Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Scientism, pseudo-science, progressivism, and militant atheism.

Nietzsche describes "der letzte Mensch" as the lowest form of human life. His scientific materialism is the most degrading, smallest illusion, worse than any religious dogma. The last man has regressed to the thoughts of what we used to call "beasts," that is, life which is concerned with, can only understand, biological sustenance. Even that may be overly generous, as beasts can be at least curious. His religion, such as it is, is survival, or, at the most, health.

He is not so much scientific as scientistic. Science, understood as a type of mathematical empiricism, is not metaphysical. Empirical rigor prevents the authentic scientist from making claims about the existence of God or the proper ends of human life -- or about science itself. When one's gaze turns from the empirically quantifiable to examine the scientific method itself, one has started doing philosophy. One cannot look through the microscope and look at the microscope at the same time.

The idea that science is a metaphysical system rather than a method for modeling the world mathematically is scientism. Scientism makes claims that are not susceptible to mathematical analysis or reproducible experiments; that is what distinguishes it from science. These claims include: the world as perceived by human senses is the primary or ultimate reality; science is the best way of understanding the world; God (the Hebraic, infinite God) does not exist; health (understood as reproductive fitness) is the primary object and standard of value of human life. These are all metaphysical or moral claims and as such do not describe objects in the world or physical matter that can be examined by the scientific method.

Scientism leads naturally to pseudo-science. If you believe in scientism, then you believe that "science" can provide answers to metaphysical and moral questions. If you believe that, then you believe things like <a href="">this</a> are scientific, rather than pseudo-science. It is pseudo-science because it is based on beliefs concerning what is better as the end of life. Such beliefs are not susceptible to mathematical modeling and are therefore not part of science.

Pseudo-science leads to progressivist political ideologies. Karl Marx is merely the most infamous proponent of "scientific materialism," his term for a baroque and metaphysical religion. It is a religion, based on scientistic historical analysis, atheism, and economics as the valuation of human flourishing. Following the disastrous horrors of the Soviet and Maoist experiments, few today openly fly the Communist banner, but similar ideals persist in more subtle forms.

Progressivism, because it is inherently a metaphysical system based on mythological pseudo-science, views Christianity as infidels. As in Islam, the infidel is sometimes tolerated, sometimes more aggressively attacked. Militant atheism distinguishes itself from science by, again, making metaphysical claims about the nature of reality instead of mathematically modeling certain phenomena, and further by enacting legislation (or more thug-like vigilantism) enshrining its particular mythology (scientism). The infidel, as again in Islam, is not argued with but attacked in a jihad, whether through official legislation or "activism."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The chill in th'soul.

Took a trip to the upper Mississippi. The first bite was being taken out of the vegetation: trees' leaves had lost the vibrancy of their green, and the lilypads were slowly dissolving into insect food.

Just so, we are life, too, and we have our autumns and then our winters. Spiritually, we may have many such seasons, perhaps, resulting in fruitful springs. Physically, our winter comes but exactly and precisely one time only.

When I feel the chilly wind of winter in my soul, do I understand what it means? Can I embrace winter's austerity as the prerequisite for spring?

And when I sense the wintertime of my body, have I laid aside all mortal sins, and prepared myself to be presented before the Lord?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Additional comments on Russia & the Western Media.

I hope that I did not create the impression previously that I am some sort of naïve apologist for Vladimir Putin or his regime. I am aware that Putin is ex-KGB, trained under the very regime which Bl. John Paul II fought to destroy. I am myself a man of Lithuanian blood, a son of the nation which was the first to declare its independence from the USSR. While I respect the achievements of the Russians in classical music and so forth, I have no love for Russia; I consider them a sad victim of their imperialist, Communist, and, lately, fascist, tendencies. You will find that my sympathies lie with the Holy See, the United States, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, South Korea, Italy, Israel, Ethiopia, and all other children of Jerusalem. (I guess I'm not keeping my cards very close to my chest anymore.)

One does not, however, need to be a Putin fanboy in order to express distaste at the treatment of Russia in the Western media. My purpose here is not to create an atmosphere of sympathy for Putin, who is indeed an amoral gangster, but to simply learn what is actually going on in Russia. Let's take this Guardian article on recent elections in Moscow.

