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Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Art of Being Human

Every year, our town holds an art festival. This year we went. As art festivals go, it was fairly typical. There were lots of formless kiln-fired clay lumps, sticks arranged so that they looked like... well... sticks, and framed examples of what happens when you drop paint on a canvas from a great height. The prices approached that of my first car, now twenty years gone.

Driven out of the adults’ area by ugliness, we discovered the children’s area. Here, among the face painting, the clay play, and the soap bubble blowing, we found a children’s community mural in progress. The children always enjoy painting, so we stopped to get them paper plate “palettes” and let them daub away.

As they worked, it occurred to me that this single activity summed up all that was wrong with what the ignorant elites term “modern art”.

The term “ignorant elites” is specifically chosen, for their ignorance is of a very specific nature. They are not ignorant of art. Many, if not most, of the self-styled avant-garde who buzz like flies around art’s decaying corpse are quite knowledgeable about various periods of historical art styles, the masters of each style, even the techniques used to create them. Neither are the idolized artists always bereft of talent. Most of the exhibits we had abandoned contained at least one piece that implied the possibility of beauty, except.... except they had not the knowledge.

Ignorance is not necessarily damning. As Will Rogers once observed, everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects. The artists and their “sophisticated” followers lacked only one fact: the why. That was enough.

Like the man born blind who understands form but cannot identify color, today’s sophisticate knows the form of man, but not his color. They don’t know what he is made to do. They see man is natural, an animal like other animals. They conclude there is nothing more. Herein lies their ignorance.

Nature cares not a whit for anyone or anything. It maims and kills without remorse. According to evolutionary theory, over eighty percent of the species that have ever existed were wiped out in the pre-Cambrian explosion, long before man ever came on the scene. This is nature’s form.

But, though man has nature’s form, he is beyond it. This “beyond” is typically referred to as man’s “supernatural” aspect. Man is supernatural because he is what nature is not - he is a person. We have the power to act as persons. That is, we are capable of forming relationships nature cannot form. A person loves, preserves, cares for, other persons. Consequently, a person will even preserve and care for the things of the world, knowing that these things are necessary to the existence of other persons.

When we act supernaturally, we act as persons. We imitate the color, that is, the spirit of God. Christians generally agree that God is three Persons, but they rarely remember the three Persons of God are distinguished only by their relationships. That is, God is three Persons only because there exists within the Godhead exactly three kinds of relations: He who begets and He who is begotten, He who breathes and He who is breathed. Father breathes/begets Son, Son is begotten, Father and Son together breathe/beget Spirit, Spirit is breathed/begotten by Father and Son. One God containing but a communion of interpersonal relationships, and man in His image.

Consequently, man, unlike nature, is always attempting to build personal relationships in the world. Absurdly, we often try to do this even towards non-persons. We put sweaters on dogs, “baby” our cars, and protect threatened owls. But adults are perfected by successive iterations, successively closer steps towards the reality of perfection. As we become better at recognizing and loving persons, we become more like God.

True art is about personal relationships. It teaches children to move from crude drawings of relations between things toward successively greater perfection, more accurate expressions of relationships.

Conversely, sophisticated avant-garde art strives for chaotic crudity, it is purely natural, maiming and killing our proper understanding of ourselves. The painters on a community mural paint without regard to who has come before them, ruthlessly painting over whatever was originally laid down. The work is ephemeral. Like those lost species of the pre-Cambrian explosion, most of what is created is destroyed without ever really being seen. In that sense, the mural expressed the chaos of the natural animal, not the order of the supernatural man.

Children know this is wrong. When a child creates, that creation is meant to be permanent: put on the refrigerator, hung on the mantle. They instinctively know art reflects something that should be eternal, unchanging, true, real and most of all, beautiful. Children paint Mommy, Daddy, Brother and Sister. They know art ultimately expresses personal relationships, that true art perfects our ability to participate in divine, eternal, personal love.

Ultimately, that’s how we got our children to leave the mural. We told them they could bring the paints home, create, and hang their work on the mantle. They abandoned the mural immediately. They understood what was wrong.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Wanna Bet?

Americans. We willingly accept a level of risk in one area that we find horrific in another. Take, for instance, the risk posed by alcohol or cigarettes. Fifty years ago, alcohol and cigarettes were fairly innocuous diversions. Hollywood showed the good guys smoking and drinking throughout the course of nearly every movie. A drunk behind the wheel was high comedy. On the other hand, the industry that embraced a drink and a smoke forbad any scene where a man and a woman shared a bed.

Times change. Now, movie plot devices have flipped. Martinis and cigarettes are out. Casual sex is in. We've made progress, right?

Well, let’s see. Grab a calculator and a copy of any United States statistical abstract published in the last thirty years. Now, turn to the section on law enforcement. Write down the number of people ticketed for driving under the influence. In the year 2000, for instance, that number would be 915,900. Now, in the section on transportation, find the number of fatal accidents: 37,409: forty percent of these, or 14,963, involved alcohol. So, what percentage of drunk drivers were involved in a fatal accident? Divide the second number by the first: 1.6%. Here's the funny thing. It doesn’t matter what year you choose. In any given year, between one and two percent of drunk drivers are involved in fatal accidents. This is considered very dangerous.

Keep in mind, 1.6% is artificially high. After all, most people involved in fatal accidents are caught, while many people who drive drunk are not. But let’s say 1.6% was perfectly accurate. Now, compare the failure rate of drunk drivers with the failure rate of the best contraceptives. The pill, the patch; no matter what you look at, they all have the same user failure rate: around 2-3%.

So, consider two women: one is on the pill, and one is drunk. The contraceptor has sex, the drunk drives home. The contraceptor is twice as likely to become pregnant as the drunk is to kill someone. We laud the first woman for her “responsible” sexual habits, and lambaste the second as a positive danger to society.

