Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where to Shop This Christmas

Naughty and Nice Christmas List from the folks at the aptly named Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign:

Partial "Naughty List"

Lowe's - Employees cannot say "Merry Christmas" to customers. Lowe's corporate advised that only when customers initiate a "Merry Christmas" greeting can employees respond in kind.
Toys 'R' Us - "Holidays" are in, "Merry Christmas" is out.
Banana Republic - Web site has "Holiday Gift Guide" with no mention of Christmas.
Bed Bath & Beyond - No mention of any holidays.
Barnes & Noble - Web site says "Gift Guide," "Holiday gift baskets," "Holiday sled," "Holiday delivery," but no Christmas. Stores not allowed to put up Christmas trees, and employees are not allowed to say "Merry Christmas."
Best Buy - Web site says "Unique gifts for the season," "Holiday gift ideas." Spokesperson said the use of "Merry Christmas" is disrespectful.
Dick's Sporting Goods - Web site says "gifts" and has images, but no mention of Christmas.
Eddie Bauer - Customer service would not recognize Christmas, they "don't want to offend Jews, those who celebrate Kwanza and those who have no religious preference."
Gap - "Holiday Survival Guide" with no mention of Christmas.
Home Depot - Web site says "Holiday Store" and "Holiday Lighting" and only at bottom of site says "Make your Christmas decorations complete." Stores have "Holiday Home Accents."
K-Mart - Selling "Holiday trees" and "Holiday wreaths."

Partial "Nice List"

Dillard's - Advertises "Christmas Catalog."
JC Penney - Web site has "Christmas Shipping Countdown."
Joann Fabrics - Offers Christmas and Holiday fabrics.
Kohl's - Christmas is all over TV, print and radio ads.
L.L. Bean - Advertises and distributes "Christmas Catalog."
Linens 'N Things - Has a "Christmas Shop" and "Christmas Checklist."
Macy's - "Merry Christmas!" on its home page.
Michaels - Web site has a Christmas section.
M&M-Mars Candies - Will have red and green candies with pictures of Christmas trees and angels among other images.
Target - Web site says "Christmas Decor," although the physical store has "Holiday entertaining." TV ad says "Merry Christmas."
Wal-Mart - Has a "Christmas Shop," plays Christmas carols, and employees can say "Merry Christmas."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Tens of Thousands" Protest Pope in Turkey

A few days ago, I read a report that a hardline Islamic political party in Turkey was organizing a mass protest. The organizers expected at least 100,000 in a show of solidarity and strained vocal cords.

Well, as this Reuters article tell us, tens of thousands did show up to protest the Pope. Actually, it was only 25,000. How 25,000 (which could itself be an exaggeration) can be considered, in all honesty, 'tens of thousands', I will never know. Once again one finds modern mainstream journalism wanting.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This is not an Elephant!

No? He looks like an elephant, doesn't he?

Actually, in Canada, he's not an elephant.

[edit: My fiance wants me to tell you that yes, this is an elephant. It is a baby elephant in utero, which is why I made the comment about how in Canada, this 'little' guy would not be considered an elephant, since current Canadian law states that unborn creatures (humans included) are not protected by law until air touches them.]

Condoms, AIDS, and Catholics

When it comes to misleading titles, journalists are experts. See today's peice by John Hooper of the Manchester Guardian, "After decades of opposition, Vatican view on condoms begins to shift". Shift where? Being the Guardian, its readership will likely assume the shift is towards a more permissive stance on condom use. As the article explains, the Pope is now prepared to repudiate the 2,000 year ban on barrier contraception, but nothing has been made officially public yet. Irregardless, Hooper urges a happy anticipation of the time when the Catholic Church finally stops murdering millions of people by lifting the ban on condoms.

