Friday, November 24, 2006

"There Is No Such Thing As A Religion Called "Christianity"'

"There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been from the beginning and will always be the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there never has been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed." --Hillaire Belloc

An interesting point, and one that is followed up at

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks Giving

Thanks be to God for all the myriad blessings we have received throughout the past year, and praise to Lord Jesus Christ, who, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to die on the cross to redeem our sins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Addicted to Life

In gaming theory, there is the concept of the martingale. Imagine you are sitting at a roulette table. The initial bet is 1 dollar, and you bet on black. Now, if it comes up black you win a dollar, but if it comes up red you lose a dollar. The martingale theory states that the only effective way to win is to double your bet every time you lose. If N is the amount you bet when you win, then the sum of your losses is 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ...+ N/2. If we factor out N, then we get 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .... 1/N. Now, the infinite sum Sigma(i=1, infinity) 1/(2^i) is equal to 1. Since N is a finite number, the finite sum Sigma(i=1, N) 1/(2^i) is less than 1. This means that since your losses are equal to N(1/2 + 1/4 + ... + 1/N), this number is slightly less than N. As long as you obey this strategy, you will always come out ahead.

Hence, doubling down.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to double down at life. A hard lesson, but one I've learned all too well the last few days. You can't keep losing and losing, and tell yourself that you'll make it up later, and hope to win. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you can't make it up. Sometimes things are for keeps, and you have to admit that you can't make things just like they were. Or would have been.

But you can make things better than they are now. I, like a lot of people, have the unfortunate habit of being addicted to life. "High on life" is such an oft-used statement that it's now a cliche. But life can be a drug, like any drug, and it can be addictive. A person gets caught up in life and allows it to run him, rather than the other way around. Little things suddenly become big things, and unimportant matters come to dominate your life. Every little thing becomes a crisis, and eventually comes paralysis. Overdose.

Like smashing your head against a wall. Why do you do that? Because it feels so good when I stop. And you want to stop. You double down, again and again, telling yourself that this time you'll win, that this will be the win that takes you out of the red and into the black, and life keeps calling you back. Here, it says. Take a little more of what I have to sell you. It hurts so good, doesn't it?

What causes it? Who knows. The devil, maybe. Or maybe it's simply that rotten little flaw deep inside you, the one you hear as that little voice. The one that says, "Eat all the brownies." The one that says, "Run this red light." The one that says, "Cheat on your wife." The one that says, "Pull the trigger."

We live in the House of Destruction now. It's an opera house, and we stand where the acoustics are perfect to pick up that little voice. To amplify him and reflect him off every surface, so that we are buffeted on all sides. We hear that voice, and more and more are listening. Everyday, that whispering little voice gains more and more disciples.

Bet again. You'll win it back. Double down. Bet it all.

Time to kick the pusher out the door, to shut that little voice up. To live and not be lived.

Time to break the habit.

Graffiti Blogging

I am strangely fascinated by graffiti. I often am intrigued by the messages--or lack thereof--people choose to scrawl on walls. So I photograph them. Note that I do not condone vandalism. I just find it fascinating the sorts of things people are willing to risk hefty fines for.

Graffiti comes in all shapes and sizes.
Some is optimistic:


Some is political:


Some merely inexplicable:


Nature leaves her own graffiti:


"We don't want our children viewing any of this trash!":


This is a rather detailed painting on a brick outside the Physics Building:


The text reads: "If you were a candy bar, you would be a Mars-Bar, because U would be out of this world!"
"Is your refridgerator [sic] running?"

Interesting sentiments.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Selfish Geneticist

Dr. Richard Dawkins is once again in the news. I am sure that Prof. Dawkins is the paragon of wit, substance, and bonhomie, but nevertheless I cannot help but suspect that he is a terrible bore at cocktail parties. He strikes me as the sort of man who only ever speaks on one subject, and invariably (and subconsciously) works all conversations back to that subject, which once on one can never get him to change. That subject is of course the complete and total denial of God.

Dr. Dawkins is an atheist of the rather more militant sort, and therefore deserves keeping an eye on, just as we keep an eye on crackpots and fascists. When not watched, atheists have a tendency to get up to mischief, which, historically speaking, tends to be vastly more harmful than the mischief perpetrated by the religious, at least on any absolute scale.

The universe stripped of God is a very bleak and cold place indeed, and I think it tragic that a man considered as great a thinker as Dawkins is should be led so far astray. However, I feel no sympathy for him, as Dawkins would remove all meaning and purpose from our lives in the name of his nihilistic beliefs. I for one would point to the fact that nearly all great art has been created by believers, that Christianity in particular has been a great force for good in this world, but I doubt any of my arguments would hold much truck with a man who has described religion as a mental illness.

This is of course the great difficulty in dealing with a man like Dawkins, in that militant atheists are invariably intractable. I note with great interest that Dawkins came into his atheism at the ripe old age of 16, which is when the vast majority of us do our deepest theological speculation. I remember that I believed quite a lot of things when I was 16, most of which I do not believe in now. There is the air of the adolescent in the man who absolutely will not admit any possibility of his being wrong.

