Monday, May 31, 2010

The religion of Hard Rock Cafe

Don't get me wrong, I love Hard Rock Cafe. When visiting a new location of a particular size, my first mission is to locate the Hard Rock Cafe there. I have developed a collection of shirts from these establishments which double as markers to indicate the major cities to which I've traveled. I have shirts for Cologne, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. However, yesterday during my latest visit, something sort of struck me - the religion of Hard Rock.

There were many things I saw during my meal which seemed religious. First, you see the unmistakable logo for the restaurant, the same as at all locations. Underneath is what may be seen as the great commandment of the chain: "Love all. Serve all." It has a very religious slant to it. It's not "We love hard rock music" or "Come play guitar and drums", in fact it's not related to music at all. It's more of a religious or philosophical commandment: Love All. Serve All. It sounds like the words of a holy person, and similar to the teachings of Jesus.

Once you enter, you hear music playing. It's a particular type of music - hard rock. It's not simple background music. It's meant to be all encompassing. Everyone is unified through the music. Similar to the organ which plays in a church. All around, I notice something very peculiar. Instruments, posters, even clothing worn by music stars. Perhaps this is a stretch, but these items seem like relics. If you go to a Catholic Church, you can find small pieces of fabric, tools or instruments, and other things used or worn by saints. These items are called relics. In a very similar way, these personal items are displayed for all those in this establishment. People look with amazement at these objects, perhaps even with veneration!

Then it's someone's birthday, but rather than celebrating alone or even with the server, the entire population of the restaurant is encouraged to join in a chant, repeating happy birthday. Something like the responses given by the congregation of a church. While I'm eating, I notice a book beside me named "icons". Of course, icons in Christianity are paintings of saints.

Finally, Hard Rock is not satisfied with being a local phenomenon, but rather is seeking to place a store in all major cities around the world. It has an almost missionary zeal to spread to every corner of the globe. Yet, like cathedrals, there are never two in the same city, and they only appear in major cities. They do not become like McDonald's, but rather like pilgrimage sites. Then comes the t-shirts, like the reward for a pilgrimage well done.

Of course, many would say I am exaggerating and that most people just view Hard Rock as a restaurant. And for the most part, they are correct. I would say though that many people have no particular religion, but that does not mean they are not religious. In a world where organized religion is sometimes frowned upon, many seek other outlets for their worship and spiritual fulfillment. Hard Rock Cafe may not be a religion, but it is certainly not just a place to eat, either.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are people Catholic only because of their parents?

Some hold the belief that others are only Catholic because that is how they were raised. Some commentators like Richard Dawkins have called handing on your religion to your children a form of abuse. But is this really the case? Are people simply Catholic by default? Let's examine this claim and test its veracity.

I believe there are many weaknesses in the opinion expressed above. First of all, people are free to choose whether or not to believe in the Catholic faith. If being Catholic was automatic, everyone whose parents are Catholic would also be Catholic, however, this is very far from the truth. The majority of people I know who were raised Catholic no longer adhere to any faith, at least in any practical sense.

The people who did maintain their faith are typically very strong in it. Far from just going through the motions, they live their lives according to the tenets of their faith and obey it fully. Often, they are more religious than their parents. This is not the characteristic of a "default" religion.

On top of this, there are many examples of people invesigating the claims of the Catholic Church and then becoming Catholic or Christian in general. C.S. Lewis, for example, decided to investigate all religions and beliefs, including atheism, and eventually became Christian and wrote several books on it.

GK Chesterton spent much time with ouija boards and other occult practices before eventually becoming an orthodox Catholic.

Mortimer Adler, a philosopher who co-founded Great Books of the Western World went from agnostic to Catholic.

Francis Collins, who was the head of the Human Genome Project went from atheist to Catholic.

Arnold Lunn, who actually wrote a book critical of the Catholic Church and would spend time debating converts, eventually himself converted.

Bernard Nathanson, who originally called himself a Jewish atheist and founded NARAL Pro-Choice America eventually became a pro-life Catholic.

A.N. Wilson went from writing books against religion to becoming a Catholic.

The point I'm making here by showing these examples is that many people, including high profile individuals, come to the faith through their own investigation, often times while in the process of attacking religion or Christianity. Obviously it is not because it was imposed on them by their parents.

There is another flaw with the argument that people are only Catholic because their parents "make" them Catholic by teaching them the faith. The problem is that most things people learn as children are taught to them by their parents, and many of the things they learn they continue to believe well into adulthood. The mere fact that parents teach their children certain things does not diminish the truth of those teachings. Why should we assume that what parents teach is false? In fact, the opposite would seem more true.

For example, parents teach their children many things about science, like "we breathe oxygen", "gravity makes things fall to the ground", "the Earth goes around the Sun", "that's the moon", "plants need water to grow", "eat your vegetables, they are good for you". We do not accuse parents of "indoctrination" when they teach their kids these things.

It would seem rather odd for a parent to say to a child, "I do not want to force you to believie something, therefore I will leave it up to you to decide why things fall to the ground when you release them. In fact, we will not teach you any science, math, or history, because it's best if you decide those things on your own. It would be a form of child abuse to teach you anything we believe." That would be absurd.

Some people object by saying the two are different. One is proven scientific fact, the other is made up fairy tales. But that is a biased opinion. Those who believe in Christianity believe it is true, perhaps more true than certain scientific theories. People have looked into their beliefs and have come to trust in their veracity.

