Faith in the Church

In his essay Faith and Doubt, Cardinal Newman argues that it is perfectly right for the Catholic Church to forbid her children to doubt her.  Not only must we accept what we currently understand to be Catholic doctrine, we must put faith in the Church herself as the “oracle of God”, and we “…must come, I say, to the Church to learn; you must come, not to bring your own notions to her, but with the intention of ever being a learner”.

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What the Ten Commandments do

Mangan brings to our attention the newly-fashioned “Ten Commandments for Atheists”:

Somebody came up with the idea of a Ten Commandments for atheists. Here it is:

  • Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
  • Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
  • The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
  • Every person has the right to control over their body.
  • God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
  • Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
  • Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  • We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
  • There is no one right way to live.
  • Leave the world a better place than you found it.

I am struck by the same thing Mangan was, that this list and Moses’ seem designed to do entirely different things.  Reading the Decalogue afresh, it’s clearly designed to order a society, not to provide general ethical principles like the atheist list (mostly) does.  Notice that the atheist commandments don’t mention any particular social station or forbid any particular act.  It does nothing to render social interactions smooth or predictable.  By contrast, the Decalogue is concerned with guaranteeing paternity (no adultery), parental authority (honoring parents), and property rights (no stealing).  Even the law against lying (“bearing false witness”) sounds like it has the reliable administration of justice mostly in mind.  The Decalogue begins by establishing the public cult and ends with safeguards against subversion by the rival socialist cult (no coveting).  There’s no attempt within the Commandments themselves to summarize the natural law or to give general principles that ground it.  Christians wanting to expound the natural law often organized it around the cardinal virtues or deadly sins (cf. Aquinas, Dante) rather than the second tablet.  When Jesus formulated principles on which the Law is based, He gave with two, both in the Torah but neither precisely corresponding to one of the Ten Commandments.  The point of the Ten Commandments is to translate the general principles of loving God and neighbor into particular duties, or rather to engineer a society that does this translating for us.

For why this is a necessary function, see Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Toward a useful definition of “social justice”

In common parlance “social justice” = communism or Leftism more generally, meaning for our purposes it can be translated as “injustice”.  We already have plenty of words for labeling general iniquity, and if this were all “social justice” is, we’d have no need for it.  Among Catholics, when “social justice” is used, the speaker is usually dividing up the moral law in his mind into “social” issues that have to do with money and “private” or “moral” issues that have to do with sex.  This use is unfortunate for implying a host of falsehoods:  that our business dealings and treatment of employees are not matters of personal sin and righteousness, that our conjugal relations don’t have enormous social ramifications.

When I use the words “social justice” (as I occasionally have), I’m trying to make different distinctions.  A more fruitful distinguishing factor of social as compared to private justice would be either 1) having to do with the irreducibly common good vs. individual goods or 2) having to do with the duties of large corporate bodies (especially states) entrusted with the common good vs. individual duties.  However one defines it, social justice should in principle deal with the entire moral law, only from the perspective of corporate justice rather than individual righteousness.

That viewing pornography is wicked and should not be indulged is a truth of private/personal morality.  That pornography should be banned is a matter of social justice.

If an employer fails to pay his employees a just wage, this is a personal sin for which he may well be personally damned.  That laws should forbid this and–as far as possible–the economy be devised to make it unprofitable are matters of social justice.

When we say that abortion is a matter of social justice, we mean that the natural law not only forbids women to commit this sin, but that it obligates communities to explicitly and legally renounce it.

What about those areas of morality where laws are counterproductive, such as politeness?  Even here, social justice makes demands, but in terms of what behavior communities commend and how their officials comport themselves.

More on shifting the Overton Window

Vox Popoli has it exactly right:

The primary difference between the Left and the Right is that the Left instinctively defends its extremists and the Right instinctively runs from them and leaves them out to dry. The latter is an appeasement strategy, and it works about as well as the infamous failures of appeasement we all know from history.

All appeasement does is signal to the SJW what buttons he needs to push in order to force an opponent to retreat. When you dutifully point out that “you don’t agree with everything X says” or “don’t include the sexists, the woman haters and those who argue in bad faith”, what you are accomplishing is not the inoculation of your argument from their extremist taint, you are telling the SJW exactly how he can rhetorically defeat you by painting you as the very sort of extremist you disavow. And remember, rhetorical victory is the entirety of their objective!

