Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine's Day

Happy Saint Valentine's day.

While it would be easy to be cynical about the commercialism or possible legendary origins of the holiday, I want to focus on what good may come out of celebrating a day such as this. Though most of the stories revolving around Saint Valentine cannot be verified beyond a doubt, some stories ring true.  One story goes that Claudius II outlawed marriage in order to fill the ranks of his army for his unpopular military campaigns.  Just from viewing the coins from his reign, one can see that security was a top priority for the emperor. It is told that Valentine, or Valentinus, defied the order and married young couples anyway. Another story that rings true is that the emperor actually liked Valentinus, but ordered the priest executed after he tried to convert him. Still, one story that seems more legendary, but that I would not dismiss out of hand is how Valentinus performed the miracle of healing the daughter of one of his jailers.  There is a lovely children's book which tells a story around this act, titled, Saint Valentine.

So, how can we best celebrate the life of this saint?  I think we can celebrate this day by truly showing our love for one another. There is the idea of romantic love which is wonderful and exciting, but even this is but a shadow if it is not built upon acts of sacrifice and giving of oneself. In fact, if one were to go back to the roots of romantic love, and not just the shadow we see perpetuated in our culture today, it is built on placing the other above the self, or as Aristotle said of love, it is "to will the good to another for the other's sake". Is this not the very thing that makes a good marriage, or any good relationship? Of the characteristics I have found in common with good, strong marriages, that each spouse thinks the other is the self-giving partner in the relationship, seems to me the very best.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Songless Sect

Patrick Mitchell, an Irish blogger, attended a lecture given by Daniel Dennett, well know anti-theist. He was struck by how the lecture was couched in religious terms, even to the point of introducing atheistic hymns.  It would appear that all humans are creatures of faith and worship, or as Bob Dylan sang, you're gonna have to serve somebody. Here's what Mitchell writes about that portion of the lecture. 
He even played a couple of secular gospel hymns, complete with lyrics like “Bowing to reason we stand together” and “We’ve turned the page, don’t be afraid of the world we’re creating, come on in …” [He said he played these in the States and the crowd was up singing and partying - not a person even twitched in Dublin. An atheist questioner afterwards pleaded with him to drop the 'brutal' music and try comedy as a route to joy].
I guess Dennett hasn't heard yet that atheists don't have no songs.