Andrew Sullivan: Sustainable liberalism requires God

August 29, 2020 • 1:45 pm

I want to add one comment to today’s earlier post on Andrew Sullivan. It gets its own space here because it’s is unrelated to the issue of violent vs. nonviolent protests.

One good feature of The Weekly Dish is that thoughtful readers write in offering criticisms of what Sullivan wrote earlier.  Sullivan then responds, and, to his credit, sometimes he admits error. But this time he touts God. Here’s a bit of one critical email and Sullivan’s answer (my emphasis):

Part of reader’s comment:

Parting question for you: Do you think a resurgence of small “L” liberalism is possible in an increasingly atheistic West? If so, by what mechanism would it be brought about?

Sullivan’s response:

I’m glad you’re making this essential point about right-wing postmodernism as well. I agree largely, and should devote more attention to it — as I have done in the past. But the honest answer is: I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

Well, yes, you have to have faith in an objective reality if you’re trying to do any effective politics, but liberalism depends heavily not only on the concept of objective truth, but on ascertaining what it is. But as for “general faith in a transcendent divinity”, well, that’s totally bogus. Why do we need belief in God to advocate liberal politics? It would seem the opposite to me: many right-wing tenets, like anti-pro-choice and anti-gay positions, seem to depend on adhering to the will of a god or a faith.

It irks me that a man who is often so rational in other ways still believes, without a shred of evidence, that there is a god. (Sullivan’s a Catholic—a pretty pious one, I gather, though not an adherent to all Church dogma.) If you believe in an objective reality, then you must also believe that there are ways to ascertain what that reality is. But there is no way to ascertain the “reality” of a god, much less of Sullivan’s Christian god. The more urgent task is to weaken all faiths, not buttress them.

Fortunately, we do have a reinvention of Christianity. It isn’t a reboot, but surely suffices as a grounding for liberalism. It’s called secular humanism.

Catholic sacraments erased because priest wasn’t correctly baptized due to use of unpreferred pronoun. Church is contact-tracing to find the doomed.

August 24, 2020 • 10:00 am
This is one of the crazier manifestations of mainstream religion (Catholicism) that I’ve seen lately, and I would have missed it in The Detroit News had it not been sent by reader Steve.  Click on screenshot to read.

I’ll just quote the gist of the article, which almost could have come from The Onion (my emphasis to show the damage caused by not using a preferred pronoun):

A priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit earlier this month learned his baptism, performed 30 years ago, was invalid and that sacraments he has performed for others such as marriage and confession are invalid.

The Rev. Matthew Hood, who since July has served as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Utica and at Divine Child in Dearborn since 2017, learned he was invalidly baptized as an infant by Deacon Mark Springer, who improperly used “We baptize” rather than “I baptize” to confer the sacrament from 1986 to 1999, a statement from the archdiocese said.

An invalid baptism means Hood, a graduate of Sacred Heart Major Seminary who sought ordination to the priesthood 2017, was invalidly ordained to the priesthood and limited in his ability to celebrate valid sacraments during the past three years, the archdiocese said.

“The note from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith alerted the Church throughout the world that baptisms were not valid in which a particular word or words were changed,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

“To say ‘We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ does not convey the sacrament of baptism. Rather, ministers must allow Jesus to speak through them and say, ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

The archdiocese is seeking to contact anyone who may have received invalid sacraments.

“It is the duty of the local Church to ensure that everyone entrusted into her care has the full benefit and certainty that come from the valid reception of the sacraments, which have been given to us to keep us as secure as possible on the path to heaven,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron said.

Contact tracing! At least it’s easier here than for Covid-19 because you need find only the people to whom Father Hood gave sacraments. Still, that’s thirty years worth of Catholics!

I’m curious as to how many people are going to go to hell because they couldn’t be contacted, and thus their own baptisms, confessions, and expiations were invalid—all because Hood was baptized by “we” rather than “I”. More important, how did they find out?

Hood has now been baptized properly, and henceforth his sacraments will be “valid”. But still I wonder whether, if the priest administered “invalid sacraments”, can people really go to hell? I know that homosexuality is a “grave sin” to Catholics, and an unconfessed homosexual act can send you to hell.  Would a gay person who confessed this to the incorrectly baptized Hood still have to fry for eternity? Theologians, please weigh in!

