Sunday, October 27, 2013

Regarding Mark Shea...

So, has he always been... you know, like he is now? Or was he more relaxed once upon a time?

I'm not all that aware of what goes on in the Catholic blogosphere, admittedly. Basically, 'Feser's for education, Darwin Catholic for upscale conversation, Wwwtw for a bit more reactionary stuff, Dangerous Idea for provocative questions and real goddamn stupid atheists.' But I know Shea's kind of up there with Jimmy Akin - not quite First Things material, but still damn popular and giving regular talks, etc. And it's kind of disheartening to realize that a major voice in modern Catholic media is so bizarrely shrill.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Animal Farm Files

Briefly...

Who did Robin Hood steal from?

Who does everyone say Robin Hood stole from?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hurry up and panic! + Some Introspection

One of the things I've gotten used to is being off on my own on a lot of broad intellectual fronts.

I have strong classical theist leanings, but I think ID asks valid questions, and even makes valid (if limited) inferences - so, I'm taking a pretty unpopular position for a Thomist.

At the same time, I don't think ID is science - so I don't fit in perfectly on the ID front either.

I have some serious criticisms about the tone of Social Conservatives, which is sufficient to piss a whole lot of them off - but I still oppose gay marriage, abortion, sodomy, etc, so social liberals can't stand me.

I'm in favor of small government, so economic liberals regard me as an enemy.

But I have distributivist leanings and I believe in cultural pressure for wealthy people to invest their money in their community via charity, etc, willingly - so a whole lot of economic conservatives distrust me.

The list can go on. The only reason I mention all this is because I'm pretty used to arguing from a population of roundabout one. I find a lot in common with some people, but I inevitably end up making arguments or taking positions that make me an outlier. Maybe I'm naturally disagreeable. There's worse bets to make.

I'm finding myself in the exact same situation with regards to Pope Francis. On the one hand, I can't stand the whole 'Defend the Holy Father from all criticism, no matter how muted!' angle a portion of Catholics are engaged in. I can understand attempts to read him charitably, but this weird holier-than-thou Mark Shea style 'the complainers are all a bunch of bedwetters' thing strikes me as pretty foul.

On the other hand, I can't get behind the attitude a good amount of conservative Catholics have, which at this point amounts to 'Hurry up and panic!' It's as if there's this urgency in the air that what's very important right this second is to be very, VERY worried and suspicious of the Pope. Not that this accomplishes anything at all, of course. But holy hell, it's quite urgent that we freak out right about now all the same. Perhaps it's therapeutic? If so, sorry, I'm always the one who gets the placebo with this treatment.

I can accept some of the criticisms - better yet, interpretations of the criticisms - that the Pope offered in interviews. Yes, I think for better or for worse, 'Faithful Catholic' has come to be defined as "talks about abortion, gay marriage, maybe contraception - and little else". I think social conservatives have screwed up delivering their message on these topics, and part of the screwup lies with the social conservatives themselves. The media is out to get them, but the media can sometimes just step aside and let a group shoot itself in the foot too.

Naturally, at the same time, I find the idea that 'changing our message, trying to reach out to people' means 'abortion's fine! gay sex is great! contraception is understandable! get divorce - God doesn't care!'... this is utterly repulsive on so many levels. Intellectually wrong, morally shallow. I'm strongly in favor of reaching out to the poor, and also sinners (I better be, since I am one), but I find social justice to be an unintentionally hilarious joke, and don't think 'reaching out' means 'capitulating, even in part, to show how modern we are'. People who equate 'helping the poor' with 'voting Democratic' almost in a 1:1 fashion strike me as, pardon me, a bunch of goddamn tools.

All of this is part of the reason I, for now, feel entirely comfortable to sit back and wait to see what Pope Francis actually does. Maybe the Pope is in a situation similar to myself - where he thinks the problems facing the Church are pretty complicated, require nuance, and there's no way to avoid some miscommunication, while at the same time realizing that there must be a way to make some alterations to the message the Church puts out while at the same time retaining orthodoxy. I look around and see a world that assumes if you say people should be compassionate to (for example) gays, you must be in favor of gay marriage and gay sex because a loud group of idiots licked their finger and touched the word and called 'dibs' and now THEY get to use that word from now on. Just as the cultier atheists sweated on the word 'skeptic' and now 'skeptic' means 'atheist who totally and uncritically accepts the scientific consensus about everything except the big bang and anything else the freaks them out'. Pardon me if I decide that the rules on that front are stupid and should be changed.

