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The Atheist Orthodoxy that Drove Me to Faith

Beware of Dogma

Last Easter, when I was just beginning to explore the possibility that, despite what I had previously believed and been brought up to believe, there might be something to the Catholic faith, I read Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. One passage in particular struck me.

Talking of the New Testament miracles and the meaning of faith, Weigel writes: “In the Catholic view of things, walking on water is an entirely sensible thing to do. It’s staying in the boat, hanging tightly to our own sad little securities, that’s rather mad.”

In the following months, that life outside the boat—the life of faith—would come to make increasing sense to me, until eventually I could no longer justify staying put. Last weekend I was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Of course, this wasn't supposed to happen. Faith is something my generation is meant to be casting aside, not taking up. I was raised without any religion and was eight when 9/11 took place. Religion was irrelevant in my personal life and had provided my formative years with a rolling-news backdrop of violence and extremism. I avidly read Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, whose ideas were sufficiently similar to mine that I could push any uncertainties I had to the back of my mind. After all, what alternative was there to atheism?

As a teenager, I realized that I needed to read beyond my staple polemicists, as well as start researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics, to properly defend my world view. It was here, ironically, that the problems began.

I started by reading Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, aware that it had generated controversy at the time and was some sort of attempt—futile, of course—to reconcile faith and reason. I also read the shortest book of his I could find, On Conscience. I expected—and wanted—to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism. Instead, I was presented with a God who was the Logos: not a supernatural dictator crushing human reason, but the self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth towards which our reason is oriented, and in which it is fulfilled, an entity that does not robotically control our morality, but is rather the source of our capacity for moral perception, a perception that requires development and formation through the conscientious exercise of free will.

It was a far more subtle, humane, and, yes, credible perception of faith than I had expected. It didn't lead to any dramatic spiritual epiphany, but did spur me to look further into Catholicism, and to re-examine some of the problems I had with atheism with a more critical eye.

First, morality. Non-theistic morality, to my mind, tended towards two equally problematic camps: either it was subjective to the point of meaninglessness or, when followed logically, entailed intuitively repulsive outcomes, such as Sam Harris’s stance on torture. But the most appealing theories which could circumvent these problems, like virtue ethics, often did so by presupposing the existence of God. Before, with my caricatured understanding of theism, I’d considered that nonsensical. Now, with the more detailed understanding I was starting to develop, I wasn’t so sure.

Next, metaphysics. I soon realised that relying on the New Atheists for my counter-arguments to the existence of God had been a mistake: Dawkins, for instance, gives a disingenuously cursory treatment of St. Thomas Aquinas in The God Delusion, engaging only with the summary of Aquinas’s proofs in the Five Ways—and misunderstanding those summarized proofs to boot. Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault.

What I still did not understand was how a theology that operated in harmony with human reason could simultaneously be, in Benedict XVI’s words, “a theology grounded in biblical faith”. I’d always assumed that sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), with its evident shortcomings and fallacies, was how all consistent, believing Christians read the Bible. So I was surprised to discover that this view could be refuted just as robustly from a Catholic standpoint—reading the Bible through the Church and its history, in light of Tradition—as from an atheist one.

I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote philosopher Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.

There was one remaining problem, however: my lack of familiarity with faith as something lived. To me, the whole practice and vernacular of religion—prayer, hymns, Mass—was something wholly alien, which I was reluctant to step into.

My friendships with practicing Catholics finally convinced me that I had to make a decision. Faith, after all, isn’t merely an intellectual exercise, an assent to certain propositions; it’s a radical act of the will, one that engenders a change of the whole person. Books had taken me to Catholicism as a plausible conjecture, but Catholicism as a living truth I came to understand only through observing those already serving the Church within that life of grace.

I grew up in a culture that has largely turned its back on faith. It’s why I was able to drift through life with my ill-conceived atheism going unchallenged, and at least partially explains the sheer extent of the popular support for the New Atheists: for every considerate and well-informed atheist, there will be others with no personal experience of religion and no interest in the arguments who are simply drifting with the cultural tide.

As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers atheism wanes, however, thoughtful Christians able to explain and defend their faith will become an increasingly vital presence in the public square. I hope I, in a small way, am an example of the appeal that Catholicism can still hold in an age that at times appears intractably opposed to it.

 
 
Originally posted at The Catholic Herald. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Megan Hodder

Written by

Megan Hodder is a Catholic writer and a recent convert from atheism. Her main interests are bioethics and the Theology of the Body and her blog can be found at Whistling Sentinel.

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  • Dan Roth

    Even for those who proclaim "sola scriptura", it is an ideal rather than a reality.

    • tedseeber

      How so? 30,000 unique theologies seem to suggest otherwise to me.

  • I can already see where this conversation will go, and I'm excited.

    I read this post first on the Catholic Herald, and the hate-spam it garnered was tragic.

    It's a beautiful story (to me, at least). But I'm really eager to hear about how the atheists here view her.

    No matter how you guys see her, I don't know how well this piece will foster discussion along any particular line. Catholics will be happy to read it, and like the bit about the internally consistent and coherent theology (we're very proud of that).

    What I'm curious about is: do atheists see Catholicism as internally consistent but with flawed premises? Or do you guys see it as internally inconsistent?

    • Octavo

      I can't speak for all or even most atheists, but I see a lot of retroactive continuity rather than actual internal consistency. For instance, there are multiple incompatible theologies of the afterlife in several books of the bible.

      In 1 Samuel 28, the shades of the dead can be called up by mediums. This is sometimes retconned as deceptive demonic activity.

      In Ecclesiastes 9, it is clearly stated that there is no afterlife: "...one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good man, so is the sinner; and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that one fate comes to all; also the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost."

      In the gospels, Jesus is shown to have preached a different theology of the afterlife showing two or more possible postmortem destinies, usually analogized as the the lake of fire and the bridegroom's wedding feast.

      I'm sure many people here could explain how these disparate theologies find reconciliation in Catholic interpretation.

