Sunday, January 27, 2013

Atheist Meme #1: The Black Cat Analogy

I received this meme in my twitter feed. The author used the analogy of a cat in a dark room to point out the fact that metaphysics and theology although part of the philosophical field of study, search for a truth (I assume this truth is God) that is not there. Unlike science, which illuminates the search for the truth that is there, but hidden


Right out of the bat we hear echoes of Scientism, a favorite belief system of today's atheists. This is the view that the  inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only way genuine factual knowledge can be achieved. In other words that the science alone can yield true knowledge and that an idea  not verifiable through science, is not valid.

I must admit, on first analysis, this meme presents a very clever analogy. The problem with it is that in a very subtle way it mixes apples and oranges. To understand this we need to just look at each area of study by themselves.

Philosophy is  the study of fundamental ideas of knowledge, such as the nature of  reality, existence, values, reason, mind, and language. The "field" in which philosophy operates, and here is the key point, is in the conscience of every human. In philosophy there is no measurable or tangible (i.e. material) object of study. Philosophy does not care much about the physical and chemical mechanisms which produce ideas but about the ideas produced by these mechanisms. It tries to answer the "Why" and not the "How". Philosophy cares about why is the cat in the dark room purring not how is the cat making that noise.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy which specifically deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing and cause. Of course God, been the first cause, is an important part of metaphysical analysis. As a branch of philosophy the "field" in which metaphysics operates is, again the human conscience.

Theology is the systematic and rational study of religious belief and of the nature of religious truths, we could also say theology is basically the study of the nature of God. Metaphysics and theology share the same "field" of operation and in fact borrow from each other many concepts, but theology concentrates on the religious aspects of metaphysics.

Looking at these three definitions, we see that in broad terms theology, could be seen as a specialized branch of metaphysics, which in itself is part of philosophy, and these three disciplines share the same "field" of  operation, the human consciousness..

Well? What is science?

Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world. By its own definition science's field of operation is the physical world, it does not concern itself with concepts, such as values or causes, which can not be measured or verified. In other words Science aims at answering the "How" the universe works, with out addressing the "Why".

So by definition science and philosophy do not share the same field of operation. In fact it is a categorical mistake to think, like this meme implies, that they compete with each other, The fact is, it is very easy to show that science and philosophy complement each other to give a better understanding of reality.

So the problem with this meme is that it gives the idea that science, theology and metaphysics are all competing in a darken room, by assuming they all share the same field of study, a cat meowing in the dark.

I think it would be more accurate to say this:

Philosophy is like been in a room, listening to the sounds happening in the dark and wandering what is the fundamental idea behind that sound. Why is that sound happening?

Metaphysics is like been in the same room and wandering what is causing this sound. What kind of being would make such a sound, and why, What would cause "it" to make such a sound.

Theology is like been in the same room realizing that a cat is making this sound, and wandering why is the cat trying to tell us something and what is this being trying to reveal about itself, by meowing in the dark.

Science is like been in the same room measuring the volume, frequency and pitch of the meow. And determining that a four legged mammal, most likely a felis catus is making that noise. Without any commentary about the value of this sound or the intentions of its maker.

I hope this helps :-)

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2nd Sunday Ordinary time (Cycle C)

