Category Archives: Faith

Neptunus Lex: Some Recommended Posts By Category

To the reader: 

Carroll LeFon – aka “Lex” –  wrote more than simple “blog posts”. Much of what he wrote I would call essays and short stories. I am heartened to see people around the world still reading these – and passing them around – years after he wrote them. Some are humorous and  some are instructive. Some, like Icarus, are simply beautiful short stories. 

Since he wrote so much over 9 years, I created both the indices “Best of” and “Rest of” to try and make this manageable for the new reader. Even then, there’s about 1,700 3,500 or so not in the large indices.

From these indices  I thought it would be nice to organize some of these – my favorites – by category and give the new reader a “Lex Primer”. 

Hence this page.

Bill Brandt


Stories & Essays of the Navy

 

 Leadership

 

Naval Aviation and Safety

 

Humor

 

Life

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Understanding

Posted by lex, on February 13, 2009

 

Buffalo resident Muzzammil Hassan opened up a web portal in 2004 called “Bridges TV“. The outlet was designed to “help portray Muslims in a more positive light.”

From a cursory scan, the site – which “aims to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations” – focuses a great deal of energy on such under- reported issues as the occupation of Gaza by the Evil Zionist Entity. In English!

Mr. Hassan’s wife had recently filed for divorce against the media magnate of cross-cultural understanding. So yesterday, Mr. Hassan appears to have decided that a way to foster greater understanding in the English-speaking world was to cut off her head:

Orchard Park police are investigating a particularly gruesome killing, the beheading of a woman, after her husband — an influential member of the local Muslim community — reported her death to police Thursday.

Police identified the victim as Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Detectives have charged her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder.

He needn’t have bothered. We already understood perfectly.

 

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Preach it, Linus

By lex, on December 25th, 2008

Amature philosophical/religious musings after the jump, for those who care for that sort of thing.

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Going Sinker 

By lex, on July 20th, 2010

Hate doing this to you again – I do so enjoy our little chats – but life has this habit of getting in the way of hobbies. I’ve got some serious stuff to work through on the home front, and it may be a little while.

Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

For the Anglicans in the crowd, BCP  Prayer #56 is solicited.

 

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Ordination

By lex, on May 27th, 2010

So, yez might recall that our own Major Padre Harvey was to have his ordination last night at the Gateway Community Church in Escondido. ‘Twas a bit of a shame that he couldn’t tarry until the 11th of June, for I could have stopped in on my way to Portland, it’s that far north. Or seemed it anyway.

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The Faith of James Cameron

By lex, on December 21st, 2009

There is a kind of religion in Hollywood, Roth Douthat opines and it’s on full display in James Cameron’s latest opus:

“Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world…

(Pantheism) has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas.” And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Hollywood keeps returning to these themes because millions of Americans respond favorably to them.

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In Hoc Anno Domini

By lex, on December 25th, 2007

The annual Christmas editorial of the Wall Street Journal was written by Vermont Royster in 1949. I have always found it an inspiring example of  writer’s art and human wisdom:

“When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression–for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.’”

 

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An Honest Question

 

By lex, on October 25th, 2010

NB: Religious/philosophical discussion follows. Those who don’t like that sort of thing, or aren’t capable of joining it in a civil fashion are encouraged to seek their entertainment elsewhere.

We had a spirited discussion in comments to a post last week that touched on issues of morality, whether they must be driven by religious faith or could be derived in a secular fashion. Some of those who are religious will say that, absent absolute Authority, they know no basis for a shared, common understanding of morality. When presented with the example of moral, secular people – and they are legion – some of the faithful will say that the secular understanding of right and wrong is culturally derived, and that the foundations of that culture in this nation are Judeo-Christian.

These kinds of arguments by assertion inevitably make the secular moralist bristle: We do not murder that we might not be murdered. We do not bear false witness that false witness might not borne against us. The marriage contract – even if not sanctified – ought not to be willfully trampled upon. So does it all comes down to reciprocity?

Speaking under correction as a non-secularist, I understand that the secular moralist makes his decisions about right and wrong in any number of ways. Perhaps it is mere reciprocity, or perhaps it is fundamentally a legal construct, the extended understanding of social decency as encoded in laws. But we know that there are things which are legal that may not be moral.

Perhaps it is the evolving nature of our social compact that precedes legislation, the shifting and sometimes emotional response of a community to both acute and chronic stimuli, the expressed will of a transient majority. But we know that excited majorities often take actions that their component persons later regret. Indeed, our Republican form of government was designed explicitly to prevent the tyranny of bare majorities.

