Remarkable, but Forgotten Woman: Maude Petre

maude-petre  Click here

Maude Petre was from an aristocratic Catholic English family, who studied in Rome and became head of an order in England. But she was forced out because of her involvement with the Catholic Modernist reform movement. Her close friend and soulmate was the controversial Jesuit George Tyrrell. For an account of their attempts to modernise the church, and resulting “martyrdom”, see Paul’s brief essay on his website dpcrook.

Paul’s new book

I’m hoping to have my new book out soon this year with Boolarong Press. It is entitled Intellectuals and the Decline of Religion, and is a series of essays on British writers and thinkers, mainly in the period from the First World War to about the 1970s. They include people like G. K. Chesterton, J. B. Priestley, Arnold Toynbee, R. H. Tawney, Malcolm Muggeridge, Alec Vidler, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot and Joseph Needham.

Latest news – the manuscript has just been sent to Boolarong.

The Moral Decline of the West: T. S. Eliot’s “After Strange Gods”

T. S. Eliot was not only a famous poet, but he wrote widely on society, morality and culture. See Paul’s take on Eliot’s After Strange Gods  (1934) by clicking on his essay in his website (blog). Here Eliot discusses the moral decline of society, modernism, criticism, and writers such as Lawrence, Pound and Yeats.

Click here: ts-eliot

Good, Evil and the Spiritual: T. S. Eliot

“The number of people in possession of any criteria for discriminating between good and evil is very small; the number of the half-alive hungry for any form of spiritual experience, or what offers itself as spiritual experience, high or low, good or bad, is considerable. My own generation has not served them very well. Never has the printing-press been so busy, and never have such varieties of buncombe and false doctrine come from it”

[T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods, 1934,p.61].

Is this still true?

Dawkins’s Debunkers

In a recent article Andrew Seddons examines works that have “debunked” Richard Dawkins’s arguments in books such as The God Delusion. To give a few examples, Thomas Crean finds Dawkins’s ideas of the origin of religion to be “lame”; Dawkins misrepresents the Bible, ethics and Catholic doctrine; Jesus did not preach only for an “in-group”, nor does Dawkins understand original sin, the Atonement, or the relation between faith and reason [see Crean’s God Is No Delusion].

The Oxford professor of historical theology Alister McGrath contends that The God Delusion “is often little more than an aggregation of convenient factoids suitably overstated to achieve maximum impact and loosely arranged to suggest that they constitute an argument”. The Protestant writer Vox Day counters common atheist criticisms of Christian historical abuses, which of course occurred but have been put out of perspective: “Do you want to know how many people died in the Spanish Inquisition…? Fewer than the state of Texas executes every year. How many people died under atheist regimes (a topic that atheists try to sweep under the rug)? About 150 million. How many wars in history were religious wars (since the atheists claim that religion is a major cause of war)? About 7 percent of history’s approximately 1800 significant conflicts. And so on from Socrates to the European Union”.

Just google Seddons’s “Dawkins’ Debunkers” (in Catholic Answers Magazine).

Are “The New Atheists” theologically infantile?

The American Orthodox philosopher and theologian David Bentley Hart certainly thinks so: “It probably says more than it is comfortable to know about the relative vapidity of our culture that we have lost the capacity to produce profound unbelief. The best that we can now hope for are arguments pursued at only the most vulgar of intellectual levels, couched in an infantile and carpingly pompous tone, and lacking all but the meagerest traces of historical erudition or syllogistic rigor”. He attacks people such as Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens; and says of Richard Dawkins that he triumphantly adduces “philosophical” arguments “that a college freshman midway through his first logic course could dismantle in a trice”.

Sensationalism, of course sells better than sense: “One still has to wonder…at their thoughtless complacency: the doctrinaire materialism – which is, after all, a metaphysical theory of reality that is almost certainly logically impossible – and the equally doctrinaire secularism – which is, as even the least attentive among us might have noticed, a classical tradition so steeped in human blood that it can hardly be said to have proved its ethical superiority”[Atheist Delusions, pp.220-221].

See also his The Experience of God [20130.

Trans-oceanic Voyages to Ancient America [continued]

There is now voluminous data on pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contacts with America. Alice Kehoe cites such examples as the unusual sewn-plank canoes shared by the Polynesians and the Chumash and Kumivit of southern California; the sweet potato, which is native to South America and spread through the Pacific about a thousand years ago: “There is no way sweet potatoes spread through the Pacific except by being carried in boats, and sharing the same word for the plant [kumara] implies peaceful trading contact”.

She makes a compelling case for inter-societal contacts across vast major bodies of water: paper-making, royal purple dye, wheeled figurines; fighting cocks fitted with Asian-style spurs; distilling liquor through Asian-style pot stills; Mesoamericans “valuing jade highly and placing a jade bead painted red with cinnabar in the mouths of corpses; building tiered pyramids symbolising the seven or nine or thirteen heavens; formal body and hand positions (called mudra in India) seen in Mesoamerican art. and the ruler seated on his throne with one leg tucked under, the other hanging. Other customs, like calendar astrology…are widespread in Eurasia, including the Tree of Life with a great bird on top, a lion or jaguar on earth, and a serpent among its roots.. Peanuts and other American crops continue to turn up in Eurasian and Oceanic excavations, substantiating references in pre-Columbian Chinese and Indian texts on cultivated plants. Taken together, there is strong evidence for multiple transoceanic contacts and borrowings before 1492, and at the same time, absolute evidence that American civilizations developed independently of any attempts at colonization by Eurasian or African nations. What the evidence shows is that America’s indigenous nations were part of global connections for several thousands of years before Columbus kicked off the historic invasions”[Controversies in Archaeology, chapter 7].