VP Debate, Young Atheists, Former Atheists, Dying Republics, and New Tunes | Carl E. Olson | The Dispatch at CWR
A new and sparkling edition of "Carl's Cuts", the sporadic and always scattered collection of observations, opinions, and non-magisterial musings of the Editor of CWR
• If I see any more headlines about Kaine and "Able" or "Unable", I'm going to go dwell in the land of Nod.
• I didn't watch the Vice-Presidential debate last night—I took my horse-obsessed daughter shopping for some new spurs—but I gather that it featured a rapid-talking, smirking guy defending abortion while a far more sober, straight-arrow guy sat shaking his head and chastising the other for being played by an untrustworthy woman.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't "Two and a Half Men" go off the air last year?
• Not to belabor what should be an obvious point, but when one's "deeply held" and "devout" faith is sacrificed on the gory altar of abortion, how deep and devout can your faith really be? Or, better, what is the ultimate source and highest summit for one's beliefs? If I say that I am "personally opposed" to adultery, but publicly support adultery (and perhaps even practice it on occasion), should I be considered a profound man of faith, or a complete cad and scoundrel? Or just a politician?
• But, of course, Gov. Kaine is called a "Pope Francis Catholic" and is lauded for his "argument" for the Church's inevitable acceptance of "gay marriage"—something impossible to accept since there is no "marriage" there—despite an embarrassing lack of knowledge about Scripture, logic, and other essentials.
• From the depressing to the divine. Or, first, the rejection of the divine. This past week, I happened to read three different texts that coalesced in a rather interesting way. The first was this letter by a Notre Dame student about how she lost her faith while at the University. The student, named Grace, wrote:
I thought a Catholic university would bring me closer to God, but the freedom of college is what originally made me turn away. Being on my own schedule meant that I could pick when I had to go to Mass, if I wanted to go at all. I no longer felt obligated to go, even though so many of my friends invited me to a dorm mass every Sunday. Instead, I spent my Sunday’s focusing on my classes, some of which made me question God in new ways.
One of the most influential classes I took my freshmen year was my “Foundations of Theology” class. The more I read about God, the less I believed in Him. I questioned why God would even care about humanity when there was so much more to the universe than us. Being at Notre Dame gave me the opportunity to really question the things I believed in. Notre Dame shaped my faith in an ironic way. By requiring that I study the Catholic Church, it has made me realize I do not truly believe in its beliefs or teachings.
It's curious, I think, that the one reason she gives for no longer believing in God is because she "questioned why God would even care about humanity when there was so much more to the universe than us." It's curious for several reasons, not least because it is hardly compelling at all and it has been address it many different ways. Which brings me to the second text, which is Fulton J. Sheen's 1931 book Old Errors and New Labels. Early on, in the chapter titled "Cosmic Intimidation", Sheen states:
The modern man is humble, not with the old humility which made a man doubt his power, but with the new humility makes a man doubt his humanity. The old humility was grounded on truth: man is what he really is. The new humility is grounded on insignificance: man is only a speck in the cosmos.
After recounting some of the many huge distances and incomprehensible numbers revealed by modern astronomy, Sheen notes that for some people these recent discoveries awaken "a greater understanding of the Majesty and the Power of God" while in "other minds they have developed an awe of the immensity of the cosmos ... which insists that man is nothing." After providing some examples of the latter, Sheen argues that "such cosmic intimidation is built upon, first, an ignorance of the imagery of greatness, and secondly, two false assumptions: namely, that greatness is value, and that man is considered great in the old cosmology because he lived presumably in the center of the universe."
The point, in part, is that making physical size the gauge of what is good or valuable is a reflexively materialist reaction, which puts quantity above quality when it comes to "greatness". This "cult of magnitude", writes Sheen,