Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Moral Facts, Opinions, and Suppositions

 

478px-Vitrail_de_synagogue-Musée_alsacien_de_StrasbourgDiscussing a New York Times op-ed by a college professor about how young people are taught that all value statements are matters of mere opinion, Dennis Prager blamed the problem on a lack of religious faith. He went on to say that the kids have the logic, if not the conclusion: without religion, all moral statements have no truth claim:

If God doesn’t say “Do not murder,” murder isn’t wrong. Period, end of issue… Morality [becomes] just an opinion for “I like” or “I don’t like” if ultimately, there is no moral God in the universe that makes morality real. Without religion and God, there is no moral truth…

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The Presbyterians have voted to recognize homosexual “marriage”. Their definition of marriage has been altered to read “commitment of two people, traditionally a man and a woman…”. This is a major Christian denomination explicitly defying the plain word of God as set down in the Bible (homosexual behavior being “an abomination unto the Lord”). How […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Ricochet Weekend Essay Assignment

 

stllewisIn C. S. Lewis’s classic work the Screwtape Letters, you’ll recall, Screwtape, a senior demon, offers advice to Wormwood, his nephew, on the most useful techniques for leading humans, by slow degrees, to hell. Here, just a couple of sentences — and note that when Screwtape refers to “the Enemy” he is writing about God.

“There’s nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. What Makes Men Good?

 

shutterstock_105095180Nothing. If history has taught us anything, it is that mankind excels at doing bad while pretending to be noble and otherwise.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the last century has proved beyond doubt that human beings are not getting better. In fact, the opposite has occurred: we’ve regressed. The myth of progress be damned and forgotten evermore. Sure the last century saw many positive examples of growth – technology and applied science come to mind. And, yes, this growth has been at an unprecedented level too – since 1915 we have had the invention or upgrading of planes, automobiles, vaccines, indoor plumbing, freezers, dishwashers, modern medical advances such as the heart transplant and chemotherapy, television, radio, mobile phones, satellites, and the computer. I could go on and on, but I shall stop where I am. Human technology and its use has been a definite benefit.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Reckoning with Divorce

 

We’ve had a pair of gay marriage posts this week on the Member Feed [Editor’s note: Curious? Join!], and there have been a few comments along the lines that Christians focus all their anger on gays, and similarly comments about the easy forgiveness of heterosexual sexual sins. These comments bothered me, but I don’t want to hijack those threads.

In the 20 years or so since I’ve been an active member of congregational churches (yes, those of you doing the math, I started when I was about 10 years old; being a voting member is a matter of salvation and understanding of the doctrine through baptism, not age), and I’ve seen sexual sins brought up a number of times. Almost always heterosexual, and almost always aimed at fornication and adultery (with the balance being about how married people should have sex more frequently).

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Split-Religion Marriages and Conversions

 

When I was a young teenager, my dad got pulled into the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults when a neighbor asked my dad to sponsor him through the process of conversion. The man’s wife was Catholic, so he was considering the Church’s beliefs with charitable patience. My father has participated in RCIA ever since, in varying capacities.

These days, one of his favorite TV programs is The Journey Home in which host Marcus Grodi interviews converts to Catholicism about their conversion experiences. Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, Jews, housewives, lawyers, scientists, preachers — The show is fascinating because of the endless variety of origin stories, which provide insights and nuances which cradle Catholics like myself often have never considered.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. I Don’t Believe in God, I Believe in Science

 

Scott Walker’s evolution question has been hashed over quite a bit. Themes that I’ve read include relevancy to the presidency (is that a good band name? or some sort of L. Frank Baum chant?), fear of the creationist’s inquisitional powers in the classroom, the hypocrisy of the question, and the ulterior motive of either tripping up or exposing Scott Walker as a rube.

Was this question a nascent litmus test of belief in science as a replacement for a belief in God for the office of president? But no matter, because….

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Marriage in America Is Wrong

 

Marriage equality has become a sticking point for many Americans, primarily from the conservative side of the spectrum. As we get closer to the point where SCOTUS could arguably settle the dispute, I have been thinking about why we have ended up with the entire argument in the first place.

The basis of the marriage equity camp’s argument is the 14th Amendment, while those opposed tend to argue on the basis of the First Amendment (even though we haven’t really gotten to the point where lawsuits are being filed to force religious organizations to recognize same-sex marriage.) Ben Carson ended up in a minor situation with the Southern Poverty Law Center over the fact that he publicly stated that gay rights organizations should not be able to define marriage. Sadly, I can’t bring myself to agree with him, at least not in the context of state recognition of marriage.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Self and Soul

 

Prompted by the great Casey, I re-read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. First read it years ago, but I’m older now, and reading it again brings very different reactions.

One argument is that the modern world has done away with the Soul and has replaced it with the Self. That’s a quick way of describing a conviction I’ve held for a long time. A soul is an individual connected to God and the rest of the universe, striving to find harmony with all of it. A self has no such connection; it’s just a command center (with little control) over a sea of conflicting and confusing interior psychic currents. Or, as Bloom suggests, a soul is on the roof pondering the mysteries of the heavens, but a self is in the basement snooping around in the dark for Freudian rats.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Will We Ever Have Another Overtly Religious President?

 

shutterstock_131310620George W. Bush is probably the last. I remember the excitement at bible study about a praying president. We all thought it was pretty darn cool. It’s a shame economic sensibilities weren’t high on the laundry list he asked for from God.

Somebody asked me about Mike Huckabee recently and I opined that we’d never have another overtly religious president. I thought I’d explain why and see what the masses think.