And, of course, there is the smugness. Anyone of a religious inclination can usually identify the various attitudes adopted by those of differing faiths. The evangelicals are earnest, the fundamentalists are filled with a kind of stern rage, the Episcopalians and other mainline churches have apathy, and we Catholics have the iron bedrock of tradition and the comforting knowledge that we've been around forever. The atheists have smugness. No vicar or priest, descending upon the benighted heathen, has done so with the sheer infuriating smugness of an atheist attacking a believer. Now, all religion is fundamentally about revelation. But most religions are not gnostic cults, which based on their behavior, is what many atheists regard their system as, in which "enlightened ones" shall be set free due to their understanding of secret knowledge that tragically the rest of the swelling mass of sheep what calls themselves "humanity" are unable to comprehend. They carefully and patronizingly nod their heads while listening to you, and then proceed to ignore whatever you have said, in favor of points which you and no reasoning person could ever rebut, because what do you know, you sheep you?

Personally, I think most atheists agree with Dr. Dawkins, and regard believers as not merely fellow humans with differing views from their own, but as insane. Thus they fall into the CSE trap (Crazy-Stupid-Evil). In fact, as fond as they are of Crazy, they're also pretty darn fond of Stupid and Evil too:

"Without religion you have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." - Richard Dawkins

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

I find it ironic that Dawkins, a man who almost certainly would shoot himself before admitting he had a soul, would attribute more corporeality to ideas than he would to human consciousness. I also find it ironic that Dawkins works at a university which owes its existence to religion, in a field that owes its existence to religion, in a nation that for better or worse (primarily for the better) has been shaped by its idiosyncratic ideas about religion into a world power, after being born into a nation that would not have existed if that selfsame world power hadn't felt itself to be on a divinely inspired mission to conquer the world in the name of Britannia.

I also think that geneticists should get down on their knees every day and thank the Catholic Church for giving Mendel all that time with his peas.

Dr. Dawkins should remember that in denying the existence of God simply because he has no proof of God's existence, he is arguing from ignorance, and generally speaking in science that is a no-no.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Cruel Nation

It is an undeniable fact that we Americans love "nice." We want to be thought of as nice, both at home and abroad. Americans hate to give offense. Americans live under a code of etiquette more strict than that of Emily Post and the code of chivalry, combined. We go out of our way to enforce inoffensiveness, through speech codes, Political Correctness, and simple snubbing. Because of this, shows of strong emotion--which might offend!--are to be avoided. One result of this is the species of patriotism that could be dubbed "Modern American". The fundamental sentiment of this patriotism is "America is a nice country."

This sentiment is, like so much of American culture today, quaint, pleasant, inoffensive, and wrong. America is most emphatically not a nice country. America is about the furthest one can get from a "nice nation" and still be on this planet.

America is the cruel nation.

Matthew 10:34 : Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

America is cruel because she forces men to choose. Prior to July 4, 1776, men could quietly vegetate under the enlightened despotism of the Great Father, or the Son of Heaven, or God's Anointed, or whatever the tyrant du jour was. Then, the revolution.

In our own time, Christ has moved from the All-Powerful Godhead into a kind of pleasant "Buddy Christ". Judgment, damnation, suffering, sacrifice--everything enduring about the Christian Faith has been stripped away, leaving only a quietly desperate "Just be nice to people, okay?"

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?"

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

All too often we hear the second but forget the first. We emasculate Christ, feminize him and remove all that is virile--and all that is fertile too. But let us never forget that Christ came to baptize us not with water, but with fire.

So it is with America. America is not just a nation, but an idea. In that sense, America is The Nation, forever transforming our notions of nationhood and citizenship. America is cruel, because like Christ, she forces men to choose. After Christ, the spiritual lives of men were changed forever. After America, the political lives of men were changed forever. No longer can any man say, I did not have a choice. No longer can any man claim, I did not know. For ever since her inception, America has asked every man the same question:

Are you true? Will you stand with truth, justice, and liberty? Or are you content to bend your head before your master?

Then she whispers, a soft whisper like a mother's sigh, like a lover's kiss, Come. Come to me, and be fruitful. Leave the night and be free under the sun. Come and know that I own you, and you in turn own me, and our marriage shall be a sweet one, and our children shall be the fruits of your labors.

Will you come? Are you true?

And like a knife, the call of America cuts into the hearts of men, and rives them from their old lives, and makes them anew.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Oh, you cruel nation.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mass at St. Mary's

I attended Mass tonight at St. Mary's, my local orthodox. Father Harris, the old-school, stern patrician priest (whom in secret I fondly referred to as Father Kicks-Your-Ass), has left, and been replaced by a younger Vietnamese priest named Vu Tran. Father Tran seems pretty decent; I think it's perhaps too early to say whether he has the cojones to hold the line like Father Harris, but I'm willing to give him the chance.

The sermon was on the concept of giving back to the church, tithing not merely your wealth, but your time. For what is time but wealth? God graces us with a span of hours numbering in the mere thousands, and it is for us to transform those hours into the gold and good works that make us possible to be good Christians.

Exam Results

Well, my exam is over. I think the maximum score I could have gotten would be 810, and the minimum would be 560. Hopefully, God willing, my score will be closer to the higher end.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Examiner's Prayer

God, tomorrow I have the Graduate Record Examination. Please help me to recall all that I have learned these past three years, and to do well on this test. I understand that my success or failure is ultimately due to you, for you control my dedication, my recall, my concentration. Please, let your will not my will be done, and let me accept whatever result I receive with a happy heart.