Lord of Spirits podcast

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, people who don't believe in God and don't want you to, either.  They're miserable people, and the sincere happiness of believers talking 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 refuted 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 hits 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 and arrogant.  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.

 

 


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.

 


Natural Law and Priest-Kings: The Faith of Lord of the Rings

Yesterday I finally concluded my spiritual re-reading of Lord of the Rings.  I started this project in early October and initially was keeping notes.  However, as I got deeper into the story, I found myself once more captivated by it, reading late into the night even though I know it so well.

I think that's the true proof of Tolkien's excellent writing - one can read through it again and again, and still be entranced.

While I've read this book dozens of times, it was only recently that I came to truly understand Catholic theology and the spirit world.  As an irreligious teenager, this almost totally escaped me.  As an adult, I began to recognize Christian themes, but not their deeper meanings.  Even after my conversion, I was essentially skimming the surface.  I'm sure scholarly dissertations have already been written on the topic, but two things stood out to me: the use of natural law and priest-kings.

Natural Law

There are several expressions of this concept, but the one I am using is that even people with no exposure to God's revealed word have an understanding of basic morality.  Just like gravity, it doesn't have to be explained for people to understand that it exists.

The natural law in Lord of the Rings begins in The Shire, which is something of an English garden of Eden.  While far from perfect, hobbits live their lines relatively free of sin.  They gossip, engage in petty theft (mushrooms and spoons come to mind), and love to eat, but crimes of lust and wrath (like rape and murder) are unknown to them. 

Why this is the case the books never come out and say, and at several points "the wise" openly ponder how they an be so untainted by sin.  The answer seems to be a special kind of grace that leaves them with little ambition beyond a comfortable life and the joy of family and friends.

This grace is of course absent in Smeagol/Gollum, who is irredeemably evil.  He is guilty of treachery, greed, murder and perhaps cannibalism (which he certainly was willing to attempt in The Hobbit).

Gollum's fall is not without resistance, and (as with so many other lives) he might have been redeemed if circumstances permitted it.  I think of addicts who clean up but go back to their old haunts and lifestyle and thereby get hooked yet again.

When the hobbits move into the larger world, they see a more formalized system of religion, more open displays of it, and this is a reference to the formalization of God's covenant with Israel. 

Being close to living in an Edenic state, the hobbits have essentially the faith of the antediluvian patriarchs, honoring their creator, honoring their parents, and refraining from mortal sins.

The realms of elves, men and dwarves, however, are fallen, and thus must practice a faith as a means of redemption.  This results in the creation not of a church, but the ancient concept of the priest-king.

The Priest-Kings of Numenor (and Rohan)

It is noteworthy that on almost every occasion when the hobbits meet and leave the various royalty they encounter, that a blessing is bestowed upon them.  This frequently involves the laying on of hands, but other times they simple told to go with the blessing, as at the conclusion of Mass.

This hearkens back to the customs of the Near East in ancient times, when kings also served as high priest, often due to (claimed) divine descent.  The king blessed the crops, blessed the first fruits and in all ways served as the representative of the patron deity on earth.

The same was true in Numenor, where the kings had certain religious duties.  On the Holy Mountain, only the king could speak aloud.

The "downfall" of Numenor was spiritual before it became physical.  Sauron famously allowed himself to be captured and turned the ruling class towards the worship of Melkor.  This in turn led to a declaration of war against the Valar and the destruction of the realm, with only a handful of survivors escaping the disaster.

The line of priest-kings was spared, however, through Elendil and his sons.  The destruction of Arnor and the extinction of the royal line in Gondor left the men of Westernesse spritually crippled, and facilitated a crisis of faith that almost wiped out the line of the Ruling Stewards.

It is worth noting the many powers Aragorn exercises in his capacity as king.  First and foremost, he is a healer - very much a priestly function and a way to demonstrate the justness of his claim.  It is telling that miraculous healing rather than military conquest are what make a Numenorean king.

