roman Catholic exceptionalism to also be a lie. But unlike America, the Catholic Church has a moral duty and a command from the Lord Almighty to be exceptional. We are to be the salt and the light. Yet, for most people, the Catholic Church seems like an institution of darkness, corruption, and abuse.

All of this weighs on me heavily. But there are good Catholics. I see them all the time. They are the Great Ones. They don't aim to be hip and adapt to the times. They don't run their mouths and denigrate the Church. They don't schism either. They just live faithful lives. They go to Mass. They pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy. They are patient, and they are quiet. But don't ever mistake their silence for weakness. They are the only strong ones in the Church. They will die off as all people must. But more Great Ones will replace them.

For myself, I find that it will be a hard path to tread because I don't want to be a heretic, a schismatic, or a hypocrite. I also don't want to be an apostate either. These are the ones who are either explicitly atheist as I once was or those who are functionally atheist by default because they don't even care anymore. These are the Catholics that haven't been to Mass or Confession in years. These are the CINOs or Catholics in Name Only. Like secular Jews, "Catholic" is more of an ethnic identifier than a religious belief for these people. This phenomenon is so bad that the Church routinely makes the distinction of  "practicing" Catholic such as when the Knights of Columbus require that you be a practicing Catholic in order to join their ranks. This is like being a vegetarian that really doesn't eat meat.

It is really easy to be a practicing Catholic. You just show up. That's it. You can be a scumbag or a saint. It doesn't matter. You just go to weekly Mass. My favorite analogy is the gym. You can be fit or out of shape. It doesn't matter. You can have a great workout or a terrible workout. It doesn't matter. If you go to the gym, you will leave better than when you arrived. It always works. But it can't work if you don't go. Similarly, the Mass brings you into the presence of Christ. Even if you can't take the sacrament, just being in the presence is enough. It will change you. It will stir in your soul. That small commitment yields huge returns. I know because I can't take the Eucharist. I just go.

I think it is the small acts that pay the biggest dividends in this regard. Attending Mass is a small act. It isn't defying a dictator. It isn't rescuing Holocaust victims. It isn't preaching to masses of people. It isn't being Mother Theresa to countless numbers of poor people. You just show up. This is all the Great Ones do. They just show up. That matters. If all I had to go on were the most visible members of the Church, I would continue as an atheist comforted in the knowledge that Catholics were just a bunch of fakers like everyone else. But I am humbled by those Great Ones. Their quiet witness is like a deafening roar in my ears. My only aspiration as a Catholic is to be like those Great Ones. So, I just keep showing up.

The quiet witness of faithful Catholics makes a huge difference. If I could take all these disparate groups and boil them down to two categories, it would be these. You have loud Catholics, and you have quiet Catholics. All of the heretics, schismatics, and hypocrites are loud. They all want a soapbox. The quiet Catholics simply live it out. Volume is no match for weight. The loudest voice is no match for the humblest saint living out their testimony.

The trouble I have these days is that I am a blogger. This means that I have a soapbox. So, I am asked the question. Am I going to be a Catholic blogger? My answer is no. I will be a blogger that happens to be Catholic. I write and post about Catholicism as if it were like my previous "-isms" like atheism or libertarianism or minimalism. But I feel like I am doing it wrong. I can soapbox a lot of things, but I don't think religion should be one of them. I don't know what that means for the C-blog, but I think I will leave preaching and teaching to those called to do that sort of thing. I'm just a writer. What kind of writer I will become from this point forward is another matter for another blog post.

Trash Culture, Part 2


Good music is good no matter what kind of music it is.
MILES DAVIS

Many years ago, there was a music critic that worked for my local newspaper here in SC. He was a cultural affairs editor and all that, and his tastes were extremely highbrow. That guy's job no longer exists now, but it did then. Our local NPR station decided to cancel some of the classical music programming and replace it with jazz. This editor lost his shit. He decried the decision as if it was the collapse of western civilization. Public radio was being turned over to the filthy unwashed vulgar masses!