HeadlinePutin's nose bloodied by Russia's rival mayoral candidates. Putin was not in the running in any of these elections. Putin, whatever your opinion of him, is not a mayor and is not in the running for any mayoral election. This article has nothing to do with him.

Sub-headlineOpposition's Alexei Navalny officially achieves 27.3% of Moscow vote, with Yekaterinburg's Yevgeny Roizman in even closer race. Is 27.3% a nose-bloodying? I wouldn't think so, but apparently the Guardian does.

Paragraph 1Russia's opposition movement recorded its most telling electoral result in 13 years of Vladimir Putin's rule on Sunday when candidates for mayor in two of the country's largest cities pulled off impressive results against incumbents. "Telling" and "impressive" are subjective opinions. Newspapers ought to stick to objective facts and leave their interpretation to readers.

Paragraph 2Opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny won 27.24% of the vote for the Moscow mayoralty, but he immediately disputed the result, saying it was marred by "many serious violations". It seems we've lost 0.06 of a percentage, moving from 27.3% (the headline) to 27.24%. Normal mathematical rounding would display 27.24 as 27.2, not as 27.3.

In addition, we have the dog-whistle word "activist," which is intended to arouse sympathy with the Western left. I hope my reader will recognize that "activist" simply means "politician." The simplest pupil of politics is aware that every politician claims to be some variety of "anti-corruption activist." I hope I do not bore my reader by pointing out the obvious fact that this always means "corruption of the opposition" and not his own corruption. As for "many serious violations," this is a point we'll address below.

Paragraph 3He said in a statement: "We consider the official election results to be deliberately falsified." I'm sure that that is something someone would say upon losing an election. No evidence, however, is provided.

Paragraphs 4 and 5: Official results on Monday morning gave Kremlin ally Sergei Sobyanin, the acting mayor, 51.37%, enough to clear the 50% threshold needed to avoid a second-round runoff.

The Alliance of Observers, however, counted 49.7% for Sobyanin and 28.3% for Navalny.

Who are the "Alliance of Observers?" Some England-based activism group? You'll never find out from reading the Guardian. Moreover, we do have a clear victory here, no? even according to this mystery group "Alliance of Observers," 49.7 is quite a bit more than 28.3, isn't it?

The fake controversy, the difference between the "official" results and those of the Alliance whatever, is 1.67 percentage points. That is to say, almost nothing, basically a margin of error that changes rather little about the election.

Paragraph 6Navalny's result – achieved with none of the financial, administrative and media advantages that incumbents enjoy – was interpreted as a clear sign of disaffection with the ruling elite. Interpreted by who? The Guardian, itself? Doesn't the endorsement of the Guardian grant a certain "media advantage?" Clearly the sign wasn't interpreted as such by the 49.7% who, even according to the mysterious Alliance, voted for Sobyanin, was it?

Paragraph 7In Russia's "third capital" of Yekaterinburg, anti-drug activist Yevgeny Roizman appeared to have beaten his opponent from the ruling United Russia party in the mayoral race. Another "activist" -- i.e. someone the Guardian likes. This one's an anti-drug "activist." "Appeared to have" -- according to who? The Guardian won't divulge such details, apparently.

Paragraph 8The head of the Yekaterinburg electoral commission said on Monday morning Roizman had won by a margin of more than 3%, but that this result was still being finalised. Several exit polls on Sunday showed Roizman had won by a slim margin. Such a result would also be an embarrassment for the Kremlin. So there is some possibility that Roizman won, but even the Guardian admits the difference was less than 5%, i.e. a normal margin of error.

Paragraph 9In the lead-up to the Moscow election, many experts had said 20% would be an impressive result for Navalny, whose rating was in single figures when the early mayoral vote was called in June. Who are the "experts?" I suppose this is intended to convince us that 28.3% (the Alliance's number) is impressive. It would seem to me, however, ignoramus that I am, that getting less than 30% of the vote is a pretty clear indication you lost the election. Sure, you might have had some reasonable points, you're probably a fine human being and all that, but let's face it: you lost.