Perhaps it is personal experience. But experience can be hard won, long to gain and all too often be interpreted through the lens of personal preference. Sometimes in ways that seem – to me at least – objectively amoral, if not immoral.

Take the case of young Kathleen Rose, from Detroit:

An American husband and wife have been branded the most heartless couple in the U.S. after taunting the family of a seven-year-old girl who is dying from an incurable disease.

Scott and Jennifer Petkov’s despicable behaviour has caused outrage across the country after they posted a photo of terminally ill schoolgirl Kathleen Edwards on Facebook above a set of crossed bones.

Little Kathleen is in the final stages of Huntington’s disease – the same wasting illness that her mother, Laura, died from last year at the age of 24.

In another incredibly cruel taunt, Mrs Petkov also put a picture of the girl’s dead mother in the arms of the Grim Reaper online.

After Laura Edwards died last year, the Petkovs also allegedly drove their truck – which bears the message ‘Death Machine’ and has a coffin attached to it – down the street and honked the horn.

The sick attacks are the culmination of a long-running and increasingly bitter feud between the Petkovs and a number of neighbours in Trenton, Michigan that have raged over the past couple of years.

Neighbours accused the couple of laughing and poking fun at Laura Edwards and her daughter because of their disease, a progressive neurological disorder that causes involuntary writhing movements.

Moral people religious and secular alike will no doubt recoil in horror at the example of Jennifer Petkov, who might just take the fiercely contested prize as the most awful neighbor ever. But my question is for the secularist: Upon what foundation does their condemnation rest?

It cannot be reciprocity, as the odds of the Petkovs’ family having a child with Huntington’s Disease is vanishingly small. It cannot be legal, since there are no laws that by themselves punish people for being awful. I have already suggested, and most will agree, that the emotional responses of shifting and excited majorities make a poor foundation for any collective morality. That leaves us with personal experience and preference, which is a troubled anchorage for any shared understanding of morality in a society.

If personal, rather than collective decisions as to what constitutes moral behavior are to trump, then how are we to elevate the Edwards’ preference not to have their feelings hurt above the Petkovs’ preference to hurt their feelings? Who are we to judge? Furthermore, given the absence of a flying spaghetti monster, if each of us is to be the ultimate arbiter of own moral behavior, how is that clearly distinguishable from sociopathy? If, alternatively, a society’s mores are defined collectively, what constitutes a quorum? Are super-majorities ever required? If the secularist’s argument is that religiously-based morality was all well and good for the last several millenia, but that “we’ll take it from here,” some of us would like to see the map.

At least two religious philosophers have enunciated their basis for morality: Hillel the Elder’s wrote, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” According to Matthew, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” I am not quite sure what Mohammad said, but at least the prior two gentlemen had an answer for Ms. Petkov.

I read this treatise on the secular basis for morality: It left me unconvinced, being more a counter-argument against religion than an affirmative statement. Another article says that atheism is unconcerned with morality, but rather with ethics; morals redound to personal character, while ethics are community based. But we have seen instances of communities that have decided that their own good can only be furthered by the destruction of other, weaker communities. Such a community-based application of human reason might even be rational under certain extremely stressful circumstances, but it could never be moral.

Sam Harris writes accurately in the of the “Council for Secular Humanism” (how do you get elected to that?) that religion has been the cause of great evil in the world’s  history. But he does so while failing to demonstrate or even troubling to assert that human history would read better for the lack of it. I wonder.

I’m looking for a discussion here, not a fight. I don’t want to challenge anyone’s belief system, and I hope that we can keep the discussion civil, without any aspersions cast or offense taken. It is possible to argue in light of human advancement over the last two hundred years that ancient belief systems are necessary but not sufficient to a shared understanding of what it means to be a moral person, no argument there.

But I really do want to know: Given my assumption that secularists find Jennifer Petkov’s actions morally repellent, upon what foundation do they pretend to judge her? They have their community, she has hers. Granted it was a mean and awful thing to do: So?

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Politics And Faith

By lex, on February 15th, 2004

Been turning things over in my head for a few months, but some of the things I’ve been reading, hearing and seeing lately have taken me to the conclusion that for certain secularized elements of the polity, zealous faith in their political beliefs has filled that spot inside their souls which used to, or ought to, or might have been occupied by the spiritual.

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George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that acknowledges continued Divine Providence that makes this Nation great.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'”

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks — for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. — Given under my hand at the City of New York, the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”

I wish all of our readers and their families a blessed Thanksgiving

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