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I Complain, Therefore I Am

May 25, AD2015 30 Comments

Frank - Moses

The popular atheist blogger, Hemant Mehta, ponders change with the question, “What happens when atheists are no longer a minority?” He mentions the human need to belong to a group, and the fight for a cause, and then invites answers to that question. Reading a few of the 1,600+ responses will verify the lack of common purpose, besides eliminating religion, that the question reveals, inspiring the Rene Descartes paraphrase of the title of this essay.

There are some that would lament the of loss of the fight. There is some expression that the future will somehow be better even when in 20th century history the absence of religious influence in society and government were proven not to be the panacea for human happiness.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is why isn’t the fruit of the fight evident before one begins? Would that question even be necessary for a Christian?

Christians Have Experienced Social Struggle Before

A historical example, not exactly equivalent to today’s atheism in America, but it does illustrate the differences in goal setting, were the thoughts in Christian minds when in 311 A.D. the Edict of Toleration was granted by Roman Emperor Galerius, and then later in 313 A.D. with the Edict of Milan given by Emperor Constantine. Those two proclamations gave the Christians of that day freedom from torture, violent death, and a despised social status.

Then for the first time it became possible to observe the Liturgy in its fullness, and seriously and earnestly to attempt to mold the life of the empire according to Christian ideals and standards. (Catholic.com)

It is obvious to me that what happens when is to find an ideology to fill the void left by an absence of belief in a creator who has and is giving us lessons as to how to best live.

Our society is becoming the Roman Empire revisited, without the spiritual gods but still necessitating conforming to the desires of the ruling class. Democracy hasn’t its emperor yet in America (it has pretenders) but it does certainly have a ruling class – the intellectual elite.

Where Do We Find Them, This Higher Class?

Many are found in the law, defining for us what law will rule our lives. They are the Supreme Court. A vast number of members of Congress have attended a university or college. One school, Harvard, appears to dominate.

From its founding years Harvard’s seal read veritas, surrounded by the phrase christo et ecclesiae (Truth, for Christ and the Church). The shield of arms, that is seen everywhere on campus and on their website, drops Christ and the Church from view. A prophetic action that is being made apparent in the politics of America today. As we know, the future becomes history, so I am thankful that Peter Singer hasn’t moved to Cambridge in this United States of Harvard – yet.

So it seems natural to look at our schools that trained these leaders; those leaders that determine proper social behavior.

I know that I am not the only one who has ever pondered the behavior of living things. Since the Catholic Church fostered the development of science many centuries ago, gigantic structures in the form of university departments and government grants have arisen to try and give rationality to these questions.

One teaching institution, Cornell University comes to this conclusion regarding bird migration:

When migratory patterns evolve over hundreds or thousands of years the urge to migrate becomes part of the birds genetic make up. There is still much to be learned regarding the evolution of long-distant migration and the origins of such migratory behavior.

So…I pondered this learned conclusion and wondered if they were describing a chicken and egg problem, or has the natural selection theory of the 19th century become obsolete, and we have a new theory where the act of migrating causes a new DNA sequence to appear like magic. I agree, there is much to be learned.

What Does Atheism and Why Birds Migrate Have in Common?

Are they taught at the same place? Does atheism and Evolutionary Biology sound like a familiar pair in teaching, public debate, media presentations, books, etc. Or, atheism and Theoretical Physics.

We know from research that in the last 10 years that religious skeptics among the college educated has risen from 33% to 50%. The under 30 group from 18% to 34%. This report concludes that among other reasons:

For years, some observers have claimed colleges and universities are a breeding ground for anti-God sentiment. The data does lend support to the notion that college campuses are comfortable places for young people to abandon God and assume control of their own lives.

