Praying Mentis

A Laymen's Journey into the Catholic faith.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On The War Against Theism

Militant atheism is perhaps the most selfish, hateful religion in the United States. I am using the word "religion" here because Atheism requires faith and belief in something that cannot totally be known, and it has membership. Atheists often unite against theistic religions, especially Christianity. It reminds me of how there are republicans and democrats and how some democrats will go on and on about how much they hate republicans and vise versa. We all know it's unhealthy to talk to a democrat and tell them how much you hate their beliefs. It's just bad form, although I am sure we would all very much like to do it. Similarly, it is bad form to make the root of your beliefs an assault against a particular religion.

Militant atheism takes that duality which is specially reserved for politics (and even then it shouldn't really be that way) and asserts itself into the social order. However, unlike political parties, Militant atheism or even just normal atheism is not self sufficient. Whereas the theist finds purpose through the love and truths that God provides, the militant atheist finds purpose through the assault the beliefs of the theist. Really, the atheists should thank the theists for the foundation of their religious beliefs; without theism there would be no atheism. Militant atheism is like the bully that derives a great deal of satisfaction from knocking down the lego tower that another child builds. The bully, or destroyer, needs a builder to build something up in order for him to then tear down that same structure.

Anyways, to illustrate my main point I would like to start with this short excerpt from Fulton Sheen:

"A few years ago I encountered a young atheist in the vestibule of a Catholic Church in London who, boasting of her atheism, shouted: "Every night I go out to Hyde Park and talk against God. I urge my listeners to drive the illusion from the earth. I circulate England, Scotland, and Wales with pamphlets denouncing a belief in God." When she drew a deep breath thus giving me my just opportunity to speak I said to her: "Suppose I went across the street here to Soho Square and every night talked against 20-footed ghosts and 10-legged centaurs; suppose I circulated England, Scotland. and Wales with pamphlets denouncing a belief in 20-footed ghosts and 10-legged centaurs. What would happen to me?" She said: "You would be crazy; they would lock you up." "Correct," said I "Now, tell me, why don’t they lock you up? Don’t you put God in exactly the same category of illusion as that in which I put a 20-footed ghost and a 10-legged centaur? Why would I be crazy and not you?” I had to tell her the answer: "Because if I attacked ghosts or centaurs the reason of men and the tradition of mankind would tell me I was attacking a figment of my imagination– which is a mark of insanity. But when you attack God you are not attacking an illusion but something just as real as the thrust of a sword or an embrace. It is the reality of God which saves you from insanity and it is the reality of God which gives substance and energy to your attacks." And she answered: "I hate you!” To which I answered: "Now you have answered me. Atheism is not a doctrine, it is a cry of wrath. Do you think we would have prohibition in this world without something to prohibit? Could there be any cigarette laws without cigarettes? How can there be atheism without something to atheiate?

The main point I would like to make here is that there are many people in this world who believe many different things; this is a fact. Making a religion out of specifically targeting any belief is just bad form. I can believe for an example, that Buddhism is a false religion, but I do not seek its destruction. I do not stand outside of temples protesting, or more practically, blogging about them. My happiness certainly is not contingent on converting people from Buddhism or for that matter any other religion. I will not talk to someone and merely insult their religion in attempts to convert them either. I have better things to do. Why would I waste my time pointing out all of the strange and foreign beliefs and habits that people different from me have, which I hate, when I could instead talk about the things that people do that make me laugh: the things that I enjoy and make me like a person. One philosophy creates unity, the other creates a fragmented society. Militant atheism is not positive or healthy, not simply because they do not believe in God, but because their very existence hinges on hating those who do. I think we would all agree that If we all hated those who had different beliefs than us, then the world be very sad.

Militant atheism is a persecution, by the very definition of the word, of the theist. Without the theist, the atheist would cease to exist because they would have nothing to hate, but without the atheist a true theist would live on loving God. Now I understand that this blog is a contradiction to the point that you should not assault someone else's beliefs, but I am writing about this because I am tired of people bullying Christianity. I am fighting against the hate by pointing it out rather than hating the atheist. As such, this is going to be the first and last blog I make on atheism. I see no reason to start a persecution against the religion of atheism. I want to spend my time diving deeper in my relationship with God. With that having been said, here is another beautiful excerpt from Fulton Sheen that illustrates how we are influenced by God:

"....There are three ways of influence. First, turn a key in the door. There is the impact of something material on something material, and the result is the opening of a door. That is one kind of influence; the influence of a material thing on another material thing. There is still another kind of influence. In the spring time you plant a seed in a garden. The sun, moisture of the earth, the particles in the earth, all begin to influence that seed. IT certainly is not the same action turning a piece of a steel in a lock. There are tremendous capacities for growth in that seed. And what most awakens the capacity in that seed is something invisible, namely the sun. Now go a stage higher. Consider the case of a father talking to his son. Trying to influence him for an example to be a doctor. What influences that son is some invisible truth as well as a deep love for the son for the father and the father for the son. What love actually does is bring out in the son a free act. The son is not obliged to do what his father wants, but the contrary. But Truth and love have moved him so that what he does is the very perfection of his personality. Later on he may say, I owe everything I have to that conversation that I had with my father, I really began to understand myself. Now, in some such similar way, God works on your soul. He does not work like a key in a lock, he works less visibly than a father on a son, but t hey are still the same mysterious words I and you. Since God is the very embodiment of love, it is love that inspires you to be what you were meant to be. A free person in the highest sense of the word.The more you are lead by God's word, the more you become yourself."

I choose to live my life as a theist and a Christian, and not as an anti-atheist.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Garden Of Gethsemane

I have decided recently to post more theology blogs, I apologize, I meant to post this at the beginning of Lent... But... It took me awhile to edit it. Anyways, here is a fun analysis of the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Word Study 

Gethsemane, literally translated into English means "suffering." This is what the garden was called far before Jesus went there, as if he knew and chose the location to say to us, "I know the suffering that is about to come, and I embrace it openly." Which, as we examine the passage on the Garden of Gethsemane more, we'll see that Jesus conveys this point in about 26 million different ways. The story would have been completely different if Jesus was not fully aware of what was going to happen next and would not have illustrated Jesus' love for us quite as powerfully.

An early church father Chrysostom comments on the Garden of Gethesamane, particularly on Matthew 26:36: "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, Sit here while I go over there and pray” (emphasis mine).
Chrysostom notes that Jesus' disciples were so adherent to Him and followed Him so intensely that every night before he went to bed they would wait to hear more of His word. This is why he had to explicitly tell them to stay where they were. Cooler yet, when he says commands them to stay he uses the adverb, "here", which is never used in all of New Testament. It is however found  in the Old Testament Septuagint, the greek version of the Old Testament that Jesus and his disciples would have used and read. 

"Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you." (Genesis 22:5)

Do you recognize this story? You should. Its when Abraham is leading Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. Perhaps Jesus was trying to tell his disciples, as always, what was about to come.



Third major point I would like to make about the Garden of Gethsamane, is that when Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray", he was speaking to all of the disciples except Peter and the son's of Zebedee (James and John).

37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

When Jesus addresses James, John, and Peter in the Garden of Gethsamane, the Greek word used suggests that he was addressing Peter in plural. You will also find that both Luke and Matthew described Jesus as directly addressing Peter. My point is that Jesus always addresses all of the apostles through Peter. We see examples of this again and again in the story of the raising of Jairus's Daughter where only Peter, James, and John are allowed in the room to witness God's Glory. (Luke 8:40-56, Mark 5:35-43, Matthew9:18-26

Under all accounts of the Transfiguration Jesus brings only Peter, John, and James with Him. Under Matthew's account Peter, and only Peter, spoke to Jesus saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Peter is not only slightly elevated, he is constantly being addressed and constantly bearing witness to God's glory.


Sleepy Sleeping Disciples

Many people when they read the Garden of Gethesamane draw attention to and criticize the disciples for falling asleep. But when you really think about it, we are just like the sleeping disciples. We say, "Wow they couldn't stay awake for an hour...really?" (Even though I know many of those same people who fall asleep in adoration.) Not many realize that this wasn't the only occasion the disciples fell asleep at an important moment of Jesus' life:

 "32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him."

I find it Ironic that during all of the most important moments of Jesus' life the apostles were sleeping. The Garden of Gethesamen is slightly different though and Luke is the only authors that really explicitly tells the story in a way that captures this difference: 
 "When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. " (Luke 23:45)

Jesus was mad not because they were asleep, but they were asleep knowing His sorrow! That for many of us would be the last straw! What is awesome is that instead of Jesus taking out a whip and whipping his disciples over and over so that they would stop falling asleep, or instead of throwing a bucket of cold water on them... He says, "Sleep on. " ...Something that most Church Fathers comment on, but for some reason... perhaps due to mistranslations, most people never hear. 

After being comforted by an Angel, Jesus comes back:

41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.(Mark 14:32-12) 

Jesus says to the disciples, "sleep on now, and take your rest," as if now they are able to take their sleep. St. Paul uses the same word for "sleep on now", in his many letters, and the words, "on now," mean more of a, "finally, henceforth, or you are now able." It was almost as if Jesus was saying, from what I am about to do, you will actually and henceforth be able to rest. 