      ~Jesse Webster

      • "Retroactive continuity" is a great way to describe it. You find this in how the Catholic Church interprets the Church Fathers as well. Peter Abelard wrote a book called Sic et Non, most of which has yet to be translated from the original Latin. This book places the conflicting statements of the Church Fathers side by side on any number of different issues. I can't help but contrast this with a book called The Teachings of the Church Fathers published by Ignatius Press in which the editor cherry picks quotes from the Church Fathers to support the current positions of the Catholic Church, while ignoring anything contradictory.

        Consistant, "Sic," but only if you takeout the "Non."

        • I'm unfamiliar with the works you cited, but isn't it always Sic if you take out the Non?

          I'm thinking that in the history of just about anything, you have dissenters, split off groups, etc that don't fit with the narrative as a whole. Even America in it's short history has them. The American Communist party isn't captured by any history books that I know of as "an integral part of American culture", right? (I may be wrong, and the analogy isn't perfect, but do you see what I'm getting at?)

          Catholicism shed parts that were not in line with its message of Truth, to maintain consistency, and that doesn't strike me as odd or bad or inconsistent. It's like brand management, except your brand is Truth. Instead of A&F not hiring "ugly" people because they don't fit, the Catholic Church doesn't accept writings that stray from Truth.

          But would you say that out of what "remains", it *is* internally consistent?

          • Yes. It's internally consistant. John Calvin's Systematic Theology is also internally consistnat, but that doesn't put it any closer to describing reality than the CCC. Internal consistancy is not enough to make something true. Also, didn't Chesterton argue that too much consistency was a sign of madness?

          • I wasn't asking if it was true, I just wanted to poll the audience as it were. Thanks!

          • Octavo

            I don't think it's internally consistent for reasons I gave above. As far as I know, Ecclesiastes, 1 Samuel, and the gospels are still considered inerrant, even though they contradict each other.

          • tedseeber

            Inerrant is not equal to literally true.

          • Octavo

            What's the Church's official interpretation of Ecclesiastes' assertion that there is one fate for all and the "dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost"?

          • tedseeber

            Sheol (hell) previous to Christ's saving grace.

            Another possible explanation I heard recently in an interpretation of John Paul II's comments on the same, is that Heaven and Hell aren't places at all, but are in fact states of mind that the brain and soul get stuck in at the moment of death.

            Therefore, the reason calling up the souls of the dead is considered demonic, is you can't learn anything truthful from them. They "know nothing"- once leaving this world they lost contact with it for the most part, especially those in Hell, so there is nothing truthful you can get out of them.

          • Octavo

            The problem with bringing all of these works into one framework is that it dishonors the original authors. Instead of finding out what those authors really thought and communicated to audiences in antiquity, everything they say has to be retconned with Christ in mind.

            It's a lot like when DC comics purchased Wildstorm. Instead of Gen 13 existing on its own, its characters had to crossover with DC characters like Superman and they were retconned to have always existed in that universe.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            Yeah, kind of like all of physics had to be retconned when the sub etha was discovered not to exist. I thought the complaint was that *religion never changes with new evidence* not that *religion is rational and changes with new evidence*.

          • Octavo

            It's not the same. New advances in Physics often flat out disprove earlier theories. When the Catholic Church (or one of the 30,000 orthodoxies of the Protestants) look at a pre-catholic biblical work, they don't say it was wrong. It just gets reinterpreted based on the needs of theology rather than the historical meaning of the text.

            For instance, instead of reading Song of Solomon as an ancient Hebrew love story, some of the 30,000 orthodoxies reinterpret it as a metaphor for the love Christ has for the Church. That's not changing beliefs due to new evidence, it's just appropriation and reinterpretation.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            Really? Exactly how does particle-wave theory "flat out disprove" the idea that light travels in waves?

            Also, on the Song of Solomon it is "in addition to"- I know plenty of Catholic NFP practitioners who still use it as an ancient Hebrew love story.l

          • Octavo

            "Exactly how does particle-wave theory "flat out disprove" the idea that light travels in waves?"

            I didn't say that, so there's no point in responding to it."Also, on the Song of Solomon it is "in addition to"- I know plenty of Catholic NFP practitioners who still use it as an ancient Hebrew love story."

            I didn't know the Catholics took that view of Song of Solomon. I thought that was a Protestant eccentricity.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            I brought up the sub-etha, which was a previous explanation of why light travels in waves, as an example of physics changing, to which you responded, and I quote "It's not the same. New advances in Physics often flat out disprove earlier theories."

            So please tell me how that isn't "new physics" "just gets reinterpreted based on the needs of" the theory.

            "scientists don't pretend that (for instance) proponents of the ether were actually referring to the Higgs field all along."

            I've heard it described as such, yes.

            "I didn't know the Catholics took that view of Song of Solomon. I thought that was a Protestant eccentricity."

            Theology of the Body, you really should read it sometime.

          • Octavo

            Yes, physics modifies itself. Let me try another example. We don't pretend that Newton "really" was talking about quantum mechanics when he came up with classical physics. We say he was right about some things and wrong about others.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            And so does Catholicism.

            I fail to understand the difference in effect. Are not both systems modifying themselves?

          • Octavo

            I don't take issue with modifications of a body of knowledge. I take issue with the misrepresentation of historical documents, such as Ecclesiastes.

          • tedseeber

            I take it you are also one of those who thinks Ecclesiastes 6 promotes modern economic abortion?

          • Octavo

            I've never heard of that interpretation.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            "Better the child born dead, for he shall not know the woes of this world". I've stopped quoting actual verse numbers in a rejection of Fundamentalist Prooftexting, but I've heard many refer to that verse as the foundation of Margaret Sanger's spiritual views that eventually became Planned Parenthood.

          • Octavo

            I always read that as pre-Kierkegaardian existentialist thought.

            Ecclesiastes seems to read (I know I'm oversimplifying here) as "Life sucks and then you die."

