Dan Slott shoves anti-faith bilge into Peter Parker’s mouth in ASM #25 because reporters shouldn’t believe in God … or something

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Fans of The Amazing Spider-Man plopped down $10 this week to read the start of The Osborn Identity, which was jam-packed with extra stories (some of them not so good). While your friendly neighborhood blogger is happy to talk about the issue as a whole, one exchange in the main story stuck out for the anti-faith claptrap that writer Dan Slott shoved into Peter Parker’s mouth.

Since this issue takes place after The Clone Conspiracy, Peter Parker goes to check on reporter Betty Brant to see how she’s doing. She mentions seeing a spiritual advisor and possibly bringing Aunt May along since her second husband just passed away, to which the hero replies:

“You’re a reporter. You live for facts. When did you start looking to the spirit world?

Note that at this point Peter knew nothing about Betty receiving phone calls from the clone of her deceased husband. All he knew as that she wanted to see a spiritual advisor. And his response?  A condescending remark that people who deal in “facts” should not be turning to spiritual advisors.

Spider-Man fans who subjected themselves to Jose Molina’s atrocious Amazing Grace will note how he also infused Peter with anti-faith smugness. In 2016, however, the message was that faith in God and science are somehow at odds, which is not true at all (my guess is that Dan Slott and Jose Molina have never even heard of Georges Lemaître, for example, but I digress).

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What makes Dan Slott’s decision so weird, as has been stated before, is that it makes even more sense in the Marvel Universe for people to believe in the supernatural because citizens witness it on a regular basis. Peter has literally been to the astral plane, dealt with demons, and knows first-hand that they exist, and yet Dan Slott makes him act like a callous jerk towards a friend who is spiritual.

The absurdity of Peter’s statement is made even more bizarre when, moments earlier, he is seen talking to “Uncle Ben” — a dead man — at his grave. Why would scientists and reporters and superheroes talk to long-dead relatives unless they believed that on a spiritual level their words were being heard?

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And why would Peter behave like such a jerk towards Ms. Brant when Amazing Grace ended with a meeting between he and a priest — “Hey, Father. You got a minute?”

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Here are some historical “facts” for Dan Slott.

  • There was once a man named Jesus who made some pretty “bold” claims (Understatement of All Time Award material, I know.)
  • Jesus was crucified — just as he foretold — for those claims.
  • Jesus’ enemies were so terrified of Him that they literally entombed his corpse behind a giant rock and used an armed guard to watch over it. (Yes, an armed guard for a dead body.)
  • Christ’s own disciples, from a historical perspective, had every reason in the world to say, “Well, I guess it’s over,” after he was executed. False prophets came before him, and all their movements soon died with the individual. But these apostles didn’t turn in the towel. They too were eventually executed for telling all the world that Jesus rose from the dead. They traveled far and wide to tell everyone who would listen that they saw him, that they literally put their hands in his wounds, and that He is exactly who He claimed to be.

I can go on and on (What came before the Big Bang, Dan Slott?), but the point is this: Peter Parker would never behave the way he did in that scene with Ms. Brant because it was a total jerk thing to say. If you think that he would say that — despite hanging on occasion with Doctor Strange … traveling throughout the multi-verse … and generally dealing with the supernatural on a regular basis, then good luck making that case.

If Dan Slott is not a religious man, then that is his prerogative, but he should not turn Peter Parker into a condescending jerk when a story delves into spiritual matters.

With that said, I highly suggest checking out Stillanerd’s review of ASM #25 over at Whatever A Spider Can.

I should also mention that the two of us will be discussing the craft of writing (through an ASM prism) on my YouTube channel on Saturday, March 25. As of now we plan on starting at 3 p.m. EST. Make sure to subscribe and hit YouTube’s little bell icon to receive a notification when we go live.

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Thomas Merton’s ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ a classic for the well-read man of faith

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Not too long ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife after Mass and she told me that I seemed restless. I agreed, and when we started to dig down into the reasons why, one of them was the kind of “dumbed down” Catholicism that Bishop Robert Barron criticizes so eloquently on his YouTube channel.

I sometimes sit in Church on Sunday and listen to our priest deliver the same New York Jets joke that he has used at least three times in the last 18 months. I’ll hear another priest tell well-prepared homilies that seem to concentrate on feel-goodisms (e.g., “Make someone smile and you’ll bring them closer to God”), instead of anything substantive. It’s maddening to know that there is a wealth of intellectual treasures in the Catholic Church, but for some weird reason priests never seem to challenge people in the pews to pick up a good book and read.