All things considered, it was a minor deal. That station still plays the classics with a smattering of jazz and Prairie Home Companion. But the controversy over it pointed to a much larger issue. This is the issue of cultural selection. In my previous post in this series, I discussed trash culture and the concept of the true, the good, and the beautiful. We can't decide what everyone else will view or listen to or appreciate. But we can decide as individuals what we will consume from the culture. This requires prudence.

The easiest way to clean up our cultural consumption would be to simply go with the highbrow. Toss out those old disco albums and go strictly with Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. But as my story of the cultural affairs editor shows, such a strategy would cost you dearly because you would never get to enjoy the incomparable sounds of Miles Davis. Being a cultural snob does not make you richer but impoverished in the cultural sense. A better strategy will have to do.

The goal is to separate the treasure from the trash because no one wants to waste their life on trash. We want to keep the good, the true, and the beautiful while letting all that is garbage fade away for us. I don't always find the true, the good, and the beautiful, but I can tell you where the trash is located and how to get rid of it.

The Wide World of Sports

The vast majority of televised professional sports are not worth your time. There is nothing true, good, or beautiful about any professional sport in our day and time. This was not always the case. The Olympics had much to admire in them, but they got diminished considerably by international politics as governments doped their athletes to win pride points on the world stage. Then, amateurism gave way to professionalism which gave many incentives for athletes to dope such that what you see now is unreal. A sport now is nothing more than a spectacle performed by people resembling animals more than humans in excellent motion. A return to amateurism could possibly restore the Olympic ideal, but that just isn't going to happen. Participating in sports for health and recreation is always recommended, but watching sports on television is a waste of life.



Journalism

The supreme goal of any news program is to convey the truth. The supreme goal of propaganda is to persuade people of things that usually aren't true. There was a time when news was the former, but it is now largely the latter. Partisan journalism has replaced objective reporting, and truth has become a casualty in a propaganda war as people seek not reliable information but confirmation and comfort in their pre-selected worldviews. The ones who choose not to be partisan tend to care about ratings and entertainment as they strive to deliver eyeballs to commercial sponsors.

The idea of objectivity in reporting has fallen on hard times as the conservative smear of liberal bias in the mainstream media has finally gained traction. Granted, no reporting is going to be 100% free of bias because we are all human. Our beliefs cloud our judgments. But consider the case of Bob Woodward who is rumored to be a Republican and a conservative. This was the guy who brought down Nixon and reported on Watergate. Apparently, any right wing political convictions Woodward had did not stop him from working on a juicy story. But there is no way you would have seen an outlet like Fox News breaking that story.

Today, the likes of Fox, MSNBC, talk radio, and other avenues of partisan reporting have muddied the discourse to the level of insult and innuendo while clouding the facts to the extreme. This sort of reporting brings high ratings as people lap up the slanted coverage. The escape for this is to go with either the mainstream network coverage that tries not to rock the boat and the sponsors or the alternative fringe media on the internet that entertains every conspiracy theory under the sun and is just as slanted in their coverage. What's left?

I find that the reporting from NPR and the PBS Newshour to still be reliable. In print, there are still the New York Times and the Washington Post. Those outlets seem like dinosaurs in the age of the internet, but I find myself turning more and more to them for reliable information. CNN is almost decent, but they tend to throw in celebrity gossip to juice their bad ratings.

For most people, their news comes from the likes of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Stewart lambastes Fox News but even takes MSNBC folks to task when their sins are egregious. I don't ever see Stewart mocking NPR or the New York Times. The running gag on The Daily Show is the overt slant at Fox News and then calling itself "fair and balanced." Fox News is really trash news, and MSNBC merely competes with that trash from the left wing perspective. It is an undeniable truth that if your reporting can be fodder for a comedy show, it isn't reliable. Media should still aim for objectivity no matter how outdated that notion may seem.


Music

The temptation with music is to tell people to listen to Bach and call it a day. This is because most bad music is popular while most great music is classic and timeless. But there was a time when Bach was popular, too. As such, it is worth our while to sort out the popular music to find those pieces that make us better for listening to it rather than worse.

