Thursday, April 10, 2014
The Real Walking Dead
The number one show on television is the drama The Walking Dead. The program is about the "zombie apocalypse." For reasons unknown to the viewer, a disease has broken out infecting the world's inhabitants. Once someone dies, the disease controls the brain, and moves the body in a quest to feed on flesh, living or dead. The show centers on the actions of one group of survivors trying to make their way in the post-apocalyptic world--and make sense as to what has happened. They are lead by former small town sheriff Rick Grimes. Unlike most shows, main characters are routinely killed off, so you never know what to expect. The plot and dialogue, as well as character development, are superior to most of what's out there. I'm a fan myself; it's the only show I watch.
I bring this up because of an incident that happened this week. Another lawyer I know went on a tirade against belief in God and anything supernatural. His vitriol was such that our exchange started to get heated, and another had to intervene for us to calmly walk away. Luckily, I don't need to work with Ken, but he is your typical "victim of Vatican II." For a trained lawyer, his research was poor and his argumentation was either weak (at best) and fallacious (at worst). The Vatican II sect no longer trains the minds of their followers in the things of God. "Draw a picture of what God's love means to you" is the typical Vatican II sect's religious assignment given at one of their schools (now devoid of vocations who teach) and their so-called "CCD" classes. The greatest intellects defending the existence of God today are Protestants (e.g. Dr. William Lane Craig) or even Eastern Orthodox (e.g. Prof. Richard Swinburne).
Those who believe in the existence of the soul were singled out for ridicule by Ken for not wanting to face the fact that after death we just become "worm food." Until recently, the Novus Bogus service which replaced the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, had eliminated all references to the soul. "The Lord be with you" was met with "And also with you" in place of "your spirit. Likewise, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive Thee, but only say the word and my soul will be healed" became "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you (sic) but only say the word and I shall be healed." These are but two examples of how Modernists downplay the supernatural. Their "saints" are not more than secular role models, miracles are downgraded or derided as superstitious along with statues, scapulars, holy water, and indulgences. As a matter of fact, Purgatory along with Hell have almost disappeared as "negative theology." Everyone goes to Heaven (just ask Antipope Francis).
It's become popular in some circles to deny the soul. God will simply sustain your existence somehow in happiness. A few bad characters, like Hitler, will simply be annihilated. Eternal punishment is replaced by a sort of eternal punishing. Many Protestant denominations, breeding grounds for Modernist ideas a long time before Vatican II, have adopted this heretical notion of no soul and no Hell. How many people are aware of the serious practical consequences resulting from a denial of the soul?
In philosophy of mind, there are two basic positions on how the brain relates to the mind. Physicalism says that the mind and brain are one and the same. You are your brain. Substance dualism teaches that the mind is distinct from the brain. The brain is the instrumental cause through which the mind (soul) operates, and it survives death. In the first season of The Walking Dead, the final episode has a scientist explaining to Rick's group a video of the inside workings of a live human brain. There are complex webs of what appear as wires and lights flashing around. He then declares that the electrical activity is the real you. When those lights go out, you cease to exist. There is no soul. You are your brain.
If physicalism is true, there are some practical consequences, apart from doctrinal ones, that my acquaintance Ken never bothered to consider.
1. Personal Identity. If I were to take a wooden table and replace it, bit by bit, with metal parts, is the final metal table which results the same as the wooden table with which I began my project? The answer would clearly be "no." Humans have all of their cells completely replaced approximately every seven years. Do I maintain a literal, absolute identity throughout the changes? Are my baby pictures of me, or of some "ancestor" of mine? For the substance dualist, the soul is what remains constant throughout our physical changes. For the physicalist, a person is no more than an ancestral chain of successive "selves" which are connected to each other in some way. At each moment a new "self" exists since the body is always losing and gaining cells, and each self resembles the one before it, held together by the passing on of memories. In the 1960s show Star Trek, the transporter would break down the molecules of the persons to "beam down" to a planet. Since there is no soul, the characters were no more than the collection of their cells and memories. Take Mr. Spock apart and put him back together again. If a person suffers from amnesia, they are not really the same person but someone different. Further, why should "I" fear the future? It won't really be me when it arrives. Moral responsibility goes out the window. Why should "I" be held responsible for what another organism did in the past before handing on his memories?
2. Free Will. Simply put, no soul= no free will. If I am matter then my actions are not the result of free choice. They are determined by the laws of chemistry and physics plus boundary conditions. Despite common sense notions of the ability to choose, it is simply an illusion. You had no choice. What does this do to our legal system constructed on the very basis of the notion of free acts? How can anyone praise St. Francis of Assisi or condemn Adolph Hitler? Neither had a choice in what they did.
3. Abortion and Euthanasia. These are a couple of those "small minded rules" Bergoglio says we should not obsess over. Under the idea of no soul it makes sense. We are made in the image and likeness of God. In His image by virtue of an immaterial soul. In His likeness by sanctifying grace. We cannot kill a person who has a soul which makes him special, nor even a body that COULD have a soul (as there were debates as to when the soul is within the unborn baby). With the notion of a soul gone "quality of life" supersedes "sanctity of life." This also ties in with the aforementioned view of some Protestants that there is no soul and the wicked are annihilated. God annihilates the person because his quality of life in a place like Hell would be horrible. However, God would not annihilate something in His image, so the free will of that person makes eternal quarantine (Hell) and its attendant pains the only (and logical) alternative.
I believe my acquaintance Ken was raised a Vatican II sect member. Not only is he typical of the loss of the True Faith, his lack of knowledge about the things of God results in dire consequences he never even considers. I pray for him and pity him. Like a zombie, the loss of Faith has millions going about with no theological knowledge in their minds and no grace in their souls. They may never (God forbid) come to the life-giving grace of Christ. Bodies with souls devoid of sanctifying grace. The fruit of Vatican II. They are the real "Walking Dead."