Paragraph 10"The old political system is dead," said liberal political figure Leonid Gozman on the opposition-leaning TV channel Dozhd. "What happened in Moscow and Yekaterinburg … is related to people who are not associated with any party" in the Kremlin-controlled political system. Gozman is some atheist psychology professor.

Paragraph 11As the vote counting dragged on, both cities appeared poised for a tense couple of days. One picture circulating on Twitter showed riot police deployed outside the seat of the Yekaterinburg government. "Dragged on" seems to suggest that the vote counting was done in a time-consuming manner. Time-consuming would seem to suggest accuracy and honesty -- if one were to be fraudulent, that would be quicker than being correct, wouldn't it? Riot police could be deployed for a number of reasons: we don't discover which one from reading this article -- the relationship to the preceding sentence is unclear. Allow me to bore my astute readers by suggesting that the Guardian seems to believe that Yekaterinburg votes are being manipulated, but does not actually say so for fear of falsification.

Paragraphs 12-15: The Moscow Electoral Commission had promised a final result by midnight thanks to newly installed electronic voting machines, but late on Sunday night delayed the announcement of the final result until 10am on Monday.

Speaking to journalists, Navalny said the delays in announcing official results were an indication of the "clear falsification" of votes. He said Sobyanin's results remained above 50% only due to ballot-stuffing outside polling stations, such as when counting votes cast from home. "We demand a second round. We ask Muscovites to come out to the streets if Sobyanin violates their right to vote," he said.

On Sunday afternoon, the Navalny campaign was already planning a protest rally for Monday night.

In July, Navalny was given a five-year prison sentence for extortion in a highly politicised trial. If his appeal against the verdict is unsuccessful, he will be ineligible to hold office in Russia.

Dude, you only got 28.3%, even according to the Guardian's Alliance of Whatever. Not trying to be a jerk here, but I'm not sure people really want you as a mayor. I don't even have the effort to untangle what the Guardian means by "highly politicised trial." (I'd hazard a guess that it has to do with laws they, Englishmen, dislike, but were approved by large margins of democratically elected Russians.)

Paragraph 16Opposition candidate and former MP Gennady Gudkov fared less well in the Moscow region gubernatorial race, where the United Russia candidate Andrei Vorobyov reportedly won with over 70% of the vote. I guess the Guardian can't muster journalistic resources sufficient to determine whether Vorobyov really won or just "reportedly" (by who?) won. But Putin's nose was bloodied. There're definitely like 100-150 people who really don't like Putin. Just stay focused on that.

Paragraph 17Election observers in Moscow reported numerous minor violations. In the runup to the election, analysts predicted that falsifying votes cast from home (citizens can request electoral workers to make home visits) would be the most likely method of cheating, but the percentage of such votes was reportedly small. We're back in Moscow now. You'll recall from para. 2 that the "anti-corruption activist" disputed the results. No counter-point was raised then, but here we learn that the voting violations were "minor." This is supported by the liberal Moscow Times. A cynic might interpret "minor" in the Guardian as "nonexistent" in reality, but I am certainly not a cynic.

Pressing on...

Paragraphs 18 & 19: Yelena Maliyeva, an electoral observer who said she supported Navalny, said she had discovered no irregularities at her polling station in south-central Moscow. However, she said she was prepared to stay all night to prevent violations, as she did during last year's presidential vote.

"In the presidential election, all the dishonest stuff happened after the polling place was closed. Then there were attempts to falsify votes," she said. That's all well and good. It is, though, a bit of a non-story, though, isn't it? Navalny's guys didn't find anything. They might though -- you never know!, is, I suppose, the point of these paragraphs.

Paragraphs 20 - 22: Voter turnout was, as expected, low across the country (besides the Moscow mayoral election, seven gubernatorial elections and 16 regional legislative elections were held on Sunday). In Moscow, it was reportedly under 30%.

Many saw the Moscow vote as a referendum on competitive elections. Alexander Lebedev, the Russian banker who owns the Independent and the Evening Standard, tweeted that he would vote for the first time in years: "I'm headed to the polling station. I have to, there's an actual choice."

