Best society

A simple rule for determining what makes society good: Does it produce saints?

Does abortion being legal make more people act saintly, or does it encourage selfishness? How about contraception?

How did getting divorced ever make someone a better person?

Does neutrality with regard to religion and religious practice (aka, separation of church and state) result in more saints, or more snide atheists?

Does constant bombardment of digital entertainment lead people towards sainthood or towards idiocracy?

Does Democracy or Monarchy produce the most saints?

Does the welfare state produce any saints? Any at all? Or does private charity do that?

Has anyone ever felt even the tiniest bit more saintly because of public schooling?

Does legal weed produce more saints? What is weed good for?

Do militarized police encourage anyone toward saintly brotherhood, or does it promote enmity between civilians and law enforcement?

Does social media draw you closer to God or just wrap you in your own little bubble?

Does political correctness help anyone to be more saintly? Or does it induce low level fear?

In what way do the endless conveniences of modern life help anyone on their journey toward sainthood?

How does the abundance of junk food make anyone a better person?

What spiritual gain do we get from our day jobs? Is sitting in a cubicle the way towards God?

Are the saints all equal? Or are they all unique? Should we promote equality, or should we promote personalized goodness?

How does voting draw you closer to God?

What spiritual gain comes from going to a club? From drinking to excess?

 

The best society is the one that produces the most saints per capita.

 

Is there even one American saint?

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Need in order to

Rollo says you need sex. He admits you don’t strictly need it in order to stay alive; it’s not a need like air, water, or food. But he does continue to refer to it as “the need men (and by association women) have for sex.” And Rollo is certainly not alone in modern society in viewing sex as a need.

Here’s my problem. The word “need” is meaningless without the follow on “in order to.” I need air in order to breath, and thereby stay alive. I need money in order to buy things. I need strawberry milkshakes in order to satisfy my craving for sugar. But if I just said “I need air, money and strawberry milkshakes,” then the word need is stretched beyond all usefulness.

So, what do we need sex in order to do? Well, we need it in order to satisfy our physical urge for it, but that seems circular. We need it in order to propagate the species, but given the way Rollo and most moderns are addicted to contraception, it doesn’t seem like that is really their goal in sex. Let’s see what he actually says in defense of our need for sex:

The unhealthy disconnect here is that human beings do in fact need sex. We can attach other ephemeral aspects to the sex act (or masturbation if that’s the only recourse), like love, emotion, commitment, etc., but on a base level your body needs sexual release in one form or another. Yes, you can willfully override the need, just like you can overcome hunger while you’re fasting or on a hunger strike, but the need is still the operative in that act of will. Once hunger, breathing and thirst are satisfied, sex is the single most influential drive the human species (really, most any species) is motivated by. Society is driven by sex, cultures evolve around it and personal achievements, as well as horrible atrocities are the result of our inborn prompt to satisfy our sexual urges.

I still don’t see an “in order to” explicitly laid out, so I’m left to conjecture on my own. Maybe I’ll be totally wrong about what he actually thinks we need sex for, but I don’t think that my remarks will be too far off from what the average dude nowadays thinks.

Moderns think we need sex in order to be happy. Sure, Rollo goes to great lengths to show us how sex isn’t super meaningful for him, but still, the underlying current of his whole essay is that, without sex, you will be miserable. So, maybe a rephrase is in order: Moderns think we need sex in order to avoid misery. “Sex may not make you happy, but lack of sex will definitely make you miserable, so you do need sex,” they seem to say. This is just a more moderated form of hedonism. Duh, moderns are modern. Modernity assumes hedonism. Moderns are hedonists.

However, given that Rollo places sex right after air, water, and food, it seems like a pretty universal claim that humans need sex. Which means that any exceptions would contradict his theory.

There are a lot of exceptions.

Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Thomas Aquinas, and literally hundreds of thousands of monks and priests and nuns throughout the last two thousand years. Sure, not every monk was celibate. Not every monk was happy. But plenty were, and are. Sex was clearly not necessary for their happiness. So what gives? Is the litany of saints just a litany of people with defective sex drives? Or is sex maybe, you know, not a need in the way that Rollo thinks it is?