These Numenorean concepts are reflected in Rohan as well, and the funeral customs may be consciously borrowed from the Anglo-Saxons, but they nevertheless reflect Christian elements, especially the sharing of wine among the celebrants.

I'm sure a few readers might be thinking "Yes, but lots of pagan societies also shared food and drink with guests, it's not just a Judeo-Christian thing!"  This is true, but from the Catholic/Orthodox spirit realm perspective, that is because these societies were led by fallen angels, who preserved the same customs, albeit often in debased ways.

This also goes back to natural law and the notion that sharing food and drink with someone draws you closer - which it absolutely does.  There's a reason why even in our debauched, post-religious secular materialist world, "dinner and a movie" is still regarded as a way to gain intimacy.  I would argue that the eclipse of dinner parties by social media is one of the driving factors in our ongoing societal strife.

The pandemic crushed much of this social activity and "public health experts" continue to undermine it by exaggerating the dangers of disease while ignoring the greater threat of social isolation and despair, especially among young, otherwise healthy people who now struggle to form in-person relationships.

Tolkien understood the importance of this activity in holding societies together, and that is no doubt why he emphasized taverns and inns as the primary social gathering space and in lieu of priest-kings, the hobbits had a mayor (who presided at banquets) and a Thain (of the Took line) and the Master of Buckland.  It is no accident to the narrative that the heirs to these 'royal' seats (Pippin and Merry) are part of the quest and that they return with a deeper understanding of spirituality to lead their people.

All of this is to say that Lord of the Rings is truly a masterpiece, a multi-layered work of true genius. 

I've remarked on this before, but it's been fascinating to see how Tolkien's work has gone from being regarded as a fringe-fantasy epic for teenagers to a deep and meaningful book about Christian faith.  It is not uncommon for priests to reference it during homilies and even bishops now cite its examples.

Clearly, Tolkien builded better than he knew.

 

 


The relics of St. Jude, Apostle of the Impossible

Today my parish hosted a visit by relics of St. Jude the Apostle.  This was my first encounter with a reliquary and I was not sure what to expect.  Plans were in place for large crowds, but since it was on display from 1 to 10 pm, I timed my visit for what I presumed to be a lull at 2, presumably after the opening rush of pilgrims had left.

In the event, there was not much of a line, though there were quite a few people there, praying in adoration or awaiting Reconciliation.  Thus, my daughter and I were able to move at a steady pace through the improvised lanes in the sanctuary and up to the reliquary itself, which was protected by a glass and wood case. 

I was not sure what to expect when I put forth my hand to touch the glass, and I am still struggling to describe the sensation.  It was like a chill, but not cold or sharp, nor was it warm.  It left my slightly dazed as I touched our household holy water fount to the glass and made my way to a pew to pray and regain my composure.  With prayers completed, we left.  My daughter said she felt a sense of euphoria and a surge of energy.

When we got home, the "second shift" left with my wife taking another daughter (we were babysitting the grandchildren), and they each felt something different.

As a convert to Catholicism, I found the veneration of relics difficult to accept and more than a little macabre, but as the day approached, I resigned myself to accept the Church's teachings and roll with it.  Too many people today consider themselves the final authority on everything, and refuse to humble themselves before the wisdom of their ancestors.  I've criticized this before, and did not want to make myself a hypocrite.

I will say that it was meaningful, profoundly spiritual and I am glad I went.  I'm beginning to understand why people become pilgrims, seek out holy relics and devote their lives to their study and veneration.


A spiritual re-reading of Lord of the Rings

I have lost track of how many times I have read Lord of the Rings.  For a while, it was an annual event, but as I began to wander farther afield into literature, the practice faded.  I think part of the re-reading was simply for comfort in my troubled adolescence.  It was a place of mental refuge.