Even Maria, an election observer and Sobyanin supporter who declined to give her last name, admitted that Navalny had made the election interesting. "That's his one plus," she said.

"Many saw ..." such as an undoubtedly interested financier, Lebedev. Is that statement accurate? What is the definition of "many?" The Guardian suggests that it is something of a widespread opinion, but provides no evidence that it is actually true. (I know, I know, such a hilarious joke!) I will point out to my highly astute readers that the Guardian itself may be interested (in the legal sense) and that the lack of real evidence provided would seem to provide the answer as to whether this was some kind of innovation in "competitive elections," or whether it just didn't elect the Guardian's choice.

Paragraph 23Sobyanin had ordered ruling party municipal deputies to give Navalny the signatures necessary to enter the race in what many saw as an attempt to lend his victory legitimacy and improve his political status. But the strong result for the opposition candidate calls into question Sobyanin's political rise, which some had speculated could go as far as the prime minister's chair.

There is only one actual factual statement here, that Sobyanin, in an apparently magnanimous gesture, had ordered that his opposition be allowed into the race. This one fact speaks in favor of Sobyanin. Nevertheless the Guardian asserts that "many" (who are they?) believe otherwise. You'll have to go elsewhere to find that out.

"Strong result for the opposition" -- an amusing joke on the part of the Guardian for those who have read the first half of the article. Please do scroll up either to the sub-headline or to para. 2 -- the "strong result" is either 27.3% or 27.24%, depending on which part of the article you read.

Paragraphs 24 & 25: Several officials, including Sobyanin's campaign manager, praised the fairness and competitiveness of the elections in an apparent shift in rhetoric. "Do I understand correctly that the official statement about the 'most fair elections' is an admission that the rest were 'not the most fair'?" tweeted socialite and television host Ksenia Sobchak.

Speaking at a United Russia meeting, prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said United Russia's victory in the majority of regional elections showed it "is able to work under in conditions of competitive elections."

The Guardian admits that the elections were, if not 100% accurate, very closely representative of the opinion of the people. So this article really has no point except to say who actually won.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Russia's "anti-gay" law.

The Anglosphere's left-wing media has worked itself into a bit of a lather over the Russian Duma's passing, on June 11, of what is generally described as an "anti-gay" law. I am going to try to do some Internet research although I have no Russian. Thanks, Google Translate!

I wanted to start with the actual text of the law, in Russian. In particular, I was interested in the precise word that has been frequently translated as "propaganda" (or, I suppose, as "'propaganda'" since it is almost never written without scare quotes). It was not easy to track this down. I did find it though, through a link on the Russian Wikipedia's page on "Legislative Bans Homosexual Propaganda in Russia" (that's the mechanical translation). Here it is: Федеральный закон от 30.06.2013 № 135-ФЗ. (I would have preferred an official source, but it seems unlikely that it's been doctored.)

If you do not read Russian, then you will probably have clicked the "Translate to English" button (assuming English is your native language and that your browser supports translation). In Chrome, using Google Translate, the word "propaganda" does not appear. Instead, пропаганда is translated as "promotion." However, we can easily see that the simple transliteration of the Cyrillic is, in fact, "propaganda" and that both words derive from the same Latin word, which was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the propagation of the Faith.

The word is therefore an accurate representation of the Russian text. It also also, of course, a word with particular connotations. Judging by the Russian Wikipedia page on пропаганда, it appears to have much the same connotations as does "propaganda" in English. Therefore we can say that the Western media's use of the term is accurate. And we can also say that the same regular use of scare quotes, for example by the New York Times, indicates a certain opinion on said usage. You'll note that that article (which appeared on page A1 and is not marked "editorial") also assigns scare quotes to the word "protection."

But enough about пропаганда. What about the rest of the law? Here is the relevant bit (again from Google Translate):
Promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, expressed in the dissemination of information aimed at developing non-traditional sexual juvenile facilities, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, a distorted picture of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or the imposition of information on non-traditional sexual relationships, causing interest in such relationships if these actions do not have a criminal offense - punishable [...]
So it prohibits telling children to have homosexual sex. Are you someone who tries to get children to do that? No? So then it does not affect you. (As an aside, one might wonder what kind of person talks to minors about sex at all, mightn't one?)

