Monday, January 30, 2012

Sola Scriptura

This past week I began what will hopefully be a fruitful dialogue with a woman who is, by her definition a Christian (as opposed to a Catholic, which is what she used to be before she found Jesus). Make no mistake, I also call her a Christian (in that she believes in Christ) I just object to her claim that Catholics do not believe in Christ. According to her, she was "more" Catholic than I am, which begs the question of why she left. After all, if she was more completely devoted to the Church, more understanding of the truth, then why abandon said Church and truth.

Her position is that nothing can be said about the Bible except other texts in the Bible. In other words, the Bible is its own commentary, and one interprets it by reading different parts of it. She has requested that I use only the Bible to prove my points. The nice part about it is that I have not read the Bible as much as a good Catholic should, and this is a perfect opportunity to become more familiar with scripture. As St. Jerome said "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."

So I was thinking about her claims as I did my research, and realized something. Totally by coincidence (of course), my friend Owen Swain posted a link on Google+ about Sola Scriptura which said the same thing I was thinking. Namely, if scripture alone holds the truth, and it is self-interpreting, how came someone publish a book on it? For that matter, how can one evangelize? This woman is arguing for me to accept her interpretation of scripture, but if scripture is its own interpretation than either (a) the Catholic interpretation is as valid as hers, or (b)we are both wrong.

In fact, by telling me how to interpret scripture, she is doing what she decries the Catholic Church for doing - preaching "outside" of scripture. And so I think the question I must pose is "who is more likely to have a correct interpretation of scripture?" A woman with no formal training who reads the Bible every day for 14 years, or a bishop who has at least two PhDs in theology and Philosophy, at least seven honorary PhDs, has been at the forefront of theology and Biblical studies for years, and who has written numerous books on the subject. Oh yes, and has read the Bible every day since (at least) 1951. My answer appears at the top of this post.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ice Age (not the movie)

It's been over a year since I wrote Stupid Letters, The Global Warming Scam, and Science? I Think Not! As you may recall, I've noted that the best predictor of Earth's climate is not CO2, but solar activity.

So, since a noble squirrel friend pointed me towards this article in the UK Daily Mail, I thought I'd make a quick post about it.
The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.
of course, this can't be right, can it?
Yet, in its paper, the Met Office claimed that the consequences now would be negligible – because the impact of the sun on climate is far less than man-made carbon dioxide. Although the sun’s output is likely to decrease until 2100, ‘This would only cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08C.’ Peter Stott, one of the authors, said: ‘Our findings suggest a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases.’

These findings are fiercely disputed by other solar experts.

‘World temperatures may end up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more,’ said Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at Denmark’s National Space Institute. ‘It will take a long battle to convince some climate scientists that the sun is important. It may well be that the sun is going to demonstrate this on its own, without the need for their help.’

He pointed out that, in claiming the effect of the solar minimum would be small, the Met Office was relying on the same computer models that are being undermined by the current pause in global-warming.
So we have the battle of astronomers and climate scientists using actual data, against climate "scientists" who cling to their computer simulations. The points I think are worth learning from all of the brouhaha are:
  1. The Earth's climate is constantly changing. Global warming Climate Change is not something new.
  2. Despite our desire to have everything about us, not everything is about us.
That's not to say that I don't think we should respect the environment or conserve energy (I do), but simply that alarmist propaganda is just that - a manufactured crisis in order to create an opportunity to push an ideological agenda.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Language of Abortion

A friend pointed me to Aggie Catholics where they have this great pro-life commercial by Signal Hill. I've written before, in "What's another word for 'thesaurus'?" about how human beings are dehumanized by language, and in particular the claim that calling human beings "human beings" is too vague.

Signal Hill is an advocate for human rights that provides information on life issues, women's health, and family support. Signal Hill's position is grounded in the conviction that the life of human beings ought to be understood as a fundamental human right and protected from conception until natural end.