One thing I find very odd with Pope Francis' critics is that they treat him as if he was created ex nihilo this year. The Pope Francis who fought against gay marriage in Argentina? He rarely gets mentioned. Maybe he learned something from that fight. Maybe it wasn't all a bit of extended play-acting in case he rose to the papacy. Of course, maybe a million things.

Either way, this is a bit of a ramble, but it hopefully outlines a bit more of where I'm coming from here. When there seems to be zero to be gained by being frantic, I'm inclined not to be frantic. In the meantime, I shall try to devote my energy towards something which at least seems to have the potential to be productive - when I'm not lost in video games and reading, anyway.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Evaluating Codgitator's criticisms of Pope Francis

Originally I was going to just reply to a portion of what Codgitator wrote up in his latest explanations of his Pope Francis criticisms. Instead, I'm going to be a bit more thorough, but hopefully stop short of overkill. Below I'll be cutting and pasting a good share of what Codg says, and giving my replies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

They'll get the wrong idea, Your Holiness!

So far, the biggest problem orthodox Catholics have with the Pope seems to be summed up in one word: misunderstanding. It's not that they think Pope Francis is necessarily saying anything or doing anything out and out unCatholic, or giving some teaching that is at odds with the deposit of faith, or even - at least not yet - necessarily taking actions that are going to, in and of themselves, directly harm the Church. Instead, the problem is just that - insofar as he serves as the representative of the Catholic Church to the world - he's saying things that can be taken as inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

There's no "Catholic" God? People will get the wrong idea, padre. They'll see that and think accepting Christ or preaching the gospel is entirely optional! It doesn't matter if you meant that God is known by more than just the Catholics, that God is involved in our lives regardless of our faith, or that Catholicism does not have a total monopoly on truth about God. People will mistake your words!

You say the Church should not focus exclusively on gay marriage, abortion and contraception? People will get the wrong idea, padre. They'll think you're tacitly endorsing all three things, rather than urging Catholics to explain the greater rationale behind their views, or to pay attention to the other threats to morality and life and faith. You'll make Andrew Sullivan happy, but others sad!

You say that nonbelievers should follow their consciences and do good, and that if everyone did what they thought was good the world would improve? People will get the wrong idea, padre. You'll be interpreted as saying that the conscience alone determines what is right and wrong, rather than encouraging people to sincerely reflect upon their acts and beliefs and urge them to recognize good in the process. Pro-abortionists will go out and say their conscience dictates that abortion is good!

To a degree, I think concerns like these are valid. There's nothing wrong with the admonition for someone - even the Pope - to make sure that what they are saying is most likely to be interpreted not only in the way they actually intend them to be interpreted, but also that they're saying what needs to be said to begin with. If the Pope is speaking out against abortion, he probably doesn't want to use language that implies that the only women who get abortions are adulterous sluts who are trying to hide an affair. And if the Pope is arguing that women who have gotten abortions should be able to be forgiven if they repent and welcomed back into the church, he probably doesn't want to use language that makes it sound as if abortion is - as far as the Church is concerned - something close to 'jumping a turnstyle at the subway'.

But there are two big pitfalls with this kind of thinking - and I think they're pitfalls some orthodox critics of the Pope are falling into.

1) The idea that the Pope should never say something that can be taken out of context is just absurd. It's laughably easy to take just about anything out of context - particularly if you're shameless, dishonest, or are willing to only quote a portion of what someone said. There's no lack of these people in the modern climate, since most of what the Pope says is going to have some potential political repercussions, direct or indirect. For anyone who disagrees with this, I have an open challenge - give me a select statement that I cannot misrepresent, right here in my own comments section. I get to quote you selectively, 'summarize' your words, analyze and interpret you to my heart's content.

This is nothing new to Francis. Benedict received this same treatment, except it was usually in the opposite direction - see how Benedict was treated regarding Galileo with La Sapienza University. There's going to be an element of nuance here: saying something like 'I'm against abortion even in the case of rape because sometimes God intends children to be born due to rape' is inane. It doesn't matter 'what you meant' by such a statement - there's a better way to put it than that. Saying, 'I'm against abortion even in the case of rape, because I think it's wrong to hold a child responsible for the acts of his monstrous father' is better. Is it still open to misrepresentation and misunderstanding? Absolutely - everything is. It's a considerable improvement, but there's still nuance involved here.

