Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
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Atheism is one of the most brainless religions I know of. And it is particularly sad when it has a hold of an otherwise courageous and principled person, such as, in this case, one of Britain's few admirable journalists, Nick Cohen. I have a lot of time for this man, but unfortunately, having inherited atheism from two generations of revolutionary forebears, he is completely incapable of being rational whenever he sees a member of any opposing religion. And so, to my complete disbelief, he has just published an article basically treating Climategate as a right-wing ramp. What is terrible about this is that Cohen is an honourable man who has time and again gone against his own party for the sake of his principles. But in this case principles curdle into blinding obsessions and simply prevent him from even taking a look at the evidence. It has been tainted by the unholy hands of Sarah Palin and Tony Abbott, and so, by definition, it is beyond the pale and no decent man can read it without being corrupted! Heart-breaking.
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My experience is that the Pope's decision to form an Anglican grouping - not yet a Rite, but the difference is slight - has unleashed a vicious avalanche of anti-Catholic hatred such as I had not seen in quite a while. Catholic blogs are suddenly awash not only with Protestant and Anglican, but, more to the point, with atheist and Christian-hating trolls. And I hope my Protestant friends are not offended, but this seems to me to really throw off the masks of many so-called atheists. They do not reject or hate God. Of course, if you asked them to argue against the Aristotelian Unmoved Mover or against the Hindu Self of Selves, they would - in a fairly untroubled, perhaps even bored tone, as a duty. But what they really hate, what unleashes their rage and fury, is the Catholic Church. What makes this obvious is how the Pope's effective dismissal of further ecumenic progress with the CofE as it is, and his decision to create a Catholic Anglican area, have drawn such rage. Richard Dawkins, in his hideous Washington Post screed (, really throws off the mask. If he took his atheist positions - yes, those same views that have earned him millions of pounds through a worldwide bestseller - at all seriously, he would be as much against the Church of England as against the Catholic Church. Indeed, he might well oppose it more fiercely, because it means subsidizing "religion", however vague, with taxpayer money, and giving a status, however vague, as a part of the nation's legal establishment. (Compare and contrast Article 7 of the Italian Constitution: "The Italian Republic and the Catholic Church are, each in its own sphere, independent and sovereign.") But that is the absolute opposite of what he does; what enrages him is that the Catholic Church should dare to try and claim the Anglican heritage for itself. He valued the Anglican Church as a breakwater against the Catholic Church. So, basically, Dawkins is lying to someone; whether himself, or only his public, I do not know and have no interest in knowing. The point is that his supposed opposition to "religion" is blatantly revealed to be opposition to the Catholic Church alone.

As revealing as Dawkins' rant is that the Washington Post published it, and the string of horrors in the comments thread. Even the Bishop Williamson affair had not called forth so much sheer brute hate for the Church; but then, those who objected to Williamson and to the SSPX were not all motivated by hatred for the Church - they included people like me, who love it. In this case, the only thing that can possibly call forth so many haters is the Church itself; and anyone who wants to claim that anti-Catholicism is not one of the main, the driving forces in modern culture and politics must first explain away this horrible outburst of bigotry and hatred.
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At times like this, I really do feel sorry for atheists. One has to be grateful for artistry so miraculous, but they have nobody to be grateful to. (And don't give me any crap about "the human spirit" - that is what we owe the Murdoch press and robotic dance noise to.)