It boggles my mind that I have never — in nearly 38 years — heard a priest on Sunday tell me to read Saint Augustine’s ConfessionsC.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas, or a whole host of intellectual giants who have helped me over the years to understand my faith on a deeper level — and to cogently share it with those in my circle of friends. I searched out the above-mentioned authors because at some point in time I realized that I had to take as much personal responsibility with my spiritual health as I have with my physical and mental development over the years.

And it is here, dear reader, where Trappist monk Thomas Merton enters the equation. Long story short, his autobiography is a must-read for anyone who has drifted away from the Church because they received too many helpings of “dumbed down Catholicism” without realizing how much stimulating content was within reach.

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and now they know that I fully endorse Merton. But what they don’t know is that one of the reasons these men resonate with me is because the flaws they both acknowledge — their spiritual deficiencies — have been my own.

Merton says:

“Where was my will? ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,’ and I had not laid up any treasures for myself in heaven. They were all on earth. I wanted to be a writer, a poet, a critic, a professor. I wanted to enjoy all kinds of pleasures of the intellect and of the senses and in order to have these pleasures I did not hesitate to place myself in situations which I knew would end in spiritual disaster — although generally I was so blinded by my own appetites that I never even clearly considered this fact until it was too late, and the damage was done.

Of course, as far as my ambitions went, their objects were all right in themselves. There is nothing wrong in being a writer or a poet — at least I hope there is not: but the harm lies in wanting to be one for the gratification of one’s own ambitions, and merely in order to bring oneself up to the level demanded by his own internal self-idolatry. Because I was writing for myself and for the world, the things I wrote were rank with the passions and selfishness and sin from which they sprang. An evil tree brings forth evil fruits, when it brings forth fruit at all,” (Merton, Thomas. 253).

Who knew that a deceased monk could peg me to the wall and make me weep like no man who walks the earth? You exposed me to all the world, Thomas Merton. Touché! But I thank you, because I am better for it.

The point here is not so much to treat this blog as a confessional booth (although in many ways it is), but to point out just how imperative it is to read the best and the brightest that has ever been written. If you really want to see spiritual growth, then you must put in the same type of time and effort that you do with any other endeavor deemed important.

If you are a Catholic or a lapsed Catholic, then I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. If you are not Catholic but you are interested in exploring this kind of subject matter, then I would start out with C.S. Lewis since it’s easier to step into a warm bath than a brisk pool.

Regardless which route you take, the point remains: Get reading!

Related:

Americans need to read more Saint Augustine and listen to less Mike Huckabee

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

Daredevil #16 Review: Soule gets ‘subversive’ with Catholic priest

It wasn’t too long that I was informed that Matt Murdock would be returning to the Catholic church. I was thrilled that such a logical move would happen to the Marvel character after years in creative purgatory, but at the same time I couldn’t help wonder what catch the company had in mind. We now know with the introduction of Father Jordan.

Brace yourself, Catholic Daredevil fans. Once again Marvel (like Hollywood) has shown that it cannot simply show a man who honestly lives his Christian faith. There must always be some sort of weird warped take on the faith — or the man must have some underlying fetish or perversion.

Check out my latest YouTube review for the full details. As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ a masterpiece, must-see for Catholics

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One would think that a Martin Scorsese film with a ready-made audience of 1.1 billion Catholics would be a no-brainer in terms of marketing. Strangely, the money men behind the director’s latest masterpiece, Silence, decided to go with an “art house” angle instead of any serious outreach to those who could make it a smash hit. The decision will cost the film millions during its theatrical run, but that still does not change the fact that it is a must-see effort by the man who brought the world Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and a slew of other great projects.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, which is based on a Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel, it involves two 17th century Jesuit missionaries who must look for their mentor in Japan. As an “army of two” they must find out if there is truth to the claim that their mentor rejected the faith after years of torment by officials.

Mr. Scorsese recently said that “three or four great actors” turned down roles for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). After watching the film (How much do you want to bet that one of those actors was Leonardo DiCaprio?), it is safe to say that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Everyone involved delivers, particularly Mr. Garfield.