Drunk drivers make up 0.5% of the driving population. They cause thirty percent of all accidents. That’s pretty bad. Happily, there are less than a million drunks on the road. There are eleven million unmarried women using contraception, eleven million women who don’t know their contraceptive device is twice as likely to leave them pregnant as a drunk driver is to leave someone dead.

You may consider this misogynistic. Why didn’t I compare men? Alright, let’s do that. Consider a man who uses a condom versus one who drives home drunk. Condoms have between a ten and thirty percent failure rate. So “safe sex” is between ten and thirty times more likely to have life and death consequences than drunk driving is.

Of course, we’re only looking at pregnancy here. We are ignoring all the STDs that the condom does not protect against, like genital warts or human papilloma virus, which is responsible for 93% of all cervical cancers. We are also ignoring those STDS which condoms provide little protection against like gonorrhea, herpes and chlamydia, an asymptomatic infection which causes female infertility. We’re ignoring the costs of the STDs, we’re ignoring the cost of treating the subsequent infertility, the abortions and the post-abortion medical effects, the cancers. We’re just looking at the obvious life and death issues.

But now we’re heterosexist. So, let’s get gay. According to the thirty-one homosexual groups that filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas case (2003) that legalized sodomy, “[t]he most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States is the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS).” The NHSLS survey shows that 0.9% of men and 0.4% of women in the US have been engaged in exclusively same sex partnerships since they turned 18. That is, less than 1.4 million people in the US are homosexual, or about 0.5% of the population (there’s a coincidence). Let’s ignore the 10% figure the homosexual lobby pushes, and just stick with the actual results of the survey the homosexuals themselves favorably quote in their own legal document: 0.5%.

According to the Census Bureau, this 0.5% of the population is responsible for fifty-one percent of the new AIDS cases in 2001. The CDC says it costs over $150,000 to treat one AIDS case. That means the homosexual spread of AIDS by our liberated 0.5% is generating $6.5 million dollars in health costs every day. And that’s just AIDS. The other STDs together cost an additional $25 million a day, ignoring the costs involved in treating the resulting infertility, cancer, etc. By comparison, alcoholism creates roughly $20 million in daily direct medical costs.

We take car keys from drunks because they're dangerous.
We hand out condoms because they're safe.
Any questions?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Hot Potato, Hot Potato

Hot Potato, Hot Potato

Here's an impertinent question. What's the missing number in the latest Illinois health reports? The Illinois Department of Public Health reports 281 abortions were performed on girls 14 and under, an additional 2,902 on girls between the ages of 15 and 17, for a grand total of 3,183 abortions in 2002 on underage girls. So what's missing?

While having sex with a girl between the ages of 13 and 17 is criminal sexual assault or aggravated criminal sexual assault, depending on the age of the rapist, there's a convenient loophole in the collection of statistics. Since the statute covers several kinds of sexual offense, the state of Illinois does not maintain data on the age of sexual assault victims. That is, we know 6,037 criminal sexual assaults were reported in 2002. We don't know how many of those assaults were committed against girls between the ages of 13 and 17.

Why don't we? After all, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, teens "who become sexually active at an early age are especially likely to have experienced coercive sex: seventy-four percent of women who had intercourse before age 14 and 60 percent of those who had sex before age 15 report having had a forced sexual experience" (Guttmacher Institute, Sex and America's Teenagers, New York, 1994). Two-thirds of teen mothers were victims of molestation, rape, or attempted rape prior to their first pregnancy (Family Planning Perspectives, Jan./Feb. 1992).

Abortion clinic personnel are required by law to report cases of child abuse. So, one would assume the people who sell contraceptives to kids and scrape babies out of under-age wombs would certainly report abuse. That makes the following transcript of a taped conversation with personnel at the local Peoria Planned Parenthood all the more interesting (transcripts and MP3 recordings can be found here).

CLINIC: Planned Parenthood. This is Leandra.
CALLER: Hi. Yeah. I was wondering if you guys do abortions there.
CLINIC: No, we don't. I can give you a number that do.
CLINIC: 691-9073.
CALLER: Okay. Well, could I ask you a quick question?
CLINIC: Um-hmm.
CALLER: My friend told me that since I'll be 14 in March that you guys have to tell my parents. But my boyfriend's 22. Could he take care of that, and we don't have to tell my parents? Because I don't know what would happen if they found out.
CLINIC: Oh. We don't say anything. Everything here is confidential. I mean, as far as outside, that's on you. But we keep everything here confidential.
CALLER: Okay. Well, do you guys have to tell anybody about my boyfriend or anything?
CLINIC: Uh?uh. We don't tell anybody nothing here. I mean, just you. Unless you give us permission, we tell no one nothing. It does put us in a little awkward position because we have been asked to report ... actually we're not ... it's something we're kind of on the borderline whether we're suppose to do anything about or not. Because there are legislators and others there concerned, not that we necessarily think it's our job to decide that. But if we have somebody under 17 coming in with somebody over 18, then there is come concern.
CALLER: Well, are you going to tell anybody?
CLINIC: No. But it would help us to decide ... just don't talk about his age when you come in. I guess I would say that.
CLINIC: And if you could come in by yourself, it might be best.
CALLER: Oh. So it would be better if he wasn't here?
CLINIC: Usually I would say it's better if he is there. Maybe I can put a note to the counselor you're going to see and tell her, don't ask. Don't ask, don't tell I guess is sort of unfortunately where we have to be about this.

