Stupid Neo-Confederates

Apparently there are people who are so determined to be what the cool kids call "edgelords" that the new hotness is to argue that the Southern Confederacy was fully justified in secession.

This is really stupid.

The argument (as I understand it, it's riddled with contradictions) is that any state can secede from the United States at any time.  This being the case, there is no Union. 

Think about it.  Why would the Constitution include language of "rebellion" or "treason" when a majority vote (or legislative resolution passing by one vote) is sufficient to make a rebellion legal?

People keep trotting out the precedent of the American Revolution for a "right of rebellion," and this is quite telling because it completely undermines their argument.  If one bothers to read the entirety of the Declaration of Independence (that is, beyond the soaring rhetoric at the beginning), one finds a rather dull catalogue of offenses against the colonies, which includes things like: taxation without representation, dissolving legislatures, quartering troops in private homes, restricting trade, and so on.

None of which happened in 1860.  Remember, South Carolina voted to secede months before Abraham Lincoln even took office.  They were basically in a snit over their party fumbling the election.  If losing an election is grounds for secession, there is no democracy.  The whole point of even having elections is that the loser agrees to abide by the result.

If the loser can instead simply vote to end the Union, there is no country just a jumble of people waiting to fall upon each other.

This also disregards the fact that there was (and is) a remedy for a state wanting to leave: an Article V convention of the states.  If South Carolina (and other Southern states) believed there were deep, profound, irreconcilable differences and that separation was the only remedy, they had a legal mechanism already in place.  The fact that the secessionists didn't even try speaks volumes.

The Neo-Confederate argument is essentially that Rhode Island or North Dakota (or any state with a tiny population) has within themselves the power to dissolve the federal government whenever they feel like it.

The deep irony here is that the Constitution was developed precisely because the Articles of Confederation were so weak.  A stronger central government was needed, and so a new document was created. 

Using the Neo-Confederate line of argument, any state unhappy with a presidential election result could simply vote to leave, seize federal property (including weapons) and - presumably, invite foreign troops to help them secure their independence.  The Confederates very much wanted this to happen.

They were thwarted because of the one thing that Neo-Confederates swear wasn't a cause of the Civil War: slavery

The growing democratic movements in Europe would not tolerate a war to defend slavery, which they found morally reprehensible.  Without slavery, European recognition of the Confederacy would have been immediate.  Because of it, the South had to create a military environment where Union defeat seemed inevitable, resulting in two the disastrous strategic gambles at Sharpsburg and Gettysburg.

There's a saying about the Civil War:  people who know nothing about it think it was about slavery; people who know something about it think it wasn't about slavery; people who know a lot about it know it was about slavery.  Slavery was the core question that split the Union and it was the moral issues wrapped up in it that rendered compromise impossible.


Stupid atheists

The title of this post isn't meant to imply that all atheists are stupid, but in my experience, most of them are.  Even the few bright ones, like the late Christopher Hitchens, had remarkably stupid arguments when it came to faith.  It was more of a blind spot than a place of intellectual strength.

I mention this because I frequent religious web sites, and atheists regularly drop in to share their stupid arguments about why God doesn't exist.  It's like a compulsion.

The world has long been plagued by Evangelical Atheists, who don't believe in God and don't want you to, either.  They're miserable people, and the sincere happiness of people taking about a blessed event compels them to try to throw a turd in the punch bowl.

Not only that, but they are invariably weak, ill-thought out, and easily reputed turds.  Even worse, they recycle them.

There's a dreary repetition to it all.  People will be discussing the finer points of theology, and some idiot pops up and says "Why do you worship an imaginary friend?" or "Who cares what your invisible buddy has to say?"

Somewhat obviously, the loser who dropped the comment did, and there are a million variations of "Yet here you are," as a response, but even so, the notion that something that cannot be seen is by definition imaginary is pathetic.  I've personally never seen gravity, but I've felt its effects.  Light is likewise invisible until it hist something.  Air, sound, the list goes on.

This also sets aside countless visions, apparitions and miracles, as well as the testimony of the Scriptures.  I've already written about the strange need of modern "Bible scholars" to try to debunk the text by demanding a standard of proof that they would never ask of any other historical text.

