Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Instead of shooting off guns in real life, I'll shoot off a gun on my blog.  Less illegal. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Man Wearing Hillary Clinton Mask Robs Bank

Politico reports:
In her role as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton can be quite the persuasive diplomat, which is perhaps why one man thought that might help him convince a bank to hand over all of its money.

A gun-wielding man sported a Hillary Clinton mask while robbing a Wachovia bank in Sterling, Va., according to the Loudoun Times. 

The man left with an undisclosed amount of cash, and no injuries were reported. It was the second time in two months that the branch had been robbed.

A picture of the Hillary-masked man can be seen here.
 No commentary necessary.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Here's to a Conservative New Year!

Weird Weirdos Doing Weird Stuff

FOX NY reports:
Armageddon-fearing pilgrims were flocking to a village deep in the southern French hills after a countdown was started to the end of the world, which stood Thursday at a mere 729 days to go.
If I thought that the end of the world was imminent, I wouldn't go to France, I would go to Crispy Creme Donuts on my way to a Catholic church.  This story starts out weird and gets weirder:
Followers of the Mayan calendar believe the mountain in the Corbieres hills overlooking the village of Bugarach, east of the Pyrenees, was endorsed by aliens as a safe place to survive the demise of civilization.
Aliens?  Really?
The countdown began Tuesday, exactly two years until Dec. 21, 2012 -- the movement's assigned Judgment Day.
Speaking of Judgment Day, why is Terminator 2 subtitled Judgment Day?  The world doesn't even come close to ending in that movie.
The mythical status bestowed upon the 4,045 foot high rock above Bugarach has inspired legends since the Middle Ages and attracted generations of hikers.
But the French locals were left bemoaning the sudden deluge of New Age pilgrims, who they accuse of setting up camp in the village to cash in on the fears of impending doom.
"It may be necessary to call in the military to control the crowds," said Bugarach mayor Jean-Pierre Delord, who anticipated "chaos" in the next 24 months. His deputy, Gilbert Cros said the new influx "gives us a bad image." 
Am I reading this right?  The French want to bring in the military to shoot hippies?  Maybe it's the end of the world after all.
Police said they were looking into crowd control plans, while Miviludes, a state agency that tracks dangerous cults, said it was keeping close watch on the village and the “apocalypse movement."
I don't really see why they need crowd control.  If the world does end, there won't be any crowds to control, and if the world doesn't end, I doubt that the hippies' first reaction will be to riot.  Then again, these are the French.

All of this 2012 hysteria is just more proof that people who cease to believe in God will believe in anything.  Hopefully these weirdos will perform some much needed self-examination after waking up on Dec 22, 2012.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Catholic Bacon from Canadian Bloggers

Our frosty friends in Canukistan produce some fine Catholic blogging.  Check 'em out!

From TH2: Into the Desert, an analysis of conditions on the Sinai peninsula at the time that The Holy Family would have traversed it.

From Marco the Cybertronian : Liberal Ostrich Syndrome

From Catholic Roundup: 2010 Catholic New Media Advent Calendar (I found it a little late but it's still cool)

(Apologies for the awful pun of a title.  I can't help myself.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Protestantism and the Burden of Proof

It seems to me that most debates between Protestants and Catholics put Catholicism on the defensive against Protestant accusations of superstitious and unscriptural beliefs.  However, this relationship is exactly backwards.  The burden of proof lies on Protestantism, not Catholicism.  The very term Protestantism implies a protest against something that proceeds Protestants.  That entity was of course the Roman Catholic Church.  Protestants revolted against the established order and thus must first justify their beliefs before demanding evidence for the truth of Catholicism.

Digital Nativity Story

H/T: Teresa

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Cross & the Water Tower

The Cross & The Water Tower is a Christmas story written by my friends and neighbors, Patrick and Mary Mangan.  Their cousin Kevin Mooney illustrated the book.
From the official website:
Trouble is brewing when Mr. Herbert steps into the Christmas-loving town of Wauconda and demands the villagers remove their Christmas cross from the water tower. Join adventurous young Casey Wilkerson and the Water Tower Club as they plan a little Christmas surprise... 
The Cross & The Water Tower makes a great Christmas gift and you should all buy at least two copies immediately!  Order here.

To the Mangans: I'm expecting something in return for my coveted endorsement.  Maybe some chips and salsa.

