Yard Sign Calvinism

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.


The King of New York: another disappointment

I seem to be in a bit of a slump, movie-wise.  Both of my last selections looked good on paper, but ultimately amounted to far less than the sum of their parts.

The King of New York had a lot of potential.  Christopher Walken is always fun to watch, and a crime drama with him and Larry Fishburne (that's what he went by in the credits), Wesley Snipes, and with a cameo by Steve Buscemi, should have been quality entertainment.

It wasn't.

Walken was wasted, indeed the whole cast was wasted in a bad, dull plot, flat dialog and a film that was tedious to sit through.

This is probably why I didn't remember hearing about it.  I figured that it might have been good and just slipped by me because in the year it came out (1990) I had a lot going.  Moreover, crime drama/gangster movies weren't my thing.  Turns out, it was simply mediocre.

I often rip on modern movies for being less than the sum of their parts, but every era has its share of clunkers, the issue is generally just how bad they are.

Not quite a year ago I watched Castle Keep, which was terrible.  How could a World War II movie be so bad when the memory was so fresh?  I'm not sure, but it's awful.

As a sidebar, looking at Amazon's current offerings, they seem uniformly slick, designed to appeal to modern aesthetics but utterly lacking in anything remotely interesting.  If the movie has an "adult" premise, one can be sure it will lack any actual depth or nuance.  Everything today has been broken down to an intellectual level that would embarrass Warner Brothers cartoons.

It's strong, square-jawed girlbosses as far as the eye can see and all protagonists are effectively Yard Sign Calvinists, people whose essential goodness justifies them being awful human beings.

Such is the spirit of our age.

The Deep Freeze

I'm old enough to remember when it was the universal scientific consensus that we'd all be dead by now.  Without immediate, and radical economic reorganization, life on earth would be over by...uh, 24 years ago.

I mention this because the real threat has never been a warming earth, which generally means longer growing seasons, but a new ice age.  If one goes back 10,000 years ago, my house would be under a mile-thick sheet of ice.

Even short of that, the current sub-zero weather is playing havoc the neighborhood pipes and even modern heating systems are struggling to keep houses warm.  A drive through the neighborhood showed that HVAC and plumbing services were not observing the federal holiday.

The cynic in me notes that "climate science" is just another grift, the equivalent of itinerant preachers or snake-oil salesmen in days gone by.  But in a deeper sense, humanity needs to be afraid of something, and if God is no longer a concern, while a 4 degree rise in global temperatures will do the trick.

This meshes well with Yard Sign Calvinism, which requires frequent (and public) affirmation while keeping actual sacrifices to a comfortable minimum.

Nevertheless, it's interesting how dependent the Elect are on sinners for life-giving warmth.

Sickness teaches us to appreciate being healthy

I woke last night with a low-grade fever and growing body ache.  I rarely fall ill, so this was something of a surprise.

However, as I sit in a comfy chair, sipping tea and struggling to type, it occurred to me that when I get better, I'll feel much happier about it than I did yesterday.

Since the Exile from Eden, people have always taken things for granted, and in reading the life of St. Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton stresses how the saint always kept a sense of wonder and joy around him.  That's one reason why modern people have a hard time understanding him or even accepting his existence.

We're to the point where we regard bitter, ungrateful and cynical people to be normal, while people who approach life with a child-like expression of joy are assumed to be mentally ill.

I don't know that there's ever a good time to get sick, but this certainly meshes well with my current reading.

A lot of bother about blessings

For reasons known only to themselves and God, Pope Francis and his allies decided to issue a new doctrinal letter just before Christmas declaring that blessing "irregular" (read: sinful) relationships was okay so long as it was spontaneous and done in a casual setting.

This was in direct contradiction with an earlier directive from 2021, which stated very clearly that one cannot bless sinful things - to do so is blasphemous.

Because the clergy was wholly absorbed in the celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord, reaction was uneven, but with the festivities largely concluded, a great many Church leaders are making their opinions known.

