My recent work at Post Right

“Friedersdorf on Happy Meal-Conservative Talk Radio”: Conor ably calls out Mark Levin, et alios

Caritas in Veritate: Pope Benedict has a social encyclical due at month’s end.

“Call Me Skeptical”: Netanyahu, in my humble estimation, is a snake. A “sovereign” Palestine, as he envisions it, will be no freer of Israel than George W. Bush was of Dick Cheney.

“My Only Thoughts on Perplexing Persian Politics”: I sympathize with the reformists (although I question the reformist credentials of Mousavi), but believe that complete American inaction is the best course of American action.


Defending Home

Davey defends Marilynne Robinson’s Home, which I just finished last night, against Rusty Reno’s inconceivably off-base attack, at First Things (Are we surprised?) here, at Theopolitical

This is, in my humble estimation, one of the finer novels of the day (as is its companion and predecessor, Gilead), and Jack Boughton — Antagonist? Protagonist? Both — is one of the most fascinating characters you’ll find. The way in which Robinson attends to the complexities of the strained (to say the least) relationship between Jack and his father, the aged Rev. Boughton; his sister, Glory; and his namesake, and father’s best friend, the Rev. John Ames, is strikingly beautiful, and there’s a touchingly conflicted Front Porch Republic-esque appreciation of place permeating the novel.

Read Davey’s excellent response to Reno, and pick up Home (and Gilead) if you haven’t already.

What today’s shrill opponents of religion, variously described as ‘New Atheists’, ‘Darwin’s pitbulls’ or ‘Dawkinites’, really hate about religion: its humancentricity.

From Brendan O’Neill, some interesting Triduum reading.

This Easter, as an atheistic editor rather than God-fearin’ altar boy, I’ve had to endure something even more bottom-numbingly dull, hectoring and pious than those Stations, and without even the promise of redemption that is contained in the phantom ‘Fifteenth Station of the Cross’ (which is very occasionally included in some Catholic churches’ décor: ‘Jesus rises from the dead’): that is, I watched Religulous. In a cinema in Covent Garden. In my free time. Surrounded by people who, I’m convinced, were not really laughing at the jokes (there weren’t any) but rather were audibly guffawing as a way of sending smug signals to one another: ‘I hate religion, too!’

I felt far more preached at by American comedian Bill Maher’s road movie-style atheistic documentary than I did by that priest who made me follow him around the church like a candle-carrying muppet a quarter of a century ago. Religulous – a hilarious mixture of the words ‘religious’ and ‘ridiculous’! – confirms what today’s shrill opponents of religion, variously described as ‘New Atheists’, ‘Darwin’s pitbulls’ or ‘Dawkinites’, really hate about religion: its humancentricity. Never mind its authoritarianism or obscurantism, it is its treatment of man as special – as more than a biological being; as capable of rapture; as having, in the words of Genesis, ‘dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and every other living thing that moves on the Earth’ – that really gets their goat.

Don’t blame the SoCons


To repeat: religious and social conservatives, like quite a lot of other conservatives, certainly deserve to be criticized for enabling the GOP’s collapse, and Rod isn’t saying otherwise. But causing it? By way of actual policy successes? Come on now …

This, in response to Rod’s piece, wherein he reminds us that blame for the GOP’s doom lies with the Establishment.

On battling the errors of modernity

From Fr. John Augustine Zahm, c.s.c’s 1896 Evolution and Dogma, a passage that gave pause to me:

To attempt to cope with the modern spirit of error by means of antiquated and discarded weapons of offense and defense, were as foolish as to pit a Roman trireme or a medieval galley against a modern steel cruiser or the latest type of battleship. -page xx

Nigh two months ago, in the first week of July, Will Wilson posted a couple of wondrous comments, to which my mind drifted, upon my reading the aforementioned passage, on the Right and science:

The solution of course is that rather than attacking the data, attack the willful misuse of the myths about the data. Thus, rather than denying the realities of evolution and anthropogenic global warming, conservatives ought to refute the arguments which suggest that evolution necessarily implies atheistic materialism and that mitigation of global warming necessarily requires some form of socialist planning. Currently, we are ceding nearly all of the contested ground to the other side, and in the process living up to Mill’s description of us as “the stupid party.”

and the apologist’s battle against the modern-day atheists, who, by-and-large, in my humblest of opinions, impressively armed as they be, nonetheless, are hacks:

Modern-day apologists, if they wish to be convincing, are advised to bone up on their philosophy of mind, their quantum mechanics, and their Derrida. The rules of the game have changed.

