Actually only banned by a movie theater chain that is getting a lot of negative feedback from just about everyone, believers or not, including Richard Dawkins! Silliness but not restricted to the UK...
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, given on October 3, 1863, declaring a day of thanksgiving on "the last Thursday of November next":
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
By the President:
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Arthur Brooks offers advice, and not just for Thanksgiving, "Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.":
.... For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. ....
Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness. ....
Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things. As my teenage kids would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.” ....
...[B]e grateful for useless things. It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles. Ponder the impractical joy in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty”:
Glory be to God for dappled things —Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. .... [more]
The plot is pretty similar to every other detective story, with the exception that the last chapter goes on and on (and on) as the last poor author attempts to tie up all the loose ends. .... [more]
Years ago I acquired a copy of The Floating Admiral. In addition to Christie and Sayers, among the other members who contributed chapters were John Rhode, Ronald Knox, F. Wills Croft and Anthony Berkeley.
Another collaboration of the Detection Club in my library is Six Against Scotland Yard for which Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Croft, Ronald Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Russell Thorndike contributed short stories each describing a "perfect murder" after which former Scotland Yard Superintendent Cornish describes how he would solve the crime.
Yesterday a friend referred me to the third episode of a BBC documentary being played on my local PBS station: "A Very British Murder: The Golden Age." I have discovered that this program, along with Parts 1&2, is available on YouTube. "The Golden Age" covers the period when The Floating Admiral was published. Although that book isn't mentioned and Christie and Sayers are the only members who are discussed, there is an interesting segment about the the Detection Club including a reenactment of the ceremony for induction of members. Here it is:
Vintage Novels: The Detection Club by Dorothy Sayers
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Fifty-two years ago today C.S. Lewis died. That was the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lewis's death was less remarked that day but his life may well have had greater impact over time.
From one of C.S. Lewis's most famous essays, "Meditation in a Toolshed":
From one of C.S. Lewis's most famous essays, "Meditation in a Toolshed":
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. ....
As soon as you have grasped this simple distinction, it raises a question. You get one experience of a thing when you look along it and another when you look at it. Which is the “true” or “valid” experience? Which tells you most about the thing? And you can hardly ask that question without noticing that for the last fifty years or so everyone has been taking the answer for granted. It has been assumed without discussion that if you want the true account of religion you must go, not to religious people, but to anthropologists; that if you want the true account of sexual love you must go, not to lovers, but to psychologists; that if you want to understand some “ideology” (such as medieval chivalry or the nineteenth-century idea of a “gentleman”), you must listen not to those who lived inside it, but to sociologists.
The people who look at things have had it all their own way; the people who look along things have simply been brow-beaten. It has even come to be taken for granted that the external account of a thing somehow refutes or “debunks” the account given from inside. ....
... We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along. One must look both along and at everything. In particular cases we shall find reason for regarding the one or the other vision as inferior. Thus the inside vision of rational thinking must be truer than the outside vision which sees only movements of the grey matter; for if the outside vision were the correct one all thought (including this thought itself) would be valueless, and this is self-contradictory. .... [the entire essay (pdf)]
Another favorite quotation of mine:
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”
C.S. Lewis, 1943
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Guillaume Bignon, Frenchman, ex-atheist, theologian, argues that "only God can make sense of the evil in Paris":
.... The way I see it, there are only a couple of ways to think through this evil.
The only option for French atheists (among whose ranks I used to count myself), is to maintain that there isn’t really any such thing as evil. When one denies the existence of God as a transcendent creator of the universe who ordains how humans ought to live their lives, one is left only with conflicting opinions about what individuals like and dislike. If there is no God then there is no objective truth about the good and the bad.
In the end, to deny God is to deny objective good and with it, objective evil. In fact, this is the route explicitly taken by popular French atheist philosopher André Comte-Sponville. In his book L’esprit de l’athéisme, he says: ‘good and evil do not exist in nature, and nothing exists outside of it’.
The French atheist contends that the only morality that exists is a human construction, and one must keep in mind that it is ‘illusory’. He concludes: ‘This is what I call relativism, or rather, its positive side: only reality is absolute, every judgment of value is relative.’
In all likelihood, few ordinary French atheists think about where their denial of God leads as thoroughly as Comte-Sponville impressively does. But in reality, to be a consistent atheist one must affirm that the Islamic terrorists in Paris didn’t do anything 'wrong', as such. They only acted out of line with our personal preferences, (and in line with theirs). If there's no ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, that's all we are left with..... [more]
God be in my head, And in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, And in my looking;
God be in my mouth, And in my speaking;
God be in my heart, And in my thinking;
God be at mine end, And at my departing.