Now I'm reading it in a different way.  To be sure, I enjoy its familiar paths, but as I've become more aware of the richness of Catholic theology (and J.R.R. Tolkien's encyclopedic knowledge thereof), I'm intrigued to see it revealed to me more clearly.

I have done similar focused readings before, paying attention to characters, choice of language, prose style, and even religion, but now I want to see how Tolkien's descriptions of the various spirits and references to then align with what I've learned over the last few years.  The Lord of Spirits podcast was a big part of this education, and there are times when I miss being able to listen to it on lengthy road trips. 

Alas, as I noted months ago, the hosts began to run low on content and turned the show into Why Catholic Do Everything Wrong.  Not only is there a glut on the market for that kind of thing, the show lost its sense of humor, which was one of its strengths.  But I digress.

There is a movement to canonize Tolkien, and I think it is appropriate.  His personal life was nothing short of exemplary, and he was clearly a faithful and conscientious father and husband.  His work is infused with his faith and it is increasingly clear that his approach to sharing it is uniquely suited for our troubled times. 

The open embrace of what were once derided as "fantasy" books filled with pagan symbols is nothing short of remarkable, but also entirely appropriate.  His work is more subtle than that of his friend C.S. Lewis, but I think that gives it a qualitative edge.

After slogging through the sinful ways of Ford Madox Ford, I'm very much welcoming the change.


Why isn't the Disney version of Hercules the actual version?

It's axiomatic that when Disney would do an animated adaption of a fairy tale for folk legend that it would be simplified and softened.  In a word:  "Disneyfied."

When Disney decided to tackle the story of Hercules in 1997, this posed a serious problem, because like all Greek heroes, he's got some serious flaws.

The reinvention of him as the beloved son of Zeus and Hera (hah!) who was tragically stolen and condemned to mortality by Hades (wonderfully voiced by James Woods) was about as far as one could get from the source material and still have a link to it.  The film works because it's in part a send-up of Disney itself, mocking toys, tie-ins and theme parks as Hercules becomes successful and famous.

But this does raise and interesting question, which is why Hercules (and the Greek gods in general) were so nasty.  The conventional (secular academic) view is that they represented the extremes of human behavior, outsized versions of our vices and virtues.  Thus, they regularly intrigued with one another, committed rape, incest and murder, yet also rewarded virtue and conveyed wisdom.

In short, the gods were fickle and it was best to take nothing for granted.

That being the case, if the gods were supposed to provide moral lessons, why weren't they more moral themselves?  Surely they could have been 'written' as exemplars of honor, dignity and restraint - which were virtues the pagans understood, though they did not always follow them.  Chastity was valued in pagan societies, as was marital fidelity, yet the gods honored these more in the breach, which encouraged those human who had the ability to do so to emulate them.

After exploring the Lord of Spirits podcast (which I had to quit, alas), it occurs to me that another explanation was that the Greek gods were in fact fallen angels, just as the Bible says, and that having rebelled against God, they were incapable of showing self-restraint.  They understood the divine virtues, but being in a state of rebellion, had little incentive (or will) to follow them.

This is a common human behavior, and the "downward spiral" is a real thing, one that I think everyone has seen happen.   Bad choice piles upon bad choice, countless opportunities to turn things around are wasted and eventually immersion in sin locks the unfortunate soul into a collision course with damnation.

Happily, there are also redemption stories, where people recognize where they are headed and make a needed course correction.  I'm an example of that. 

There is a key difference between humans and angels, however.  Having rebelled in the actual presence of God and knowing Him fully, the fallen angels cannot repent while humans still can.  There is no halting their spiral to the abyss.

All of which is to say that the Greek gods were who they were because they could be no other after their rebellion.  One can fault Disney for self-pedaling their depravity, but in fact anyone who was moved by the film to convert to Greek paganism would quickly learn how savage that faith really was.

 

 


When Calvinists go bad: Karl Barth

While I had to stop listening to the Lord of Spirits podcast, one of the many positive things I took away from it was understanding just how jacked-up Calvinism truly is.

