Of Atheists and Inebriation. Fr. Z rants with the help of the Catholic League. A great book recommendation.

My visit yesterday to the Catholic League’s Nativity Scene on 5th Ave and 59th (by Central Park) reminded me of their advice for attending parties at this time of year.  In case you didn’t see their excellent suggestions, here they are:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue offers seasonal advice:

There is no shortage of advice on how to throw an office Christmas party. For example, Helene Wasserman, a Los Angeles labor-law attorney, warns it is important to call the Christmas party a “holiday party.” Human Relations specialist Suzan Sturholm is even more sensitive: she suggests naming it an “end-of-the-year celebration” (good idea—that way no one will know what they are celebrating). Attorney Duane Morris advises, “Assign certain managers to keep their eyes and ears open for individuals who appear intoxicated at the party.”

We demur. Here’s what the Catholic League counsels:

  • Have an open bar
  • Start with Champagne laced with Chambord
  • Assign managers to keep their eyes and ears open for individuals who don’t drink
  • Assign bouncers to keep an eye on the managers
  • Sing “Joy to the World”
  • Put a nativity scene in one corner for Christians; a Christmas tree in another for recovering Christians; a menorah in the third corner for Jews; and leave one corner empty. The latter is for atheists.
  • Proselytize
  • Invite everyone to join the Catholic League’s “Adopt An Atheist” campaign

Regarding our timely campaign, I couldn’t help noticing that a writer at Salon.com, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, found our initiative to be puzzling. “It’s uncertain whether it’s an attempt at satire or a real call to arms. Donohue is not known for his sense of humor about these things.”

Don’t you just love these guys? Can’t make it up! Let’s keep him guessing again about our Christmas Party rules. Maybe he’ll see that as a “real call to arms” as well.

Speaking of atheists and inebriation, I must share a quote.

The successes of the movement to recognize “same-sex marriage” have been nothing if not sudden. Just over a decade ago the very idea would have been laughed off as crackpot or extremist; now it is those who oppose it who are frequently labeled crackpots and extremists. But equally sudden has been the rise of ostentatious unbelief as the de riguer position of the smart set. Mainstream progressives and non-conformists of earlier generations would have found it necessary to profess belief in at last a “social gospel” and to hide their doubts about the metaphysical claims of religion behind a haze of pseudo-theological psychobabble. Yet atheist chic is now, out of the blue as it were, the stuff of best sellers, celebrity endorsements, and suburban reading groups. It is as if the urbane cocktail hour secularist liberalism of the twentieth century has, by way of the slow but sure inebriation produced by an unbroken series of social and judicial triumphs, now become in the twenty-first century fall-down-sloppy drunk and lost all inhibition, by turns blaspheming, whoring, and otherwise offending against all sane and decent sensibilities as the mood strikes it.

This was penned by Edward Feser and is found in The Last Superstition: a reputation of the new atheism.

Stop what you are doing and order this book.

I am reading a borrowed copy and… holy cow.  It is now on my wishlist.

Here is the opening paragraph from the “Acknowledgements”. First he quotes Plato’s Phaedrus about confusing the ass and horse. Then:

At the time of this writing, exactly one week has passed since the Supreme Court of the State of California decreed that homosexuals have a “basic civil right” to marry someone of the same sex. Whether these Golden State solons will follow up their remarkable findings with a ruling to the effect that an ass is the same as a horse, it is too early to say; but they have already gone well beyond the sophistical orator of Plato’s dialogue in “confounding good with evil,” not to mention reason with insanity.


Have a college student in the family?  Get this book.

The whole book is like this.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Feser’s book on Thomas Aquinas is also excellent – It’s now my first recommendation for introductions to Aquinas’s thought. Also, he runs an excellent blog at


  2. Supertradmum says:

    This type of popular atheism reared its ugly head between the two great wars, WWl and WWll, resulting in what is now called in history, sociology, psychology and literature as the “Lost Generation”. Indeed, that is what we have again, a lost generation of cynicism and despair rivaling that of the 1920s. By the way, this scenario is exactly the same as in the times leading up to the Fall of Rome-an increase in atheism, cynicism and pleasure seeking mixed with a false feeling of political security. Those who are more disciplined and inspired by some sort of creed are howling at the gates, but no one is listening. I shall try and get the book. And, as I have tried to point out to generations of students, those who lead us now are insane, as they are not only out of touch with reality and natural law, but completely ego-centric delusionists, who cannot see anything but how to become successful and powerful in their own spheres. Narcissism runs the countries of the West as well as the East. Narcissism limits the freedoms of others while grandly expanding the limits of the Narcissist’s sphere. Narcissism can look like religiosity and seem to be charitable, when in reality the person seeks only the aggrandizement of himself, and this is what we see in the leaders in Washington and at the state levels. The Narcissist is frequently a practicing Atheist, even when going to church, as his emotions, his desires are more important than anyone else’s.