Apropos, Steve sent a video clip with a note:

This is a famous scene from the first Harry Potter movie about the importance of proper pronunciation when spellcasting.

Vatican uses most of “charitable” donations to a major fund for reducing the Church’s debt

December 12, 2019 • 1:30 pm

Direct donations from Catholics to the Holy See —a fund called “Peter’s Pence“—is a practice that’s been going on in one form or another since 1031, but was formalized in 1871 by Pope Pius IX. The money, which is in response to a direct appeal from the Pope, is supposed to be used for philanthropic purposes. Or so the website says. However, The Wall Street Journal, whose article on this “charity” is for some reason not paywalled (click on screenshot below), found that 90% of the donated money goes for non-charitable initiatives, with two-thirds of the total going to reduce the budget deficit of the Holy See—the administration of the Catholic Church and its diplomatic network. Click on the screenshot to read the article or, if you can’t get it, try some judicious inquiry:

The excerpt below is from the Vatican’s explanation of the Peter’s Pence fund:

Peter’s Pence Today

In the first year of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the proper meaning of this offering:

“‘Peter’s Pence’ is the most characteristic expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s charitable initiatives in favour of the universal Church. The gesture has not only a practical value, but also a strong symbolic one, as a sign of communion with the Pope and attention to the needs of one’s brothers; and therefore your service possesses a refined ecclesial character”. (Address to the Members of the St Peter Circle, 25 February 2006).

The ecclesial value of this gesture becomes evident when one considers how charitable initiatives are connatural to the Church, as the Pope stated in his first Encyclical Deus caritas est (25 December 2005):

“The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers and, on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love” (No. 29)

This aid is always animated by that love which comes from God:

“For this reason, it is very important that the Church’s charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance” (…) “The Christian’s programme — the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus — is ‘a heart which sees’. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly” (ibidem, No. 31).

This clearly implies that the major purpose of the “offerings” from the faithful is to fulfill “charitable initiatives”.  But, according to the WSJ, this just ain’t so:

VATICAN CITY—Every year, Catholics around the world donate tens of millions of dollars to the pope. Bishops exhort the faithful to support the weak and suffering through the pope’s main charitable appeal, called Peter’s Pence.

What the church doesn’t advertise is that most of that collection, worth more than €50 million ($55 million) annually, goes toward plugging the hole in the Vatican’s own administrative budget, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works, according to people familiar with the funds.

The little-publicized breakdown of how the Holy See spends Peter’s Pence, known only among senior Vatican officials, is raising concern among some Catholic Church leaders that the faithful are being misled about the use of their donations, which could further hurt the credibility of the Vatican’s financial management under Pope Francis.

. . . Under church law, Peter’s Pence is available to the pope to use at his discretion in any way that serves his ministry, including the support of his administration. The collection’s website says that, to support the pope’s charitable works, “Peter’s Pence also contributes to the support of the Apostolic See and the activities of the Holy See,” emphasizing activities that help “populations, individuals and families in precarious conditions.”

The assets of Peter’s Pence now total about €600 million, down from about €700 million early in the current pontificate, largely on account of unsuccessful investments, said the people familiar with the funds’ use.

The use of Peter’s Pence donations mostly to plug the budget deficit is particularly sensitive for Pope Francis, who began his pontificate by calling for a “poor church for the poor,” and has continually emphasized the church’s mission to care for and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable.

. . .Peter’s Pence, a special collection from Catholics around the world every June, is billed as a fundraising effort for the needy. The Vatican’s website for the collection,, describes it as a “gesture of charity, a way of supporting the activity of the Pope and the universal Church in favoring especially the poorest and Churches in difficulty. It is also an invitation to pay attention and be near to new forms of poverty and fragility.”

A section of the website dedicated to “works realized” describes individual grants, such as €100,000 in relief aid to survivors of last month’s earthquake in Albania or €150,000 for those affected by cyclone Idai in southeastern Africa in March.

. . . Local church leaders echo the Vatican’s line when soliciting contributions. According to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The purpose of the Peter’s Pence Collection is to provide the Holy Father with the financial means to respond to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster and disease.”