Signal Hill undertakes in-depth research and provides leadership in the fields of life issues, women's health and human rights. We provide resources for counseling, outreach, support and understanding for women and families struggling with issues surrounding pregnancy, abortion and other life-related issues. We are non-judgmental, compassionate and caring. Signal Hill faces today's most challenging issues with maturity, dignity and academic excellence. Everyone has the right to make informed decisions and it is our mission to make certain that education is provided with clarity and individual support.
There is a large amount of educational and helpful material available on the site. I wish we had a similar site in the US (or maybe we do - please post if you know of one). I know about Option Line, but they don't have the same depth of informational materials as Signal Hill.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Science of the Gaps

One phrase used by atheists and Christians alike is "god of the gaps". The phrase originally meant that that it is not helpful to say that whatever science can't explain is God, because someday science may explain it. Today, however, it is used as a panacea in ay discussion about the existence of God. But, as Isaac Asimov's Salvor Hardin remarks in Foundation (one of the greatest SF books of all time), "It's poor atom blaster that won't point both ways."

The book of Genesis is often scoffed at as being unscientific, but the scoffers miss an important point - it is not a science text. However, it does impart some truths which are scientifically verifiable, but which atheists throughout history have railed against, even to the point of distorting science. Creation, for instance. Genesis teaches that the universe, and everything in it was created, and created over time.

And so we have early natural philosophers (for so were physicists called) declaring that the Earth was static and unchanging. Until it was incontrovertibly shown that mountains and oceans did rise and fall, and there were earlier forms of life, and even a time when the Earth itself wasn't. No, problem, must be the stars that are eternal. But then we saw stars die, and eventually, be born, and that was no longer defensible.

OK, cried the astronomers, but the universe itself is in a steady state and has existed forever. Until the "primeval atom" or "big bang" (which was the creation deniers' own derogatory term for it) destroyed that claim. Now atheists embrace the big bang, and we hear that the universe might come and go, but it's just because the multiverse is eternal. Except now that idea too appears to be false, as the BVG theorem says that any multiverse with universes with an expansion rate greater than zero (like our own universe) has to have a beginning.

I know, I've written about this before in "Belief Part 3", but this is a blog about what I think. I think it seems like the creation deniers' "gap" is getting smaller and smaller.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

March for Life 2012

Where has Mike been? At the March for Life in Washington D.C. I would have loved to have blogged about the event beforehand, but life got in the way. So, here's my all too brief recap.

This was my second time at the march. Despite all the news stories showing "clashes" between pro-life and pro-choice protests (in near equal numbers), neither I nor anybody I spoke with has ever seen a pro-choice protester during the march. I'm told by some locals that there is a small group of a dozen or so pro-choice protesters who come with news teams for a photo shoot at the Supreme Court building early in the day, before the march starts, and then leave. As I said I have not seen it, but if you look at the news shots they never show anything but closeups featuring a small number of pro-choicers. I do know that from before the march starts until it ends the Supreme Court steps are empty. [BTW if you look at the Washington Post slideshow linked to above, my favorite is picture 4, where an "antiabortion advocate, points her finger at an abortion rights advocate" - they don't mention the blurry finger in the foregound that the abortion rights advocate is giving the antiabortion advocate]

From what I saw, this year's march was about the same size as last year, although people who have been going for many years said they thought it was bigger. The U.S. government will not allow the official head count to be released, but according to LifeSiteNews the number was estimated to be 400,000. The thing that was different about this year's march was the ages. The last march I was at was a pretty good cross section of young to old. This year the march was by far dominated by kids. By kids I mean high school and college age kids. They were religious (one group handed me free rosary beads), political (many had "I vote Pro-life first!") signs and friendly (one group was giving free hugs).

A group of young ladies and gentleman gave me an "I'm worth waiting for" sticker, although I told them that I being married with three kids, I hadn't been waiting for a long time. I saw the very vocal "Silent No More" women, the "Chicago Life Mob" people, and the TFP youth, all impeccably dressed and handing out material while the bagpipes played.