In short, see the movie if you are a fan of cinema — real cinema. Those with an attention span shaped by years of time on Twitter will be nowhere to be found, and you will exit the theater better for the experience.

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“Doug, Doug, Doug, you need to give me more than that,” you say? Yes, I understand. That is a reasonable request, and since I do not want to spoil too much of the film I will just say that the central question is one that I have covered before on this blog: Why does God seem absent at times?

When we go through trials and tribulations and pray, silence can be incredibly frustrating. People want God to be the cartoonish figure with a big white beard — they want Him to be a material being — and the absence of an on-call Divine Psychiatrist causes many men to believe they are alone in the world.

As Hubert Van Zeller has said, “We always imagine that if we felt strong, we would not mind having to carry the Cross. But the whole point is that we should not feel strong.”

Silence, perhaps to the chagrin of many priests, will cause people to question their own faith — but that is a good thing because the Truth can and should be able to stand up to any scrutiny. The faith that has gone through an intellectual blast furnace and survived comes out on the other side a spiritual steel, which is exactly what is needed in the modern world. Catholics need to intimately understand the value of pain and why such ordeals allowed by our Creator are always a blessing (as tough as that may be to comprehend).

As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain:

“Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.

As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C.S. Lewis.

Silence is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it forces religious viewers to objectively examine the strength of their own faith.

Would you drown before renouncing God? Would you burn? Would you die any number of gruesome deaths? If not, then why?

Very few men or women ever die a saint, but that reality does not free us from the obligation to try. Mr. Scorsese may have a complicated history with his Catholic upbringing (he is certainly not alone), but there should be no doubt about the quality of Silence. Hollywood producers discouraged him from making the film for decades, but he persevered. For that, moviegoers owe him a debt of gratitude.

‘Hostage to the Devil’: Malachi Martin’s masterwork on possession, exorcism more than a must-read for Catholics

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Former Jesuit priest Malachi Martin died in 1999, but he wrote one of the most comprehensive books on possession and exorcism in 1976 — Hostage To The Devil. Those who are unfamiliar with the man’s work may dismiss Hostage as fare for old school Catholics, but it is much more than that. Anyone who is interested in humanity’s struggle with morality, truth, free will, sex and gender, spirit and psyche would do themselves a favor by purchasing it soon.

Regular readers of this blog know that the intersection of politics and popular culture are covered on a regular basis. Movies, music and comic books are reviewed, but at the heart of it all is a fight against moral relativism.

The message is simple: Good and Evil exist. To deny that, or to pretend as though a man can go through life making morally neutral decisions, is to walk down a road of confusion. And, as Fr. Malachi notes, confusion seems to be a “prime weapon of evil.”

The author says:

“The surest effect of possession in an individual — the most obvious and striking effect common to all possessed persons, whether observed or apart from Exorcism — is the great loss in human quality, in humanness.

Curiously enough, the difficulty in talking nowadays about possession and describing its progress and effects in those attacked does not come from the weird, bizarre, or ‘unimaginable’ happens that may accompany possession.

The difficulty comes, instead, from the insistence of latter-day opinion makers that the religious view of good and evil is outdated; that the personality of each man, woman, and child exists only as a cross section of single traits and attributes best revealed in scores we achieve in psychological tests; that the truest and purest models for our behavior come from ‘lower animals’ and from ‘natural man,’ a mythical invention that has never existed and that we cannot imagine. …

Even though our coverage of these questions concerning Jesus and Lucifer must be brief due to limitations of space, we are not merely indulging in a comforting cliché when we make one observation: The best that latter-day prophets and modern doom sayers seem able to do with these matters is to ignore them and tell us to do the same. They cannot prove them false, but only increase their efforts to persuade us so. And for all their mighty efforts, they cannot repair the damage they do in this way to our humanness.,” Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992), 409, 411-412.

In short, the bulk of Hostage deals with five cases:

  • Zio’s Friend and the Smiler — 29
  • Father Bones and Mister Natch — 83
  • The Virgin and the Girl-Fixer — 173
  • Uncle Ponto and the Mushroom-Souper — 249
  • The Rooster and the Tortoise — 321

As readers can see by the pagination, trying to respectfully break down any one of these cases in a book review would be difficult. Exhaustive interviews were conducted with all parties involved, written records were examined, and hours upon hours of audio recordings analyzed.