You remain free, legally, to promote sodomy among adults, and to practice sodomy yourself. Yet the Times is only tangentially interested in the actual text of the law (it is "nominally aimed at" one thing, but, through some unexplained force, actually does something else, according to our Paper of Record), and quotes Jay Leno (?) comparing it to Nazi Germany (an insult to Jews). Is it possible that getting little kids interested in sodomy might not really be such a great idea? According to the Times, no.

Is it possible that there might be some other line of thinking at work in this law, aside from the persecution of homosexuals? According to the Times, no. The Times chose to combine the passage of the law and violence against homosexuals into a single article. It chose not to report on Putin's stated reason for the law, which is as follows (again a mechanical Google Translate, taken from this interview):
We have people who have initiated these laws, and who took the law (I, by the way, was not the initiator of the law), proceeded from the fact that same-sex marriages do not produce children. And Russia is going through a difficult time, in terms of demographics . And we are interested in, so families were full to have more children. This is not the most important thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting the demographic processes. But I think the authors of this law came primarily from the need to solve the problems of demographic and were far from the idea of someone infringe upon the rights of.
The word "demographics" (де­мо­гра­фия) does not appear in the Times article. It is of course possible (though by no means certain) that the law does, in effect, suggest a certain sense of indirect approval over irrational, unchristian hatred of and violence against homosexual people (as distinguished from homosexual behavior). With any law, there is the possibility of over-zealous vigilantes taking things too far. (For example, laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals could lead to vigilantism against Christians.) But the Western media, led by the New York Times and the BBC, have chosen to take this hypothetical, indirect effect for granted, while ignoring the stated reasons of Russia's democratically elected representatives.

The developed world's demographic crisis is an "elephant in the room" that media outlets such as the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, and Der Spiegel will not report on. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Commonweal on Obama's "War on Religion."

U of C law prof Eduardo Moisés Peñalver has a post at dotCommonweal arguing that: since the Justice Dept. filed an amicus curiae against restricting prayer in a legislature, then any suggestion that Obama opposes religious liberty must be ridiculous.

It has several problems.

First is the (scare-)quoted term "War on Religion." I'm a pretty avid reader of conservative punditry, yet I don't believe I have ever heard this term used, before reading it today in Commonweal. Peñalver uses quotation marks, but does not attribute the term to any specific source. I suppose this is an example of the progressivist fondness for scare quotes. The Chicago Manual of Style has the following to say about scare quotes (§7.58):
Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense [...] They imply "This is not my term" or "This is not how the term is usually applied." Like any such device, scare quotes lose their force and irritate readers if overused.
Peñalver suggests that conservatives delusionally believe Obama is waging a war on religion, yet it is Peñalver who exhibits signs of delusion, precisely in so suggesting. Perhaps he had in mind the "war on women," another war which exists exclusively in the feverish minds of political pundits and speech writers.

Second, Peñalver misuses the term double bluff. For reference, a double bluff is defined as "an action which is intended to be perceived as a bluff, but which is not." An amicus curiae cannot be a bluff, therefore it is nonsensical to imagine, even ironically, that it is a double bluff. It is a brief that is filed, and once filed it's clear that no bluffing is involved, as any action which might be threatened in a bluff has already occurred. I will assume the reader is cognizant of what a bluff is.

Stylistic and dictional questions aside, the point of the post is to emphatically dismiss any idea that Obama would be so shrewd and coldly calculating (paranoid, even) as to now and again support religious liberty, so that he doesn't go too far in showing his true intent, which is (supposedly) to destroy it. But is that really such an unbelievable idea? Let's say someone wanted to get away with something people might not like. Say, embezzling money from his employer. If this criminal took all the money quickly, of course the employer would notice and he'd probably get caught. It would be smarter to take just enough so that the employer or owner doesn't notice. "Oh, that must be just an accounting error. No one would steal from me. You're all honest folk, aren't ya?" And so it is with those who earnestly wish that Obama cared about the things they care about.