Basically, Rollo assumes hedonism to be true, and then reasons that hedonism is necessary for happiness. Well, I assume hedonism to be false, and then reason that hedonism is not necessary for happiness. But Rollo paints himself as some “just the facts, maam” reporter giving us emotion-free logical analysis, when really he’s just another modern under the delusions of his own false ideologies.

Does Rollo make many good points? Yes. Should people read his stuff to understand basic male-female dynamics? Probably. Is he neutral and impartial? Ha! Not even close. Is sex necessary? Not in order to be happy.

A Matter of Life and Death

Life is good. Death is bad. Anyone who does not agree is wrong, and probably can’t be reasoned with.

God is good. Jesus is God. Jesus fought death, and won, and thus God lives. If God is good, and God lives; life must be good. But, in a sense, these ideas are the same. My idea: God is life itself. We need God at every moment. He is the entire source of our life, because he is life. If we have God, we have life! Thus, our relationship to God is our relationship to life. Our life requires God. We need God. Without him, we die. This is a matter of life and death.

Sin is bad. Death is bad. So in some sense, sin is death, or at least like it. Sin certainly leads us away from God, and if God is life, then sin leads us away from life. We think sin will give us life, or help our lives, but actually, sin kills life. Don’t sin; it’s a matter of life and death.

A good life is a life full of good, a life full of God. But a bad life is empty of the things that make life good. A bad life is empty of God.

There is a point I’m trying to make here, but the relationship between God and life appears to live more in the heart than the head, so I give up.


Written with only the 1000 most common words, plus God, Jesus, and sin.

 

Politics in Place of Religion

I watched this video of Peter Kreeft giving a nifty little talk and the first point he made was about Politicization. He pointed out how modern Catholics tend to use their religion as a means toward their politics instead of their politics as a means towards their True and Final end–namely God. This idea prodded in me a few interesting observations.

First, it is not just modern Catholics who place undue emphasis on politics. It seems as if every atheist, agnostic, or liberal muslim in America is obsessed with the news and which political scandal is breaking today. Compare that to centuries ago when politics was a sport exclusively for the aristocrats, and you realize that the importance of politics has grown significantly in the modern mind.

Second, I noticed that this growth in the importance of politics seems to closely mirror the decline in the importance of religion. Nowadays your religion is seen as a private matter of negligible importance, except insofar as it tends to indicate how you will vote. Compared to pre-modern times this is exactly reversed, where your politics were a private matter of negligible importance except insofar as it might lead you into some heresy.

Third, I posit that the second is the reason for the first. Humans intrinsically, psychologically, and socially, need something bigger than themselves to believe in, and to strive for. Jordan Peterson has built a huge audience by pointing this out. “Men need responsibility, and something to strive for,” he says, and is rewarded with >$60k per month of patreon dough. In old society that bigger thing was religion. It was Christendom. But as the metaphysical underpinnings of religion (and specifically the Catholic religion) were tossed away in favor of mechanistic naturalism, we mentally began to decrease the importance of religion. But we still had this need for the role religion fulfilled. So, we promoted politics in its place. Derp.

We used to have physical rituals for the good of our souls like Baptism and the Eucharist, but now we have Elections and Rallies for the good of our society. We used to have Confessionals, but now we have the voting booth. (Which looks more beautiful?) Both Christian rituals and Democratic rituals are a physical action:

  • performed with no immediate obvious physical consequence
  • which proclaims and cements our loyalty to the overarching ideal
  • that is scandalous to the broad society to forego
  • and serves our understanding of ourselves as “good people.”

But where Christian rituals explicitly sought the spiritual world, which is invisible, the Democratic rituals supposedly seek to “change the [physical] world,” which is visible. So when an atheist makes fun of a Christian for praying and expecting that to do anything, the Christian can at least retort that it does something spiritually, whereas when the Democratic’s habit of voting is made fun of, the only retort is an insistent claim that voting really does do something in the physical world, “you just can’t see it.” Where Christian rituals seek to bind society closer by binding us into the One God, Democratic rituals seek to divide society by emulating war without weapons. Every rally is filled with hate, every Mass is filled with love.