            Probably not the best exploration of the human experience, but definitely a fascinating early effort. It's my favorite book in the Bible.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            It's my third favorite. Hosea and Job beat it out for me. But it is clearly one that speaks to those who don't quite understand why we should try.

            I reject existentialism for the reason I reject all moral relativism- because it is impossible to build a firm philosophical foundation on sand.

          • Octavo

            I don't consider myself an existentialist, but I do admire their desire to confront life without telling themselves comforting stories. They want to know what life is, whether it's absurd, and the best way to react.

            Ecclesiastes is a bit like that. Koheleth looks at life, makes a litany of complaints, and they says that one might as well should try to enjoy life when it's good because no matter what, it's going to go downhill. There's also quite a bit at the end about following the laws of God, so that life doesn't take an even steeper nosedive.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Max Driffill

            The point is that empirical evidence, experiment and repeatability drive changes in the sciences. Not baseless interpretation that tells us more about the interpreter than the phenomena in question. Physics hasn't progressed by endlessly reading Newton's work, and finding new ways to trick meaning into it. It has progressed by testing ideas against reality. There are not thousands of different physics. But there are thousands of different Christianities. The reason for this is because they have no way to distinguish between who is right, and who is wrong.

          • tedseeber

            Leave out the bias towards the repeatable, and the same things drive theology. Or at least, rational theology under a rational God.

            Most Catholics have *exactly* the same problem with non-rational theologies such as Protestantism and Islam as you do.

          • Max Driffill

            Catholicism is also non-rational. It is a theology after all, and, by definition isn't rational.

          • I have no idea whose definition you're using.

          • tedseeber

            A non-rational theology requires a non-rational God. If Catholicism was irrational, science would never have existed.

          • Max Driffill

            What evidence is used in Theology? None. No physical evidence anyway. Its all just barely restrained interpretation. I

          • tedseeber

            There's about 2000 years worth of evidence in Catholic theology- since the earliest days, we keep records of everything consequential it seems. So far, the digitization effort stretches back to sometime in the 1600s, with occasional jumps further back than that, though of course, anything earlier than about 1720 runs into language evolution difficulties, same as any other subject.

            Theology follows the broadest form of evidence of any of the ologies- ALL empirical data is at least considered.

          • Max Driffill

            That is fine, but then how do you decide what is not literally true, with what is 'true' in some other way? As a jumping off point, consider the different ways the Gospels describe how jesus was found after the Crucifiction (we can leave the bits that were added to Mark) and just take the Gospels as they are now. They can't all be literally true, so how do you decide, and what makes the true in some other sense?

          • tedseeber

            Nothing further back than 300 years can be literally true; by then history evolves into myth with a core of truth. But I have to ask, why you have an issue with different observers (especially since at least one of the four was really more what we'd consider a documentary filmmaker or investigative reporter than a direct observer) seeing different things?

            Are you unfamiliar with the scientific concept of margin of error, or do you just believe if things are not literally true then they must be false?

          • Max Driffill

            I'm quite fine with history being approximately true (and less and less so, the further back we go). But that doesn't help out believers at all. In fact, it makes the situation for them even less tenable.

            I don't mind different observers either. However with Gospels we don't have different observers. We have at least two Gospel writers copying much from Mark (and perhaps other sources) and adding messages of their own (I'm sure I don't need to labor over the origin of the Synoptic Gospels here). The Gospel of John is its own thing and probably the latest written of the Canonical Gospels. None of these Gospels appear to have been penned by observers of the events themselves. That wouldn't matter so much, but that the Synoptic Gospels are derived from Mark and not independently authored poses a problem. In any event the credibility of the story is significantly strained by the contradictions, as well as by the lack of contemporary historical corroboration, and by the presence of things that clearly violate what we know about physics and biology. Any ancient historical text has to be taken with a grain of salt. And we need a whole mound of salt for texts that are littered with mythology.

            It also doesn't help that the Canonical gospels were but a few of many gospels of Jesus. The acceptance of rejection of which simply seems a matter of the tastes of the majority (and the group that ended up with political power) snuffing out other traditions.

            If we must take ancient history with a grain of salt, and we must, we must take even more salt with outlandish tales that contradict themselves and other more established histories then that should leave the gospels on fairly thin authoritative ground. Because the Gospels, and indeed the whole of the New Testament, read honestly, leaves us very little we can say about Jesus with any real confidence. At best we can say there was a guy fitting this description, who was probably an apocalyptic preacher, who may have annoyed the wrong sorts of people and met a sticky end.

          • tedseeber

            Why do you keep restricting "believers" to irrational literal fundamentalists? And then try to prove the Bible wrong because you think you are reading it honestly, when you are really just using a modernist post 17th century interpretation invented by irrational literal fundamentalists?

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not really, I'm not. I think Catholics and Liberal believers tend to have much more admirable stand toward the bible than fundamentalists. I don't think it is really very much more rational than the fundamentalist approach. But I can certainly talk with a Catholic, (or a Quaker for that matter) about the bible and have an enjoyable time.

          • tedseeber

            I'm not asking what you think of the different approaches. I'm asking why you yourself, seem to only use the fundamentalist literal approach, despite how incredibly irrational it sounds to any Christian that still has a liturgical service.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"But would you say that out of what "remains", it *is* internally consistent?"

            Until the next time Catholicism needs to "shed parts that were not in line with its message of Truth, to maintain consistency", the same way it has been doing for centuries.

            The books of reference the RCC uses, in other words, the bible is full of inconsistencies, so I can't see how any message of truth can be cleaned from such a tome of inconsistencies... I'm putting it mildly using the word inconsistent by the way.

            Even before scholars really went to town on the "divinely inspired inerrant scriptures" church fathers recognized and commented on biblical alterations.

            "I know of no others who have altered the Gospel, save the followers of Marcion, and those of Valentinus, and, I think, also those of Lucian. But such an allegation is no charge against the Christian system, but against those who dared so to trifle with the Gospels. And as it is no ground of accusation against philosophy, that there exist Sophists, or Epicureans, or Peripatetics, or any others, whoever they may be, who hold false opinions; so neither is it against genuine Christianity that there are some who corrupt the Gospel histories, and who introduce heresies opposed to the meaning of the doctrine of Jesus."

