I haven’t read every single one of the various atheist books by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. But I’ve read most of them.
I’ve also read the historic atheists such as Russell, et al.
What amazes me is that anyone takes them seriously. Even when I was deep in my anti-God period, I could see that Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian (which says everything worth saying that is found in any of the other books, by the way) used self-refuting arguments. If you followed his line of reasoning to its end, you would have eliminated the existence of 2 billion Christians who are on the globe today.
The illogic of his logic actually led me to believe that if atheism had good arguments, they weren’t being advanced. This is telling because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be convinced by atheism.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the crude and nasty atheists of today’s public forums are the way they are for two simple reasons. First, their philosophy, such as it is, is so hopeless and nihilistic that it is crazy-making. Second, anyone who reads one of these “four horsemen” and is convinced by them (much less goes around quoting them and pretending their ideas are your own) is either an adolescent, or they are an adult who is stuck is permanent adolescence.
The Four Horsemen and their progenitors are not thinkers for grown-ups.
I’ve just finished reading a book that addresses this adolescent thinking from the viewpoint of a fellow scientist. David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has written such books as A Tour of the Calculus and The Advent of the Algorithm. What that means, aside from the fact that he’s got the chops to address the scientific hubris of the new atheism from the inside, is that, unlike most of the professional new atheist apologists, he doesn’t just go around writing hate screeds for a living. He actually writes and thinks about something else.
I wish his book on the scientific pretensions of the new atheism had a less lurid title. The book is of a higher quality than its title. However, I know that titles sell, and publishers make these decisions.
The book is called The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.
If you haven’t read it, you should. Berlinski writes with dry wit and clarity of the scientific gibberish that makes up the framework of new atheist arguments. The book is not, as the atheist books are, a vicious screed against those who disagree with him. It is rather, a gentle poke in the ribs.
Berlinski (who is not a believer) disassembles the house of cards of atheist scientific arguments against God, based entirely on the sheer outrageousness of their claims. There are no calls to insult people or attack them in the book. It doesn’t make totalitarian arguments that scientists should have their children taken away from them for the “child abuse” of teaching their kids what they themselves believe. There’s no trippy conflab about flying spaghetti monsters, and not one word of building a Christian revenge movement to drive atheists from the public square.
The Devil’s Delusion simply points out a few of the many over-the-top claims that atheists make in the name of science and calls them what they are: The attack polemics of a blind and absolutist faith. All of which is to say that the scientific claims by atheists are propaganda. They are not science at all.
I recommend The Devil’s Delusion. I hope that you will read it. If you’re been reading the adolescent rants of the new atheists, I especially hope you read it. It’s a great palate cleanser.
What does it mean when the Holy Father is Man of the Year for both Time Magazine and the nation’s number one gay publication?
What, pray tell, is the significance of a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?
1. The Catholic Church is not irrelevant.
2. The Pope is showing us how to evangelize through love.
This adulation from the press won’t go on forever, of course. Sooner or later the media will figure out just how tough and immovable Jorge Bergoglio is when it comes to the Church and her teachings.
I think we should just roll with it and enjoy our Pop Pope’s popularity while it lasts.
And, in what is probably the most sincere of the bunch, the Holy Father has achieved super hero status in graffiti land.
This is one test I wanted to fail.
In fact, this is one test that I have expended considerable political, social and emotional capital in an effort to fail.
NARAL’s so-called Women’s Reproductive Report Card is out, and Oklahoma got an F. Unfortunately, we’re not the best state in the Union in which to be an unborn child. North Dakota won that one.
But still … Oklahoma did “fail” the pro-abortion test, and I am proud to tell you that one of the pro life bills that Oklahoma passed last year to earn this failing grade was passed by me.
In fact, I went through the list of Oklahoma’s pro life regulations that NARAL dislikes, and I authored the bills that made quite a number of them law.
Now that I’ve told you how “proud” I am of this, I need to back off and back down and admit that I also, back in the years before my conversion, killed most of the same legislation that I have since helped pass.