The article, while altogether not too poor, does stumble into the usual pitfalls of agit-prop leftist journalism. Of course, Hooper concedes less than 2 paragraphs in, no offical statement has been made. All that has happened is that the Pope has commissioned one of the Vatican's think tanks to study the issue. Hooper can't resist the usual references to high ranking and media friendly Bishops, naturally 'candidate for the papacy' Cardinal Martini is referenced, who have publicly made some murkish statements which seem to favour the use of barrier contraceptives in cases of HIV/AIDS. Heck, even the unfortunate Dr. Rowan Williams, head of the disintegrating Anglican Church, gets his name in there too. Hooper thinks Williams will take Pope Benedict to task for the Church's teachings, which immediately brings to mind the ironic image of the leader of a Christian sect facing oblivion lecturing the Pope about how to run a church properly. Obviously Hooper has not set out to breach any of the Guardian's sacred editorial policies.

But what of the article's premise? Could the Church do an about face and change Her social doctrine?

While there is always the chance that the Church could change it's teaching on the use of contraceptives, its highly unlikely that She would do so. Here's why:

(1) Sexually transmitted infections and diseases are not new. In the early days of the Church they were rampant, especially in the cosmopolitan cities of Athens, Corinth, and Rome. Nor was the countryside spared; we have many records of syphillis outbreaks scourging the populations of rural Italy, Greece and Asia Minor. In was in this setting that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, developed its teaching on the use of barrier contraceptives.

(2) It is in the sexual act that a very important part of who were are as individuals created in the image and likeness of God is shared and displayed to another. The sexual act, the Church has shown, must be an act of reciprocal love without any barriers being put up between the couple. It is by this act of utter selfless giving to one another that we as God's children replicate the love which God gives to us all. By placing a contraceptive between one another, the couple loses the ability to partake in this act of reciprocal love, since, obviously, all is not being reciprocated. For a couple with an untreatable STI/D, the call is to abstain from sexual intercourse. In the place of intercourse, the couple is called to acts of heroic virtue, they must devote themselves to each other without intercourse, which has always been a serious, and sanctifying, even saintly, feat.

(3) Incrementalism isn't an official part of Catholic political science or sociology, but it might as well be. The Catholic Church has watched as the Protestant denominations 'liberated' themselves from bans on contraception over the past 75 years. In every case, the 'liberation' has also liberated those churches of their members and their vitality. A church that ceases to ask its members to live lives of virtue and sanctity, is a church that eventually ceases to exist. As the Protestant churches fled from traditional teaching on contraception, always while making similar arguments to ones found with the Guardian peice I should add, they also suffered a massive crisis within the faithful, as many other traditions and beliefs were deemed too restrictive and removed. The Catholic Church, as its raison d'etre, is here to prepare the world for Christ, and it's not clear how that role would be better serviced if, after 2,000 years, a handful of Church academes and bureaucrats decided to force a change on this issue. The historical record tells us much in this respect.

(4) In the 1960s, the majority report of the Papal commission on contraception advocated allowing its use. The minority report of course advocated no change at all. In those days prior to the announcement of the Pope's decision, to be contained within his encyclical, Humane Vitae, the media and those Church figures popular with the media, confidently predicted that Pope Paul VI would choose the majority report. The rest, as it is nauseatingly said, is history.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Father John Trigilio's Response to Commonweal

Commonweal is an American Catholic magazine, whereas Fr. Trigilio is a Catholic Priest in America. Here is Fr. Trigilio's response to a Commonweal editorial, found here.


As President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a 31 year old national association of 700 priests and deacons) and as a pastor and a diocesan priest ordained for more than 18 years, I personally and professionally repudiate the premise contained in your recent editorial (Tomorrow's Priests). I entered the seminary in 1976 after graduating from eighth grade (parochial school) and continued from high school seminary to college seminary to major seminary until ordination in 1988. During those twelve years of seminary, I saw and heard a lot. Likewise, in the subsequent eighteen years of priesthood, mostly in parish ministry with a brief stint in Tribunal and Hospital Chaplaincy ministry, my experience is certainly not insignificant.