But that misunderstanding leads me into...

2) The idea that if the Pope says something that some people can and/or will misunderstand, then he shouldn't say it, is worse than absurd - it is insane. It would mean that the Pope should never speak about much of anything, because really... the number of slow-witted, non-reflectful or otherwise 'difficult thinkers' in the world is incredible. I would go so far as to say that they are probably the rule, rather than the exception. And their problems are exacerbated in a modern media culture that strongly emphasizes quotes, sound bites, gists and third party analysis.

If you tell a roomful of people that gays should be treated as human beings rather than judged purely on their sexual preferences, almost half of the room will hear 'Homosexuality is A-OK! Gay marriage should be legal!' If you tell a roomful of people that sodomy is morally wrong, and that same sex marriage should not be legal, half of them will hear, 'Being gay is evil! It's okay to beat up people for being gay!' If you try to explain, at length, the particularities and nuances of a position such that 'being gay' is not immoral, but certain sexual behaviors are, most of the room will say, 'I don't even understand what this guy is saying. Why's he talking so much? Why can't he just say whether or not I should accept gay marriage or beat up gays?' Oh, and this only gets worse if you're dealing with people who are both a little on the slow/inattentive side and ALSO are given to one kind of bias or another.

So when I see people griping that what the Pope said is 'going to be misunderstood', all I can ask is what else is new. Every Pope I've ever known in my life was repeatedly misunderstood, misrepresented and more, and often across the political spectrum. When I see Francis getting taken to task because, God forbid, there's some idiot out there who's going to think that abortion is okay because the Pope said that we shouldn't focus exclusively on those topics and then read a two-bit analysis by a left-wing blogger with a penchant for fantasy, while everyone else just gets riled up, I mostly end up feeling bad for Francis. I notice that even when Francis speaks in an orthodox way, it doesn't matter to a lot of people - the left just winks and nods and suggests that Francis has to say such things to keep orthodox Catholics happy (leftists I encounter usually seem surprisingly A-OK with the idea of people lying to get their way), and the right just laments that it isn't public enough and so ultimately doesn't matter as much as what gets reported more loudly (which, if the media IS biased, is just setting themselves up for total disappointment.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Phosphorus and Hesperus, Zach and Blue Devil Knight

At first I wasn't going to make much of a post about this, but the more I thought about it, the less justification I found for the stance. So, here we are.

I know I have some Dangerous Idea regulars around here. There's a variety of regular names there (aside from, of course, Victor Reppert himself.) In particular, we have Blue Devil Knight and Zach. BDK is an atheist and a materialist. Typically well-mannered, etc. Zach is a very angry non-materialist Christian who doesn't like 'Christians relying on obviously poor arguments instead of focusing on the good ones'. BDK is typically civil. Zach mocks, insults and generally attacks people he disagrees with - with a particular axe to grind against yours truly, though ingx24 and others have been on the receiving end. In fact, others have long noticed that Zach has a habit of going after theists negatively to quite the extreme, and not having much attention paid to atheists. Quite the gulf between them.

And it turns out they're the same person.

Before I go on - kudos to ingx24, who had this to say at one point: I feel like Zach might be a materialist in disguise trying to make his criticisms of dualist arguments seem plausible by pretending he's a dualist. It seems like Zach spends more time criticizing anti-materialist arguments than he does criticizing materialism.

To which I can only say... sharp eye, ingx24. Ilion? If you're reading this, not nearly as sharp of an eye.

You're going to have trouble finding these responses, since I notice that everything related to Zach has been wiped from Dangerous Idea - at least, all of Zach's posts. You'll still find a lot quoted by other people in arguments, so it's not going to be a complete wipe. Also gone is Zach's website, which had a few posts - you know, just enough to establish himself as a Christian who was going to provide knock-down arguments against atheism and materialism someday. (Makes me wonder if the eventual plan was having Zach 'see the light' and abandon Christianity for atheism and materialism. One line that came up repeatedly was 'People like you make me ashamed to be Christian!')

If all this sounds familiar, well, you've probably heard of John Loftus doing this same thing to JP Holding a while back. Though this was longer, on a grander scale, and penny ante compared to even that.

Anyway, since I notice Zach's comments are quickly being wiped from the face of the Earth, I figured I should make a post so everyone knows what's going on here. First things first: let's make it clear that this isn't speculation on my part. It's been admitted, and straight from the comment box we have:

Blogger Crude said...
BDK,

Does the name 'Zach' ring a bell?
October 11, 2013 at 5:13 AM
 Delete
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...
>>>Does the name 'Zach' ring a bell?

