Peter Kreeft: God or Atheism — Which Is More Rational?

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Shroud of Turin Dated to 1st Century

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New scientific experiments carried out at the University of Padua have apparently confirmed that the Shroud Turin can be dated back to the 1st century AD. This makes its compatible with the tradition which claims that the cloth with the image of the crucified man imprinted on it is the very one Jesus’ body was wrapped in when he was taken off the cross…

The new tests carried out in the University of Padua labs were carried out by a number of university professors from various Italian universities and agree that the Shroud dates back to the period when Jesus Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. Final results show that the Shroud fibres examined produced the following dates, all of which are 95% certain and centuries away from the medieval dating obtained with Carbon-14 testing in 1988: the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC ±250 years. The book’s authors observed that the uncertainty of this date is less than the single uncertainties and the date is compatible with the historic date of Jesus’ death on the cross, which historians claim occurred in 30 AD.

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Scientists predict calamity as “fiery comet” approaches

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Comet Pan-STARRS is now visible on the western horizon just after sunset in the Northern hemisphere. A search of the headlines finds this:

A hairy and fiery comet having then made its appearance for several days, as the mathematicians declared that there would follow a grievous pestilence, dearth and some great calamity

So reports Bartolomeo Platinus… in 1465… recalling the approach of Halley’s Comet in 1456.

Many times in history, Comets have been taken as an omen, and with the election of the new Pope in the news, one wonders.

But the passage of Halley’s comet in 1456 created headlines, not for the “mathemeticians” who predicted “grievious pestilence, death and some great calamity“, but for the Pope of the time, Callistus III. And not at the time, but centuries later. The quote from Platinus continues:

Callistus, to avert the wrath of God ordered supplications, that if evils were impending for the human race, He would turn all upon the Turks, the enemies of the Christian name. He likewise ordered, to move God by continual entreaty, that notice should be given by the bells to all the faithful, at mid-day, to aid by their prayers those engaged in battle with the Turk.

Somehow, these two reports, the appearance of Halley’s comet and the decree of Pope Callistus III for the faithful to pray during a time of Crusades, became conflated, and the popular narrative that “The Pope excommunicated Halley’s comet!” became the headline.

Though repeatedly debunked, even in popular scientific journals in the time of the 1910 appearance of Halley’s comet, even the popular astronomer Carl Sagan repeated the story as fact, ironically trying to show how other people can be gullible. And as the new 2013 Year of Comets begins, the story is still repeated.

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Dostoevsky: Man Can Live Without Science

dostoevsky-cropDostoevsky, quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 Meeting with Artists:

“Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.”

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Chesterton: Irreligion is the opium of the people.

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G.K. Chesterton, (Christendom in Dublin, p. 58):

The Truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticise the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God… Lenin only fell inbto a slight error; he only got it the wrong way round. The truth is that irreligion is the opium of the people. Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world. But above all they will worship the strongest thing in the world.

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Pope Benedict to the American Bishops in 2012:

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

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On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason

Fr. Barron discusses Faith and Reason, quoting Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Hamlet (1.5.166-7), Hamlet to Horatio)

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C.S. Lewis: What we want is not more little books about Christianity

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One of the best Christian Apologists, C.S. Lewis, of the 20th Century had this to say about Apologetics:

I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any direct apologetic work…. We can make people often attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted….What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.

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The Alleged Conflict Between Science and Faith

Physicist and Priest, Andrew Pinset, lectures on Faith and Science:

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Where love rejoices, there is festivity: Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

Saint John Chrysostom said “Ubi caritas gaudet, ibi est festivas, Where love rejoices, there is festivity.”

In the Catholic Church, “Fat Tuesday” or Mardi Gras is a festival that precedes the penitential season of Lent. Why celebrate before Lent? Because life is good. Because creation is good. At the end of the Six Days of Creation, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” (Genesis 1:31) He rested on the Seventh Day – the source and destination of all festivals, a celebration of Goodness, as Josef Pieper puts it: “the prime festive occasion… to reduce it to the most concise phrase, at bottom everything that is, is good, and it is good to exist.” (Pieper, In Tune with the World, p. 26)

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So how is this connected to Lent, a season of penance, sacrifice, and mortification – a seeming denial of good things? Pieper goes on (p. 21):

The act of freely giving oneself cannot take place unless it grows from the root of comprehensive affirmation – for which no other term can be found than ‘love’… We do not renounce things, then, except for love.

The renunciation of things frees us from the ideology of utility, in which things are only valued for their usefulness. In doing so, it frees us to recognize the “giftedness” of all things, all Creation. As Pieper concludes:

There can be no festivity when man, imagining himself self-sufficient, refuses to recognize that Goodness of things which goes far beyond any conceivable utility; it is the Goodness of reality taken as a whole which validates all other particular goods and which man himself can never produce nor simply translate into social or individual ‘welfare’. He truly receives it when he accepts it as pure gift.

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Thus, we celebrate before Lent because Life is Good. The renunciation of Lent then prepares us for the greatest celebration of Life in the Resurrection. As Pieper says, “Carnival is festive only where Ash Wednesday still exists.”

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Why Are We Bored?

Peter Kreeft (Back to Virtue, p. 156-157):

Now why are we bored? Why this distinctively modern phenomenon? The very word for it did not exist in premodern languages! Above all, how do we explain the irony that the very society which for the first time in history has conquered nature by technology and turned the world into a giant fun-and-games factory, a rich kid’s playroom, the very society which has the least reason to be bored, is the most bored? Why is an American child playing with ten thousand dollars worth of video equipment more bored than an Indian child playing with two sticks and a stone?

The answer is inescapable. There is only one thing that never gets boring: God. The God-shaped vacuum in us is infinite and cannot be filled with any finite objects or actions. Therefore if we are bored with God, we will be bored with everything. For as Saint Augustine says, he who has God has everything; he who has everything but God has nothing; and he who has God plus everything else does not have any more than he who has God alone.

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