Catholicism and Infallibility

In perusing the Internet, I came across the following image, which illustrates the Catholic explanation of how infallible Christian doctrine exists in the world today:

As you could probably guess, I disagree with the argument made by this image in a number of ways.

  1. Infallibility. The illustration fails to show how the current “magisterial authority” of Catholicism maintains its infallibility. It seems like circular reasoning to me. Specifically, merely holding the office of Pope cannot make one infallible unless there is something special about that office other than its claim of infallibility. Simply putting on a funny hat does not make a man infallible in doctrine: he is infallible in doctrine if God has selected him to be His representative in this world and continues to direct him through revelation. Catholic doctrine holds that the Pope is infallible – but that the time of revelation has ceased. However, those two points of doctrine are fundamentally contradictory. How can one communicate the will of God except by being privy to the will of God through revelation? One cannot do what the Apostles did except by holding the same authority and wielding the same power as the Apostles. If you don’t have the keys and a driver’s license, you’re not the driver, as much as you may like sitting in the driver’s seat.
  2. Tradition. The Catholic Church must cite tradition as the source for at least some of its doctrines because so many of its doctrines simply do not exist in scripture. However, tradition is nothing. Just as culture is always in flux, so is tradition – or regular cultural practice – always in flux. While scripture is innately prescriptive in nature, tradition is descriptive. Scripture states what should be done, while tradition is what people actually do. When one reads the epistles of the New Testament, it becomes clear that, even while the Apostles were alive, Christian tradition was continually trying to diverge from true Christian doctrine. Thus, the idea that tradition could be taken as the standard of doctrine is an irrational one. Again, we have a situation of circular reasoning: “Catholic doctrines are valid because they are based on Catholic traditions. Catholic traditions are valid because they are the source of Catholic doctrine.” Catholicism cannot prove in any way that its non-Biblical traditions originate from Christ or the Apostles. If the Pope were to say that he had received revelation from God stating that to be the case, that would at least be something, whether we believed his claim or not. However, again, he makes no such claim.
  3. Scripture. Scripture is a much more reliable source of doctrine than tradition, but even scripture has its flaws. While scripture may be perfect when it is written, when people transcribe and translate it without the aid of revelation, it often becomes imperfect. And even if a passage of scripture does perfectly address an issue specific to the Christians of Antioch in A.D. 100, there may not be an existing scripture that can perfectly address an issue specific to the Christians of Houston in 2011. For this reason, we need prophets in our time as much as anyone ever needed prophets previously. Just as it takes a prophet to write scripture through revelation, it also takes a prophet to interpret and apply scripture through revelation – and to receive new scripture as needed. Without such revelation, we only have leaders who say that we should follow them by citing such irrelevant things as tradition and “divinity” degrees that they have received from secular institutions.

The bottom line is that infallibility cannot exist without revelation. No man is ever infallible unless he is under the direct and active guidance of God. Thus, by denying the existence of modern prophecy and revelation, Catholicism contradicts its claims of infallibility. If a religion is not led by revelation – continuing revelation – it is not led by God, and is thus subject to the intrinsically flawed guidance of human beings.

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About Those Stupid White People…

I would begin my response to this tumblr post about the “stupid white people” of the Occupy Wall Street movement with the words “stupid black person,” but that would make me racist, and everyone knows that a white man’s opinion is especially unimportant when he is a racist. So let’s just move beyond that to my other thoughts.

  1. Use apostrophes. People who don’t use apostrophes are kind of like racists: their opinions don’t matter.
  2. It’s interesting that you list Asians among the downtrodden people in this capitalist, consumerist, reality-television-watching society of ours, since they actually make MORE MONEY THAN WHITE PEOPLE DO (on average). Of course, it’s not fair to compare, because unlike the downtrodden minorities of Los Angeles and Chicago, many of these folks were born into first-rate economic circumstances in places such as China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.
  3. I’m sorry you couldn’t afford to go to college or didn’t think to amass the huge student loan debts that the stupid white people you are complaining about have. Get a job at Whataburger, do your job well, and in ten years or so, you will be able to be a manager and make $50,000+. Yes, I know it’s a hard road to walk, and I know lots of privileged white people have it a lot easier. So if you’re not willing, I’m sure many millions of black people in Africa – and white people in Eastern Europe – would be happy to trade with you. Median annual income worldwide: $1,700. Welcome to the 1%.

Cain and McBain: Sometimes, It’s Frightening How Close to Reality Satire Comes

Cain and McBain

I was going to be all creative and make this very picture, but then I saw that someone else had already done it.

So crazy! Their names even rhyme!

Yes, I know that this is a bit of an unfair out-of-context quote. I also acknowledge the fact that virtually no one in Washington reads anything. This became most evident when President Obama and Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to vote on a bill before a speedreader could have even gotten through it. However, Herman Cain still should have known better than to actually say it so plainly.

If it comes down to Obama vs. Cain, we will be choosing between someone who thinks the Laffer Curve is something you see on a ticklish fat guy and someone who thinks that there are about a billion terrorists in the world. Heaven help us.

Oh, wait. I mean…um… Herman Cain is black! Blacker than Obama! So if you don’t vote for him – or if you criticize him in any way – you are a racist! Even MORE racist than the Obama critics!