I took a few pictures, but my batteries died at some point and by the time I replaced them I had lost some good photo ops. Here's a few that I did get:

I'm sot sure what building it was, but the people on the steps in the background were all spectators who were cheering wildly as we passed, and dancing on the steps, and the ones in front were giving out the free hugs.

The brave "Silent No More" women started the march right behind us.

It's hard to see much from the middle of the march (actually we were right near the front, but it's hard to tell). The umbrellas made it harder.

We passed the Chicago "Life mob" people. I'd seen their flash mob video and their pro-life rosary video.

They were carrying two platforms with cheerleaders on them. They were singing and chanting like crazy. I can't believe the amount of energy these kids have!

Not my finest shot, but this is looking down Constitution Ave. from Capitol Hill. The yellow crane, near the left hand side of the picture, is near where the rally was before the march started. Having been near the end of the march before I can tell you that it takes something like an hour after the march starts before the people in back even get moving.

Just another random shot taken during the march. I think this is near the Supreme Court, which is where the march officially ends. However, there is a steady stream of people continuing on to go talk to their representatives. The pro-choice ones make it a point to be either out or in "staff meetings" the entire time, so you don't actually get to speak to them, but you can leave messages with their staff.

The pro-life representatives have receptions for their constituents and whoever else wants to join. This was in "the gold room" of the house offices, where Congressmen Garrett and Smith, of New Jersey, were handing out donuts, coffee and other refreshments to pro-lifers after the march. The room was packed, so we basically got some food and went searching for our pro-choice legislators.

I could write about the fun we had on five hour ride down or the five hour ride home, but I'll leave that to your imagination. I left my house at 5:30 AM and got home at 10:30 PM. A long day, but a satisfying one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weasel Words

I've been reading the text of S-1/A-1, the latest attempt by the New Jersey legislature to redefine marriage, and I find the wording troubling. The bill purports to create equality for same sex couples who are currently being discriminated against by hospital visitation policies and employers' benefits.

I think the most troubling thing about this bill, for those who oppose or support same-sex relationships, is that it is deemed necessary at all. Under the current NJ civil union laws, P.L.2006 C103, same-sex couples are provided "the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who choose to marry" and now we are being told the law needs to be changed to provide same-sex couples with the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who choose to marry. But that language is already in the law. One has to ask why the existing law is not being enforced, and why should we expect a new law granting identical rights will be enforced any differently?

But there are also many important differences in the wording of the law. The existing law authorizes religious institutions (and others) to conduct same-sex civil unions. The new law requires that they do so, except for very narrow restrictions. The existing law states exemptions for [emphasis mine]:
any institution, bona fide club, or place of accommodation, which is in its nature distinctly private; nor shall anything herein contained apply to any educational facility operated or maintained by a bona fide religious or sectarian institution
any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization
The proposed law contains the following exemption:
no member of the clergy of any religion...shall be required to solemnize any marriage
any such religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof
The exemption for performing same-sex "marriages" only applies to clergy and employees. The definition of clergy is "ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdoatal functions." How would this apply to denominations that have non-ordained ministers or elders? In fact, the original text of the bill said ministers or clergy, but the word "minister" was removed. The second exemption applies only to actions of employees of religious organizations. Many (most) functions of many churches are performed by lay ministers who are not employees, and therefore they would not be protected under the law.

But all of this points to a bigger problem. The exemption is based on religious organizations, not on individual belief. I can refuse to support same sex unions if I am an employee of the Church, but as a member I have no protection under the law. For that matter, an atheist who believes marriage is the union of a man and woman has no conscience protection. If an exemption is allowable for belief, then it should be made on the basis of belief, not on employment. If an exemption is not allowable based on belief, employment should not matter.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


It seems, according to a Mr. Zimmer, that NASA has wasted $2.5 billion, because scientists can't define life. Last November, NASA launched Curiousity, a rover designed to look for life on Mars. However, according to the article:
When NASA says it wants to find out if Mars was ever suitable for life, they use a very circumscribed version of the word. They are looking for signs of liquid water, which all living things on Earth need. They are looking for organic carbon, which life on Earth produces and, in some cases, can feed on to survive. In other words, they’re looking on Mars for the sorts of conditions that support life on Earth.