Back when I was pro choice, I never heard a kind word from pro life people. In fact, they were pretty ugly to me. Fortunately for me, that was not true of a good many pro life legislators. It was their Christian witness of being able to love me just as I was (oftentimes while being excoriated for doing it by a few members of the pro life community) that softened me up.
This softening up played a big part in my ability to turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. But even then, I didn’t ask forgiveness for what I had done about abortion. That came later, after the Holy Spirit convicted me of the wrong I had committed. Christ Himself accepted me, as the hymn goes, just as I was; warts, sins and all. He forgave me for things I didn’t realize at that point that I needed to be forgiven for.
I think we need to take a page from His book in dealing with lost people.
That does not mean that I am advising you to tell people that their sins are not, in fact, sins. That would be a grave injustice to them. I am saying that none of us is as bad as the worst thing we’ve done and that none of us — and that means you and me, my friend — is fit to stand before God based on his or her own righteousness.
Our salvation is found at the foot of the cross. It is an unearned and unearnable grace; a free gift of love from the God Who made us.
Do not go around banning people from the Kingdom because they fall short of your idea of personal righteousness. Your standing in the order of things is that of the created, not the Creator. You do not get to ban anybody from the Kingdom. That is not your place in the order of creation. You are not the Judge. You are the judged.
Every single one of us should be grateful that God loves us and accepts us. That is what I believe the Holy Father has been trying to tell us this past year. We need to remind people that there is a remedy for their anomie and misery, and that remedy is the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
We live in a devolving, falling-apart culture that has gotten so turned on its head that evil is preached as good and good is preached as evil from every venue. It is maddening, I know, to see and hear people demand that Christians validate sin by denying the sinfulness of what is in truth moral depravity. We can not and must not do that.
It is even more maddening to have people who do not believe in Jesus and who actively mock Him, mis-use Christ’s clear commandment that we should not judge to mean that we are called to ignore the equally clear teachings of morality and purity. I understand the anger this provokes. I’ve felt it. I feel it many times when I encounter this smug sophistry.
But, I know that Jesus calls you and me to more than righteous anger. I know that righteous anger, if it is nursed and allowed to go on, destroys our relationship with Jesus. When we become anger and rage — and at least a few of the people who comment on this blog seem to have fallen into this trap — then we are not and cannot be following God who is love.
Never equate the person with their sin. If Christ looked at you like that, where would you be? I know where I would be. I know what I deserve.
Is there one person reading this who would not go straight to hell, if God judged us as harshly as we judge one another?
Sin is wrong. But the person who sins is a child of God who can be loved from death to life. It is not our job to play God and condemn them to hell. Our job is to show them the Way. Part of that, certainly, is an insistence on the truth of God’s teachings about personal morality. But the hardest part of it is an honest and forthright attempt to live those truths in our lives.
We are all prey to the world. I certainly am. If I do not fall into the sins of active behavior — which is almost impossible not to do — then I will fall into the sins of thinking that my righteousness is sufficient and that I can judge and condemn those who I see failing in ways that I do not.
The thing that saves me is the grace of God that keeps reminding me that I am only saved from eternal hell by unmerited love.
Pray without ceasing for the poor, sad people who are trying to live without Christ. Never stop praying for them or give up on them. Make the best witness that you can by living out your Christian commitment without flinching back from it.
Do it because it is what Jesus asked you to do.
Look to the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Church for your guides on how to live. Do not pay attention to various gurus who would add to or take away from those things.
If an honest attempt to follow the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism doesn’t teach you humility, then re-read them and compare yourself to the requirements found there with a bit more honesty.
Stop comparing your personal edited and flattering version of yourself to the sins you witness other people committing. That’s the wrong way to look at it. It can cost you your soul. Look instead to Jesus. If you compare your righteousness to Jesus, hanging on the cross, it will bring you down to your knees, and on your knees is where you — and me, and all of us — belong.
My sins were and are great. I owe a debt that I can never repay.
The fact that God let me be the person who passed a few pro life bills was and is a measure of forgiveness that I did not and do not deserve.
What do you owe?
What, honestly, do you owe your Creator?