            (Contra Celsum, Origen of Alexandria, 248 AD)

            He was responding to a complaint by Celsus that...

            "...certain of the Christian believers, like persons who in a fit of drunkenness lay violent hands upon themselves, have corrupted the Gospel from its original integrity, to a threefold, and fourfold, and many-fold degree, and have remodelled it, so that they might be able to answer objections"

            So even in antiquity there was an awareness that folk were fiddling about with scriptures to get them to say what that particular sect wanted them to say in order to silence dissenters.

            I appreciate that Catholics favor infallibility of scripture over inerrancy of scripture, but these are really just theological semantics in my opinion. Leading Catholic scholars re at odds on these things, so what chance has the man on the street got. There you have Theology laid bare, so many different interpretations of the same words...usually with zeitgeist in mind.

            "Since the Bible itself never enumerates its own component parts, believers must appeal to extra-biblical authority to decide which books are part of the infallible Bible. Over the centuries different communities have accepted shifting collections of books."

            Even Jesus is alleged to have recognized mans fallibility and errancy in conserving the word.

            Mark 7:13 Jesus warned the Pharisees of the danger of relying on human traditions instead of God`s word: "you nullify the word of God by your tradition you have handed down"

          • tedseeber

            Isn't the Bible itself a human tradition? Somehow I don't think God has use for the written word.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You'd think if a god had a use for the written word, it would've done a far superior job than the ones we have that are attributed to it now.

            So many variants from which to use?

          • tedseeber

            All expressions of Mankind's encounters with the Divine. And to be taken as such. Heck, with the new doctrine in Nostra Aetate, we aren't even limited to our own Bible anymore, for:
            "Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)"

            What is True and Holy in Atheism, is already in Catholicism. No need to reinvent the wheel.

          • Ignorant Amos

            "What is True and Holy in Atheism, is already in Catholicism. No need to reinvent the wheel."

            There's irony for ya then.

            "What is True and Holy in Catholicism, is already in Atheism. No need to reinvent the wheel."

            Fixed it...except I didn't, because truth and holiness has nothing to do with Atheism per se. It's probabilities and evidence that is the currency of Atheism.

            Incidentally, it isn't those details that are deemed true, or even holy, in Catholicism that causes all the consternation. It is the way in how it has, and still does, manifest itself that is unpalatable and to which I have the issues with.

          • tedseeber

            Except not. Atheism denies some of that which is True and Holy in Catholicism, such as objective morality.

          • Max Driffill

            It isn't true just because you assert it to be true. How is Catholic Morality true?

          • tedseeber

            Because it is based on the objective empirical evidence of several different cultures in addition to the Deposit of Faith and Revelation, and because, to re-quote Nostra Aetate, which can be thought of as the modern scientific method version of theology "Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)"

          • Max Driffill

            Please describe this evidence.
            There are some basic things many human cultures share, but they are very likely to be found in human nature, and not as the result of any divine commandments.
            Some cultures were perfectly okay with homesexuality, and bisexuality. Some are okay (though very much fewer) with women marrying more than one man.
            The spills a lot ink on the concept of dignity, but how can this be a starting point for morality, when dignity means something different to different people. And concerns about dignity are often at the mercy of circumstance.
            Anyway, that was a jumble of barely organized questions, I look forward to your response.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          There is an excellent translation to French, which you can get at Amazon.

          http://www.amazon.com/Traite-Des-Intellections-French-Edition/dp/2711611663/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1369761351&sr=8-8&keywords=sic+et+non+abelard

          Also, in this work "intro", Abelard provides a methodology to reconciling these seemingly contradictory statements of The Fathers, although he himself does not apply to it.

          Here is a translation into English (of this intro):

          http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Abelard-SicetNon-Prologue.asp

          Because of this, some people believe (me included) he created this work as an exercise for his students, implying he knew there was a way of harmonizing these statements.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

          Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • CoastRanger

          This is what his contemporary Peter Lombard actually did in his famous "Sentences." It became the basis of scholasticism, this sorting out and if possible reconciling
          seemingly opposing views.

    • cowalker

      Well, there can be the appearance of consistency. For traditionalists today, Vatican II was a BIG mistake and yet did not cause a fatal inconsistency because it involved only discipline, and the Church admits it can be wrong about discipline. Vatican II didn't mess with doctrine or dogma, although it came THIS CLOSE to changing doctrine about contraception. Dogma are beliefs that the Church holds to be infallibly true, and therefore the Church has been very clever about choosing which beliefs it declares to be dogma. There aren't any that could be proved wrong by human exploration or a scientific discovery. They also tend to be non-controversial among anyone but hard-core theologians. The average Catholic doesn't have to struggle with believing that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. The Church (not individual traditionalist Catholics) has been far more coy about proclaiming that the belief women cannot be ordained is a dogma. I think the controversial nature of the issue makes the Church reluctant to completely slam the door on this one, as well as the question whether contraception can be licit. It is this kind of triangulation that has allowed the Church to maintain a pretty good track record on consistency. There is always some wiggle room when it counts.

      One notable failure to cover its tracks, in my opinion, was the abandonment of usury as a serious sin. Most Catholics would respond that it was only charging excessive interest that was condemned. This is not true. The Church condemned the entire concept of making a profit from lending money. As the global economy burgeoned, elaborately designed legal instruments were contrived to obfuscate what was being done to finance large, expensive projects. But gradually, with never a clarifying statement from the Vatican, banking became a godly occupation and no one today confesses to a priest that he arranged three home loans for credit union customers. The change took place over centuries, which made it almost invisible. The Church no longer has the luxury of adaptation so slow it is almost imperceptible.

      • Thanks for the comment! The only thing I'd add is that the Church has closed the door on women priests, through Inter Insigniores and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. JP II says "I declare the Church has no power whatsoever to so change the sacrament of ordination and this belief is to be definitively held by all the faithful".