But there’s no good reason to assume that all life has to be like the life we’re familiar with. In 2007, a board of scientists appointed by the National Academies of Science decided they couldn’t rule out the possibility that life might be able to exist without water or carbon. If such weird life on Mars exists, Curiosity will probably miss it.
Of course, the claim of the article, that scientists can't define life, is absurd. The standard definition of life used by biologists is in no way restricted to carbon-based water loving life forms. But we do have to use some criteria for looking for life, and in fact, I think looking for places that we think are like Earth is a good strategy. Certainly we stand a greater chance of finding life if we look in places like those where we know life exists.

But what the article fails to mention is how we could look for the kinds of life proposed. If we make no assumptions about the chemistry used or the conditions required, we literally have to look at everything, everywhere. That is not something we have the technology to do. It's easy to criticize someone else's methodology as being too narrow, but harder to come up with an alternative approach.

A few years ago I attended a lecture by Freeman Dyson. He has an interesting idea, which I like to explain this way. There's an old joke about a drunk looking for his keys under a street lamp. A passerby stops and helps him look and finally asks if he's sure the keys are here. The drunk replies that he thinks he lost the keys in the alley. Then why have we been searching here? Because the light is better, says the drunk.

Dyson's idea is not to look for life where we think it is, but to look where it is easy to look. Hunters find animals in the dark by shining a light out into the darkness, and when the animals look back, observing the reflections from their eyes. The method is called "pit lamping" and it is illegal in most places.

According to Dyson we could search for life in the solar system without ever leaving Earth. We simply (OK, it's not that simple, but easier than sending robotic probes) illuminate parts of the solar system with powerful beams of light and using ground-based telescopes observe the reflection. By analyzing the spectrum of the returning light we could look for chlorophyll or other chemicals associated with photosynthesis. This assumes the life gets its energy from light, which is not necessarily true either, but as I said some assumptions have to be made or the search is too hard.

Dyson gives a similar lecture in the TED talk entitled Let's look for life in the outer solar system.

At about 3:50 into the video he begins speaking about the search for life. It sounds like a viable way to search, for someone who had the desire and funds. Is it a likely way to find life? Dyson himself admits it is not, but it covers a large amount of real estate very cheaply.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Banning Books

Well, looks like old "Sarah" (if that's her real name) is up to it again. This time, though, she's posing as homosexuals. That's right. In Spain, no less!

According to this article in LifeSiteNews, a homosexual campaign to suppress a book on healing same-sex attraction backfired, creating lots of publicity for the book.
A campaign waged by homosexuals in Spain to suppress a book about reparative therapy for homosexuality has backfired, generating media coverage that has drawn new attention to the formerly ignored work.

As a result, the publisher says that it has been overwhelmed by requests for the book and is now in the process of printing 7,000 more copies.

“Understanding and Healing Homosexuality,” which has been available since 2004 in Spanish, became the object of protest in Spain in December when the book was republished by Libros Libres and the new edition appeared in the catalogs of such online booksellers as Amazon, La Casa del Libro (the House of Books), and La Corte Inglés (The English Court).

The book, written by therapist Richard Cohen, discusses Cohen’s own liberation from homosexual attraction, what he regards as the principal causes of the problem, and methods for bringing about the healing of same-sex desires.

The appearance of the new edition sparked a protest on Twitter and other Internet media, including a petition that gathered tens of thousands of signatures demanding the removal of the book. Reporting on the campaign in the Spanish news media began on December 27th and has continued unabated.

Asked about the controversy in the Spanish media, Cohen told El Pais that he believes that “gays and lesbians who are happy have the right to live their lives. I would hope that they would respect the right of other who want to explore an exit from homosexuality.”
Join a Facebook page to defend marriage here.

