Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, July 06, 2002  

Where's the beef?

Hindus last year in India began agitating about McDonalds french fries because they learned that beef flavoring is added to them or the oil they cook in to make them taste good. Other vegetarians and now Muslims want in on the lawsuits (you knew it was about lawyers and money, didn't you).

Kathy Shaidle of relapsed Catholic reminded me of this because she has a link to an article about the Muslim angle here.

But that's not my "beef" with this issue. It's this - the beef flavoring is artificial. It's created out of chemicals in a laboratory. Not one bit of actual bovine essence comes in contact with the french fries.

How does that affect a sacred cow fetish or a vegan's philosophy or contradict Kosher or halal conditions? Please, someone explain to me how artificial beef flavoring (which is, in fact, the exact flavor of natural beef fat) violates any taboo?

Just wondering?

Also, there is a red food dye regularly used in too many products to mention which is the product of little bugs ground up in the Canary Islands or some place like that. The bug eats something which turns it bright red. Buddhists everywhere are eating various products made red with this product. What they don't know won't hurt them, I guess.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:50 AM |

Wednesday, July 03, 2002  

Who Knows?

Minute Particulars has a long post here on the nature of religious belief and knowing.

Mark writes: One “believes” in the Resurrection because the event is not simply historical, like Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, but because it is a historical event upon which Creation hinges. Such an event is impervious to reason because:

1) we can't be there ourselves to witness it
2) we can't gather evidence about it empirically (e.g. an attempt to find the bones of the historical figure Jesus Christ)

On the contrary, we “believe” because this is the only mechanism by which we can have knowledge of the event. And by “believe” I simply mean “a participation in the knowledge of a knower,” to use Josef Pieper’s phrase

Mark develops these thoughts further. I may getting his point all wrong, but his later conclusions seem to lead up to an idea that I must dispute with a little.

He adds: Regarding the Catholic Faith, the first “knower” was the Word Incarnate: Jesus had to know who the Father is, else his revelation of Him to the apostles would not be possible. The apostles had to know who Jesus Christ was, in order to believe what He revealed of the Father. And the community of believers nearly two millennia later must know that the succession of witnesses from the apostles on down has an integrity to it. We as believers are participating in the knowledge the Son revealed of the Father to those He “dwelt among” by knowing the testimony of the apostles and the believing communities (hence Councils, etc.) that has persisted through history.

This seems matter of fact for Christians, but his post seems to leave out the knowing that comes from directly seeing and meeting Jesus since his resurrection; that we are entirely dependent on the witness and credible testimony of others. We are dependent in the sense that if no one ever bothered to mention that Jesus was alive and was God to anyone else, then, I suppose the Good News would never have been transmitted.

But I don't think that's what Mark is saying. I think he is excluding the apprehension of Truth by direct witness, and that we are dependent on our faith to others long dead. That our leap of faith is more a matter of trust in the past and continuity of belief than in a present God who makes himself known.

He concludes: Belief permits us to participate in the knowledge of another person. Belief, therefore, is intimately connected with our ability to recognize another person, to judge his or her integrity, because the credibility of the person is prior to the content of what he or she reveals to us. In this sense too, believing is not a shot in the dark, a wager, or a bet, but, perhaps ironically, a very reasonable thing to do.

This is not unreasonable. It is certainly true in a general sense, but do we really want to base our fundamental beliefs about reality upon the word of another? Or would we rather not base our beliefs about reality on our own experience and direct perception, revelation that comes directly from the source. We want to know God, not what someone else says they know and experienced about God.

One proof of this is ecstasy. There is not a person living who does not yearn and desire ecstasy. Most look for it in created things and sensual pleasures, but nonetheless, the desire is universally compelling. Nor does anyone simply want to know about your ecstatic experiences or mine. They want their own, and will never really settle for less.

Knowing is belief, as Mark seems to be saying, but simply trusting another's knowing is not enough, nor is ultimately satisfying. Man wants to know, and he wants to know for himself without any mediator between himself and the knowledge he desires.

Other than purely deductive matters of logic, humanity has never been able to accurately and reliably transmit wisdom from one person to another with complete fidelity and integrity. Participating in the knower is not enough to produce pure conviction, certainty, and confidence. Which is why we see so much emotionalism extended to primary beliefs when they are attacked or challenged. People's certainty is so insecure, that any criticism is perceived as threat and provokes the fight or flight response.

But the man who has seen God for himself cannot be shaken, anymore than you can shake the color Blue out of him and make him fear it may not be real.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:21 AM |

Tuesday, July 02, 2002  

Put them to the test

Two weeks ago, my daughter was egregiously late in getting home from a drive-in movie. She fell asleep in the back of the pick-up. But she wasn't alone. She was with a young man whom she had proclaimed was her new boyfriend. My wife and I had also driven at 2:30 AM to the drive-in to try and find them and to the boyfriend's home. Returning home, we found her there.