But for at least the past five years, only about 10% of the money collected—more than €50 million was raised in 2018—has gone to the sort of charitable causes featured in advertising for the collection, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of the money has been used to help cover the budget deficit at the Holy See, these people said. The Holy See consists of the central administration of the Catholic Church and the papal diplomatic network around the world. In 2018, the budget deficit reached roughly €70 million on total spending of about €300 million, reflecting chronic inefficiencies, rising wage costs and hits to investment income.

This of course is due in part to declining church attendance, as well as the besmirching of the Church’s reputation by the child-rape scandal. And, as the paper reports, donations to the PP fund dropped about 20% from 2017 to 2018, with further declines expected in this year.

In its “Peter’s Pence” article, Wikipedia indicates further abuses (the last reference, #22, is to yesterday’s article in the WSJ):

In 2019, it was revealed that the charity had secretly been used by people within the Vatican to buy luxury property in London[19][20] and to fund movies such as the 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman.[21] It has also been used to finance the budget deficit of the Holy See.[22]

The upshot is that the Vatican is misleading its flock about where their money goes, and the Pope is complicit in this.  Although none of the Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not lie,” two are applicable here: “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Although the latter could be construed as forbidding perjury rather than lying, it’s been interpreted as lying. Regardless, if the Vatican isn’t lying here, it’s certainly being duplicitous. How many people would donate to “Peter’s Pence” if they knew that only one tenth of their donation went to help people in need?

CNN, Reuters and other media mainstream a “Jesus relic”, taking it for granted that Jesus lived and was born in Bethlehem

December 1, 2019 • 10:30 am

I’m back with a pile of exigent tasks, all of which are temporarily effacing the memories I had of my fantastic trip to Antarctica.  I see the Roald Amundsen is again crossing the Drake Passage on the way to the Antarctic Peninsula, so the passengers must have replaced much of their luggage that was stolen. But they’ve still lost two days of their voyage.

And so it’s back to the grind for me. First, grocery shopping, which I do early in the morning. When I turned on the radio on the way to the store, the very first thing I heard was Krista Tippett blathering on in her NPR show, “On Being”, in which she regularly emits Deepities whose profundity almost brings her to tears. (She clearly thinks a lot of herself, despite her emphasis on “humility.”) Hearing her whine about spirituality already put me in a bad mood, but when the show ended (yes, I’m a masochist), I thought I heard her say “This show is located on Dakota (or Lakota) land.”

“That can’t be”, I thought to myself. “Even the unctuous Tippett isn’t that woke!”

But sure enough, she is, and I should have known it. For if you go to her “On Being” site, which of course I did, you find this page-long acknowledgment of land theft (click on screenshot):

(It turns out that the Dakota and Lakota were two distinct groups with different languages, both under the umbrella of the Sioux nation.)

But read how “On Being” flagellates its back like a masochistic penitente. If their project in Minnesota is indeed located on Dakota land—it’s 12 miles away from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers which, according to the site, was considered “the center of the world” to the Dakota people—then why doesn’t Tippett give her headquarters back? After all, she says that “The United States’ land seizures were a project of spiritual destruction that denied the Dakota free and unhindered access to the land that fundamentally shapes their identity and spirituality.” If she’s complicit in destroying Dakota spirituality (and of course “spirituality” is her meat and potatoes), why doesn’t she do something to make up for it?

Well, yes, colonists and settlers quite often treated the Native Americans horribly, but a post facto breast-beating acknowledgment like Tippett’s doesn’t do anything but flaunt her virtue. How does it help the Dakota? If she cared, she could give a lot of her profits to the tribe, but I’m betting that isn’t happening. I find no indication of such contributions on the website—or anywhere else.

Okay, I’ve vented enough, and haven’t yet gotten to the lede.

. . . . well, not quite enough. But here’s the lede: an article from CNN reporting religious news that just appeared in many other places. In this case, a bit of Jesus’s reputed manger, for a long time kept in Rome, is now being permanently returned to Bethlehem.  And in most reports, the media, as CNN does in the headline below, hedges its bets by saying “relics are thought to be” from Jesus’s manger. But in the stories following the headlines, most of these sources take the existence of Jesus—and the Biblical narrative of his life—as being true. Read on (click on the screenshot):

First, the details and the requisite disclaimer (first bit in bold is mine):

Jerusalem (CNN) — A fragment of wood believed to be from Jesus’ manger is back in the Holy Land just in time for Christmas.

The tiny inches long relic was first taken out of the Middle East in the 7th century when St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, donated it to Pope Theodore I. It remained in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore until now.