If it’s not more than you can repay, then you are not truly human.
Do not engage in attacks against people. Focus instead on the issues at hand, filtered through the Truth of God. Remember that we are all of us dust, and that we will each stand before God much sooner than we imagine.
Do not throw away your soul on the sad satisfactions of judging and unforgiving. That is a preposterous waste of the free gift of eternal life.
Fr Stan Fortuna, the rapping/singing priest, shares his personal testimony.
His work is an excellent example of the New Evangelization. It is also an example of the kind of things that all of us should be doing. We need to use our gifts to witness for Christ.
It gives me hope when I see men like this in the priesthood.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, the stand up nuns who’ve taken on the Obama administration over the HHS Mandate, are a bunch of tough customers.
I mean that in the best understanding of the word “tough.” Providing frail elderly people with loving care on a 24/7 basis is work that would make the average Navy Seal turn weak in the knees.
When I say 24/7, I mean twenty-four hours, right around the clock; every single day, right around the calendar. Caring for a frail elderly person is more demanding in a lot of ways than caring for a toddler. They are both sweet, precious and strong-minded. The differences are that the toddler isn’t always trying to die on you, and they don’t have a memory of having once been a strong, independent adult.
The Little Sisters of the Poor do God’s work here on earth by providing care for people who are at the end of their earthly journey. The last phases of life are not a waste, and they are not a bother. Elderly people are beautiful, wonderful gifts to all of us. The fact that they require a bit more of us than our me-ism allows only makes them more precious.
The closest anyone will ever be to God in this life is not while sitting in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, but when they are sitting on the bathroom floor at 3 am, holding a croupy baby while the shower runs, or when they are changing the sheets on the bed of their incontinent elderly parent. Jesus is standing right beside you when you do these things, because when you do them for the least of these, you are truly doing them for Him.
This work of caring for those who can’t care for themselves is the life’s work of the Little Sisters of the Poor. They have given their lives to caring for Christ in the disguise of our frail elderly.
It’s no surprise to me that someone like this would become such a thorn in the side of the mighty and powerful United States Department of Justice. It’s also no surprise that those who want to force these sisters to accede to the will of a galloping secularism that seeks to mow down religious expression in public places in these United States should find the Little Sisters so problematic.
How do you turn public opinion against a bunch of nuns who have given their lives to care of the frail elderly?
The usual method in cases like this, where the problem persons are just too good to attack directly, is to redirect your venom by choosing an easier target. You might, say, go at a Catholic Supreme Court justice and that mean old Catholic Church and, of course, everyone’s favorite bugaboo, the Catholic bishops.
The trick is to make the fight about something other than those sweet little nun ladies with their bedpans and rosaries. Shift the focus and make the fight about the big, bad Catholic Church and you can count on the Pavlovian Catholic haters lining up on your side of the argument.
But the fact is, the argument is precisely about the Little Sisters of the Poor, along with their bed pans and rosaries. It’s about every Christian everywhere who wants to exercise their right as free Americans to practice their faith without government interference.
As much as its proponents try to twist and turn it, the HHS Mandate is a direct attack on the Constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion of American citizens.
The HHS Mandate is a regulation, promulgated by an appointed committee and signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a star-chamber bit of special interest government bullying that seeks to make an end run around the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is a vile piece of work that directly contradicts the guarantees in the Affordable Health Care Act, which is the legal authority by which the HHS Mandate was created.
Did that last bit go in a confusing circle? There’s no surprise in that, since it is circular. Congress passed the Affordable Health Care Act, which contained guarantees of religious exemption. The act also gave regulatory powers to the Department of Health and Human Services. Then (deep breath) …
… HHS created a committee to draft these regulations, and this unelected committee of representatives of special interests wrote the HHS Mandate which goes against the specific language in the law guaranteeing religious exemptions that gives the committee its power to promulgate the regulation in the first place.
Now. Is that clear as mud? The truth is, if the whole thing seems circular, it’s because it really does go in circles. But, to add to the confusion, this circle, unlike every other circle, has a starting point.