I was exceedingly angry for a number of reasons. I grounded her for two weeks, forbade future drive-in excursions, and insisted on her being strict about her eleven PM curfew where I had been more flexible before.

A week ago at church, though, I came up with a much better idea.

I must say that I hate teenagers dating. It's pointless, stupid and bound to cause more trouble than it's worth. Why? Because dating is a form of courtship. The purpose of courtship is to acquire a mate. The purpose of acquiring a mate is to produce children. And our young people are ill equiped for that situation. If young people expect to go to college and begin a career of some sort before wanting to start a family, dating has no purpose and exists for experimenting and toying with other people's hearts, feelings, and bodies.

Love is a serious thing, even with young people, and broken hearts at any age can have a lasting and negative consequence; plus the temptations and pressures to involve physical desire and curiosity into the equation is a cause for further worry and lament.

Even so, when young people are very fond of another, common sense will not forestall their interest in seeing and being with the other person. Which is why societies have evolved rules to handle it - such as never letting such people out of the sight of adults. But our society has abrogated its responsibility to the young, and made it nearly impossible to monitor and chaperone our children effectively. Instead, more and more parents increase the danger by creating circumstances which encourage intimacy such as co-ed sleepovers, homes empty of parents, and other such things.

It's useless to say, I trust my child. Yes, but I don't purposely test whether she will succumb to temptation or not. I try to remove temptation because I know how susceptible we all are to it. We pray "lead us not into temptation" because we know we'll fail the test most of the time.

But as I was praying in church the other week, the thought occurred to me - if they are going to spend 10 to 20 hours a week in each other's company, they can spare one hour a week together in church.

So, I went home and informed my daughter that if she wanted to see her boyfriend, she would have to go to church with him every Sunday. His (he's not Catholic) or her church, it didn't matter, so long as they went together. If they did so, they could see each other the rest of the week. If they didn't manage it, they would have to wait a week.

Last Sunday they went to church together with me. They sat apart from me, though, a few rows back; but it really was quite charming. They sat like a young, pious couple glad in their faith and happy to practice it. I was very pleased with them both.

I don't know if bringing a third person (God) more formally into their relationship will affect them very much, but I know it can't hurt, and may provide them with the armor to withstand pressure and temptation - enough to carry them through this period of excitement and delight to a more mature understanding of their responsibilities rather than their simple seeking of satisfactions.

It also puts the young man to a simple test - is my daughter worth a mass to you (to paraphrase what the French king said about Paris)? Consider the requirement as a sort of a bug repellant for creepy kids. People disposed to selfishness and egotism may find the demand intolerable. Which is what I would hope for.

I keep finding, though, that most parents seem unwilling to make any demands upon their kids, which is a real shame.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:27 PM |

To Kill a Mockingbird

The NY judge who decided before a trial that the death penalty was unconstitutional suffered from a few severe defects in his ratiocinations. As one wag at NRO pointed out, one, the fact that DNA evidence led to the exoneration of 12 death penalty cases proves that the application of the death penalty is closer to perfection now than ever rather than being prone to error; and, two, that the Framers never foresaw a sytem of perfect justice in each and every case including the death penalty as a reason not to impose the severest penalty of law.

The Framers believed in Due Process, not perfect justice. Mistakes are perfectly acceptable, in that sense, so long as the process is fair and uncorrupted. People get a fair trial. Not a perfect one.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:30 AM |

Monday, July 01, 2002  

Light on the blog

I've been catching up on some reading and playing some new computer games a bit and so have been slow to blog.

Just read Dick's Martian Time-Slip. A very good story. It would make a fine movie but would anyone be true to the story? I doubt it. The reason Spielberg failed with Minority Report is for two reaons. 1) He didn't trust the author and the story, and 2) he wanted to make it appeal to as many people as possible for a big commercial hit. Philip Dick's stories are simply too smart and wild to appeal to a mass audience. Spielberg wants the credit of selecting interesting material to convert to film, but then he wants to have his cake as well by making it a blockbuster. It doesn't work that way generally.

I bought a bunch of other Dick books to read to see if he ever came close to realizing "reality" which was pretty much the search he was always embarked on.

Dick, in a way, is very Shakespearean; interested in profound examinations of reality and the possibility of God or other dimensions of being and spirit. Shakespeare was pretty much the nihilist aware that there had to be some kind of God after all, while Dick is a spiritualist who can't quite believe in God as completely real.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:00 PM |