The caller in this instance, was part of a nation-wide sting operation on abortion clinic providers. She was only pretending to be 13. Yet, when a real teenage girl gets pregnant, the father will be over 20 years old in 90% of the cases, one-third will be over 25. The younger the mother, the more likely that the father was three or more years older. 40% of all 15-year old girls who carried to term were impregnated by a man over 20 years old.

Life Dynamics, the Texas organization which called Peoria, along with over 800 other Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics throughout the nation, points out that the overwhelming majority of the clinics contacted either indicated they would not report the situation or instructed the caller in how to avoid being detected. More than 90% of the clinics violated the law, thus helping child predators continue sexually violating children. Study the numbers. If all underage abortions were reported, and if every criminal sexual assault were of an underage teen, it still means Planned Parenthood sold contraceptives to less than three thousand underage kids. If that's true, what happens to their claim that their contraceptive programs reduce teen pregnancy? The numbers don't add up.

Planned Parenthood's research indicates underage girls are being sexually molested by older men. Government statistics and their own employees tell us their clinics don't report this child molestation, despite the law's requirements. The media is silent. Discuss.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Educating the System

Educating the System

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s a French saying, and the French understand how the game is played.

The state of Illinois, like many states, is having a budget crisis. Allegedly, one great way of cutting back on expenses is to de-certify all private schools for athletic competition. This move will save the superintendent about $300,000 a year. Enough to pay ten teachers. Of course, it will also make hundreds of non-public schools in Illinois ineligible for many state and federal grants, hobble tens of thousands of non-public school student admissions to some colleges and universities, and deny the possibility of athletically based scholarships to these same students. But, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, eh?

Though the state now says non-public schools don't need their curricula examined, at least one regional superintendent in Illinois disagrees. Sort of. Despite the fact that the US Supreme Court recognizes home schooling as a perfectly legal and reasonable method of assuring your children’s education, this state official is willing to spend his department’s funds to thoroughly investigate the various curricula used by home schooling families throughout his region. He’s afraid student education at home might be worse than their education in the public school system. His deep concern touches the hearts of dozens of families, and has already brought many to tears.

For Catholics, none of this is surprising. The American public school system was specifically designed to enable this kind of abuse. Indeed, that’s why the Catholic parochial school system was created: Catholic bishops recognized the dangers inherent in the public schools and developed their own alternative. The state has never been very happy about that development, neither in this country nor elsewhere.

Back in the mid-1800’s, when the state began requiring schooling for all children, the proponents of the move had two motives. First, it was recognized that education improved productivity and general citizenship. Second, the huge wave of Catholic immigrants terrified most of Protestant America. The extremely influential Justice Hugo Black summed it up best when he referred to Catholics as "powerful sectarian religious propagandists" who were "looking toward complete domination and supremacy of their particular brand of religion." Compulsory public education in a Protestant environment was explicitly held up as an important tool towards stopping the infernal papists from taking over the country. Catholics had to be made to conform religiously.

As a result, only certain “acceptable” elementary schools were made eligible for public funding, and, lo! the only schools that qualified for funds were Protestant! Catholics yawned in amazement, and kept right on building their own schools. But even this was attacked. In 1889, Wisconsin made it illegal to send a child to an out-of-district (read parochial) school. By 1922, Oregon made it illegal to send a child to anything but a public school. The Ku Klux Klan lobbied in favor of such laws. So did the Republicans, for, by now, public school was good for business.

In the early 1900’s, public school had been partially re-engineered, adopting the Prussian system of schooling the lower classes. The Prussian system defined for the child what was to be learned, what was to be thought about, how long to think about it and when a child was to think of something else. Disciplines that were formerly an integrated whole were now broken up into artificial “subjects” to prevent the student from seeing the whole. Bells were used, not to enhance concentration on a subject, but to enhance obedience to bells. Industrial America needed workers who embraced repetition, responded to bells, and lived only for working the process and consuming the product. It was a new kind of conformity.

Jewish and Catholic immigrant families understood that this system of schooling was an offense against human dignity. Diane Ravitch’s book, The Great School Wars, documents the three week long riot that ensued after Andrew Carnegie tried to implement the Prussian system in New York. Though the Republican party had always been the anti-slavery party and a stronghold of immigrant support, the successful implementation of this method of schooling was one component which helped to destroy that support. The Prussian method, which viewed man as a machine to be harnessed, eventually destroyed the religious content of education, replacing it with the secular humanist bent that now pervades the system.

Today, teachers’ unions (ironically, “teacher certification” was also a Carnegie idea) have made the maintenance of the existing school system the province of the Democrats. Republicans, who made union-busting a national sport, have reversed their position and now support the underdogs: voucher-based education and the homeschooler. Now, not just Catholics, but all Christians are opting out of schools that push the new religion, secular humanism. And the system fights back, just as it did a century ago, attempting to use the courts and the laws to impose its worldview on families who don’t want it.

Alexis de Toqueville, at the beginning of the 1800’s, found America a most amazing country. Every farmer could read, and did so, balancing a book on the plow. It was not unusual to find the butcher conversant in Latin or Greek, the baker having an opinion on Plato or Descartes.

It is too bad the French are not always right. Times change. De Toqueville’s America is one thing that has truly changed, and is not likely to return. If the system has its way, that is.

Monday, September 15, 2003

In the Name of Love

In the Name of Love

"Man indicted for exposing lover to HIV." The CNN headline would be laughable if it weren't deadly. Love is a word often used, but rarely defined. This causes no end of confusion in discussions about love. As the headline indicates, this confusion is most clearly present in the media equation of homosexuals and love.

