Posts about Religion

Two great, completely unrelated links

Yesterday was a bit of an overwhelming day. After getting home at 1am after a long bus ride home, I was unwinding by catching up on some news and email. I came across these two links, both of which really lifted my mood.

The first, Grokking the Zen of the Vi Wu-Wei, talks about a programmer's journey from emacs to BBEdit to vim. This post is a great read in and of itself, but what's really worth it, is the link around the middle of the post to http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1218390/what-is-your-most-productive-shortcut-with-vim/1220118#1220118. This was truly a joy to read. Definitely the best answer I've ever seen on Stack Overflow, and quite possibly the best discussion of vi I've ever read. It taught me a lot, but I enjoyed reading it for more than that. It was almost like being on a little adventure, discovering all these little hidden secrets about the neighbourhood you've been living in for years. Like I said, it was 1am.

The second, The Pope, the judge, the paedophile priest and The New York Times, gave me some reassurance that things aren't always as they seem as reported by the media. Regardless of how you feel about the Church or the Pope, it seems that journalistic integrity has fallen by the wayside here. From the article:

Fr Thomas Brundage, the former Archdiocese of Milwaukee Judicial Vicar who presided over the canonical criminal case of the Wisconsin child abuser Fr Lawrence Murphy, has broken his silence to give a devastating account of the scandal – and of the behaviour of The New York Times, which resurrected the story.

It looks as if the media were in such a hurry to to blame the Pope for this wretched business that not one news organisation contacted Fr Brundage. As a result, crucial details were unreported.

The entire article is worth a read.

Maybe he's right?

The Pope has been taking quite a bit of heat over the past few weeks in the press. The latest media frenzy is over recent statements he made regarding the Church's consistent teaching that condoms are not the answer to the AIDS crisis in Africa, or anywhere else in the world.

It seems like most people automatically assume that condoms are an important part of the solution to combating AIDS. It makes sense on some level I suppose; we're reminded constantly of the importance of having "safe sex", and how using a condom is the responsible thing to do. And I'm sure that condoms do reduce the risk of HIV transmission for any one given sexual encounter. But what are the effects over time? If condoms have a 99% success rate, that's still 1 out of 100 failures. I'm not going to bet my life on a 1% chance of failure. Something with a 1% chance of occurring in a single event, has a 63% chance of occurring at least once over 100 events. Let's say the prevention of transmission rate is 99.9%; there's still a 9.5% chance of transmission over 100 sexual encounters in this scenario.

Now, big giant disclaimer here, I don't know what the accepted statistics are on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV transmission, either in ideal circumstances, or in actual usage.

I do know that the chances of failure for something definitely add up quickly over time, and they add up fast.

So it shouldn't be a surprise to hear that, "We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working." The full article can be read over at the National Review Online.

In two places I know of that have had success in combating AIDS, Uganda and the Philippines, the primary focus was on having faithful, monogamous sexual practices. And it makes sense why this works. If people have fewer sexual partners, then the risk of transmission in the general population is reduced.

So maybe the Pope is right when he said, "If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress." (my emphasis)

I think he is.

Thanks to Mulier Fortis for the link to the National Review article.

Evolution or Darwinism or Dawkinsism or Creationism or whatever its called these days...

There's a great new piece up on What You Ought to Know called Darwin's Intelligent Design.

I think he does a pretty good job to distinguishing between natural selection / evolution / intelligent design / creationism. He also takes a few shots at Dawkins, which is always a good thing :)

It's part of their Open Your Mind week. Very good stuff, you should check it out!

I've been subscribed to their RSS feed for a few weeks now, just to find out all the stuff that I ought to know. So far I've really enjoyed the videos. Keep it up guys! (Sorry, I don't know the guy's name)

Please support Bill C-484

Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act is slowly making its way though the House of Commons. This is a very important bill, as it would create an additional criminal offence for somebody who attacks a pregnant woman and causes the death of the unborn child she carries.

You can see how your MP voted in the second reading of this bill on March 5th here. If your MP didn't vote in favour of the bill, please write to him/her! If they did vote in favour of the bill, write to them anyway to thank them for their support.

You can get the contact information for your MP here. Written letters are best, but e-mails work too.

Re: Manifestestations of a more confident atheism

Christian,

Because man is a rational creature, he wants to understand the universe in which he lives. Both religion and science are ways for man to pursue this quest for truth.

I don't understand how Ricky's testimony, while honest, is convincing. He doesn't give any reasons for this conversion other than the fact that his older brother asked him, "Why do you believe in God?", and he felt that neither he nor his mother had a satisfactory answer. I suppose he was saying that if his mother didn't have a satisfactory answer, then one must not exist? Nothing against his mother, but just because you can't explain something with 100% certitude doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Most scientifically-aware people would agree that the speed of light is the fastest that anything can travel in our universe, but would be hard pressed to explain why.

So, I would invite you to investigate why other people have decided that atheism just doesn't make sense, and how faith and reason can and should complement one another. Religion, if true, can stand up to inquiry and criticism.

Great authors and thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton have made this discovery.

More recently, Jen at Et Tu? has a written a very moving story of her conversion from atheism, as well as a piece on why she believes in God in the first place.

I made this discovery myself about three years ago now. Part of the reason was that I realized that the natural sciences can't explain the "why" of things. At the time I didn't think that there was necessarily a purpose to life, the universe, and everything...but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was that the scientific method worked at all? We rely on our reason, logical and mathematical principles to explain the phenomena of the world around us. But why do our reason, logic, and math have any capability to explain? Math and logic cannot be explained by science, rather, they form the foundations of science. So why are math and logic true?