But, we are also seeing a large change in the general category of women from 16% to 43% and all under 30s from 18% to 34%. Are the intellectual elites beating social attitudes into the heads of their charges? This study by sociologist Mark Regnerus concludes:

In conclusion, the college experience—more than the education itself—seems corrosive to religious faith only among those who were at an elevated risk of such corrosion when they arrived on campus. This spells good news and bad news for all parties here. First, it suggests that antagonistic professors are having little effect on the religious faith of most students. Faith challenges and belief systems hanging in the balance are not the norm (though they do of course occur). Second, it suggests that Christian “revivals” during college rarely connect those that entirely lack a religious sense. Instead, evangelistic efforts tend to connect best with the dormant faith and inactive-but-intact belief systems of previously religious youth. Accounts of completely new conversions—from either one religion to another or from no religion at all to a committed faith—are uncommon.

What is the Word Close to the Action?

I live on the west coast and have known people from Harvard, the dominate university in the law game. However, I am not close enough anymore to ask questions. I do happen to know a fellow parishioner who has 30 years experience in state university education who daily lives close to the students at the University of Nevada, Reno. Chuck Clement is Assistant Director of Student Conduct and Safety. For the last 17 years, he has dealt with students in the dormitories, allowing him observation of student attitudes, as well as teacher and administration behavior.

Recently, I talked to him about my concerns.

HL: “What are the major influences on a child up to college age? Is it school, is it parents , is it other kids, is it television?”

Chuck: “I think it’s a lot of things. The biggest factor, although a lot of people doubt that,  but I think is still the case is your parents. That family unit, that family structure.”

HL: “How do you see that?”

Chuck: “I see it when students who have that and are in college, have less conduct problems because they have that strong background. Here’s Johnny. Johnny has come back to the halls and he has been drinking a lot. If it is a very serious thing then I’m talking to the parents. I notice a lot of students who do that, their parents have different last names. Their mother has one name, their father has another, they might have a third name. Sometimes it’s an aunt or someone else.

The other factor is media. When you are bombarded with images, music, commercials, movies, language; all these things are sending out messages. They are being bombarded by those messages. By the time your kid is 12 or 13 the amount of influence you have on your kid in changing them is limited. We have kids that when they show up at the residence halls and they are drinking a lot, we talk to them and they say yeah I started when I was 12. They have 6 years of experience drinking a lot. We call home and say your kid has a serious drinking problem (they say) no he doesn’t, he did great in high school. The blood alcohol level is a .25”

HL: “Are the parents unaware or they just making excuses?”

Chuck: “Both.”

HL: “What about the kids that are really good then. Are you able to relate that to the home life?”

Chuck: “These are the kids that are coming to work for us. These are the resident assistants. They want to be the leaders on the floor. They are the ones who are sharp, they are getting their degrees, working in their classes, getting the good grades. They are involved in student government, student leadership. They come to me and say I’m looking to get a job, how would you suggest I apply, would you be a reference, those kinds of things.”

HL: “You don’t often see what kind of a home they came from.”

Chuck: “Don’t have to. I can tell that they are squared away. At 18 and 19 you dont’ get squared away like that unless you’ve been doing that for several years. Was it a grandmother, was it an uncle, don’t know? They may not have had a traditional home life but somebody has said here is how you behave, here is what’s good and here’s what’s bad. They’ve taken those lessons to heart”

HL: “What about their progression through the university? Professors as a group seem to show themselves as anti-religious, pro-abortion, to change what is marriage.”

Chuck: “University (life) has a very open attitude. You can do what you want whenever you want. Here are all of these young men and women who will have sex with you, you can drink, you are an adult now, you can do all these things, you have freedoms. The ones that don’t deal with that effectively are the ones we see (for help and discipline)…they are put into an environment where they have all these options. The three issues we have that cause us to loose the majority of students are alcohol, marijuana, and video games.”

HL: “I have trouble reconciling the idea of modern society telling people they are free to do what they want and then telling them exactly what to do. Have an abortion,  have sex whenever you want.”

Chuck: “I think what they (in society) are saying, is do what you want and you don’t have to have responsibility for your actions. From my perspective I DON’T think what they (the universities) are saying is, okay do what you want and if you make these choices there will be huge consequences. The Church says, you have free will but here are the bad things that are going to happen.”

HL: “In other words, the university is not taking the same responsibility for the kids as the Church.”

Chuck: “Or the parents.”