The North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), for instance, promotes the sexual expression of love between men and little boys. For these gay men, outlawing such love is age-ist prejudice. These men point out that NAMBLA and other pro-pedophile organizations were long time members in good standing with the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Oddly enough, the ILGA suddenly reversed its position on man-boy love only when the United Nations stripped the ILGA of its consultative status because its member groups promoted pedophilia. Harry Hay, the founder and leader of the modern gay rights movement, along with many other prominent gay and lesbian activists, publicly demonstrated against the ILGA for its hypocrisy in ousting NAMBLA. The United Nations trusts the integrity of this flagship gay/lesbian organization to such a great extent that it has continued to refuse the ILGA consultative status to this day. Who was right in this debate? It all hinges on what love means.

What is love? Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision. It is a choice. Love is the freely made decision to serve another person or person(s) by giving everything I am to her for the whole of my life. The point of love is to bring the person being loved to perfection. I don't bring her to the perfection I think she should have, rather, I assist her in reaching the standard of absolute perfection she was brought into existence to achieve. In order for me to fully assist her in reaching her goal, I must give everything I am to her. Thus, love is the gift of myself to the person I love. This definition has interesting consequences.

It means that if I marry for love, I am marrying in order to serve someone else. If I marry for love, it does not matter how much I get out of the marriage or whether I grow in the relationship - that's not relevant. Rather, in a love-based marriage my only standard of success is, "How well have I served my spouse? Have I given her everything she needs to grow and mature as a human person?" The feeling of love may not be logical, but the decision to love, to serve, is.

This is important. The emotional surge of love and the logical life of love are distinct. The decision to love may be based on something along the lines of, "I like this feeling, this person I am gazing upon engenders this feeling in me, so I want to stay with this person and keep this feeling." That's a logical decision, but it is based on evidence that is neither logical nor illogical - that is, it is a logical decision based on an emotion, a fact. This is a perfectly reasonable basis for reaching a decision.

However, the life of love endures not on the basis of the feeling, but on the basis of the decision. Once I make the decision to stay, I have to do what is necessary to keep her happy. That means I have to take care of her, serve her. And, as I live year in and year out serving her, I find that the emotion comes and goes, but the decision to serve her is what keeps me there no matter what I feel like on a specific day. So love is expressed in service, in giving myself and my talents entirely to her every day.

For this reason, sex, while it can be a very important part of love, is not a necessary part of love, of service, to the perfection of the person being loved. Indeed, it can be something that gets in the way of love. If sex is likely to harm the person, then it is not an expression of love. That's why spouses have sex with each other, but not their children. As any doctor knows, gay sex is highly unhealthy. It is not an expression of love. Nothing is wrong with gays loving each other. Everything is wrong with gays having sex with each other. Despite the best medical care in the world, gays without AIDS in the US have the life expectancy of someone born in 1871, before antibiotics and sterile surgery were developed. Gays with AIDS are only slightly worse off. Gay sex is not love. It is mutual suicide.

But today, even educated people confuse sex with love. The American Psychological Association said homosexuality was fine thirty years ago. Today, it floats trial balloons for legalizing pedophilia. Its official newsletter, The Psychological Bulletin, has already published articles arguing that pedophilia should no longer be considered a mental disorder. The APA has long argued that an eleven-year old can give informed consent for an abortion (though, after the uproar over it’s pro-pedophilia articles, it now insists that eleven-year olds cannot give informed consent to have sex). Dr. Jocelyn Elders, President Clinton's surgeon general, wrote a glowing forward to Judith Levine’s pro-pedophilia book “Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex", published by the University of Minnesota press.

Gay love, child love if you’re born that way, then society just has to accept it, right? Even if the APA stands on sexual expression were not illogical and contradictory, the group goes beyond its mandate as a scientific organization when it provides value judgements on human actions. Science is in the business of description. It can describe an action and tell us what the physical consequences of that action are. It cannot tell us whether either the action or the consequences are good or bad. That is a socio-cultural judgement, not a scientific judgement. If the APA wants to tell us that homosexuality or pedophilia are good things, then it is acting as a religion, not as a science. Sadly, love is not the only thing the APA does not understand.

Friday, September 12, 2003

It’s a Religious War

It’s a Religious War

Miguel Estrada, the Hispanic Catholic judge whose nomination was put on hold seven times, is the latest victim of the latest religious war. He was left hanging for over two years, his nomination put on hold seven times, simply because he wouldn’t deny his faith. He recently withdrew his nomination in order to get on with his life.

Attorney General William Pryor made similar refusal to deny his faith and has suffered a similar filibuster. Thomas Ashcroft, Clarence Thomas, and others have also been subject to it. Apparently, the Democrats believe only Christians who do not hold serious Christian beliefs can hold office. One might call it the “Christians Resembling Avowed Pagans” (CRAP) campaign.

Reports on this issue always return to the phrase, “separation between church and state.” Ignore the fact that this phrase appears in neither the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence. Ignore the fact that several states, including Jefferson’s Virginia, had religious tests for office holders for years after the Constitution was ratified. Where did this idea of church-state separation come from? Prior to The American Constitutional Convention of 1787, every country in the world, every culture known to man, required its office holders to at least affirm the existence of a Supreme Being (seven U.S. states still have this requirement). Even John Locke, probably the biggest influence on Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, denied atheists (and Catholics) the right to hold office.

This opposition to faith in the public square is founded in part on the Reformation and its wars of religion. Even Islam did its part. It laid siege to Vienna, with armies composed in part of enslaved Christians, not once but twice in one hundred and sixty years. Indeed, the 1683 siege was so effective that, if it were not for Catholic Poland and her soldiers, most of Europe would now speak Arabic and live under sharia. These wars resulted in tens of thousands injured and killed, hundreds of villages burned to the ground, general famine in large areas of western Europe. It wasn’t pleasant.