They are not happy.

One of the weird elements of the letter was its insistence that this policy was universal and that bishops could not intervene.  I don't know who thought that was smart to put down in writing, but it was guaranteed to provoke a negative response.  Thus we have various bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even entire conferences of bishops forbidding these blessings within their territories.

Because the Catholic Church incorporates various rites, these groups have also stated that they will not comply.  The Eastern Orthodox Catholics, for example, do not do "non-liturgical" blessings, so it was a non-starter for them.

Things got so bad, that a second letter was released, walking back much of the first letter while also doubling down on the concept.  For example, the first letter said the prayers should be spontaneous and not use a set formula; the second letter contains a recommended formula.

The larger lesson from this is that - contra much secular and Protestant propaganda - the Pope is not an absolute dictator of the Catholic Church and "Papal Infallibility" was created to limit rather than extend Papal directives.

Another lesson is that the heart of the Church is to be found in parishes, not the Vatican.  Liberal Catholicism is dying, and the fleeting triumph of Francis' elevation is about to fade away.  The young men coming out of seminary today are fiercely devoted to tradition, and feeble attempts to denounce the Latin Mass or smear American Catholics as reactionary are only strengthening their faith.

While many commentators are upset by this whole affair, I find it helpful insofar as it is very clarifying.  It's important to know where people stand, particularly when those people hold positions of authority in the Church.  We now know exactly which bishops and priests want to endorse sexual perversion and promiscuity.  That will prove very helpful going forward. 

For years, the laity has been monitoring the clergy, and 'vigilante' groups troll hookup apps, hunting down priests and reporting them.  I'm sure similar lists are being prepared for those performing these blasphemous blessings.

This episode also illustrates why "nice" Christianity is a dead end.  You cannot encourage people to reform by telling them that sin is okay.  What this does is reinforce sinful behavior and increase resistance to the necessary repentance.

Indeed, by reinforcing the sin, "affirming" clergy like Father James Martin, S.J. is actually putting the souls of sinners at greater risk.  Such people will have much to answer for at the time of judgement.

What makes the whole episode so laughable is that we've already seen the "embrace the sinner" model in action for decades with the Church of England.  Changing doctrine has brought schism and emptied the pews. 

Indeed, G.K. Chesterton wrote about this a century ago, which is why one cannot help but think the stated goal, isn't the actual goal.  Yes, people can remain remarkably stubborn in their ignorance, but they also use ignorance as a shield for something more sinister.  At this late date, it's a distinction without a difference.  Hiding behind good intentions in for Yard Sign Calvinists, not Orthodox Catholics.


Through the eyes of a child

One of the blessings our family is enjoying this year is the age of the grandchildren.  They are two and three, so the elder remembers something of Christmas and is looking forward to it.  The younger doesn't, but is thrilled by the elder's inspiration.

This is as it should be.  We live in a world that has been largely stripped of its wonder.  Everything is broken down into either "science" or a moral hierarchy based on Yard Sign Calvinism, which has no room for childish joy and delight.

There is no whimsy in "woke," nor can there be sentimentality or nostalgia, because the present must always sit in judgement on the past.

The Spirit of the Age demands that the past be rejected, and that children be forced into adult decisions such as birth control or sexual preference before they have any conception of what these things are.

But here at Chateau Lloyd, we can shut all of that out.  Safe from social media and even the internet, the grandchildren can live as the generations before them lived - in a world they can touch, see, smell, taste and hear.  The wood burning in the fireplace is something unknown to them, and they experience the same mysterious fascination that our ancestors know as they watch the flames wax and wane, and the logs slowly turn to ash.

The Christmas tree is a thing new and mesmerizing, full of light, color and - as they are told - memory.  Is that really Mommy in that little picture?  Do you mean Grandpa was a little boy once?

