Faith versus reason?

Now is as good a time as any to address the false dichotomy between "faith" and "reason."

Ask any believer to defend his faith, and he will probably relate certain personal experiences that convinced him that God was working in his life. There would seem to be no way that these events could have occurred randomly. Of course, this contention can't be proven, so at some point, he just has to believe.

Ask an atheist how he knows that Timbuktu exists. He read about it in a book, he saw a picture of it. Thus, he had to believe that the book was true, or his teacher was correct, or what he calls Timbuktu, is actually Timbuktu. More than that, he has to believe that the definitions of the words in the book are true as he is taught, not to mention the significance of the letters and numbers, themselves. In addition, during any conversation, he has to believe that the words he speaks are also the words he (and others) hear. None of this can be "proven" rationally.

Even if he were to visit this town himself, ultimately, he would have to believe the signs in the town identifying it as such. At some point, he has to accept a basic item on faith.

In fact, the very paragon of rationality—Euclidean geometry—relies on several key assumptions, which can never be proven. i.e. they are taken on faith, right?

Since there is no such thing as non-antecedent reasoning, there is ultimately no difference between faith and reason.


Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est

This HND piece examines the importance of charity in health care. The title is taken from an ancient hymn, translated as "Where true charity is, there is God."

While charity has always been an important component of health care, it's more so today than ever---given decreased reimbursements and other cutbacks. Arguably, for the first time in 400 years, the desire to help people has once again become the primary reason to enter the field of health care.

Read the complete article.

Gun control–-demystified

Over at the Mike's Comments, we expose the matrix that is "Gun Control." George Orwell himself would have been impressed with the mendacity of language, not to mention the Public Duty doctrine, which holds the police harmless for failing to protect you. When informed of this concept, many liberals go catatonic.

I cite a few landmark court cases upholding this doctrine, although they are by no means the most egregious. The concepts of Natural Law and self-defense also come into play. Since both the police and the average citizen use firearms for self-defense, why should their rights trump yours---especially when they don't have to protect you?

Read the complete article.

Talk about giving up something for Lent

How about giving up the papacy itself? In so doing, Pope Benedict XVI becomes the first pontiff to resign his post since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. When Gregory did it, it was to end the Great Western Schism, in which there were multiple claimants to the papacy.

It also happened in 1294, when Pope Celestine V--a very reluctant choice--resigned after only three months in office, preferring to return to being a monk. He was mistreated, imprisoned, and possibly even killed by his successor Boniface VIII, who worried that the old monk would be re-installed as an antipope. Celestine was canonized in 1313, a mere 17 years after his death.

The Church has long frowned on papal resignation, fearing that such a precedent could lead to endless infighting, forcing a pope to step down. And, many cite the extremely frail condition of John Paul II, who stayed on until his death.

However, the prospect of an incapacitated pope does not work very well in this media-drenched age. A pope needs to be more than a symbol. He actually has things to do, and given the state of affairs during the last few years of John Paul's reign, I'm afraid a symbol was not enough.

As my friend Bud MacFarlane says, the modern papacy needs younger old guys.

Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation between church and state"

What better day than Thanksgiving to link to a masterful article describing this long-misunderstood quote, taken from Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.

Jefferson, you see, was widely perceived as being somewhat less than religious, even atheist, and, as the article says, "The Baptists, who supported Jefferson, were outsiders--a beleaguered religious and political minority in a region where a Congregationalist-Federalist axis dominated political life."

Here is the quote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Author Daniel L. Dreisbach gives us a sense of what Jefferson really believed:

Throughout his public career, including two terms as President, Jefferson pursued policies incompatible with the "high and impregnable" wall the modern Supreme Court has erroneously attributed to him. For example, he endorsed the use of federal funds to build churches and to support Christian missionaries working among the Indians. The absurd conclusion that countless courts and commentators would have us reach is that Jefferson routinely pursued policies that violated his own "wall of separation."

Much more in the full article.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde's reaction to the HHS contraceptive mandate

The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde is Bishop of Arlington and spiritual leader of Northern Virginia’s nearly half million Catholics.  He recently commented on the decision by the Obama Administration to mandate sterilization and contraceptive coverage, including abortifacients, in health insurance plans offered by religious institutions, such as colleges and hospitals.

If you're Catholic—and maybe even if you're not—you might be interested in my reaction to his statement.  Among other things, it was a near-perfect example of "preaching to the converted," but do read the entire critique.

St. John Bosco (1815-1888)

Today's saint was an educator, who never forgot the practical side, and encouraged vocational training along with the religion and academic subjects.  Like St. Philip Neri before him, he would take to the streets, and reach out to unfortunate youth. 

Indeed, he built up a following before formal schools were constructed.  He achieved extraordinary success...

At the time of Don Bosco's death there were 250 houses of his Salesian Society in all parts of the world, containing 130,000 children, and from which there annually went out 18,000 finished apprentices.  (New Advent)

He was also the first saint who submitted to a press interview.  Canonized in 1934, Bosco remains a model of the ideal teacher.

The Penn State, Syracuse, and ensuing sex scandals

Here in the Washington DC metro area, there are plenty of Penn Staters. Some of these alums are rabid enough football fans to tackle the 400 mile round trip necessary to attend all the home games.

Needless to say, they are in shock, and many refuse to speak about the matter at all.

While there has been no shortage of media coverage, one topic is strangely absent from any story I have read or watched. Maybe it's because the topic is indelicate, although today's media can hardly be accused of having much restraint. Perhaps it's because the topic cuts way too deep.

What I'm referring to is the undercurrent of homoeroticism that exists in all competitive sports. There is, after all, a fine line between the promotion and admiration of physical perfection, and the tendency to take it a step further. Likewise, there is a fine line between so-called "horseplay"—the same word has always been used as a cover, going back at least to Bill Tilden—and intentional sexual harassment.

Moreover, for a predator such as Jerry Sandusky, few environments can match an athletic locker room.

Inevitably, these scandals will be compared to the pedophilia occurring in the Catholic Church, but I will offer one difference—slight though it may be. There were a number of priests, including Fr. Leonard Feeney, who spoke out against the rising number of gay priests (way back in the late 1940s), and the acceptance of a gay subculture within the priesthood.

These clerics also noted with dismay the overly close relationship between certain priests and their charges. Sadly, many of those who did speak out were persecuted, and even worse, were ignored.

The records show that the majority of the so-called "pedophilia" cases that occurred within the Church actually involved adolescents, some of whom appeared to be in consensual relationships. Yet, based on the promise of easy money and the built-in animosity that society has always had for the Church, the lawsuits and media coverage proliferated.

No, I am not justifying any of this sordid behavior, but the word "pedophilia" conjures up the image of a small, defenseless child being molested, which provokes even more outrage.

Contrast this with the fact that no one within Penn State or Syracuse spoke out on these matters until the story had already broken.

If athletics are to be held in greater esteem than religion in this society, more's the pity that the overwhelming interest is in being a spectator, rather than as participant.