Saturday, August 11, 2012

  1. Atlantis Found?
  2. John of Damascus on the Incarnation.
  3. Murfreesboro Muslims prevail.
  4. Choose one: self-employment or religious freedom.
  5. Nominalism distilled; drink at your own risk!
  6. Sexualizing Everything.
  7. Good cause, bad argument.
  8. Uncommonly Stupid Product Safety Warnings.

1

The National Geographic Channel will be running a special on the lost City of Atlantis, which may at last have been found in mud flats near Cadiz, Spain.

I’m pleased that National Geographic has, if only momentarily, found something to do besides running sensationalist hype based on bad religious scholarship during Holy Week.

2

By becoming human, God not only brought salvation to the world, but he also demonstrated his blessing on the physical world by using its materials to facilitate our salvation: a mother and a cave for his birth, flesh for his humanity, water for his baptism, bread and wine for the Last Supper, a tree for the Cross, and iron for the nails.

From Erin Doom’s description of one of “The Books of My Life,” Three Treatises on the Divine Images by St. John of Damascus, in Volume I, Number 1 of Synaxis.

3

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, home to The Sword of the Lord, founded by John R. Rice, has not done itself proud in the religious freedom realm lately.

For two years, Murfreesboro Muslims have fought to open their Mosque there, facing bomb threats, protests and vandalism as well as a legal battle. If all went according to plan, they finally held their first services there Friday night.

As I write this, I’m sure hoping there won’t be “Mosque mass shooting” headlines this morning.

4

Have Department of Justice lawyers been borrowing their religious freedom principles from the Islamophobes of Murfreesboro?

At the First Things blog, lawyer and bioethicist Wesley J. Smith discusses the Obama Administration’s alarming arguments in support of its employer contraception and early abortifacient mandate.

It does appear that the Administration is arguing not only that a corporation, even if closely held, has no religious freedom interest (for reasons Smith alludes to, that’s not too novel), but that no employer seeking a profit has a religious freedom interest (on the latter, it may just be planting an incrementalist seed). For such a conclusion, the Administration ventures into one of the tendentious absurdities that passes for political thought these days:

The owners of Hercules Industries have no right to control the choices of their company’s employees, many of whom may not share the Newland’s religious beliefs.

If you don’t see the absurdity of that (in the context of this mandate), God help you. Here’s a hint from Smith:

Refuse-to-pay is not synonymous with prevent-from-obtaining. Medicaid doesn’t cover abortion, for example, but that doesn’t mean the government is “controlling” the reproductive choices (in the common lexicon) of Medicaid recipients. Otherwise, Medicaid rules would violate Roe v Wade. Similarly, the Newlands are not preventing their female workers from using birth control simply because they won’t pay for it.

Got that now? Or do you need me to hold the flashlight while you search for your hind-parts with both hands?

Smith again:

To summarize, the government claims that:

  1. Seeking profit is a wholly secularist pursuit;
  2. Hence, once we go into business, we lose our religious freedoms in the context of those activities;
  3. Meaning that all who engage in such secular undertakings must accede to the precepts of secular ideology;
  4. Which the government establishes through the passage of laws and promulgation of regulations.

And that is how the Obama Administration is using the ACA to further its ideological goal of enervating freedom of religion into a hollow freedom of worship—in which people are allowed to believe and worship as they choose, but not practice their faiths in the public square contrary to worldly imperatives.

Many smart people have observed that government religious neutrality is impossible, and the Obama Administration’s ideological feminist position, the functional equivalent of a religion, helps illustrate that. Its very ominous gestures regarding religious freedom are a major reason why I cannot imagine voting for Obama.

Would that the top of the Libertarian party ticket, then, was more consistent about shrinking the scope of a government that always and inevitably instantiates someone’s religion or quasi-religious philosophy. It’s not a great solution, but we may indeed have to choose between (1) small government that leaves room for religious freedom or (2) the present system where the secularist sect is oppressing less disingenuous religions.

5

I touched yesterday on nominalism (versus realism), by the wholesale-if-tacit adoption of which our culture (including the vast majority of religious people) now assumes a fundamental split between faith and reason. Let me see if I can, for my own sake as much as yours, summarize even more tightly than has Robin Phillips in his two recent forays:

Thomas Aquinas taught an Aristotelian view that things have an inherent purpose or telos according to their nature. Even God, having once given things their nature, cannot command or will something contrary to that nature; He is, in a sense, “bound” to respect the real (whence “realism”) nature of His created things, the “rational ecosystem of natures.”

[A]n action is not good simply because God wills it; but neither does God will an action simply because it is good, at least if “good” is taken to be a standard external to Himself.

Occam (or Ockham), zealous for God’s sovereignty, denied natures that God was bound to respect, and postulated a radically free God, even a capricious one, whose mere command makes a thing good or bad.

If that is too opaque, I commend again Phillips articles (here and here). No doubt the web is full of other discussions of this topic, to which I suspect I’ll return.

For now, it’s enough to observe that Occam’s view can very plausibly lead to the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” mentality that so often characterizes the frankly religious side (i.e., the side that admits it’s religious in the Matthew, Mark, Luke & John sense) of our public debates, wherein the disingenuously religious (whose values come from folks like Marx, Darwin, Dewey & Freud, consciously or by osmosis) get preferential treatment.

6

Are we living in a very odd-if-not-sick culture, or were the guys in these pictures all closeted? (H/T The Browser)

Now let me flee the nostalgia trap by admitting that since Adam & Eve, every culture has been “odd-if-not-sick.” Ours just oddly sexualizes everything.

7

Judge Loretta Rush, who I’ve known and respected since law school, is one of three finalists, and the only remaining female, for a vacancy on the currently all-male Indiana Supreme Court. I think she would be a fine justice, and I’m rooting for her although I hear good things about one of the male finalists, too.

But I don’t really buy the theory that we need a woman justice for the sake of some sort of diversity or balance. Judge Rush may benefit from that theory, but before the decision is announced, I wanted to register that I think it’s the worst argument I know for her appointment.

There’s a curiosity not mentioned in the articles about her candidacy, by the way: she started practicing law with Dickson, Reiling, Teder & Withered, whence came current Chief Justice Brent Dickson. Diversity might be a two-edged sword here.

8

Just for fun, you might want to visit a website devoted to dumb product safety warnings. (H/T Mark Shea, National Catholic Register)

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.