If one manages to get past their one-liners and engage in debate they are invariably very prideful, arrogant people.  I recall one person a few months ago who came onto a religious site and held forth that he felt sorry for people who needed the "crutch" of religion because obviously the truth about life was simply too much them.  He, of course, had reconciled himself that death was final, and he needed no reassuring lies, but most people lacked his mental strength.

He seemed completely unaware that to Christians, humility is a virtue, not something to we're ashamed of. 

More to the point, his argument refuted itself - if he's so fulfilled, so strong and so happy, why did he even bother to waste his time on earth telling the benighted believers about it?   According to him, they're too weak to give up their delusion, so what was his purpose?  The obvious answer was he's not happy, and needs to find someone to look down on, so he went to a religious site to taunt people and, presumably, feed off their anger.  He failed to generate any.

I would say that the rise of Evangelical (and stupid) Atheists is tied to the general craving for specialness and status.  In a world where college diplomas no longer signal achievement, and plagiarists are tolerated in the faculty of Ivy League schools, what are the socially insecure to do to shore up their self-esteem? 

Obviously one answer to declare themselves smarter than every religious believer who ever lived.  Take that, you rubes!  An additional virtue is that one doesn't have to do any actual reading or scholarship because Augustine, Aquinas, etc. are all delusional nut jobs.

They have a tougher time when one brings up G.K Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh or C.S. Lewis because their work is well-known, accessible, and refutes all of their juvenile arguments.  Mostly they are likewise hand-waved because whether or not God exists is besides the point.  Boosting self-esteem and picking on people with impunity are the point.

I should add that there are a scattered few atheists who simply can't fully grasp God, or get past the Problem of Evil, and they are uniformly respectful of those who found faith.  Some are agnostics, others vague theists, but unable to sort things out to their full satisfaction.   They are warmly greeted because they are the ones who need the most help.

As for the stupid atheists, they need help as well and I hope that they find it.



Justification by rage alone

I've written quite a bit how certain groups of people now believe anything is permissible if their cause is just.  War crimes cease to be illicit when used against "orcs" or Nazis. 

It's often associated with Yard Sign Calvinism, but it exist independently of it.  People who would never fall into that category can succumb to it.

I suppose this is a consequence of fading religious sentiment and the secularization of morality.  When you remove God from the equation, it becomes much easier to find loopholes for whatever behavior you desire.

"The cause" is now what matters most, and this is why you see nominally well-educated people excuse deliberate war crimes on the grounds that if the victim doesn't like it, they can just surrender.

I'm calling it "justification by rage alone" because there seems to be a sense that if one's outrage is raised to an extreme level, any resulting violence (or rhetorical excess) is excused.  It's like the famous scene in Forrest Gump where the abusive boyfriend explains that he didn't mean to hit Robin Wright Penn's character, it's "just this war and that bastard Johnson." 

At the time, this was understood to be a lame attempt at deflecting responsibility, but it's now treated as a credible position, particularly within the ruling class.

Combine this with their increasing insularity from both accountability and the plight of those affected by their decisions, and it's hard not to be pessimistic about the future of the country.


The cruel irrationality of scientism (part 2)

Almost three years ago , I noted that the secular "scientific" experts claim to be merciful and helpful, but in reality they are incredibly cruel.

A recent column in First Things reminded me of this, and also how much the tide of bloody-minded scientism has advanced since then.   While the nominal topic is about the tension between religion and viewing pornography, it's really the old claim that the sin isn't a problem, it's the guilt from thinking it is wrong.

They used to call these "hang-ups," and the goal of sensible people was to break them down, because things like adultery, promiscuity, and sexual deviancy were actually normal and healthy, it was only the God-bothering scolds who thought them bad. 

Decades later, we have soaring youth suicide rates, a national mental health crisis, a collapsing marriage rate, falling birth rates and the "expert" solution is: more of the same.

How scientific.