That starting point is a president who lied.
The HHS Mandate directly contradicts the president’s own executive order guaranteeing religious exemption as part of the enforcement of the Affordable Health Care Act. The fact that the president signed the HHS Mandate and has staked his presidency on it, means that he lied when he issued that executive order, in the promises he gave Congressman Bart Stupak and to the American people.
Enter, the living saints, the Little Sisters of the Poor and their tough-as-nails insistence on their Constitutional rights as American citizens.
What to do with a bunch of nuns who take care of sick old people?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see attacks on the nuns themselves sooner or later. That would be the usual behavior track. But for now, the administration apologists are confining themselves to attacking the Church.
For information about the on-going debate on this topic at US News and World Report, check out Frank Weathers.
I doubt that they’re interested in what I think, but I want to send a message to the charlatans out there in the blogosphere. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.
If you are a Catholic, and you have been joining in the orgy of Pope bashing that is coming from the right wing of American politics, then you need to get in line right behind Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and all those other Catholics you love to hate. Because you are one of them. Get yourself a cafeteria card and get that baby punched.
If you are a Catholic, and you are not outraged by the river of slime being dumped on our Pope by vicious right-wing pundits, then you need some spiritual smelling salts.
Wake up Catholics. Stand with your Pope.
American politicians and their minions in the media love to bash the pope.
Remember the attacks from the left wing against Pope Benedict XVI? They couldn’t/wouldn’t stop cracking their verbal knuckles over what this 80-year-old man had been forced to do against his will when he was a boy. The same crowd that calls foul if you hold any of their heroes accountable for what they said or did five minutes ago, wanted to proclaim that the entire sweep of this Godly man’s life was worthless because of something that had happened when he was a child.
Remember the bullets raining down on Pope John II? They were fired from a gun held by a paid assassin.
Politicians envy the moral voice of the Pope because, alone of all the great religious voices of our day, his is the one they cannot control. Left or right, it doesn’t matter; they all hate and fear the Pope.
That is because he is not one of their toady religious leaders that they have co-opted for their own purposes of gaining and keeping power. The Pope is not answerable to politicians, including American politicians, American politics or America’s self-deified tin gods of the media.
That enrages them.
Politics in this country has endeavored for the past four decades to slice and dice, buy and sell Christianity. It has, with the eager help of its pet clergy, narrowed the revolutionary message of the Gospels down into neat, easily-controllable little sound bites that it can use in campaign ads.
Christianity in America has become a politicized, bastardized mumbo-jumbo of apologetics for both right and left wing politics. Religious leaders have cut the Gospels into political shapes that do not in any way resemble the Gospel that has the words that lead to eternal life. Instead of leading their flocks on the Narrow Way, they are misleading them along the political way.
I have seen these religious leaders bow down before political power. I have witnessed them change their positions when their political masters yank their chains, even on issues of grave moral concern such as abortion. They have bartered Christ in the political marketplace. The fact that at least some of them were paid considerably more than 30 pieces of silver does not change the nature of the transaction.
Political power brokers in the media have not hesitated to use religious language to condemn the political opponents of the power column that is paying their salaries. Toady preachers have not hesitated to back them up. This has become such an unadulterated heresy that large segments of the Christian believers of this nation actually think that following one or the other political party and its “teachings” is tantamount to following Christ.
How did people come to this heretical viewpoint?
They came to it because their religious leaders sold out the Gospels to political power brokers and used their prophetic and moral voice to go whoring for either the Rs or the Ds. They have sold not only the Christian message but themselves in the bargain. They have become the things of the politicians and when they occasionally try to exert themselves as if they were actual men and women of God, they are quickly told to sit down and do as they are instructed, and they do it.
I have witnessed these things and argued in vain with some of the religious leaders, urging them to grow spines and stand for what they say they believe. I have heard their excuses. I have also seen how whipped and meek they are in their dealings with these politicians.
I’ve seen them back off and back down about the one issue they claimed was number one with them: The issue of abortion. I’ve even had pro-life leaders lie to me in a failed attempt to try to keep me from taking a stand against legislative initiatives that were enabling abortion rather than shutting it down.
