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February 2005 Archives

February 1, 2005

Suspicious Cartoons

Ah, SpongeBob, how little we knew ye. I think this is hilarious:

February 13, 2005

Predicting the Future

I just found this link off of slashdot. The summary is this: a scientist has developed a machine for generating random numbers. This machine appears to be able to be influenced by human thought, and appears to be able to predict (when several are aggregated from around the world) catastrophes several hours before they happen.

I, for one, would love to know how these things work. Random number generation is kinda difficult, and the first of these devices supposedly was developed back in the 70’s. I say: show me the money. But still, the article (mostly fluff, really) claims they have the power of statistics and a lot of respected mathematicians and other scientists behind them. I’m skeptical, but… what a fascinating concept, if true.

February 16, 2005

Indulgences

I was pointed at this by a friend (Rich). A different perspective on the concept of indulgences than the one I usually think of (with the whole “buying your way out of hell” thing). What seems key to me is that sin generates not only damnation (estrangement from God), but punishment. Forgiveness alleviates damnation, while indulgence alleviates punishment.

Next question: if your parents are in heaven, will they be pleased to know you are undergoing punishment? Is that truly heaven for them? What about your spouse (if you have one)? Is “ignorance is bliss” a part of the nature of heaven?

How does “ignorance is bliss” translate to the idea that in the story of Adam and Eve, it was the Tree of Knowledge whose fruit they ate? Is heaven a return to ignorance, and a loss of all kinds of knowledge in return for happiness?

Is that a trade I would make?

February 21, 2005

Religous Ponderings

So, some thoughts…

First, Cosby was wrong. He said that God made all sorts of creatures, and saw that they were good. But then He made man, and DIDN’T say that man was good. Cosby was WRONG. Read Genesis, chapter 1 - line 27, God creates man. Here’s the critical one, line 31: And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day. Eat that, Cosby.

Yeah, yeah, debunking comedians is shooting fish in a barrel. I’m just saying. Otherwise, it’s a really funny bit that he does on the Bible.

Now, I’ve talked to Emily, and one of the things she’s pondered is the question, “What is the purpose of marriage?” Why get married? What’s the point? She asked a bunch of people, and the only person who gave her an answer that she could hold on to and really believe was her mom, who said: the purpose of marriage is to have children.

Now, this answer bothers me. It’s so means-to-an-ends-ish, you know? It seems to me that one should get married because you want to get married, not because you want kids. I mean, if kids is all you want, go to a sperm bank or something; marriage is a commitment not to yourself and your own genes, but it is a commitment to the person you’re marrying. That’s the big deal, when you get married, you say “I wanna marry THIS person.” I believe there’s a REASON for that, and it’s not just “well, that’s what you need to say and feel and that’s the attitude you need to have if you wanna raise your kids in the right atmosphere.” If marriage is just a waypoint en route to having children, why is marriage a sacrament, and not birth?

I was reading one of the books Emily gave me, “The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explained” by George Weigel. Weigel wrote Pope John Paul II’s bibliography, so he’s very conversant with John Paul’s philosophies and writings… though some of what Weigel says has a tendency to make logical leaps that look rather larger than I want to go. Anyway, one of the ten controversies he addresses is the Catholic Church’s position on sex and love, and I found a passage I like:

The judgement that the Catholic Church is both prudish and sex-obsessed is deeply entrenched in the Western world today. Catholics and non-Catholics alike believe it. The mass media assumes it. It’s simply the way things are, to hundreds of millions of people.

But it’s not the way things really are.

Deconstructing the myth of Catholic prudishness and engaging the Catholic sexual ethic for what it really is—namely, an affirmation of the gift of sexuality—means recognizing that the Church itself contributed to the myth’s formation. In its first centuries, Christianity decisively rejected the Manichaean heresy, which held that the world was inherently polluted, and took a theologically grounded stand against the claim that sexual love was intrinsically evil. The Church taught that to deprecate sexuality was to deny the great biblical truth contained in Genesis 1.31: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Unfortunately, that principled affirmation of sexual love as one of the goods of God’s creation frequently got lost over the centuries in a brier patch of theoretical confusions and legal entanglements.

Catholicism taught that marriage was a vocation, included marriage among the seven sacraments, and insisted that the couple, expressing their love through consent and sexual intimacy, were the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony. Yet for centuries the Church also taught a theory of the “ends,” or purposes, of marriage that too often turned into a denigration of sexual love. According to this theory, the “primary end” of marriage, and of sex, was the procreation and education of children. The sexual deepening of married love and the sexual contribution to the communion of husband and wifew were relegated to what the old theory called marriage’s “secondary ends,” which were rather primly described as “mutual consolation of the spouses” and “a remedy for concupiscience. ” Then there was the Church’s marriage law, which dealt with marriage on the analogy of a contract. By adopting a rather depersonalized view of sexuality, it, too, contributed to the widespread notion that for the Catholic Church, sexuality was far more a matter of legal prohibitions than of love.