Embrace the extremists. Defend them. Refuse to permit them to be cut off and isolated. Allow them to play their role as the intellectual shock troops they are. That is how you win. Because if they’re not taking the incoming fire, you are. And the shock troops are much better equipped psychologically to take it and survive than the average self-styled moderate.

I am an extremist.  Embrace me!

Women’s issues

Here’s something I read a couple of years ago, and it’s been gnawing on my brain ever since.  At Patriactionary, Will S. drew attention to a proposal in India to provide housewives with a salary extracted from their husbands’ earnings.

The Indian government is mulling over a proposal to force husbands to hand over a percentage to their wives.  (HT: TC)

From the article:

The minister said if a portion of a husband’s income is allocated as wife’s share, it is likely to be spent on better food for children, on their  education and the overall quality of standard of living of that  household.

Why did this idea anger me so much?  Consider that a major purpose of the institution of marriage is to transfer the fruits of men’s productivity to women and children.  For thousands of years, Indian men have slaved away to provide for their wives and children–the fact that the Indian race has survived so many generations is proof of that.  The idea here is that Indian men should continue to strain their backs every day for their families, but that they should no longer receive any credit or gratitude for it.  Instead, women and children are to direct their gratitude to the State.  The man who gives the majority of his waking day to their provision they will be taught to despise:  “He would just let us starve if the government didn’t see to it we got our share.”  Relationships of love replaced with entitlement and exploitation.

Note the offensive assertion that mothers are more likely to see that the children are taken care of than fathers.  These damned feminists have never met me, but they know I don’t really love my kids.

In fact, though, feminists in India are behind on the narrative.  In the enlightened West, we have decided that women’s priority is for adult sexual hedonism at the expense of children and public morals.  It isn’t me saying this–it’s the establishment:  the New York Times and the Democratic Party.  Just consider what are called “women’s issues”:  legal and subsidized abortion overriding conscientious objections by anyone involved, free contraception subsidized even by those with conscientious objections, normalization of female promiscuity (they can’t even have a movement against sexual assault without it turning into a celebration of sluthood), easy divorce despite the harm to children, and lowered labor investment in the raising of children (that is, more women in the workforce, which, unless they’re all going to work at daycare centers, means less overall labor allocated to childrearing).  The presumption always is that when a conflict arises between children and adult selfishness, women will side with the latter.  Even objecting to the outright murder of children in the interest of adult hedonism is associated with organizations run by old, celibate men.  If I were a woman, I would be offended by this, but I’d mostly be embarrassed for my sex because the Democrats have actually succeeded in getting an edge with women in this way.

And yet, for all of this, today’s politically active women are as nagging and shrewish as their prohibitionist grandmothers.  This is not how women who just want consequence-free sex act in my fantasies at all.

Catholics are allowed to notice how bad things really are

When the bishops fail to assert a Catholic doctrine when the subject comes up, when they ask us to consider the positive side of politically popular sins, when the Pope makes a statement that he must know will be interpreted in a heterodox way–when the context of his remark even suggests the heterodox interpretation–it’s silly to deny that they’re deliberately undermining the Catholic faith.  Whether or not an individual statement stripped of its context can be given an orthodox meaning is irrelevant.

Because so many people seem to think it clever to say otherwise, we should be grateful to Edward Feser for arguing the point at length.  Often, the job of philosophy is to defend common sense from clever silliness.

Peter Kwansniewski makes similar points more concisely at Rorate Caeli.

See also Mundabor’s great essay on “Francispeak“.

So, if we’re allowed to notice the obvious, there’s nothing wrong with noticing, as this article does, the contrast between the Vatican’s treatment of the religious sisters of the USA and of the Franciscans of the Immaculate.  Father Z points out that the CDF is still slowly investigating the LCWR, but really, what’s to investigate?  Their apostasy is completely out in the open.  The Vatican certainly doesn’t wait years before striking against those suspected of Lefebvrist sympathies.  The fact that everyone in the LCWR hasn’t been summarily excommunicated proves that Rome has no sense that it is dealing with open rebellion against Christianity and that nothing will happen.  Some time ago, Rod Dreher pointed out that, by its actions, one would conclude that the Vatican thinks preferring the Latin Mass is worse than child rape.  It is also clearly true that the Holy Father and the bishops regard the Latin Mass as worse than abortion advocacy, lesbianism, goddess worship, pantheism, and support for communism.  In fact, the post-Vatican II hierarchy acts very much like a Cathedral occupation force charged with suppressing any signs of pre-VII Catholicism.