Oct. 2nd, 2009 07:48 am
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Considering the ability of science to change its basic paradigms very radically, we should not put more than so much trust on the current dominant theories. However, it is amusing that while aggressive and ignorant atheists are busy spreading their religion - especially in this country - in the name of science, real science is not giving them any good arguments.
fpb: (Default) the classic case of an answered prayer: "Lord, make Thine enemies ridiculous."
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There is one tremendous and widespread mistake about atheism: that is, that it is not a religion - that it somehow even opposes religion. Many of us, including many Christians, accept this claim implicitly, using the nouns "atheism" and "religion" as opposites.Read more... )
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Most British are not Christian and have been socialized to hate and fear what they call "organized religion". This does not make all of them atheist: but the number of ranting, proselytzing, fanatical atheists is remarkably high. Two out of three of the Sorry Trinity, Hitchens and Dawkins, are British. What it does do is make them amazingly wayward in their thinking and profoundly incompetent in their arguing. Their ideas about religion are not only fanatical but astonishingly ignorant and stupid. It is only in British blogs dedicated to Christianity, for instance, that you find rabid, unreasoning vulgar Calvinists, with their idea of their own sect drawn not from the Institutio or from Jonathan Edwards but from base summaries in school textbooks, delivering religious opinions that a child would blush at. Religion discussion threads on British blogs, as compared to American and Italian, are of a very low intellectual level, because they come from people unusued to debate on that issue. (The same people may often turn out to be a lot more intelligent on politics, sports, economy or even science.) At the same time, you cannot make them shut up about it. If you take an American or Italian blog on religious issues, you may be sure that nearly every one of the commenters will be in sympathy with the blog's basic religious stance: Catholic blogs will draw Catholics or people interested in Catholicism, Jewish blogs will draw Jews or people interested in Hebraism, Evangelical blogs.... you get it. Trolls do exist, but are relatively rare as compared to constructive posters, and tend to get banned. And this has an interesting effect: because of the general constructive atmosphere and relative shortage of trolls, an outsider coming in will often feel a general sense of constructive engagement that may draw him/her in even if s/he does not share the local views, or at least give a picture of why and how this attitude can be felt to be reasonable and make sense. I have been on Evangelical or Jewish blogs where I agreed with 90% of what was said and felt able to criticize the rest without anger. On the other hand, take a British Catholic or Anglican blog - and I have the examples to prove it. From a half to two thirds of all interventions will be made by trolls. They will be mostly atheist (although I mentioned the occasional Jack T.Chick Calvinist or ranting Orthodox): always the same people, obsessional, sickening, coming back comment after comment with the same everlasting dreary hate-ridden jingle, hijacking the thread no matter what it was on - religion is superstition - you ought all to follow reason - your minds are diseased - etc. etc.

Such are the fruits of bad education. It is impossible to understand what these people get out of days, weeks, months of sabotaging other people's discussions and repeating without imagination, insight or interest their sorry message of ignorance and hate, except for one thing: that religion is something that affects them so intensely that they simply cannot leave it alone, they must come back again and again. They would say it is in the hope that someone will be converted to their way of thinking, but surely that is the most inefficient possible way to go about it. It cannot even be pleasant for them, all that bile - at least, I hope they know the difference. The truth is that the mere existence of Christians sickens them so intensely that they cannot keep away: they can neither cope with it, or keep away from them. And this, I assure you, is a widespread phenomenon in the United Kingdom.
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Yes, Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins. Have a look at this article and tell me whether, apart from the acceptable closing paragraph, it does not contain the worst arguments against atheistic politicians you ever read: Personally, I cannot think of a reason why an atheist should not be a national leader, except for the purely practical one that almost every atheist I meet is made in the image and likeness of the Sorry Trinity - obsessional, ignorant and intolerant. But unless you can write better arguments than Medved manages, then - remember the proverb? Better shut up and look like a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.
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I recently read an interesting but, to me, oddly extreme article by Frank Furedi:, in which he seemed to me to make rather too much of a number of hysterical reactions against "religion" - that is, of course, Christianity - by the usual suspects brigade. At this time of day, it should not be news that Polly Toynbee, who is sixty if she is a day, Philip Pullman, or even Muriel Gray - I am old enough to remember her before she became the voice of youth - holler and scream against Christianity; it would be far more astonishing that, having made not only their lives but their living out of this hatred, they should alter their views now. Besides, as GKC once said, "we find it tolerably easy to answer" them.

What stimulates me to write is one of those twinges of irritation one experiences when reading for the fiftieth time a description which is wrong at the most basic level. Furedi - himself not a Christian - calls, not these people, but the pool of more-or-less agnostic, more-or-less sceptical, PC types who may be assuemed to follow them to some degree, "the cultural elite". And having heard this association of culture - of all things! - with the PC brigade for the umpteenth-squinchieth time, I had to protest. They may be an elite; in fact, in some matters - from occupation of the mass media to control of education from the cradle to the PhD - they may have morphed from an elite to a vast and immobile mass, spread across these areas from their highest to their most humble place. But what the Devil do they have to do with "culture"?

Now, culture is something I revere. You will never hear me run it down as C.S.Lewis, suffering I suppose from the mixed populism and Calvinism of his Belfast background, did. The work of a musician, a poet, a scientist, or a philosopher, seems to me, in and of itself, more valuable than that of a road-sweeper or a secretary, independently of whether or not the secretary or the road-sweeper are closer to sanctity than the musician, poet, philosopher or scientist. Indeed, from what I know personally of philosophers and musicians, I would think it highly likely that the average secretary or manual worker would be a better human being. But the point is that what they make has a higher spiritual value; indeed, in the case of the greatest works of the intellect, their value is eternal. A road once swept will require being re-swept in a week. But the existence of Beethoven's symphonies does indeed change the world, for the better, and pretty much does that independently of Beethoven's own moral level.

