I genuinely believe the institutional, organized Church has failed to protect its sons and brothers while attempting to appease feminists, apologize constantly to a world with a sex abuse scandal without calling out the rest of the world for having an even greater problem here (the public schools are rife with rape of children you know), fathers being torn from their children in divorces they don’t want while being blamed for it by their fellow parishioners, failing to stand up for the falsely accused including but not limited to falsely accused priests, and more.
This essay is a call to conscience; while we were arguing over what the state sanctions as a marriage (which has nothing to do with sacramental marriage anyway) the family court system and the education system were shredding young men everywhere, including Christian men. It’s time we say something about those things.
This is an off-the-top-of-my-head response to a question I got from Eve Keneinan, which seems interesting enough to post publicly. It may be modified later for the book project, or not, we’ll see.
I have Muslim friends. Indeed, two Muslims at least, along with some Orthodox Jews and some Eastern Orthodox Christians, were instrumental in my journey toward orthodox Christianity of the Roman variety. Furthermore, having exposed myself to much anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic literature, I recognize in much anti-Islamic literature the same patterns:
Telling most adherents what they believe, and ignoring whatever they say they believe
Holding up the most extreme examples and calling them typical
Quoting simpleminded religious people as if they speak for everyone
Quoting crazy idiots as if they speak for everyone
Accusing adherents of stupidity or dishonesty when they say “you’re getting it wrong”
Saying that they abuse their women and are also a threat to our women
Telling people the faith teaches them to lie, so you can discount anything they tell you
Recounting historical grievances from a one-sided, slanted point of view
Quoting religious figures who are not authoritative as if they were
Quote-mining authoritative figures on the presumption that every stray word is an authoritative universal teaching
Assuming a person authoritative in one tradition is authoritative universally
Asserting adherents who deny the accuracy of your claims are just brainwashed
Quoting simpleminded polls to prove things
As a Christian I’ve had many hostile modern atheists do all these things to me, and think themselves “just rational.” It’s enough to make me want to throw away my Christian principles and punch them in the face, they’re such raging shallow assh*les.
Furthermore, as a Catholic I’ve also had other Christians do all these things to me.
The patterns are unmistakeable, driving toward a relentless pattern of dismissing or twisting everything that does not match a foregone conclusion.
Thus I am never impressed when anyone comes to me with their personal interpretation of the Quran, or Hadith, or anything else in the Islamic faith. In fact, I’ll be blunt: I have the same reaction to someone who says “I’ve read the Quran from cover to cover” that I do for someone who says they’ve read the Bible from cover to cover: Who cares? You’re still most likely–not guaranteed but most likely–reading it wrong. Orthodox Christians don’t believe you can rightly interpret the Bible for yourself by just reading it, sorry, and neither do most Muslims view the Quran that way, and neither do Jews read the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) that way. You look like a fool for even trying, in our eyes.
You can have that whole thing memorized so well you can recite it backwards, and still not even have begun to understand it the way adherents do. Just as you will never understand Catholicism without talking to some serious-minded, educated Catholics. If you want to know an answer from one of us, find one of us who’s reasonably smart and ask us.
Just this year I had one atheist tell me he had run four translations of the Quran through his own computer models and had thusly “proved” that Muslims are required to murder all non-Muslims. I had another atheist tell me he didn’t care what any Muslim had to say about the Quran, he could read it himself and pronounce the truth, regardless of anything any Muslim said. I just won’t treat such people politely anymore. If this is the kind of person you are, I won’t be spending much time around you, sorry. I’ve lost countless friends this way over the years and while it does hurt when that happens–a lot–this is a level of stupendous arrogance and hatefulness I will not tolerate, because I know where it too often ends: Scapegoating, Gulags, and Gas Chambers.
Those who recall my ancient battles with Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch (whom I’ve promised not to attack anymore, and I hope does not consider this an attack) should still recognize this as my objections to his work, as well as the work of people like Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugged, proven frauds like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or pseudoscholars like Bat Ye’or (who even diehard anti-Islamists do not trust, let alone serious scholars).
I don’t care if these “counter-jihadist” people are well-intentioned. I think they’re actively aggravating a terrible geopolitical situation, and helping no one. I’ve had people who worked in conservative Republican administrations in Washington agree with me on that, for whatever that’s worth.
This is why I’ve never bothered to read the Quran much; yes I’ve read a good bit of it, and I’m fully aware of the stabby-killy parts. I’m pretty grounded in all the basics, having taken multiple serious religious studies classes, studied many volumes of comparative religion, and having talked to and read both non-Muslim and Muslim sources well before 9/11 and the “counterjihadist” movement. I even flirted briefly with becoming Muslim at one point, once I realized I could no longer rationally sustain my atheism. But I have better things to do with my time than such a pointless exercise as reading the Quran cover to cover, and I have zero respect for any “scholar” who thinks that because he’s done that, it means anything at all about how actual Muslims teach and interpret it.
Simply put, as an orthodox Christian I am no more interested in some random person’s Quranic exegesis than I am in some random person’s Biblical exegesis. Especially when I know they likely have an axe to grind or bills to pay.
It is an empirical fact that Muslims and Christians have co-existed as peaceful trade partners and even friends throughout history. It is also an empirical fact that millions of Muslims have coexisted peacefully with Christians all over the world for many centuries, including pockets all over Europe. It is thus empirically undeniable that this is not only possible, it is normal, even if wars, conquest-minded governments, and other terrible geopolitical events sometimes disrupt that normally sometimes-uncomfortable but otherwise-peaceful relationship.
The one thing that seems to matter most is the view on religious conversion. Which the entire Muslim world should be confronted on.
Having said all this, yes there is a “Muslim problem.” It is most especially a problem in Europe and other countries like Canada and the US which are uncritically accepting large waves of immigrants. There are multiple problems with the narrative both left wing and right-wing there. Here’s what I know:
Many of those immigrants are religious and many are not, and they’re not all Muslims either. Most of them are poor and illiterate and basically what in a less-PC era we would call “savages.” No one wants to say they’re uneducated savages with no job skills and no social skills to cope with modern European life, but there you have it: it’s what they are. Among them you will likely find some jihadist radicals, but in the main what you’re more likely to find is what you always find in such groups: thugs and street gangs and loons, making everyday people miserable and making others hate them by association. Because this is what it looks with all such populations around the world, regardless of religion, when you pull something as stupid and ill-planned as the Europeans and others have with these immigrants/refugees, whatever.
The fact is that historically, religious scapegoating is generally more powerful even than racism and sexism. Look at the real history of the 20th Century as well as the study of all religious conflicts and persecutions in history and you will see that pattern. If you want to say Muslims do all that more often, fine, but everybody has done it.
But what’s actually happening is that Right Wing media is playing the game of scaring you for clicks and to forward their own agenda, just like both the Kremlin and various Nationalist sub-groups on the Right frequently fund anti-Catholic propaganda today. Anti-Catholic propaganda doesn’t sell as well as it used to, but right now we’re barrelling down on what looks like an attempt by BOTH Moscow AND some Arab Nationalist and White Nationalist groups to demonize the Vatican as somehow being the cause of the current fight over refugees.