        I have a blog post I'm working on about that specific issue.

      • Michael Murray

        Vatican II didn't mess with doctrine or dogma, although it came THIS CLOSE to changing doctrine about contraception.

        Shame it didn't go that little bit further and catch up with it's members. I would have thought it could have stuck to a consistent "only preconception" contraception and rejected anything that looked like abortion.

        • tedseeber

          Why, exactly, do you think the Church is against abortion?

      • tedseeber

        I'd agree with you on the usury part. It was never officially abandoned either- it just kind of drifted away.

        The second worst scandal the Vatican has been through since Vatican II, was related to this.

    • Max Driffill

      Is it internally consistent? I've not really ever read a theology that I thought was coherent.

      • tedseeber

        Catholicism is completely internally consistent and coherent. But you have to have an appreciation for paradox.

        I might suggest you start with something simpler, like the Buddhist Platform Sutra.

        • Max Driffill

          If there is a paradox, there is an inconsistency that needs to be resolved.

          • tedseeber

            Incorrect. Paradoxes exist in nature all the time, and there is no inconsistency in them, only a lack of understanding on the part of man.

          • Max Driffill

            Okay. But paradoxes can exist that don't really exist or that flow from false premises. A paradox is still a problem that requires a solution. Many a false paradox exists because they arose from false premises.

  • David Egan

    "I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts..."

    Look no further than the jesus story. Problem solved.

    • tedseeber

      I see no inconsistency there. Can you attempt to point something specific out?

      • Ignorant Amos

        Nativity narratives will do nicely.

        • tedseeber

          Once again, even when you add in the non-canonical ones (and I do, since many of them are in the Syriac Canon) I see no glaring inconsistencies before the end of the 1st century. Pick a few chapters and show me. In Aramaic, if possible.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well neither of the two versions were authored in Aramaic so I fail to see what point that would make.

            I could show you in Greek, but that would be pointless too.

            You see most Christian folk in the west get there scripture from a translated version.

            The most popular version being the KJV.

            Look at the genealogies of Jesus. Which are not the genealogies of Jesus, because Jesus was sired by God, right?

            So, to get Jesus' bloodline from David to fit OT prophecy, it must be Mary's genealogy. But they are still different and anyway, If one is Josephs, why? It is irrelevant. Matthew begins...

            “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until “…and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."

            Interesting point in all this too, whoever's genealogy it pertains to, they are descended from that nasty piece of work David, and his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. Funny how the rules don't apply to the powers that be...same old, same old I guess.

            Theologians have been wrestling with this quandary since it was noticed. But the answer is really quite simple.

          • tedseeber

            The Syriac Church would say differently. Also, the KJV is widely disrespected in Catholic circles as being specifically a political translation- plus Protestants are not the majority in the Christian world, and many of their denominations don't automagically accept the KJV either.

            Back to the real meat of your issues:
            The difference between the genealogies is quite obvious if you actually know something about the genealogy involved- Mother line vs Adopted Father Line.

            And a huge part of that "descended from Bathsheba" bit is a lesson in and of itself- that the power of God is such that good comes out of evil (and that pertains directly to the problem of suffering).

            So, no, this isn't an inconsistency or even a good contradiction, but it would have been more obvious had you been familiar with the Syriac Eastern Rite Canon of Scripture.

          • Max Driffill

            "The Syriac Church would say differently. Also, the KJV is widely disrespected in Catholic circles as being specifically a political translation- plus Protestants are not the majority in the Christian world, and many of their denominations don't automagically accept the KJV either."
            Thank goodness there is so much clarity in the one and only true word of God.

          • tedseeber

            Who ever said that the Bible was the "One and Only True Word of God"? Heck, even the Bible itself grants that title to Jesus Christ- read John Chapter 1.

            Don't be fooled by Sola Scriptura. One of the biggest embarrassments to me is the tendency of atheists to prooftext as if they were a Westboro Baptist.

          • Andre Boillot

            You're not at all embarrassed by the content of the text itself?

          • tedseeber

            No, I am not. Translation errors and misunderstandings of culture differences don't bother me, because I'm not a prooftexting Sola Scriptura fundamentalist AND because I'm Catholic, that means the Bible, while important, is a rather small portion of a belief system that is based more on faith and reason than superstition and idol worship.

          • Max Driffill

            Then why try to convince us that the genealogy isn't a mess? Just say, well the book isn't really an exact record, more a mythology of some possible historical events?

          • tedseeber

            Because that isn't the truth either. The truth is, these are two different genealogies from two different perspectives, and both are as correct as the author intended them to be (though I do find it interesting that for a tax collector, Matthew was so bad at math).

            I am not bothered by differences in perspective, why are you?

            I go with TRUTH, not popular myth. On either side of the equation.

            I'm the same way in my politics, which is why I can find almost nobody on the ballot to actually vote for in Oregon.

          • Andre Boillot

            I don't know that what we now view as the darker passages of the Bible can so easily be dismissed by appeals to translation and culture norms, or that the Bible was traditionally viewed as a small portion of the Catholic faith. I would suggest that the Bible's literal influence has waned in relation to man's increasing knowledge and understanding of the world and morality. In other words, it's only relatively recently that there has been a need to retcon the meaning of the text, and the historical approach seems to have largely consisted of literal-until-proven-metaphorical.

          • tedseeber

            "I don't know that what we now view as the darker passages of the Bible"

            They are only dark because YOU are trying to impose modern moral relativity on ancient people.

            " that the Bible was traditionally viewed as a small portion of the Catholic faith"

            1 Tim Chapter 3, go and read it. What is the Pillar and Support of Truth?

            I can't get much more "traditional" and "ancient" than that, other than to go to the Church Fathers and point out that the Catholic Church didn't even HAVE a Bible for the first 350 years or so.

            The Bible had no literal influence until the 1500s at the earliest, so literal interpretation came rather late I'm afraid.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "They are only dark because YOU are trying to impose modern moral relativity on ancient people."

