Religious-As the years have rolled by, my religious beliefs have developed alot and I am now pretty settled in my beliefs, although I have not stopped listening to other views.
Starting at the top, it seems inescapable that there is some type of higher order or being. A supernatural level of existence, if you will. To my knowledge, no one has explained the concept of infinity nor what is beyond the boundaries of material existence. If all material is finite by definition, then how can there be something beyond it? “How high is up?” is still and always will be a good question and a true conundrum. This higher supernatural level of existence rightly deserves great respect from us mere mortals. Thus I think the concept of there being a GOD, whether we call it Allah or something else makes no real difference to me, is very logical. There are many events (miracles) recorded in history that cannot be explained in logical or human terms, but can at least be understood from a spiritual or supernatural viewpoint. From this belief it is also logical that this higher level of existence is responsible for the creation of the universe. Call it creationism if you want, but there can be no other explanation. Certainly there has been much evolution over the millions or zillions of years, but I have to reject the idea that evolution or something like the “big bang” theory alone created the universe. Neither of these theories gives any kind of a logical explanation of what there was before or where all this matter came from.
I believe in virtually everything that is written in the Bible. Not necessarily literally, but substantively. Oh I understand that much of it is probably not completely accurate in quoting the actual word of GOD because, in the early years, men made many changes, due primarily to translations, to the bible and there was a lot of debate over which books should be included and which excluded-primarily in the old testament. In addition, much of the Bible was not reduced into written form until many years later. Still with all its warts it is an amazing document. I thus do believe that there will be a life after this human one we are experiencing.
One of the most sobering passages in the bible comes in Mathew 19:24 where he quotes Jesus to say “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I do not take this passage too literally because I hope it was meant just to warn us that we should not put materialism before spiritualism and that the more material wealth we have the more charitable we must be. I believe there will be a judgment after death about how well we handled the stewardship of our life and in particular our material possessions.
I believe that organized religions have a very important and necessary role in our societies. Of course, many people lead very good lives and certainly can ‘saved’ without belonging to any particular religion, but they are the exception. The vast majority of people need or are at least helped by belonging to a religion with a set of beliefs and values that help guide them through life. I believe that the Catholic Church is the one and only true religion. When one looks at the history of the Church it is amazing that with all its faults and difficulties over the years it has survived and thrived. Yes there are still problems (pedophilia) in the Church and there probably always will be. After all, it is being run by humans. On the whole, however, the Catholic Church and others stand for the most virtuous (Christ like) beliefs known to man. Do I believe that if one is not a Catholic they can still be saved? Yes I do. Catholicism simply provides more truths about how to be saved. Being a virtuous person is the most important criteria for salvation. All humans are sinners , but God is all forgiving and even sinners, but maybe not all sinners, will be saved. of society.
Political-Politics have been, are and will be part of our society forever. Politics are inevitable because groups of people need leaders and there will be disagreements over who those or that leader should be. Fortunately we have lived in the United States, which by all measures, has the most democratic government in the world. Still it is far from perfect, but what can one expect from a bunch of imperfect people. One of the biggest and yet seemingly inevitable problems with all governments is that “power seems to corrupt”. This is an old adage, but in my experience it is true too often. Accordingly, politics and politicians get a bad name much of the time and that is too bad because we need the best politicians we can get and most of them do honorable jobs and do not get the respect or credit they deserve. This is true at all levels of government and regardless of political persuasion.
My own beliefs have been influenced alot by a book I read and studied in graduate school. “Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich Von Hayek. He was an Austrian economist and philosopher who taught for many years at the University of Chicago. He studied all societies from the beginning of recorded times and concluded that forced collectivism (socialism, etc.) simply never worked. He reported that all societies went through cycles of forced collectivism, then eventually dictatorships, then revolutions and back to some form of forced collectivism, etc. there are so many truisms in this book that I do not know where to start and stop telling you about it. Perhaps a quote from the foreword to this book by John Chamberlin, book editor of Harper’s will help. He writes:
“This book is a warning cry in a time of hesitation. It says to us: Stop, look and listen. Its logic is incontestable, and it should have the widest possible audience.”
One more quote will help even more and was used by Hayek. It is from a great political thinker, de Tocqueville, who said way back in 1848, that
“…democracy stands in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism : Democracy attaches all possible value to each man, while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
I thus recommend this book to any serious students of politics. There is a very readable short version published by Reader’s Digest that is only about 30 pages long. Hayek himself was impressed by how well this condensed version captured what he wrote at length about in his book. You can Google for it.
Now my father was very conservative, probably because of his traumatic experience with banking in the depression. Still we almost never talked politics that I can remember. In undergraduate college I had many lengthy political type discussions with my roommate, and later my best man, Tom Krause. He was always very well versed on the subject, better than me, but I cannot remember if he was conservative or liberal.
