Atheism

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 31, 2016

Death of the Star Wars Princess

princess-leiaI remember it like it was yesterday. It was early June 1977. I was 20 years old. I had completed my sophomore year in college and was home for the summer working as a laborer for a construction company.

All of a sudden, everyone was talking about Star Wars, the new movie that had been released at the end of May. The movie had quickly gained momentum and was breaking box office records.

Star Wars was about a 19-year-old farm boy, Luke, who was expected to take over the family farm someday. Luke was itching to get away from the farm and start exploring the universe, but his dad made him feel guilty about abandoning the family farm and leaving it up to his aging parents to continue to maintain.

After his parents were killed by enemy soldiers, Luke joined forces with an old Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and they set out to assist the Rebel Alliance in stopping the evil Empire from taking over the universe.

One of the most interesting things about Star Wars was that it was modeled on the westerns that moviegoers in the 1960s and 1970s had grown up with. In the westerns, we were accustomed to seeing a villain who always used force and violence to take over the land of local farmers. In Star Wars, the villain’s goal was to take over planets that were controlled by local governments.

In the westerns, the heroes were always sharpshooters who rode into town on horses to save the day. In Star Wars, the heroes arrived in spaceships to save the day. In westerns, the heroes used conventional guns with bullets. In Star Wars, they used high-tech guns that could blast holes in buildings.

But it wasn’t just the westerns that Star Wars was modeled on. It was also modeled on the old pirate movies where pirates hijacked and took over waterborne ships with gunpowder-based cannons and swords. In Star Wars, the villains hijacked spaceships with laser cannons and laser swords.

September 10, 2016

An Icon of the Good Samaritan

mother-teresa-and-childThe number one Catholic in the world, Pope John Paul II, called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” The number one atheist in the United States, Christopher Hitchens, called her “a religious fundamentalist, a political operative, [and] a primitive sermonizer.” Planned Parenthood called her a “very successful old and withered person, who doesn’t look in the least like a woman.”

That old and withered, primitive sermonizer was canonized as a saint on September 4, 2016, by Pope Francis.

During her lifetime, she was known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Today, she is known as Saint Teresa of Kolkata (the name of the city Calcutta, India, was changed to Kolkata in 2001).

You’ve probably heard of the Singing Nun. Mother Teresa was the Smiling Nun.

Susan Conroy was a 21-year-old American college student when she started working with Mother Teresa. She later wrote a book, Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity. In a recent article that was published in the National Catholic Register, “Willing Hands, Loving Heart,” Susan wrote about Mother Teresa’s joyful spirit:

Mother Teresa used to say that “a smile is the beginning of love.” A spirit of joy, as seen in a smile, was so important to Mother Teresa. She used to say, “We will never know just how much good a simple smile can do.” 

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Mother Teresa made it sound so easy! If you have hands and a heart, you can do it! There was actually one more thing you needed in order to help this saint serve the poorest of the poor: Besides a smile, you had to come with a spirit of cheerfulness. Mother Teresa explained that many of those whom she and the sisters served were physically or mentally ill; they were lepers, abandoned children, the dying and the lonely. She said that if we went to them with a sad face, we would only make them more depressed. So come with a smile! Come with joy!

July 6, 2014

A Good Day for a Rebellion

NYT AdOn Thursday (July 3, 2014), three days after the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the atheist organization, Freedom from Religion Foundation, ran a full-page, anti-Catholic advertisement in The New York Times. The headline of the ad screamed, “Dogma Should Not Trump Our Civil Liberties.” The sub-headline declared: “All-Male, All-Roman Catholic Majority on Supreme Court Puts Religious Wrongs Over Women’s Rights.”

The ad included the following quote from Margaret Sanger, the anti-Catholic founder of Planned Parenthood: “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.” Missing from the ad was another quote from Sanger that revealed her prejudice toward minorities: “Birth control will lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”

In 2012, because of concern that an ad was offensive to Muslims, The New York Times refused to print an advertisement that was critical of Islam. There was no such concern about offending Catholics last week when The New York Times agreed to run the anti-Catholic Ad.

Contrary to what the ad implied, the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case was not based on scripture, the Ten Commandments, Catholic tradition, or any rule of the Catholic Church. The ruling was based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that was passed by both houses of congress and signed by President Clinton in 1993.

The New York Times ad claimed that the Hobby Lobby decision “allow[s] employers to decide what kind of birth control an employee can use.” That statement is an outright lie. The ruling of the court provided that certain employers cannot be legally forced to pay for contraceptive devices or drugs for employees. The court’s ruling had nothing to do with a woman’s right to purchase or otherwise secure her own contraceptive devices or drugs.

June 8, 2013

Rebellion At A High School Graduation

Roy Costner IV

Roy Costner IV

Last week, the high school valedictorian for Liberty High School in South Carolina defied local school district rules when he ripped up his preapproved speech in front of everyone who was at the school graduation ceremony, and then proceeded to deliver a speech in which he emphasized the importance of Christian values.

At one point during the speech he said, “Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today.  I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age, and I think most of you will understand when I say, Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

As he concluded his recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the crowd erupted with cheers and thunderous applause.

Earlier this year, after the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” filed a complaint against the Pickens County School District for saying a prayer at board meetings, the school district decided to end invocations at all high school functions and replace prayer at high school graduations with a moment of silence.

Roy Costner IV, the valedictorian of the Liberty High School graduating class of 2013, didn’t like what the school district did so after he stepped up to the podium and started reading from his approved speech, he hesitated, ripped the speech in half, and then pulled another speech from his pocket.

After the graduation ceremony, in response to a question from a reporter, Pickens County School District spokesman John Eby said, “The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.  He’s a graduate now.  There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”

A news release that was subsequently issued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) quoted its co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The valedictorian who so insensitively inflicted Christian prayer on a captive audience at a secular graduation ceremony is a product of a school district which itself has set an unconstitutional example by hosting school board prayer.”

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