Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maurice O'Sullivan on atheism, atheists

Maurice O'Sullivan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Why should believers welcome this emergence of unbelief? Why not? We should be glad that there are people, even the devil's disciples, who take religion seriously enough to attack it, especially in these days when God seems to appear only in quarrels over holiday displays, during political campaigns or on the self-help shelves of Barnes & Noble. Should the primary goal of religion really be to fund municipal crèches, allow politicians to end every speech with the tag "And God bless America," or inspire works like "Tea With God: A Divinely Inspired Self-Help Book" and "The Christian Entrepreneur: How to Profit From Your God-Given Idea"?

In attacking the cloistered monks and nuns of my Roman Catholic Church, the brilliant, if occasionally logorrheic, John Milton wrote in his defense of free speech, "Areopagitica," that "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed." And what will possibly make us exercise and breathe more fully than challenges by intelligent, thoughtful opponents?

Her hopeful optimism for atheism's effect on the general public's view of religion is questionable, though fundamentally positive.

Follow this link to the whole article.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Amy Sullivan writes in Time Magazine how the Freedom of Choice Act is not as looming of a threat as it has been presented by Catholic and right-wing groups.

She writes,
The U.S. Catholic Church's crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to "please oppose FOCA."

There is only one hitch. Congress isn't about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act — because no such bill has been introduced in the current Congress.
Follow this link to the whole article

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kavanaugh mentions morality, Kant

John Kavanaugh, professor of philosophy at Saint Louis University, writes in America the Magazine about apparent "moral exceptionalism". This exception is not, "You're exceptionally moral," but rather, "Your morals are full of exceptions." He recalls the categorical imperative of Kant by writing,
It is this principle of universalizability that seems lost in contemporary discourse. About the only place it is practiced, at least ideally, is in sport contests—perhaps because it is only sport that we really take seriously. But in matters of the nation, the church, the economy and the world, moral exceptionalism holds sway. We seem unable to extend the rules we live by to others.
He cites excommunications of bishops who support women's ordination alongside the reconciliation of schismatic members of the Society of Pius X. America's request for Iran to refrain from nuclear armnament alongside the United States' stockpile of nuclear weaponry. Further, he mentions Tom Daschle not paying his taxes and President Obama not holding his line on bringing lobbyists into his staff.

Monday, February 16, 2009

On Psalm 62

Only when my life, only when there is space within me for God to call out for me, do I find rest. Within me is no continuity. I change with the second, and my glancing vision leads me everywhere, though I am only here. My trust needs a point around which it can settle and find itself. My trust can only find stability in the ever growing and expanding point of God's presence. If I cannot find a place of trust within myself, if there is no room for God to dwell within me, then I am lost, doomed to bounce between thin foundations and poeple who would make me theirs.

I cannot just wait for God. I must clear Him a space. I must prepare Him a room. Within me is room enough. I can hope in His coming. When He comes He will not leave. He can make a dwelling in my presence and fill me with His love. My great hope is Him, who trades His life for mine. Through Him I am granted life. I wait, then, and my soul begins to clear and prepare for his arrival.

In His presence, the evils in my life are thing and lifeless; they seem dull and uninteresting. Without Him they control my person and destroy the love which I so desperately wish to give. God metes power and kindness, and His will invites me to share in both. With my Rock, my life roots deep in love. Without it, I am blown like dust without another life.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Finding the world in poetry

I had a hard time choosing only one of Billy Collins' poems to post. Collins served at the poet laureate for the United States from 2001 to 2003. His poetry introduces the reader to a more real experience of the life by moving through utterly fantastic situations and reflective thought.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Some photography.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel, Kent State University Ohio

Cerro Grande, El Salvador

Kent, Ohio

Akron, Ohio

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Akron Art Museum, Ohio

Aguacate Farm, Dominican Republic

Kendall Elizabeth Leigh, December 25 2008

Monday, February 2, 2009

Reflecting on a mission

This weekend I sat down to read a statement that is found in every building on campus and should hold some weight for the future and direction of the College. The Aquinas College mission statement, though profound and thoroughly pumped with otherwise nebulous value language, exhibits questionable combinations of mission words and vagacious phraseology.

Value language as exhibited in mission statements may be one of the only vocabularies that everyone can understand and, at the same time, interpret differently.

Aquinas College’s mission statement juxtaposes not-so-similar ideas such as “liberal arts education” and “Catholic Dominican tradition” with “career preparation.” I have never seen career- preparation/vocational training among the standards of liberal arts education, viz. learning how to think, how to critique, how to see things as a whole, etc. Stanley Fish, critic of this sort of utilitarian vocational training, notes the necessary inutility of higher education.

“Higher education, properly understood, is distinguished by the absence of a direct and designed relationship between its activities and measurable effects in the world.” By this he seems to imply that students of higher education should not find their reason for learning in anything beyond their continual edification, and though this view is challenged, it is the view of classical education that reigned for centuries and the understanding endorsed by Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Max Weber, and others.

Further, the noted scholar of higher education John Henry Newman wrote, “[The purpose of a liberal arts education is to] open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, [and] eloquent expression…” Nowhere does it hint at fostering job skills.

Though such an utterly deflationary understanding of education may be out of touch with the realities and needs of college students today, it may still raise questions as to where a university’s primary focus should land between activism, education and career preparation.

The mission statement continues to note how Aquinas College “fosters a commitment to lifelong learning dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the common good.” I cannot concretely see how this commitment is fostered, and although I like the sound of it, I think I am more concerned about the commitment to learning for the time when I am attending the College.

Another single word that has been inflated and twisted anyone’s wishes is “inclusive.” What does it mean to be an “inclusive educational community?” Does it mean that everyone is welcome to attend Aquinas College (ignoring the fact that welcome is equally vague)? Does it mean that I have to invite everyone to my study sessions? Does it suggest that I need to accept everyone’s ideas? Does it protect ideas from critique and evaluation?

If I could be so forward, I feel like the mission statement is missing something quite important, something each person should have at least considered when applying to any college. Where could the phrase “committed to offering the best education possible” fit? Though I understand that College administrations need to take numerous factors into account when making decisions, shouldn’t the quality of education be a prime consideration?

Unless I am dense to expect something so obvious, why aren’t we concerned about fostering these commitments?

Acknowledging that critiquing a text doesn’t exactly amount to a conclusive statment about Aquinas College’s state of affairs, I see how this really doesn’t matter. If high school seniors want a Catholic-liberal arts-vocational/career oriented college, then the administrative powers has the responsibility to balance fiscally running the College with providing the best education possible. If a college wishes to continue to exist it must offer a product that people want to buy.