As mentioned earlier, I started getting actively involved in politics back in 1968, when I was talked into going to a political meeting with one of my neighbors. My political beliefs are rather simple and straightforward. I believe that government should only do that which most of us cannot do for ourselves. The framers of our constitution had a very good grasp of limited federal government, but unfortunately our courts have allowed the federal government and forced collectivism, in general, to grow to unbelievable lengths at the expense of individualism.
Those who believe that the government is the answer to virtually all of mankind’s problems are inviting disaster. Hayek points this out. One cannot continually take from the productive sector and transfer wealth to the less productive sectors without destroying the productive sector and individualism. But where is your compassion for the poor people one might ask? There is a role for government to provide some form of welfare or safety net for the truly poor and/or disadvantaged, but it cannot make them equal partners with all the other people. Nor can it give them everything they want and make them dependents of the state and rob them of any individual dignity. That is just the way life is-not always what some people view as fair. One must try to strike a just balance and that is not easy. We need to rely on and celebrate more voluntary collectivism (charity) not forced collectivism to help the disadvantaged. We must be careful because each effort to involve the government more in our lives (e.g. take over of health care) leads us down the road to socialism. One of the scary things about the trend toward bigger and bigger government and socialism is the tendency for those modern liberals to, not surprisingly, adopt the morally corrupt belief that the end justifies the means.
In addition to the many other things, government is just plain inefficient and does not do a good job at hardly anything. This is due to the “one size fits all”, ”zero tolerance” and “black and white” beaurcratic mentality inherent in government policies. Bureaucracy robs itself of any individual thought or reward based on performance and relies on rules, rules and more rules (i.e. central planning). As former President Ronald Regan is often quoted as saying “government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem”.
Thus, it is not difficult to see that I am a conservative politically and much closer to (actually to the right of) republican rather than democratic political thinking. Maybe I am really a libertarian and not owning up to it.
Church vs. State-Fortunately we live in a country where there is relatively very little conflict between church and state. Two exceptions are on the issue of abortion and capital punishment. Another area of great concern, but not yet put to the Supreme Court, is over the recognition of GOD and whether our government can be neutral on this point. See the above discussion in Part IV and Appendix F on the “In God We Trust” project.
With respect to abortion, the Catholic Church and other religions believe strongly, as do I, that abortion is murder and morally wrong under all circumstances. There are situations where the life (not just the health) of the mother is in danger and to save the mother’s life a medical procedure is necessary that makes it impossible to save the life of the fetus. Here the principle of double effect should be applied. The government’s position and that of the Democratic Party is that it is the woman’s choice as to whether an abortion is to be performed. Essentially legalizing abortions. This issue was decided by the Supreme court in 1973 when Justice Blackmun, writing for the 5-4 majority in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S.113, 162 and 159 held that the unborn child was not a “person”, but did not offer any reasonable proof of this finding. Instead and inexplicitly he stated “…those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus…”. Even after reading the entire decision I am unable to find any logic, which establishes this ‘right’ in the constitution.
Since then there has been some science that establishes clearly that human life does begin with conception. The best work I have found on this point is by Maureen L. Condic, Senior Fellow, Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Her work was published as “When Does Human Life Begin” in 2008. She reports that after extensive clinical research they have proved that all the genes and cells found in humans after birth are present in the fetus at the moment of conception. She thus concludes that human life must begin at conception. I have tried to find rebuttals to her work, but have found none.
Even without the recognition of this scientific work(proof) is the simple logic of why abortion is wrong. See my analysis included as Appendix G that establishes why the lesser of two potential ‘evils’ is to forbid abortions.
What is really troubling about this debate is that many politicians and others (mostly Democrats and liberals) who claim to be Catholic still support legalizing abortion or as they say the woman’s right to choose (to allow murder?). Many of them claim they are personally against abortions, but still support this choice by others. They try to have it both ways, but is this not just plain hypocrisy? Do they not see this or is the political advantage they see from their pro-choice supporters just too much to resist?
In my search for some intelligent arguments against my position I have found, with the help of my liberal cousin, Myron Johnson, a book titled A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion, written by Professors Dan Dombrowski and Robert Deltite (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2000), both from the University of Washington in Seattle. Their very scholarly and detailed study of the issue, including much historical study, left me cold because it ignored anything like my logic arguments in Appendix G. They essentially concluded that human life begins at about the sixth month of gestation. Thus they felt that abortion was morally acceptable until the sixth month. They simply ignored the Catholic Church’s position. I sent them a copy of my Appendix G and asked them to critic it, but they declined, claiming it would take too much time. Neither would they give me names of colleagues that might be interested. I have also since sent them reference to Maureen Condic’s work described above.
With respect to capital punishment the Catholic Church’s position is rather simple and straightforward. They believe, as I do, that life is sacred and that only GOD can make final decisions about life and death. The only time killing another person is morally justified is when one’s own life or that of another person is threatened. This argument cannot be used to support capital punishment and none of the arguments like, “it provides a deterrent” or “it is a just punishment” hold water. These are just feeble attempts to have the end justify the means. Maybe the Supreme Court will someday find capital punishment to be “cruel and unusual punishment” under Amendment VIII of the Constitution.