The Pope Is Wrong about Capitalism: Free Markets Are Best for the Less Fortunate

This post makes a good case for why capitalism helps the poor, a seemingly contradicting idea… Im now beginning to doubt my belief that socialism is the best for poor people.

International Liberty

Forget the debate over whether Obama is a socialist.

Now we’re discussing whether Jesus is for big government. Or, to be more accurate, the Pope has started a debate about whether free markets are bad, particularly for the poor.

Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute wrote about the underlying theological issues in an article for National Review, but I hope I also contributed to the secular aspect of the debate in this BBC interview.

The first thing I said was the rather obvious point that there’s a lot more to life than accumulating wealth.

My most important point was that capitalism is the only successful model for creating broadly shared prosperity and I used examples from the Pope’s home region of Latin America to show that nations with more economic liberty are far more successful.

But I emphasized that supporters of freedom have a challenge because many…

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Can We Really Control Sexual Preference?

Homosexuality is a serious issue for Christians, especially since America and other nations around the world have become more accepting of gays and lesbians. They worry of this because they believe that homosexuality is a sin (by the way, I’m a Christian, too, and I actually advocate for sexual equality, so I am referring to Christians in general). But what defines a sin? God wants us to get rid of sin, so if he is asking us to do this, then it must be reasonable to assume that sin is something that we can control and get rid of. For instance, sexual lust is a sin, because it is something that we know not only is bad, but also can control. But what about gayness? Say it is morally bad. But can you control it?

Nobody knows the answer for sure, but recent experiments have been pointing to the fact that maybe it can’t be controlled. In China and Korea, scientists have identified a gene-related chemical called serotonin that are commonly found in many animals. It is thought to be related to the mood of happiness. But things have been indicating otherwise.

In the lab, scientists took a group of lab mice. When females were put with males, the females mated with the males. When females were put with only females, the females still preferred to mate with the males and thus, didn’t mate at all. Overall, this was how a normal female mouse was supposed to react.

Then, scientists genetically engineered the female mice’s gene by taking the serotonin gene out, and put the mice once again in the same conditions. When the female mice were grouped with only the female mice, they started and attempted to sexually mount other females- mice of the same gender. Even when put with males, too, the female mice simply ignored the males and tried to mount the females.

Two male fruit flies

We see this not only with mice, but also fruit flies. In this case, it is not serotonin that seemingly controls sexual preference, but a master sex gene known as fru. A normal male fly will act like this when beginning to mate: It pursues a waiting virgin female. It gently taps the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her – all part of standard fruit fly seduction. Yet, scientists were surprised when they saw a female fly doing this to another female fly- after giving the female suitor a male-type fru. Similarly, when males were given a female-type fru, they became more passive in their sexual behavior.

Overall, we see that genes is the cause of sexual preference for two animals- fruit flies and mice. But could we not extend this possibility to humans? Perhaps there is a gene, not identified yet, that is linked to human sexual preference? In other words, the only reason why gays and lesbians are homosexual is maybe because they were born with it- they lacked the gene necessary for heterosexuality.

If this is the case, then this is big controversy, scientifically and morally. You can’t now blame a gay for being gay, because it wasn’t his choice. And if homosexuality is just an inherited gene thing, then it must not be a sin, for in order for it to be a sin, they have to be able to control it. But they cannot. It’s just like a boy not being able to control the fact he is a boy or a human not being able to control the fact he’s human. They were born with it.

Again, this is only if humans do have a gene for sexual preference. If we do,  then I think it is time for the church to embrace them- heterosexual people should not superimpose their own values on homosexual people. We should embrace this difference, just like we embrace differences in race, gender, and ethnicity. Pretty much, if sexual preference is determined by genes, then homosexuality is not a sin.

A Thought On Morality

Here is an intriguing article from

You’ve probably heard this sentence before: “if there is no God, everything’s permitted.” One of the brothers Karamazov says it in the famous Dostoyevski novel (which, religious apologetics or not, is one of the best books I’ve ever read).