People saw religion as the cause of the problem. Remove religion from the public sphere, and war would leave with it. Modern historians recognize there is some truth to this, but not much. When there is no formal science of economics or biology, when there is no enormous difference between the living standards of one country and another, what can motivate people to war? Whatever the king's real motivation might be, the public reasons have to resonate with the culture. When the culture is steeped in religion, the public reasons given for war will likewise tend to be steeped in religion. A ruler can’t appeal to the fall in gross national product when no one, including him, knows what that is.

The French Revolution became the first attempt to throw religion out of the public square. It enthroned a prostitute as a “goddess”, followed that with a public debauch and guillotines that rose and fell from sunrise to sunset for weeks on end. It also resulted in Napolean and the Napoleanic Wars, the first totalitarian and the first European experience of total war.

The Constitutional Convention tried a similar tactic. We had only slightly better luck. Within thirty years, we fought the War of 1812 and began the long series of Indian and other wars that would keep our army, navy, and now air force, busy right up to the present day.

Today, we are told a non-religious society is more peaceful. It isn’t. It’s bloodier. In Christian society, wars were governed by certain rules: no fighting on Sundays or holy days. No fighting on fast days. No fighting during Advent or Lent. War still wasn’t a holiday, but it did not involve the whole of society. Often, the inhabitants of two countries at war were only barely aware of the fact. The two groups of citizens often continued visiting each other as if nothing were wrong. Nothing was.

Science is not so indifferent. The Franco-Prussian war (1871) was fought to validate Darwinian theory that only the strongest races survive. Both the French and the Germans thought of their nations as “races”. That war led directly to World War I. Anglo-American legislation and eugenics theory gave Hitler the law and the science to support his ideas on race, World War I gave him the reason. Now the “superior” Germans fought the “inferior” Slavs and Jews, the “superior” white Americans fought the “inferior” yellow Japanese horde. With World War II, the world-wide race war, we discovered that science provides not only the rationale to fight a war, but the means to exponentially increase the violence. In terms of body bags, one hundred years of scientific wars, particularly those based on American eugenics and Marxist economics, have killed many times more people than all the religious wars combined ever have.

Maybe it’s time we divorced economics and biology from public life, and put religion back in.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm Not Religious, I'm Just Spiritual

I'm Not Religious, I'm Just Spiritual

“It's not a religious film, it's a philosophical film. It uses themes and elements from various religions and spiritual beliefs. Stop simplifying things...”

“Look, I’m not religious, I just have my own spirituality.”

How many times have we heard, or perhaps even made, remarks like this? Better yet, what in blazes do these remarks mean? It seems that people throw around words like “philosophical”, “religious”, and “spiritual” without having more than a vague idea of what the words signify. As long as we are vague on the definition of the words we use, we cannot say precisely what we mean. So, in order to see how these terms fit together, we have to know their precise meanings.

Consider the first difficult word in the sentences above: religion. “Religion” comes from two Latin words “re” and “ligare”. That is, religion means “to bind back together.” But what are we binding back together? What got torn apart that needs binding? The next difficult word tells us.

The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words “philos”, or love, and “sophia”, or wisdom. Thus, philosophy means “love of wisdom". A philosopher is someone who pursues wisdom for its own sake, for the love of wisdom. “Fine, fine,” I hear you say, “but what is wisdom? “

“Wisdom”, comes from the Old English roots “wis” and “dom”. This is key to everything, actually, because “wis” is Anglo-Saxon for “the way or mode of doing a thing” and “dom” means judgement.

If a king-dom is an area subject to the king’s judgement, then wis-dom is anything subject to the judgement of how a thing is to be done. So, let’s substitute this meaning back into the previous paragraphs. Philosophy is loving the judgement of how to do a thing. A philosopher is someone who pursues judgement on how a thing is to be done. Something is philosophical when it tells us how to judge the way of doing a thing.

Now we can see how religion relates to philosophy. If we do not know how to judge the way in which a thing is to be done, then we are in un-wisdom. We need something that will bind us back together with the right judgement of how a thing is done. Religion heals broken philosophies.

That explains two of the terms above, but what of the third: spirituality? “Spirit” comes from the Latin “spiritus”, which itself comes from “spirare”, that is, “to breath.” Spiritus means “breath, courage, vigor, life itself.” Life breathes. Spirituality is the very breath and vigor of life.

So, let’s look at the first two sentences again and decode them. When someone says that a movie, book, or article is philosophical, but not religious, they are saying that the way of living described in that movie, book or article is unbroken, perfect, not in need of healing. Similarly, when they say they have their own spirituality, that they are not religious, they are saying they have their own vigourous, unbroken life, a life that is not in need of healing.

Pardon me if I doubt that.

Truly philosophical minds always truly seek to attain right judgement about how to live life. In that sense, we are all truly philosophical. We want to know how to live our lives. We seek wisdom. We seek right judgement. There is only one source of right judgement, one wis-dom belonging to one king’s judgement, or one king-dom. That is where theology comes in.

“Theology” comes from the Greek words “theo”, or “God”, and “logos”, or “word”. Thus, theology simply means “talking about God”. This is made easier if we use God’s own words during the discussion. Scripture is pure theology, men talking about God using God’s words. The Scripture writers are the best theologians. Everyone else is an also-ran.

So, discussions about wis-dom, philosophy, necessarily lead to discussions about God, theology. Why is that? Consider: any contemplation of the world necessarily leads to the conclusion that the world is built in a certain way. The rules of the world must be followed if we don’t want anything to break.

Whoops. Too late.

Something is already broken. As the four-year old standing near the pool of water and the shattered vase says, “It was like that when I got here.” And you know what? For us, the world really was.

So, now we need to bind it back together. Philosophy naturally leads to religion, because there is no pursuit of right judgement that does not lead us to realize that we’ve lost quite a lot, though not all, of our right judgement. Our lives are broken. They have to be put back together. It is only after our lives are healed that we can fully live. Put another way, it is only through religion that we can come to spirituality, the full vigor and breath of life.