The same logic pervades the transgender phenomenon, where women are told that if they dislike biological men walking into the female locker room and brandishing their organs, they should get counseling so that it no longer bothers them.  Again, their privacy and feelings are simply wrong - some talk therapy about their hang-ups will fix things.

This warm, compassionate belief system wants to kill imperfect or unwanted children in the womb, things that the world should run on a 24-hour clock and work seven days a week.  The old, infirm, disabled and depressed are literally better off dead.  The value of each life can be calculated to the penny, and society as a whole we are told benefits by the loss of this dead weight.

It is a variety of Yard Sign Calvinism, with reason serving as its god - a god every bit as bloodthirsty as Moloch or Baal.  Indeed, one can't but wonder if the animating power comes from those old, wily fallen angels.

Happily, the excesses of the pandemic (and the lies spread to justify them) are undermining this diabolical belief system.  Science has nothing to say about morality, and we are seeing just how quickly it degenerates when the guard rails are taken down.


Valentine's Ash Wednesday

One of the sources of dispute in the early Church was how to calculate Easter.  Even today, the Orthodox portions of Christianity continue to be at variance with their Catholic brothers in Christ.

Because it (and Lent) move about the calendar, we get some interesting combinations and conflicts.  For example, what happens when St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday?  Can one get a dispensation for corned beef and cabbage, or is the former element of the feast removed?

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day, which is an unusual combination.  In response to questions, the Church spoke loud and clear: do your date night on the 13th, fast on the 14th.  No exceptions.

By and large, I think Catholics accepted that, but it did feel odd to go about on what is nominally a memorial to a Christian saint and seeing people buying various candies and gearing up for sumptuous romantic meals without any notion that they were profaning the thing they were celebrating. 

The high tide of Catholicism in the United States has long since passed away, and in the current age, the faith is something greeted with at best with curiosity, at worst with mockery and hatred.

Perhaps as a result, the 'remnant' seems more zealous about the traditions.  Our parish has seen an unmistakable increase in Ash Wednesday attendance since the pandemic.  The diocese as a whole has seen a ten percent increase in students over the past three years.  For the first time in a long time, adding parish schools or expanding them are topics of discussion.

The conflict epitomizes the state of the increasingly secular and degenerate West.  It retains the old calendar dates, vaguely recalls that they mean something, but are unaware of what they have lost or why it was important.  

For people of faith, however, it is a call to renewed commitment to God.  The cultural Catholicism of the 1950s is dead, and almost forgotten.  A smaller Church is now rising built on a more vigorous pursuit of God's mercy and Christ's salvation. 

A tale of two Toms: Becket and More

I'm binging on religious movies of late, stacking them up in my shopping cart for future purchase.   Last week I watched Becket because it was free and this week I managed to craw through A Man for All Seasons over the course of two nights.

(Yet, it's been busy around here, hence light posting.)

Both films are about how a king has a falling out with a loyal subject over a matter of faith, and rather than respect that difference and sustain their friendship, the tyrannical, ungrateful monarch has him killed.

Beckett stars Richard Burton as the titular Thomas Becket, a court flunky for Henry II (Peter O'Toole) who gets finagled into the position of Archbishop of Canterbury.  Once installed, Henry assumes he will do his bidding and bring the Church in England to heel.  Instead, Becket has a conversion experience, gives up his partying ways and throws himself into the life religious.  At first, everyone assumes its a game, but once Henry realizes he's sincere, he makes certain remarks indicating he wants his former friend dead, and four knights murder him right there in the cathedral (thus giving T.S. Eliott the name for his play about it: Murder in the Cathedral).

The Catholic Church at that time was in robust condition, and as a result, Henry was forced to do a humiliating public penance and the knights were ordered to take religious vows and join the Crusades. 

It's a good movie, and who would not enjoy watching to great actors battle it out.  There's a bit of (unintended?) irony in that the script plays up the Norman vs Saxon thing, claiming Becket is a Saxon while having him played by a Welshman.

The fate of St. Thomas Becket is something of a forerunner to Sir Thomas More's resistance and ultimate martyrdom by Henry VIII.  A Man for All Seasons is a remarkably quotable film, full of devastating rejoinders, and while Robert Shaw gets prominent mention as Henry VIII, his is really a bit part - Leo McKern's Thomas Cromwell is really the main antagonist.