If it did, I would want to say that he sounds like an idiot who let his attempt to be anonymous escalate into contemptible full-blown trolldom. His behavior, especially the two-faced way he acted toward people he likes and respects, says something about his character that he clearly needs to address at a personal level. He obviously could not handle anonymity in a mature way, and will not be posting anything new.
October 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM
 Delete
Blogger Crude said...
Well, that answers that.
October 11, 2013 at 1:44 PM
 Delete
Blogger Crude said...
Actually, no, If you're Zach, this was not a one-time thing. It wasn't even directed totally at me. You went after ingx24 and others pretty ferociously, you presented yourself as a dualist who 'had knock-down arguments against materialism' yet who suspiciously and somewhat famously only attacked anti-materialist arguments, I even recall you talking about how 'great intelligent posters like BDK' were driven off DI by the likes of me. This lasted for, what - over a year?

This is small shit ultimately - I always said, blog comments aren't much of a battleground. But I'm not going to pretend this was some meager one-time slipup. Ilion's gotta be tearing his hair out right about now if he sees this.

I'm not saying anything more about this, but I'm pointing out the situation as it stands.
October 11, 2013 at 2:50 PM
 Delete
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...
Crude you are right it wasn't a one-time thing: I posted for a few months, I believe. While I didn't say anyone drove off BDK, I did say a lot of crappy things to provoke people (e.g., ingx, crude, benyachov), and I cannot defend them. The best I can do is to stop doing it, apologize (as I already did to Victor), pledge that it won't happen again, try to be a better person online, and spend less time online.
October 11, 2013 at 5:58 PM
 Delete
Anyway, what follows is how this was discovered. Probably not of interest to most people, but I want this on record, because if someday - for whatever dumb reason - this is denied, I want details remaining on the internet somewhere.


Monday, October 7, 2013

A Tale of Three Jackasses

Today, I want to write a parable. A tale of three jackasses.

Jackass 1... we'll call him Marty. Marty's a lawyer who works for the government of San Francisco as a district attorney. One day, Marty has a little too much to drink - and on his way home from the bar, he runs over and kills a 12 year old boy. Marty flees the scene - it's a hit and run. When police start asking questions, he makes a call to his friend, the Mayor (we'll call her Donna.) Donna pulls some strings, takes the police off Marty's case. Marty's involvement in the death is covered up. He never sees a day of jail time, he never pays a cent of restitution - nor does the city.

People will see this and say the guilty parties here are Marty and Donna.

Jackass 2 is Sheila. Sheila is a software developer who works for a company out in Amarillo, Texas. One day, Sheila has a little too much to drink - and on her way home from the bar, she runs over and kills a 12 year old boy. Sheila flees the scene - it's a hit and run. When police start asking questions, she makes a call to her friend, the CEO of the company she works for (we'll call him Karl.) Karl pulls some strings, takes the police off Sheila's case. Sheila's involvement in the death is covered up. She never sees a day of jail time, she never pays a cent of restitution - nor does the company.

People will see this and say the guilty parties here are Sheila and Karl.

Jackass 3 is Donald. Donald is a Roman Catholic priest who works for the diocese in Las Vegas, Nevada. One day, Donald has a little too much to drink - and on his way home from the bar, he runs over and kills a 12 year old boy. Donald flees the scene - it's a hit and run. When police start asking questions, he makes a call to his friend, the diocesan bishop (we'll call him Rich.) Rich pulls some strings, takes the police off Donald's case. Donald's involvement in the death is covered up. He never sees a day of jail time, he never pays a cent of restitution - nor does the diocese.

People will see this and say the guilty party is Donald... and the Roman Catholic Church.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pope Francis on celibacy and family

Courtesy of the always-thoughtful Codgitator, this link to some of Francis' latest words.

Family is the vocation that God wrote in the nature of man and woman, but there is another vocation, complementary to that of matrimony: the calling to celibacy and to virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the vocation that Jesus himself lived. How to recognize it? How to follow it? 

[...]

