Seven Quick Takes (6/4/10)

Seven Quick Takes (6/4/10) June 4, 2010




I have an opinion piece up at The Huffington Post criticizing the Dalai Lama’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. One quick quote from the piece: 

To praise individual parts of [religious sects’] morality in isolation, as the Dalai Lama wishes to do, is to do their beliefs a disservice.



While on HuffPo’s Religion tab, I ran across this dreadful article on spirituality. Not only does the author water down the definition of ‘spiritual’ until it’s a synonym for ‘nice,’ but, if you read the comments, she claims to be proud of ‘refusing to use labels’ when someone tries to call her on it.


That article was a response to this much better one. The author is absolutely right to argue that ‘spiritualism’ takes all the certainty of religious belief and mixes it with a self-centered and self-indulgent worldview. The worst of both worlds! 



Very upset by Elizabeth Scalia’s First Things piece on the Sister McBride excommunication. I am disturbed by the harsh, Manichean line she draws between ‘nearly certain death’ and ‘certain death,’ allowing treatment only at the last possible moment, which ‘nearly’ guarantees its futility.
How horrible to imply that the ‘selfishness’ of the woman seeking the abortion may have robbed countless individuals of the lessons they might have learned from her death. 


I’m not sure I agree with The Faith Heuristic’s argument that atheism is spread by postmodernism (based on this study). The statistics in that paper look extremely loosey-goosey. No randomization of treatment (since majors can’t be assigned to subjects) so to infer that any correlation is causal is quite farfetched.



Obviously, in the age of televised confirmation hearings, no question is too tangential when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. But all the same, I am getting very tired of articles analyzing what Kagan’s Judaism will bring to the Court. I know it’s going to be a Court of six Catholics and three Jews, and I don’t care. Let me know when they get back to judicial philosophies.
Luckily, aside from the above, it’s been a good few weeks for rhetoric about the judiciary. First there was Souter’s magnificent graduation address at Harvard, and now, in an effort to hurt Elena Kagan, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has inadvertently brought a wonderful quotation by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall back into the public eye.

“The government [the Founding Fathers] devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.”

[Seven Quick Things is a blog carnival run by Jen of Conversion Diary]

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  • Owlmirror

    I’m studying the past to see if it helps me to understand the present.

    One of the things I wonder is how Leah-of-2012 would respond to, or write, the Huffington post criticism of the Dalai Lama by Leah-of-2010.

      “If compassion is valued by all peoples, it is more correct to call it a human value rather than a religious value.”

    Does compassion come from a putatively Catholic God? Does that mean that compassion is indeed a religious value, and a specifically Catholic one? Are non-Catholics “stealing” compassion from Catholicism?

    The “dreadful article on spirituality” looks much like similar works by many other religous people, where clarity of language is sacrificed for vague fluffy sentiments. Otherwise cogent people become equivocal, and commit special pleading. Word games are played, and the theologian/apologist declares themself the winner by fiat.

    One of the things that really bothers me about the Leah-of-2012 is that while there are many fine phrases she turns, there is still that vagueness, that avoidance of clarity, that characterizes much (all?) religous writing.

    The upset at Elizibeth Scalia is amusing, given this:

    I definitely have to wonder what the Leah-of-2012 would say to the Leah-of-2010 about both what Scalia wrote, and JT’s commentary.

    • leahlibresco

      I’d say that I still think it’s a value binding on all humans, religious or not. Now I’d say it’s part of natural law, the norms and duties that are accessible to pretty much anyone (as opposed to the goods that depend on revelation, like Mass attendance). 2010!Leah understood the distinction between these two categories, but thought the second one was extraneous, since there was no one to reveal bonus truths. 2010!Leah didn’t have much of a hypothesis as to where these human values came from or how we had access to them; 2012!Leah has a new theory.

      And yeah, both 2010 and 2012!Leah found/find the effusive but contentless praise JT went after in a couple posts to be unhelpful.

  • Owlmirror

      “Now I’d say it’s part of natural law, the norms and duties that are accessible to pretty much anyone (as opposed to the goods that depend on revelation, like Mass attendance). 2010!Leah understood the distinction between these two categories, but thought the second one was extraneous, since there was no one to reveal bonus truths.”


    The problem with revelation is that not just that there isn’t anyone to “reveal bonus truths”; it’s that if there were someone that was revealing bonus truths to certain select individuals, that someone would be behaving unfairly, and thus undermining any claim of that someone to being moral/good. Special revelation is necessarily unfair.

    To use a nerd analogy, it’s like Alice expecting Bob to accept her word on something that he cannot verify which is transmitted on a noisy channel which is so completely unsecure that Eve, and/or anyone else, can put false messages signed “Alice” on it.

  • Owlmirror

    And another problem with special revelation is even more fundamental: It’s the logical fallacy of special pleading and/or argument by fiat and/or assuming the conclusion. It’s terrible reasoning, no matter how you analyze it.

    I find myself wondering if that’s where you went wrong. Maybe you accepted special revelation provisionally, so as to be charitable, and then forgot to go back and examine the bad reasoning that underlies all claims of special revelation.