First, the assertion that two major groups exist(ed) in the seminary (either doctrinally orthodox to Rome or pastorally open to collaboration with the people) is inaccurate at best and deceptive at worst. During the later years of the pontificate of Pope Paul VI when I entered High School Seminary, there was a general malaise prolific in many minor and major seminaries. Faculty members who had hoped the reforms of Vatican II would have led to further and more revolutionary changes (priestly celibacy, women's ordination, etc.) were hoping that P6's successor would open the doors and not just the windows (as did J23). Faith and morals were considered 'fluid' and 'malleable' in that they could and needed to adapt to the times, or so this group thought. Immutable doctrines and absolute moral laws were relics of the past, they maintained. Many of these theological and liturgical 'hippies' were the ones who ran the seminaries and therefore sought to remake the mold used to form the contemporary priest.

Collaboration with the laity was not their real agenda anymore than was subsidiarity. True, this group was unmistakably prone to dissent from Magisterial teaching (as evidenced by their enthusiastic embrace of Charles Curran and his dissent from Humanae Vitae) and were certainly not concerned or preoccupied with loyalty to Rome. Yet, they were not the populist saviors they purported to be. Recall in Church History when Martin Luther inaugurated the Protestant Reformation in the 16 th century. He convinced Bishops, priests and laity to rebel against Papal authority with the simultaneous rebellion of the kings, princes, and barons against the secular Imperial authority. Once the Pope and the Emperor were out of the way, however, those in power made sure the dominoes stopped falling. The Peasant's Revolt was mercilessly crushed by the aristocracy with the full support and encouragement of Luther and other clerics. The poor peasants only followed logic when they saw the episcopacy revolt against the papacy and saw the aristocracy revolt against the monarchy. They were unaware of the fact that revolutionaries often depose authority so as to replace it with their own brand. Likewise, some of the extreme radicals of the post-Vatican II church sought to sever their doctrinal and disciplinary obedience to Rome but to keep intact their own fascist control over their subordinates.

Prior to the papacy of JP2, the other group in the seminary was indeed loyal to the Magisterium and obedient to the Roman Pontiff. Sarcastically labeled as 'traditionalist' or 'rigid,' those of us who wished to be faithful to the hierarchical structure intended and founded by Christ when He personally established the Church with Saint Peter, were in the minority and had no influence whatsoever. Those who rejected infallible doctrines and absolute moral laws, embraced and promoted dynamic doctrines that adapted themselves to become more appealing to non-Catholics. They also embraced an amorphous morality which would open the doors to contraception, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, corruption, graft, etc., since there were no more ethical absolutes. Many of the problems and scandals inside the seminary and afterwards in the parishes after some of these guys got ordained can be traced to BAD theology and BAD morality. Both were sustained, sadly, by BAD liturgy ( lex credendi, lex agendi, lex orandi). The raping of the Catholic worship resulted in the intentional loss of reverence, sacredness, sacrifice and worship of the divine. Liturgical aberrations and abuses promoted the dissident theology and adulterated morality by glorifying man over God. Human nature was deified while divinity was dethroned. Concupiscence was no longer the effect of Original Sin, but a natural inclination which needed to be understood and nurtured. The only official deviancy was the old regime and the few new recruits who sought to restore Peter to his chair which had been stolen from under his seat.

It is a false dichotomy to say one had to choose between loyalty to Rome and collaboration with the people. Ironically, it is the people who are often more Catholic than their clergy at times. Like the days of the Soviet Union, Communists claimed to represent and cooperate with the people (proletariat) after they had overthrown the bourgeoisie. The reality was that the new order had no intention of sharing authority with the people and in fact sought to control and manipulate the masses. Anyone who disagreed was sent to a Gulag or simply eliminated. Dissent from party policy was dealt with severity and swiftness. The Kremlin and the KGB did not share power nor did they tolerate unconditional adherence to their rule.