But what does this sentence even mean? The most straightforward interpretation is we can do whatever we want. But this is true, with or without God. According to Christians, we have free will: we can do evil and we do, all the time. Evil is permitted. So how does there being a God change anything? Without a God, everything is permitted. With a God, we are in exactly the same situation.

The obvious answer is punishment. The existence of a God adds punishment to the equation, so that you will do no evil, in fear of being condemned to eternal damnation. To me, this is not morality at all: it is just a reward system, similar to training a dog. God tells you what to do and defines that to be “right” or “good.” If you don’t do what he says, you get punished. If you do, you get a reward.

How is this any different from a society with laws?

In a society with laws, if you do evil deeds (things that go against the law) you are punished: you pay a fine or go to jail. If you live in America or China, you may even be put to death. Now, one could say: “without laws, everything is permitted.” The morality argument for God is exactly equivalent to the morality argument for Law.


To most people, the idea of a morality based on a reward system is repulsive. We shouldn’t do good because we’ll get in trouble if we don’t: we should do good because it’s the right thing to do. But what is the right thing to do? There are many possible answers. Some people will say: “look inside your heart and do whatever feels right.” It’s a line of argumentation that does wonders with sadists and psychopaths. Some will tell you what’s moral is what some philosophy says is moral. At the end, however, “right” and “wrong” have to be based on something. If they weren’t they would be completely random. Therefore, “right” and “wrong” are, to some extent, necessarily utilitarian, even in the case of religion. Dostoyevski’s point is moot: everything is permitted, no matter what. Whatever we decide to do or not to do, we do because of some reason. Those reasons have usually nothing to do with good and evil, though they are sometimes disguised as such.

To me, morality is something we need in order to keep people without empathy under control. I don’t need a morality and neither do most of the people on this Earth. I can feel other people’s pain, which is why I try not to hurt them. I don’t do it because it’s right: I do it because of how it makes me feel. As long as we have the ability to put ourselves in somebody else’s position, we don’t need a set of rules to tell us what to do. We can decide at each moment. Morality is a useful lie: we tell some people there’s something “right” and “wrong” because we can’t make them understand that other people besides them are also capable of suffering. So we put these ideas in their heads in the hopes that they will reign in the monster and stay their hand. When they don’t, we resort to state-administered violence in the form of prison or death.

However, my beautiful theory about empathy does not explain what I did this morning.

Sometimes I go to school by subway. The subway stop is a 30-minute walk away from the school: fortunately, the school provides a shuttle service. Today I left home too early and I got to the bus stop way ahead of time, so I decided to take a taxi instead. This way, I’d have 20 extra minutes to get all my stuff ready.

As I got out of the metro a taxi driver approached me. Now, I know the trip to my school costs 10 RMB, but I asked him anyway: “how much to the school?” To my dismay, he didn’t say “10 RMB.” He said 15. And that pissed me off. So I said: “forget it.” And I left. The man started to chase me and said “OK, 10!” But it was too late. I didn’t get on the taxi, even though it would have saved me 20 minutes of waiting for a bus in the cold.

Why, if it was exactly what I was willing to pay? Well, because it wasn’t right. I didn’t want the guy to think he could get away with trying to cheat people: I wanted him to know that, sometimes, being dishonest has consequences. If I had gotten on his taxi, I’d have been endorsing his behavior. And I couldn’t do that.

Doing this didn’t make me feel any better and probably won’t change this person’s behavior in the future. It was futile, absurd. But I just couldn’t get on the taxi. I couldn’t.

It wouldn’t have been right.

The First Humble Pope

Pope Francis I

Something that has been really buzzing in current news is the election of Pope Francis I. Many people (especially those from Argentina) will probably remember him as the first pope in a millennium that has come outside from Europe. Others might remember Francis as the man who came out of nowhere to suddenly be elected pope. But for me, even though I am not a Catholic, I will remember this man as the first humble pope I ever saw.

Before becoming pope, he was known as Cardinal Bergoglio. Before becoming pope, he was also a very humble man. He always transported himself by bus. Instead of living in a luxurious mansion designated for the cardinal, the cardinal decided to reside himself in a shanty house. He always kept a low profile. In fact, one former friend of Bergoglio once recounted that he thought he was “just a doorman.” Only later in the day did he realize he was the head cardinal.