These political leaders are the religious leaders’ masters, and they are not at all shy about yanking back on the reins if the religious leaders forget this.
I believe that this prevailing relationship of religious corruption and political abuse has created an expectation on the part of right-wing leaders in all venues, including the media, that religious leaders are under their thumb. This public adulation of a Christ-less christianity of the political is coupled with a private contempt for its practitioners that has become so rife in American politics that they aren’t hiding it anymore.
The Pope is the great exception to this. He is not owned or dictated to by either the minions of the right or minions of the left.
The Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to suit the fancy of American politicians. For all their arrogance and power, these political forces and their operatives cannot control or dictate to the Pope.
There is nothing more frightening and enraging to political power brokers than a genuine man or woman of God. They are no different in that than the political power of the first century. Their instincts, which are always honed in the service of getting and keeping power, go ding-ding-ding like a fire alarm when they encounter a religious leader they can’t buy-bully-destroy.
That is why they are attacking our Holy Father today. They can’t control him. They can’t make him teach a two-sin Christianity that deifies them and their politics. They can’t get him, as they have so many other religious leaders, to comb through the scriptures to find verses that will exempt their actions, particularly their actions concerning economics, from moral scrutiny.
That is why the right-wing blogosphere has been littered the past few days with attacks from Breitbart, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al; all claiming that Pope Francis is a Marxist, or something worse, an Obamaist. They use ridiculous headlines such as Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control, (Breitbart) Pope Francis’ Latest Document is Pure Marxism (Limbaugh) Pope Francis is Giving Obama an Orgasm (Limbaugh again), Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama. God Help Us (Fox News) and CNN’s entry from the left, The Pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh Right?
These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.
These attacks on the pope serve a two-pronged political purpose. First, they are an attempt to weaken the Holy Father’s moral leadership in America. Second, they are a method of damage control among the pundits’ Protestant followers.
Evangelii Gaudium does not say anything new in terms of Catholic teaching and economics. But its total lack of obeisance to the political powers in one wing of American politics both affronts and angers them. The Pope is a problem.
The last thing the political powers that be want is for religious leaders to start behaving as if Jesus Christ was actually the arbiter of their teachings. The scary thing about Pope Francis’ independence and total unconcern about them and their power is not only that tens of millions of American Catholics might follow him, but worse, that their toady religious leaders might consider preaching the Gospels of Christ instead of political expedience along with him.
Courage breeds courage. There is just the glimmer of a possibility that these had men of the fallen collar class might decide to become real men of God and start standing for Christ. What would happen if, instead of bending over and apologizing to their political masters for disagreeing with them, the religious leaders these political parties depend on for their moral cover actually stood for Christ?
Thus we are being treated to the sorry spectacle of tawdry attacks on the Vicar of Christ by people who have made their excellent livings promoting fealty to political christianity.
The pope attackers are trying to use the same thing that President Obama has used in pushing the HHS Mandate. They are counting — probably correctly — on the latent anti-Catholicism in our society, in particular in certain conservative Protestant circles.
Not only do these outlandish slanders against the Pope feed them red Catholic blood to whet their anti-Catholicism, they demonstrate what can happen to those who don’t do what they are told. The Pope might be able to shrug off their insults, but lesser clergy would have their reputations and careers wrecked by an onslaught like this.
In short, since they can’t bully and coerce the Pope, they will try as much as possible to isolate him and render his moral teachings insignificant among those religious leaders they can bully and coerce.
That is what is causing the outrageous attacks on the Pope. The claims that these pundits are making about Evangelii Gaudium are baseless lies. I’ve read the document and I can tell you that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on economics going back at least to the 19th century. I know this because I’ve also read the encyclicals of previous popes on this subject.
The Pope is a Marxist??? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.
In case I haven’t made myself understood, I’ll explain this caterwauling and attacking of the Holy Father in outline form:
- It’s about power.
- It’s about politics.
- It has nothing to do with morality, truth, the facts, Marxism or even Obama.