Part of the power of holidays is how we pass them on to the next generations, creating the same sense of awe that we knew when we were young.  As we grow older, many of us are tempted to cut corners, and in some ways this is as it should be.  Christmas is about the birth of our Redeemer, not getting presents at deep, deep, discounts.

But there need be no conflict in economizing and preserving the spectacle and sensation of Christmas.  Lighting the Advent candles, preparing the Nativity - all of these create a sense of something special beyond the mere exchange of gifts.  The older I get, the more I focus on these, rather than the presents, and my chief happiness is seen in the eyes of the children.



The fruits of the Reformation

While the Catholic Church has been absorbed with saints and souls this time of year, much of the Protestant world has been observing Reformation Sunday, a commemoration of Martin Luther posting the 95 Theses.

Setting aside the merits of his claims, it is interesting to look at how well his teachings have done in the half-millennium since they were promulgated.

In Germany, Christianity is a spent force, and those few identifying it do so with practices that Luther himself would abhor - female clergy, legalized sodomy, and a general repudiation of the old teachings.  Interestingly enough, this love of sin and vice afflicts Protestant and Catholic alike.  Must be something in the water.

But elsewhere, we see the same symptoms.  I believe many of the old 'state churches' have been disestablished, but even if they haven't, are any of them following their original theology, or have they embraced modernity?  I think almost all of them lie on the most liberal end of the religious spectrum.

Mainline Protestantism in the United States has likewise collapsed into meaningless tropes, rainbow flags and an inability to define sin outside of "hate," which of course is the worst thing ever.  Female clergy can cheat on their husbands, divorce them, have open relationships and remain in good standing as they explore their "inner goddess."

The Church of England, with its separate roots, held together much better, but it has also splintered, first as the Methodists broke away, and now as the Anglican Communion has been torn asunder.

If one believes that the fruits of one's actions indicate their conformance to the will of God, then Luther's reform has failed.  The lands where it first took root are desolate, and the crop from its transplanted seeds is rancid and twisted.  Only a fraction of the harvest is wholesome.

Christianity has faded throughout Europe, and it has all but collapsed in Ireland, but elsewhere its seeds continue to flower.  There are more Catholics at Mass than Anglicans in England, and Scandinavia now boasts a small but growing Catholic community.

Maybe the branches of the Sixteenth Century German Church were already rotten, which is why they fell away so quickly.  There does not seem to have been the same level of clerical resistance in northern Europe as there was in Tudor England. 

The secular-fueled religious revival

There's an unmistakable upturn in religious sentiment in the air.  The Catholic Church has (largely) cast aside its rainbow flags and tolerant language and is breaking out the holy relics and talking about the perils of hell again.

The Protestants are feeling it as well, and I've noticed that the various "geek culture" sites I follow (and write for) are talking more about faith and its role in entertainment.

In fact, The Chosen is releasing its fourth season in theaters before streaming it.

While Hollywood doubles down on heresy and sin, normal people are turning away from it.

I think a major cause in this remarkable turn of events is the way secular society has completely destroyed its legitimacy.  Growing up in the 80s, there was a certain sense that religiously observant people were boring and uptight and devout ones were a little bit mad.  The proper attitude was one of somewhat detached reverence, but not overdoing it.

This secular view has been completely discredited.  One can't call religious people nuts and in the next breath declare biological sex irrelevant to athletic competition.  One can't wave the banner of science while punishing skeptics for demanding more exacting research.

It's now no longer unusual to talk about people being moved by demonic impulses because it's the only logical explanation. 

Look at the current state of Yard Sign Calvinism.  People who had "No Blood For Oil" and "Give Peace A Chance" now howl for Russian blood.  Or Jewish blood.  The point is: they want blood.

The language of tolerance and inclusion has been replaced with militancy and threats.  Again, one might well call that demonic.

None of this is new.  G.K. Chesterton wrote at length about the irrationality of "rational" people.  It's just stunning to see it up close and taking root so quickly.