Cain/Bachmann 2012

What Is “Good” Art?

Having read a number of essays and articles written by artists, critics, and the like, I am a little put off by the very idea that anyone would make sweeping statements about what makes art “good” based on what is, in the end, their own personal preference rather than any real universal rule. I am also generally annoyed at positive statements like “That’s not music” or “That’s not real food” when the speaker actually means that the music or food at hand simply does not fit their private tastes. The world holds many different types of beauty, and I think that an appreciation for variety is something that a truly intelligent and ethical person must have, even if you do not appreciate all types of beauty to the same extent.

That said, though, I am certainly not of the school that believes that beauty is a completely relative thing. I do believe that certain absolutes exist, and that some universal rules do apply when it comes to judging whether something is truly beautiful or not. To that end, having considered this matter for some time, I have come up with a few standards that I do think apply to all art. In considering these standards, though, please realize that I understand that having a low score in one area does not completely disqualify a particular piece from being counted as art or as “good” art. That said, here we go:

  1. Eminence. Good art must be elevated above the rest of reality in some way. This is because, rather than being a mere sample of reality, art should be a characterizing example of it, or a condensed representation of a particular aspect of reality. If an artist sees beauty in the trash of the world, it is not enough for him to pick up a piece of trash and say, “See!” He must represent that trash in such a way that others can see the beauty as well. An artist should be more than a mere collector of trinkets: some level of synthesis should occur in which he creates something new.
  2. Difficulty. While anyone can be an artist, all artists should understand that they should not expect others to regard their work with any respect when they did not respect the work enough to put in any real effort. Great creations arise out of toil. An artist who simply throws elements together in a way that anyone can with minimal effort does not deserve to be termed an artist, however strange or shocking his combinations may be.
  3. Communicability. I have never understood those who have the attitude of: “My creation is so profound and personal that no one can understand it but myself. If you don’t like it, that is only because you are not as wonderful as I am.” If you want to create simply for the sake of creating and you have no intention of sharing your creations with others, that is fine. However, if you are the only person who will ever truly “get” your work, you should not demand that others respect and like it, and you certainly should not expect to publish it in any way.
  4. Versatility. In some cases, one might say that a particular piece of art is good because it is so simple that virtually anyone can understand and enjoy it. In other cases, one might say that a particular piece of art is good because it reflects a deep understanding of a particular subject that can only be appreciated by a certain group. I think that a truly commendable piece of art can do both. A good example of such versatility would be The Matrix. (We won’t mention the sequels.) That movie is both entertaining and philosophical: you could watch it and then talk for hours about its ethical arguments, or you could just watch it.
  5. Integrity. When I say that a piece of art must have integrity, what I mean is that it must deliver on its claims. That is, it must be exactly what it claims to be and do exactly what it intends to do. For instance, a comedy can be a great comedy regardless of how ridiculous its scenarios and events are, while a piece of historical fiction is not allowed to be overtly ridiculous. Art can convey both humor and gravity. However, if something intends to be serious but ends up being funny – or vice versa – it is not good art.

So how is my list? Would you add anything? Give me your thoughts.

Corporate Income Tax Does Not Exist

The following is a repost from my Facebook account that went mostly unread.

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In response to continuing complaints about how corporations are not taxed enough – punctuated by a certain news item about GE in the recent past – I feel prompted to say that, despite common opinions, corporate taxes do not even exist. I will explain. Here’s how our current income tax system works:

  • LLCs, sole proprietorships, and the like do not pay income tax on the company level.
  • Corporations have “double-taxed” income, meaning that the corporation itself pays a certain percent of its income in tax, and then shareholders pay personal income tax on what they receive from the company after that.

When we force corporations to pay higher taxes on the company level, what happens? Do we lessen the amount of money that the “fat cats” take home?

No. Absolutely not.

Instead, they raise their prices and pass the burden of that corporate tax on to, yes, you.

A similar thing can be seen in payroll taxes. Politicians pass tax code changes that result in Social Security taking a lower percentage out of your wages and a higher requirement for payroll taxes from your employer. They do this to show you that they are fighting for the “little man” and sticking it to those bad employers. And yet, the truth of the matter is that employers are willing to pay what they are willing to pay for your work: whether the money goes to you or to the government is irrelevant to them. Thus, the higher tax on their end just gets passed on to you because now you aren’t getting a raise.

Corporate taxes do not exist. Everything ends up being a tax on consumption in the end – or a tax on consumers. It’s just that our current system gives us this convoluted structure for the sake of appeasing the “little man” and tricking him into thinking that the government is looking out for him – a structure that wastes untold amounts of tax dollars in useless bureaucracy and administration.

When Mitt Romney said that corporations have rights because they “are people too,” it created a firestorm among liberals, who were incensed at such a ridiculous idea. And yet, liberals want to levy income tax on corporations because they “are people too.” No double standards, please.

Even if liberals do not believe or pay attention to anything else I have written, here is something they should pay attention to: When you levy a corporate income tax, you effectively tax the dividends of all shareholders of that company at the same rate, whether those shareholders are billionaires or average joes with just a few shares. Since liberals almost always advocate a graduated tax on income, this fact alone should be reason enough to abolish the corporate income tax.