I think it should be obvious that our replacement of religion with politics was a mistake. We replaced the gourmet cuisine of the Real Body of God with… Donald Trump, who loves fast food.

Blinded by Emotion

Court wizards Economists model people as “rational agents” responding reasonably to facts and incentives. Con men Modern psychologists tend to model people as “meat robots” responding emotionally to tribal affiliations and signaling games.

There is truth in both of these models, easily reconciled by the cliche saying “Love is blind.” Anyone who has been in love is aware that strong emotion and rationality go together like fun and feminists–that is, not at all. But the word “blind” implies the opposite quality–sight. Sometimes we really can see clearly. Sometimes we really are blind. The switcher between the two? Emotion.

Am I saying that emotion is bad? Am I the reincarnation of Spock, here to mock you poor humans? Not at all. Emotion is certainly good. Love may properly be an act of will, but the motivation for that act of will is almost always the “warm fuzzies” that emotion gives.

So, what am I saying? To quote more than one Philosopher: “The will should rule the passions.” In this the virtue of Prudence consists. Easy to say, hard to do. But what should be easier to do is to recognize when you are emotional. Emotion may blind you to reason, but it cannot blind you to its own existence. Thus, the more emotion you notice in yourself, the more you should suspect your reasoning to be self-serving.

This works in reverse as well. The less passionate you are about a topic, the more you can trust your own reasoning regarding it.

This concept plays a large role in my confidence in the Catholic Church’s veracity over other denominations. While I may have a very strong emotional attachment to Christ and Christianity as a whole, I honestly didn’t care at all about denominational differences. I grew up in an explicitly non-denominational church. I had no idea what differentiated the various Christian sects for the vast majority of my life. I didn’t care. In this state, a logical argument based on facts and deductive reasoning, can actually operate. My conversion story is boring. I read a very long blog post and was persuaded. The end. Why did this work? Because no emotion.

Unfortunately, this is not the situation of the vast majority of people in relation to the Catholic Church. Internet atheists hate all believers with shockingly visceral insults. Protestants often tone it down a bit, but are still incredibly emotionally negative where Catholics are concerned. Can’t send these kinds of people a well-reasoned defense. They wont read it. They can’t.

All I can think to do is to ask them why they are so upset, in an attempt to show them that they cannot trust their reason when so infused with emotion.

Why usury is wrong

First of all, most people do not know what usury actually is. They think it’s something like “lending at too high of an interest rate.” This is false. The interest rate is irrelevant. Usury is lending for profit. Lending here refers only to personal, unsecured loans. Other contracts that are loan-like, are not usury. For a detailed discussion of what is and is not usury, please see Zippy’s FAQ.

Usury is unsecured personal lending for profit. This is rampant in our modern world. Credit cards, bank personal loans, and even some mortgages (depending on the terms of the contract) are usury. There are a great many people in the financial industry who are usurers by profession. If they can feed their children and be a law-abiding member of society by doing that, how can it be bad? Credit cards may have pitfalls, but surely they can be helpful to those in times of need, right?

Wrong.

To understand why usury is wrong, let me first ask you: Is slavery wrong? Is stealing wrong? What about fraud? All of these things are obviously wrong, so it can actually be hard to justify exactly why they are wrong. Most people now days have such a visceral disgusted reaction to slavery that they can’t even start to put into words why it might be wrong.

One simple way of looking at slavery, stealing, and fraud is to ask: Would you like them done to you? Would you want to be enslaved? Would you want to be stolen from? Would you want to be defrauded? Most reasonable people say “No, I would not.” There are edge cases, like when a desperate man sees slavery as a better way out, or when a falsely merciful man looks the other way while being stolen from, or when a lonely widow enjoys the company of the fraudster, in spite of his lies. But we rightly see these edge cases as just that. They are aberrations to what is normally a simple moral judgement. Don’t enslave people. Don’t steal. Don’t be fraudulent. It’s not rocket science.

But when it comes to usury, we no longer have this instinctive moral intuition. Many generations ago, our forefathers did have this intuition about usury, but somehow we have lost it. In order to try and regain our moral intuitions, lets compare usury with some things we know are wrong. Usury is distinct from slavery, theft, and fraud, but it is very similar to all three.