So obviously we all now know that Francis was once a very humble cardinal. However, one might expect him upon becoming pope to suddenly assume the privileges of pope and live a luxurious life. At least that’s what I thought. But it turns out that even after being elected pope, Francis still demanded to live a low life. One example can be seen in his shoes. For instance, there were a group of Catholics who saw Francis’s worn shoes and were embarrassed by it. They all decided to pitch in to buy the new pope new better shoes. However, Francis refused to wear them and still wore his old, torn shoes.

This is obviously a sign of his humbleness. But another thing I want to add: why was that group of Catholics embarrassed? Should they not be proud that the pope decided to wear low-class shoes?

Many previous popes have rode in the papal limousine, a fancy high-security van. What did Francis drive in? A common van. That’s all. In many other ways did Pope Francis also refuse the luxurious regular lifestyle of a pope. Perhaps the only thing that he did accept was the five-star motel room he was living in.

Again, many Catholics were a little bit upset about this. I don’t know why; I mean, isn’t this a good thing? I guess they aren’t used to seeing such a humble pope. They think that the pope should be wearing fancy and wonderful, like many other previous popes did. They think that this grandeur should reflect the grandeur of Catholicism.

Another Example of Jesus’s Humility

To those who do think that way, I disagree. What makes the church grand is not the physical, outside beauty, but rather the inner, spiritual beauty. Beauty such as Francis’s humbleness. And if you think about it, let’s look at Jesus. When he was born, did he travel in a royal sedan chair, carried by servants? Did  Jesus have a crown made of jewels upon his head? Did Jesus have a necklace of the cross around his neck? No, of course not! In fact, the opposite happened to him. Jesus was born son to a humble carpenter and a humble mother. He was not handsome (contrary to many films who depict him as such). He was laughed at by many people, for they thought he was crazy to call himself the son of God. Very few people respected him, and in the end, these very same people crucified him. Sucky life, you have to say, and this life is far off from a pope’s life. Yet, in the end, Jesus sat on the right hand of God. Why? Not because of his outward appearance, but rather of his inner beauty- his devotion and his willingness to spend time and sacrifice for Father Jehovah.

So the fact that Francis is acting humble is thrilling to me. For once we have a pope who will at least act what a pope should act- humble like Jesus and refusing all (or at least most) luxuries. Perhaps one day there will be another pope who will take it even further- by being poor. Then I would say this world is saved. But for now, I hope Francis’s humbleness will serve as a role model to the rest of the Catholic Church. No more splendor guys, at least in the physical sense, but rather spiritual splendor.

The Pope Resigns

Recently trending in the news is the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Since I’m not a Catholic, I don’t really get into this kind of stuff that much. In fact, I only heard of it till today. Anyway, I though this CNN opinion article below was pretty good at summarizing the accomplishments of Benedict’s “rule.”

CNN-Why Pope Will Be Remembered For Generations

Journalists have a habit of calling too many things “historic” — but on this occasion, the word is appropriate. The Roman Catholic Church is run like an elected monarchy, and popes are supposed to rule until death; no pope has stepped down since 1415.

Therefore, it almost feels like a concession to the modern world to read that Benedict XVI is retiring on grounds of ill health, as if he were a CEO rather than God’s man on Earth. That’s highly ironic considering that Benedict will be remembered as perhaps the most “conservative” pope since the 1950s — a leader who tried to assert theological principle over fashionable compromise.

The word “conservative” is actually misleading, and the monk who received me into the Catholic Church in 2006 — roughly a year after Benedict began his pontificate — would be appalled to read me using it. In Catholicism, there is no right or left but only orthodoxy and error. As such, Benedict would understand the more controversial stances that he took as pope not as “turning back the clock” but as asserting a living tradition that had become undervalued within the church. His success in this regard will be felt for generations to come.