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I noticed this interesting graphic in Ricochet’s Twitter feed. What observations might we make based on this image shared by Daniel Pipes? More

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Newsweek Wants To Tell You About Those Rotten Evangelicals

 

explorerIt’s Christmastide, so it’s time once again for Newsweek to flex its theological muscles and slam Christians for their intolerable reading of the Bible. It’s a cheap trick. It’s easy to throw bombs at Christians. They’ll refute your claims, but they are not going to strap on a vest of explosives.
I’ve read the article, “The Bible: So Misunderstood it’s a Sin,” and — as a favor to you, and to help you preserve time to prepare your New Year’s Eve — I’m offering up time that would otherwise have been completely wasted (as opposed to mostly wasted) to fill you in on what you already know.

In 2013, Newsweek’s balance sheet showed the magazine in fiscal bankruptcy, so it’s little surprise that the magazine now demonstrates its moral bankruptcy by publishing an article bashing Evangelical Christians for their alleged Biblical ignorance and — naturally — for their refusal to stand with the current zeitgeist. No sensible person will pay attention to, or pay for, the magazine. However, plenty of senseless readers will glom onto the end-of-the-year edition, eager to read something that bucks up what they are sure they already know. Newsweek needs those readers and will fill them full of what they need just to stay afloat.

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“Wasteland 2” finally came out. This is a game set in a post-apocalyptic world, sort of like a Spaghetti Western with robots, cyborgs, energy weapons, black humor…and giant robot scorpions. More

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Pope Francis: Doggie Heaven Is Real

 

During a recent appearance, Pope Francis comforted a little boy who had just lost his dog. The Pontiff said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

I never think much about this issue until I’m the one dealing with a dying pet. I’ve lost two Corgis in the past several years, and each required lengthy conversations with my young daughters about the cute little guys’ eternal resting place. Though I was non-committal, I employed several “maybes” and “could be’s” to comfort crying kids who wanted a firm promise they would see their puppies again. If I’m being honest, the thought also comforted me more than a little.

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One of my friends is a writer who is presently spending time in Malaysia as his wife teaches English. He’s among my liberal friends and though he’s strongly in that direction, I’ve found I can have at least intelligent disagreements with him. Earlier this week he posts this picture: He commented on this as well: […]

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Take the Test: Neil deGrasse Tyson or Deepak Chopra?

 

Astrophysicist, Cosmos host, and director of the Hayden Planetarium Neil deGrasse Tyson has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Several media outlets (especially The Federalist) have investigated his anecdotes, quotes and claims only to learn he makes up quite a few of them. Luckily for the pop scientist and his devotees across the Internet, the New York Times published an article exonerating Tyson for his multiple transgressions. Because Science!

Tyson also is one of America’s most popular skeptics, making a career ridiculing religious beliefs (and conservative ideology) as just so much silly superstition. So I decided to juxtapose his quotes with New Age self-help guru Deepak Chopra. Surely this will be the easiest test ever created, right? Let’s begin…

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Fault Line: Culture Wars Playing Out in the Church

 

shutterstock_204326209There is a divide among American Christians. Less a disagreement between Catholics and Protestants — or other divisions of doctrine and theology — the difference turns on culture, and relates to a fundamental difference in worldviews that transcend the old schisms. In short it, is a matter of orthodoxy, with non-denominational evangelicals and cafeteria Catholics on one side, and traditionalists on the other. It has been talked about within the various churches for decades, but affects almost all of them in the same fashion, and reflects larger trends in the culture that mirror political parties.

A recent conversation on the Member Feed turned to the matter of how Christians consider each other with respect to true worship and doctrine. Along the way, member Gary McVey asked:

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I used to belong to a blogging site called ‘Journalspace.com,’ which has since collapsed. On my blog there I had posted text from a book of biblical scholarship by Bruce Vawter, to stimulate discussion about Christianity’s origins. I am planning to do the same here, but I am unsure of the best way. In other […]

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Exorcist, The Demon, and The One Who Is Not There

 

imageIt’s nearly Halloween, which means a cornucopia of horror movies on TV. Most of them are just awful, with a few masterpieces occasionally making the grade. Last night some cable channel featured Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and a couple of zombie features I’d never heard of. Frankly, the horror movie genre is in a slump. It’s zombies, zombies, zombies, all the way down and I’ve never understood their appeal. I have a pretty strong stomach — I always have anchovies on my pizza — but I demur when it comes to people eating people. I just don’t understand how they can be the luckiest people in the world.

For just over 40 years, The Exorcist has been the magnum opus of horror films. I’ve never completely understood how such a frankly religious movie has been transformed into a Halloween staple. Yes, it’s terrifying and — for whatever reason — people love to be terrified. But what makes it a perennial favorite, I think, is the gut deep fear that demonic possession may be possible. Nobody’s going to turn into a zombie or be resurrected as a member of the fraternity of the undead. But at a visceral level, most people believe fallen angels are more than superstition who literally, in the words of the Prayer to St. Michael, “prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Can the Secular Define Evil?

 

I’m a fan of Dennis Prager, though I split my listening between him and Rush, as they’re both on at the same time. Dennis is an unabashed advocate for religion, and the notion that goodness flows from it. He frequently challenges secular people or atheists — like me — to contradict his claim that “[w]thout God there is no good and evil.”

It’s a good challenge, and I’ve been contemplating it for a long time. Not only do I think we should always confront our opponent’s best arguments directly but I really do think its important to ask myself — as secular person — how I draw the distinction between what is good and evil if I am not going to trust religion to define it for me?

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