P.S. I know this must really be Sarah in disguise, as everyone knows homosexuals are all about freedom and Sarah is evil.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My marriage won't affect you

"My marriage doesn't affect you" is the phrase used by some proponents of redefining marriage to mean, well, whatever they want to mean today. The claim is that redefining marriage is a "private" thing, and it is not your concern. But marriage is not a private thing, and it does affect us all.

Here in New Jersey same-sex civil unions have been recognized by the state since 2006. According to the bill:
Those rights and benefits afforded to same-sex couples under the “Domestic Partnership Act” should be expanded by the legal recognition of civil unions between same-sex couples in order to provide these couples with all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy;
And the state of NJ is now considering yet another bill (actually the same bill that failed to pass in 2010) to redefine marriage because, as I pointed out in "Same-sex marriage, why not?" and further explained in "Bigot", it doesn't matter if they have all of the rights, same sex "marriage" is about getting the state to force you to accept such relationships as being "good". If you care about this kind of bullying, call your legislators and governor Christie and ask them to oppose this bill and defend marriage and religious rights.

But back to my point. Redefining marriage will affect you. Last week a New Jersey judge declared that a United Methodist Church had to allow same-sex civil unions on its property in spite of its moral beliefs. From LifeSiteNews:
The United Methodist Church teaches, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

But Judge Metzger said church doctrine was irrelevant...

“He said this isn’t a case of religious liberty, which is simply not true,” Jim Campbell, who represented the resort and serves as litigation staff counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), told “What this case involves at its core is the rights of a religious group to use its property in a way that is consistent with its religious beliefs.”

Campbell said most people will find Metzger’s belief that the state can force a religious facility to violate its conscience “a very scary concept. If that is a principle of the law, then essentially the government can cast aside religion if it deems something more important.” Campbell called Metzger’s ruling “an error of Constitutional law.”

The local ruling seems to place non-discrimination above concerns of religious liberty, the mirror image of a Supreme Court ruling that took place earlier in the week. In the Hosanna-Tabor case, Chief Justice John Roberts ruled: “The interest of society in the enforcement of employment discrimination statutes is undoubtedly important. But so, too, is the interest of religious groups in choosing who will preach their beliefs, teach their faith and carry out their mission.” He concluded, “the First Amendment has struck the balance for us.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

What were they thinking?

One of the rights guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights is the right to free speech. Here is what hey wrote:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
What do you think the founding fathers had in mind?
  1. Citizens should be able to criticize their government and express their opinions and beliefs without fear of government reprisal?
  2. Children should all be forced to hear F-bombs wherever they go?
Ironically we live in a time when the government tells religious institutions they cannot speak about matters the government deems as "political speech" (even if the topic is one of morality and religious values) without losing their status as religious institutions (and thus lose all of their other first amendment protections), while it tells us we cannot create a venue which does not expose our children to explicit language.

Is this what most Americans want? I don't think so. As I was thinking about this topic I came across this article at LifeSiteNews "New numbers show G-rated movies earn 3 to 5 times more than R-rated." One has to wonder, when big media is lobbying for no restrictions on vulgar and sexually explicit language for children's programming, are they doing it because they think their viewers/listeners want it or because they want to push their agenda on our children? What were they thinking?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Love and Hate

The video in my previous blog post referred to a statement from the following video, "Penn Jillette gets a gift of a bible". In the video Jillette, an avowed atheist, is confronted by a man who gives him a religious booklet, and he (Penn Jillette) says [emphasis mine]:
If you believe that there's a heaven and a hell, and you could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life, or whatever, and you think that it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward - and atheists who think that people shouldn't proselytize, just leave me alone keep your religion to yourself - how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

If I believed that a truck was coming towards you and you didn't believe it, and the truck was bearing down on you; there's a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.

On May 18, 2011 I met Bill. I was praying the rosary with some others in front of an abortion clinic. Bill parked his car across the street and walked over to our side. He saw our rosary beads and asked if we were Catholic. He then proceeded to tell us that we were damned to hell, that our priests were all pedophiles, that we worshiped idols, and other interesting facts.