Philosophy (the pursuit of wis-dom) leads to theology (discussion of God).
Theology leads to religion (binding that which is broken).
Religion leads to wisdom (right judgement).
Wisdom is the only real spirituality (the breath of life).

Anyone who tells you different is selling something.
Don’t bite.

Monday, September 08, 2003

What's Natural About Marriage?

What's Natural About Marriage?

Laura Kipnis’ latest book, Against Love: A Polemic, makes an old case in a new way. Marriage, specifically monogamous marriage, is alleged to be… well… unnatural, a violation of human nature. That’s the old part. The new part? Monogamous marriage is just a capitalist trick designed to make people slaves.

Marriage – that is, any relationship that demands emotional and sexual fidelity – is bad because fidelity is bad. Fidelity is bad because it isn’t easy to live. Since fidelity isn’t easy, it must necessarily violate human nature. The evidence is near at hand: look at how many people cheat on their spouses! The logic is clear. If homosexuality, which comprises only three percent of the population, is normal, then adultery is certainly normal. Natural is normal. Unnatural is bad. Marriage is unnatural. Therefore…

But, a problem arises. Marriage is demonstrably good, both for spouses and children. Married people are, on average, happier than single people, in better health, and have better sex. Amazingly, recent studies have shown that even relatively bad marriages are better for children than the most amicable divorce. How can an “unnatural” institution be good for us?

We equate “natural” with “good” precisely because we don’t have much contact with nature. As we sit in our office cubicles, or slave away over various machines, we dream of a rustic cabin in the wilderness, by a pleasant stream or a sparkling lake. We dream about it because we haven’t lived it. The people who lived it weren’t generally that fond of it. They wrote of nature “red in tooth and claw” and a natural life “nasty, brutish and short”. Nature has insects, storms, floods, plagues. As one mariner observed about the sea, “She’s a beautiful lady, but she’ll kill you in a minute and no regrets.” Nature is a beauty, but dreadful.

Why dreadful? Because she is impersonal. Stephen Crane, also a mariner, expressed it most clearly, “A man said to the universe:/ ‘Sir I exist!’/ ‘However,’ replied the universe, ‘The fact has not created in me/ A sense of obligation." Nature possesses no intellect, no will. Nature does not think, nor choose. It is ungoverned. It just does.

The alert reader might argue that nature most certainly is governed. It is governed by the laws of nature: gravity, the speed of light, etc. True. But the natural laws that govern physical events are not passed by a collection of apes, dolphins and slugs, meeting in assembly. These natural laws simply express nature itself – together, these laws constitute what nature is. And this is precisely the problem.

We hold contradictory views of ourselves. When we want to indulge a particular lust, we argue, “But of course it’s alright to do this. Animals do it all the time, and we are nothing but animals!” But, we know our tools and ourselves effect the world far out of proportion to a colony of termites or hive of bees. Something about us is unnatural.

We simultaneously hold ourselves to be nothing but animals, and something far different than animals. But why? After all, virtually everything we are, we use or we do is natural. Atoms are the building blocks of nature, and – apart from a few very short-lived laboratory elements – everything is made of this natural stuff. We didn’t invent any of it. We just move the stuff around, like a beaver moves wood around to make a dam. A Corvette is just as natural as a coral reef.

But we can’t shake the knowledge: we are unnatural animals. This contradiction explains everything. You see, the relationships between persons are governed by laws which slugs do not know. Even when men meet in assembly to pass laws, our human laws must reflect the immutable natural laws governing personal relationships, or the laws will crush us as surely as the laws of physics crush a snail against a stone. Physics, on the other hand, knows nothing of fairness. Nature’s laws are nature’s lusts. The only laws it obeys are its own. In that sense, nature embodies most American advertising slogans. Because nature obeys only itself, it is quintessentially deadly, maiming and killing without remorse. It is impersonal precisely because it does not, it cannot, relate to us as persons do.

We, who care for and about each other, cannot abide this natural mindlessness that cares not a jot for anyone or anything. It is a well-known, though little-noted fact, that over ninety percent of all species were wiped out several million years ago. When we wipe out species and habitats, we are acting in a purely natural fashion. It is our attempts at “nature conservation” that are distinctly unnatural. When we ignore the effects of our actions on persons, we operate at an animal level, that is, a natural physical level. Serial adulterers, rapists or killers are acting in a purely natural fashion. Those who try to stop them are not.

Insofar as anything acts without regard to persons, it is acting as nature acts. Capitalism, socialism, fascism – all are capable of encouraging people to act as animals, to act naturally. Laura Kipnis rejects the idea that marriage is about the other person, that it is about helping your spouse and children become better people. She rejects the fact that marriage is about service. She mistakenly thinks marriage is all about self-actualization. Since marriage clearly collapses, crushing spouses when treated this way, she concludes that marriage is the error and adultery must be the solution.

So, naturally, she wrote a book about it.

A Natural Solution

“Homosexuality should be accepted because we find it throughout nature. Adult whiptail lizards are all lesbian! Monkeys engage in homosexuality all the time! Grizzly bear cubs sometimes have two mothers taking care of them!”

How best can we reply to comments like this?

Simple. Agree, with a sunny smile. But point out that logical consistency is needed. If we wish to pass laws or build social customs around the idea that animals are good role models, then we must open up a whole new realm of jurisprudence.