    Having left teaching a year ago now, I must say that I saw the Cult of Narcissism increasing among my college and university students. Partly, the reason was that so many came from contracepting parents and were therefore only children or one of two. These young people only saw others are objects and saw themselves as the complete center of their universe. Most were Atheists as well. Both the Narcissist and the Atheist believe only in themselves. University and college academic faculties are rife with these sorts of people, as is Washington, Paris, Rome, etc. Scary, as these people are the hardest to convert as they are so convinced of their superiority. That the Atheists are frequently far-leftists, a la Gramsci and Chomsky, is also part of this self-deception or false idealism which leads them to want to “better the lives” of others for them, usually ending up in tyranny as in China, the old Soviet Bloc, and elsewhere. The Atheist is an Authoritarian, is he not, as he believes in nothing but himself.

    Sadly, many of the Atheists are in charge of the media of all sorts and the money, as well as the governments. But, this makes sense, as power is what the Narcissistic Atheist wants most of all. These people, I may add, are also in denial and frequently blame others for everything which is wrong in the media, the banks, the government.

    Thankfully, we Catholics have the answer to all this type of cultism and abnormal behavior: “And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3, and is this not one of the points of the Child in the Feed Stall, Jesus Christ, the answer to the cynicism and Post-Modernism we see in Atheistic circles?

  3. Maltese says:

    Even Dawkins believes in Intelligent Design:


    But get this: he thinks it was through aliens, rather than God! As an ex-atheist myself, though, I will say this, atheism and God both require belief, with this difference: I believe in an eternal, unchanging God, the atheist believes in eternal, but changing matter, in other words, in chaos. How does chaos create order and life, no less bind into stationary stars and revolving planets?

  4. Christina says:

    I did read Feser’s book and enjoyed it thoroughly. My only problem was that I didn’t understand who exactly his audience was, it was so heavy handed. It’s not a great style for sensitive would-be converts. However, the catholic college student currently immersed in a culture that says “Christianity and Theism is delusional” is a perfect recipient. I seriously wish I had read it at the start of my college career and thus prevented a few doubt sessions of my own!

  5. teomatteo says:

    Greg, I too enjoyed Professor Feser’s book on St. Thomas/intro to Aquinas. I bought that one because of Fr. Z. Awhile back a discussion here turned to ‘consubstantial’. Getting to that understanding lead me to Feser (chapter 2). A good one that. (I just wish i was smarter to understand all of it.. I’ll have to re-read).

  6. Christina, I think you make a good point in asking who Feser’s intended audience is. I think that the answer is that he is addressing those who would wish to start the re-building of the Catholic intellectual tradition, or those who could be persuaded that it is a good idea to do so.

    At the heart of what he is arguing is that faith in the existence of God is a rational belief and that, contrary to the position of the “new atheists”, atheism is irrational. His unsubtle demolition of the strawman positions apparently held by these authors also has the byproduct of undermining the sentimental and fideistic approach to faith that appears to be at the heart of much of “organised religion” today.

    Perhaps he is playing his part in carrying out the programme of the encyclical fides et ratio.

  7. Mariana says:

    “…suggests naming it an “end-of-the-year celebration””

    No, no, no, some individuals’ new year might well be next february, or something! One can’t offend them!

  8. Jack Hughes says:

    I think that Professor Feser is one of the sanest minds of this generation and his books (as well as his blog) constitute essential reading for young Catholics

  9. Supertradmum says:

    To those wondering about who Feser’s audience should be or is, I say all of the laity.

    There has always been a Catholic intellectual tradition of some sort, although one has to find it. Sadly, the traditional Catholic universities and colleges dropped such antiquated ideas, including the great ND, where I was told to my face I could not be a scholar and a Catholic at the same time.

    However, if one has been willing to take the time and sacrifice in order to attend the fantastic newer Catholic colleges, especially those which teach in the Socratic Method, one would find a healthy Catholic intellectual tradition.

    It has never disappeared, but sadly, few young people take the time to read the Greats, beginning with the Greek philosophers, moving through the Fathers of the Church, into Scholasticism, etc. up to the present day. This, in my mind, is the duty of every Catholic who is an intellectual. There is no excuse, as the Internet allows one to read the Classic Catholic authors, plus the Encyclicals with great ease, whereas in my generation, one has to scour the libraries and second-hand bookstores for such. If there is any doubt at to the vibrancy, I would highly suggest a visit to Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA or Thomas More College in Merrimack, NH, or Wyoming Catholic.