Similarly, the ecclesiastical radicals bragged about their disdain for the Pope, the Vatican and the Magisterium. Academic freedom and liberty of conscience were their mantras. Yet, if someone under their authority dared to disagree or worse yet, disobey the disobedient, then the fascist side of them emerged. While there was no equivalent Peasants' Revolt, we did have in the seminary those who refused to be disloyal to Rome. It was not the people in the pews who faithfully went to church for Mass and confessions who demanded that their parishes remove statues, communion rails or whitewash their sanctuaries. The liturgical Nazis imposed iconoclasm on many parishes and they even deported Christ by removing Tabernacles and placing them in obscure, small, and covert 'Eucharistic chapels' instead of the main worship space.

If the ultra-reformers (those who feel V2 did not go far enough) were truly collaborative, they would not be the ones who bully and harass the elderly woman who chooses to kneel for Communion. Paradoxically, the same bullies are too timid to refuse Communion to politicians who openly support abortion. Bishops who remained silent when local 'theologians' publicly espoused heterodox teaching or even overtly dissented from Humanae Vitae or Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, or who refused to enforce Ex Corde Ecclesiae by requiring and monitoring the mandate needed to teach theology, are often the very same ones who quickly and with ferocity impose sanctions (such as suspension or interdict) on those who dare question their prudential judgments. Disagree with the Pope, even from the pulpit or in the classroom, and nothing was done. Disagree or question a diocesan policy, however, and incur the wrath of Khan. Authentic collaboration are the bishops, priests and deacons who listen to and respond to the spiritual needs of the parishioners who SUPPORT and who ATTEND the local church.

If many post-Vatican II clergy need to be re-educated it was not because they were poor students while in the seminary. Some just got bad or poor education because they were not given the unadulterated truth. There was no Catechism prior to 1992. I was ordained in 1988. We had the Code of Canon Law since 1983 but even that was criticized in class, as in the case of mandating first confession before first communion (#777 and 915). The Documents of Vatican II were not taught but the ' spirit of Vatican II' was invoked all over the place. Thankfully, some of us went underground and learned the truth by secretly reading Denziger's Enchiridion Symbolorum, the Summa Theologica, and attending annual seminarian conferences sponsored by none other than Opus Dei.

What was not taught in the seminary besides orthodox doctrine and morality was business management. The corporate model of ecclesiology was never explained or taught but extensively used as many of us discovered once we were ordained. The hierarchical institution model was always ridiculed but the servant, herald, mystical communion or community of disciples while promoted to one degree or another, did not reflect the reality outside the seminary, however. Many priests who find themselves discouraged, disenchanted or even demoralized are so because they do not feel, see themselves or are treated as spiritual fathers of a local family of faith. Instead, they are often employees of the corporation. Pastors spend more time doing fundraising, attending committee meetings, and reading and completing diocesan paperwork than they do celebrating the sacraments. Often, we are treated like branch managers of the company and the bishop is the senior vice president, surrounded by his board of directors in the chancery office. Policies to protect assets, and increase revenue and reduce expenditures are certainly prudent and required by good stewardship. Sadly, these often become the high priority while the teaching of orthodox doctrine and the reverent celebration of the sacraments are put on the back burner if at all.

When parishioners ask for devotions like Divine Mercy, Eucharistic Adoration, Public Rosary, Novenas, Processions and the like, often the so-called 'collaborators' ignore or insult them. When parishioners utilize their legal option to receive Communion on the tongue or to confess anonymously, their legitimate choice is denied. When someone is known to be a member of Opus Dei, Familia or Regnum Christi, they are often prevented and prohibited in some dioceses from joining Parish Council. So much for collaboration. Often, parish council members are 'elected' like Stalin and others were in the former USSR, i.e., no other candidate was allowed OR the party merely told you who were elected before any vote took place.