A Man for All Seasons is something of a courtroom drama, and it's climactic scene is where Cromwell and More face off at trial.  To any honest observer, More wins the case, but it doesn't matter because Henry VIII was in fact a tyrant who cared nothing for the law.  His judicial murder of his friend and confidant was mirrored by his treatment of his wives.

Thus the two cases are the same, but different insofar as the later Henry had full knowledge of what he was doing, while his ancestor could claim that his ill-considered outburst was misinterpreted.

The Tudor king certainly believed it, because he had Becket's shrine utterly destroyed, including the saint's body.  Indeed, as much as he has been lionized by British historians as a forward-thinking herald of the modern age, a more balanced view sees him as utterly ruthless dictator who struck down much of his country's culture and heritage on a whim.

In his single-minded pursuit of a male heir, he fractured his realm and laid the basis for repeated rebellion and ultimately civil war and the abolition of the monarchy itself.

All that, and his line still ended.

Both films stress the important of fidelity to God, and that death is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  Too much modern entertainment treats death as the greatest tragedy, and one must do everything possible to escape from it.

This is likely because modern writers fear death so much, and have no concept of faith - what the know if Christianity they mock.

But there was a time when serious-minded people were fascinated by stories of faith and moral courage.  Both films are therefore well worth watching.

The blingiest guns ever: Romeo + Juliet

The other night I re-watched Baz Luhrmann's take on the Romeo and Juliet story, a mish-mash of the original dialogue put in a modern, spastic setting.

Like many of his offerings, the frenetic intro eventually fades into a deeper, more contemplative story, but Romeo + Juliet never really overcomes the jumpy pacing and need to make everything larger than life.

By that I mean that one can substitute guns for swords and still have the dueling angle work, but Luhrmann actually adds cartoon sound effects at various point, undermining the seriousness of the situation.  The "gas station" fight should have set a tone for how disruptive the two families are, but it becomes a total farce.

Thus, when we get to the love story, it's hard to sell it, even though it involves two of the prettiest of pretty people (the eerily young-looking Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio)

What the film does have in abundance are tricked-out, custom prop guns.  These things are sensational, from the engravings on the slide so that they match the text (when a character told to put up his sword, the camera zooms on the weapon, which has "Sword" written on it) to fobs hanging of the lanyard rings and magazine floor plates bearing the names of the clashing houses.

Lots of stainless or nickel finishes, and all of it is a gangster's dream brought to life.  I could do a heck of a Geek Guns article on it, but first I'd have to track down one of the Para Ordinance numbers or Taurus Beretta 92 clones.

Obviously, I think Shakespeare in modern dress can work, I just feel it needs to be more consistent in presentation.  Luhrmann has a whimsical side which can be very funny, but here I think it got away from him.

The guns are great, though.

Road House revisited

The news that Amazon has a new version of Road House has caused me to re-watch the film and I'm working on an article for Bleeding Fool.  It should run next week or perhaps the week after.

I don't want to tip my hand too much, but I think this kind of thing is becoming ubiquitous in Hollywood - and also embarrassing.

Time was, films only got remade if there was a clear upgrade to them - say the addition of sound or color.  Some stories were presented in a different cultural sensitivity - see the various movies centering on the mutiny on the Bounty.

Nowadays, though, it seems like nothing more than nostalgia bait.  "Hey middle-aged Gen X-er, check out this awesome new take on that movie you liked!"  The problem is it usually sucks.

The current generation of writers has no concept of joy or any willingness to take risks.  Original ideas are dangerous, so it's better to trash an existing property than create anything bold and new.  It's funny that Dune is getting a lot of attention because this is the third adaptation of it.

I guess the verdict of Sunset Boulevard is finally true - the movies are getting small.

Army of Darkness revisted - a yeoman effort with staying power

There were certain films in my youth that I watched more times than I can count.  Army of Darkness is one of them.  It was released when I was very active in medieval re-enactments and Dungeons & Dragons and everyone in my social set memorized the film.  In those days we did gaming get-togethers or hung out and inevitably a tape would go into the VCR to provide background noise.  Army of Darkness was the default choice because it has so many great, corny lines and requires so little effort to follow along.