    In my youth, my parents read such books as the type above. It is only in the last 40 years or so that adults have switched to horrible Protestant experience based books, charismatic books, or New Age drivel instead of the Greats. Even in the 1950s, and my parents did not finish their degrees because of WWII, for example, we had intellectual books on the shelves-Chesterton, Belloc, Ward, Maritain, Gilson, etc. as that is what serious Catholics did-read up on their Faith. Fulton J. Sheen, who won an Emmy, appealed not only to the emotions, but to the intellect and was very popular. My parents watched him every week. My parents were in study groups, studying the Encyclicals and the Documents of Vatican II on loose leaf paper, as the famous book by Austin Flannery was not yet published, and their pastor had connections in Rome and we getting the documents “hot off the press”. My dad was an engineer and my mom a housewife.

    If there is no tradition, or a waning one, it is the fault of the youth, who are not inclined to think and are intellectually lazy. Thank God we have the Pope of Reason, as well as Faith. Feser should be read by all the laity and discussed at home. Why not? If you have teens, turn off the television, chose some good books like Feser’s, read and discuss them at home. That is what people did before the tyranny of television and the complacency of computer games.

  10. Darren says:

    Supertradmum said: ” those who lead us now are insane, as they are not only out of touch with reality and natural law, but completely ego-centric delusionists, who cannot see anything but how to become successful and powerful in their own spheres.”

    I don’t think I could have put it any better.

    Speaking of one leader of the west, my brother got a little can of mints for Christmas, with Obama’s picture on it, and it was called “Disappoint-Mints”.

    At my company’s “Holiday” party, when the plant manager greeted me with Happy Holiday’s, I returned with a Merry Christmas and he had a mildly surprised look on his face. So typical, but as they advertised the party, there was a picture of a Menora, whatever the Kwanza picture is, and Santa Claus. Does anyone out there even know that Christmas is about CHRIST? It has nothing to do with Santa Claus… a horribly skewed image of St. Nicholas who is supposed to be honored on December 6? Ah, how Santa hijacked Christmas from what Christmas really is… sadly funny though, the most popular images of the secular Christmas are advertisements from Coca Cola and Montgomery Ward.


  11. Supertradmum says:

    I would like to share with Catholic parents here that we did not do Santa at all. St. Nicholas came on the 6th of December with good things, and the Little Christ Child brought the presents on Christmas morning. Why don’t Catholic parents just go back to the older European customs and skip the secular ones all together? Let the atheists have Santa, and we can revel in St. Nicholas, The Child Christ, and even the Three Kings, who bring some presents to some nationalities on Jan. 6th. Catholicism first means we keep our Catholic culture. And, believe it or not, some atheists respect us for being true to our roots, as I have discovered happily. There is respect even from some atheists for those of us who are not afraid to practice our Faith in every way with old customs and Truth. Americans have been too influenced by Protestantism, which threw out the holy days and the saints.

  12. Darren says:

    It is absolutely true that America has been influenced too too much by Protestantism. Our founding fathers were largely protestant, and the Christianity that our country was founded on is largely protestant (even other horrible things like free masonry, etc etc). Catholicism didn’t really start to grow until the immigration of the Irish, and then the Italians and Poles. Yet, they faced much persecution for a long time. Just read about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s experience in New York City when she converted to Catholicism. It was rough. She went to Maryland (MARYland) because, at the time, it was thee most “Catholic State”.

    But even today, so much “interfaith” nonsense. To me, it is like saying, “Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc… one’s as good as the next”. It makes me sad, and angry, to see an “interfaith prayer event” held in my parish church. Do they remove the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle during this? I don’t know, I have never gone. I would ask if that would be the right or wrong thing to do, but then, the interfaith prayer event in the church is the wrong thing to do.

    In America the Holy Days of Obligation have been gradualy attacked. Firstly, Epiphany, St. Joseph, Corpus Christi & Sts. Peter & Paul have been moved to the following Sunday. Ascension has been moved to the following Sunday in most of the US (except for much of the Northeast/MidAtlantic and Nebraska). When Mary Mother of God (the latest name for January 1, I believe), Assumption and All Saints fall on a Saturday or a Monday, the obligation is lifted and the main celebration is Sunday. So far, only Immacualte Conception and Nativity of the Lord are always Holy days no matter what day of the week. Immaculate Conception is probably kept safe because Our Lady, under that title, is the Patroness of the USA.

