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Religion

End of the Canterbury tales?

When I was an Episcopalian it seemed to me the name summed up the core belief that held the church together: they believed in bishops. It was pleasant being a bishop, it should be pleasant being a bishop, and if you didn’t go along with that you didn’t belong and you should go someplace else. Of course, there was more to it than that. Episcopalians also believed in relationships. People should be nice to each other, and accept and affirm each other in their mutually affirming whateverness, so long of course as the various whatevernesses stayed mutually affirming.

The effect was that you could think and do whatever you wanted as long as you approved of everyone else thinking and doing whatever he wanted, and you otherwise didn’t make waves. The Episcopal Church was thus a religion formed on the model of the politically correct managerial consumer society. Everybody pleased himself by following his own pursuits, within a structure that ruled quite effectively without seeming to do so because nothing could ever become an issue. How could anything be an issue, after all, when everything was either private taste, amusement, happy talk about celebrating otherness, or arranged by higher-ups over whom there was very little control? The only real issue was how to redefine apparent issues as non-issues as smoothly as possible. To make anything else an issue was to show you weren’t really an Episcopalian, because you had violated “Anglican comprehensiveness.” And besides, it wasn’t nice.

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Loosey-goosey religion and its logic

Here’s a useful summary of one basic issue involved in current religious disputes over sex and whatnot: The Ecstatic Heresy. Basically, the question is whether God is personal and can do concrete things, or an indescribable ultimate principle that can’t tell us anything definite. The former view is better for ordinary believers, because it means religion can tell them something definite, while the latter is better for religious professionals, at least from a strictly occupational standpoint. Making God completely indefinite makes it hard to argue about what He wants, so it facilitates smooth administration. It makes the professionals themselves the highest possible authorities in religious matters. There’s no way to appeal over their heads to a God who has never said anything. The view of God as essentially unknowable also facilitates social advancement, because it’s easy to enlist an utterly indefinite God in the service of whatever cause is currently esteemed.

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If "jihad" is good, why is "crusade" bad?

Here’s a brief interview with historian Thomas Madden, who makes some obvious points on what the Crusades were really like: Part 1 and Part 2. If a belated counterattack 900 years ago against Islamic military expansion and oppression is on the short list of the sins of Catholic Christendom, then Catholic Christendom looks pretty good.

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The purity of French schools preserved

An example of what happens if the struggle against radical Islam is recast as a struggle against “fundamentalism” (that is, against every serious form of religion): French “headscarf” law bans priests from schools. Priests wear Roman collars, after all, and Roman collars are just like headscarves. The problem’s a general one.

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What sense does this God stuff make?

One of the problems people have with religion today is that they don’t know what to make of the word “God.”

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The rise of the state and tolerance

Here’s a review by Joseph Stromberg of A. J. Conyers’ The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit. The book’s been out for a while now, and I haven’t read it yet but should.

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Paleo-politics and Catholicism

The uniform view of the cultural Left—which includes everything that counts as mainstream from the standpoint of our bureaucracies of truth—is that nods by Republican leaders toward traditionalist cultural concerns prove that the GOP has been hijacked by fundamentalist wackos. That’s not rhetoric and spin, things really look to them that way. It’s clear from scholarly discussions and judicial opinions, for example, that the elite bar, a thoroughly mainstream part of our ruling class, is literally unable to conceive of a legitimate ground for publicly distinguishing homosexual couplings from any other sexual connection, including marriage.

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Philosophical and theological aspects

Non-Catholic religions

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Restoration of Christendom

Can Christendom be restored?

Every society is based on some understanding of man and the world that is comprehensive enough to define good and evil, moral obligation, the nature of the good life and so on. But that is just to say that every society is based on a religious understanding.

The issue then is not whether “politics” and “religion” should be kept separate — in the long run they can’t be, the two are joined at the head — but the nature of the established religion and the relation between explicitly religious considerations and more secular issues.

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Man

The question regarding man today is whether man is simply a natural object like any other, the qualities of which can be explained in the same way as those of a maple tree or computer program, and if not, whether he has a particular substantive essence &mdash a necessary character that makes him what he is &mdash or whether he is the being that freely defines what he is with no constraint except acceptance of his own power of choice.

The Catholic view, of course, is that man is different from other objects in nature, and that he has a specific essence that defines the goals for him t

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Christendom

Christendom is the part of the world inhabited by Christians, understood as a polity ordered toward Christ though recognition of the authority of the Church. The ordering of course has never been perfect, but Christ was nonetheless once understood as the principle of unity and the highest possible authority. As such, Christendom endured until the Enlightenment.

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The world

The “world” can be taken in more than one sense. It can mean the sort of thing that promotes “worldliness”: things like career, politics and life in a consumer society. In that sense, “the world” refers to human things to the extent they ignore God:

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

(1 John 2:15-16.) Worldliness can, of course, extend to the natural sciences, liberal arts and various noble-sounding ideals.

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Catholicism

Catholicism is a community, a tradition, a vehicle of revelation, and a world. The word means “universal” or “all-inclusive.” The Catholic Church is therefore the Church that is not partial but possesses by right the whole of Christianity and truth. The extent to which particular Catholics, including Church officials, exercise that right of course varies.

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Tradition

Tradition is a collective term for the beliefs, habits, attitudes, institutions, stories and so on that grow up among a people living together and give them a common mind and spirit that enables them to make a life together. Tradition is also the knowledge of things that can’t easily be put into words, diffused and made concrete in the life of the people.

Catholics sometimes distinguish

  • Sacred Tradition, which is a vehicle of revelation equal to scripture,
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The coming Reich

Robert Reich was a class ahead of me at college, and at the time he stood out for his knack at picking out positions that were (1) somewhat ahead of the curve, so he could get a leg up as representative of The Next Big Thing, but (2) not too far ahead, so those in power could bring him into their efforts to deal with events and bring them in line with the needs of orderly management and their own interests.

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Bush's theocratic America

How religious issues present themselves to the mainstream press in conservative red-state America: according to the Salt Lake Tribune,

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Were the Wars of Religion really that?

The claim that the history of Europe from 1517 to 1648 shows that mixing politics and religion leads to endless violence, so that peace requires the secular state, always seemed odd to me. After all, states kill by nature, and they can be defended only if someone is willing to put his life on the line. It follows that any state whatever is based on some principle thought worth killing and dying for. Political principles have to do with the use of force to achieve practical objectives, while religious principles relate more essentially to other things.

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Errata variorum

Keeping abreast of the times:

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Flogging a dead multiculture

A review of Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police in The New Pantagruel brings out the nature of “celebrating diversity” in school textbooks: since almost anything one might assert, suggest or mention would be more favorable to one group or culture than another, the only things that can be asserted, suggested or mentioned are things like elderly marathoners and the personal problems of immigrants. “Diversity” always turns out to mean “sameness and irrelevance.” Since the same problems appear in college textbooks, choice of which normally lies with individual instructors, the issue isn’t formal political pressure so much as the voluntary decision of our whole intellectual class to prefer multiculti to anything intellectual.

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