I answer you with two essential elements on how to recognize this vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life: praying and walking in the Church. These two things go together, they are intertwined. At the source of every vocation to the consecrated life there always is a strong experience of God, an experience that is not forgotten, that is remembered all through life! It is the one that Francis had. And we cannot estimate or program it. God always surprises us! It is God who calls; but it is important to establish a daily relationship with Him, to listen to him in silence before the Tabernacle and in the intimacy of our own selves, to talk to him, to stay close to the Sacraments. Having this familiar relationship with the Lord is as it were to have open the window of our life, so that He may make his voice heard, what he wants from us. 

[...]

I want to say one thing to you strongly, especially today: virginity for the Kingdom of God is not a "no", it is a "yes"! True, it includes renunciation to a marital bond and to one's own family, but at its foundation there is the "yes", as a response to the total "yes" of Christ for us, and this "yes" makes [us] fertile.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

So about those interviews with the Pope...

This was a reconstruction, without notes taken or dialogue recorded?

By an 89 year old interviewer?

Now, the Pope nevertheless signed off on the interview. Still, not exactly encouraging in terms of organization.

A minor papal scare

While I've been defending the Pope a lot lately - sincerely, I'll add - I admit, I visited Newadvent.org and saw this headline:

POPE VISITS ASSISI: “FRANCISCAN PEACE IS NOT SACCHARINE. NOR IS IT A KIND OF PANTHEISTIC HARMONY WITH FORCES OF THE COSMOS…"...

And for a brief moment, I instead read it as:

POPE VISITS ASSISI: “FRANCISCAN PEACE IS NOT SACCHARINE. IT IS A KIND OF PANTHEISTIC HARMONY WITH FORCES OF THE COSMOS…"...

So for ten seconds I'm just thinking, oh ****ing come on Padre, you cannot be serious.

Then I read it again and whew, okay, that's more like it. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Discussing Pope Francis with the Codgitator

Yet another conversation link, though this one's a bit shorter. Basically going over some of the Pope's second interview, and once again I think what the Pope is actually saying and doing is on the whole far more reasonable than how he's so far been presented.

I think a good share of the problems people are having - not all of them, but a good share - basically come down to this: on the one hand, the Pope seems to be actively trying to engage and approach people who have grown distant from the Church. Not 'Richard Dawkins', but just 'modern non-believers'. The simply irreligious, the nominal-at-best Christian or Catholic. And this, frankly, is a group that the modern Church has never really focused on before. In fact, it's a group that I strongly suspect a lot of orthodox Christians simply do not know how to engage: they're more comfortable with out and out hostile idiot-atheists, or with fellow believers. The merely irreligious, the social liberal who is liberal just because they kinda-sorta think it's right to be so rather than regard hardcore social liberalism as key to their identity? They tend to get ignored. They're not loud, after all.

It's the engagement of that group that has caught my attention for a while now, and it's probably one reason why I'm being a lot more forgiving of what I'm seeing out of Francis right now. I don't think engaging this group requires any sacrifice of orthodox stances. I do think it will naturally require different language and different approaches than what orthodox and traditionalists have been providing up to this point. So right now, I find myself understanding of and even encouraged by most (not all, but most) of what Francis is saying. I may change my mind in the future, but for now, it's nice to have a pope that - at least in my casual experience - the irreligious like and find inspiring. I'm not quite so sure the social liberals are going to like him ultimately. I really do think he's panicking them.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Julia Gillard and Feminism in a Nutshell

Julia Gillard has retired from politics, but that doesn't mean she's going quietly. And in the process of speaking her mind, she's done a great job of illustrating one of the major problems with modern feminism:
Ms Gillard said she was disgusted that Mr Abbott and others responded to her misogyny speech by claiming she was playing the “gender card”.
“It just amazes me that we can be having this infantile conversation about gender wars,” she said.
“You just feel like saying: ‘Well, if it was your daughter and she was putting up with sexist abuse at work, what would you advise her to do?’… We have to be able to say strongly to women and girls that you have got a right to an environment that treats you with respect, treats you as an equal and that raising your voice about that isn’t starting a war, it isn’t playing the victim, it’s just asking for what simply is right”.
What's telling here is the last line: you have got a RIGHT to an environment that treats you with respect, treats you as an equal, and that raising your voice about that is just asking for what's right.

Except... it's not right. It's absurd, this idea that you are owed an environment where you are automatically respected, and an equal. As near as I can tell from my side of the pond, Gillard was such a disaster that she was ousted from her party's leadership, and this didn't happen in time to save said party from a crushing defeat. Yet there's Julia, stamping her feet and yelling about how respect and equality of treatment is an out and out right. And, for added irony, she does it while belittling her opponents.