The wooden relic arrived on Saturday at its permanent home in Bethlehem in time for Advent and the beginning of the Christmas season. Many Christians say it represents the very essence of their faith.

. . . Pope Francis allowed the relic to be returned to the region, according to Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land.

He told CNN that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been asking the Pope to return the stone and wood manger to Bethlehem for at least one Christmas season for years. “It was important, the request of Mr. Abbas, it was very important,” said Fr. Patton.
Okay, so they’re not buying whole hog the story that this is a piece of the manger. But then there’s this (again, my emphasis):
. . . Fr. Patton said the entire crib was considered too fragile to move. Nonetheless, he says the small wooden relic is an important symbol that will now be permanently enshrined inside St. Catherine’s Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem

This implies that what is taken by believers to be Jesus’s manger, as an entire crib, still exists. I had no idea!  The manger exists! And, looking it up, I found that, well, some bits of the crib do exist—at least some some slats. As reports, the same church in Rome from whence the fragment came, Santa Maria Maggiore (“St. Mary Majors”), is reputed to have a big piece of Baby Jesus’s bed.

Here’s the reliquary, which depicts Baby Jesus lying atop a bed of straw, which in turn is atop a cushion. There’s a manger (or a big hunk of of one) inside!

And some of the site’s description (bolding is theirs):

The reliquary was realised by Giuseppe Valadier in the early 19th century to substitute the previous reliquary from the 1600s that was stolen by Napoleonic troops.  Through the lucid crystal reliquary, you can make out some wooden slats in red maple that are typical of Bethlehem.  The relics date 2000 years to the time that Jesus was born. 

This raises many questions. Is the reliquary large enough to hold the whole bed? How do they know that the manger is 2000 years old? Did someone do carbon dating? And, if the date is right, would it be possible to extract some of Jesus’s DNA from the wood (after all, babies—even baby Jesus—do excrete, and excreta has DNA)? Most important: How did they know to save the manger given that Jesus didn’t fully show himself as the son of God until he was older? And who saved the manger?

Finally, when Napoleon’s troops stole the reliquary, did they really leave the enclosed manger behind? Did they know it was the manger?

Further, it’s not clear whether Jesus—if he lived, and I’m not at all convinced that the Jesus story is based even minimally on a real person—was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. A piece by R*z* *sl*n in the Washington Post explains that most scholars think that Jesus was born in Nazareth, but the myth that he was born in Bethlehem was confected to fulfill a prediction from the prophet Micah.

So be it. I’ll let the religious scholars argue about where Jesus was born. I can finally get to the part where CNN takes for granted that Jesus was real and was born in Bethlehem. Read this (bolding is mine):

Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, lies in the West Bank, part of the Palestinian territories. For years Abbas has tried to work with the Vatican to encourage Christian pilgrims to make the trip to Bethlehem despite security and political concerns, according to Fr. Patton.

This clearly implies that Jesus lived and was born in Bethlehem; the first sentence is not a declaration by Fr. Patton. And so CNN gives credibility not just to the existence of a Jesus person, but also to the Biblical account of where he was born according to the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

Give me a break! This is like saying that “Paul Bunyan’s birth place lies in Minnesota”. It always bothers me that, despite the fact that there is no extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of someone on whom the Jesus myth is based—even an itinerant apocalyptic preacher—the mainstream media always takes it for granted that there was a Jesus, and that his story conforms pretty much to what the Bible tells us.

Isn’t the media supposed to be more skeptical than that? Shouldn’t the sentence above read: “According to legend, a person named Jesus was born in Bethlehem, now part of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank“? But no, the media simply assumes, and tells us, that Jesus lived. They’ve bought into the Bart Ehrman Fallacy, which is that the Bible must be true in part, at least in the existence of a Jesus Person, even if that Person wasn’t the son of God. (The sub-fallacy is that because most religious scholars think that Jesus was real, a Jesus Person must have lived.)

Reuters, the respected news agency, did the same thing in their article on the manger fragment (click on the screenshot, and note that this report is in the “Lifestyle” section”!)

They show the reliquary with a fragment of the manger. The first thing that needs to be done here is some carbon dating.