Seminarians do not need administrative or managerial skills or training. They need orthodox theological and sound philosophical education within the context of solid spiritual formation founded on prayer and proper celebration of the sacraments, especially the Holy Mass. Instead of running parishes and dioceses like businesses and corporations, we need to return to the familial model. Pastors and Bishops should be paternal and not middle or upper management. Many of us clergy long for the day when competent and qualified deacons and laity can handle most if not all of the mundane business of the parish, like budgets, committee meetings, fundraising, employee relations, labor disputes, diocesan bureaucratic paperwork, et al. I would rather spend time teaching the faith and ministering to the sick rather than worrying about salaries, benefits, insurance, decreasing offertory income, rising expenditures, etc. Here is where real collaboration can take place. Unlike Trusteeism which turned the parish over to the lay trustees who could hire and fire the pastor and other clergy, real lay collaboration is using the gifts and talents of the parishioners, especially those who have accounting, financial and managerial training and experience. The pastor still represents the authority of the local bishop but the division of labor is such that he is assisted by the wisdom and experience of the laity who help him with their expertise. Tampering with doctrine, morals or the sacred liturgy is not the prerogative of either the pastor or the parishioners.

Real faith communities are not places where the clergy have abdicated their authority to teach and govern and be mere sacrament dispensers. Real faith communities are FAMILIES of faith where the pastor is the spiritual FATHER. Collaboration and cooperation occur in the diverse apostolates of the parish, like teaching the faith to children and adults, keeping the church clean, planning and celebrating reverent liturgies that conform to the traditions of our church. Ironically, it is the other side which unilaterally imposes liturgical aberrations and illicit innovations upon the parishioners whether like it or not. This is not a battle between liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II. The issue is whether to abandon or entirely embrace the 'corporate business' model. Many of us choose to restore the ancient family model which was never democratic but always hierarchical yet always in an atmosphere of charity, justice and mercy. Since the wonderful reign of Pope John Paul II and his current successor Pope Benedict XVI, we have two exquisite role models and one marvelous vision. Many of the bishops these two have appointed are superb choices and in fact shepherd their diocese like a father leads his family. There are some, however, who still use a business model and prefer the role of executive to that of father. Disobedient children cannot be ignored nor encouraged in their folly, especially when it endangers the rest of the family. Redefining doctrine or reinventing sacred liturgy are not viable options. Sentire cum ecclesiae (think with the church) and ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia (where Peter is, there is the church) are our best roadmaps.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fr. Raymond Gravel

The case of Fr. Raymond Gravel, dissident priest extraordinaire. How much could we say about it? Well, some background information first. For those of you who don't know, Fr. Gravel seeks to run in a by-election for the Bloc Quebecois. For those of you who don't know, a priest cannot hold any governmental position. For those of you who don't know, Fr. Gravel supports abortion, same-sex marriage, attacks the Magisterium, and is generally suffering from an all around Catholic deficit.

Throughout the blogosphere and orthodox Catholic media, there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth at the fact that such a blatant anti-Catholic Catholic priest can even exist within the Church. To qualify that a bit, Fr. Gravel's Bishop has indeed revoked his priestly abilities until he steps down for election, but most people are more than a little disappointed that it took several public, even on a national scale, dismissals of Catholicism by Fr. Gravel that the Bishop finally took some action. For leftists, Fr. Gravel is another great French hope for the 'Catholic Church of Tomorrow'. For everyone else, Fr. Gravel is an animated fossil from a passing age.

At my adult catechesis class, we asked our Bishop how he would handle the situation. He said he wasn't sure, that is was a very complex case and that he would feel particularly concerned for the spiritual health of the actively dissident priest. I of course hoped for a more forceful answer, but then this is a Bishop who spends much of his time repairing 40 years worth of damage done to our diocese. Comparing my Bishop's response to the reponse given by Fr. Gravel's Bishop, I cannot help but sympathesize with the latter. No one wants to be the Wittenberg Bishop in this age (although who even remembers the name of Luther's bishop), especially in the ruins of the Church in Quebec. By revoking his abilities as a priest, Fr. Gravel's Bishop has effectively nullified what could have been an absolute catastrophe (imagine a MP priest making a mockery of our sacraments in the Commons... yikes!). Sure, we still have Fr. Gravel agitating for election, but now he is simply Raymond Gravel, whose personal opinions can no longer tarnish the administration of the sacraments. The media will no doubt attempt to spin this as yet another 'progressive' silenced, but of course he hasn't been silenced at all, and the public will realise that. All this without excommunication.