    The Feast of the Sacred Heart, while not a day of obligation, is practically unknown in America; nevermind First Fridays… hard to find a parish with an evening mass on First Fridays. My parish used to have a 7 PM on First Fridays, until a few years ago when it was removed. Why? Beats me… we always had a good 50 or so people there. I guess it was to save money on HVAC and electric bills for the church.

    Pardon my little rant… but these things just grate on my nerves.

  13. cornelius74 says:

    Thank you Father for pointing this one, looks rather interesting. I must agree with those of my forecommentators, that such a book should be at hand at any Catholic household. In my country, the Czech Republic, the last census showed this year, that the number of Catholics halved to just over one million (among the population of 10.5 million), and I am quite certain that many of those “dissapearing” Catholics did not really understand what they were dissapearing from. Well, 22 years after the commies went we are still searching it seems.

  14. I hate to point this out, but in many parts of Europe, St. Nicholas basically ruled the whole pre-Christmas season, going visiting from St. Nicholas’ Day on (in association with many many saints). Then when it was Christmas time, the Christ Child, the Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph became more important figures (though again, in association with many saints). Then the next week, after the Circumcision, the Three Kings and all their attendants and guides (like the bands of singing Star Boys who go around marking people’s doors) became important… but again, in association with many saints.

    St. Nicholas has always been a saint of gifts to the poor and the protection of children and young women, without even mentioning his other patronages. I’m sorry that we don’t usually talk about the importance of asking St. Nicholas to protect kids from psycho cannibalistic serial killers or girls from being forced into prostitution and slavery, and of course Thomas Nast was scarcely going to bring it up; but that’s why olden days Europe was crazy for having St. Nicholas riding skither and yon all through Advent and Christmastide.

    Seeing as we have a lot of psycho serial killers and white slavers these days, I’m not going to diss Sint Klaas now.

  15. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Supertradmum, I, too, work in so-called “higher” education and you are spot-on with regards to faculty and students. Don’t forget administrators, too. They are often among the worst narcissists. It’s a top-down mentality.

  16. wmeyer says:

    “If there is no tradition, or a waning one, it is the fault of the youth, who are not inclined to think and are intellectually lazy.”

    Had youth been properly educated, I could only agree. However, their education–at least in the U.S.– has been so terribly deficient that they cannot properly be blamed either for a disinclination to think, or for intellectual laziness. What passes for education here is more commonly known as indoctrination. Youth are the product of a system which wants from them blind obedience and complacency.

    Example: When I was taught to make change, I learned to unfold the corners of bills, always present them face up and oriented all in the same way. And never would I have been permitted to place bills, change, and receipt all at once into the hand of the customer, whose other hand was occupied with his wallet. This is not rocket science, and requires only minimal teaching or training, yet is something I find so rarely that I compliment heavily anyone who displays this minimal skill.

    The Catechism teaches us of the meaning of invincible ignorance. Sad to say, I think that is what most of our youth today possess.

    And as to motivation, when awards are given to all, and self-esteem is considered a fundamental right, not something which results from productive activity, well, what can you expect?

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    As someone who has spent a great deal of time either earning my own pricey degrees, and then did time employed in public schools, I must insist there is no more atheistic or secular institution than the public institution that currently pretends to what we quaintly call “learning”. Nothing that hints at or smells like Christianity can possibly make it through the administrative barricades! And all the little public school teachers have been pushovers as far as giving up their own religions. Not a word to their own administrators in protestation of the infringement on their right to freedom of speech, as they are instructed NOT to say “Merry Christmas” to students or each other. Don’t believe it? Ask teachers in Connecticut schools, and I would assume, elsewhere. Freedom to practice their own religion? I don’t think public school teachers much care they are not allowed. I see no evidence of it myself, although, I am not everywhere. Since I am a woman, I feel wonderfully free to criticize my own kind, women are often weak and apparently unable or uninterested in creating a potential stink about something as trivial as religious faith, or freedom of speech. I don’t blame them, if they aren’t tenured, because if they complain before that time, they never will be tenured. That privilege will mysteriously elude them, but if they are, I wish they and their male brethren would speak out a little more. How teachers can watch, for instance, their school’s musical programs at Christmastime and observe how stripped the current programs are of Christian songs is a mystery to me. Can you not care, at least a little bit? Do you really not notice the imbalance of two Chanukha songs (I can never spell that correctly!), Kwanzaa songs, odes to Native Americans (if ONLY someone had once written even a crummy song about Native Americans), and only “Oh Tannebaum” as the representative Christian song? But it’s not of course, and neither is “Rudolph” etc.