What is important to know before buying the book — particularly for skeptics — is that Fr. Martin is not an intellectual slouch. He is a very intelligent man. He is serious, and the content within Hostage is extremely disturbing.

The fact of the matter is that possession is nothing like Americans see in Hollywood movies. It is much more insidious than that because bodiless beings that can glean knowledge from eternity are not stupid. Possession is a process by which patient demons wait for an entry point, exploit confusion, and ultimately seize control when victims voluntarily present their souls on a silver platter.

Exacerbating this threat is a culture that grants Satan “the ultimate camouflage” — the belief that he does not exist.

“Raised more and more in an atmosphere where moral criticism is not merely out of fashion, but prohibited, [we] swim with little help in a veritable sea of pornography. Not merely sexual pornography, but the pornography of unmitigated self-interest. Whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the younger generations among us is, What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?

The difficulty is that as individuals and as a society, we are no longer willing — many of us are no longer able — to give an answer to that question that will satisfy anyone for long. …

Not to believe in evil is not be be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession,” (Preface, XIII, XIV, XV).

As Fr. Martin says, “no one wants to believe in evil, really, above all, not in an evil being, an evil spirit,” because acknowledging that places a perpetual responsibility on our shoulders.

“That [disbelief] is the opening through which [Satan] crawls, stilling all suspicions, making everything seem normal and natural. This is the ‘thought,’ the unwariness of the ordinary human being which amounts to a disinclination to believe in evil. And, if you do not believe in evil, how can you believe in or even know what good is?” (389)

Hostage is an amazing book. Anyone who is remotely spiritual should read it, but they must be forewarned that it will leave them shaken to the core.

If you have any questions about the cases covered by Fr. Martin, then feel free to ask in the comments section below.

France bans Down Syndrome ad from TV because smiling kids might ‘disturb’ women who had an abortion

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Years ago I was a substitute teacher just outside Chicago. There were days when I had the opportunity to join special education classes, which included kids with Down Syndrome. I am not lying when I say that those were some of the best kids I ever had the privilege to meet.

Given that experience, you can see one of the many reasons why a story out of France caught my eye just before Thanksgiving.  It turns out that a commercial by CoorDown titled “Dear Future Mom” is now officially banned from the airwaves. The reason? It might “disturb the conscience” of women who elected to have an abortion.

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on the story Wednesday:

“Abortion is legal in most of Europe, but its proponents are bent on suppressing efforts to change the minds of mothers considering it. Witness France’s ban on a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome (DS).

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. “Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

France’s High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could ‘disturb the conscience’ of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.”

Ask yourself this question: If French courts are permitted to ban a television commercial that features smiling kids because it might “disturb the conscious” of some viewers, then what is off limits?

Answer: Nothing.

Whether you agree or disagree with abortion, then I hope you can see just how incredibly terrifying this court’s logic is from a free-speech and religious liberty perspective. People often behave like the liberties enjoyed by the western world will be around forever, but that is not the case.

“But Doug!” you said, “Why should we care about France? We sort of expect that kind of thing from the French and Europe as a whole, right?”

The truth, sadly, is that every nation has Thought Police — even the U.S.

One merely needs to check out BuzzFeed’s hit piece on the hosts of HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper. Writer Kate Aurthur founder herself a juicy target to destroy because a popular married couple is suspected of a Mind Crime. That’s why she wrote “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.”

Shocker — Christian family belongs to a church that does not approve of homosexual relationships.

Perhaps Allahpundit over at Hotair put it best:

“The BuzzFeed piece is proof that we’re past the persuasion stage now in the culture wars, particularly as regards gay rights, and into the bludgeoning stage, where the left feels secure enough in its gains to try to strongarm the holdouts.”

Boom.

In France, smiling kids with Down Syndrome cannot appear on television. In America, Christian couples with hit television shows have giant websites trying to find ways to destroy their career.

In France, powerful legal councils keep you off the air if you  disturb the conscience of women who had an abortion. In America, liberal reporters will try to derail your television career if you “disturb the conscious” of secular Democrats.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote by John Philpot Curran:

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” — John Philpot Curran.

If you do not think you have anything to learn from men who were born in the 1700s, then think again.

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‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

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George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a wonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.

Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.

Mr. Weigel writes:

If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.

Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …

I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way.  […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.

A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.

Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?

Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.

There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.

Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”

If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.

DeGrasse Tyson pushes Matrix-like theory of reality, still mocks Christians

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Your friendly neighborhood blogger is always perusing the internet for science-related news. Given that fact, it did not go unnoticed that two stories pushing the idea that reality is all an illusion gained widespread media attention over the past month.

The first piece came when Neil DeGrasse Tyson said it was “very likely” humans are living in a simulation. The second story involved Princeton University scientists who think free will may just be a trick the brain plays to rewrite history. None of this would be very fascinating if it weren’t for the fact that Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and his atheist followers take pot shots at Christians on a regular basis.

Extreme Tech reported April 22:

“At the most recent Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, recently held at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, scientists gathered to address the question for the year: Is the universe a computer simulation? It’s an older question that you might imagine, and if we interpret it a bit more broadly then it’s really one of the oldest questions imaginable: How do we know that reality is reality? And, if our universe were a big, elaborate lie, could we ever devise some test to prove that fact? At the debate, host and celebrity astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argued that the probability is that we [‘very likely’] live in a computer simulation.”

The U.K. Independent reported Sunday:

Free will might be an illusion created by our brains, scientists might have proved.

Humans are convinced that they make conscious choices as they live their lives. But instead it may be that the brain just convinces itself that it made a free choice from the available options after the decision is made.

The idea was tested out by tricking subjects into believing that they had made a choice before the consequences of that choice could actually be seen. In the test, people were made to believe that they had taken a decision using free will – even though that was impossible. …

In one of the studies undertaken by Adam Bear and Paul Bloom, of Princeton University, the test subjects were shown five white circles on a computer monitor. They were told to choose one of the circles before one of them lit up red.

The participants were then asked to describe whether they’d picked the correct circle, another one, or if they hadn’t had time to actually pick one.

Statistically, people should have picked the right circle about one out of every five times. But they reported getting it right much more than 20 per cent of the time, going over 30 per cent if the circle turned red very quickly.

The scientists suggest that the findings show that the test subjects’ minds were swapping around the order of events, so that it appeared that they had chosen the right circle – even if they hadn’t actually had time to do so.

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished people are capable of lying?

Is it more likely scientists “proved” free will is an illusion, or that they reestablished the human brain is a beautiful box of paradoxes?

The human brain is incredibly sturdy, yet fragile. It is awe-inspiring in its complexity, yet ultimately a sponge-like mass of neurons, blood vessels, and tissue. It can turn science fiction into reality, yet it often falls for “tricks” played by researchers in white lab coats. The list goes on and on.

Matrix

Imagine what the world would look like if billions of people simultaneously listened to Morepheus DeGrasse Tyson and researchers at the University of Free Will Is Just an Illusion. Tyson likes to lump “crazy” Christianity in with Scientology, but my guess is that he would soon yearn for a world solely populated by “cracker”-eating Catholics if 7 billion people concluded a.) they were living in a glorified video game, and b.) they did not need to take responsibility for their actions.

Regardless, men of faith should smile. DeGrasse Tyson’s acknowledgment that humans “very likely” have a Creator will prompt some of his supporters down a spiritual path in the years ahead.

Why does God seem absent at times? ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ explains

Dark Night of the Soul

The questions “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” and “Why does God sometimes seem absent in my life?”  have repeatedly come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Many times people beat around the bush, but the underlying point is always transparent. A stellar resource on this subject — and quite honestly one of the toughest books I have ever read — is St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

First, it should be noted that if anyone had a right to question why bad things happen to good people, then it was St. John of the Cross. The Spanish mystic and Catholic saint, born in 1542, was once kidnapped (by monks), thrown in a dark jail cell, and beaten for months until he managed to escape.

A man who could have looked at his circumstances and concluded that God does not exist instead found God within the darkness.

Key points to consider when contemplating the dark night of the soul include:

  • Man’s nature is both sensual and spiritual.
  • Man is inclined to judge God by Man’s standards instead of Man by God’s standards.
  • Just as looking into the sun forces a man to close his eyes because it is too bright, individuals often cannot grasp that what they perceive as darkness is actually a reaction to incomprehensible light.
  • Just as a small child becomes anxious when its mother seems to have disappeared, humans are confused when God creates the illusion of distance so that they might spiritually grow.
  • Souls cannot approach God without being purged of imperfections. Trials and tribulations serve a greater purpose.