Usury is like slavery, in that it treats another man, and his labor, as personal property. In slavery, the slave is the personal property of the master. In usury, the borrower’s future earnings become the personal property of the lender. Who legally owns your self? You. Who legally owns the product of your labors? You. In slavery, you are sold. In usury, your labor is sold. Both usury and slavery are offenses against the personal dignity of all mankind. By treating man as a tradable commodity, we offend the dignity due him as an image bearer of God. By treating man’s work as a tradable commodity, we offend the dignity due to him as an image bearer of God. Usury is not the same exact thing as chattel slavery, but they are both wrong for very similar reasons. They are both ways of treating people less like people, and more like things.

Usury is like theft, in that it unjustly transfers wealth. In theft, the property does not belong to the thief, because he did nothing to justify having it. In usury, the profit does not belong to the lender, for the same reason.

Usury is like fraud, in that it takes advantage of someone’s lack of understanding in order to get him to give up what is rightfully his.

Usury is wrong, because it is selling something that does not exist. The usurer lays claim to some thing in the future. But the future has not happened. The future does not exist yet. No one can predict the future perfectly.

Usury is wrong.

Intentional Spiritual Training

Want to be a good guitar player? There are a million teachers out there, thousands of online tutorial videos, hundreds of books, and many well established social institutions dedicated to fostering musical skill.

Want to be rich? There are a million books out there, thousands of teachers, hundreds of blogs, and many well established social institutions dedicated to fostering business skill.

Want to be a good underwater basket weaver? There are a few books out there, a couple of teachers, a blog or two, and probably at least one established social institution dedicated to giving you a major in that.

For any concrete skill or life state you want to acquire, there is concrete, actionable advice available to help you on your journey. But for things of the spirit? Well… There are many books and teachers and churches which all purport to help you on your journey, but things are much less straightforward.

With worldly skills, most teachers agree on what is good and what is not, what will help and what will hurt. Sure, they may put their own spin on it, but one guitar teacher will tell you to finger the G chord the same way as another. But as to how to grow closer to God? You could ask a thousand teachers and get more than a thousand different answers.

Even better, with worldly skills, there is immediate feedback and a sense of progress. You know when you’ve played a wrong note in a song, and you know within a second of having done it. But our relationship with God moves at a much slower pace. Often seasons of life don’t seem to have any value, or be getting us anywhere. Sometimes we feel very close to God, but wonder if it is a mere emotion or an intimation of reality. There is no obvious objective marker we can use to see if we’re progressing or not. Was I closer to God in October or September? This year or last year? I don’t know. How would I even begin to measure it?

Our relationship to God is objective. It is real, and it is the most important facet of our being. Yet, at the same time it is one of the most vague and difficult to understand things we’ll ever struggle through.

I can’t offer very good answers, because these are hard questions, but I do have some ideas.

How do we grow closer to God?

Fall back on what has traditionally worked. A quick glance at the lives of the saints (or the early church members in Acts if you’re a Protestant) reveals many common threads. To quote zippy:

There are tried and true methods for doing this: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, devotionals, pilgrimages, studying, and most importantly the sacraments.

Pick one and try to do more of it this month. Don’t expect immediate results. Patience is a virtue, after all, so persevere for longer than you think you can before deciding that it doesn’t work.

How do we measure our spiritual development?

The only real answer to this that I know of is “You will know them by their fruits.” So, keep track of your “fruits.” Important fruits to track are:

  • How often you go to church
  • How often you pray
  • How often you fast
  • How much you give to charity
  • How often you sin. (For Catholics, it is key to track any mortal sins you might be struggling with, and to go to confession immediately after doing so)

If you can’t answer those basic questions, then don’t complain about not knowing how close to God you are. These are all objective, measurable, important facets of your relationship to God. Your relationship to God is more than the sum of these things, but it definitely includes these things.

In conclusion

Growing spiritually is hard, and not made any easier by the conflicting information about how to do it. But, regardless of how confused and far from God you may be, if you thought about it for a few seconds, I’m sure you could come up with something that you could do which would be good for your spiritual growth.

So what are you waiting for?