I expect efforts to pin fringe groups like La Raza on Catholics soon, and there’s already stories in Right Wing Media portraying Catholic Charities as being part of the plot to bring in more refugees because they help resettle immigrants–even though we only do so for those lawfully brought in.
This same Right Wing Media wants you to see every crime involving anyone who was born Muslim or comes from a Muslim community as somehow being a Jihadist Attack. This is how they ludicrously played events in Cologne as a Jihadist Rape Mob when in fact we know now from police reports that no, it was a bunch of drunk rowdies acting like punks. Of the three rape reports that were even credible, at least one was proven a false allegation. Yet still you have these chuckleheads running around talking about Cologne as some kind of proof of an “invasion” rather than what it is: immigrants who really don’t belong there who have been poorly managed by the government.
If they put a religious spin on it, they kill two birds with one stone: they can rope in religion-hating atheists and they can otherwise stoke the flames of ancestral grievance (real or imagined) to justify scapegoating instead of dealing with their immigrant problem forthrightly and honestly.
If you want my suggestion as to what the sane thing to do in Europe would look like, it would be this:
Stop right now. Freeze. These people are not ready to be integrated. No more. It may be tragic but no population should have more of this thrust on them unwillingly
Actual loyalty oaths. Lefties will freak but who cares? Seriously, if you’re coming into the country, or going to stay, you need to say an oath, to God (or “Allah” which is just the Arabic word for God), on your holy book, to say you understand that certain behaviors are not tolerated, including any form of harassment of anyone who leaves Islam or changes to any other religion. Plus add in whatever else you want that’s reasonable and prudent, with it made clear that if they break that oath they’re subject to expulsion, along with potentiallytheir whole family.
Strictly lay out other rights and obligations of foreigners.
Ignore the howls about political correctness or singling people out. This is about stopping more needless deaths and strife from occurring.
Now this is what I think Europe should do. And I otherwise am not interested in obsessing over what this or that person tries to tell me about Islam by cherrypicking examples from the news or prooftexting their way to the Quran or screaming “you’re an SJW!’ or “cuck!” to anyone who questions them.
By the way, there are paid agents who run around Social Media specifically spreading anti-Muslim propaganda. And anti-Catholic propaganda. And anti-Jewish. Some are even apparently funded by foreign governments. What, did you think any of this shit had stopped because it’s the current year?
Dave Futrelle, well known as a paid hate merchant and slander artist, who always relies on out of context quotes, and who regularly mocks rape and abuse survivors and those who try to help them (like my friend Erin Pizzey) has been repeatedly told not to contact me as I consider him a genuine cyberstalker and harasser. Now he is, along with his minions, attempting to harass the publisher for daring to publish my article.
Not because of what it says. But because of who I am.
I would appreciate it if you would read the article and comment on it, share it, like it, etc.
I’d appreciate otherwise ignore the quote-mining of cyberstalkers and the merchants of hatred and intolerance.
A psychologist once said that to me. I never forgot the line.
Especially when, as an an orthodox Christian, I realized I had her after all.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road for you atheists and other nonreligious who say you are “neutral” in theological and spiritual matters: if you you’re truly neutral between religions, I suggest that for the duration of this essay you turn off any Protestant or other contempt you might have of reverence of Mary and the rest of the Saints, and learn to look it from an insider’s perspective.
In other words, try understand how we see it in our terms, rather than projecting your assumptions onto us.
Because–brace yourself for this–Protestants are wrong.
Hang on! I understand your distress! It’s shocking that a Catholic of all things should have the temerity to think Protestants wrong about something. If you’re feeling dizzy, feel free to take a break and find yourself some smelling salts.
If you like, after reading this you can go find some Protestant or some atheist “historico-critical scholar” to tell you why I’m wrong about all of it. Just don’t bother me with it, I left Protestantism and atheism for a reason and it wasn’t because I like the funny hats Bishops wear.
Also as per usual, I am writing using modernist language and not the premodern and spiritual language of the Church, and I’m striving to speak in ways that apply for all orthodox Christians including those who split from Rome as far ago as the early 400s. (Other orthodox who are worried I will misrepresent you, please see my note to other orthodox.)
Now, to explain Mary, I’ll first have to explain Saints to you. From our perspective not yours.
“Beyond time and space and the laws of physics as we know them“: in philosophical language that’s called eternity. And without getting too deep into it, orthodox Christians have always believed that our minds, our awareness, our thought, our essence, extends into the eternal. This was the basis of ancient language that refers to the “soul,” though you will find most Roman Catholics shy away from the word “soul” these days because it tends to get confused with “ghost in the machine” mind/body duality, a spiritual concept we reject.
This is Christian mysticism here. You don’t have to agree with it, I’m just explaining it to you.
Anyway, ancient Christians have long believed that the vast majority of Christians will not ascend directly to Heaven (the part of Eternity that’s closest to God) when they are beyond death. We must first heal from damage we suffered while alive–or, to cast in spiritual language, purge ourselves of the damage of a difficult life filled with our countless screwups and regrets (i.e. sins). In Rome, this purging period or process is called purgatoryfor that reason.
Other orthodox are not comfortable with the term “purgatory” as to them it seems far too specific for something none of us fully understands, but all broadly agree that there exists this state of being.
In these broad terms then: “After you die, most of you, you’re still going to have work to do to get better.”
The exception, in orthodox thinking, are Saints. Saints rarely lead perfectly faultless lives, unless they die as children or something. Rather, by the time of their deaths, Saints are held to have reached a state where they won’t have to purge anything serious, and will transcend right to Heaven.
No one else gets to do that. We don’t always know who all Saints are, though the Church formally recognizes some of them upon careful critical examination of their lives.
Now, the Saints have reached that higher “state of consciousness,” that higher state of being, and are now closer to God. They too are now beyond the laws of time and space. And they have been purged of all the ill effects of their screwups in life. They are thus now unencumbered by our human limitations. And we believe that if you talk to them, if you address them, they can hear you.
No I don’t bloody well care if you find that ridiculous. Did I mention I’m Catholic?
Even here on Earth, there is nothing unusual about asking a person who you love admire or respect to say a prayer for you. I invite you to try a test some time: walk up to any serious orthodox Christian you know and mention that you would appreciate it if they would say a prayer for you, or someone you care about. You will find most of us will without hesitation, and without any nosy questions, as long as the request is not snotty and contemptuous.
It’s a thing we do.
Even if you want to stick with your superior modernist “it’s all chemicals and neurons inside your skull and nothing else, at all, ever” mentality, that’s just fine. You may still feel pretty good that someone cared. Most of us do, anyway. In any case it’s a pretty heavy compliment when you think we matter enough that you asked us to pray for you.
So: Saints. They take prayer requests. Seriously. When you “pray to a Saint” that is very loose phrasing, based on ambiguities between the English language and other languages like ancient Greek or Aramaic or Syriac. In reality what you’re doing is asking them to pray for you. Specifically, you’re asking someone you really admire and look up to and draw inspiration from to pray for you.
This is why we deny that “prayers to saints” are literally “worship.” More precise language is “reverence” although in casual conversation we may say it differently.
