19 December 2010

New Heavens and New Earth

It is, I suppose, merely a sign of increasing age that I have become (a little :-)) less idealistic.  A sometime-reader of this blog will remember the enthusiasm with which, twenty-five or so years ago, I told him of my plans to build "the world's best short-wave receiver."  I have thought of my own tendency towards perfectionism - which has very often worked against any actual tendency in me toward perfection - as my inclination to building yet another "world's best receiver."

I'm not really cured of the disease of perfectionism.  Every time I start something, I have to fight the tendency to be sidetracked into WBR syndrome.  "If I am going to finish my Yapese dictionary, I really need to get all the words in the Yapese Bible in.  Oh, but then I'll have index them to the context they are a part of.  But in that case..."  I must keep in mind Chesterton's (What's Wrong With the World): "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

We must work.  We must do what we can.  Yet all our efforts are imperfect - and at the end, all that we do will fade - like the grass of the field that withers.  All is vanity.

And yet ... it is not so.  The same Bible tells us (I Cor 15:58) "...your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

It is a mystery to me what "new heavens and new earth" can be - yet somehow I think that what we do - especially what we do with love here in the old earth under the old heavens - may be re-presented to us one day, perfected and shown in real beauty.  Will it be rather like being a pupil of a great master artist?  We will listen to him, make our attempts at drawing something beautiful - our frustration always there are our inability to do perfectly what we want, yet knowing that we are trying - and then - perhaps? - he will take it, change a line here, a colour there - and let us see what we were aiming at all along?

Today at Mass - the Fourth Sunday in Advent - I felt, somehow, that the Lord was with me - that even now, in the old earth and under the old heavens, He is encouraging me to try, to do my best, knowing that it can never be good enough - but knowing that the end of all my starts and uncertain attempts will be to be renewed - to be made, after all, what I had always wanted them to be.

May it be so.

12 December 2010


A friend of mine has asked me a question - or rather expressed a difficulty he has and wonders if I have any thoughts on the matter:

I am trying to come up with a suitable response to (or way to approach) the "new atheists" (Hitchins, Dawkins, etc), who strike me as bigots, i.e. persons motivated by hatred of belief and believers, who do not take religious belief seriously.
A bigot (in the Wikipedia article's words) is "A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs."

I am, of course, not competent to answer this question :-)  I have not read the books by these authors attacking religion, and am not going to do so.  I have what seem to me sufficient reasons to put my faith in Jesus Christ and in the Catholic Church.  I do not see that anything anyone could say against these reasons could change that.

So does that make me a bigot?  I do not think so.  In the first place, it is not as though I have not considered, and considered at some length, the various arguments against faith.  These arguments appear to me not to offer anything to believe in, but only to suggest that the reasons persons have for believing in the Christian faith might have difficulties.

Fair enough - these reasons do unquestionably have difficulties.  Every question of importance in life, from whether to trust a particular person's integrity in business or love to the question of religious obedience has difficulties.  There is not - and, I think, cannot be - an argument in favour of, say, believing that my wife loves me that is totally unassailable.  She might, after all, be an imposter - in it for some benefit (which, to be sure, I cannot currently imagine: wealth, physical attractiveness, and social prestige would seem, at least, not to be in question :-)).

So I do not think I need to read yet one more attack on Christianity to feel that I have sufficiently considered the objections to my faith.  I absolutely believe in God.  I have what Newman calls assent.

But if I were inclined to try to respond to Hitchens or Dawkins - rather like that mouse responding to the lion, I would suppose - but still - if I were to try to respond, I hope I would take them seriously as persons convinced of a point of view.  From the discussions of their books that I have read on-line - and from the bloggings of persons who quite certainly share their point of view - I would say that, yes, they are bigots.  These reviews and bloggings do not, indeed, seem to me to take religious belief seriously.

Well, so what?  Why should they?  They consider God to be a delusion.  Do I take seriously the views of some maniac locked up in an asylum who assures me that he is Napoleon?  No, I do not.

But of course I do not write books to show him that he is deluded.

But here, I think, we can see at least one aspect of the attack of the "new atheists" on religion.  For the religious point of view is not held by a single unfortunate schizophreniac.  It is held, and held with vigour, by billions of persons.  Great good is done in the name of religion - but great evil is done in its name, as well.  Religion is no mean opponent.  Both of these men sincerely believe, I think, in the fundamentally malignant character of religion.  Both think it worthwhile to try to point out this fact.

The, to me undoubtable, bigotry of their approach is therefore the more regrettable.  If, after all, there is something to their argument, it seems to me they would win more hearers on the other side - that is, on the side of religion - but taking seriously the point of view of religious believers.  The best of religious believers have been the best, also, of humankind.  I do not see how a clear-sighted view of history can deny that.  There must be something in it that makes us accept what Hitchens and Dawkins think a delusion.

I do not have the impression that they really want to know what that is.

But then I have not read their books, and do not expect to.  So they have the last laugh - for now, at least.

06 December 2010


Well, see, I was going to post something here every week.  Then I missed the week-end of 20-21 November - not, I suspect, for any real reason but just because I did a bit of this and a bit of that - and then the week-end was over.

Once you do something once, it gets a lot easier to do it again.  The following week-end was pretty intense orchestra rehearsal.  And the week-end just past - 4-5 December - was the concerts.

I think a major reason I don't write is that I cannot really convince myself that anyone would be interested in what I have to say.  Occasionally I get a response, which appears to mean that my feeling is not entirely correct - but, still...

No, I am not urging anyone to start writing stuff back just for the sake of it!  I am just explaining how I feel.

In any case, I cannot write anything much at the moment.  It is Monday evening the 6th of December (Happy Feast of St Nicholas!).  I have been on leave all the week before the concerts, and today; tomorrow I am back to work.

We had a wonderful Saturday evening concert.  Sunday afternoon was very good except that one idiot totally failed to play the fairly obvious solo line at the end of one of the pieces everyone knows.

Yes, of course it was me.  The piece was Strauss's "Blue Danube Waltz"  I somehow missed the conductor's cue.  Nevertheless, the rest of it went well.

The business that led the doctor to talk about COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) has continued to be a problem.  The doctor says it is not COPD - and doesn't know what is going on.  I have been referred to Middlemore to the ENT specialists there.  It is troubling - my voice is getting permanently hoarse.  At night my lungs get congested.  I would be glad of prayer.

I will try to reform my habits, replacing bad with good.  Next week-end I will try to write something - on what, I don't know.