What to do in your second term

Congratulations on your re-election, Mr. President. I’m glad you got a second term, because there are still a few items that need to be finished up from your first one. And now that you don’t have to worry about being re-elected, I hope you’ll have the time, the freedom, and the will to fix some of our worst problems:

  • Transparency. We cannot afford to elect a government that can be blackmailed by anonymous power brokers with big bank accounts. We the People need to know who is writing the actual text of our laws, and who is profiting from them.
  • The Constitution. I know you’re busy, but can we have our Constitutional rights back, please? Particularly the First and Fourth Amendments? Bin Ladin is dead, yet as long as our nation remains so terrorized that we won’t take our families on board airplanes without government agents fondling our kids, the terrorists are winning. I’d like to live in a FREE country again.
  • Wall Street. It shouldn’t be legal to cheat people out of house and home. Nuff said?
  • The deficit, aka tomorrow’s taxes. Yes, that needs to come down, but can we start with wasteful “defense” spending? It’s one thing to speak softly and carry a big stick, but that stick gets kind of hard to carry when it reaches sequoia proportions.

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Daily dose of irony

Writing on the Minnesota Public Radio web site, Prof. Savage of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity decries the breakdown of traditional gender roles.

But, as advocates of gay marriage point out, marriage as an institution is not exactly the exemplar of stability it used to be. The sad fact is that the same factors that have contributed to its fragmentation — a misunderstanding of the complementarity of men and women, the divorce between the procreative and unitive dimensions of the sexual act, promiscuity, etc. — are at work in the breakdown of traditional marriage as well.

You see what happens when you forsake the original Biblical commandments for the roles men and women are supposed to play? St. Paul is quite clear that correct, Biblical gender roles are essential, not just for society and social institutions like marriage, but for salvation as well (at least for women).

Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

By the way, did I mention that Prof. Savage’s first name is Deborah? Speaking of the “breakdown” of traditional, Biblical gender roles…

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The “creed” of atheism

Just a quickie for today: The Irish Times just published a letter in which the writer expresses a kind of good will towards atheists.

One sincerely hopes that Joe Humphreys is correct in his suggestion that a new, more reasonable form of atheism may be beginning to emerge, from the creed’s Irish adherents (Arts Ideas, October 26th). Those of us from the Catholic intellectual tradition would certainly welcome such a development. Because there are undoubtedly large areas of agreement on many important ethical issues.

Ah yes, the spirit of camaraderie, atheists and Catholics agreeing on important ethical issues…
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A dialog between materialists

One more point I’d like to mention about the abortion debate is that it’s a dialog between materialists. Most pro-lifers are generally religious, and quite a few are conservative evangelical Christians, but when it comes to making pro-life arguments, they’re even more materialistic than the pro-choice side. All this stuff about souls and spirits is fine for sounding holy in church, but for real-life issues even believers turn to materialism.

Think about it. What is it that allegedly makes a fertilized egg qualify as a person? It’s not that the fertilized egg is “made in the image of God,” unless God is also a single cell with no thoughts, no feelings, no will, no knowledge, and no perceptions. But no, according to pro-lifers, it’s the DNA—the presence of a particular physical molecule within the physical structure of the physical cell. And it’s not just the DNA, because virtually all species have DNA of one sort or another. It’s the physical arrangement of physical nucleotides in the physical DNA molecule that form the basis for the pro-life claim that this is a real, live human being. They’ve reduced humanity down to a chemical formula, and called a mere molecule the essence of what being human means.

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The nuanced position

In a comment on my last post, NotAnAtheist writes:

[As] I see it, there are two options:

1. You can decide that the point at which the rights of the fetus should be considered cannot be based on anything objective, and is merely a point that is decided upon for some legal / logistical / personal / societal convenience. While this is logically valid, it leaves open the question of why not draw the lines other places? We already have articles in medical journals talking about so called “after-birth” abortions, basically saying that the “line” should be pushed back past birth.

This to me, as far as I can see it, is the pro-choice position. Draw the line for purposes of convenience only, and if there are facts supporting your position, great! If not, no worries, just bluster.