The Catholic Church never officially taught that sexual love within the bond of marriage was inherently and intrinsically darkened by sin. To the contrary, the old marriage ritual included an instruction to the newlyweds in which they were told that “no greater blessing can come to your married life than pure, conjugal love, loyal and true to the end.” But the denigration of sexual love is what many people, including many Catholics, learned from the Catholic Church.

“No greater blessing can come to your married life than pure, conjugal love, loyal and true to the end.” It doesn’t say “no greater blessing can come… except having babies. That’s the real greatest blessing.” What I pull out of that is that marriage, believe it or not, is for the sake of itself (check this too). Marriage is a sacrament, birth is not, nor is the wedding. The sacrament is to engage in communion with God by administering the sacrament to each other. In other words, your job is to make life inherently better for your spouse, and vice versa. (I’m taking “communion with God” and substituting what I think is a more everyday-definition of “inherently more Good, in a Universal Good sort of way”) SEX is a way to do that. Better yet, here’s another passage a little later in the book that I think is also good, and deals more directly with sex (Father Karol J√≥zef Wojtyła, fyi, was Pope John Paul’s name before October 1978):

The starting point for grappling with the ethics of sexual love, Wojtyła suggests, is the basic moral truth that we should never use another person for our own purposes, whether those purposes are wealth, ego satisfaction, power, or pleasure. The imperative not to use others is the moral basis of freedom, Wojtyła argues. Only if we live this basic moral truth can we engage and interact with others freely and generously, without reducing others to manipulable objects. When two freedoms meet each other in pursuit of something they both believe to be good—when, for example, my freedom meets your freedom as we both seek knowledge or love—then we can both say, “I’m not using you,” and, “You’re not using me.” This is true of all human relationships, but it is especially true of love. For love is the meeting of two freedoms—my freedom and your freedom—seeking to give themselves away, to another who will receive that freedom as the gift of self. Loving, in other words, is the opposite of using.

If sexual love is simply another expression of personal autonomy, of freedom understood as “doiing it my way,” then whatever we may know about the biological facts of life, we are missing something crucial about the moral facts of life. Everyone recognizies that it is impossible to become a good person by cutting oneself off from others. That is precisely what we do when we reduce others to objects for sexual gratification, even if that gratification is mutual and consensual. We can make love without loving, and we remain essentially, painfully alone when we do.

Translation? If marriage is an act of giving oneself to another completely, sex is an obvious way to do that (and by the way, it’s supposed to feel good, enjoy it). Not only an obvious way to give yourself, the best and most pure. Loving sex is the purest expression of the sacrament of marriage, and it is its own reward, just like marriage. Of course, loving sex doesn’t have to mean “we do it slowly”, it just means that you’re both in it as a gift to the other.

On the other hand, there is a certain irony in getting marriage and sex advice from a man who has sworn off of both of them. Kinda like getting steak-grilling tips from a vegetarian, or mixed-drink recipes from a teetotaler . Not that they are necessarily bad recipes, it just seems a little odd.

Finally, before I go to bed and wonder why I only ever think of religion late at night, another thought brought up by reading from this book. In 1990, Pope John Paul II published an encyclical Redemptoris Missio that, at least, according to this George Weigel guy, boils down to: WE BELIEVE IN UNIVERSAL SALVATION (if God thinks you deserve it, and He probably will). (Read part 10 if you don’t believe me.) Essentially, the Catholic Church has for a long time told everyone “through Christ is the only way to salvation.” And it’s that word “only” that really bugs people (like me). The usual examples are “what about pygmies in the jungles of the Amazon who haven’t a chance to know Christ?” and the like, but it also includes those who do have an opportunity and simply don’t believe, for whatever reason (turned off by the hierarchy, dislike the authoritarianism, had a bad experience with a “believer”, God wasn’t there when he needed Him, etc. etc. etc.). The Church basically says: “look, everyone gets saved, through the grace of Christ. How does this work if you don’t know Christ? We have no idea, He didn’t tell us. How does this work if you don’t believe in Christ? We have no idea, He didn’t tell us. Does this mean, essentially, that every human has a relationship to the Catholic Church? You betcha, even if they don’t know it or don’t want one. Does this mean the whole missionary zeal thing is stupid? Heck no, Christ is cool, you’d like Him if you got to know Him, trust us, He makes life better for you. But! You don’t have Christ in your life? That’s fine, He’s be there for you anyway. Remember how we said Christ was cool like that? He is.”

Now THAT, my friend, is far better Good News than you get from your average fire and brimstone biblethumper. Do I believe it? Wellll…. I’m still a bit unsure on the whole sin and redemption thing to begin with. But it sounds nice.

Maybe next time I’ll thumb through the catechism. I hear the primacy of conscience stuff is neat.

February 24, 2005

Hate People

I don’t feel this way right now, but somehow it speaks to me.

About February 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Kyle in February 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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