Many times we will pick a Saint and study their lives and the things about them that we are drawn to, or relate to. One of my favorites is Maximilian Kolbe, a priest and monk who consecrated his life to Mary, and who gave his life at Auschwitz for another man. He was my confirmation Saint. He was something of a techie nerd, being an early Ham radio operator, and he had also suffered much of his life with alcohol and drug addiction, which is a problem I’ve had to wrestle with myself.
There’s a certain comfort that comes in relating your struggles to someone you admire who’s been there, with whom you can form some connection that’s personal to you. That’s a lot of what goes into praying to (or more precisely, prayer requesting) a Saint.
Answers rarely come back as literal words by the way. The Church teaches that if the Saints are talking back to you in a literal way, you need to immediately seek guidance and possible help. As with most prayers, you mostly get your answer back in the form God wants, and not necessarily the way you hoped for.
Now, I just explained an area of orthodox Theology most people don’t understand at all. I did that just so I could get to Mary. Let’s talk about her now.
Mary is the highest of the Saints. In the East, and among the Coptics and Assyrians, she is called Theotokos. It means she’s God’s mom. No really.
Watch this complicated and bewildering theological reasoning:
1) Jesus is God. 2) Mary is Jesus’s mom. 3) Therefore, Mary is God’s mom.
Mother of God*. Yep. That’s Mary. But she was and is entirely human. So. If you’re a mom and reading this, contemplate what that means: you’re not God, but imagine your kid is. Holy mackerel, what must your existence be like?
We believe this. You don’t have to, we can’t make you. But anyway:
Because of who she is, she’s got a special place in Eternity. God made himself human and put himself in her womb, not with mechanical contrivance but in a whole new spiritual creation and reconciliation between God and Mankind. Jesus is the new spiritual Adam, and she who birthed him is the new spiritual Eve.
Go on, look it up in any orthodox Christian source–Eastern Orthodox, Assyrian, Coptic, or Roman Catholic, if you don’t believe me. (Once again: Protestant opinion neither needed nor desired, thank you. Joseph Campbell mythologizers can scram too.)
To continue with orthodox theology: Mary, who just like the rest of humanity is completely subordinate to God in all ways and in all things, is nevertheless the mother of all of us. Because of this new spiritual relationship with mankind.
Because she is the new spiritual Eve, she is ultimately, for those who love her, that thing we all sometimes want more than anything: the response to our deepest and most vulnerable and most helpless infant’s cry.
Every man and every woman still has that as a primal need within them, whether they open themselves up to it or not. She represents to us, amongst other things spiritual, the warm and nurturing and accepting experience of a cuddled and suckling infant.
I suggest that if you contemplate what I just said carefully, you may start to conclude that Protestants lost something when they shoved Mary and all the other Saints to the side. And that atheists and other people who try to reduce this all to fit the mold of popular fables and fairy tales are pretty shallow.
Why the perpetual virginity thing? Well we could be here forever, but a short version is that Christians have always taught that the ideal is to rise above our animal instincts–and by the way, if you sneer at Christians who choose to practice sexual continence, do you also sneer at Buddhist and Hindu and other religious people who do the same?
Anyway, God didn’t have sex with Mary. He created a spark of life in her body and made that spark be himself. While she was pregnant she got to have God, the thing that makes all Creation exist, makes all existence go, the thing that is all that is good and nothing that is bad, inside her body. She gets to be God’s mom.
You don’t get a higher status than that as a mortal human. It’s the basis of all those other things you may have heard: Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Universe, most blessed and honored of all women, and so on and so forth. Who else could you say that about? What else would you say about her?
You think she’s just God’s “brood mare?” His mom?!?
Many question the perpetual virgin thing, and try to read all sorts of ideas into that, like the weird idea that it means women having sex is dirty. No, orthodox Christians do not believe male or female sexuality is dirty. In the right circumstances we view sex as deeply spiritual and holy–just not in the ways every Pagan or Atheist or other non-Christians seem to want us to approve of. (Do you require our endorsement for your sex life by the way? I don’t think you do.)
What Mary’s virginity means, among many other things, is that our relationship to her can never be remotely sexual. She’s our mom. She’s all mom, not our sexual lover. She represents patience, acceptance, nurturing, submission, graciousness, and all those other things a little child desires when he or she wants mommy.
When we ask for Mary’s help, we’re asking her to protect us like a mom and intercede with Dad for us. I’m using childish language here but I’m also serious: this is literally how we see it.
Find me any orthodox Priest or Bishop who will say I’m wrong about a single word of this. I don’t think you can. Especially when I remind them I’m using modernist terms to get through to modernist people. The precise spiritual language is another conversation.
If you can understand all I’ve said here, and make yourself for at least a few minutes put yourself into the shoes of someone who believes it, then this ancient prayer, sometimes known as the Ave Maria, may suddenly have new meaning for you:
Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Say it in a child’s voice and maybe you’ll really get it.
I didn’t ask what you thought of all this by the way. I don’t much care. What I asked is that you try to understand it. Or admit that you don’t understand it, and that you therefore likely have little of interest to say.
Finally, I have a rather personal observation about a miracle I have witnessed. A miracle I have witnessed many times.
When I see people heaping scorn on our mother Mary, distorting who she is and mocking our love for her–or for that matter, doing the same to the Church that is the Bride of Christ–this miracle always happens.
If you watch this video of men protecting a Church in Argentina while vile women are spewing saliva and filth and rocks at them, accusing them of being misogynists who hate women because they think all human life is of divine origin and thus should be protected, you will see those men are saying the Ave Maria:
Those men are scared out of their minds, can you tell?
Watching that video may give you some idea of the emotional impact of this: Every time I see or hear someone doing that to Mary, or for that matter to the Church that is the Bride of Christ herself? Miraculously, those slinging the filth get more ugly, and she gets more beautiful.
Every. Single. Time.
It does hurt. But it’s not because they’re hurting her. They can’t hurt her. No, it hurts because people, all people–including each and every one of you reading this–have the spark of the divine and the eternally beautiful within them.
Watching people who have that beauty shining out from them but making themselves hideously ugly anyway? It is terribly painful, and we want to look away.
Just so you know.
Finally, to the notion that our love of Mary means we elevate women above men? Sorry, that’s sideways twisted. We do think every woman has a reflection of Mary within her, true. But we also know there’s not a woman on Planet Earth who can ever live up to her. Which means we can love women without ever thinking them perfect. No woman can compare to Mary except in pale reflection.
This all, again, is orthodoxy theology, not my personal opinion. If you want to argue with it, take it up with someone else. Or go concoct your own personal interpretations, I can’t stop you. Just stop telling us what we think, please.
I just told you what we think. I guarantee I got every word right.
It may be rough as a woman to be compared to Mary, because you can’t attain her status. But that’s OK, men have examples we can rarely or never live up to either. It’s part of that “humility” thing that is supposed to be part and parcel with being a Christian.
So that’s Mary and the Saints as I and most orthodox Christians see her. I hope it helps clear up any confusion on the matter.
*There is an ancient dispute going back about 1,700 years due to some orthodox who do not use the term “Mother of God” but instead “Mother of Jesus.” It has come to be accepted by most orthodox sources in the last century or so that this controversy arose almost entirely due to quirks of the Syriac language and other cultural/linguistic misunderstandings. All agree Mary is the mother of Jesus and Jesus is God and Mary is highest of the Saints as a result of all this, and the issue is moot.