But what do the PC crowd have to do with "culture"? Let us look at our culture, what it is. Our culture, our heritage, is made of works of art or of the intellect, which are beautiful and noble enough to be remembered. Now the curious fact is that, discounting the masterpieces composed before the rise of Christianity, which by their nature cannot be Christian, and the work of certain scientists, nine out of ten of the heights of culture just happen to be Christian. Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Tiziano, Rembrandt, the builders of the cathedrals, Shakespeare, Milton, Christopher Wren, Palestrina, Bach, Haendel, Beethoven, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky - the line goes on and on.

It is more significant still - in fact, it is all but conclusive - that even those of the real giants whose Christianity was problematic or nonexistent, were actually more Christian in their work than in their stated public belief. Thomas Mann's DOKTOR FAUSTUS is not only impossible to distinguish from the work of the most devout of Christians, but it has a visible Catholic tinge, including a strong polemic against Lutheranism - the Devil uses Lutheran theory and language to subvert the protagonist. Verdi's REQUIEM is likewise indistinguishable from the most devout Christian work, and so is the REQUIEM of the Freemason Mozart. Wagner moved from the suicidal sensualism of TRISTRAM UND ISOLDE, to the dignified paganism of the Ring, to the strange, heretical near-Christianity of PARZIFAL, and Nietsche broke with him on that account.

In most of these works, especially the musical ones, it is possible to say that the traditions and precedents of the art itself imposed themselves to some extent on the artists. Western classical music had been born in the cathedrals, its first musical forms had been masses and psalms, and it is not unlikely that someone who, like Verdi, wanted to give a musical response to the idea of death, would instinctively cast that response in Christian terms. (His contemporary Brahms did not; but, with all due respect, Verdi's REQUIEM is a much greater work than Brahms' GERMAN REQUIEM.) That is certainly the case with someone like Vivaldi. A priest in orders, he used his job as music master to a female orphanage in the notoriously libertine and music-loving metropolis, Venice, to enjoy a love life that would make the whole Kennedy family jealous, at one time sharing his quarters with a mother and two daughters. Yet a good deal of his music is not only religious, but beautifully composed and genuinely devout in feeling. It is possible to argue that the great tradition in which he lived, which emanated from and was still largely based in, the Church, moulded his musical intellect even though it did not stand much of a chance with his sexual organs.

That, however, is not the case with Goethe. He had no duty to, indeed hardly any connection with, any Church; and he was a man of the Enlightenment through and through. His duty to past traditions was neither as clear nor as univocal as Vivaldi's. His greatest work, FAUST, was, like Beethoven's or Wagner's, cast in a wholly new and disproportionately enormous shape. And yet, except for the strange closing scene - which, with its suggestion of the soul perfecting itself after death, has more to do with the yet-to-be-invented theology of Mormonism than with Christianity - here is a titanic work of poetry where it would be hard to fault, from the Christian perspective, a single page. In some ways, such as finding magic always diabolical and dangerous to the soul, it is not just Christian but extremely hard-line. Neither Tolkien nor JKR, both avowed Christians, would have written:

Könnt ich Magie von meinem Pfad entfernen/
Die Zaubersprüche ganz und gar verlernen/
Stünd ich, Natur, vor dir, ein Mann allein/
Da wär's der Mühe wert, ein Mensch zu sein.

"Could I but banish magic from my way,
Every last enchantment quite unsay,
And stand before you, Nature, just a man -
It would be worth it then to be a man!"

The immense importance of sin and redemption, the terror of damnation, the deceptive dangers of earthly love, in the episode of Gretchen, are all out of the dourest Christian moral teaching. Likewise the hollowness of earthly glory, even of the splendours and glories of heathen Greece (with a vision of Byron, the untimely product of Classical passions and modern magic, dashing himself against the world and destroying himself); likewise the dark vision of empires established by force and upon sand, with which the mortal course of Faust ends. But perhaps the most intimately and terrifyingly Christian picture in the whole majestic poem is - where one might expect it - in Goethe's magnificently imagined scene of the seduction of Faust.