Good News From the U.S. Census

The AP reports:
WASHINGTON - The 2010 census report coming out Tuesday will include a boatload of good political news for Republicans and grim data for Democrats hoping to re-elect President Barack Obama and rebound from last month's devastating elections.
The population continues to shift from Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states to Republican-leaning Sun Belt states, a trend the Census Bureau will detail in its once-a-decade report to the president. Political clout shifts, too, because the nation must reapportion the 435 House districts to make them roughly equal in population, based on the latest census figures.
The biggest gainer will be Texas, a GOP-dominated state expected to gain up to four new House seats, for a total of 36. The chief losers - New York and Ohio, each projected by nongovernment analysts to lose two seats - were carried by Obama in 2008 and are typical of states in the Northeast and Midwest that are declining in political influence.
Democrats' problems don't end there.
November's elections put Republicans in control of dozens of state legislatures and governorships, just as states prepare to redraw their congressional and legislative district maps. It's often a brutally partisan process, and Republicans' control in those states will enable them to create new districts to their liking.
The combination of population shifts and the recent election results could make Obama's re-election campaign more difficult. Each House seat represents an electoral vote in the presidential election process, giving more weight to states Obama probably will lose in 2012. The states he carried in 2008 are projected to lose, on balance, six electoral votes to states that his GOP challenger, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, won. That sets a higher bar for Obama before his re-election campaign even starts.
"The way the maps have shifted have made Obama's route to success much more difficult," said Republican Party spokesman Doug Heye. He said the GOP takeover of several state governments on the eve of redistricting efforts was "a dramatic shift."
Republicans now control the governor's offices and both legislative chambers in competitive presidential states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Maine and Wisconsin. They hold the governors' chairs in other crucial states, including Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia and Iowa.
When Obama carried those states in 2008, most had Democratic governors happy to lend their political operations to his cause. Now he will run where governors can bend their powers against his administration's policies and his campaign's strategies.
This is good.  Granted, the national Republican party is often a false friend to pro-lifers but it is preferable to the party of abortion.

Musical Advent Wreath: Fourth Sunday

Also in belated honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Richard Dawkins Meets the Terminator

Scene from Terminator 2:
After the Terminator nearly shoots a couple of human attackers, a shocked John Connor attempts to teach the cyborg some morality.  The Terminator's lines are better in Ahhnold's voice so use your imagination.

John:  Put the gun down!  Now!
(The attackers run away and the Terminator sets down his gun)
John: You were gonna kill those guys!
The Terminator: Of course.  I'm a terminator.
John: Listen to me, very carefully, okay?  You're not a terminator any more.  Alright?  You got that?  You can't just go around killing people!
The Terminator: Why?
John: Whattaya mean, why?  'Cause you can't!
The Terminator: Why?
John: You just can't, ok?
The Terminator: Why?
(Richard Dawkins suddenly approaches)
Dawkins: Why shouldn't you kill people?  I'll tell you why!  You shouldn't kill people because humans are imbued with an arbitrary sense of altruism by the process of natural selection.  Sure this means that morality is ultimately meaningless, but you should just try not to think about it.
John: On second thought, maybe you should shoot this guy.

Adaptation made using

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NYT: Opposition to Obamacare is Like Opposition to Civil Rights

David Leonhardt writing in the New York Times:
“We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program,” said one prominent critic of the new health care law. It is socialized medicine, he argued. If it stands, he said, “one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
The health care law in question was Medicare, and the critic was Ronald Reagan. He made the leap from actor to political activist, almost 50 years ago, in part by opposing government-run health insurance for the elderly.
Today, the supposed threat to free enterprise is a law that’s broader, if less radical, than Medicare: the bill Congress passed this year to create a system of privately run health insurance for everyone. On Monday, a federal judge ruled part of the law to be unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will probably need to settle the matter in the end.
We’ve lived through a version of this story before, and not just with Medicare. Nearly every time this country has expanded its social safety net or tried to guarantee civil rights, passionate opposition has followed. . . .
After Brown v. Board of Education outlawed school segregation in 1954, 101 members of Congress signed a statement calling the ruling an instance of “naked judicial power” that would sow “chaos and confusion” and diminish American greatness. A decade later, The Wall Street Journal editorial board described civil rights marchers as “asking for trouble” and civil rights laws as being on “the outer edge of constitutionality, if not more.”
This year’s health care overhaul has now joined the list.
Opposition to Obamacare is like opposition to civil rights?  It seems that all a liberal has to do to get published is bring up the civil rights movement or racism, even if the topic at hand has nothing to do with race.  It's easier than having to do all of that logical thinking to craft a coherent argument.