In fact, the argument that we know science is true is based on a false assumption. It assumes everyone has investigated things on their own and have come to the conclusion using the scientific method that the facts being presented are indeed true. But this rarely, if ever, happens. Most people know oranges contain vitamin C because someone told them it does. They did not analyze this themselves. In fact, they would have no idea how to go about it. Yet, religious beliefs are held to a much higher standard for some reason. Many people believe scientific findings because a famous scientist or association has confirmed that it is true. A similar system exists to confirm religious statements. If a statement is made by a religious group that is seen as trustworthy and exemplifies the belief, then it is logical to believe.

On top of this, there are many more ways of confirming validity. We have many proofs for our belief in God, Jesus, the Bible, and the teachings of the church. They are not merely random teachings that we "choose" to believe, but verifiable truths. Because of this, people can come to have faith outside of the teachings of their parents.

Another problem with this assertion is a historical one. If faith can only be passed from parent to child, then the only Christians should be the twelve apostles and their children. Yet we have no evidence that they even had children, and we can see historically that there were hundreds and thousands of converts in their time. In fact, in a very short time, there were millions of Christians. Again, this would not be possible simply through passing down over the generations. Entire nations were converted, not by the sword, but by the changing of hearts. We know this because there were millions of Christians even before Christianity became legal and was in fact persecuted severely.

Also, if religion can only be passed down from parent to child, where did it come from to start with? Who was the first parent to pass down the faith to a child? We know Christianity had a definite start. To bring this to the absurd, we could say that Joseph taught Jesus, etc. (there is no etc in this case), but who taught Joseph? His father? Can we keep going back like this? If so, how does Christianity have a definite beginning? We cannot keep going back to infinity.

Because of the development, growth, and present situation of Christianity, we can know for certain that people of faith are not simply robots that believe only because their parents do. We know many, honest, truth-seeking people have come to believe in the Catholic Church by responding to faith and reason.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Deviancy amplification spiral and the sex abuse scandal

I just came across an article on wikipedia about a thing called "Deviancy amplification spiral". It seems to apply to the currect media coverage of the clergy sex abuse scandal. The only difference is that sex abuse from priests is now virtually eliminated, thanks to the efforts of the Pope and others.

Here is the text of the wikipedia article on deviancy amplification spiral:

According to the theory, the spiral starts with some "deviant" act. Usually the deviance is criminal but it can also involve lawful acts considered morally repugnant by most of society. The mass media report what they consider to be newsworthy, but the new focus on the issue uncovers hidden or borderline examples which themselves would not have been newsworthy except inasmuch as they confirm the "pattern".

Reported cases of such "deviance" are often presented as just "the ones we know about" or "the tip of the iceberg," an assertion that is nearly impossible to disprove immediately. For a variety of reasons, what is not frightening and would help the public keep a rational perspective (such as statistics showing that the behavior or event is actually less common or harmful than generally believed) tends to be ignored.

As a result, minor problems begin to look serious and rare events begin to seem common. Members of the public are motivated to keep informed on these events. The resulting publicity has potential to increase deviant behavior by glamorizing it or making it seem common or acceptable. In the next stage, public concern about crime typically forces the police and the law enforcement system to focus more resources on dealing with the specific deviancy than it warrants.

Judges and magistrates are under public pressure to deal out harsher sentences. Politicians pass new laws to increase their popularity by giving the impression that they are dealing with the perceived threat. All this tends to convince the public that any fear was justified while the media continue to profit by reporting police and other law enforcement activity, which further perpetuates the spiral.

The theory does not contend that moral panics always include the deviancy amplification spiral. In modern times, however, media involvement is usual in any moral panic, making the spiral fairly common.

Eileen Barker asserts that the controversy surrounding certain new religious movements can turn violent in a deviancy amplification spiral. [1] In his autobiography, Lincoln Steffens details how news reporting can be used to create the impression of a crime wave in the chapter "I Make a Crime Wave."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

One more reason why in vitro fertilization is wrong.

As almost seems inevitable, a Michigan couple's child whose conceived in a petri dish was accidentally implanted in the wrong woman. Then this stranger had to carry the baby to term. Not her baby, but the other woman's.

Shannon Morell, whose baby was implanted in the wrong person, felt like she missed out on a lot by not carrying her baby. Of course she did. This is totally against nature.

It's great that this baby is alive and healthy, but these mixups are the result of human tampering with God's intentions about conception and birth.

Imagine how this child will feel when she is old enough to be told she did not start out in her mother's womb. That she started out in the womb of a total stranger. Genetically the woman she lives with is her mother, but in some sense, the surrogate is also her mother. It can cause nothing but confusion. Almost as though she has two mothers.

Children are not possessions that we have a "right" to. They are gifts from God and we must live out his plan for marriage, conception, and birth.

For more on this story, please visit:

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pope visits Turin

The Holy Father is in Turin today to meet with the faithful. This visit coincides with the display of the Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus which displays his likeness. Over the next couple of weeks, 2 million visitors are expected to pass through to view the shroud, including Pope Benedict.

Right now, he is doing a speech on making permanent decisions, those of the priesthood, religious life, and married life. He says God is eternal and we must focus on eternal things, rather than the fleeting feelings of joy which come and go. We must stay with God who is everlasting.