Pray for Fr. Gravel, his associates, and most especially his bishop.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quote of the Week

No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable. . . . Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought. . . . Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking.

St. Augustine of Hippo

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Priestess, Please.

There are some things that are strange, and then there are some things that are stupid. Under the former I would categorize the frequently heard statement, "I don't think women should be ordained, but if the Pope announced that they could tomorrow, I'd accept it." Under the latter I would categorize the frequently heard (in the MSM) statement, "I think women should be ordained, but since the Pope has announced that they cannot, I'm going to go ordain some women" Such are the comments popular in the pews. One is indifference and perhaps a lack of fortitude, the other is malignant usurpation and delusional thinking.

It has been pointed out by several commentators that wishing that I were something does not make it so. Say, for example, if I wanted to become a police officer, I could not simply wake up one morning and decide that I had become one. To be a police officer takes a lot work and discernment. There is college, several interviews with prospective academies, meeting with those encharge of hiring new police officers, and finally months of serious preparation and training before I can be, authentically, a police officer. This of course is intrinsic to any vocation or career. With this in mind, one really has to question the pyschological health of those unfortunate women in North America and Europe who have decided for themselves that they are now priests. Noticeably absent from their stories are the same rigours and struggles a man seeking to become a priest faces. As some people are aware, becoming a Catholic priest takes many, many years and the priests and bishops responsible for your training and entry into the priesthood reserve the right to decide whether or not the candidate has the necessary charisms and calling to be ordained. The point is that it is not up to the candidate to decide that he can be a priest, and so then he is a priest. There's a lot more to it.

Yet in the minds of the handful of these women agitating for female ordinaition via illicit ordinaition ceremonies and press releases, the route is simple and the path wide. Just make a few calls to your local unrepentant excommunicant, find a boat (since the Womenpriest movement operates under the mistaken assumption that the Church's ecclesial territories do not include water systems - they do), and bring along some funny colour faux-vestments. Removed are the years of patient discernment, the hours in front of the tabernacle, those stressful minutes before you meet with the head of a seminary, the struggle to prepare oneself for the massive demands of the administering the sacraments to the faithful, and not to mention the task of rebuilding the many bridges burnt by scandal. In their place is, well, not that much.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Embracing Oblivion

On my drive to work this morning, I heard that the United Church of Canada is planning a massive, 10 million dollar advertizing campaign designed to boost its image and its membership. The ads mentioned featured a statement about the UCC's pro-same sex marriage position and another depicting a can of whipping cream and the line "When does sex become a sin?". I imagine many people could answer the latter without needing to join the UCC.

For the past century, particularly since the great modernist vs. fundamentalist debates of the 1920s, the mainline Protestant churches have wed themselves to fashion. Rather than using Christianity as a lense by which to interpret the times, these churches used the times to interpret Christianity. As with most bad ideas, this decision (which has also been followed by some in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but to a much lesser and limited degree) is based upon a rather naive assumption: Christianity, which admittedly had been on the defensive since the Reformation, will cease to be relevant unless its doctrines and dogmas are radically changed to accomodate similar changes in secular society (this was not a grass-roots decision; the choice to abandon Christian mores and beliefs was made chiefly by bishops and other church leaders).