Consider the sexual habits of the dolphin and the mallard duck, neither of which are cold-blooded lizards, but mammals like us. Both routinely engage in rape and gang rape. Logically, then, rape is good. Rape laws should be quashed so as to reflect this new-found wisdom. Or, consider the habits of the African macaque and the chimpanzee, only separated from us genetically by less than 5% difference in DNA. Both species routinely chase down smaller monkeys, rip them limb from limb, and eat their smoking flesh raw. Teenagers, pay attention! When next the munchies strike, save your money! Simply go to the mall, find a four-year old child, rip her limbs from her sockets and feast on her flesh! Not only is cannibalism perfectly natural, it also opens up a whole new secondary market for abortion clinics. We will, of course, have to retry Jeffrey Dahmer, but – given that he’s already dead – we can at least have an excellent lunch after the judge exonerates him and rehabilitates his reputation, sullied by all those homophobes who don’t understand that “natural” means “good”.

We need to stop being silly. Demonstrating that something is natural does not demonstrate that it is good. Alcoholism has at least as strong a genetic basis as homosexuality, but society doesn’t call it “good.” The medical costs of alcoholism are too high. So are the medical costs of homosexuality.

Lesbians are three times more likely to be alcoholic than non-lesbians, nearly half reported frequent drunkenness, and most pointed to money problems, not social acceptance, as the cause. Gays make up 80% of the both the AIDS and the syphilis cases in the US, their rate of syphilis is ten times that of the heterosexual population, and hepatitis-B transmits nearly nine times more efficiently than AIDS among homosexuals. 55% of homosexual men with ano-rectal complaints have gonorrhea, one-third have herpes simplex, 15% have chlamydia. Gays contract gonorrhea of the throat at a rate four times higher than heterosexuals. 91% of homosexual men have intestinal protozoa: the majority of shigella and amoeba infections among non-travelled immunocompetent patients are homosexuals. Indeed, one New York study found that every single such patient with giardiasis was homosexual. E. histolytica infection is a staggering twenty-seven times more prevelant in homosexuals. Not surprisingly, the most powerful predictor for both giardiasis and E. histolytica infection is homosexual behaviour. Rates of anal cancer are 2500 times higher in homosexuals. Monogamous gays are no better off, health-wise: The American Journal of Public Health published a study in 1990 that found, "Being in a monogamous gay relationship was associated with higher risk sex throughout the entire study."

Not surprisingly, gays have a life expectancy between 8 and 20 years less than heterosexual men, that is, their life expectancy is similar to a man born in 1871, born prior to antibiotics and aseptic surgical techniques. Their lifestyle is so self-destructive that 21st century medical care can only bring them up to 19th century life expectancy.

Everyone, homosexuals and heterosexuals, pays for this lifestyle. For those can afford the increased medical costs, and the higher insurance premiums, for those who don’t mind sharing a bathroom at work with a population that has a high rate of sexually transmitted disease, accepting the gay lifestyle is easy. The rest of us, who find we cannot afford to subsidize this lifestyle might, however, disagree. If it is homophobic to be concerned about my bank balance as I try to raise my family, then I am certainly homophobic, drunk-driver-phobic and cigarette-phobic, and will remain so at least until I win the lottery. And it better be a big pot, not one of those dinky single-digit millions.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

The Executioner’s Hill

The Executioner’s Hill

Paul Hill is dead. Like many newborns in China, the former Presbyterian minister who gunned down an abortionist and his bodyguard was killed by lethal injection. The are differences, of course. Paul Hill is a murderer. The Chinese newborns aren’t. Paul Hill got his injection intravenously. The newborns get their poisoned needle through the base of the skull or directly into the heart. In the US, where technology is much more advanced, we shake our heads at the barbaric Chinese. We know enough to deliver the baby feet-first, punch a knife through the base of the skull and suction out the child’s brains before the head pops out of the birth canal. Contemplating the beauty of a woman exercising her right to choose can bring tears to one’s eyes.

As far as we know, Paul Hill didn’t cry when he pulled out his shotgun. The state has the right to execute an unrepentant murderer, and Paul Hill was certainly that. Some fear his execution may cause problems, though. The fear is that executing a murderer like Paul Hill will set off a wave of violence. It seems likely that this fear is justified. You see, for thirty years, a concerted effort has been made to paint pro-lifers as wild-eyed, violent fanatics. By concentrating on aberrations like Paul Hill, the media increases the likelihood that someone, somewhere, will again decide to kill a pro-life advocate simply because she is pro-life.

The word “again” is used deliberately. The pro-abortion movement has a dirty little secret. More abortion opponents have been seriously injured and killed in the last thirty years than have abortion supporters. The National Abortion Federation’s (NAF) own statistics bear this out. While the NAF reports 81,973 incidents of violence since 1977, nearly 68,000 (that is, 82%) of these “violent” acts consisted entirely of picketing. Yes, that’s right. Walking a picket line is a violent act (sshhhhh! Don’t tell your union). Twelve percent were harassing phone calls or e-mails, while an additional 2.8% consisted of trespass, stink-bomb attacks, and similarly juvenile stunts. The remaining three percent of attacks is where the problems lie.

When you finish drilling through the smoke and mirrors, it turns out that in twenty-six years of opposition to legal abortion, there have been 27 incidents of deadly or extreme physical violence against abortionists: seven murders, seventeen attempted murders and three attempted kidnappings. That’s about one a year. Certainly nothing to be proud of from a movement that claims to venerate life. In that sense, people like Paul Hill are news.

However, in that same time period, there were 337 incidents of deadly or extreme violence committed by supporters of legal abortion against those acting on pro-life convictions. In 1999 alone, American abortionists killed six of their own girlfriends and one wife. These women refused to have abortions, you see. As these seven adults were murdered, four children were also murdered to prevent their becoming witnesses. Now, admittedly, 1999 was not a good year for women who happened to be pregnant by an abortionist. But it is an unusual six-month period where we don’t read a small squib buried on page C-6 about some red-blooded American man who injured or killed his girlfriend because she refused to exercise her constitutional rights. Really, this kind of thing is barely news.