H/T: Clay Waters

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blogging my Homework: Dawkins vs. Plantinga

Posting something I wrote for class seems kind of lame but I thought y'all might like it.  I was required to read an excerpt from The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins and the essay The Dawkins Confusion by Alvin Plantinga.  My assignment was to analyze the writing of both men and decide which one is the superior philosopher.  Due to the narrow scope of the reading material and the assignment, this is not a comprehensive critique of Dawkins but I think that I manage to address his core claim.  Anyway, here it is:

The Probability of God: Dawkins vs. Plantinga
            In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins claims that the existence of God is highly improbable.  Dawkins’ argument rests on the proposition that God is at least as complex and therefore as improbable, as His creation.  Alvin Plantinga answers Dawkins by denying that his complexity premise can be applied to God.  If Plantinga’s refutation is sound, then Dawkins’ case against the probability of God falls apart.
            Dawkins states that complexity is intrinsically linked to probability.  He writes, “Any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable” (Plantinga 3-4).  Dawkins asserts that God is such an agent.  “However little we know about God, the one thing that we can be sure of is that he would have to be very very complex and presumably irreducibly so!” (125). 
Dawkins relates the analogy made by Fred Hoyle, that “the probability of life originating on Earth is no greater than the chance that a hurricane, sweeping through a scrap yard, would have the luck to assemble a Boeing 747” (114).  The improbability of terrestrial life made a theist out of Hoyle, but Dawkins turns the argument around in an attempt to prove the improbability of God.  Dawkins seems to concede something to theism when he states, “Anything from a molecule up to the universe itself – is correctly extolled as statistically improbable” (113).  In fact, Dawkins is establishing the first premise in a syllogism designed to prove the improbability of God.  His second premise is the fact that the creator or antecedent of a particular thing must have at least the same complexity/improbability as that thing.  Dawkins concludes that as the creator of all of the improbable things in the Universe, God must be highly improbable Himself.  In Dawkins’ own words, “God is the ultimate 747” (134).  
In his essay The Dawkins Confusion, Alvin Plantinga argues against Dawkins’ claims that God is complex/improbable and that complexity necessitates improbability in the case of God.  Plantinga declares, “according to [Dawkins'] definition of complexity . . . something is complex if it has parts that are ‘arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone.’  But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts. . . .  Therefore, given [Dawkins’ definition] . . . God is not complex” (4).  Plantinga argues that Dawkins errs by imposing the laws of the material or natural world on the immaterial or supernatural world.
Plantinga goes further in this line of reasoning.  He supposes for the point of argument that knowledge makes a being complex and that God is extremely complex because He is omniscient.  That complexity would only make God improbable if He were a material being.  Plantinga posits that “Given materialism and the idea that the ultimate objects in our universe are the elementary particles of physics, perhaps a being that knew a great deal would be improbable. . . .  Of course we aren't given materialism” (4).  Plantinga goes on to point out that because God is not a material being, He is not merely improbable but completely impossible in a materialist universe.  Plantinga writes, “materialism logically entails that there is no such person as God; but it would be obviously question-begging to argue that theism is improbable because materialism is true.”  If materialism is true it would serve to make Dawkins’ probability estimates moot.  If on the other hand, materialism is not true, then Dawkins’ thesis is unsound because it assumes materialism.  According to Plantinga, Dawkins must prove that materialism is true or at least probable in order to make a sound argument against the existence of God.               
Dawkins’ arbitrary assumption of materialism is the central focus of Plantinga’s critique.  “If Dawkins proposes that God's existence is improbable, he owes us an argument for the conclusion that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God—an argument that doesn't just start from the premise that materialism is true. . . . Dawkins doesn't even seem to be aware that he needs an argument [that proves materialism]” (4).  In essence, Plantinga is telling Dawkins to take a giant metaphysical step back to a position that truly considers the possibility of supernaturalism. 
Richard Dawkins has brilliantly proved the improbability of God.  That is, if the god in question is an Epicurean material god.  After handily defeating the obscure theology of Epicures, Dawkins claims to have done so much more.  He claims to have decisively demonstrated that the God of Abraham and Isaac, and all other deities worshipped by men, are intrinsically improbable.  The existence of a nonmaterial God may very well be improbable but nowhere in his writing does Dawkins come close to proving this.  Dawkins fails because all of his arguments rest on a massive logical fallacy.  Dawkins begs the question of materialism.
In his defense, Dawkins might point out that he does not explicitly assume materialism, and he is obviously trying to prove the improbability of a spiritual God such as the one worshipped by Christians.  However, it is clear that Dawkins implicitly assumes materialism because his objections to the probability of God can only be applied to a material thing and not to a spiritual being.  Something has complexity and therefore improbability because it is composed of material, whether that material is matter, energy, or some yet undiscovered substance.  Theists the world over profess a belief in a nonmaterial God.  Dawkins simply cannot prove the improbability of a spirit using the laws of material complexity.
Dawkins’ central claim is that the existence of God is unlikely because as the hypothetical creator of a complex and improbable universe, God must be highly improbable.  As Plantinga points out, Dawkins’ argument is invalid from the very beginning.  By applying the laws of the material universe to the spiritual realm, Dawkins assumes materialism.  He then engages in the pointless exercise of arguing against the existence of a God who is impossible in a materialist universe.  Dawkins bases his argument on an unproven assumption and utterly fails to prove that God is improbable.