Why I don’t believe in rape culture

In the comments to the last post, I wrote

How can we know how common real rape vs. false rape are? Everybody seems to accept that there is a big sexual assault problem on college campuses, but I don’t buy it for several reasons.

1) As Jim points out, for a ubiquitous problem, they seem to have a lot of trouble finding genuine cases to highlight. Part of that may be that the hoaxes are more lurid, involve more PC perpetrators, and are otherwise more attractive to journalists. There may also be a feedback mechanism involved similar to the one I suggested for racist cop stories: journalists are looking for cases where the university administration isn’t taking action, and this will draw them toward shady cases. So the fact that poster rapes nearly always end up being hoaxes doesn’t prove campus rape isn’t common, but it’s certainly a data point in that direction.

2) Folk wisdom doesn’t back it up. Women aren’t afraid of college campuses, fraternity houses, or fraternity students like they would be if there were a real rape epidemic there. Women are afraid to go walking alone in the ghetto, despite all they’ve learned about angelic blacks. Now, one could say that when folk wisdom and elite opinion conflict, I should choose the latter because it’s scientific while the former is just blind prejudice. However, prejudice being a more diffusely acquired and transmitted form of knowledge is harder to manipulate in a top-down way. Which brings me to my main reason

3) I don’t trust the people making these claims. I expect there’s a lot of inflation of sexual assault numbers from creatively broad definitions of “sexual assault”, but I think it goes beyond even that. There have been a lot of statistical claims made by feminists that we know are not only exaggerations or questionable readings of data, but are outright fabrications. Consider the claims about domestic abuse spiking during the superbowl, about domestic abuse being a main cause of female mortality, about hundreds of millions of witches being burned at the stake during the middle ages, about hundreds of thousands (or whatever it was) of women dying per year from illegal abortions right before it was legalized. These people deserve absolutely no presumption of trust. Anything claimed by a feminist controlled organization should be dismissed until corroborated by an independent outside group, and as we know there are no outside groups–the feminists have their apparatchiks installed everywhere.

Finally, a weak reason, but I’ll throw it out nonetheless.

4) Only about a quarter of Americans go to college, by-and-large the more academically gifted quarter. Think about the nerdiest quarter of your high school class. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t take all or even most of them to make a “rape culture”, but still…

Jim Donald argues that the vast majority of rape accusations are false.

Chateau Heartiste presents evidence that it’s about half of rape accusations.

And the idea that the general culture condones and encourages rape is pure feminist fantasy (or perhaps I should say pure feminist deliberate defamation, because it’s never clear how much of this nonsense they actually believe).

Why the media keeps highlighting dubious racist police murder stories

There are a whole lot of people in America.  Lots of black men have no criminal record, and some cops really are bullies.  I don’t believe in any of that “institutional racism” stuff, but I’ll bet if the MSM looked hard enough, they would be able to find some case of a white cop killing an innocent black man for no reason.  Why do they push cases where the police self-protection claim obviously has some merit?  Doesn’t that distract from the teachable moment we’re supposed to be enduring?

Steve Sailer (who in these days of escalating victimolatry is really indispensable) has called Ferguson a fiasco for the Democrats-MSM, but they don’t seem to have suffered from it.  Ironically, if Officer Wilson had been indicted, the case wouldn’t have been nearly as useful to them.  After all, the narrative being pushed is “racist white cops murder innocent blacks and get away with it“.  Assuming the goal is to stoke the anger of blacks and give journalists an opportunity to display their moral superiority over the masses, losing the actual court case is something that has to happen.

So, what the media wants, the case that produces maximum mobilization of Leftist clients, is the least defensible police killing that whites and juries will defend, or the most defensible police killing that the black community will still be outraged by.  If an armed black gangster opens fire on the police and gets shot, that’s no use, because blacks themselves will think it justified and may well thank the police for ridding them of such a character.  If a white cop shoots a black man for no reason, most whites will want him punished, especially if the event starts getting a bit of national attention.  That’s no use either; everybody on the same side does nothing for mobilization purposes.  Ironically, the MSM might thus end up not pursuing the most egregious injustices of law enforcement against blacks.