2. You can decide that if there are lines to be drawn at all, they should be drawn as safely and as conservatively as possible and be based on the best data possible to avoid killing those who are “enough of” a person to have a right to life. Note that this does not mean that we must draw the line at conception. Nor does this absolutely mandate that one must believe that “before time X all abortions are ok and after X they are wrong.” It is the belief that we should act on the side of caution, and not convenience when deciding when the rights of the child should even be considered (note, I said considered, not necessarily honored).

This, to me is a “nuanced” position, and it is also one that is completely incompatible (as I see it) with the pro choice position.

I can’t help but notice some significant problems with this dichotomy.

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The point of viability

The day job is getting a bit intense right now so I only have time for a quick post. I’d like to address a comment made by NotAnAtheist on yesterday’s post. (The bold text is an excerpt from my post, to which NotAnAtheist is responding.)

The earliest point at which it makes sense to draw a legal line would be viability—the point where the child is formed enough to survive on its own outside the womb. At that point, if the woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy, then she can do so without killing the child, and nobody’s rights need be violated.

Well, that’s only true if the fetus is a “nobody” up until viability then afterwards its now suddenly a person, a “somebody” with rights to be violated. It can’t be both ways. If you say that before a certain point, you are certain that “nobody’s” rights are being violated and afterwards you declare abortion to be wrong, then you are drawing a line at viability.

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Blood drives

The last time I gave blood, there was a sign outside that says, “Giving blood saves lives.” As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I’d like to ask a question. If giving blood saves lives, why don’t we have people roaming the streets, grabbing healthy-looking individuals, and taking their blood by force? I think most people know the answer: it’s because each of us has a sovereign right to bodily autonomy that no one else has the right to violate, even if it might mean saving someone else’s life.

This to set the stage for a question posed in a couple comments by NotAnAtheist on yesterday’s post, concerning my remark about how the unformed child does not become a person until later on.

When does this “becoming a person” happen? … The child that is 1 hr from being born, anatomically, genetically, and in all other senses I know of, is the same child right after birth (If someone knows of some big difference, let me know).

If there is that similarity, how can it be that the child after birth is a “person”, and the child before is not? Or is it just that the idea of “personhood” has no objective referent and is simply up to the whim of the court?

I’m glad you asked.

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When is it ok to legalize murder?

One of the differences between the Obama/Biden campaign and the Romney/Ryan campaign came out during the VP debates. Biden said he was a faithful Catholic and believed his church’s teaching on abortion (in the true spirit of faith as “believing what you know ain’t so”), but he wasn’t willing to impose his religious beliefs on others (and rightly so). Ryan, on the other hand, was adamant that abortion was murder and should be immediately outlawed, except in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. And that’s a very interesting set of exceptions.

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The problem of purpose

I want to continue looking at the Bad Catholic’s post at Patheos because there’s a lot of interesting stuff there. Like this introduction:

Any philosophy that claims that there exists nothing supernatural cannot grant purpose to suffering.

If some natural, secular purpose could be granted to the man suffering, then his pain would cease to be suffering and begin to be useful pain.

He goes on to compare the young athlete’s muscular aches and pains, endured for the sake of fitness, with the inescapable aches and pains of old age, as an example of useful pain versus pointless suffering. In order to be suffering, he says, suffering “requires the lack of a natural, secular answer.” And by “answer” he means “a good reason”—some overriding benefit good enough to justify the means used to achieve it.

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Family values?

Years ago I used to be very interested in Mormonism, though that was when I was an evangelical Christian and my main interest was in converting them. But I learned quite a lot about them and even attended a Mormon church for a while (incognito, as it were).

One thing I learned was that, according to Mormon theology, every human soul born on earth was originally procreated in heaven by God the Father having sex with one of His many wives, who then gave birth to a “spirit child,” which in turn had to be born into a physical body in order to progress into eventual godhood. Considering that the current birth rate is something like 200,000 per day, that’s a whole heaping helping of heavenly humping!

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