Real news has more meat to it. For instance, the NAF reports 125 incidents of less serious physical injury against abortionists. The NAF does not bother to mention that abortion-rights supporters committed 1001 similar incidents of less serious physical injury against pro-lifers during the same time period. Clearly, the NAF has a nose for news.

While pro-life organizations regularly repudiate the violence done in their name, there is not one documented case of any pro-abortion organization decrying the mayhem perpetrated by their supporters. Pro-lifers engaged in violence or mayhem – that’s news. Pro-abortionists engaged in violence or mayhem – that’s not news.

We may, from these rules, make the obvious conclusion: violence and mayhem are only to be expected from abortion supporters. You know the old story: dog bites man is nothing. But man bites dog? Run it, page one, below the fold. News reporting tells us what is considered normal and what isn’t. Another abortionist killed his pregnant girlfriend? Hmmm, well. Pass the comics, honey. Anything in sports?

We can’t blame the media for not reporting this trifling kind of event. It really isn’t news. There really isn’t anything else to say.

The leading cause of death among pregnant women is homicide. Studies show that roughly 25% of the pregnant women who die each year are murdered. Meanwhile, studies also show that women who have an abortion are up to four times more likely to die within twelve months than is the general population. Their rates of suicide skyrockets, as does their drug use and general risk-taking behaviour.

On the other hand, pregnant women who give birth are less likely to die than the general population and less likely to indulge in risk-taking behaviour.

Apparently, when you choose to preserve someone’s life, you choose life not just for the other person, but for yourself as well.

Paul Hill would have done well to remember that.

Friday, September 05, 2003

More than Judge Moore

More than Judge Moore

Geology is not a contact sport, but it might become one. The media has decided to focus everyone's attention on five tons of granite in an Alabama courthouse. Conveniently, this keeps our attention away from a nearby Georgia courthouse. Georgia courthouses are dangerous places to look right now.

You see, on a very recent Monday the winner of a Georgia court case asked the court to vacate its decision. Yes, you read that right. How often does the winner in a court battle decide to ask the court to reverse itself? Especially when the petitioner successfully contested to the US Supreme Court? And that Supreme Court victory is the decision the winning petitioner is asking the court to vacate? If we include Monday's court submission, it has happened only twice in US history.

Contesting a decision all the way to the Supreme Court and winning is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, money, and - most of all - dedication to the cause. Until this year, a winner's request for reversal was a thing unheard of. Now, it has happened not once, but twice in three months. Why the media silence?

In June, Norma Jean McCorvey, the famous "Roe" in Roe vs. Wade, submitted a 5200-page brief asking a Texas court to vacate its pro-abortion ruling. Now, on August 25, Sandra Cano, the Doe in Doe vs. Bolton, submitted a brief asking the Georgia court to vacate its ruling as well, the ruling which made abortion on demand legal through all nine months of pregnancy, even during birth. The reason? Incontrovertible evidence from thirty years of research shows that legal abortion tends to kill women. Much of that evidence was provided in the 5200-page brief submitted by McCorvey, including numerous studies showing that women who have abortions are up to four times more likely to die within a year than women who give birth. Incontrovertible evidence also shows that the attorneys for Sandra Cano deliberately lied, pretending Sandra Cano petitioned the courts for an abortion when she never did so.

So why do we hear all about granite in Alabama, but nothing about two women who want their rock-ribbed US Supreme Court victories to be vacated?

Some people support abortion because they find it a necessary expression of women's rights. That can't be the rationale for ignoring this news story. After all, the same women who won this decision are now contesting it. If that's not an example of women exercising their rights, what is?

No, these historic cases are being studiously ignored for a deeper reason. Simply put, mankind is not wanted here. There are too many of us, you see. If overpopulation is the problem, abortion is the solution. Except overpopulation has never been the problem.

Our current problem is underpopulation. Demographers are deeply concerned about the increased percentage of old people. According to the United Nations, 7% of the world's population is now 65 or older. By 2050, that group will represent 16% of the total. In some countries, more than a third of the population will soon be over 65. No government social program can support that level of need. No one mentions it, but as national economies crash, forced euthanasia will become as common in many countries as forced abortion is now in China. Some people are not opposed to this.

Why? Because the fear of overpopulation is, in a very real sense, a refusal to rely on God's providence. There has never been any serious proof that human beings have overpopulated the planet or are even capable of doing so. There have been many theories of world overpopulation, but none of the predictions based on those theories have ever come true. Not one.

Which goes to show that this belief in overpopulation is ultimately not based on a scientific understanding of the world. Science is based on hypothesis validation. In science, you construct an hypothesis, you test it in the real world. If the real-world results match the results your hypothesis predicted, then it is at least possible, though not certain, that your hypothesis is correct. However, if the real world results don't match
your hypothetical results, then your hypothesis is infallibly wrong and you have to start all over again.

Thomas Malthus's 1798 work on the subject was the first modern overpopulation warning, even including a mathematical model. His prediction of overpopulation crises, and the prediction of every person who has attempted to update his hypothesis, has been wrong.

Two hundred years of failure would seem to indicate a very basic flaw in the hypothesis of overpopulation. Yet the belief persists, despite the lack of validation. That is evidence of faith on a grand scale, but it is not faith in the divine providence of God. It is faith in the hypothesis that there is no divine providence, there is no God.

If anything is demonstrated by these failures, it is precisely this: the hypothesis that denies divine providence, and thereby implicitly denies God's existence, is wrong. Which is why some people hope to God you pay attention to the circus in Alabama, and ignore the historic events in Georgia.