    Please, everyone, next year, around October, I beg of you, contact your local public schools, the ones for which you pay taxes, and ask to meet with your school’s principal and music teacher. Take a copy of the ADF’s information on just how legal it is to mention Christmas in public schools, sing Christmas songs, say “Merry Chistmas”, and in other ways teach children about Christmas! People today believe it is illegal, but it is most certainly not. Did you know a public school teacher could legally use the Bible to instruct on Christianity? True! As long as their is some “balance” and they are not trying to promote one religion, but using it for educational purposes, it is true.
    Next year I plan to do just this. I plan to ask questions and make copies of the information that demonstrates Christianity is in fact, legal to discuss in public schools. Children ought to be instructed from home that they should say a loud “Merry Christmas” to their teachers and school staff, and if they are told they “cannot” say “Merry Christmas” (happens in Connecticut in some schools) they should tell their teachers Christmas is their holiday and they are allowed to celebrate it. Then they should inform their parents, and their parents should make the requisite complaints to the Superintendent.

    Atheists and secularists are pushing hard to eliminate Christmas. “Merry Christmas” almost feels illegal, and if this doesn’t get pushed back, our children will feel a sense of shame about their own faith and religion. The other day in my second grader’s classroom, as the children had just heard another Chanukha book, they were all asked by a parent what traditions they had in their families. Whatever children shared was met by responses of encouragement and praise, but not my kid’s “We went to lessons and carols and learned about Baby Jesus”. That was met with not a comment, and teacher was struck as mute as Zechariah. I thought for a minute I’d gone deaf.

    Activism for our faith is easy. Extremely easy! All it takes is a phone call, an email, a flyer, a friendly but firm meeting with administrators or store managers, a request to be included, even in something as mundane as Christmas stamps at the local Post Office. Wherever you see Christianity left out, under-represented, speak out. Defend your faith! You won’t be sorry you did. We are the Church Militant. We know our faith is under attack, from many circles. Defend it now, while you can. You don’t have to get ugly about it. In fact it’s better if you can smile and be confident. Get informed, and get out there.

  18. Gail F says:

    It’s a fantastic book but VERY snarky, because it’s written in the style of the popular atheist “I am so smart and nasty” books it refutes. Strangely, a lot of people don’t seem to get that. So be forewarned — if you don’t think you would enjoy seeing the atheist’s methods used on them, and with zest, it probably isn’t the book for you.

  19. SK Bill says:

    I’m reading Feser’s book on the Kindle, and it is an excellent read. Oddly, I don’t find it snarky. Maybe that makes me … a snarky old man. But atheists I know are treating me with a little more respect these days. I don’t think they like tasting their own medicine.

  20. Emilio III says:

    Bill, do you have a link for the Kindle version of Feser’s book? I was not able to find it.

  21. deepoctave says:

    Re: Take a copy of the ADF’s information on just how legal it is to mention Christmas in public schools, sing Christmas songs, say “Merry Chistmas”, and in other ways teach children about Christmas!

    Would you please provide a link to the article, booklet, etc.., that you wish to recommend?

  22. PostCatholic says:

    I really don’t know how to respond to what is essentially name-calling. I know I’m not a whoring inebriate. I don’t feel terribly ostentatious, although I do have some new sneakers on. As for blasphemy, in general I try treat places and things which others consider sacred with respect, but I have been known to allow the potential of a piece of halibut to be good enough for Jehovah. As for ideas? No. If it’s blasphemy to say your God doesn’t exist, I’m a blasphemer–but I wouldn’t ever interrupt your prayers and devotions to tell you that.

    I guess it’s news to me that atheism is chic, though. I’m the new black? I know that in recent years some prominent writers have sold a lot of books on atheism (Dawkins, Harris, etc. I’ve never read them) and this has been also good for sale of popular apologetics (also mostly unreadable). It did seem that there was a short-lived trend to pump this controversy into the mass-media aisle; perhaps that can be considered “sudden” although I think it more “manufactured.” I thought the result has settled to a stalemate, or that Christianity was winning. My local Barnes and Noble still has a whole section on “Christian Inspiration” but no special shelves for us chic trendsetters. (Sadly, there is a huge section called “Teen Paranormal Romance Fiction” and that, let me tell you, I think truly is the the new black.)

    I do take issue with the idea that the rise of open atheism or the first steps toward marriage equality have been “sudden.” For those of us who’ve labored in that cause of civil rights, nothing about the movement for same-sex marriage seems sudden, and in the United States our successes feel incremental and tenuous.

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