But again, while the relic is only “reputed” to be from the manger—the media isn’t that credulous—the existence of Jesus is taken to be true (my bolding in the excerpt below):

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A fragment of wood reputed to be from the manger where Jesus was laid after his humble birth went on display in Jerusalem on Friday, ahead of its transfer to Bethlehem for the official launch of the Christmas season.

. . . The provenance of ancient relics is often questionable. Still, they are revered by the Christian faithful, among them the coachloads of pilgrims who squeeze through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity all year round to visit the birth grotto that is its centrepiece.

Note that while the bolded bit waffles about whether the wood is really from Jesus’s manger, there’s no doubt in the article that Jesus existed, and that his birth was “humble.” You can find this kind of unquestioning fealty to the Jesus story at other sites, too. National Geographic has dined out on the story for several years.

It’s time for the media to not only hedge on the provenance of these relics, but also on the existence of Jesus. (I note in passing that, according to Wikipedia, there are several places in Europe that claim to have Jesus’s foreskin, and one church that has his umbilical cord. But Jesus had only one foreskin! Like religions itself, these things can’t all be authentic!)

And so, as we swing into the Christmas season, and because I’ve returned from Antarctica, I present another rendition of the Nativity, sent in by reader Christopher Moss. This nativity scene was bought for his wife by her father, who was keen on penguins. Note that there is no manger (Jesus is cosseted under Mary’s belly), and why Joseph has a shepherd’s crook (or has he gone missing?) is obscure. And why is the angel penguin given wings when it already has them?

n.b.: Why Evolution is True comes to you from Algonquin land. 

Vatican launches smart “e-rosary” that connects to an app and tracks your “bead progress”

October 24, 2019 • 1:00 pm

No, this e-rosary is not a joke, but a real item launched by the Vatican, during the Month of the Rosary, clearly in a desperate attempt to keep young people wedded to Catholicism. You can read about this remarkable religious innovation at the two sites below (click on screenshot):

From Fox 35 Orlando:

Verification via the Vatican News:

Here it is!

And how it works (my emphasis):

In an effort to get more young people to pray for world peace, the Vatican has launched a $110 wearable digital rosary, called the “Click To Pray eRosary.

The “Click to Pray” eRosary can be worn as a bracelet and links to a mobile app that becomes activated when the user makes the sign of the cross. The beads of the bracelet are made of black agate and hematite, and the digital device is in the shape of a cross.

. . . Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based teaching tool to help young people pray the Rosary for peace and to contemplate the Gospel,” the Vatican explained.

The smart rosary links to the official player app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, called “Click To Pray,” that connects thousands of praying people worldwide daily.

Once the device is activated, users can choose whether they want to pray a standard rosary, a contemplative rosary or one of the thematic rosaries, which are updated annually. The smart rosary keeps track of and displays the user’s progress and tracks when each rosary is completed.

The part that needs fixing here is that apparently users still have to do manual work, moving the beads through their hands. If the Vatican were really savvy, they’d have the e-rosary move itself at preset times, making it even easier to use than the Buddhist prayer wheels that you can twirl in your hands, sending a prayer each which each revolution.

“Tell No One”: a documentary about pedophilic Polish priests that’s making a big stir

May 18, 2019 • 1:30 pm

This is a powerful, moving, and stirring film that will make you very angry at the Catholic Church, for it details—sometimes graphically—the sexual abuse of children by priests that was rife in Poland. The abuse is only now being put in front of people by this new movie, “Tell No One”. It’s two hours long, free on YouTube (below), and I found it mesmerizing. Victims, now grown, relate their abuse in detail, sometimes confront their aged abusers, and recount their frustrating and futile attempts to get the Church to take the abuse seriously. As we’ve seen in so many places, the Church just transferred the dog-collar rapists from one parish to another, most of them never receiving any serious punishment or even sanctions. The heartening thing is the tenacity of the survivors to get justice—or at least get their story told—and the sympathy of those who helped them, and of the two men who made this film.

One thing that was driven home to me is how easily these priests could convince children to participate in their depredations, for, especially in Catholic Poland, a priest is almost a Christ figure (one person even mentions that). And you can see first hand how the abuse had lifelong effects on the victims: trauma, anorexia, and suicide attempts.

And this is the Church—supposedly God’s rock on Earth. It’s infuriating. The perfidy of this institution is infuriating and shameful.

If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie, “Spotlight”, set in Boston, this is a complementary movie, for it’s a documentary and also allows you listen to the victims. You can see the pain in their eyes and hear it in their voices as they tell their stories.