            It's odd to be called a moral relativist for thinking things like murder, genocide, rape, and slavery are wrong all of the time.

            "1 Tim Chapter 3, go and read it. What is the Pillar and Support of Truth?

            I can't get much more "traditional" and "ancient" than that, other than to go to the Church Fathers and point out that the Catholic Church didn't even HAVE a Bible for the first 350 years or so.

            The Bible had no literal influence until the 1500s at the earliest, so literal interpretation came rather late I'm afraid."

            First of all, there's a difference between not having the Bible as we know it - fully assembled with Old + New Testaments, and having no scriptures to refer to whatsoever. I'm assuming the Church Fathers had the latter. Second, it strikes me as odd that you're arguing against the notion that Biblical literalism by simply quoting one passage of the Bible. You've cited nothing outside the Bible through/with which to interpret the passage with, and given none yourself. I suppose I should just take the passage as literally saying the Church is the pillar of truth. Got it. Third, I would really like to see the claim of no pre-1500 literal influence substantiated.

          • tedseeber

            Martin Luther is the one who invented the doctrine of "Bible Alone". Before him, it simply didn't exist. Of course, before Gutenberg invented the printing press, the large majority of Christians couldn't read and didn't know what a Bible was, beyond the readings and reenactments at Mass.

            The reason why Bibles were chained up, is because they cost a year's wages to produce.

            The whole idea of Biblical Christianity for anybody other than Clerics before the Protestant Reformation is absurd, to say the least.

            In addition to that, we have the writings of the Early Church Fathers, and they clearly weren't taking the Jewish Old Testament Scriptures literally, and we have quite a record of argument for what belonged in the New Testament, which was settled *after* Rome lost contact with some of the Eastern Rite Churches.

            So to claim the Bible as "the One True Inerrant Word of God", always leads me to as "and who taught that?" cause I can't find it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "Martin Luther is the one who invented the doctrine of "Bible Alone". Before him, it simply didn't exist."

            Fella, I ain't arguing Scripture Alone. I'm just curious as to how one can say "The Bible had no literal influence until the 1500s at the earliest". Surely some of pre-1500 Catholic teaching was rooted in some scripture, no?

          • tedseeber

            Rooted in scripture is not equal to taking passages out of the context in which they were written, comparing them, and claiming that they either go together or that they prove something when taken out of context.

            Catholic Teaching came FIRST, then came scripture. Almost but not quite a book in the New Testament was the Didache, The Way of the 12.

            http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html

            The Didache is clearly drawn on the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses, but it does not seem to be prooftexting. Guess it is a bit hard to prooftext before anybody has assigned numbers to the verses.

            It appears to be a Catechism, and I am astounded that many of the same sins we struggle with today, were in existence enough to mention in 2nd century Greece.

            Some even think that it may be the "Letter to the Gentiles" mentioned in Acts that the Council of Jerusalem wrote.

            I also find it interesting that the earlier work, the Rabbi Hillel's Two Ways, didn't find its way into the Old Testament.

            It could have made the same points by being fundamentalist literal and prooftexting entire texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, but it didn't. Instead, it strikes a new path, finding new truths in the old text.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "Rooted in scripture is not equal to taking passages out of the context in which they were written, comparing them, and claiming that they either go together or that they prove something when taken out of context."

            Concerning the types of passages I'm talking about, the two types of context I've seen given are: 1) it's not evil because God commanded it, and God is all good; and/or 2) they weren't ready for such radical change, so God had to bring them along slowly. I submit that neither of these answers are satisfying (1. Tautology 2. Moral Relativism). Are things like murder, rape, and slavery not always and everywhere wrong?

            "Catholic Teaching came FIRST, then came scripture."

            I mean, this is quite confusing, if you're speaking in chronological terms, and it seems to necessarily leave the Old Testament to the side as having no influence on Catholic Teaching whatsoever.

            I'll repeat my question: "Surely some of pre-1500 Catholic teaching was rooted in some scripture, no?"

          • tedseeber

            Catholicism is just a sect of Judaism.

            Scripture is rooted in Tradition, rather than Tradition being rooted in Scripture. The oral came first, the writing, sometimes decades or centuries later.

            It just looks the opposite to modernists who somehow think that a printing press guarantees that what they read is Truth.

          • Max Driffill

            Let me say, the bible doesn't mean anything to me. And I wasn't referring, in the text above to the bible specifically. I was noting the strange case that what so many take to be the one, true, and inerrant word of god should be possessed of so many contradictions and versions.

            Again, none of this matters to me. But there does seem to be a great deal of trying to have the cake and eating it too among Catholics (and more generally among Christians of a more liberal bent).

          • tedseeber

            And so I return to: who said the Bible was the One, True, Inerrant Word of God?

            Who are you quoting?

            Catholics aren't liberals and they aren't conservatives.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>The Syriac Church would say differently.

            Why should I give a fig what the Syriac Church would say? And what relevance has it? I already know that Christianity is a religion of conflicting ideas, 38,000+ flavours of Protestantism and number of Catholicisms of various stripes tells me that.

            >>Also, the KJV is widely disrespected in Catholic circles as being specifically a political translation- plus Protestants are not the majority in the Christian world, and many of their denominations don't automagically accept the KJV either.

            That's a non sequitur...the KJV is still "probably" the most popular version, not that it is all that important. As for whether Protestants are the majority of Christian's or not, that would be a hard one to prove either way. Defining what a true Protestant or Catholic is being the difficult part, but if you want to go on baptism data or the CIA's fact book, by all means, I don't see the ramifications, it is the argument from authority fallacy and has no relevance to my point in any case.

            >>Back to the real meat of your issues:
            The difference between the genealogies is quite obvious if you actually know something about the genealogy involved- Mother line vs Adopted Father Line.