    Here is the homily I preached at St. John's in Westminster, last Sunday. It was preached in Spanish so this is an approximation of what I said. I do a fair amount of ad-living when I preach in Spanish since Hispanic community look down on preachers who read their homilies (I do not know why).
    This morning I had the pleasure of teaching the RCIA class at the second parish in which I serve, St Michael's at Poplar Springs. The topic was The Gospel of Life. I tried to convey that the Gospel of Life could be reduced to two simple ideas: 1) Human life is sacred. 2) Human nature is complementary, meaning we are created to be in union with others. We can not be fulfilled as individuals unless we belong to a community and are united to God.
    In today Gospel we see a wonderful example of this second idea in the person of Mary. Mary was part of her Jewish community and her relationship with Jesus: mother-son, disciple-teacher, creature-God is all about having a deep union with the God-man.
    Mary had a well defined position in the community she belonged, she was a widow, which was one of the most powerless roles in ancient Judea. As part of her community she is a participant in a wedding ceremony. It is here that she notices the wedding party ran out of wine. Now, I have been in many weddings, the worst thing that could happen is that you run out of wine.
   Although a powerless widow, Mary does not shy away from this problem. She understands that this problem is her problem, because she is part of this community. What to do? She shows a complete dependency on Jesus, always the mother, intercedes for the wedding party asking her son - not commanding as it was her right - but asking Jesus for help. She doesn't tell him what to do, she just says "They have no wine". The simple prayer of those that understand the power of God. She doesn't tell him what to do, she just states her needs.
   Finally in the reading, we hear Mary speak for the last time in the Gospels, She had shown us how to embrace the problems of our communities, she had taught us how to approach God with the complete confidence that someway, somehow he has the power to help us. Now she gives us the key to a life of service and of communal happiness with our neighbor and God: "Do everything he tells you to do"
   Mary's message today is this: our nature is complementary, we are part of a community and the problems of this community are our problems. Complete union with God is nothing more than complete confidence on his power to help us when we ask for his help.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Study About Adult Children of Homosexual Couples

    From the University of Texas (Via The Vatican Insider) comes a landmark study about the adult children of homosexual couples. I believe the results are very telling. Basically the life of these individuals is no bed of roses, and the study seems to corroborate what the Church has always taught: The best and most stable and fruitful environment for a child to grow is with a loving father and a loving mother.Here are some very telling excerpts. (Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas is the author of this research)

From the data presented which caused the greatest stir, it emerged that 12% of children brought up by same-sex couples contemplate suicide (against 5% of children with heterosexual parents), they are more inclined to be unfaithful (40% against 13%), they are unemployed more often (28% against 8%) and they are more likely to visit a psychotherapist (19% against 8%). They are also more often under social service surveillance compared to peers who are raised by heterosexual couples. In 40% of cases they will catch a sexually transmitted disease at some point (against 8% of peers raised by heterosexual couples) and they are generally less healthy, poorer and more likely to smoke and commit criminal offenses.

The LGBT movement in the U.S. has launched a powerful campaign to de-legitimize Regnerus’ theory which often borders on insulting and almost constitutes moral lynching with its extraordinary violence. Appeals have been signed for the University of Texas to fire the researcher. An internal inquiry was launched to check the scientific accuracy of the study. Then on 29 August, this statement appeared on the University of Texas website: “The University of Texas at Austin has determined that no formal investigation is warranted into the allegations of scientific misconduct lodged against associate professor Mark Regnerus regarding his July article in the journal Social Science Research.” According to the university, “there is insufficient evidence to warrant an investigation” and it “deemed the matter closed from an institutional perspective.” The internal inquiry therefore recognized the study as a legitimate piece of work and confirmed it respected research methodology protocol.

You can read the complete article here.

You can get a PDF copy of the report here.

As the article says, the LGBT movement has launched a campaign to discredit this report, to the point it forced the UOT to open an inquiry of Regnerus research methodology. Thankfully, scientific rigor and academic freedom prevailed and the good professor was cleared of any wrong doing.

Here is a PDF and the UOT inquiry final report.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"


