Wednesday, 11/26/14

  1. Emotivism, not Rationalism, on the rise
  2. What if …?
  3. Free speech for she, but not for he
  4. What the Sexual Revolution hath wrought
  5. The only empirically verifiable doctrine
  6. Not from Athos
  7. Maybe it’s easier just to keep working


[W]ith the decline of formal religious adherence in the West, do we see any signs that some ideal of rationality is gaining ground? We do not. On any look at our poplar culture, we see rather an intense interest in the mythological (endless TV shows about vampires, werewolves, or demons); wide rejection of scientific evidence (anti-vaccination campaigns and wide acceptance of non-evidence based alternative medicine); emergence of prejudice-based judgments (assuming that voluntarily wearing the hijab violates women’s rights); and a strong emphasis on emotion (such as charactering any unpopular speech as “hateful”). Non of this suggests a turn to rational thinking, nor does it eliminate conflict.

In fact, these non-rational responses in our society raise levels of conflict and incoherence …

In short, the “secular” as we use it today describes not an absence of belief, but a kind of belief: that the universe is independent of the divine; that the sacred is irrational and must be ignored for purposes of forming social policy; and that regard for the sacred matters can be reduced to a private hobby ….

Current Western beliefs purport to prize diversity. But that diversity has a vey narrow meaning. It means observable difference in race or ability, asserted sexual divergence from heterosexual or male/female designations, or membership in groups designated as oppressed, such as women or aboriginal people. Otherwise, uniformity is expected in adherence to common moral and political beliefs.

(Mary Anne Waldron, Sacred and Secular Belief: Can We Have Peace?, Comment)


Here’s a good question for you to consider – for the rest of your life:

If the bread and wine of the Eucharist truly become the Body and Blood of Christ, what kind of world do we live in?

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, Doubt and Modern Belief)

Elsewhere in the same blog entry:

A first key illustration of this can be found in the abundant use of allegory within the historical thought of the Fathers. I am using “allegory” here not in its most restrictive meaning, but in its broadest, following Fr. Andrew Louth (Discerning the Mystery). The frequent assertion of images and types within the Scriptures runs deeply counter to the modern mind. That the Mother of God is also the Ark, the Candlestand, the Jar of Manna, the Rod of Aaron, etc. is not a mere exercise in literary games. The Fathers (and the hymns of the Church) treat such assertions in a manner that carries as much weight as our modern sense of historical facts. They feel about such things the way we feel about our beloved concrete, provable, verifiable events. And that such assertions cannot be provable, or verifiable in a manner that would satisfy us, troubles them not in the least.

The Fathers simply do not think or feel in the manner in which we most commonly think or feel. Their perception of things is not the same as ours. Those who read the Fathers without acknowledging this are engaging in deeply flawed anachronisms – assuming that people everywhere have always thought in the same manner as we now think. 

What kind of consciousness is as comfortable speaking of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant as it is in describing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem? This is the same consciousness that gives us the sacraments, whose historical “facticity” has dogged many Christians of the modern world (and so they find ways to nuance or even deny their real character).

I have no single word to describe this older ecclesiastical consciousness. I have called it a “one-storey universe,” in an effort to explain it. But it is a difference that will not easily disappear. 


I would’ve thought that the one place in Britain where you could agree to disagree amicably would be Oxford University. But I was wrong. For instance, I’ve discovered that you’re only allowed to debate abortion there if a) you’re a woman and b) you’re all for it. Any other approach to the subject is liable to attract a mob ….

(Tim Stanley, one of the intended debaters, at the Telegraph via Volokh Conspiracy)


I have been a columnist for many years now. I write on a variety of topics, some of them requiring prodigious amounts of research. But I have been a man all my life, and I don’t have to Google anything about that. And yet I don’t understand what I read about what’s happening on campuses. How can rape thrive? How can a rapist walk to class the next day without other men confronting him? How is the rapist or the witness allowed to feel he has exercised some masculine privilege when, in fact, he has just violated the cardinal rule of masculinity? Be respectful of women.

Is this old-fashioned? Have I just geezered my way into irrelevance? Am I going to hear from the gaggle of bloggers circling, like vultures, for the one errant phrase? Will I be told that I just don’t get it ? Well, I don’t.

(Richard Cohen, Washington Post) I don’t get it, either, but I suspect that “Be respectful of women” becoming an anachronism via “sexual equality” and “liberation” is a large part of it. In other words, I suspect that (some?) women are victims of “women’s liberation.” See Item 5.


“The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

No, I don’t think it’s just Rod Dreher’s blog getting to me.

And no, I don’t think original sin is the whole story.

But meliorism seems to me wildly implausible, evil hydra-headed. Kyrie eleison!


A great take-off on one of my favorite songs. But it won’t make sense if you don’t know what Athos is.


I’m starting to try to plan retirement – not the financial aspect, but the social. What will I do? I’m not really at a loss for ideas, but I’m trying to really imagine it, not just make a list and say “There! I’ve got plenty of stuff to do!” and then leap off the retirement cliff.

Of course, I’m doing a lot of “reading up” on the topic. Books on the financial aspects of retirement abound. But when it comes to the social aspect, the resources are few and they all seem too self-indulgent, almost like the starry-eyed newbie looking for a job that will let him express his full ineffable wondrousness and pay somewhere in the mid six-figures. This recent blog is an example.

I never anticipated that this part would be so hard, finances aside.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.