Rieff, who died in 2006, was an unbeliever, but he understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. For Rieff, the essence of any and every culture can be identified by what it forbids. Each imposes a series of moral demands on its members, for the sake of serving communal purposes, and helps them cope with these demands. A culture requires a cultus—a sense of sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework. You don’t behave this way and not that way because it’s good for you; you do so because this moral vision is encoded in the nature of reality. This is the basis of natural-law theory, which has been at the heart of contemporary secular arguments against same-sex marriage (and which have persuaded no one).
Several critics have noted that if evangelical atheists (as the philosopher John Gray calls them) are ignorant of religion, as they usually are, then they aren’t truly atheists. “The knowledge of contraries is one and the same,” as Aristotle said. If your idea of God is not one that most theistic traditions would recognize, you’re not talking about God (at most, the New Atheists’ arguments are relevant to the low-hanging god of fundamentalism and deism). But even more damning is that such atheists appear ignorant of atheism as well.

Crucifix in a side chapel, Santa Prassede.


Crucifix in a side chapel, Santa Prassede.

No one can become a Christian by being lazy. It takes work, lots of work.
St Porphyrios (via christianwritings)

Corazon Espinado


Corazon Espinado

I am temping at a very joyless place. I tried to lighten the mood with some humor. Either I am not funny at all, or they are not into funny. I give up. I will keep to myself and save funny for another day.

What I miss

* Cool air
* Dry air
* Going for walks by the lake
* Garden stores
* Bookstores
* Grocery Outlet
* Mountains
* Sidewalks
* Sidewalk cafes
* My friends
* Good public transportation
* Interesting neighborhoods
* My apartment
* Leaving my bedroom window open all night.


Beautiful: huge crowd proclaims, “We’re all Christians” in front of Notre-Dame de Paris (+)


Beautiful: huge crowd proclaims, “We’re all Christians” in front of Notre-Dame de Paris (+)

The ecstatic joy of knowing you have a soul (and why I loved The Fault in Our Stars)

By Jennifer Fulwiler on Jul 15, 2014 04:34 am

A fun and surprisingly intense debate has broken out among my friends over the past few months, and it revolves around this question:

The Fault in Our Stars: depressing or uplifting?

One of my friends summarized her impression the book by saying, “It’s a sad story where everything is bad and then more bad stuff happens. Why did I need to read that?” She is on Team Depressing, and a lot of people I know are with her.

the fault in our stars The ecstatic joy of knowing you have a soul (and why I loved The Fault in Our Stars)

A note my babysitter found in her copy of the book, left by her friend.

I, however, am on the other team. I loved this book. I don’t mean “loved” like “I enjoyed it quite a lot”; I mean “loved” like “LOVED!!!!”

Like, I feel an eternal longing deep within my chest every time I see the cover.

Like, some people probably thought I was reading a book called The Fault I-I-Iii, because every time I tried to talk about it I’d get choked up after the second word.

It’s about kids with cancer so, yeah, the subject matter is extremely depressing. But I did not find the book itself to be depressing at all. In fact, I thought it was one of the most life-affirming stories I’ve ever read.

I have been baffled by the fact that so many of my friends found it to be such a dreary read, so I began an impassioned investigation into the issue. It mainly involved bringing it up at dinner parties and sending a bunch of texts that said U didn’t like TFIOS? WTH?, but by the end of this scientific investigation, I began to see some patterns in the responses. Most interestingly, I noticed that people’s takes on the book tended to fall along the same lines as their spiritual history.

Specifically: People who have always been believers don’t tend to like the book as much as those who have known atheism.

Whether or not the results of my rigorous study can be extrapolated to each of the ten gazillion people who have read The Fault in Our Stars, the realization made everything click for me. I finally got why certain of my friends thought it was a downer, and I can finally explain why I didn’t.