Faust, a learned lecturer in a German university (and what could be more German?), is bored, restless. He decides to make use of his sleeplessness to translate the most philosophical of the four Gospels, John. At the same time, he welcomes into his study a stray dog, without realizing that this insinuating and apparently friendly creature is in reality the enemy of all enemies - the Devil himself. So as Faust opens the Scriptures, the dog starts giving all sorts of signs of displeasure, barking and growling. Faust is distracted. He tries to stick to his job - but comes a cropper at once. "It says here: in the beginning was the Word. But I cannot value the Word so much as that!"

BOOM! Faust is undone. By such small steps do we decide to damn our souls. He is no longer trying to translate the Holy Book; instead, he is trying to force his own meaning upon it. He tries "thought" and "will" and eventually settles on "Deed": "In the beginning was the Deed" - radically reworking the Gospel and diminishing the meaning of the Second Person of the Trinity. No wonder that the Devil himself appears to him almost immediately; he has called the Devil into his home, by doing force to the sacred text. He dies only half understanding the sin he has committed - both that opening one, and all the sins of violence and oppression that populated the poem thanks to his adoration of "the Deed" - and it takes that other purely Christian notion, Divine Grace only partially, if at all, motivated by Deeds, to rip his soul from Mephistopheles at last.

This is our heritage. This is our culture. Need I say that the average PC modern is not apt to connect? They will wander through it for hours like tourists in a museum, and totally miss the point. They will sit through a performance of the whole of FAUST, or Verdi's REQUIEM, and fail to catch the secret. It will never occur to them where the fury comes from with which Dickens describes the death of the crossings-sweeper Jo in tones that call on Heaven and earth to crack for the atrocity; or why, in the noblest ode in praise of mankind ever uttered or conceived, Beethoven calls on every man who ever tasted Joy in his or her life to fall on their knees before the Father who dwells above the canopy of stars. This class has totally separated itself from the best that our "Culture" has to offer, and to call it a "cultural" elite is therefore almost perverse.
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The Times January 03, 2006

Prove Christ exists, judge orders priest
From Richard Owen in Rome

AN ITALIAN judge has ordered a priest to appear in court this month to prove that Jesus Christ existed.

The case against Father Enrico Righi has been brought in the town of Viterbo, north of Rome, by Luigi Cascioli, a retired agronomist who once studied for the priesthood but later became a militant atheist.

Signor Cascioli, author of a book called The Fable of Christ, began legal proceedings against Father Righi three years ago after the priest denounced Signor Cascioli in the parish newsletter for questioning Christ’s historical existence.

Yesterday Gaetano Mautone, a judge in Viterbo, set a preliminary hearing for the end of this month and ordered Father Righi to appear. The judge had earlier refused to take up the case, but was overruled last month by the Court of Appeal, which agreed that Signor Cascioli had a reasonable case for his accusation that Father Righi was “abusing popular credulity”.

Signor Cascioli’s contention — echoed in numerous atheist books and internet sites — is that there was no reliable evidence that Jesus lived and died in 1st-century Palestine apart from the Gospel accounts, which Christians took on faith. There is therefore no basis for Christianity, he claims.

Signor Cascioli’s one-man campaign came to a head at a court hearing last April when he lodged his accusations of “abuse of popular credulity” and “impersonation”, both offences under the Italian penal code. He argued that all claims for the existence of Jesus from sources other than the Bible stem from authors who lived “after the time of the hypothetical Jesus” and were therefore not reliable witnesses.

Signor Cascioli maintains that early Christian writers confused Jesus with John of Gamala, an anti-Roman Jewish insurgent in 1st-century Palestine. Church authorities were therefore guilty of “substitution of persons”.

The Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius mention a “Christus” or “Chrestus”, but were writing “well after the life of the purported Jesus” and were relying on hearsay.

Father Righi said there was overwhelming testimony to Christ’s existence in religious and secular texts. Millions had in any case believed in Christ as both man and Son of God for 2,000 years.

“If Cascioli does not see the sun in the sky at midday, he cannot sue me because I see it and he does not,” Father Righi said.

Signor Cascioli said that the Gospels themselves were full of inconsistencies and did not agree on the names of the 12 apostles. He said that he would withdraw his legal action if Father Righi came up with irrefutable proof of Christ’s existence by the end of the month.

The Vatican has so far declined to comment.
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I will superimpose two pieces of news I have recently read. Let anyone who has any goodwill and mental openness see what conclusions they lead to.

Read more... )


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