- It is about these punsters using your fidelity to them to destroy your fidelity to your Church so that when the Pope disagrees with them, it won’t matter. It is about them appealing to anti-Catholicism within the body of Christ to divide us and scatter us so that we cannot stand for Our Lord with one united voice.
- These things they’re saying about Pope Francis are not true. They either did not read Evangelii Gaudium, or they are deliberately distorting what it says. When they say that the Holy Father “attacked capitalism, called for government control and is a Marxist,” I am hard-pressed to call it anything other than a slanderous lie.
I’m going to go over what the Pope actually said in a series of Cliff Notes posts. I’ve done one already. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this economic issue for the simple reason that it’s not that important to the overall message of Evangelii Gaudium. You can either take it from me, or read the document for yourself. These attacks on the Holy Father are absolute garbage.
From some of the comments I’ve seen, I would guess that a number of Public Catholic readers are drinking this Pope-hating Kool Aid. This is the small first test in what is coming people. If you allow these crude and vulgar attacks to shear you away from your Church, then you are the lowest of the low hanging fruit on the apostasy tree.
As for me, I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.
A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a homily based on what is a simple but absolute fact of all our lives.
We will die.
You are going to die.
I am going to die.
It may be in a car wreck this afternoon as you go to the store to buy milk. It may be years from now as you sleep in your bed at 85. But you and I will die.
My pastor told us that when we die, someone will say to us, You belong to me. The question is, who will be saying this to us? Will it be Jesus, welcoming us Home. Or will it be someone else?
We are the ones who decide who will tell us You belong to me on that day. We decide, not so much by the things we say, but by what we do. Who do you serve with your life? Whose teachings do you follow?
Do you follow the troubling teachings of the Gospels as elucidated to us by the Holy Father, Pope Francis? Or do you follow the serpent who whispers in all of our ears, Take. Eat. God is a liar. You will not die?
As with all really successful lies, this one was part truth. When the serpent whispered You will not die in Eve’s ear, it was true. All the serpent had to do was add one word to make it absolutely true. That word was today.
You will not die today.
Take. Eat. And you will be like God, knowing right from wrong. And you will not die today.
There are many serpents in our world today, and each one of them speaks to us in the peculiar language of our own hearts. They tell us that what we want to do is right and the Church which tells us otherwise is wrong, cruel, hard-hearted and mean to tell us it is not.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your sexuality, your politics, the way you treat your family or some secret sin you keep to yourself. You have your own serpent to whisper in your ear and tell you, God/the Pope/the Gospels are all liars. Do this and you will be free of those binding appeals to lying morality.
And, of course, you will not die.
But it’s all a lie from the father of lies. The Gospel this Sunday talks about judgement day, when Jesus told us that one will be taken and another left behind. Many preachers concentrate their preaching about this on some final Judgement Day for all humankind that recedes in front of us like the horizon as we live our lives.
But I think that there are two judgement days and the one we need to concern ourselves with is our own personal Judgement Day that is coming at all of us faster than any of us wants to believe. On that day, someone will say to us You belong to me.
One of the primary purposes of this blog is to encourage Christians to take a stand for Jesus in a post Christian world. Since I am myself a politician, I am calling you from the depths of my experience to cast off the false gods of political claptrap and follow the Gospels of Christ without compromise.
Do not follow false teachers who are the political serpents whispering in all our ears and who edit the Gospels of Christ to serve their political masters. Do not bow down before the elephant or the donkey. Do not do it.
When we die and someone says to us, You belong to me, we are the ones who will have determined which voice we hear saying it. We are choosing now as we choose who we serve, who we follow and who we believe.
Follow His Vicar who was chosen by the Holy Spirit and who cannot teach us that which is contrary to the Gospels of Christ.
Stop trying to lead, and follow. And stop quibbling about it.
I have learned from my own disastrous failures at doing it my way and I am telling you now from the bottom of my heart: There is no other Way.
We are so blessed to be part of the Catholic Church, especially at this time when we have the opportunity to do great things for Our Lord in a world that needs Him so much.
This video highlights some of the momentous happenings in 2013.