In the early 20th Century, mainline Protestant churches were robust institutions who played an important role in society. By the end of the 20th Century, and after a seemingly endless number of rethinkings of Christian belief, mainline Protestant churches were empty vessels with absolutely no real influence on society. Its congregations have been hemorrhaging numbers at such a rapid pace that is it now average for one mainline Protestant parish to close its doors forever each week. In the UCC, membership has dropped by 50% over the past 40 years. With such massive losses, one would think common sense to somehow enter the minds of the pastors of the UCC and spark a serious reassessment of their leadership. Perhaps another liberalization or nauseating statement about 'affirming congregations' or 'embracing diversity' is not what is needed. When a church presents the same philosophy as the secular society, it runs the risk that its message will simply not be heard. For the UCC, this is the 10 million dollar gamble.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Root of all Ugly Packages

With Richard Dawkins promoting his new book and televisiosn, public attention has once again shifted back to the science vs. religion issue. CBC recently aired his anti-religious polemic, The Root of All Evil, in which Dawkins explains to us why he and other scientists in the West are good, and why everyone and anyone who holds a religious belief are bad. Dawkins latest book, The God Delusion, follows suit, with of course the key difference being that Dawkins is a better writer than a public speaker, and that the nature of the printed word offers him much more space to repeat his aging anti-religious rhetoric.

For Dawkins the issue is very simple: All of humanity's problems come from irrationality sponsored by religious belief. Unfortunately for his followers (and I suppose his critics as well) Dawkins barely moves beyond that simple statement, and thus spends his entire television programme and book (from the reviews I have read) regurgitating the same statement to which he has seemingly centred his entire life. Aside from the danger of becoming the village atheist (a role currently occupied by Dawkin's friend and ally, the 'philosopher' Daniel Dennett), Dawkins' repetitious argument displays a very obvious deficit of knowledge when it comes to religious matters. Unlike a proper scholar, he pays litte attention to the reason and rationality behind many religious (particularly Catholic) beliefs, preferring to ridicule not what his would-be opponents consider their own belief-system, but rather what Dawkins himselfs decides is their belief-system. A very good tactic if you want to be popular, a very poor tactic if you want to be honest.

What I personally find so interesting about Dawkins and his compatriots is that while they ridicule the religious believer as ignorant, unenlightened and regressive, they themselves are on the verge of a complete demographic catastrophe of fantastical proportions. It is no exaggeration to state that unless the Dawkinites of the world start reproducing, there won't be many of them left in 30 or 40 years. On the other hand, the ignorant, unenlightened, and regressive souls keep making more souls. So for Dawkins, who considers religious belief to be inherently irrational and destructive, it must be a harsh reality to accept that for every atheist who dies, 10 theists are born.

This demographic crisis threatening the Secularist/atheist 'culture' calls into question a great deal of the claims made by the likes of Dawkins. If religious (Christian) belief is so irrational, why has it been so efficacious? Which is more irrational, a species willfully killing itself off, or a species struggling to adapt, survive, and prosper? Which is more irrational, a belief that all life has a purpose, or that all life is ultimately meaningless? Which is more irrational, the idea that all has been made by a Creator (which has yet to be witnessed), or the idea that all has been made from primordial soups and meaningless, unguided mutation (which has yet to be witnessed either)? That Dawkins' philosophy fails to offer any serious response to any of these questions makes the atheist birth deficit all the more understandable. While these questions I listed are basic, they are also intrinsic to humanity. Every successful culture and civilization has been able to provide at least a sufficient answer to the questions of human orgin; in fact as we know from the Christian and Islamic cultures, it is by having rational answers to these questions that civilizations are able to thrive and last.

To be sure, Secularism and atheism are not dead. Europe, Russia, Asia and North America are currently dominated by these philosophies, right the way down to our education systems. Even more to the point, Secularism and atheism are waging what could possibly be their final campaign in the culture wars that have so devastated Western culture for the past 200 years. At least this Christmas, when we're all fighting to be able to say 'Merry Christmas' in a department store, we might be able to take some solace knowing that it is not unlikely that our children's children will not have to do the same.