HL: “I know from (media) reports that professors actually belittle kids for their religion.”

Chuck: “What they are doing is saying you don’t think like I do, you need to think like I do. If you sit there quietly they don’t care. If you speak up and say I think you are wrong and here is why, they say, no-no I’m the one in charge. There is a power differential there. Parents have a power differential too, but ideally the parents are saying I want you to do this and here is the benefit to you, then they know what the benefit is. ”

 What Do We Do Now?

A return to an understanding of traditional Christian values, like a strong moral family, will reverse the forces of deterioration in our society.  We can see in the statistics and know from experience with other countries since the mid-last century the results of such a loss. We have huge prison populations, large numbers of fatherless children, many new sexually transmitted diseases, acceptable drug use, human trafficking, guns at schools, and criminal riots being encouraged by incompetent leaderships.

We are faced now with an advanced corrosion of those Christian values with a movement to change marriage into something unrecognizable therefore relegating our children to a life dictated by government bureaucracy manipulated by the intellectual elite.

I have said many times that history is much more important than science. We live in time and a limited amount of it. While growing from child to adult we learn from our own mistakes, but that process can stop depending upon our will and opportunity to learn. History is the experience of the past and will show us a future to avoid or embrace if we pay attention.

In other words, a plan for ones life must start with understanding rather than just complaining or adopting a popular agenda mindlessly, whether in or out of school.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

H.L. Duncan is a senior citizen widower in his 8th decade of life (70s) who was married for 36 years to his only wife Jill. He lives on 40 acres of the Great Basin Desert in an owner built solar powered home. He has three children who have left the nest and are now too far away. After an Episcopalian childhood, his teen years brought on the disease of agnosticism with occasional bouts of atheism. He entered the Church in 2010 and says he has felt at home ever since.

His working life included Forest Fire Truck Driver, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa building schools, Motion Picture Cameraman in industrial films and while in the U.S. Army, production assistant to a Producer in Hollywood, Professional Still Photographer, Photo Lab Technician, Postal Service Letter Carrier, Computer Systems Analyst in business and government, Computer Consulting, Owner of an Internet business, Web site creation.

His educational background is mostly self directed reading and experiential but does include; A graduate of the London School of Film Technique, London, England, AA degree in Business Data Processing with an additional course in accounting, Seminars and technical classes.

He now spends his days in local parish church work and Right to Life groups, Internet conversations with new friends and old enemies of the Church.

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  • pescher

    Atheism -as a belief system- is destined to fail eventually because it doesn’t provide any meaningful contribution to society with respect to its most essential aspect, namely in how we live. Fr. Rutler presciently noted that “Atheism solves no mysteries but only shelves them”. I believe that its popularity to-day lies in the anti-religious frenzy which is trending but that is mainly due to the lack of conviction on the part of those who claim to adhere to traditional beliefs and not to any particular persuasive arguments atheists put forth. To give them some recognition I would admit they make a lot of ‘noise’ but then so does an empty metal drum rolling down a deserted mine shaft. The drum and rhetoric will cease when they ‘bottom out’, leaving only a deafening silence in the darkness.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Isn’t it true that the baby who dies unbaptized is still a most precious child of God, beloved by Him with a tenderness far greater than either of the baby’s parents could possibly bestow upon him or her? And isn’t it also true that God is infinitely merciful to the innocent? And that, given His overflowing love and mercy, we may count upon Him to secure for this innocent child an eternal future filled only with with happiness, joy, peace, and love?

    And even if baptism by water has not taken place, baptism by desire (on the part of the parents) is very much present in the natural history of this child’s soul. And who is to say that the good God may not unite such a child to Himself in a communion of love that includes the Beatific Vision, and the joy of participating in the Communion of Saints, if His Divine Majesty so wishes and so ordains?

    We may argue about the rules and points of order; God is engaged in love . . . a love that never fails.
    Parents may with complete and utter confidence entrust their little ones to His love. All of them.

    • james

      St Augustine would have greatly benefited by your counsel and the church could have been spared the unnecessary pain caused by this concept which hurt so many souls through history..

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      Thank you, James.