What troubles me most about Will’s thoughts, notwithstanding my complete ignorance of the works of Derrida and my non-existent understanding of the philosophy of the mind and quantum mechanics (Seriously, if you’ve good primers to suggest, please do, and I shall add them to the reading list!), is that, more than a century ago, risking ecclesiastical trouble (Oh, he encountered it!), a Catholic scientist-priest, who served as President of what is now (and, mayhap, was, then) the foremost Catholic university in the nation, if not the world (as one Vatican official, unofficially, commented to a priest-friend of mine), offered essentially the same advice, and yet we, collectively, have not heeded. I know Catholics who fail to realize that the Church recognizes the validity of evolutionary theory (at least in some form); get me not started on young-earth creationists, please! Heaven forfend I should admit, to some, often intelligent, compeers, that I think that, just maybe, man has had some effect on climate change.

Doubtless, one, easily, can attribute this sort of ignorance primarily to “fundamentalist” Christians (“Christianists”, to quote the self-disgracing Sullivan?), for whom science, all too often, is anathema (recent progress, worthy of applause, from some evangelists vis-à-vis global warming notwithstanding). (Sad enough, some Catholics fall into this pit, too.) Ezra Klein, commenting on one of the more lamentable aspects of Sarah Palin, has something to say about this here. He’s, perhaps, a bit over the top, but some of the respondents in the comment box bring dialogue back to a more open-minded realm.

Those of us — particularly, I suppose, Catholics — who recognize the important role the Church has played in fostering scientific progress over the centuries, regardless of what those who employ the Galileo canard would have us believe, need, I believe, to take a stand. We must embrace the judicious words of Fr. Zahm; we must employ the perspicacious attitude suggested by Will. We must do this, even if it requires that we, to the greatest extent possible without rejecting the Christian charity and goodwill of ecumenical dialogue, break those alliances, specifically political, that bind us to those whose willful ignorance denigrates both science and religion. We must escape this cave if we wish to educate those from whom we unbind ourselves: We cannot, knowledgeable as we be, educate them, or even hope to, unless we draw them, too, out from the cavernous depths and into the light. Would they refuse, we should, then, let them perish, for, as Catholics — as Christians, as theists of any stripe — we owe it to ourselves, to others, and to our God not to permit His revealed Truth to be besmirched by rejection of scientific truths (No truth can not be part of Truth.) evinced through rational inquiry. We must fight the errors of (post-)modernity by employing those truths espoused by it against it; C.S. Lewis, as great as he is, only takes us so far; likewise, many early scientists, even with their flaws, serve us well, but only to a point, and not accepting what, inter alios, Darwin has to offer only hurts us and compels us to paint ourselves as fools — apes, un-evolved into men, even.

McArdle on religion

Megan McArdle, everyone’s favorite super-tall, agnotheistic web-logger, over at The has written a couple of really good posts on religion and the public sphere, which I heartily recommend.

America, and to a lesser extent other western nations, have a long history of keeping doctrinal disagreements out of the public square, an excellent notion. But my reading of political history, admittedly incomplete, does not indicate that our predecessors actually thought that people were supposed to vote entirely without recourse to their relgious faith–that the Almighty God was supposed to be kept in a dark corner of your heart where he couldn’t possibly affect any public portion of your life.

Indeed, though I myself am pro-choice and mostly irreligious, it seems more likely to me that the main effect of faith is to spur people to embrace causes that are personally and socially inconvenient. Slaveowners didn’t need religion to motivate them to defend slavery; they had a powerful financial interest in doing so. Similarly, the pro-choice movement, at least in my experience, gets most of its activist energy from reproductive-aged women who have a strong interest in being able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

By contrast, what self-interest was served by the abolitionist movement then, or the pro-life movement now? There’s a legend among many pro-choicers that everyone in the pro-life movement is a patriarchal, selfish man who wants to force women to have babies in order to control them. In fact, women and men are roughly equally likely to be pro-life. The best that pro-lifers get out of their movement is–having to carry their own unwanted pregnancies to term.

Thank-you, Megan McArdle.