            I know as much about the genealogies as you, or anyone else for that matter, what is in the earliest witnesses of the gospels in question. Theologians have been at odds with the conflicting genealogies since Christian theology began. Your assertion of a "Mother line vs Adopted Father line" is based on what exactly? I'm aware of the hypothesis by the way, I'm just curious to see what "evidence" you will present in support of the theory...seeing as there isn't any.

            >>And a huge part of that "descended from Bathsheba" bit is a lesson in and of itself- that the power of God is such that good comes out of evil (and that pertains directly to the problem of suffering).

            "A huge part"??? Which part is which? Isn't it just a case of more theological contortionism to force a square peg into a round hole? By Gods rules, David and Bathsheba were adulterers, and as such, should have went the way God said adulterers should go. That means Solomon should never have been born, See a problem here with the gospel accounts? On top of that, David was a coveter,murderer and a liar...oh, and chosen by God. Good one.

            >>So, no, this isn't an inconsistency or even a good contradiction,...

            They could not have been more in consistent or contradictory if they had been black and white.

            >>...but it would have been more obvious had you been familiar with the Syriac Eastern Rite Canon of Scripture.

            Why? They were treated as heretical by the early Christian fathers.

            "The Heresy of Tatian."

            "They[Syrians], indeed, use the Law and Prophets and Gospels, but interpret in their own way the utterances of the Sacred Scriptures. And they abuse Paul the apostle and reject his epistles, and do not accept even the Acts of the Apostles."

            "But their original founder, Tatian, formed a certain combination and collection of the Gospels, I know not how, to which he gave the title "Diatessaron", and which is still in the hands of some. But they say that he ventured to paraphrase certain words of the apostle, in order to improve their style." ( Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine)

            The Diatessaron was used as the standard Gospel text in the liturgy of at least some sections of the Syrian Church for possibly up to two centuries and was quoted or alluded to by Syrian writers. Tatian, a pupil of Justin Martyr, did what Bart D. Ehrman has said is needed to solve the inconsistencies and contradictions between the gospels, that is, rewrite them as a big uni-gospel. Tatian did this and named it the Diatessaron. Interestingly enough, even back then, Tatian had the wit not to include the genealogies.

            Now lets get back to the meat of your response. Do the majority of Catholics use the "Syriac Eastern Rite Canon of Scripture"? Do you usually use it? Or is it just a cherry picking exercise because that version least contradicts and thus supports your point? Which bible do you use? My understanding is that the Latin Vulgate is the word, translated to English for the first time as the Douay–Rheims Bible. There are that many versions though. Still, the scholars tend to use the contradicting versions for study purposes. Are there any versions of the two gospels that unify the genealogies that perhaps I'm not aware of?

            You believers know no bounds.

            The simple explanation for the contradiction is that the two authors were writing independently for different congregations. The minutiae of the accounts were not important for the purposes. They were just required to show a link from A to B in fulfillment with prophecy. The authors could never have imagined that the discrepancies would be a major point of contention, why would they? They could never have known that their version among the many versions of the gospel would be one of the only four to make the editors cut.

            Still, it's funny watching apologists doing their theological flick-flacks in order to get the two differing stories to gel.

            "Eusebius of Caesarea, a 3rd-century Roman historian, described the variation this way: 1. Matthan, of Solomon's descent, marries Estha and gives birth to Jacob. [Matthew] 2. Matthan dies. Matthat, of Nathan's descent, marries Estha and gives birth to Heli. [Luke] 3. Jacob and Heli are uterine brothers (same mother but different fathers). 4. Heli marries a wife but dies childless. 5. Keeping Jewish Law in view, Jacob (Heli's brother) marries his brother's wife to raise up seed for him. 6. Joseph is born. 7. Joseph is naturally Jacob's son. [Matthew] 8. But is, according to Law, Heli's son. [Luke]"

            Eusebius just made that up. There is nothing to support such claims.

          • tedseeber

            When researching how a religion has evolved, it is usually good practice to go to the oldest sects with the most data.

            The KJV isn't even the most popular version, though it might be the most popular ENGLISH version.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>When researching how a religion has evolved, it is usually good practice to go to the oldest sects with the most data.

            So you say. That would be the Syrians would it?

            "The New Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Greek."

            Can ya see a problem developing here?

            "We have no full and clear knowledge of the circumstances under which the Peshitta was produced and came into circulation. Whereas the authorship of the Latin Vulgate has never been in dispute, almost every assertion regarding the authorship of the Peshitta, and the time and place of its origin, is subject to question. The chief ground of analogy between the Vulgate and the Peshitta is that both came into existence as the result of a revision."

            While I have no doubt that scholarship looks at these texts as source, nevertheless, they don't appear to make a great impact. The Syriac scriptures are certainly not the main source of scholarship on the subject.

            But, in regard to your assertion, why then, is the Syriac texts not the main source used by critical historical biblical scholarship? Or any biblical scholarship for that matter?

            "One thing is certain, that the earliest New Testament of the Syriac church lacked not only the Antilegomena – 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse – but the whole of the Catholic Epistles. These were at a later date translated and received into the Syriac Canon of the New Testament, but the quotations of the early Syrian Fathers take no notice of these New Testament books."

            As a matter of fact...citing the Syriac scriptures appears to harm you argument as much as help it..

            http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jbl/1913_sanders.pdf

      • articulett

        A 3-in-1 god who becomes his own son to save god's imperfect children from the hell he created?

        That's consistent to you? I suppose Angel's delivering god's message via golden plates is consistent to Mormons too.