At the same time I was coming to the realization that there is a limit to human knowledge. I figured that since there is an infinite amount of knowledge to know (e.g. the set of transcendental numbers or the digits of pi), and since no person or group of people will ever live for an infinite amount of time, then some things will always remain outside the realm of knowable things. This meant to me that I could never disprove the existence of God...but could I prove it? This is the position of the agnostic: that we can't really know one way or another.

The position of the Christian is that not only does God exist, but he wants to tell us about himself; so much so that he became one of us. I began reading more about what the Catholic Church had to say in the matter. The Church's bold claim is that it is the earthly institution that was founded by none other than God, the Creator of the universe who became man. To my surprise, I found it to be an intellectual treasure trove. The Catholic Church is, and always has been, a great defender and promoter of reason and the sciences. Nothing in Christianity is contrary to reason. At the same time, it reminds us of the limits to human knowledge, and reveals truths to us that our reason could have never reached on its own.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying to you, and to all people of good will, that Christianity is not the enemy of reason, nor of science, nor of any legitimate human endeavour. It deserves a serious and honest analysis before it is discarded as logically fallacious or as merely an emotional crutch.

Cheers

Stephen Colbert defines Hell

And he gives a great definition too! It could have been taken straight from the Catechism.

Follow the jump on over to the American Papist who has a YouTube clip of The Colbert Report from Monday night.

I saw this on TV and was hoping it would show up on YouTube...Stephen Colbert certainly knows his faith...or pretends to at least. It's hard to tell sometimes if he's serious or not.

Being pro-life in Canada

Jen, over at "Et tu?", has written another moving post, this time about her conversion from being pro-choice to being pro-life.

http://et-tu.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-i-became-pro-life.html.

Before becoming Catholic, I'm not sure what I would have said with regards to the abortion debate, I didn't give it much thought. I probably would have said something along the lines of, "it's not desirable, but ok in extreme cases." After my conversion to Catholicism however, things couldn't be more clear. Human life begins at conception. Intentionally killing an innocent person is wrong. Therefore, killing a child in the womb is wrong. To me, it's that simple. And I really hope that one day everybody will understand it that way.

Monday marked the 20th year since abortion was decriminalized in Canada. Depending on where you get your news, you may or may not have been aware of this. The three major newspapers here in the GTA had very different coverage that day (on their websites at least - I don't subscribe to any of them at the moment). The Toronto Star didn't have any mention if at all. The Globe and Mail had the pro-choice side covered well, but the pro-life side was not represented at all. The National Post seemed to have stories from both sides of the "debate".

I put "debate" in quotes, since there's actually very little discussion about this issue in the public arena. Just last week the CBC reported that a pro-life advertisement was pulled from buses in St. John's. The ad read, "Nine months… the length of time an abortion is allowed in Canada. Abortion. Have we gone too far?" Pretty tame compared to some other pro-life messages out there. A message to spark debate, hopefully? Nope, not allowed, it's too "misleading".

I agree with what Michael Coren says in his piece in the National Post, it's time for the debate to be resurrected.

Pro-Life Health Care

Melissa and I went for our first appointment with our new obstetrician yesterday. The great news is that our baby looks healthy, and we got to see his/her heart beating on the ultrasound!

Unfortunately we both left with a bit of a bad feeling, and personally I was not feeling very confident in our new doctor, or our health care system in general.

It's not that I doubt her competence, but I do worry about her motivations.

When we arrived at our OB's office yesterday, there were posters and pamphlets advertising "Integrated Prenatal Screening: It's Your Choice." After a bit of reading in the waiting room, I discovered that IPS is when they test for things like Down Syndrome and open neural tube defect. So after you exercise your choice in whether to test if your baby is "defective", you then have the choice of what to do with that information. Isn't choice wonderful? Too bad the baby has no choice in the matter.

Never mind that the test isn't 100% accurate, with significant rates of false positives and negatives, and carries with it a risk of miscarriage...

Once our turn came up, we entered into one of the examination rooms, and plastered up on one wall was a huge poster that outlined all the various kinds of contraception. To me, this sends mixed messages: "Congratulations on your pregnancy! By the way, just to be sure this doesn't happen to you again, try using one of these..."

In the little pregnancy booklet provided by the North York General Hospital, there is a section about contraception. The text states that women must choose a form of contraception to use after giving birth. It goes on to discuss all the various methods of artificial contraception, and at the end there is a small section about natural methods. Too bad the only natural methods they discuss are the rhythm method and the withdrawal method, both of which are extremely unreliable, and are stated as such in the booklet. But they ignore more modern and more effective forms of natural family planning such as the Billings Ovulation Method, and claim that natural methods are useless to women with irregular cycles.

The doctor herself was very nice, and had a good sense of humour. She seemed genuinely happy for us. But she also did ask if we wanted to do the IPS test. When we refused, she said, "Ok, so whatever comes, comes, right?" And this is what makes me worried about her motivations. How should I feel about a person who would be fine with performing an IPS test, and then based on the results of the test would be fine with advising that abortion is an option? It makes me feel that she doesn't have my baby's best interests at heart.

Right now, I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she's just as uncomfortable with this stuff as I am, but doesn't know what do to about it. Maybe it's required by law that she advise parents of their options (it's all about choice, remember!)

On a bit of a more hopeful note, I'd just like to thank Fr. Jim (of Dappled Things) for his post today about Pro-Life OB/Gyn Services in DC area. I pray that centers like this really take off, so we can feel safe again when going to see the doctor!