I walked over to him and started defending the faith. The conversation became heated, and for about 10 minutes he and I shouted in each other's faces. After a while we got tired of yelling. I told him I'd listen to him without interruption or contradiction for as long as he liked if he would do the same.

He told me he was an altar boy, and wanted to be a priest, but his mother stopped him, because had he stayed in Catholic institutions he knows he would have been repeatedly raped. He told me that I worshiped my rosary without knowing it. he told me that priests are evil, and contrary to the Bible, which is the sole word of God. He told me that all churches were evil, and that Satan had entered into the church. And he told me I had only a few days to live, because the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. But most of all, he sincerely thanked me for listening.

In turn I told him that priests who break their vow of celibacy are not living what the Church teaches, that he can't know what would have happened, that I use my rosary as a counting aid so I can concentrate on my prayer, that priests are all over the Bible (remember Caiaphas?). I agreed about Satan, and told him the Pope had said something similar and that we must understand that we (he and I) are not enemies, but our common enemy is Satan. And I told him that I thought he was wrong about the world ending.

Bill remained unconvinced, but we spoke calmly and respectfully to each other after that. I explained to him that the reason why I defended my faith so vigorously wasn't because I hated him but because I wanted to see him in heaven. God wills all men be saved, and so it is important to me that he hear the truth in order to have that option.

In the end, we hugged and parted friends, although still disagreeing on many thing. I made Bill and offer (that still stands); if the world didn't end on May 21, to come back one Wednesday and we'd have lunch together and talk more. In the meantime, I said I'd pray for him. Bill replied that if he wasn't taken up one May 21 he'd know he wasn't saved and there wouldn't be any more point to life.

I prayed hard for Bill. When he didn't show up the next Wednesday, I prayed harder, hoping that he hadn't done anything rash when he wasn't taken up. I kept this up for weeks, and carried a Bible with me wherever I went, so that if I met Bill, I could show him some passages.

I never did meet Bill again. As you can see by this blog post, I still think about Bill, and still pray for him. I pray for you too, dear reader, and ask that you pray for Bill, and for me. And Bill, if somehow you read this blog post, come on back. Lunch is on me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Got 14.5 minutes?

Then please watch (or at least listen to) the first 14:30 of this video:

On June 25, 2011 LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen gave this powerful and moving talk to a Toronto, Canada audience. Westen, in a personal way, presented an overview of LSN reporting philosophy related especially to the most controversial issues covered by this news service. John-Henry received a standing ovation from the conference audience at the end of his presentation.

There are consistent themes tying the entire talk together as well as specific divisions within the talk as follows:

1. The first 14 and one-half minutes addresses the reasons, experiences and philosophy behind LifeSiteNews coverage of the homosexual issue.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Defending racism for "the cause"

The Huffington Post published this story about Rick Santorum, including the following video. In their usual style, HuffPo follows the video with a long series of Planned Parenthood apologetics, about how women will lose their heath care if Planned Parenthood doesn't receive federal funding.
As Live Action has proven, Planned Parenthood for the most part doesn't perform these health procedures anyway. But of course, that is not mentioned. Nor is the fact that Santorum didn't call for shutting them down, or even reducing funding for women's health care, he specifically mentioned redirecting it to less controversial providers. But the facts don't seem to matter here - this is a fight for principles!

The article quotes Pamela Merritt of RH Reality Check who writes
We do not associate the Ford Motor Company with anti-semitism, despite the well documented history of it’s founder Henry Ford in collaborating with Nazis and we should not associate contemporary reproductive health care providers or the reproductive justice movement with eugenics because of some views expressed by Margaret Sanger.
and that's true, but Ford Motor Company was founded for the purpose of making automobiles, not collaborating with Nazis, and it continues to make automobiles today. Planned Parenthood was founded specifically to promote birth control, sterilization, and abortion in order to reduce the "undesirables", and it is still performing these "services" today.