I can't tell you if Coldplay is good music. What I can tell you is that Justin Bieber is the spawn of Satan's loins. We can probably add Norwegian Death Metal and gangsta rap to the rubbish heap of bad music with a high margin of safety. But then you have Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. This is when we run into trouble.

Music has the unique capability of capturing human emotions unlike any other medium. Music has the ability to transport us to another place and to feel what the musician wishes for us to feel. But sometimes, it just becomes plain silly such as the endless repetition of early Philip Glass compositions or the praise of a red plastic cup from Toby Keith. It would be easy to be dismissive of entire genres, but classical music gave us Arnold Schoenberg, a detestable composer.


I am with Miles Davis in believing that good music is good regardless of style or genre. But not all music is good. In the case of Arnold Schoenberg, the music is atonal and little more than noise. With early Philip Glass, the music is monotonous and dull. These experiments in bad music may seem like a waste, but they tell us something about good music. Good music is entirely human. It is neither random nor mathematical. Ultimately, good music touches the heart and the soul.



Movies, Television, Theater, and Fiction

I group these together because they all perform essentially the same function which is to tell a story. This is why novels become movies and vice versa. Humans love stories. But why do they love stories? Why do stories matter? And what makes a good story good?

The most nauseating director in Hollywood today is Michael Bay. While other directors labor to produce fine cinema, Bay makes a spectacle for the screen that tells no discernible story whatsoever. The Transformers franchise is the epitome of bad movie making. Steven Spielberg is the genesis of this bad cinema with that first Jaws movie, but no one realized just how bad the summer blockbuster could get until Michael Bay. The Bay philosophy is that a good movie has good special effects.

What makes a movie or any other form of narrative good is that it tells a story, and what makes a story good is that it contains a moral dimension. I remember back in college having a professor tell me that literature served an important and timeless purpose of providing a moral education. At the time, I thought this moral education was something you would get from a Bible story or something didactic like one of Aesop's fables. But this is simplisitic. As I began to read and study Shakespeare or the writings of Flannery O'Connor, I started to see this moral education idea much more clearly.

Stories reveal to us good and bad people in action. It shows us their choices and their motives. A bad movie shows us an evil character that just does evil things for their own sake. Think of Snidely Whiplash from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons. Dudley was the opposite of Snidely because he was just some boy scout of a guy. You can get away with this thing in a cartoon, but you will notice how a Michael Bay film is essentially the same as the cartoon.


All bad narratives have this quality of making the characters two-dimensional. This is why bad people in real life can watch these things and feel reassured in their false goodness because they are three dimensional in comparison. But then, you have a character like MacBeth who gives in to opportunity and commits murder and must live with the consequences and his conscience. This is more difficult to watch. You feel a certain sympathy for the villain even as he dooms himself.

The flip side to this cartoon version of good and evil is the nihilistic story where people are merely shades of banal evil. This would be the cinema of Quentin Tarantino. His work is thoroughly nihilistic from beginning to end with a few faint glimmers of morality in Inglourious Basterds. Unlike a Michael Bay film, you are entertained but left empty by these works of nihilism. This is why a film like Pulp Fiction can shift narrative focus like it can because a bad guy in one story can be a good guy in another story and vice versa. But good and evil are merely perspectives depending on who we are rooting for. In one story, we hope John Travolta's character makes it while in another story, we are pleased to see him shot to death in a bathroom. This is banality.

This same banality is also evident in the world of comedy. Nothing embodied this more than the series Seinfeld which was literally a show about nothing. Seinfeld did for the sitcom what Clint Eastwood did for the Western in the 60's. It emptied out the moral dimension of life. Seinfeld was a far cry from a series like The Andy Griffith Show, Mary Tyler Moore, and The Cosby Show. All those shows told their stories from a moral framework. At the end of them, you felt like a better person. At the end of Seinfeld, you are amazed at how you could kill a half hour like that and not hate yourself.