He not only permitted but quietly encouraged traditionalists to say the old rite, reviving the use of Latin or receiving the communion wafer on the tongue. He issued a new translation of the Roman Missal that tried to make its language more precise. And, in the words of one priest, he encouraged the idea that “we ought to take care and time in preparing for the liturgy, and ensure we celebrate it with as much dignity as possible.” His emphasis was upon reverence and reflection, which has been a healthy antidote to the 1960s style of Catholicism that encouraged feverish participation bordering on theatrics.

Nothing the pope proposed was new, but it could be called radical, trying to recapture some of the certainty and beauty that pervaded Catholicism before the reforming Vatican II. Inevitably, this upset some. Progressives felt that he was promoting a form of religion that belonged to a different century, that his firm belief in traditional moral theology threatened to distance the church from the people it was supposed to serve.

If that’s true, it wasn’t the pope’s intent. Contrary to the general impression that he’s favored a smaller, purer church, Benedict has actually done his best to expand its reach. The most visible sign was his engagement on Twitter. But he also reached out to the Eastern Orthodox Churches and spoke up for Christians persecuted in the Middle East.

Benedict XVI

The divisions and controversies that occurred under Benedict’s leadership had little to do with him personally and a lot more to do with the Catholic Church’s difficult relationship with the modern world. As a Catholic convert, I’ve signed up to its positions on sexual ethics, but I appreciate that many millions have not. A balance has to be struck between the rights of believers and nonbelievers, between respect for tradition and the freedom to reject it.

As the world has struggled to strike that balance (consider the role that same-sex marriage and abortion played in the 2012 election) so the church has found itself forced to be a combatant in the great, ugly culture war. Benedict would rather it played the role of reconciler and healer of wounds, but at this moment in history that’s not possible. Unfortunately, its alternative role as moral arbiter has been undermined by the pedophile scandal. Nothing has dogged this pontificate so much as the tragedy of child abuse, and it will continue to blot its reputation for decades to come.

For all these problems, my sense is that Benedict will be remembered as a thinker rather than a fighter. I have been so fortunate to become a Catholic at a moment of liturgical revival under a pope who can write a book as majestic and wise as his biography of Jesus. I’ve been lucky to know a pope with a sense of humor and a willingness to talk and engage.

If he wasn’t what the modern world wanted– if he wasn’t prepared to bend every principle or rule to appease all the people all the time — then that’s the world’s problem rather than his. Although he has attained one very modern distinction indeed. On Monday, he trended ahead of Justin Bieber on Twitter for at least an hour.

California’s Church Scandal

I’m not Catholic, but I do know that the Catholic Church is looked upon as sacred and reverent to Catholics. Yet it is in this holy church that many scandals have occurred, and one big scandal just recently happened in Southern California- the Mahony scandal. The once-revered Cardinal Mahony is now facing opposition upon being realized that he tried to keep the abusive priests safe from the law. Not only that, what has enraged people is the fact that Mahony did not even consider to help the abused victims. Along with Mahony also fell Bishop Thomas Curry.

Read the article here (click link): LA Times- A Sudden Fall for Cardinal Mahony’s Former Right-hand Man

The LA Times article was a little bit of a revelation to me. Before, when I was a little younger, I used to think that the clergy who started these scandals were stupid and retarded in the fact that they tried to protect those abusive priests from the law. I thought they were stupidly trying to just protect the church’s reputation, when they should have known that to God, the reputation was already damaged. However, this article changed my opinion. I was now beginning to see that there is perhaps a moral reason why Mahony and other clergies involved did what they did. This is not just a Californian problem but a worldwide one.

Bishop Curry

Let’s see how all of this can have a moral reason. One quote from the article: In a 1990 letter, Curry wrote that he viewed a boy molested by Garcia as ‘the victim of a person who, as a result of his own illness, committed grave wrongs.‘ Basically, Curry was saying that the true victim was not the actual victim himself, but rather the abuser. Society does not tend to look at a deep level; we see what is literally and physically happening, thus we support the abused. However, if we take it into a religious level as with Curry, the greater sinner was the abuser. And in God’s eyes, sinners are the true victims of Satan, the ones who need help. Thus maybe the reason why Mahony and Curry and others both did not tend to the victims but rather to the abusers. In this case, I will have to partially agree with Curry. However, that does not mean he can neglect the victims.