The Scientism cultist believes he loves science. Sadly, he only dimly understands science, so ironically, he tends to harm science by bringing unearned discredit to it.
Science, which can only demonstrate things by observation and measurement in the physical world, can by definition only tell us so much about anything. Real scientists understand this completely. But the Scientism cultist does not understand this; he treats science like a divine force, the source of all truth and enlightenment, as well as miracles he only dimly undestands like iPhones and the Internet.
I frequently meet people today who deny that “Scientism” exists as a religious philosophy. Then they’ll turn around and make the most dogmatic assertions of faith you will ever hear in your life, such as “Science is how we know things are true” and “Science can be trusted unlike the dark superstitious beliefs of the past.”
The belief that science is how we know things are True (as opposed to one way we know some things to be true) is, ironically, unsupportable scientifically. When you point this out, Scientismists will then respond with “well, it’s the best we have.” Which they also offer, unironically, without scientific proof. That too is a dogmatic faith statement, you see.
It’s just like their faith that there’s nothing running the laws of probability or physics. They simply believe things like that unquestioningly, and somehow experience no cognitive dissonance. Or at least pretend to have no cognitive dissonance.
Probably the biggest reliable indicator of the Scientismist religion is the dogged fascination its adherents have with credentialed scientists. A Master’s degree in some area of science appears to make you eligible for Deacon status in the Scientism Church, with a PhD entitling you to full priesthood. Bishop status is accorded by large research grants or at least a tenured faculty position in some area of the sciences. Or a big media presence at least.
The laity of the Church of Scientism tends to look at scientists not as people doing research who sometimes finding useful or interesting results, but as moral and intellectual and even spiritual (they prefer the term “psychological”) authorities the rest of us should listen to because, supposedly, the credentialed scientist is wiser or more moral or more trustworthy or more incorruptible than the rest of us.
Especially if they have a high IQ, since supposedly the high IQ is the indicator of worthiness or at least wisdom as a human being. It’s another unstated part of the Scientism creed, you see. One every Scientismist believes, though he rarely is bold enough to say it aloud.
Scientism cultists also almost always claim that religion was primarily science’s enemy for most of human history. This is the great Creation Myth of the Scientism religion. Unfortunately for them, it’s pure superstition, a superstition utterly unsupportable by any scientific look at history.
History does indeed show religious people getting in the way of science sometimes, but nonreligious people doing it as often if not moreso, as we see whenever there is a vested monetary or ideological interest in a scientific theory that may be bunk. In the meantime, it remains that for thousands of years, it was ancient organized religion and philosophy that spurred most interest in, and funding for, the development of education and science. Rulers were busy fighting each other; it was the religious and philosophical who were off “wasting time” doing odd things like figuring out how the laws of physics actually worked.
Another big sign of the Scientism cultist? He views criticism of his religion as an attack on science. Proving once again that he does not know what science is and is not. The most rabid, frothing Fundamentalists of the Scientism cult will use the phrase “Science Denier!” and “Conspiracy Theorist!” to shut off all criticism and dissent, and discredit all who would dare question the Holy Word of what they call “science.” (But which, I remind you again, is often not science at all.)
Meanwhile, in the land of actual science, institutional science is in a shambles. At this point, with any given scientific paper, you can basically flip a coin as to whether or not it’s got anything valid or is total garbage. Literally, following scientific literature is now about as good as following astrologers, since research in too many areas of institutional science is no longer reliable at all.
But what have the Scientismists been doing the last couple of decades, instead of cleaning house? Terrifying the public with fears of the “Creation Science” fringe loons, and against the horrifying danger that someone, somewhere might take a homeopathic remedy and feel a positive effect*. While they were chasing down theological clowns and fringe medicine, institutional science was, and still is, falling apart at the seams.
As someone who’s loved science his whole life and still does, it’s hard not to curse the Scientism cultists for being a big part of the problem. They put something they call “Science” where God and humility were supposed to go, to be blunt. As a result, they did massive harm to people’s ability to trust science at all, by turning it into an intolerant, money and status-obsessed cult.
For those who doubt Scientism is real, or doubt what I’m saying about the increasing shambles the sciences are in, here are a few references from completely credible scientific sources. I’ll probably add to them over time as more objections pop up and more comes to my attention. The crisis in the sciences is huge, and escalating, in the Western world, and the Scientism cultists are in deep denial. It’s more important to them to obsess over fringe ideas like Michael Behe’s ID theories* or the thought that someone, somewhere, might be getting positive results with acupuncture*.
By the way, it is highly predictable that I will, once again, be accused of “attacking science” for writing any of this. That should tell you something about how widespread the superstitions of the Scientism Cult really are. In the meantime, if you need an actual scientist to tell you more about the Scientism religion, this presentation by Professor Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins.
*NB: I have never met a homeopathy fan or taken a homeopathic remedy in my life and I give it no endorsement. Ditto stuff like acupuncture or ID. What’s telling, though, is I scientifically predict with confidence that Scientism Cultists reading this will denounce me as a “Science Denier” for “defending homeopathy and acupuncture and ID.” Those fringe fields are among the bigger names in Scientism Demonology, you see, and the behavior of Scientism cultists is quite scientifically predictable.
Something that called itself “The Conservative Movement” died with Ted Cruz’s Presidential election campaign yesterday, and I’m glad.
While I know this will cause pain to some of my friends gripped in the madness of so-called True Conservatism, it was always a fable. A serious-minded conservative who never bought the “True Conservative” madness is Ross Douthat, who describes it well in the New York Times:
True Conservatism likes to portray itself as part of an unbroken tradition running back through Ronald Reagan to Barry Goldwater and the Founding Fathers. It has roots in that past, but it’s also a much more recent phenomenon, conceived in the same spirit as Bushism 2.0 but with the opposite intent.
If Bushism 2.0 looked at George W. Bush’s peaks — his post-Sept. 11 popularity, his 2004 majority — and saw a model worth recovering, True Conservatism looked at his administration’s collapse and argued that it proved that he had been far too liberal, and that all his “compassionate conservative” heresies had led the Republican Party into a ditch.
Thus True Conservatism’s determination to avoid both anything that savored of big government and anything that smacked of compromise. Where Bush had been softhearted, True Conservatism would be sternly Ayn Randian; where Bush had been free-spending, True Conservatism would be austere; where Bush had taken working-class Americans off the tax rolls, True Conservatism would put them back on — for their own good. And above all, where Bush had sometimes reached for the center, True Conservatism would stand on principle, fight hard, and win.
Yes that was the fable. To a “T.” And it has been a consistent loser at the polls for decades, especially once you realize Ronald Reagan was no “True Conservative,” even if he used some of its trappings as part of his image.
So perhaps it’s time to admit it, now that it’s been so thoroughly trounced: “True Conservatism” was always a fantasy, and we should be happy to see it go. That’s why I very much hope my friends caught up in it, whether they be Christian or modern-day atheists who just like the mythology: I hope they finally see it was always a mythology.