Art

Art has caused a great deal of controversy over the years and cuts to the core of philosophies and worldviews. This mostly has to do with art's move from capturing what is beautiful to being shocking. Nothing captures this shift more than this work from Marcel Duchamp:


The purpose of art is to capture or express what is beautiful. Duchamp took a giant dump on this definition of art and opened the floodgates for all that would come after him. This is because Duchamp managed to shock people, and this shock became the basis for what was considered good. Art's original sin was to be ugly. Now, its sin is to be boring.

It is easy to judge art by the measuring stick of talent and accomplishment. Unfortunately, this is the wrong stick to use. We have all heard the refrain that a kid could have created these artworks. But talented artists can turn out bad art while humble artists can generate real works of stunning beauty. Here is a work from the underappreciated Charles Melohs:


This is an expressionistic work which does not seem to require a great level of technical skill. But I find it to be very stunning and beautiful. Now, compare it to something that did require a great deal of skill:


Salvador Dali's work displays at the same time a great deal of mastery of the art of old painting while also managing to nauseate you. If beauty was found in talent, Dali should rank with the masters. Instead, he painted popular crap that makes you feel a bit sick inside especially if the work has ants in it.

The flip side to the shock art is the sentimental art of someone like Thomas Kinkade, but it is nasueating not from being rotten but from way too much sugar. A fine example of this art as sugary confection:


This art almost wants to be beautiful, but it fails miserably. When he was alive, Thomas Kinkade was literally a factory for this sort of art. He had reduced it to a formula like the TV series Law and Order and just churned it out one after another. But this is not beautiful in much the same way that candy is tasty but not fulfilling.

Making beautiful things is hard. It is difficult for both artist and critic. But when you see the real thing, you know it. Here is beauty:


This statue is stunning in both technical achievement but also in its effect. It is simply a beautiful work. No Duchamp urinal can ever be equal to this. It is a damning indictment of our culture and times when we prize a plumbing fixture on the same level as this masterpiece. Here is a painting of the same scene:


Work does not have to be of a religious nature to produce in us an appreciation of beauty. It could be secular and as natural as this photograph:


Beauty has a nagging habit of coming out when we least expect it. It captures us by surprise like grace. It can bless the humble artist and elude the master. The error of both the Kinkade and the Duchamp is that they believe they can create and destroy beauty at will.

Beauty is almost magical, and I don't know where it comes from except from some divine place in the mind of God. This is why very few can capture beauty but everyone can recognize it. The aim of the artist, the collector, the critic, the gallery, and the museum is to fill the world with such beautiful things. Instead, they make the world ugly, and our museums of modern art are now the greatest indictment of our trash culture.

Why does it matter?

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This idea has led us to the trash culture we see today as egalitarianism holds sway over the excellent, the beautiful, the good, and the true. Basically, if you like it, it is good. But when we get sick of something, we know better. We have all had that feeling at the end of a bad movie of wanting to get back the time we wasted on watching it. This is why it matters. We live in a time thanks to the internet where so much is available to us in terms of music, images, art, video, and writing. Yet, the crisis of our age is that with such an abundance of culture we have no way of deciding what is worth the precious coin of our finite time. Quantity does not equal quality, and the quality is in danger of being buried in the avalanche of crap. So, we turn to social media to share the workload of finding and filtering what is good, true, and beautiful. The tragedy is the utter failure of that doomed project. It is akin to letting imbeciles loose in a library and none of them can read.

The good, the true, and the beautiful exist in a transcendant sense. They are not subject to the mere whims of the beholder. The sophisticated may scoff at this ancient idea, but they are the ones who try to divine something valuable in noise and excrement. If Hell has a museum, it is certainly an infinite display of urine and feces and maybe a Thomas Kinkade or two.

When deciding what we should spend our time on, it is helpful to think not in terms of the finite but the infinite. Imagine not wasting your time on these things but eternity on them. If you were to live forever, what would you want to fill your mind with? The reason we tolerate such trash is because they are temporary and endurable. But when things are good, true, and beautiful, we want them to last forever. They never grow old but are timeless and pleasing. They become part of who we are, and we carry them in our minds for the rest of our lives. This is why it matters. We should want to fill our minds with those things. And we will know the real things because we will not regret the time wasted on them but regret that we don't have more time for them or that more of these things don't exist in the world. And we will also feel that we are better and not worse for enjoying them.