There is also perhaps another moral reason. Check this quote out:

Of one priest, George Neville Rucker, accused in 1989 by a 31-year-old woman of decades-old abuse, he wrote: “It was of great concern to him that for something that was so casual to him at the time could be so devastating to her … he stays awake at night because of this. The trouble it caused him and his transfer was such a trauma for him that he has never been involved in anything since that time.”

What did I get from this quote? The reason why Curry and other clergy have kept abusive priests safe from the law is because they morally believe that it is the church that is a sinner’s haven. Again, let’s look from a religious point of view. God is like a father, who will always welcome back his son, no matter how sinful his son has been. In a sense, the house of God aka the church will always be open to even the vilest of sinners. In this case, it is the abusers. Why have them suffer in prison when they have learned from their mistakes? Let them come in peace with the Church and the Lord.

Again, this I have to partially agree. However, I believe that no matter the reasons or excuses that exists for this issue, whether legal or moral, the priests still have some fault. Mainly because they should have at least given the victims some care and attention. Anyway, whatever turns out for the priests or the victims or the offenders, let us all pray for them. May God be with us all. Amen.

The Forgotten Jesus

Last year, I read a Newsweek article that totally blew my mind. It was just something that I never had thought of before, and being Christian, it made me aware of the deterioration of the Christian world.

Read the article here : (click link→)  Newsweek- The Forgotten Jesus

Now, there are some things I disagree on, such as when author Andrew Sullivan tells us to “forget the church.” But most of everything else, I have to admit. This all reminds me of a philosopher I read about a long time ago who asked the question Is God Dead? At first, I though that philosopher was crazy. Now after I read it, this is my answer: No, God is not dead literally, but spiritually, yes He is dead. However, I believe that he can always be revived.

By the way, look at the magazine cover above. It’s actually pretty symbolic. Perhaps the message is that Jesus is not the man we truly look up to anymore; he is in a sense not the glorified God we once loved but now an ordinary man. Or, as the article title “The Forgotten Jesus” tells us, we have all forgotten about Jesus, abused Christianity (especially in politics), and now he is just kicked down to the level of an ordinary man nobody really cares  about.

Either way, after you read this, I hope this changes your perspective on things.

What New Year’s Really Means

Hello readers. Just to note that I made a change to my blog address. It is now

Anyway, how was everybody’s New Year’s Day? Mine was pretty normal. Just sat at home watching the Rose Parade live on TV. However, let me pose a question: what is the significance of New Year’s Day? It is definitely not just to mark that it is the beginning of a new year; we can just check the calendar for that. Rather, it is perhaps to mark the beginning of a new “life.”

Literally new life means resurrection. In religions like Christianity and Hinduism, resurrection was a time to get rid of our old mistakes and try to begin a new life without any. Thus the reason for the existence of New Year’s resolutions. Something we thought was bad in the previous year we try to fix in the new year.

This sort of reminds me of the Journey of the Hero, a series of events typical of many novels, stories, and epics. In this journey, the hero returns, with his newly acquired skills, from his adventure to his old world in order to fix those old world’s problems. However, the new years is quite different. We don’t acquire new skills to fix our problems; rather, we realize our imperfectness and the problems we have and we attempt to fix it. It’s like doing a math problem for 2012, at the end of 2012 you realize your math mistake, and then you fix it at 2013.

However, we don’t always fix our mistakes, probably because of our laziness or we don’t even think it is a mistake. In a sense, New Years resolutions are useless. A 2007 poll shows that around 12% of people actually achieve their resolutions. So, again, what is the purpose of all this New Year’s thing?

I think the main answer is that it makes us aware of our life and our imperfectness. We look back into the past, focus on now, and anticipate a better future. However, we realize that as each year passes, the less time we have to improve ourselves, and therefore we must start getting our act together.

Again, all of this is similar to religion. Just like the New Year’s aims at improvement, so do religions all over the world. Christians aim to be better God-lovers, Buddhists aim to achieve enlightenment, etc. Perhaps maybe the New Years is practically like any regular day, besides all the fancy fireworks.