Yes, there’s the regressive Left and “Social Justice” crowd, and postmodernism and all the Utopianists are still out there and still a threat. But America’s “True Conservatives” didn’t always give the best or most coherent answers to the radical left because they were caught up in too many fairy tales of their own to have their feet planted in reality, and they thought winning elections was how you save the world.
Just for the record? America’s Founders were often hypocrites and sometimes scoundrels. Reagan was massively imperfect and was never a “True Conservative” doctrinaire. Barry Goldwater and his ilk also wouldn’t have liked a lot of what Reagan did–and still less what people spouting his name have often done.
I don’t write as an anti-Reagan man. I admit Reagan to have been both consequential and great. Who like all consequential and great men was terribly flawed and imperfect. Those who constantly invoke his name are invoking prayers to a false idol. (Which was not a status he ever sought, so far as I know.)
The same is true for America’s founders. All of them. “Constitutional Conservatism” or “True Conservatism” was a fairy tale. Not a single one of the founders ever governed that way. A hint would have been those who selectively quote people like James Madison without quoting his contemporary critics who said he was full of crap–and were proven right once he was elected.
The deification of the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and the others, along with the likes of Goldwater, Buckley, and Reagan (all of whom I admire by the way) far exceeded anything at all they or their contemporaries or their immediate progeny would have accepted. The founders especially often hated each other, and until the day they died the framers were arguing over what they wished they could have changed in a Constitution they didn’t really like! Including Jefferson and Adams both, who thought the Republic would fall because the Constitution was so poorly designed and had so many hopeless internal contradictions and unintended effects.
In almost two and a half centuries no President (no not even Fabled Reagan Himself) or Congress has approached that document the way Ted Cruz or any other self-proclaimed “Constitutional Conservative” says we should. Guys like that have been showing up in Washington with those words on their lips for generations now, and when they get there they all fail to deliver because it can’t be done: their variety of “Constitutional Conservatism” was always a sentimental idea, never anything real or practical.
This phony “True Conservatism” has lost at the polls more often than it’s won for decades. And even when it does win, occasionally, what it delivers isn’t what was promised. It starts to look a whole lot like this old cartoon people of a certain age will remember:
Better get a new hat, guys. Seriously. Real conservatism starts with acknowledging the limits of elections in the first place.
You know why Glenn Beck’s media enterprise has finally collapsed? He was selling false history, false mythology, raising the US itself to deity status. One might almost call it idolatry. That vision, Glenn Beck’s vision, was of an America that never existed, and never will exist.
And by the way no, there is no Special Providence for the United States. Yes, God bless America–and when America finally falls, as all countries do, may God bless whatever comes next. The things that truly are eternal will remain. In 2000 years, I doubt the United States will exist, but things which are eternal will exist and will still matter far, far more than the fact that the USA was ever even here.
And if the thought of the USA fading away bothers you, I have to ask why. You weren’t, like, thinking America was God or something, were you?
It’s not an entirely unserious question you know.
To dejected True Conservatives: get over it, and snap out of it. Life isn’t about getting True Conservatives elected. In fact, the elections don’t matter. They’re a freak show anymore, with power players controlling the media we get to see and what the candidates even can say to get elected. Even if Cruz had won, the story would be the same. Ditto if Sanders or some other fool got in.
When you put your energy into politics rather than doing what you’re supposed to, starting with loving and caring for your family and your fellow man, you’ve already got distorted politics. And it always ends exactly like this classic song by The Who:
To Hell with the elections. To Hell with the government. What are you doing to make the world a better place today?
Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, tweeted me to ask if there have ever been any Popes who were mad. I will call him Carl here because his name is public, and we’ve chatted before, and it feels more intimate and less ostentatious. So:
Carl: To be honest I don’t have a comprehensive history in front of me nor in my head but there were certainly multiple terrible men in the papacy in its 2000 year history and doubtless there will be more in the next 2000 years. Men do go mad and Popes are, after all, men.
Has a madman ever sat on the English throne? Was he any less King? How do you think Richard III got away with killing those two Princes with no on-record witnesses by the way? If Queen Liz grabs one of the Royal Guard’s guns and starts wildly shooting while screaming that she declares war on Sweden, is she any less the Queen? Does everyone in England have to start knifing any Swedish tourists they spot? (Well do it anyhow, no one likes the Swedes.)
Yes, there have been men in the Papacy who should never have been there. Welcome to large institutions involving humans.
We orthodox Christians have this theological idea that all human beings are broken, and few achieve Sainthood in this life. And you might have noticed by now that not all Popes or Patriarchs or whatever are recognized as Saints, let alone your average Bishop or Priest. Hey guess what, if you look around, you’ll find out there have been priests who’ve murdered, raped, embezzled, got caught screwing a boyfriend or girlfriend, got involved in dodgy politics or organized crime, and other things that any other human being might fall prey to.
There’s this thing we Christians call “temptation.” You might want to look up what we think it does to people. There’s some ancient wisdom there. “All fall short” is another phrase you might look into. Our priests are human you know. We try our best to love them because most of them have sacrificed a lot for us, and been subjected to a lot of hate on our behalf. The priesthood is also a position of complete submission, you know. I’m amazed more people can’t see that.
Anyway, this is all easily verified with authoritative Church sources: the Popes are “infallible” on spiritual matters only. Furthermore, he’s very tightly bound: he may not contradict the body of Bishops called the Magisterium, and he may not contradict the Deposit of the Faith, which includes the Catholic understanding of the Bible. He may also not contradict previous Popes. If he does any of that, he’s in error and has possibly excommunicated himself and probably requires us to figure out how to talk him back into his senses or get a new Pope.
Oh and on top of all those conditions above? He must state clearly that he is speaking on the authority of the Roman Papacy, i.e. “Ex Cathedra” (look it up) and not simply giving an informal opinion.
In other words, from a certain perspective, that doctrine of infallibility is more a burden than anything. He’s got assistants who have to run around after every public utterance assuring reporters that whatever just came out his mouth was not some new Official Doctrine. The Pope has to constantly measure his every word for fear that some dolt will take every stray remark as an announcement of a new policy. Like recently, when it was hailed as a “radical shift” that Francis said “who am I to judge?” on the question of a gay priest. No that wasn’t a shift at all, that’s Catholic 101. If you’re you’re in the habit of judging other individual person’s sins, you’re Catholicking wrong.
So it’s hard to know what to say to weirdo Atheists and Protestants who seem to think, “the Pope just said his farts smell like roses, so Catholics must believe that now.” (I mean, I guess he wouldn’t lie, but do I have to note it in my Catechism? I don’t think so.)
If the Pope remarks tomorrow that Pi=3.2, I assure you I won’t be believing it, OK?
By the way, if you look at the Eastern or Oriental or Assyrian Orthodox, the answer here would be the same for all practical purposes for their Bishops, Archbishops, and Patriarchs. While they have no clear doctrine of infallibility for any of their particular Patriarchs, the issue does come up: if the Patriarch of Romania declared something dogmatically true, everybody would have a really long pause at least. So that’s why those guys are also careful what they say, so no one mistakes their every word for Authoritative Church Teaching. If the Patriarch of Constantinople (did you know he still exists by the way?) says “I hate thunderstorms, they are terrible” all Orthodox are not required to curse rainstorms, and storm-chasers may continue their hobby.