It was the product of a different era, when Hollywood directors generally worked their way into the industry.  Start with short films, move onto TV or low-budget films (later including direct to video), and finally mid-grade films with a decent budget.

One of the reasons Hollywood is collapsing is that it has abandoned the system, instead plucking unqualified cast and crew based on diversity quota or political sentiment.  This is partly because the current generation takes its prosperity for granted, and so is careless with the wealth it inherited.

But in the 1980s, the old system was in place, and so you could get a guy like Sam Raimi, who cut his teeth on Super 8 cameras and slowly worked his way into the industry, all the while building a loyal production team, and honing his craft.  When Raimi was tapped for Spider-Man, it was the culmination of his work, and the resulting success of that film series shows it.

Raimi also has an interest in the subject matter of his films, and this also is readily apparent.  Like many writer/director/producers, he is a creature of various genres, and understands the conventions that the audience expects to be observed.  Again, this stands in stark contrast with the current "Fans will hate what we are doing with their favorite characters!" mentality.

I suspect part of that fidelity is the natural response of someone who has created characters of their own.  While Raimi's not hugely original, the Evil Dead franchise and Darkman films are legitimately his.  Thus, he knows what it is to have creative skin in the game.

As for the film, it's far more lavish than his other work, yet clearly filmed on a shoestring budget, and that's part of its charm.  It's not a serious work, but an exercise in fun, and the larger-than-life Ash - who combined hypermasculinity with working as a store clerk - is just fun to watch.

I should mention that Ash's shotgun was featured in my Geek Guns series.



The truth about Lilith

I saw the other day that Amazon has a new cartoon that does the typical inversion of the Bible's creation narrative, making Satan the good guy, God and His angels meanies, etc.

All boring old stuff, and it includes the very 90s twist of making Lilith Adam's estranged first wife.  This trope is supposedly why there are two creation narratives in Genesis, and it's based on the usual "bible scholar" conceit that the Jews were too stupid to edit books they copied over and over again.

One sees this quite a bit, usually just in time for Christmas or (especially) Easter.   When they are pushing fantastically heretical texts of comically dubious provenance, they fall back on trying to tease out contradictions and then declare that these are the results of "loose ends" created by earlier edits.  They then pronounce the "true" version, which of course they made up.

Anyway, it seemed like a good idea to revisit some of the good moments of the Lord of Spirits podcast, which for the record I left in sadness rather than anger.  Going back and looking at their take on Lilith and other monsters warmed my heart, because the podcast really was great during its first couple of years. 

There was a hint of anti-Catholic animus, but it was easy to overlook because of their fun, 1990s pop culture nerd references and sick burns of Calvinists.  Their problem was that they were running out of material and the podcast suffered as a result.

Anyhow, Lilith was not a nice person and had a very nasty reputation throughout Near Eastern cultures.  The Greeks and then Romans incorporated her into their pantheon as Lamia, who was likewise a woman done wrong with an endless thirst for revenge.

Like all angry pagan goddesses, she like killing kids.  A lot.  Between that and her fondness for having sex with lonely, isolated men and then killing them, she wasn't so much worshiped as paid off.  A lot of pagan gods were like that - assumed to be angry and vengeful and the best one could hope for was to convince them to ruin someone else's day.

The feminist recasting of her as a justifiably angry first wife is (like all neo-paganism) utter nonsense, but I'm very much open to the idea of that particular spirit trimming her sails to the times.  The pagan gods were real, and people flirt with them at their great peril.  Yes, the packaging is slicker, but demons are still demons.  Fallen angels are not the good guys, folks!

Indeed, it's interesting to note that within the Catholic calendar of saints, there are lots of strong, empowered and virtuous women.  Weird that feminists reject that and celebrate a desert-based sex/death cult.

As for Hazbin Hotel, it looks like a trite piece of trash.  It did, however, inspire me to dig deeper into Lilith, so it's not a total loss.