Thursday, January 17, 2013

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

I gave this homily around July 2011, for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time cycle A.
What a difference a week makes… what I mean is, how different today’s Gospel reading is from the last week’s reading. If you recall last Sunday we heard Jesus giving Peter what turned to be the greatest praise ever given to one of his disciples. After Peter declares that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus says: “Blessed are you, Simon for my heavenly Father has revealed this to you.  I will build my church upon you, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. Whatever you bind or loose on earth shall be bound or loosen in heaven” [Jesus calls Peter blessed because of his connection with The Father and declares that because of this connection he will have great power!]
How different are these words from today’s Gospel “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do!"  Satan? An obstacle to me? You do not think like God???  These are the strongest words Jesus ever directed against one of His own apostles, including Judas!
 Because we listen to this exchange in different weeks of the liturgical calendar we might conclude that these were two different conversations, but in the book of Matthew, today’s reading is the conclusion of last week reading. These two scenes happened one after another.  Jesus gives His highest praise and strongest rebuke to the same person in a matter of seconds!
If you think about it there is a big problem with the way Jesus is presented by Mathew. He comes across as someone very temperamental. How can he, been THE all knowing God, second guess himself in just a matter of seconds? 
Well, the key to these readings is not Jesus reaction to Peter’s words but the motivations behind Peter’s statements. Last week when Peter declared: ”You are the son of the living God” he says that Peter was in a state of blessedness because God had revealed this secret knowledge to him: he is not only the messiah, but also “The Son of the Living God”. Today what does Jesus says? “You are thinking as a humans do!”.
Peter is inspired by the Holy Spirit to declare that Jesus is the Son of God but when Jesus starts explaining the meaning of this, the fact that he will have to go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly and finally be killed, Peter abandons his divine state of blessedness and starts analyzing the consequences of these actions with mere human eyes; to the point that he pulls Jesus aside and advices him that this talk Is not good if he is to fulfill the Jewish idea of a messiah. I hope you see what is going on here, God has given Peter divine knowledge and Peter not understanding its meaning starts trying to reason with God about what should be a better plan!
I ask you my brothers and sisters, how many times have we done the same thing? How many times have we prayed to God convinced that he is the only one who has the power to help us only to end up telling him how he should use this power, Instead of trusting him? 
But that is not all, If you look closely at Jesus words to Peter in today’s gospel he is not actually rebuking him. Peter is not told “that’s it. You are no longer going to lead my Church”. Peter is not told “get away from me Satan” but “Get behind me”.  Jesus is saying stop thinking like humans do and trust in me!  Stop telling me what to do because when you do, you are thinking in human terms and it just makes you a stumbling block to the power of God. And what is the power of God?… the sacrifice of the cross and the resurrection. Bringing life out of death and sorrow.
Like Peter we cannot declare that Jesus is the Son of God out of our own power. This is knowledge that comes from God by the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments we receive. What we do with this knowledge, how we respond to the responsibility of having this knowledge is what really matters. When we find ourselves in situations in which we, by words or actions are called to declare the truth of the Gospel we cannot shy away from being a disciple, from the sacrifices the Gospel demands from us, even if this means death. And I’m not talking physical death; I’m talking about the death of a friendship, or a business deal or of a relationship.   Because when we do this; when we shy away from the responsibility that comes from being a disciple, we become a stumbling block for God to enact his plan of salvation.  To be a real disciple is declaring Jesus as our divine Lord and accepting the consequences of this declaration, because to accept Jesus is to accept our own sacrifice for the truth of the Gospel. We might lose the respect of our friends or co workers, or might have to sacrifice our own comfort, we might even have to suffer financial loss, but at the end Jesus promises a great reward.   Christianity without the sacrifice of the cross is just another nice philosophy and Christians which are not willing to give everything for this message, to use Jesus words from today’s Gospel might end up gaining the whole world but at the end they might end up losing their souls. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

Just when I though I had seen it all..Cheerleaders at mass!

From the Acts of Apostasy blog comes a story that you would have to read it to believe it. This pastor in Michigan has come with the brilliant idea of having cheerleaders during mass. To me the most bizarre part is that he had to designate one mass on Sundays for people who do not like the cheers in mass, which means most of the masses have them! Here is my favorite part:

“They’ve helped me to focus on what’s going on,” said parishioner Errol Battiks. “Like just after the Holy Holy Holy bit, the cheerleaders shout out ’2-4-6-8, time to transubstantiate!’ Gets me psyched up.”

 I wander what the Good Lord is thinking.

Here is the whole story.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"