Words: Sarum Primer, 1558, Music: Henry Walford Davies, 1910
Friday, November 20, 2015
Christianity Today reports on a new survey attempting to define "evangelical" by doctrine rather than by sociological criteria or political behavior:
The new report identifies four key statements that define evangelical beliefs, creating what may be the first research-driven creed.
Those statements are:
Only those who strongly agree with each of those statements should be considered “evangelical by belief,” according to the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). ....
- The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
- It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
- Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
- Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation.
People who strongly agree with one statement tend to strongly agree with others, indicating the statements measure a “theological package” of evangelical belief, Stetzer said. Those who strongly agree with all four statements are more likely to attend church frequently and identify themselves as evangelical. ....
“African American Christians historically have high levels of beliefs that align with evangelical beliefs but tend not to use that term,” Stetzer said.
The report found that 41 percent of self-identified evangelicals fall outside the new definition of evangelical belief, and 21 percent of those who disavow the evangelical label have beliefs that actually fall within the evangelical definition, reports Facts & Trends. It also notes:
- 23 percent of Catholics and 47 percent of Protestants hold evangelical beliefs.
- 46 percent of Americans who attend church at least weekly hold evangelical beliefs.
- 39 percent of those who identify themselves as Christians hold evangelical beliefs.
- Americans with a high school education or less are most likely to hold evangelical beliefs. Forty percent of those with no more than a high school education strongly agree with all four statements, compared to 26 percent of those with some college, 22 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees, and 18 percent of those with graduate degrees.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
For its 60th anniversary issue National Review asked various of its supporters and contributors to indicate a book "that shaped our minds." Steven Hayward chose one that certainly affected me. Hayward:
The Abolition of Man, barely 100 pages long, culminates in a simple but elegant argument on behalf of natural law — nay, of human nature itself. Human nature is the most controversial and overarching political question of our time. (And perhaps we should start calling leftists “human-nature deniers”?) Lewis reminds us, finally, that “a dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not a tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
From an Interview with Jonathan Haidt, "The Revenge of the Coddled":
.... The great majority of people over 35 seem to dislike this coddling culture, they were not raised with it. Most of them had “free-range” childhoods where they spent time without adult supervision and were expected to fend for themselves. So the biggest divide is age. The only people who support the “coddling culture,” as far as I can tell, are under 35, on the Left, and on a college campus. There also seems to be a sex difference—women are more attracted to this view than men, perhaps because many of these ideas grew out of feminist theory in the 1990s. But the bottom line is that we have an emperor’s new clothes situation, where a small minority of people are bullying the majority, and I am hoping the majority will stand up and say, ‘You don’t get to tell me how to speak.’
I think we are due for a change in our thinking about diversity. It’s going to be very difficult but it’s essential. There was a time when racial diversity and gender diversity were the most pressing issues, when many institutions were all-white and all-male.... [But] with each passing year, racial diversity and gender diversity, I believe, while still important, should become lower priorities, and with each passing year political diversity becomes more and more important: our nation becomes more and more paralyzed.... In higher education, we have a lot of race and gender diversity and we have essentially no political diversity. ....
.... Children are anti-fragile. They have to have many, many experiences of failure, fear, and being challenged. Then they have to figure out ways to get themselves through it. If you deprive children of those experiences for eighteen years and then send them to college, they cannot cope. They don’t know what to do. The first time a romantic relationship fails or they get a low grade, they are not prepared because they have been rendered fragile by their childhoods. ....
If you try to reach students when they get to college it’s already too late.... As we say in the essay, childhood changed in 80s and 90s, there was much more protectiveness, there were new zero tolerance policies on bullying, which was fine when bullying was linked to physical aggression and to repeated actions. But bullying has gotten defined down over the last twenty years. There’s no longer a connection to physical violence, it no longer requires repetition, and it no longer requires intent. If someone feels excluded or marginalized by a single event, they have been bullied, and there’s zero tolerance for that. So that’s the way kids are socialized by the time they arrive in college...