I must say that as a fellow student of history, I am stunned by how young people such as yourself are not at all educated on the complexities and subtleties of these things, as they’re not really all that complicated or hard to understand. The truth is, the history of the Church is, in a very real way, the history of Western Europe. So even if you remain a committed atheist, I suggest that you lose whatever ancient Anglican prejudices you have, and let me give you some historical reading that might make even an English atheist say, “Well all right, I might have some respect that Catholic Church after all, for both its history and the good works it still does, even if I don’t see any sense in this God business or agree with them on everything. They aren’t just primitive savages, and they do represent some pretty functional values even if I don’t share all of them.”
I think it’s time you atheists took a critical look at yourselves, applying some of that skepticism you’re so proud of to yourselves. Also maybe search yourselves, and re-examine whatever ancient prejudices you inherited or whatever old grudge you have against some religious persons who abused you. Reducing ancient Christianity to crayons and coloring books just makes you look shallow at best.
Because the truth is? Looks like you atheists are removing yourselves from the gene pool, for the most part. I think we’ve reached Peak Atheism, as people like me and things like the anatheism movement become more numerous. I hear regularly from former atheists, or people who are only pretending to be atheists, nowadays. Atheism makes no coherent logical sense to many of us. You may disagree, but we’ve as much right to think you daft as you think us. Either way, we might have ideas and insights we can exchange that are still profitable.
Like it or not, the religious will not go away in your lifetime. Or ever. Increased atheism has just brought on increased secular cults, which have grown like weeds since the New Atheist craze of the early 2000s. Now we have a wave of kids educated on shallow atheist and nonreligious leaders for most of their religious education, and it doesn’t look that’s given us the promised “more enlightened” society to me.
Isn’t it time the so-called “Rationalist” community consider the empirically obvious? If the religious are with us forever, shouldn’t we learn how to talk to the religious as something other than retarded children, scientific specimens, or a problem to be eliminated? Might we even identify religious people with whom we have substantial common ground?
By the way, did you know that Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has seen one of history’s most significant changes? Some within The Church of England are now openly in communion with Rome. Biggest shift since Henry VIII. Don’t you at least find that fascinating?
PS: I’m writing a book on all this. Want to talk about it? Looks like Professor Eve Keneinan and I will be working together on another book, too. Would love to tell you about it. 🙂
*-Edited after publication to fix some grammatical issues and clarify points. It’s my blog and I can do what I want. These are all draft chapters for the book anyway.
Hello there, Mr. Christian Man. Today I am going to enlighten you and the world about your spiritual tradition. I’m an objective outsider you see, who left your religion when I was young.
Now, just so you know, my own theological views, and my epistemological and metaphysical assumptions, are none of your business. This is about you and the truths I seek to tell the world about you. You and your most sacred thoughts, and about men you love and greatly admire.
Here is what you and billions of others have subconsciously been taught to believe, Mr. Christian Man: male sexuality is inherently evil and men’s penises are demon rods. Men’s semen is toxic glue. Women’s sexuality by comparison is taught by the Christian faith to be pure, making women closer to the Divine than men are, in their bodies and their sexuality. Indeed, it is an inescapable fact that you Christians believe the human penis is the vehicle by which all the evil in the world is transmitted.
Hold on, hold on, don’t open your mouth Mr. Christian Man! I have some angry gay men here who say it was the Christians who made the world uncomfortable with homosexuality, and sex outside marriage, and male sexuality generally, and they agree with me! We don’t need to hear your thoughts now, or what you know or have studied, or any of your references from the last 2000 years, or to compare it against any other philosophy or religion or political ideology. People like Ralph Reed, Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, and the Creation Science people did all your talking for you already, Mr. Christian Man. What more could you say that wouldn’t be just rationalizations and self-delusion? Besides, some Christians were really nasty to me in my lifetime, and that’s given me some serious objectivity that you must lack.
The fact that you believe God hates your male sexuality, Mr. Christian Man, is shown by the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Your mythos is based on the notion God had to avoid the toxicity of the male semen-glue by raping a girl called Mary–yes, God raped the same Mary I just said is women’s sexual role model. God elevated her and all other women to perfection by raping her, so we would know that whenever men have sex with women, the women are shamed and demeaned. Which makes women more divine and closer to God, which is why men think they must serve and sacrifice for the women they debase with their demon rods. Then Mary had a rape-baby son also called God, who would also serve as the sexual role model for all men because he never had sex. Ideal Christian men never have sex, according to the Christian mythos.
I’m not done, so sit back down Mr. Christian Man. I’ve read Joseph Campbell and Elaine Pagels and The Jesus Seminar and much feminist literature, plus a bunch of other ancient mythology, so I know my stuff! I need to tell you about the Church Fathers. Well, Church Father anyway, the only one who matters, Augustine of Hippo.
Augustine of Hippo all by himself brought the innovation of ancient Greek philosophy to Christianity, which helped Romans like Christianity better. But he still needed to outcompete the more popular and obviously more spiritual and egalitarian Pagans who viewed the penis as divine. So Augustine, a mere 1,600 Kilometers by horse and boat from the capital of the Empire, hatched a marketing scheme: while the Pagan priests and philosphers were busy blessing rape and disembowelment in the Colosseums and blessing spiritually enlightened sex with street urchins, he would begin making men throughout the Empire hate their personal sexuality. And it worked! Penis-hating swept through Northern Africa, then Europe, and the Levant, almost Beatlemania-style when they heard about the gluey toxin rod! This is why we have Romantic Chivalry and gynocentrism today. Without ancient Christianity teaching you to hate your own sexuality, the world would clearly not be such an awful place for men today.
Wait, why are you walking away Mr. Christian Man? I’m just explaining your mythology that’s no different from any myth or fairy tale. I’m helping debrainwash you. I’m helping you better understand your own mythos and fucked up sexuality. Why you crying and asking me to stop spitting on and viciously distorting something you love to your core with David Futrelle-style distortions? It’s just criticism, it’s not personal!
This is not an open letter to Alison Tieman, although she is in it. She is free to respond herself or not. I will still always have a deep love in my heart for the amazing work she’s done over the years, and the sacrifices and unearned contempt she’s endured, and for that utterly amazing mind of hers. Still, it matters because she’s an important and influential figure, as are others in her circle, and an article she coauthored some years ago seems to have metastasized in the manosphere, at least in my eyes. In any case it’s undeniably exemplary of a phenomenon I see now commonly.
Some years ago I was part of a group of editors with her, and a decision was made to publish that article. It was called “Men, and patriarchy in the church.” I had been massively uncomfortable (to be honest, in actual psychic pain) with the article but had assented to its publication because I didn’t want to start a fight. I just prayed maybe it would bring about some good discussion.
When I watched the comments roll in with knowledgeable Christians trying to calmly respond being overridden by steaming contempt, I just averted my eyes and hoped it was a passing thing. I also thought, somehow, most reasonable people would know this was just a provocative polemic, not a serious article.