I don't think about it much, but First Things recently had an article on a controversy that continues to roil the Calvinist faithful.

The short version is that the leading theologian of the 20th Century, a Swiss German by the name of Karl Barth, was not as clean and pure as the wind-driven snow. He was hugely influential in Protestant circles, helped rally the Confessional Church against the Nazis, preached against Communism and wrote a massive multi-volume work called Church Dogmatics that attempted to adapt Calvinist (or Reform) theology to the modern world. He was a fierce opponent of the liberal theology (not to be confused with liberal politics) which was all the rage in German circles and posited using reason and "deconstructing" the Bible to find truth.

All well and good and Church Dogmatics and his other works are required reading in most Protestant seminaries. Or at least it used to be.

You see, Herr Barth had a secret that his family managed to preserve for three decades after his death in 1968: he was an adulterer. I don't mean he had a passing affair as a young man or maybe a series of dalliances, the guy kept a mistress in his home with his wife and children.

Way back in the 20s, when he started his magnum opus, he fell passionately love with his secretary and could not quit her. His wife threatened to divorce him, but they had five children, and the scandal would have been epic. After years of back-and-forth debates, the solution was to give "Aunt Lollo" her own room in the family home, which was conveniently located adjacent to his study. There the happy lovers spent decades writing Church Dogmatics and trashing his marriage covenant, traumatizing his wife and children in the process. He was fully aware that if his sinful living arrangement were known, no one would give damn what his theology was, so it was carefully shrouded in secrecy.

Thus, he went to his grave a revered and admired religious figure.

In 2000, his surviving kids decided that whatever his will said, the truth was more important, and they started releasing his private correspondence. It continues to trickle out and there's been some delay in it reaching the US because it's all in German and some of the formulations are esoteric. (In German, one can make up words by ramming concepts together, even creating oxymorons, and Barth did a lot of this.)

All of which is to say that the Protestants apparently got to experience the scandal twice: first the revelation of adultery, later the sordid truth of how blatant and selfish it was. This is why a story from 1933 (or 1968 when he died) or 2000, when the first letters came out, is still churning away. The latest revelation is troubling because it shows that Mr. Theology's inner circle knew what was going on and when they rebuked him, he conjured up a religious justification for what he was doing, arguing that God had made him fall in love, and his work was super-important, therefore it was okay.

That latter big is particularly jarring to his fans because it calls all of his work into question.  It's pretty much a given that almost all top-end athletes are womanizing egomaniacs but no one cares because we're paying to watch them play, not serve as life coaches.

In Barth's case, we have letters in his own hand declaring that God has sanctioned his sin, and therefore it's okay.  He actually makes the claim that love can never be wrong.  Yet at the same time, he carefully hid this arrangement from the public so he wouldn't have to acknowledge his hypocrisy.

I think this highlights the core failing of Calvinism, which created the concept of The Elect who where chosen by God before time began. This toxic sense of divine sanction has poisoned the American body politic since its foundation and right now it's worse than ever because the current elites no longer even bother with considering the will of God and just assume that whatever they do is perfect.

At its core, predestination posits a very cruel God who created people just to condemn them, denying them any chance of salvation. Calvin justified this by saying that God was purely good and his intellect surpasses human comprehension, so who are we to judge? This of course flies in the face of the fact that nowhere in scripture does God tell people to go ahead and sin, it's cool, he's got their back.

Barth's logic prefigures the argument that so many contemporary Protestant churches use to legitimize sin, whether or not they formally embrace Calvinist doctrine.


The allure of paganism

Over the past week, commenter CN has deftly woven together two of the themes of this site - the corruption of Christianity and the complex personality of Ford Madox Ford.

The discussion of Jewish women indulging in neo-paganism reminded me of a consideration of paganism from a few years ago.

As I said then, paganism offers much that appeals to our contemporary culture.  It's bold, transgressive, and  it eliminates bothersome boundaries. 