What I would suggest is that if any school has an anti-bullying policy, they should balance it with an anti-coddling policy. They need to realize they can do a lot of harm if they coddle the students. They turn them into “moral dependents,” a term for people who cannot solve problems by themselves; they are morally dependent on adults or other authorities to solve their problems for them. .... [more]
Professor Haidt also explains why he is more inclined to discuss this subject at schools other than his own, and also why he believes there is hope.
From The Guardian, Scott Atran, an anthropologist who has specialized in the study of terrorism, on the strategy and appeal of ISIS:
.... There is a playbook, a manifesto: The Management of Savagery/Chaos, a tract written more than a decade ago under the name Abu Bakr Naji, for the Mesopotamian wing of al-Qaida that would become Isis. Think of the horror of Paris and then consider these, its principal axioms.
Hit soft targets. “Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.”
Strike when potential victims have their guard down. Sow fear in general populations, damage economies. “If a tourist resort that the crusaders patronise…is hit, all of the tourist resorts in all of the states of the world will have to be secured by the work of additional forces, which are double the ordinary amount, and a huge increase in spending.”
Consider reports suggesting a 15-year-old was involved in Friday’s atrocity. “Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.” ....
...[W]hat inspires the most uncompromisingly lethal actors in the world today is not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings. It’s a thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious, cool – and persuasive.
A July 2014 ICM poll suggested that more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 have a favourable or very favourable opinion of Isis, although only 7-8% of France is Muslim. It’s communal. More than three of every four who join Isis from abroad do so with friends and family. Most are young, in transitional stages in life: immigrants, students, between jobs and mates, having just left their native family. They join a “band of brothers (and sisters)” ready to sacrifice for significance.
Eager to recruit, the group may spend hundreds of hours trying to enlist a single individual, to learn how their personal problems and grievances fit into a universal theme of persecution against all Muslims. .... [more]
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
"We went beyond total mortality and looked at specific causes of death. And we found that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee have lower risk of [death] from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease [such as Parkinson's] and suicide." ....
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Via Patrick Kurp Robert Conquest on a mindset relevant to both religious and secular fanatics:
The revolutionary believed it to be in the nature of things that dictatorship and terror are needed if the good of humanity is to be served, just as the Aztec priests believed themselves to be entirely justified in ripping the hearts out of thousands of victims, since had they not done so, the sun would have gone out, a far worse catastrophe for mankind. In either case, the means are acceptable, being inevitable....
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Alan Jacobs recalls a Sunday School experience from around 1972:
"A fellow wanted to know whether he should marry his girlfriend," Mr. Hutchins told his wretched flock of imprisoned teenagers, "so he decided to see what the Bible had to say. He opened a page and put his finger on a spot"—at this point I emerged from my usual stupor and sat up straight, never having suspected that anyone else did such a thing—"and it said, ‘Judas went and hanged himself.’ Well, he didn’t like that too much, so he tried again. This time it said, ‘Go thou and do likewise.’" A grin flickered. "So he tried one more time, closed his eyes, opened his Bible, put his finger on the page...." Mr. Hutchins paused for effect, with his own Bible open in his lap, his head uplifted and eyes screwed shut, his finger wavering presciently over the surface of the page. Then, suddenly, the finger plunged like a dowsing rod, he popped open his eyes, and concluded: "And this time it said, ‘What thou doest, do quickly!’"
Monday, November 9, 2015
Jay Nordlinger in "On Defining, and Not Defining, Conservatism":
....I quote Roger Scruton, the British philosopher, who is an exemplary conservative. In a podcast last summer, I said to him (approximately), “If I appointed anyone as commissar of conservatism, it would be you.” He said (exactly),
“I would be very lax in my duties. My view is that the most important thing for conservatives is to be in alliance with each other, not to have witch hunts over small points of doctrine, not to identify heresies and persecute them and so on.
“I think that, in the end, there is something that unites all conservatives, which is that they are pursuing something they love. My view is that the Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on. And what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we’re up against people who want to destroy them, and it’s very simple.” ....
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Kenneth Woodward, longtime religion editor for Newsweek, considers whether Ross Douthat is qualified to write about Catholicism, his right to do so having been questioned by a growing list of Catholic academicians who have attached their names to an open letter to The New York Times.
Part one reads: “Aside from the fact that Mr. Douthat has no professional qualifications for writing on the subject…” What exactly is the subject he is not qualified to write about? He has has already published a very substantive journalistic book on Catholicism that has been generally well received by Catholics of various stripes. If the subject is Catholic sacramental marriage, he is a husband and a father, an experiential credential that some of his academic critics, being priests, do not. If nothing else, it gives him a personal stake in the outcome of the church’s deliberations.