      I only recount the ideas of Saint Therese of Lisieux, who lived during the end of the 19th century, and who was not afraid to write of her opinion that the existence of Limbo made no sense in light of the goodness of God, and that God would surely bring the souls of young children to Himself in Heaven.

      I suspect there were probably others who understood that the question was somewhat open, and that an infinitely good God might be trusted to bring little ones who pass from this life to a place of happiness and joy.

    • As you say, Infants and their parents are not left without hope even if scripture cannot explicitly give us what we want. We cannot know all things for sure as our very being is a great mystery. We are told to trust in God.

      “..the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism (cf. CCC, 1261)”

      B16 approved this from the International Theological Commission entitled, “The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized”

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      Thank you, Mr. Duncan, for your thoughts and for the link.

      Baptism is certainly necessary for the salvation of man in the normal order of things, but who would dare assert that it is beyond the capacity of the infinite and most powerful Majesty of the Divine Will, if He so wishes, to circumvent baptism with some as yet unknown measure of His own devising, to save the soul of an innocent child and unite it to Himself . . . ?

  • james

    ” The shield of arms, that is seen everywhere on campus and on their website, drops Christ and the Church from view.”

    Not unlike TLC dropped Josh Duggar from ’19 kids and counting’. Why ? Religion has failed
    the masses – not the individual. To re-ascend the rostra and speak to all people, all religions
    needs to reassemble ( in Francis’ style) into something recognizable; a holy composite of all that is good, verifiable and true. Dogmas are doomed as long as they plant obstinate belief systems that are theologically unsound and not conducive to evangelical unity on a universal scale. Good points all, Howard.

    • The Second Vatican Council begins its decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, with, “The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.”

      The splintering of the faiths, all faiths, is as human a failure as was the first departure from God in Genesis 3 where an intimate relationship existed with Him. Given that rejection of Him then, the question of who has the responsibility for returning to Him is clear once His word, Jesus Christ, has been heard.

    • james

      “The restoration of unity among all Christians …”

      I’m talking about the unity of humanity around all things spiritual.

    • There is no conflict. The Council’s teachings are stated in many papers and many words. Christian unity is only one goal.

      In Lumen Gentium it said, “Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission.”

    • james

      ” Given that rejection of Him then, the question of who has the responsibility for returning to Him is clear once His word, Jesus Christ, has been heard.”

      And to end this discussion, I’ll paraphrase the last five words so as to read
      ‘ having been understood ‘.

    • Being told that God is your maker and that his Son has saved us is not hard to understand at all. I think what you are trying to say is having been accepted.

    • james

      Let’s cut a deal and say having been rightly interpreted.

    • Now that we have taken care of describing a secular person who has or has not committed, the question I am still asking is why has religion failed? Do members of my church die for his future sins because he has failed to embrace God when they tried to bring him to church?

    • james

      Not sure what the second question is asking but, as the world sees it,
      any religion that could come up with the concept of Limbo has far to
      go and much to be interpreted.

    • There is no second question. I was referring to, “Religion has failed the masses.” all along. You are implying that the “masses” have no responsibility at all. Limbo is not doctrine, it was a theological hypothesis.

    • james

      An illogical theological hypothesis based on unsound theological interpretation. Religion has failed to stimulate the spiritual collective
      conscience enough to rally humanity around one dogma, one holy universal concept that has not so much a name but a creed that is
      practiced by all..

    • 1) I don’t see how the rejection of Limbo by the Church is somehow wrong.

      2) I assume you are saying that up to this point in time the Catholic Church has not converted the entirety of humanity – therefore it has failed.

    • james

      You mean the rejection of Limbo by the church a thousand plus years after
      inception and ultimate embarrassing realization of its baseness in the modern
      era ? No, the Church has not and will not fail its mission: to unite everyone.
      However, in order to do so it has to develop the humility to incorporate like
      theological concepts refined by others and to let go of irregular concepts
      envisioned by great minds who taught beyond their holy credentials – to be
      precise: purgatory and the notion that we take our gross material bodies to
      a spiritual; realm – all misconceptions.. It hasn’t far to go this true and beautiful church founded by Christ, to shake the world’s foundation; but my way or the
      highway will never even move a pebble.