Here’s what I think it is:

The Fault in Our Stars proves the soul. Its characters are supremely human, and by “human” I mean “a creature greater than the sum of its molecules.” If you have always understood that humans are more than just advanced apes, that the spiritual world exists and we have a special connection to it, I can see how the book would seem to be not much more than a well-written story about suburbanite kids with cancer.

But if you have ever looked at your life through the lens of a strict atheist materialist worldview, everything changes.

As I described in my own book, the idea that humans are nothing more than randomly evolved collections of chemical reactions troubled me all my life. I saw humans as advanced apes. I believed that all animals — humans included — had no essence or value that transcended the molecules that composed their bodies.

Other atheists are able to find beauty and meaning within that worldview; I never could. I was with atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, who looked at the inevitable extinction of the entire human experience and said that the only way to deal with it is to build your life on a “firm foundation of unyielding despair.”

I didn’t understand why I should attempt to amass wonderful memories and experiences, when all of those memories and experience would be multiplied by zero at the moment of my death. Every time I felt profoundly moved by a piece of music or wiped tears from my eyes upon witnessing a heroic deed, my happiness would be doused by the icy reality that what I was feeling was just neurons firing in my brain.

Though I didn’t understand this at the time, the reason those realizations were always so depressing is because they clashed so violently with what seemed to be true.

It seemed like experiences of love or anguish had an origin outside the physical matter of the brain. It seemed like a human life was more valuable than its technical status as a meaningless collection of organic material on one of the 40 billion planets in the galaxy would indicate. When I read a great epic or encountered a work of art that drew me deeper into the human experience, it really, really seemed like there was something going on there that was real and would last, even if the earth and all the life it contained blew up tomorrow.

In fact, I kept acting like a creature with a soul. I kept seeking meaning and transcendence. I yearned for purpose, even when I didn’t believe that a greater purpose to human life could exist.

thefault ruidoso The ecstatic joy of knowing you have a soul (and why I loved The Fault in Our Stars)

For those of you who have read Something Other than God: This pic was taken during the trip to Ruidoso, NM I describe in Chapter 12. 

Eventually, after doing this for all 27 years of my life, I started to wonder if maybe the reason we humans always act like we have a connection to the transcendent is because we actually do. I started to think that the essence of a human life might stretch beyond the body’s years on earth.

When the thought first crossed my mind — the first time I’d ever seriously questioned atheism — it shook me to the core. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I suspected it was right. I couldn’t prove it in a laboratory, yet the idea of humans as having an essence, a soul, that has an origin outside the material world made so many things make sense. It explained human behavior and the human experience in a way that a purely atheist materialist worldview could not.

When that realization clicked, I experienced a flood of joy and relief that is hard to describe. All my life I’d lived with the wearying friction of trying to jam the square peg of atheism into the round hole of reality, and now it was suddenly gone. In its place, I felt a sense of hope I’d never known. I felt like I had gotten closer to the truth about the real meaning of life. I was eager to explore further – and, as dispassionate as I tried to be, I couldn’t escape the feeling that whatever I discovered next was going to be good.

This was the moment that came to mind when I was finally able to articulate why I loved The Fault in Our Stars.

thefault The ecstatic joy of knowing you have a soul (and why I loved The Fault in Our Stars)

image source

The characters in that story are deeply, fully alive, in the way that only soul-having creatures can be. They give selflessly. They become impassioned over great works of art. They reflect on their circumstances, and experience rage and sorrow and joy and hope. They laugh, despite their bodies being ravaged by disease. They prize love over all, even in the face of death.

They don’t go into detail about their spiritual beliefs; there are no theological treatises about the likelihood of an eternal afterlife. Yet they are so obviously players in a divine drama, so clearly connected to the universal human experience in a way that prisoners of their own neurons could not be, that I have to think that this story would have made me question atheism if I had read it when I was a nonbeliever.

I believe that John Green’s greatest accomplishment with this story is that he describes people who operate fully in that realm of consciousness that no other animal on earth can access — and in doing so, he reminds us all what it is to be human.