Dash Thy Little Ones Against the Rock! What?

Taylor Marshall writes,
Recently, I had a little exegetical epiphany while meditating on the Vulgate Psalms in Latin. Previously I've been troubled by Psalm 136{137}:9, which reads, "Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock." Being blessed for infanticide? Huh?

However, the Clementine Vulgate version opens itself to a very beautiful allegorical reading: "beatus qui tenebit et adlidet parvulos tuos ad petram."

We are encouraged to dash the infants of our enemies "ad petram."

Now couple this with the Vulgate version of Matthew 16:18

"et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam."

To read it allegorically, we should be asking that the infants of our enemies be dashed against Peter and the foundation of the Catholic Church! For example, see the photo at that top of this post--that's Pope Benedict's hand baptizing an infant.

It's edifying (nerdy Latin Vulgate pun intended) to pray Psalm 136 with Mt 16:18 in mind, and then intend that the children of our enemies (secularists, terrorists, haters of the Church, those who have hurt us) be thrown against Peter and the Church...that they be baptized, saved, and remain within the barque of Peter...

The Psalms are so rich. It's too bad that Psalm 136:9 has been removed from the Liturgy of the Hours. A true pity. 
If I had taken more than one year of Latin, I might be able to better appreciate things like this.  Very interesting nonetheless.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

St. John Damascene

Today is the feast of St John Damascene, a priest who lived in the second half of the seventh century.  He lived in Damascus during where he wrote against the Byzantine iconoclasts.  The iconoclasts sought to destroy all representations of Jesus or of the Saints, believing them to be idolatrous.  St. John Damascene defended orthodoxy and sacred art.  In honor of this holy priest and Church Father, some great icons:

From Byzantium

From Russia

 and..... from LOL Saints

St. John Damascene pray for us!

Christian Converts Face Death Penalty in "Liberated" Afghanistan

Asia News reports
Kabul (AsiaNews) – Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said.
“They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment,” Quraishi said. Sayed, a Red Cross (ICRC) employee, has already confessed. There is also "proof" against Shah, Quraishi explained.
Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul. The TV station also showed some people engaged in proselytising, which is banned in the Muslim country.
The ICRC's spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed that Sayed worked for the organisation since 1995. He also said that he was able to visit him in prison.
The government launched its own investigation into the matter and suspended two aid groups, Norwegian Church Aid (a Protestant organisation) and Church World Service of the US (which includes Protestants, Orthodox and Anglicans), after the TV station reported two of their members were proselytising.    
The Afghan constitution, adopted after the fall of the Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death. However, no one has been executed in recent years for converting.
Fr Giuseppe Moretti, parish priest at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, a chapel inside the Italian Embassy in Kabul, told AsiaNews that he knew nothing about the affair. He was certain that they did not convert to Catholicism.
“No one in the country was baptised by a Catholic priest because proselytising is banned by law,” he said.
“The Catholic Church has been present in the country since 1923 with a mandate to take care of members of the international Catholic community living here. It has always respected that [principle] to the letter.”
As for the anti-conversion law, Fr Moretti has nothing to add, except to reiterate that the Catholic community has always respected it.
“The Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucault, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Sisters of the Interreligious Community are present here, and they too respect the ban. We bear witness to our faith through our commitment and our lives,” he said.
H/T: Spencer

This is what American soldiers are dying for?  Things like this make me seriously question our presence in Afghanistan.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Barque of Peter


I'm on a boat!
I'm on a boat!
Take a good hard look at this apostolic boat!