According to the Associated Press and 9News from Australia, “Tell No One,” is making a big stir in Poland:

“Tell No One,” a film financed through a crowdfunding campaign, was released on YouTube on Saturday. By Monday, the documentary had more than 8 million views.

It triggered soul searching in a country where there is no higher authority than the Catholic Church and its clergy.

“Why do priests commit such crimes? Why did the bishops not react as they should? Why, for years, did a conspiracy of silence prevail among the clergy?” journalist Andrzej Gajcy asked Monday on the news site Onet, voicing some of the uncomfortable questions confronting many Poles.

The primate of Poland has thanked the brothers who made the film, Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, for their “courage.”

“I apologize for every wound inflicted by the people of the church,” Archbishop Wojciech Polak said Saturday.

The Vatican’s ambassador to Poland, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, also expressed sympathy for abuse survivors on behalf of both himself and Pope Francis.

One more bit of data:

In March, Polish church authorities said they had recorded cases of 382 clergymen who abused 625 victims under the age of 18 since 1990.

The documentary presents new evidence that priests who were known to be pedophiles were transferred between parishes instead of pushed out of the church or referred to police.

And those are only the recorded cases.
The movie is in Polish but has English subtitles, and if you can spare two hours I urge you to watch this. Thanks to Malgorzata for calling this to my attention.

An ID advocate, lacking scientific arguments, claims that atheism saps life of meaning

May 2, 2019 • 8:15 am

Intelligent Design (ID) advocate David Klinghoffer, an Orthodox Jew, spends a lot of time attacking me on the Discovery Institute Website Evolution News. It’s almost an obsessive animus, for he regularly trawls this site looking for ammunition. But I pay little attention to the man.

First of all, his criticisms of me have nothing to do with science, but are recycled tropes about how horrible atheism is. That’s because Klinghoffer and his ID cronies have no scientific ammunition against evolution, and so are reduced to ad hominems about evolutionists or criticisms of unbelief or moans about the destructive effects of accepting evolution. He also beefs endlessly about my “tone”.  Sorry, but Liars for Moses—or Jesus—don’t deserve respect. Klinghoffer is irrelevant in any serious scientific discourse.

In the end, it’s almost amusing how desperate people like Klinghoffer have become. It’s now twenty years after the ID “Wedge Document” was leaked, with its timeline proposing that within two decades they would make ID and anti-materialism the dominant paradigm in science. Ultimately, their goal was to bring Jesus into the public schools, although I suppose that even Orthodox Jews like Klinghoffer can piggyback on Christianity. But they’ve failed at both endeavors, and so are reduced to flailing about in their pages.

Here’s one example (click on screenshot). It’s a very short read:

Klinghoffer quotes author and radio host Eric Metaxas, who himself appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show, where Metaxas said this:

Nobody really says this because it’s too ugly, but if you actually believe we evolved out of the primordial soup and through happenstance got here, by accident, then our lives literally have no meaning. And we don’t want to talk about that because it’s too horrific. Nobody can really live with it. But what we does is, we buy into that idea and we say, “Well then, what can I do? Since there’s no God, I guess I can have guilt-free pleasure. And so I’m going to spend the few decades that I have trying to take care of Number 1, trying to have as much fun as I can. By the way, having kids requires self-sacrifice. I don’t have time for that. I won’t be able to have as much fun.”

Klinghoffer adds:

Ugly indeed. To which Carlson agreed:

But what a lie. What a lie. As you lie there, life ebbing away, you think, “I’m glad I made it Prague.” Actually people don’t think that as they die.

And so to the question that Klinghoffer thinks will flummox and destroy Darwinists (my emphasis)

Carlson asks: “Then what’s the point of life? Going on more trips? Buying more crap? Clothes? I’m serious. What is the point?” It’s a good question to ask the next Darwinist with whom you have the opportunity to chat. Or the next theistic Darwin-appeaser who soothes us with the assurance that there is nothing terribly corrosive about the evolutionary perspective.

This is bizarre, and the rebuttals come easily to mind. The idea that being an atheist turns you into an amoral hedonist, too self-absorbed to even have children, is ridiculous. Nonbelievers may have fewer kids than, say, Mormons or Orthodox Jews, but it is the custom of those faiths to propagate. Nearly all of my atheist friends have kids.