Ironically, that particular article’s been recently removed from the original publication, but for the record that was in no way at my request. The publisher removed it because the plagiarism was found, not the rest of the content. Alison did not respond when I asked if she knew about the plagiarism, but, because her coauthor on the piece has a known problem with that and she has a reputation for almost painful integrity, it seems safe to assume she did not know. Still, because of the plagiarism, it’s gone. The only copy I have is here, because I took a screen shot, and I keep it because really, it helps me distill so many of my concerns:
Most of the assertions in my ironic introduction are from that old article, with other stuff like it I didn’t even mention.
You may be wondering why I didn’t just let it lie. It is an old article after all. But over the last few years I’ve seen these same assertions being repeated by her and others in the manosphere, more and more with time, as if this is some sort of academic and scholarly view. It’s disturbing to see. So much so I’ve begun wondering if I shouldn’t start warning people of a spiritual bent to avoid the Men’s Rights Movement entirely because of its scapegoating of religion generally and Christianity in particular. Especially orthodox Christianity. Either that, or I wonder if I need to try to create an MRA community for Christian men who would like to talk about how they’re being abused by family courts, how they’re dealing with false charges, being subjected to financial ruin, or being generally demonized and scapegoated–where they won’t also have to have their spirituality scapegoated with false and distorted charges too.
This isn’t a joke. I keep getting timid notes from manospherians about it, about how happy they are I’m speaking up. One of them was a man I helped get out of jail, who only escaped suicide in his darkest hours because God helped him through it. Not me, not the other MRAs trying to help him, because we weren’t enough. God was. God kept him alive. That’s how he felt, and I’m inclined to agree; we’re just the ones God sent to help him through it as best we could. (And if you say “his invisible friend helped him through it,” while I abjure violence I could hardly blame him if he gave you a knuckle sandwich for that juvenile crack.)
Shitting on people’s religions, grossly mis-stating them, and telling them they should just abandon them for the supposed enlightenment you have to offer, is a form of psychological abuse. It is often used as a form of torture. Literally so. So I’m hoping to get through here: people in positions of influence and perceived leadership within the men’s movement, who say they care about compassion and empathy for men need to knock that shit off. Or at least stop claiming you’re all about compassion and empathy and inclusion and acceptance.
This is not a free speech issue. Nor is it a debate on the merits of any religion. It’s a focus issue for leadership, and a call to conscience.
I could write an entire article on that weird take on the Virgin Birth and Original Sin, but I’ll dispense with it more properly: back that crap up by showing me any mainstream scholarly orthodox Christian source that agrees with it. Now or in all of history. If you can’t–and you know damned well you can’t–I suggest you do the honorable thing and retract it. The faith doesn’t teach that. Period.
As for the take on Augustine, it’s also a distortion, including at least one totally fabricated quote about “toxic glue” that seems to source to a snotty liberal jewish feminist named Emily Nussbaum. Furthermore, a search through Augustine’s two most influential and cited works, The City of God and Confessions? The ones that got him Church Father status? The “demon rod” is nowhere to be found in my searches. If he ever said those words, it would likely have been in one of his lesser known sermons. If you find it there, I’ll find you places where he railed against deceitful manipulative face-painted women with similar firey rhetoric invoking Eve as the temptress of humanity. Which completely invalidates the claim that it was specifically male sexuality that was the focus of his criticisms of Pagan sex practices (which looked remarkably like our current culture, by the way, although we haven’t normalized pedophilia quite yet).
Christian doctrine tends to criticize both men and women for bad behavior. I don’t know how anyone managed to miss that, although some Christians in our modern mass media may still caught up in cultural gynocentrism and are terrified of offending women.
By the way, rhetoric? Augustine used that. He also used simile, metaphor, and jokes. He was known for his dripping sarcasm. What, did you think he was really that much different from smart people today?
I could say more on Augustine–the father who abandoned him, the child he went on to father and then abandon himself, his years of bouncing from one Pagan religion and philosopher to another, living as a Roman PUA screwing and gorging and drinking himself nearly to death before the nihilism became too much and he found Christ. But let’s stop with this: Augustine’s sometimes draconian views on human sexuality were an obvious reaction to Pagan excesses he witnessed and participated in, yet he still faced skepticism and criticism from his fellow Bishops at the time, and his views have similarly been subjected to skepticism and criticism by other great Catholic figures over the centuries, including great spiritual literary figures like Dante. He is not an infallible source. For other Orthodox? The Eastern Orthodox don’t even revere him as a Saint, though they call him Blessed. The Coptics also still revere him as a Saint, which is no surprise since he was based in the same part of Africa they dominate now–but they don’t consider him infallible either.
If you want an education on orthodox Christian thinking on men and women and things like chivalry or sexuality, let me get you started with figures like Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Chesterton, Tolkein, and others who thought romantic “chivalry” was ghastly and wrote quite firmly about bad behavior by women.
I have references. Do you want some? I’ll also be happy to have a “let’s have a talk about this, not a debate just a talk” with anyone who wants (within reason).
Now: nobody said the Men’s Rights Movement needed to be a Christian movement. To fully succeed I would strongly argue that it can’t be one. But should it be an anti-Christian movement? If it is, I don’t know how it hopes to survive in the English-speaking world, because despite some people’s fevered wishes to the contrary, Christianity will never go away. It’ll only go underground at most.
Just like the underground MRAs I already hear from thanking me for writing about these things.
Now, God bless you all, even you nonreligious who think I’m a barking mad delusional. But please, I pray: contemplate my words, and what direction you’re steering when you start talking about what other people supposedly believe, quote-mining them to justify that, and suggesting they’re responsible for the evils we face.
Hello. My name is Dean Esmay. And I would like to ask for your financial support for a project I’m working on, exploring the idea of God as a philosophical concept in Western Civilization, and the strong positive influence that organized, institutional religion–particularly, organized, institutional Christianity–has had on society in the last few thousand years, and the ramifications of modern atheism and its effect on people’s thinking–including the harm atheism can do to scientific thinking.
My work began when I realized one day that, far from being just another in a long line of faddish “Deepak Chopra” style New Age cults, the “New Atheist” movement was being taken seriously by millions, including influential media figures, and was particularly popular with young people. This “New Atheist” cult began in the early 2000s with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens, but has now expanded into an almost full-blown Church of its own, with scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence M. Krauss, and Jerry Coyne, along with popular and cynical entertainers like Seth MacFarlane, Penn Jillette, Stephen Fry, Bill Maher, Tim Minchin, and even the late Bill Hicks and George Carlin who, like Hitchens, remain popular even in death. All are people who all act or have acted as professional, well-paid atheist proselytizers for their atheist faith–often passing off vicious remarks at religions and religious people as “brave” while knowing full well not one hair of their heads would be so much as mussed by most of the religious groups they attack.
As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of the modern atheism. As an ex-atheist myself, I think today’s atheism is a dogmatic cult phenomenon, led by cult leaders and proselytizers peddling pseudoscience, anti-intellectualism, and general intolerance. I also believe they have frequently misled their audiences, intentionally or not, causing a great number of innocent people to be treated with animosity, bigotry, bullying, and harassment they never deserved–all while behaving as if atheists are horrifically persecuted, which they rarely have been in human history.