---
NOTES

 Bob Woodward and the trouble with "liberal media bias"

[SOC] A Few Thoughts Regarding Atheism

Recently, I had a brief exchange with an atheist on Facebook. For many atheists, my conversion has been a bit of a shock. For the record, I want to declare that I was not some sort of lukewarm atheist. I was a hardcore atheist. I even resigned from a group called "Godless Columbia" because they wanted to drop the "godless" part and go with something that was warmer and friendlier and not so negative. A former girlfriend would drag me to her liberal Methodist church, and I would fill out prayer cards for intercession for various ailments of either a sexual or scatological nature. I was evil. Nothing was ever going to turn me from that evil.

My conversion was very simple. I did not lose a debate with a Christian. I did not find God in a foxhole or in a copy of the works of Aquinas. My conversion came from a blog reader who felt compassion for me and asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother on my behalf. I married that woman. It was the best thing I have ever done in my miserable life.

I always get credit for being a good person because I have done reasonably well on keeping the commandments on that second tablet Moses brought down from the mountain. But I have utterly smashed up that first tablet. I was a blasphemer and a hater of God. And there was no institution on this earth I hated and despised more than the Roman Catholic Church. This was a hatred I had even before becoming an atheist.

This past weekend, I underwent the Rite of Welcoming and Acceptance into the Catholic Church. This is one of the milestones in the RCIA program. I still have more steps to go in this journey. I am very happy about it.

I continue to contemplate my exchange with the atheist. I don't think anyone has ever been argued into faith. I think there are many good arguments in defense of the faith, but I don't think they matter to the atheist. I was listening to Sam Harris mock God for allowing children to die or for waging holy war in the Old Testament. This is the same guy who defends abortion on demand which kills millions of unborn children and also argued for a nuclear first strike on Muslims. Basically, Sam Harris calls God immoral for letting people like himself exist in this period of mercy. Yes, atheists can be this foolish.

How can you argue with people like this? When God is merciful, He is called unjust. When God is just, He is called unmerciful. When God allows people to have free will, He is called weak. When God calls people to account for their actions, He is called a tyrant. No matter what God does, He is always at fault in the atheist worldview. Yet, those judgments against God are the very words that God will use to judge these proud atheists.

You cannot make moral judgments without God. Either God exists and there is a right and wrong. Or, God does not exist, and nothing is right except for might. The atheist has no leg upon which to stand. The Wisdom of Solomon speaks directly to atheism:
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
"Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.
When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.
"Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass by us.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
nor regard the gray hairs of the aged. 
But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless. (Wisdom 2:1-11)
This is the epitome of atheism. You should have never been born. When you die, you will cease to exist. The only happiness in this world is hedonism and materialism. There is nothing inherently right or wrong. There is only what the strong decide to take for themselves. And the weak and the helpless should be devoured. In the end, we will be dead and forgotten.

Many if not most atheists reject these teachings. Yet, they have absolutely no basis for rejecting these teachings. Maybe they hate the bad PR such teachings generate. Or, perhaps they are horrified at the prospect of living in a world where such teachings actually hold sway. But make no mistake about it. Without God, this is the world of horror you will get. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, the French Revolution, and all the rest should show this to be the case. And thinkers like Nietzsche and Sartre knew exactly where their atheism was leading them. If God is dead, we are our own gods, and we are cruel gods indeed.

No atheist disbelieves purely on the basis of cold reflection of the facts. This is the image the atheist wishes to portray as if cold reason is what has made them what they are. Yet, they abandon this cold reason every time they make a moral claim or appreciate anything that is true, good, or beautiful. The fact is that every atheist wants to keep those things they find true, good, or beautiful, but they want those things without God not realizing that those things come from God. It's like someone wanting to end pig farming but wanting to keep eating bacon. You get both or neither. It is a package deal.