Beyond that, the article is circular in its implicit assumption that because true meaning and purpose can come only from accepting God (and presumably following God’s Plan), then without God you are without purpose. And this is somehow supposed to be a reason for us to accept God, even though he doesn’t show himself these days.

And that’s a crock. In one of the most popular threads that ever appeared on this site, “What’s your meaning and purpose?“, I asked nonbelieving readers to tell me what they considered the purpose and meaning of their own existence. Almost all respondents (there were 373) found their meaning and purpose in their jobs, their avocations, their children, and so on, and not in worshiping a fictitious deity. The “Darwinian Perspective,” or at least the atheistic one, hadn’t at all proved terribly corrosive. Indeed, people found it liberating.

The idea that without God life has no meaning is patronizing, bogus, and wrong, and refuted by simply looking at the many atheists (or atheistic areas like Scandinavia) for which lack of meaning and purpose is not an issue.

Worse, Klinghoffer, Metaxas, and Carlson’s views boil down to something like this: “Believe in a god, even if there’s no evidence for one, because without it life has no meaning.”

But can you really force yourself to accept fiction solely on the grounds that it gives you a purpose? I can’t, and I doubt that most readers can. You’re either brainwashed from the get-go, and thereby get an automatic meaning, or you accept that there’s no evidence for a God and come to terms with it—just as we come to terms with our own mortality. As Plato recognized in the Euthyphro Dilemma, people really do get their morality (in Plato’s case, “piety”) not from God’s dictates but rather from non-goddy considerations—in other words, secular considerations.

This is why I find Klinghoffer and his ilk so ridiculous. They’re supposed to be supporting Intelligent Design, but since they can’t do that, they blather on about how Darwinism and atheism turn adherents into selfish, amoral nihilists. But there’s as little evidence for that as there is for ID itself.

John Henry Newman gets his second (bogus) miracle; stay tuned for sainthood

February 14, 2019 • 12:30 pm

As you know, to become a saint in the Catholic pantheon a candidate has to have performed two documented miracles, which are ostensibly debated in the Vatican after being stink-eyed by a hired nay-sayer, the literal “Devil’s Advocate“. (Hitchens was the Advocatus Diaboli for Mother Teresa’s canonization, but apparently they didn’t find him convincing.)

Now, according to the BBC and other sources (click on screenshot below), the second critical miracle has been approved for John Henry Newman, and so he’s on the fast track to sainthood—the first English saint in a long while. Newman (1801-1890) began as an Anglican and then, converting to Catholicism, became a cardinal and was beatified nine years ago (that’s step 1, which requires only one miracle).

The first miracle was “curing a man’s spinal disease.” Wikipedia says this about the pair:

In 1991, Newman was proclaimed venerable by Pope John Paul II, after a thorough examination of his life and work by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  After this, Jack Sullivan, a man studying for the diaconate in Boston, Massachusetts, was on the verge of complete paralysis in 2000 and 2001 and claimed to have been miraculously healed after praying to Newman. The miracle was investigated and confirmed by the Vatican. Newman was beatified on 19 September 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI on a visit to the United Kingdom.

A second miracle, necessary for his canonisation, was approved by the Vatican in November 2018. This miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman from a life-threatening condition. The decree approving this miracle was authorized to be promulgated on 12 February 2019.


The Torygraph gives a bit more information about this second miracle:

The Church claims the recovery had no scientific explanation and attributed it to Newman’s intercession.

“An expectant mother was suffering from unstoppable internal bleeding which threatened the life of her child in the womb,” the diocese of Westminster said on its website.

“She had long been a devotee of Blessed John Henry, and in prayer she directly and explicitly invoked Newman’s intercession to stop the bleeding. The miraculous healing was immediate, complete, and permanent.”

The Diocese’s website adds no further information.

So I wrote my doctor asking if there are known natural causes for stopping internal bleeding during pregnancy, and of course there were. As the doc wrote me (my emphasis):

The devil is in the details. There are many causes of uterine bleeding during pregnancy.