From The Negro project:
Sanger built the work of the ABCL, and, ultimately, Planned Parenthood, on the ideas and resources of the eugenics movement. Grant reported that "virtually all of the organization’s board members were eugenicists." Eugenicists financed the early projects, from the opening of birth control clinics to the publishing of "revolutionary" literature. Eugenicists comprised the speakers at conferences, authors of literature and the providers of services "almost without the exception." And Planned Parenthood’s international work was originally housed in the offices of the Eugenics Society. The two organizations were intertwined for years.
So, is the HuffPo defending women's rights? Or are they defending a corporation that made over a billion dollars last year, with almost $500 million of it from your tax dollars? It seems the people who are outraged when the government bails out "big business" in financial trouble are quite willing to overlook government funding a big business that's doing great, as long as the business is abortion.

But the whole "racism" thing is ultimately not the primary reason to defund Planned Parenthood. The fact that they kill babies is. I would like to leave you with this post by Abbey Johnson:
True story. I once read about a man named Dennis Rader. He was very active in his community. He was a deacon in his church, a cub scout leader, a military man, and a volunteer for many different local organizations. He has two children by his wife of 34 years. Radar was caught and arrested in 2005 and sentenced to multiple life sentences. Why? During a 17 year time period, Rader (also known at the BTK killer) stalked, tortured, raped and killed 10 women. Shouldn't we just let that slide? I mean, he was a really good guy...look at all of the good stuff he did. Nevermind that he killed ten women. Certainly we can overlook that, right? Of course not. However, that is EXACTLY what many people do when they think of Planned Parenthood. Well, PP does so much good...perhaps we can just look over the more than 320,000 children that they kill every year. Why do we give PP a pass, but not other criminals?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Rite

I was in a conversation online a long time ago, about the movie "The Rite". Having summed up a bit about it in 140 characters I thought I'd go for a more verbose medium. Of course, it took me months to get around to blogging it, and you've probably already seen the movies, do probably never will. But here goes anyway. This post will cover the book as well. I'd warn you that this post contains spoilers for the movie, but that would imply something to spoil. OK, I'll avoid spoilers.

The Book
The book The Rite is an interesting treatment of exorcism. And who isn't fascinated by the supernatural? We all want proof of the existence of things beyond our experience. I think it is comforting in some respect to know these things exist, because it points to the existence of God, and not just any God, but a God who loves us and who is infinitely good and powerful.

In the book, Matt Baglio intertwines a biography of Fr. Gary Thomas with the history and real world experiences of exorcism. The story is not scary, although it is disturbing to think of the reality of demonic oppression and possession, and our part (or lack of it) in the spiritual battle for souls. I think most Christians, and most Catholics, are ashamed to mention exorcism, since it sounds so superstitious and "unscientific." That's what society tells us it is, and I can't help but think that in itself is a demonic influence.

If you are a Christian you have to admit the existence of demons, or deny the words of Christ himself. Although recent bible "scholars" have tried to convince us that Jesus' driving out of demons was really Him healing schizophrenia, their argument remains unconvincing. First off, we have Jesus' healing of the paralytic in Mark 2.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!
Jesus is teaching that a spiritual event can have physical consequences. I don't think that He's trying to say all physical ailments are a result of sin, because He doesn't generally heal people by saying "your sins are forgiven", but He is saying that sin is real and forgiveness from sin can cure a physical illness. Likewise when He cures the demoniacs, Jesus doesn't say "be sane" but "Go!".
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,[a] two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
If demons did not exist, Jesus would not have bothered to talk to them. He could have healed them of a mental illness as simply as He healed the Centurion's servant.

And whether or not you're a Christian, you have to admit that there are phenomenon that science can't explain. The Catholic church is very skeptical about miracles and all supernatural phenomena in general, employing investigators who are skeptics to investigate these things before arriving at the conclusion that things are beyond science. In fact, before an exorcism can be attempted it is generally necessary to find some proof that the condition isn't medical. The priest will speak to the affected person and look for signs of possession. Such signs may include knowledge of events that the person could not know, ability to speak and understand all languages, the ability to tell the difference between blessed and unblessed objects. These are abilities you don't get form a mental illness.