Am I doing this as a Christian ministry? No. I am a Catholic, but am no way ordained as anything, not even as a lay minister. I’m not authorized to create my own ministry. Furthermore, while my views are of course affected by my Catholicism, just as your religious views likely affects yours, my goal is to examine atheist ideology, starting with the strange insistence of modern atheists that their atheism is not an ideological position, and the strange superstitious idea that atheism and science go together. I also explore information from an historic and social perspective, and how aggressive, militant, hostile atheism has affected our culture.
I will also be correcting common misperceptions these figures often pass off about historic Christianity, with a particular focus on what I call “broadly orthodox,” examining clear misunderstandings now common not just about Roman Catholicism, but also Eastern Orthodox, Coptic/Oriental Orothodox, and Assyrian Orthodox Christians, and even with some analysis where their thinking overlaps with things like Orthodox Jewry and oldest lines of institutional, organized Protestants like the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Anglicans. All of whom are regularly misportrayed by modern atheist ideologues and increasingly ignorant media and other culture figures who clearly don’t understand organized religion at all.
In short, this is a work of social criticism, not advocacy for any one faith.
To be clear, I am biased: I am critical of many forms of Protestantism as well as people on the religious fringes, but I also defend Protestants from smears. I also examine ideas put forth by other religions and philosophies, starting with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but also such figures as Guatama Buddha, Maimonides, Kant, Pascal, Einstein, Heisenberg, Hindu and Sikh thinkers, and others.
God is a big idea in human civilization, but most particularly in Western Civilization, and far from what you’ve been told, it’s a rational idea. Maybe not an idea you agree with, but fully rational and logical nonetheless, and no properly ordered theology is an impediment to science–even if sometimes religious mores butt heads with scientific research, they’re certainly no more likely to than many secular political ideologies.
The “Science vs. Religion” war is phony. So are many of the New Atheists.
The project will begin with at least one book, which is provocatively titled “Letter to a Heathen Nation,” an ironic response to atheist guru Sam Harris’s famous book, “Letter to a Christian Nation.” If the project succeeds, it will spin off other books, and possible video projects as I seek to interview prominent atheists today to ask them to defend their positions.
You’ll find many of my essays to be collected in book form already on this blog. To lend ongoing support in my hope to make this a full-time endeavor, please use the tip jar or check out my Patreon. Thank you!
In these pages, you will see me frequently referring to orthodox Christianity. In doing so, I am fully aware that Eastern Orthodox, Coptic/Ethiopian, Assyrian, Roman Catholic, and other varieties of orthodox Christians do not always agree with each other. I do not seek “ecumenical dialogue” nor to tempt any member of any orthodox Communion leave to join my own. I would be horrified if I were to hear that were happening, for that is not my intent and it could only cause further mistrust and strife if my writings were seen as a source of that.
However, my work on exploring ancient Christianity has led me to an inescapable conclusion, that we all share roots that Protestants and “Evangelicals” do not. All can trace our bishop lines to the First Council of Nicea and before. All of us share the same definition of Apostolic Succession. All have the same Sacraments or Mysteries, with only slightly differing interpretations of them. All believe these were given by Jesus to The Twelve during Pentecost. All trace our apostolic lines to Bartholomew, Peter, Mark, Thomas, and other specific Apostles we can name. All have priests, and we all call those in the presbyteriat “father.” All would agree only a fool thinks he can open a Bible and with no instruction understand it or that you are automatically “saved” if you simply believe in Jesus. All agree that the Bible was created by the Church as part of the Deposit of the Faith, not a replacement for it. These and many other ways too numerous to count we are the same. Despite unfortunate disagreements, misunderstandings, and calamities through history, most of us still recognize each other as coming from exactly the same roots.
My noting all of this is not mere sentiment. If you are reading this in Gregorian 2016, you must realize that the Church is undergoing massive assault everywhere on the globe. Along with ancient strife with some Muslims that has flared back up in many places, there seems to be nowhere today that orthodox Christians of any type are not being crushed by military forces, or by forces of modernist political ideologies, postmodern moral and intellectual relativism, and a seething contempt for our Faith. While the Church has seen many crises, it has seen none quite like this in its 2000 years–nothing except perhaps the all too familiar martyrdoms. And I foresee worse to come.
In the English-speaking world, there is only dim awareness of orthodox Christianity, most of it contemptuous when not dismissive. The Roman Catholics have been a despised minority for 500 years or so in the English-speaking world, while other orthodox have been mostly treated as a strange foreign aberration. Militantly secularist regimes, meanwhile, when not slaughtering the orthodox, have done their best to subvert the Church, sometimes through wicked people within it and sometimes through cultural assault from without.
Most of you who look to Constantinople or Alexandria or Antioch instead of Rome should still find yourself able to agree comfortably with most of what I write on what I sometimes call “little-o orthodox.” If I write something that is only taught in Rome, I will do my best to identify that as being so if it is not already obvious. Otherwise, I strive to be fully ecumenical in my choice of words. Should I ever mis-state the position of your Communion, please inform me and accept my immediate apologies.
I speak ecumenically not to try to achieve unity among Bishops. Rather, it is because as the 21st century unfolds, I believe all orthodox Christians will be increasingly confronted by the forces which would tear the faith asunder if they could. Modern Scientism, secular moral relativism, substitute religions, and militant atheism are everywhere in what is called the “developed world,” and these forces are aggressively proselytizing an anti-Christian message everywhere.
Among most moderns, there is almost no popular awareness what orthodox Christianity is, at least in the English-speaking world. The various Protestant schismatic groups since the time of the Reformation have collapsed in most of North America, with the culturally dominant type of Christianity now what we call “Evangelicals,” who are Christians who believe any man with a copy of the Bible and his own earnest thoughts, stripped of most if not all of Sacred Tradition, has as valid an opinion as any other.
Thus, when I write, I write from the perspective of educating atheists and nonreligious and others who are curious about the ancient Christian faith. It’s my hope that a greater understanding of ancient Christianity will help lessen fear, misunderstanding, and resentment among the nonreligious population. Perhaps that is a fool’s errand but it is the one I have embarked upon. If it should also bring greater trust and fellowship between our respective Communions, that will be a blessing, but it is not the goal.
So please trust that I seek no conversions, nor to “settle” any arguments between our respective Communions. It is rather to help moderns at least understand the ancient faith better, fear it less, be less hostile to it. If it should also make some ancient misunderstandings between our communities less hostile, so much the better.
It should also be stated, I am in no way ordained by or authorized by the Church. This is just one Christian’s writings. Take them as that and no more. But if you have suggestions on how I may improve my work in this area, please let me know. I will do my best to stay faithful to what is true, and respectful of our respective communions.
Protestantism and its children are popularly and broadly understood in the English-speaking world. Orthodoxy is not. I pray to at least somewhat improve that particular problem.
Postscript: Please also note that through most of my essays, I strive to use the simplest terms I can think of in language I believe people steeped in modernism will understand. My use of spiritual language is therefore not necessarily precise. That is nothing more than my attempt to get atheists and others to understand us all better. Those truly curious about the Church and its ancient teachings will move on from my essays and learn the more correct terminology.