Given all this, St. John says:

“It follows from this that the greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security. […] Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things. It follows clear, then, that by walking in darkness, not only is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained since it is here gaining the virtues.” — St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.

Astute readers will note that St. John was talking about a spiritual darkness that envelops the soul as it continues on its path towards God, as opposed to physical ailments or obstacles that plague us all. That is true, but the physical and the spiritual overlap. It is often very difficult for an individual to discern which is which, and more so in an age where individuals are conditioned to believe they must be happy at all times or consider themselves broken.

It is incredibly difficult to see the blessings bestowed upon us through mental, physical and spiritual pain, but they are there.

Paradoxically, we must often embrace the darkness to see the light.

Good health, popularity, and financial success may be nice, but much is expected of the individual who has them all. Life’s difficulties are fertile ground for virtue, which is why we must not lament adversity.

If you have questions on the dark night of the soul, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to articulate St. John’s message for interested readers.

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

Easter is here — that wonderful day when Christians rejoice and atheists shake their head and ask, “Why the heck are we still talking about that guy Jesus after 2,000 years?!” That is a fair question, which is why today seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit G.K. Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man.”

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Every year countless YouTube videos pop up by wannabe Joe Rogans, who blast the so-called “fairy tale” known as Christianity. They go apoplectic over said “fairy tale” and its longevity. Generation after generation after generation picks up the Bible, studies it, and then billions of people conclude that Christ was exactly who he claimed to be.

The reason for this, as Chesterton points out, is that Christ spoke with authority while simultaneously being “exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge.”

The Jesus of the New Testament seems to me to have in great many ways the note of something superhuman; that is of something human and more than human. But there is another quality running through all his teachings which seems to me neglected in most modern talk about them as teachings; and that is the persistent suggestion that he has not really come to teach.

If there is one incident in the record which affects me personally as grandly and gloriously human, it is the incident of giving wine for the wedding-feast. That is really human in the sense in which a whole crowd of prigs, having the appearance of human beings, can hardly be described as human.

It rises superior to all superior persons. It is as human as Herrick and as democratic as Dickens. But even in that story there is something else that has the note of things not fully explained; and in a way there very relevant. I mean the first hesitation, not on any ground touching the nature of the miracle, but on that of the propriety of working any miracles at all, at least at that stage; ‘my time is not yet come.’

What did that mean? At least it certainly meant a general plan or purpose in the mind, with which certain things did or did not fit in. And if we leave out that solitary strategic plan, we not only leave out the point of the story, but the story.

The imitation Joe Rogans often preface their derision of Christianity with lines like, “I went to Catholic school” — as if they weren’t like every other high-school kid who slept through classes, wrote notes to girlfriends, and generally just goofed around with buddies for four years. The same people who cannot understand basic economics in their 40s would have us believe they fully understood Christianity by age 16, but I digress.

The more one studies the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that Christ was unlike any man who walked the earth up until that time — and that He maintains that distinction to this very day. All the “flying spaghetti monster” jokes in the world cannot diminish the genius and goodness dispensed by Christ in ways, as Chesterton says, “more than human.”

Christ was born. His primary purpose in life was to die a horrible death — and then rise again. He did.

Chesterton states:

“I willingly and warmly agree that it is, in itself, a suggestion at which we might expect even the brain of the believer to reel, when he realized his own belief. But the brain of the believer does not reel; it is the brains of the unbelievers that reel. …

I care not if the skeptic says it is a tall story; I cannot see how so toppling a tower could stand so long without foundation. Still less can I see how it could become, as it has become, the home of man. 

Had it merely appeared and disappeared, it might possibly have been remembered or explained as the last leap of the rage of illusion, the ultimate myth of the ultimate mood, in which the mind struck the sky and broke. But the mind did not break. It is the one mind that remains unbroken in the break-up of the world.

If it were an error, it seems as if the error could hardly have lasted a day. If it were a mere ecstasy, it would seem that such an ecstasy could not endure for an hour. It has endured for nearly two thousand years; and the world within it has been more lucid, more level-headed, more reasonable in its hopes, more healthy in its instincts, more humorous and cheerful in the face of fate and death, than all the world outside.

Happy Easter, everyone. I am grateful for all of you who regularly give me precious time out of your day and I pray for your regularly.

Best,

Doug