Because everyday we strive to improve ourselves, whether religious or not. Perhaps four words sum up what New Year’s is all about: HOPE FOR BETTER CHANGE.

Anyway, we still love the fireworks!

Claiming Jerusalem

Of all the cities in the world, there is none more sacred than the holy city of Jerusalem. Yet, it is this most sacred city that brings up a very famous conflict that stretches back to the Middle Ages and exists even to this day. It is a conflict over who owns Jerusalem and what rights they have.

Sacred Muslim Dome of the Rock

To understand this conflict, we must know its background. Why did this conflict even exist in the first place? One can infer obviously that this is a religious conflict, but it is not a conflict between two minor religions. Rather it is a conflict between three of the world’s greatest religions, which all happen to be monotheistic and interrelated with each other: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The first of the three to exist was Judaism, which its believers treasure this holy city due to the fact that it was the ancestral homelands of the Jews. It is mentioned in the Jewish bible tons of times, and not only that, the only wall that is left of the old Jerusalem is right in that city. For Christians, Jerusalem is treasured because it is where Jesus died. And for Muslims, it is believed that Mohammed ascended to heaven at the sacred Dome of the Rock, which is coincidentally located in the holy city. All in all, it is basically a conflict between three major religions.

The well-known Crusades were done for this reason.There has been at least 16 historical sieges of the holy city. (Including one in which a Roman emperor who I happen to share the same name with led the siege.) All of these were done for mostly religious reasons. But recently, this conflict is shifting from religious to political. Currently, Palestine and Israel are fighting over this city, mostly for religion. Israel (mostly Jew) has already seized some control over parts of Jerusalem, due to fear that if Palestine (mostly Muslim) controlled Jerusalem, it would restrict the freedom to worship there. However, many other countries have stepped into this conflict, politicizing it. The United States, for instance, has backed Israel more in fear of Palestine’s terrorists. Russia has decided to back Palestine and support a Palestinian Jerusalem.

Many entities of course want to end this very long dispute. France has suggested making Jerusalem a two-state capital between Israel and Palestine, dividing the city in half. A more popular solution by the United Nations is to make Jerusalem an international city. But whatever solutions others nation propose, so far Israel and Palestine are not accepting it.

So the big question is what to do with Jerusalem: give it away to the Jews, Muslims, or Christians? Or accept other proposals by other countries? My opinion on this is just to forget all about this. Yes, Jerusalem is a holy city. Yes, it is sacred to three major religions. But when regarding religion, is it not more of a spiritual matter than a physical matter? What I am basically saying is that if they truly wanted
Jerusalem for religious reasons, then they are hypocrites. They are too concerned with the material possessions, with the worldly things. Rather, the most important Jerusalem is the one in one’s spirit. That is the true Jerusalem they need. I mean, it’s not like they need to go to Jerusalem in order to contact God. In fact, all three religions (and by the way I’m Christian) believe that you can contact God anywhere anytime as long as you have the spirit and will to do so.

I sort of feel that all this fighting is just lame. Because all those people are not getting to the true point- it’s spiritual, not physical.

Christmas Music

Hello guys. I know Christmas is over, but I can’t help posting up some Christmas music.

This one is by Josh Groban (refer to my past posts) for the movie The Polar Express. 

That was not actually sung by Josh Groban, but it was meant to be anyways. But notice that the music was pretty smooth; classical in that the pitch went up slowly, reached a climax, and came down; and a little operatic. Perhaps a song similar in style is a contemporary Christian song called: 

Usually, when we think of Christmas music, we usually think of holy, religious singing. But in Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” it actually turns out to be the opposite. In fact, the song is a little bit hip-hop and makes you want to dance a little bit. This song is everything but religious, but very much Christmas: 

Of course, Christmas carols are also an essential part of Christmas. My favorite one is one about Jesus, called “What Child Is This.” Here, it is being sung by Allison Crowe, whose voice makes this song even more unique and good-listening.  Somehow, don’t you think Allison’s voice or accent is sort of a little bit like part African American? Just wondering.

Well, just enjoy these songs and have a Happy Post-Christmas!