I found the book enlightening, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had read it in anticipation of the movie, and so when the movie came out, and was not panned, I saw it. What a huge disappointment.

If you are at all curious about the subject, rather than watching Hollywood's distorted views, I urge you to read the book. Or. if you prefer a different medium, Catholic Answers Live! also has interviews available with both Matt Baglio and Fr. Gary Thomas.

The Movie
If you want to see the movie be advised that other than titles and names very little is like the book. The protagonist (Michael Kovak, played by Colin O'Donoghue) is not a priest, he's a seminarian who's dropping out because he doesn't believe God exists. Despite this, a priest looks on as the seminarian gives last rites to a woman. Of course, the priest should have been doing himself, since a seminarian cannot validly give last rites or forgiven sins - or perform an exorcism for that matter (but I get ahead of myself). This scene, early in the film, looks like the setup for something deep, but it is just a random event not referred to again.

Of course there has to be a woman involved, in this case a secular journalist (Angeline, played by Alice Braga) who's trying to get an interview with the very priest (Fr. Lucas, played by Anthony Hopkins) that the seminarian is assigned to study under. The whole thing is bad theologically, and as a movie completely predictable and relies on cheap tricks like a cat jumping at you to try to be scary. The makeup and special effects are so overdone as to detract from the story rather than enhance it. Even Hopkins (whom I usually like) doesn't seem to be able to do anything with this movie.

The climax is, like the rest, predictable and bad. I wish I could tell you what it is so you could grimace, but I did say I'd leave out spoilers.

Oh, and there's one scene in which I think Fr. Lucas makes the sign of the cross incorrectly. I'm not sure and I don't have the desire to see it again just to make sure, but it looked like it to me when I saw it.

Of course my views of the movie are partially based on my disappointment at it not being the book. And it wasn't totally bad. On the plus side, there is a scene involving a frog that I thought was very well done. And as much as I didn't like this movie I must admit that it's better than "The Exorcist" sequels. If you like exorcism films, I think the best one I've seen is "The Exorcism of Emily Rose".

Just to prove I'm not nuts here's another review that runs along the lines of this one (but contains spoilers).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why not?

I saw this editorial cartoon by Steve Benson on Jill Stanek's site the other day. According to Jill, Benson is the one obsessing about banning abortion, not Santorum.

I think the whole thing is absurd, along with this "Santorum is coming for your birth control" idiocy. The president does not have the authority to ban abortion or confiscate condoms. The real goal is to scare people into voting for a president who has looser morals than they do because, hey, then he can't possibly criticize anyone else.

I say absurd, because what we desperately need in politics are people with morals. When we elect people who are OK with killing children, why are we surprised that they can't be trusted with money either?

But the good thing about this cartoon is it got me thinking. Is banning abortion really the way to fix the economy? To end war? To balance the budget? Last year, the federal government paid close to $350,000,000 directly to the abortion industry. What if we got rid of that? I know it's a drop in the bucket, but what would happen economically if abortion were banned?

As I pointed out in my post "Healthcare economics and abortion" the children aborted since Roe v. Wade would have contributed 17 trillion dollars to the US GDP. And that's net gain, not gross.

So, if you want to make fun of the idea that banning abortion is the solution to all our problems go ahead. But you've chosen some pretty shaky ground to stand on.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Monument to the Unborn

"On 28 October 2011 at 16:00 o'clock in Nova Ves Bardejovske a dedication ceremony was held for this memorial to unborn children, which is the work of a young sculptor Martin Hudáčeka of Banska Bystrica. This ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, Ivan Uhliarik MD.

The idea to build a memorial to unborn children came from the community of young women, mothers who are deeply aware of the value of each human life and the damage that is inflicted by abortion; not only a waste of unborn children, but also permanent damage on the mental (and sometimes physical) health of every woman who chooses to abort her unborn child.

The monument expresses sorrow and regret, not only mothers but also forgiveness and love for the unborn child to mother.

Initiators thank all who contributed financially, or otherwise make this work."