It is hard not to conclude from the way this sentence begins that what the offended scholars mean by “professional qualifications” is a doctorate in theology or in some degree kindred to “the sacred sciences.” But neither did G.K. Chesterton, or C.S. Lewis, or Thomas Merton, I believe. What they did is read widely and write well. A doctorate is the one credential Douthat’s critics own that he does not. This smacks of the academic virus that Frank O’Malley, my old English professor at Notre Dame, identified as “PhDeism”—i.e. credential worship. It is the virus that, in another context, Christopher Lasch lamented as inciting “the tyranny of experts” and is akin to what led Kierkegaard to observe that “a roomful of experts is only a crowd.” ....
Today is celebrated in the UK as Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of a foiled attempt by Catholic plotters in 1605 to blow up King James and the Houses of Parliament. It was known as the "Gunpowder Plot" and came very close to success. From an online description:
.... It was intended to be the beginning of a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion. The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, expanded their number to a point where secrecy was impossible.
[In] a cellar under the House of Lords...36 barrels of gunpowder, overlaid with iron bars and firewood, were secretly stored. The conspiracy was brought to light through a mysterious letter received by Lord Monteagle...on October 26, urging him not to attend Parliament on the opening day.
The 1st Earl of Salisbury and others, to whom the plot was made known, took steps leading to the discovery of the materials and the arrest of Fawkes as he entered the cellar. Other conspirators, overtaken in flight or seized afterward, were killed outright, imprisoned, or executed.
.... While the plot was the work of a small number of men, it provoked hostility against all English Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them. Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, is still celebrated in England with fireworks and bonfires, on which effigies of the conspirator are burned. ....
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England's overthrow.
But, by God's providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! ....
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
English children's rhyme for Guy Fawkes Day
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Several analyses both here and in Europe have been reporting a disturbing trend especially affecting white lower-class males. From The Washington Post:
A large segment of white middle-aged Americans has suffered a startling rise in its death rate since 1999, according to a review of statistics published Monday that shows a sharp reversal in decades of progress toward longer lives.
The mortality rate for white men and women ages 45-54 with less than a college education increased markedly between 1999 and 2013, most likely because of problems with legal and illegal drugs, alcohol and suicide, the researchers concluded. Before then, death rates for that group dropped steadily, and at a faster pace.
An increase in the mortality rate for any large demographic group in an advanced nation has been virtually unheard of in recent decades, with the exception of Russian men after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ....
...[T]hey found that mortality rates for this group had risen an average of a half percent per year since 1999, after falling an average of 2 percent annually for the 20 years before that. If mortality rates group had stayed on their steady downward course, a half-million more people would be alive today, they determined. [more]
And this while "U.S. death rate for all causes declined 43 percent between 1969 and 2013, from about 1,279 per 100,000 people to about 730."
R.R. Reno believes he knows at least part of the reason:
.... For the last few decades, cultural leaders have been waging a war on the weak. Their goal is to dismantle traditional norms and rules for family life. They push to dismantle gender roles and other foundational categories that ordinary people use to orient themselves and make sense out of their lives. They advocate for drug legalization and doctor-assisted suicide as well. The upshot: reliable guides toward a normal life are removed, and potentially destructive behaviors that rich people either avoid or discretely manage are normalized. The most vulnerable pay the cost. ....
Well-educated adepts know how to use today’s multicultural patois to navigate in our brave new world of officially mandated gender blindness. They can affirm the progressive orthodoxies in words, while conveying to their children in their deeds a plastic but nevertheless gender-differentiated approach to life. Meanwhile, kids and young adults from poorly educated households are deprived of a functional language to talk about what it means to be a man or woman. Without such a language, they can’t see themselves as successfully being men or women. And so they are deprived of a baseline adult achievement that come-of-age rituals in traditional cultures have always celebrated.
.... Two generations ago, a working class man was often poor or nearly poor, but he could be respected in his neighborhood as a provider for his family, father to his children, law-abiding citizen, coach of a Little League team, and usher in church. The culture that made such a life possible has disintegrated, partly due to large-scale trends in our post-industrial society, but also because of a sustained and ongoing ideological assault on the basic norms for family and community. Death rates are likely to continue to rise for poor Americans. I see no signs that the war on the weak will abate. [more]