Here’s just one from UpToDate:

Threatened miscarriage. Uterine bleeding in the presence of a closed cervix and sonographic visualization of an intrauterine pregnancy with detectable fetal cardiac activity is diagnostic of threatened miscarriage. The term “threatened” is used to describe these cases because miscarriage does not always follow uterine bleeding in early pregnancy, even after repeated episodes or large amounts of bleeding. In fact, 90 to 96 percent of pregnancies with both fetal cardiac activity and vaginal bleeding at 7 to 11 weeks of gestation do not miscarry; the higher success rate is associated with bleeding at the later end of the gestational age range [10,11]. Uterine bleeding in these cases is likely due to disruption of decidual vessels at the maternal-fetal interface. These separations generally cannot be visualized by ultrasound, but sometimes appear as a subchorionic hematoma. Management is expectant.

“Management is expectant” means the bleeding usually stops on its own. Hope that helps.

Yes, it helps. So what we have here is a “miracle” that occurs regularly without the intercession of prayers to saints. But of course that characterizes all the medical miracles touted by the Vatican. When an amputee regrows an arm after praying to a beatified candidate, then we’ll talk!

h/t: Kevin

Catholics claim they know the whole truth about everything

January 15, 2019 • 12:15 pm

Have a gander at this quote that came from Franciscan University. The backstory appears at the site Church Militant and Inside Higher Ed (IHE). Franciscan University [FU] is a Catholic school in Steubenville, Ohio; it’s sufficiently hard-line to include homosexuality in a course on “deviant behavior” along with rape and robbery.

Here’s the quote, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t both true and sad:

“Franciscan University encourages the faculty, in their teaching function, to address all material relevant to their subject matter but, as specified in the Faculty Handbook, opposes the promotion of propositions and values contrary to Catholic teaching. This in no way impinges on true academic freedom, as the Catholic church accepts all that is true and rejects all that is false.”

Where did this come from? As Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reports, FU removed the departmental chairmanship from Stephen Lewis, an FU professor of English, after he was found to have included the Emmanuel Carrère’s book The Kingdom in a course syllabus. Given its content, that book was a no-no. IHE summarizes the contentious parts:

Part memoir, part religious history — imagined and actual — the hard-to-summarize book essentially tells two stories: that of Carrère’s own crisis of his Catholic faith and that of the formation of the early Christian church. Watching pornography in one scene, Carrère’s says that Jesus’s mother, Mary, wasn’t a virgin. Rather, he says, she knew men in her youth and “might have come, let’s hope so for her, maybe she even masturbated.” There’s a bit more about a favorite adult actress and female masturbation.

There was an outcry among Catholics, and the University President apologized in an open letter, saying that The Kingdom was pornographic, blasphemous and would never again be taught at FU. There’s more to the story, but, as IHE reports, the quotation at the top came from a statement issued by FU on Monday.

According to that statement, no criticism of Catholicism can impinge on Catholic teachings because what the Catholic Church teaches is 100% true!

While religious schools are free to censor whatever they want, I find it ineffably sad that they censor criticism in this way, especially when it comes from a Catholic teacher trying to inspire thought (they’ve also made sure the book isn’t in the school bookstore).

And really, how brainwashed do you have to be to buy the school’s statement that “the Catholic church accepts all that is true and rejects all that is false”? Does that mean that homosexual behavior is really, truly, a disorder, and that you can go to hell if you don’t confess it? And that the sacramental wafers literally become Jesus’s body when blessed? And that Jesus’s mother was a virgin, which was apparently based on a dubious translation from Hebrew? Some “truths”!


h/t: Luana


Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Beelzebub

October 10, 2018 • 9:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “devil,” was captioned “That pope chap really believes in the devil!” and came with the email note, “The Pope really believes in the devil, and angels, as this nicely pitched Reuters article explains.

I’ll remind you of the immortal quote by the Alabama philosopher Delos McKown:

“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

(The source of the quote can be found here.)

For those of you who praise the “progressive” Pope Francis, here’s an excerpt from the Reuters report (my emphasis):

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The devil is alive and well and working overtime to undermine the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis says.

In fact, the pope is so convinced that Satan is to blame for the sexual abuse crisis and deep divisions racking the Church that he has asked Catholics around the world to recite a special prayer every day in October to try to beat him back.

“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” Francis said in a message on Sept. 29.

Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has made clear that he believes the devil to be real. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times.

“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable,” he wrote in the document.

Nope, it’s not the priests who are abusing children: they’re merely the puppets of. . . . can it be?. . . Satan.

So much for the new “liberal” Vatican.