Suffering and Sin

From la wik:

Propitiation, also called expiation, is the act of appeasing or making well-disposed a deity, thus incurring divine favor or avoiding divine retribution.

(Yes, I know, starting with a definition, how uncouth.)

When put that bluntly it almost sounds crass. “You think you can bargain with God? You think you can earn your salvation?” But this is exactly what Christ did for us on his cross. In fact, this propitiation through sacrifice is the central act of the Old Testament religion, which Christ did not “come to destroy… but to fulfill.” The idea that we can bargain with God; that if we do certain things he will respond in a certain way, runs throughout the whole of scripture. Abraham bargains God down from 50 to 10 righteous men needed.  The people of Israel marked their doorposts with blood to avoid being struck down by God. The priests made bloody sacrifices of lambs and doves on the regular. Jesus tells us to “knock, and the door will be opened,” and to be like the persistent widow. James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail,” apparently in contrast to the prayer of an unrighteous man. The fundamental Christian claim is that Jesus died to save us from our sins. What do we mean by this? Apparently we mean that Jesus suffered, and that suffering mitigated the wrath that our sins have earned from God. Suffering negates sin.

There is an intrinsic connection between sin and suffering. “The wages of sin is death,” is it not? Thus it seems that sin necessarily creates suffering, the only negotiable part seems to be on who that suffering falls. This seems true “on multiple levels of analysis.” Sin creates suffering on the immediate, personal level in that it harms others, and our relationships with others. Sin also creates suffering on the spiritual level in that it deserves God’s wrath, which separates us from God.

But the relationship between suffering and sin is not one-directional. Going through suffering can actually negate future sin. This is essentially what Jesus did for us on the spiritual level, but it works even on our own personal level as well. When we suffer the worldly consequences of our sin, we occasionally learn from that suffering and avoid that sin in the future. In this way it is “exactly right” to say that suffering negates sin.

This leaves us with a weird cycle where sin creates suffering, which suffering then negates sin. I think that if we fully understood the nature and mechanics of this cycle, then the problem of evil wouldn’t be a problem. Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? Because he’s trying to get rid of sin, I would guess, but here we’re at “the limit of my ability to articulate” reality.

What I do know is that “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him,” so our suffering serves a purpose, just as the suffering of Christ on the cross served the greatest purpose–the conquering of sin.

If you’re wondering why I kept linking to on seemingly random phrases, it’s because those are particular quirks of his speech patterns that he says over and over in his lectures, and as I was writing this they sprang unbidden to my mind.


A prayer for wisdom

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Lord, help me to fear you!
Wisdom cries aloud in the street;
Lord, give me ears to hear her.
Lord, Most High, I lack wisdom,
But you give to all generously and ungrudgingly,
So, In your name, Lord, I ask:
with what faith I can muster,
spurning all doubt,
please grant your servant wisdom,
that I might please you.

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?

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.