In between is the sweet spot, the media resonance point, that will naturally be amplified by the media system.  Police/young black man altercation happens, leaving the latter dead.  Journalists and/or civil rights leaders cry racism.  Accused policeman has a decent enough justification that non-elite whites stick by him.  This outrages the Left, drawing more attention to the case.  Once a critical amount of resistance remains in the face of media pressure, this can be cited as evidence of institutional racism and widespread white bias.  This leads some whites to distance themselves from the policeman’s supporters and others to dig in–either response brings more attention to the case.

So, we have a system that naturally maximizes the animosity between races.  Wonderful.

Observations on the readers survey

  1. Practically no women read this blog.  This surprised me.
  2. 40% of readers are involved in academia in some way or another (“academia” or “student”).  Sometimes discussions in comments make it sound like this blog lives in a university bubble, but that’s not really true.  A third of readers are in the private sector (that which students sometimes call “the real world”), and there are at least a few representatives of every other walk of life I thought to include.
  3. Readers are majority Catholic, but not overwhelmingly so:  59%.  There are a fair number of Protestants (17%) and unbelievers (12%).  Religions other than Western Christianity are basically absent.
  4. Political belief is 60% traditionalist, 30% neoreactionary.  That is, readers basically agree with the position of this blog.  This was expected, since the point of Throne and Altar really is to clarify conservatism for people who are already conservative, not to make converts.  If it does make converts, great, but the writing is not geared to elicit sympathy from those with antagonistic commitments.  (I like to think that some of the essays could be helpful to a liberal reader with a purely academic interest in conservatism, but this is not how it is being used.)  I expect I owe most of my neoreactionary readers to the generous free advertising at Reaction Times. has done a real service to what one might call “reactionary ecumenism”.  By checking several times a day, I myself have been exposed to lots of good material from the other branches of anti-liberalism that I might never have encountered otherwise.
  5. 46% of readers are under 30 years old.  I imagine internet surveys would make any movement appear young, but it is indeed encouraging to see the counter-revolution being passed on to the next generation.

George Ellis on physics and philosophy

A very good interview here.  Some excerpts:

Horgan: Lawrence Krauss, in A Universe from Nothing, claims that physics has basically solved the mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. Do you agree?

Ellis: Certainly not.  He is presenting untested speculative theories of how things came into existence out of a pre-existing complex of entities, including variational principles, quantum field theory, specific symmetry groups, a bubbling vacuum, all the components of the standard model of particle physics, and so on. He does not explain in what way these entities could have pre-existed the coming into being of the universe, why they should have existed at all, or why they should have had the form they did.  And he gives no experimental or observational process whereby we could test these vivid speculations of the supposed universe-generation mechanism. How indeed can you test what existed before the universe existed? You can’t.

Horgan: Are you a fan of multiverse theories? String theory? The anthropic principle?

No (may be true but unproveable, much too much untestable speculation about existence of infinities of entities, ill defined and untestable probability measures), no (too much speculative introduction of very complex unseeable entities, treats gravity just like any other force), yes (however one responds to it, it’s a real question that deserves consideration).  Fine tuning of fundamental physics parameters is required in order that we can exist. Examining this issue has led to many very interesting studies.

Horgan: Physicist Sean Carroll has argued that falsifiability is overrated as a criterion for judging whether theories should be taken seriously. Do you agree?

Ellis: This is a major step backwards to before the evidence-based scientific revolution initiated by Galileo and Newton.  The basic idea is that our speculative theories, extrapolating into the unknown and into untestable areas from well-tested areas of physics, are so good they have to be true. History proves that is the path to delusion: just because you have a good theory does not prove it is true. The other defence is that there is no other game in town. But there may not be any such game.

Scientists should strongly resist such an attack on the very foundations of its own success. Luckily it is a very small subset of scientists who are making this proposal.

Horgan: Krauss, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have been bashing philosophy as a waste of time. Do you agree?

Ellis: If they really believe this they should stop indulging in low-grade philosophy in their own writings. You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis. You can choose not to think about that basis: it will still be there as an unexamined foundation of what you do. The fact you are unwilling to examine the philosophical foundations of what you do does not mean those foundations are not there; it just means they are unexamined.