The atheist will offer a reasoned defense, but the basis of that unbelief is unreasonable. Saying that you want to be an atheist in order to have an unhindered sex life is not nearly as flattering as claiming that you are an atheist because you read Darwin and Hume. But the former is more likely the case than the latter. Similarly, the Christian believes because they want the ecstasy that comes from regular encounters with the Divine and not merely because they read Anselm or Pascal. Cold reason is merely ex post facto excuse making for living for what makes us happy.

I believe in God because God makes me happy. The atheist will decry this as some hedonistic emotional delusion. But that delusion makes me live better, think better, act better, and love other people. I see beauty again where I saw only ugliness and despair. I have love where I could only feel hate and revulsion. I have hope where all I had was gloom and doom. And I can call something wrong when I know it is wrong.

I have learned from St. Augustine that faith precedes understanding. It only takes faith the size of a mustard seed. That is all I had. But that is all it takes. If you want to know if God exists, you only have to have enough faith to ask Him if He exists. That is all. Just ask. The atheist does not ask not because he knows he will not get an answer. He knows he will get an answer he does not like. And this is why the atheist does not believe. I know because I was that atheist.

42

Today is my 42nd birthday. I have gotten used to being 40+, and I have no midlife crisis to report. My wife made me a chocolate cake which is really all I ever want on my birthday. I've never made a big deal about being born.

Thank you to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday. It has been the happiest one I have ever had.

[SOC] Speedballs, the Wonderful World of Walmart, Twinkies, Monopolism

This is the time of the year when I suffer constantly from colds/flu/airborne HIV or whatever these bugs are that make me cough, hack, wheeze, and make me feel tired and dizzy and wanting sleep and/or death. My only antidote is a speedball which is a gulp of DayQuil, two ibuprofen, and as much coffee as my system can absorb. I think this is what killed Belushi. But I digress. . .

The thing that has absorbed my thought the most lately has been Walmart, and I don't mean because of Christmas shopping. I was incensed to learn that Walmart actually tells employees how to get on public assistance and encourages them to get food stamps. It blew my mind. As a libertarian, I always told people that the best welfare program was a job. Apparently, that is no longer the case.

How does Walmart get away with it? How are they able to pay workers such a pittance of a wage that these people cannot even afford to live without government handouts? How is Walmart which makes billions only able to keep two checkout lanes open even though they have 20 of them? And don't get me started on those self checkout things.

Walmart is a monopoly. It is a tenet of Austrian economics that no natural monopoly can exist in a free market. Naturally, if there is a single speck of government involvement than a free market does not exist. You can see the absurdity in this argument. The reality is that monopolies do emerge in free markets almost always. At some point, they achieve a position of bargaining power that no one can surmount. Telling a Walmart worker to go find a better job is stupid when you consider that Walmart has decimated its competitors. The ones that remain in business are as bad as Walmart.

Not all companies are like Walmart. Costco is not like Walmart. Neither is Publix. Both are really good outfits. I was in a Publix recently, and the products were not pricey at all. Service was excellent.

The flipside of Walmart is the Hostess company that makes Twinkies. They declared bankruptcy to get out of union obligations. Of course, when union rules tell you bread is delivered in one truck while Twinkies get delivered in another truck, that is dumb. Unions can be as bad as clueless management to the health of a company. What is the answer?

I think the answer for these problems is shared reward/sacrifice. Management and owners don't want to share the rewards. This would be Walmart. Unions don't want to share the sacrifice. This would be Hostess. The best way would be a cooperative where rewards and sacrifice are shared. Or, you can have a company that pays a base wage and a percentage bonus on earnings. This would be an outfit like Nucor that makes steel.

In economics, people respond to incentives, and nothing incentivizes more than having a piece of the action. This is the aim of distributism. Ownership needs to be in the greatest number of hands. Basically, Chesterton was right. The problem with capitalism is there are too few capitalists. They shouldn't even be called capitalists but monopolists. This is what Walmart practices.

I am thinking very much about economics these days, and I see a lot of deficiencies in both Austrian and Chicago School economic theories. As such, I am taking a broader view on things keeping what I agree with while disposing of that which can't be true. Natural monopolies exist. The Austrians are wrong.