Does Obama care about religious liberty? Sure, if you're a (preferably foreign) Muslim. "The future," Barack Hussein read proudly from his teleprompter, "must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam." Oh, sure, he mentioned something about Jesus and the Holocaust, but quickly followed that up with more support for Islam. This is his reaction to the murder of his ambassadors by the followers of the Prophet of Islam. It's hard to read it is anything other than support of them, and this impression is reinforced by his support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Does Obama care about religious liberty for American Christians and Jews? Well, they tend to vote Republican, so what do you think?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mozart Festival, Woodstock, Illinois.

I went last weekend, and recommend it. Nazar Dzhuryn, soloist for Haydn's Cello Concerto №1, gave an intense, impressive performance. I had heard that piece several times before, but never noticed the depth of the cello solo.

There was also a saxophone soloist. There was actually only one Mozart piece, and some of the program sounded modern, such as the saxophone pieces. But it was a jazzy, witty modern, rather than an attempt at avant-garde.

The venue is a charming, intimate 19th c. opera house, on the town square. We had seats toward the bottom of the balcony, and I would recommend the lower balcony over the main floor seats (which are more expensive). Despite the lower price, the balcony provides an excellent view of the entire orchestra. Whereas, from what I could tell, people sitting in the main section could only see the musicians in the front.

There is one more weekend, Aug. 10-11. Recommended if you want to get out of Chicago for a day trip or weekend.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Late summer.

Sir Edward Elgar's Opus 37 , "Sea Pictures". Dame Janet Baker / London  Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Vernon Handley.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Peter Berger on Pope Francis at The American Interest.

Someone named Peter Berger shared his opinions on Pope Francis. I'm not sure if this is the Austrian sociologist, but, given that The American Interest, to judge by its name, appears to be a magazine of the neo-conservative variety, I suppose it probably isn't. Although, there is a certain predilection to sociological modes of thinking on display in the article.

I suppose Berger thought he was being pretty clever with this line:
I will try not to annoy Catholic readers of my blog by commenting on the thunderous improbability that Jesus ever spoke these words, intended to establish a “church”, and put the later bishop of Rome in charge.
Let's see if we can untangle that rats' nest of a sentence.
  1. The cuteness of the praeteritio‎. It's generally better to leave to praeteritio‎ things that are more or less obvious but for reasons of social niceties one pretends not to mention. It doesn't really work with things that are definitely in question.
  2. Why is it thunderously improbable that Jesus spoke those words? Without any evidence to the contrary, it would seem more probable that words ascribed to Jesus by ancient sources were spoken by him, than not. It appears Berger doesn't agree with the words – that, however, does not make them less probable.
  3. Why is the word church in quotation marks? I suppose this is intended to indicate that the idea of what constitutes a church is questionable, or ill-defined, perhaps. What is a "church," anyway? Well, it seems clear that Jesus did, in fact, establish a church, as evidenced by the New Testament epistles addressed to various churches (or "churches").
  4. "and put the later bishop of Rome in charge" – I don't believe that it is accepted Catholic doctrine that Jesus personally put in charge this or that bishop. But if Berger believes that Jesus didn't want anyone, at all, in charge of anything, then he would need to provide some evidence for that supposition before I would be interested in accepting it.
The rest of the article suggests that because PP. Francis granted indulgences for Twitter followers, then he is therefore a postmodernist. But didn't St. Gertrude the Great compose the prayer:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen. (my emphasis)
So it would seem that it is not postmodernist, nor even modernist, to say that we might be united to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. PP. Francis is not saying that we are united through virtual reality, rather than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My blog, Aug. 1, feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop & Doctor of the Church.

The story on Laudate about St. Alphonsus Liguori remarks:
His work needs to be better known today, when there seems to be no rational middle course between puritanism and permissiveness.
That seems true enough. For a while I thought I should write down some of my thoughts on various topics. Log them, if you will. On the web. So, here they are. If you care to know something about me, I am currently a master's student studying computer science. I have a bachelor's degree in philosophy. I live in Chicago; I have lived in the Midwestern United States most of my life. I'm a Roman Catholic.