The primary weakness is that once one casts aside restraint, why bother with religious ritual at all?  I think for the Boomer generation, there was something of a thrill in going to church in a bathrobe and slippers and the Gen X crowd went even farther by getting all tatt'd up and "blessing" same-sex relationships.

But why bother with all that?  Why not sleep in on Sunday?  The truth is that classical paganism actually had lots of rules and required frequent acts of devotion.  All those marble temples were used; they weren't just empty monuments to be admired.

This is why I think it is no accident that much of paganism is concentrated within the global church rather than rising outside of it.  This would of course fit in with the Enemy's designs of outright blocking the path to salvation by corrupting Christ's message and misleading His servants.

But even that thrill seems to be fading.  In places where Woke Christianity reigns triumphant, church attendance is almost undetectable.  It's interesting that the Anglican population of Wales (which needs six bishops (most of them female, of course), could fit into a mid-sized sporting area. 

Whether "observant" or not, a frequent recourse is to the display of virtue.  The old amulets and shrines have now given way to a bumper sticker or yard sign, hence closing the ring between neo-paganism and Yard Sign Calvinism.

For students of history, there is a dreary familiarity to all of this.  Just as the same worn-out heresies keep cropping up in new wrappings by people who think they've just invented the wheel, so the same old sins get repackaged as virtues.  Waugh, Chesterton and of course Tolkien all saw it, and it's still going on today.

Something to keep in mind as the latest "new neo-pagan" thing emerges.


One of the hardest Gospel readings: Matthew 10:37-42

Some years ago, I heard a homily that has stuck with me ever since.  It was in Easter, and the priest noted that while we try to approach Easter each year with a sense of newness and wonder, for most of us, it's quite familiar.  We've celebrated Easter before, so what else is new?

He answered his own question by pointing out that every year is different.  We are older, we may have kids now, or our kids may be moving out, etc.  Life brings constant changes, even if they are incremental.

He was right, of course.  The Easter I celebrated this spring was vastly different from the one I celebrated in 2019, when lockdowns were unheard of, or in 2020, when we were unable to attend Mass in person.

So it was with this week's Gospel readings, which is the famous passage where Jesus creates a string of paradoxes surrounding faith, but also says that those who cannot leave their parents and children for him, are not worthy of him.  That passage always rankled with me, because how could a loving God demand that I put aside those people?  We are commanded to honor our parents, and what parent would cast aside a child?

This year I see it differently.  I realize that this life is not all that there is.  If God calls, we must answer, and He will see to it that my parents and children are taken care of. 

That is probably the biggest difference between believers and those without faith in God.  If this life is all there is, then death is a nightmare, the worst thing ever.  Pleasure must be taken as often as possible, because its joys will fade.

It is clear to me that the top rungs of the social ladder have lost faith in God, and believe that nothing else matters besides their time on earth.  Cheating is something they admire, and cleverness is superior to courage.  A person willing to die for faith or conviction is a sap and fool.

All of that is predicated on there being nothing else; on the Unseen being non-existent.  At this late date, I don't that that view is logically sustainable.  I have experienced too much of the spirit realm to believe otherwise.

I'm also starting to wonder if the "evangelical atheists" aren't trying to convince others to abandon faith so much as reassure themselves. 

This is also why one gets Yard Sign Calvinists, who - unable to reach God - seek social salvation through virtue-signalling. 

J.R.R. Tolkien had an interesting take on the "end game" of a society that turns to darkness.  His description of the fall of Numenor is very much reminiscent of where we are - people becoming status-obsessed, proud, willful, and above all hardening their hearts against God, doubling down on their rebellion.

There's a lot of that going on, too.


The Lord of Spirits podcast jumps the shark

I suppose it was inevitable.  Even the most engaging concepts eventually run out of steam.  Some last longer than others, of course, but that depends upon the subject matter and the genre.