When I finished the last page of The Fault in Our Stars, I experienced a unique sensation that I hadn’t felt in a long time. (Actually, I sobbed mindlessly for about five minutes. But then I experienced the sensation.) I was never able to articulate it at the time, but now I know what it was:

The warm glow that swelled within me when I put down that book was the same feeling that surged through my heart the moment I first questioned atheism.

It was the satisfaction of having the truth about the human experience click into place, and the hope of knowing that all of those yearnings for transcendence were based on something real. It was a silent voice that whispered, Yes, yes, of course we have souls!…and the feeling that that was only the beginning of the most wonderful truth of all.

The Roman Church as Prophesied in the Old Testament

By Dr. Taylor Marshall

Did you know that the “Roman identity” of the New Testament Church was foretold in the Old Testament? If we understand the Jewish prophets, we will see that the Church of Jesus Christ would necessarily be “Roman.”


It relates to a vision found in the second chapter of Daniel. This chapter describes a dream of Nebuchadnezzar about an enormous statue composed of four different materials. First, the head was of gold. Second, the chest and arms were of silver. Third, the belly and thighs were of bronze. Fourth, the legs and feet were of iron and clay. According to the vision, a stone will be hewn from a mountain without human hands and cast into the statue. This small rock smashes against the statue’s iron and clay feet, which causes the entire statue to crumble. Then the small rock becomes a great mountain and fills the entire earth.

Daniel interpreted the dream in the following way. First, the golden head was Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire. Next, an inferior kingdom would then follow the Babylonian Empire, as silver is inferior to gold. Then, a third kingdom would arise inferior to the second kingdom, as bronze is inferior to silver. Lastly a fourth kingdom would arise that was different than the previous three. As for the small uncut rock cast down from Heaven, Daniel explains:

And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure (Dan 2:44-45).

The stone from Heaven in the days of the Fourth Kingdom signifies that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.”

Looking in back in time, we understand the prophecy as corresponding to the following historical chronology when heathen kingdoms ruled over the Jews:

  1. Babylonian Empire (ca. 587-539 B.C.)
  2. Medo-Persian Empire (ca. 539-331 B.C.)
  3. Greek Empire (ca. 331-168 B.C.)
  4. Roman Empire (ca. 63 B.C.-A.D. 70)

It was in fact in the days of the Fourth Kingdom, the Roman Empire that God established His Messianic Kingdom:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered (Lk 2:1-6).

It is also common knowledge that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. From a historical point of view we see that the Rock of Ages came crashing into the Roman Empire. The Kingdom of Christ began precisely when Daniel predicted—during the era of the Fourth Kingdom, the Kingdom of Rome.

It is important to note here that the Four Kingdoms of the Gentiles also began to anticipate a Messiah in their own way. Ezekiel and Daniel called King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon “the King of Kings” (Ezek 26:7; Daniel 2:37), a title given subsequently to Jesus Christ. Isaiah called King Cyrus of Persia “the Messiah” (Isaiah 45:1), a surprising use of the term for a Gentile king! Alexander the Great of Greece united the Mediterranean world, had himself proclaimed the “Son of God,” and died at the age of thirty-three. The Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV later ruled the Promised Land, desecrated the Temple, and in turn became a type of the False Messiah or Antichrist. But it was Rome that was the final “kingdom” and it was inherited by Christ and His saints.

As we see in Daniel 2, “[Rome’s] sovereignty shall be left to another people” and it would happen through the introduction of a stone or rock – a Petros or Peter!


By Rogier van der Weyden


By Rogier van der Weyden


A rosary made of St. Benedict Medals, a great idea for too many reasons to explain.


A rosary made of St. Benedict Medals, a great idea for too many reasons to explain.


1445-1450 Rogier van der Weyden - Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (whole and details)

The limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable; it is the highest degree of prayer. The souls that have reached this point are truly the heart of the Church.

- Edith Stein