    • 1) St. Augustine rejected this idea as did the Council of Carthage in 418. Not being doctrine is the key. Many ideas surface and some have to be considered at length because there appears to be truth to them that is revealed in scripture. That is the purpose of the Magisterium, to teach what is truth and to reject what is not. To use terms like “embarrassing” is impressing political language on a very serious process. Follow doctrine!!

      2) Regarding evangelization and the concepts that you list as personally acceptable and those you don’t list as personally acceptable. Pope Benedict 16 said, “Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians.”

    • james

      I was taught in the 20th century that Limbo was a valid concept. ‘We don’t know’ said the church. Right there shows a lack of humility regarding an indefensible position that sat waiting for the right time and pontiff ( Benedict ) to be shelved. It’s pride H.L.,that allowed pseudo doctrine to devastate families by withholding closure on the state of a baby’ soul. That concept should have been soundly rejected at the doctrine of the Assumption seeing it was in the modern era and not 100 plus years later when the faithful had utterly abandoned it.
      I agree wholeheartedly with having a personal relationship with Christ, making one a Christian should you follow His way…

    • A potentially good concept because it lasted so long and did make some sense. If it was valid it would have become doctrine. One great attraction of the church for me is that it does not act impulsively. It has been said that change takes 50 years to happen. Sometimes it takes longer, much longer! This can be a detriment also, but, the perfection we all desire cannot be. Another attraction is its scholarship which can also be a detriment because not everyone is willing to wait out the answer. The Church is deliberative.

      I am sure you have may complaints about the Church besides this one. I am not the person that you should be complaining to about your disappointments because I am sure that it is a quagmire and I can’t offer you any sympathy.

    • james

      Not many complaints at all actually. We dissenters merely sit on the sidelines and watch a true love thrash about as its growing pains are
      revealed.. Passive aggressive ? Maybe,.but also the only way to let
      the Church know that it wounded the Body of Christ in so many ways
      and that it will not come out of it until it pays ” the last jot and tittle “.

    • james

      Re: 1) Wikipedia says the opposite of your opening sentence. Who’s right ?

      Saint Augustine of Hippo held that because of original sin, “such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all. That person, therefore, greatly deceives both himself and others, who teaches that they will not be involved in condemnation; whereas the apostle says: ‘Judgment from one offence to condemnation’ (Romans 5:16), and again a little after: ‘By the offence of one upon all persons to condemnation’ (Romans 5:18).”[12]

      The Council of North African bishops, which included Augustine of Hippo, held at Carthage in 418 did not explicitly endorse all aspects of Augustine’s stern view about the destiny of infants

    • 1) My comment was meant to show that there was not acceptance of Limbo for 1,000 years then an abrupt stop as you seemed to be saying. We are talking about a PLACE when we discuss Limbo. The results of the Council in 418 was that Pelagianism was called a heresy. The concept of an intermediate place between heaven and hell that babies would reside based on that heresy was rejected.

    • james

      My comment was meant to show that these Doctors and thinkers of the
      church should have known better. Their excuse is gross ignorance due
      to the times they lived in. Ergo: this is a reason to question other concepts
      grown in that same inadequate soil not conducive to higher theological
      possibilities.

    • Does “gross ignorance due to the times” apply to today as well, or is there some kind of exemption?

    • james

      I would not want to suffer many attempts at having meaningful tete a tete with someone from 1500 AD because their world and mine have
      little room for acceptance, commonality and growth. What we know
      would mollify them and what they could relate would probability instill contempt in us. So too with someone from 2500 AD to the present.

    • So what we are left with is an infinite progression of ignorance. How can you trust your own judgements? What of the Holy Spirit?

    • james

      ” So what we are left with is an infinite progression of …: growth.

      How can you trust your own judgments?

      One cannot judge unless one can execute a judgement – all else is merely opinion

      What of the Holy Spirit?
      Last time I looked He was just leaving Rome for Woodstock..