On the Cup of Suffering

 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”40 

Back in the time of Jesus there was a tradition amongst Roman Soldiers: they were strictly forced to be obedient, and disobedience had dire consequences. For example, sometimes they had  to jump off a cliff. Literally.

With that in mind, similarly, at times the head of a platoon would be given a cup of poison to drink: if he was able to drink the entire thing no one else would have to drink it, but if he could not (or didn't really want to) it was passed to the next man in line. The next man had the same option. Jesus in his Passion wants to take all of the suffering he can, or in other words, he drinks the entire cup of poison, sparing everyone else in the platoon. Most would reluctantly take on suffering or suffer for a friend only if they had to. But Jesus loves us so much that he wants to make it clear to us that he will take on our suffering knowingly, willingly, and faithfully.

We doubt every now and then and we ask ourselves a variation of these words, "will Jesus hold back his love for us?" The answer is no. When the Roman soldiers tried to offer Him wine mixed with vinegar, he refused in an attempt to make us realize that he is not like others. 

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (Mark 14:23)

What some do not realize is that wine mixed with myrrh was an anesthetic during that time. What he says in this bold statement is that he will not turn his back to us in our suffering ever. Instead he will do the opposite of what his apostles and what we ourselves do. He willingly embraces suffering to show his love and to redeem humanity. 

My Soul is Sorrowful Unto Death

Mark 14: 33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

Mark's analysis of the Garden of Gethsemane is even more beautiful as he recalls the word Jesus used for his suffering to be the same found in Psalm 42:

5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; 


11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? 

By saying, "I am in grief to the point of death", he is basically saying that he is so sad he could die. Raymond Brown suggests that Jesus is in grief over the unrepentant sinner, Judas, who has betrayed God, how his apostles, who will be scattered, and because in His humanity he wishes His disciples would have "remained with Him" through His suffering just as we hope that our friends would remain present in ours. I will end with psalm 69. 

"And I looked for sympathy, but there was none,

And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stress Management

I am posting this because I have realized an answer to one of the questions that I had when I was younger. I used to be pretty bad at stress management and wondered how everyone else was so good at it. That is actually of the many reasons I started writing this blog. I saw all these methods that people had at living great lives and wanted to write and spread those strategies to people who did not grow up with them. I know, I am a true psych major at heart.

Stress management is kind of like chess. When you play, or in the case of stress come viscously assaulted by your bodies passions, you have to come up with a strategy. What are you going to do the next time you are locked in a closet with no way out other than to break down the door, when you've already had a bad day? Yes, the broken closet door becomes the straw that broke the camels back, but it also so much more isn't it? It did not only break the camels back, it also maced over 1,000 babies in a nursery, kicked over 100 innocent puppies (the ones with the really cute looking eyes and could probably be a canonized saints if they had souls), and caused world hunger. This is no longer an innocent story of a door that happened to stop working. No, this is much bigger than that; this is now officially a matter of good versus evil! So get your coffee and hand grenades ready-- You are in for a long day.

Instead of lamenting about the difficulty of the task, why don't you pull out your mace that you had pre-enchanted with a 50% chance of dazing target upon impact and you throw down all your cool downs? When else were you going to use shield wall anyways? I mean honestly, you have make sure that your enemy goes down quickly and swiftly. There are many other lv. 80 doors in this dungeon on patrol and if you wait too long the enemies will start to re-spawn and did I mention the lv, "??" elite boss (That's right, the monster is on such a high level that you are so puny and insignificant that your are not even worthy enough to KNOW the monsters level!) What I am trying to say is take whatever it is that is stressing you out and completely blow it out of proportion and enjoy the massive battle between good and evil! 

I remember a good example of this happened when I asked a friend of mine how they could possibly be  rolling on the ground laughing only moments after my car got towed in Canada. She said, "it was so funny." I would not have realized, without said friend, how comical the situation was. So what's the big secret to stress management? Realize that not everything needs to be taken seriously. I mean if you're going to blow things out of proportion anyway, why not blow it out of proportion in a way that will save your soul?

"But I pointed out to him that this sense of wrong was really subjective and relative; it rested entirely upon the assumption that the drawer could, should, and would come out easily. “But if,” I said, “you picture to yourself that you are pulling against some powerful and oppressive enemy, the struggle will become merely exciting and not exasperating."

Forget the assumption that everything should work, run, and function properly. Forget that people should be normal; when has that ever been true?! And always remember,

"everything depends upon the emotional point of view." G.K. Chesterton