It also depends upon fidelity to the subject matter.  For example, Magnum p.i. had four solid seasons before it started to flag.

Miami Vice got into season three before it was mostly played out, and I'm sure the fathers on the Lord of Spirits podcast will appreciate the symmetry of their show topping out after about the same amount of time.

As with both of the detective shows, the initial concept of the Lord of Spirits was interesting and provided excellent opportunities to engage and entertain.  The first year or so of episodes really did blow my mind.

However, one can only go over the core concepts of the spirit world for so long.  Once angels, demons, giants, vampires, etc. had been explained, the show had to ranger father and farther afield. and in the process, the focus of the show changed, just as it did with Miami Vice.

Whereas Miami Vice went from a slick, cool blend of music, actions and aesthetics to a gritty cop drama, Lord of Spirits went from an offbeat but informative discussion of the spirit realm to a blatant recruiting pitch for the Eastern Orthodox Church with strong anti-Catholic overtones.

That's just not as interesting.  It's one thing to sit through nearly three hours of explaining Giants, Behemoth and Leviathan and quite another to get a long lecture on why Catholics Do All The Sacraments Wrong.

Throughout the show there has been an anti-Catholic bias, particularly on the part of Father Stephen.  Both he and Father Andrew are former Protestants who converted to the Orthodox faith.  For a certain type of Protestant, the Orthodox Church has a lot going for it: you get the apostolic succession, the writings of the Church Fathers, the sacraments yet you don't have to give up hating on Catholics.  That's particularly important to Father Stephen, who never passes up an opportunity to take a cheap shot - even if he's wrong.

During the first few years, this was not that important because the Catholic and Orthodox views on the spirit world are functionally identical.  One can tease out some cultural differences in terms of vampires and werewolves, but both follow the same system of looking at angels, demons and read the Bible in the same way.  Every now and again Father Stephen would say something snotty, and it was sad because it was often out of place and a little embarrassing that he had this compulsive hatred of people who don't hate him back (the Catholic Church considers all Orthodox clergy to be part of the apostolic succession and all of their sacraments are valid).

However, the farther one gets from spirits, the more room there is to cast those different historic and cultural practices in a negative light. And that more that happened, the more strident and petty these attacks became.

For the last six months the shows had been getting tedious, and  the last episode I listened to was the May 11 live Q&A.  This was really dull because most of the questioners were known to the hosts, either repeat callers or their friends and family. 

Near the end an authentic caller brought up the seeming abundance of Eucharistic miracles in the Catholic Church and the response - which I could not believe I was hearing - was that miracles really don't mean all that much, certainly shouldn't be cited to show God's favor or that one is becoming holy.  I guess the Orthodox Church will be shutting down Mount Athos and destroying its relics, then.

Father Stephen went farther and suggested that because so many Eucharistic miracles were reported during the tumult of the Reformation, that suggested that they were inauthentic because it was a bit too convenient.  Maybe they came from demons.

I'm used to hot takes, but that one's a real scorcher.  I'm still not sure what he was driving at.  If the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, one might well expect miracles demonstrating that and calling people to repent and return to the true faith.  Was he implying that the miracles were sent by the devil to keep people away from the true faith of Calvinism, or was he going full Mormon and insisting the Catholic Church was built by the devil to keep people from God?

Now I'm sure there are people into hating on Catholicism, I'm just not one of them, and I can't continue to recommend a show that I no longer enjoy.

It's sad, because I really enjoyed the it and I would still recommend the first two years of podcasts to people who want to learn more about the spirit world.

Ironically, on June 7, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church issued their first statement in seven years.

If the work of the commission bears fruit, I can't help but wonder if it will lead to a crisis of faith for the more extreme Orthodox clergy.

At any rate, I remain grateful for those first two years and how they opened my mind to the spirit world.  That is why I'm walking away, because I sense that if I stick around or try to engage the hosts, the whole experience could be tainted.  Instead, I will simply take the good things with me.