        So when was Jesus born? Where did his Y chromosome come from? Why was the date decided so many years after the supposed event... why are Luke's and Matthews accounts so different and nearly 10 years apart? What were Jesus' last words? Who wrote them down? Why are there no pilgramages to where he supposedly rose from the dead... in fact no one seems to know where this happened... or when. What about the in Matthew. How is a 3-in-1 god monotheistic? Is Jesus also the old testament god-- the one who said to have no other gods before him? What did this 3-in-1 Jesus-god sacrifice and to whom-- and what exactlly did this sacrifice do? Who is saved fom what? Did this sacrifice do whatever it was supposed to do or was it another one of god's failed plans like the Noachian flood? Was this sacrifice a part of this 3-in-1 god's divine plan before he created the imperfect people he knew would displease him? Or did he come up with this bizarre plan after he saw how disappoiting his creations were? Did your god foresee all the holy wars, sectarianism, misinterpretation, etc. due to his lack of clarity in his communications? If so,why wasn't he clear? If not, then he's not really omniscient or even very competent. Do you think the god of the old testament is a good god worthy of worship? Why should anyone who is not indoctrinated think that this is a coherent story-- much less one worthy of belief? Do you think of yourself as a good representative of Catholic faith

        I think the Greek myths were more consistant than Catholicism myself, but whatever. I guess I have higher standards for purported omnipotent beings than religionists do.

        • tedseeber

          "A 3-in-1 god who becomes his own son to save god's imperfect children from the hell he created?"

          Hell is a mercy, not a punishment.

          But I don't expect you to understand that. Start with the Buddhist Platform Sutra, come back when you understand the concept of a paradox.

  • CoastRanger

    Well said, Megan.

    My own journey was from cradle Catholic to atheist (from ages 15 to 26), to generic Christian, to back to Catholic where I have stayed put for 35 years.

    In abandoning the faith, I thought I would be free to do whatever I wanted. My personal experience--I won't claim to universalize it--was that nothing was ultimately worth doing.

  • Longshanks

    "As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers atheism wanes"

    1) Atheism in general is on the rise.
    2) Belligerent we may sometimes be, but I have yet to encounter any popular atheist who has ever declared (explicitly or implicitly) to have "all-the-answers."
    3) Sam Harris' view on torture is neither logically associated with atheism, nor is it necessarily tied to the premise of his view on morality, nor does it in any way approach my "intuitive repulsion" to your doctrines of vicarious redemption through the slaughter of an innocent, the acceptance of genocide and slavery in the pursuit of god's will, offering up daughters for the rape of crowds.

    But perhaps most poignantly topical, your doctrine of eternal
    --as opposed to temporary--
    torture of probable billions
    --as opposed to extremely few--
    for crimes existing potentially only in their minds
    -- as opposed to "a certain class of criminal suspects and military prisoners" --
    is more intuitively repulsive.

    Leaving to one side that his final point is that "if we are unwilling to torture, we should be unwilling to wage modern war," with the caveat that " I hope my case for torture is wrong."

    Harris' post might have been long, convoluted, and difficult, attempting to weigh to a nicety the various pros/cons of state policy, but it was certainly not plainly morally evil in the way your teachings on Hell appear to me to be.

    • Octavo

      I'm more concerned with Harris's posts because while Hell is a cruel fiction, it's still only fiction. Torture as a weapon of war is and has been used frequently by many nations including our own, and any encouragement of it is extremely troubling.

      ~Jesse Webster

      • Longshanks

        Look, fair enough on the torture-being-bad idea. I agree. However, you'll probably also agree that war-is-bad, with all the attendant death and suffering of purely innocent people (notice his use of Dresden).

        How we balance the two, their relative badness and merit as tactics seems to me to be a very difficult question, one to which I am not here attempting an answer.

        My concern is whether or not it merits the description of "intuitively repulsive." I think that the types of actions he's trying to outline are far less fundamentally disturbing than what we see in the Bible, or Catholic history for that matter, both ancient and recent.

        If you want to take the tack of "Hell is only a fiction," so is the scenario that Harris is outlining. No state, to my knowledge, approaches the problem exactly as he describes it, although I could be wrong about that. In any case, Hell itself is a fiction, but the doctrine of it and its teaching is not.

        Hell and other religiously based constructions can and do motivate evil actions by believers in the real world in exact parallel to the fears you're voicing about Harris' words aiding the use of torture tactics.

        • Longshanks

          *Edit*
          I should've added something along the lines of:
          "Or fundamentalist behavior of any kind, Muslim, Marxist, Liberation Theology, Ku Klux Klan etc."

      • Andre Boillot

        Octavo,

        I think you'll find that Harris is fairly specific about the scenarios where torture would be ethical (ticking time-nuclear-time-bomb type stuff) - also he's still uncomfortable it, and advocates it being illegal. His point is what's worse ethically: allowing a bomb to go off that might kill millions, or torturing a few people to prevent it? There's no good answer, but there's a worse one.

    • CoastRanger

      Longshanks, I don't know of any Christian who accepts "genocide and slavery in the pursuit of god's will [or] offering up daughters for the rape of crowds." These are not doctrines.

      Hell and its pains are self-chosen. It is a self-inflicted torture.

      It is interesting that you feel revulsion to idea of the Passion of Christ. We feel the same way about the slaughter of the innocent.

      • Andre Boillot

        Coast,

        "These are not doctrines."

        No, but they are accounts of God's will / commands found in scripture. Accounts the author was presumably not repulsed by.

        • CoastRanger

          I assume you are referring in the "rape" case to Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom? If so, on what basis do you think that offer was God's will or command? As for the author's attitude, he's just recording.

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            1) I wasn't making the initial rape reference; 2) I don't know, was Lot the only one to offer his daughter for crowd-rape in the Bible?; 3) Whether #2 was God's will or not, there are many more passages where God either commands or specifically allows rape (Google: "rape in the Bible"); 4) The "author" I was referring to is a 'she' (Megan Hodder).

            Edit: Also, I take it you just concede the point re: genocide and slavery?

          • CoastRanger

            I thought you were referring to the author of Genesis.

            It's pretty near impossible to argue multiple points in a combox so I'm just focusing on "rape."

            I looked up the first reference to "rape in the Bible" on the "Evil Bible" website about how the men of the Tribe of Benjamin got their wives. Then I looked up the actual passage in the Judges. No where did I see God ordering or approving this. In fact the chapter ends with the comment, "every man did what was right in his own eyes" which is not a necessary formula for righteousness.

            Again, Catholics don't condone rape anytime or place.

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "I looked up the first reference to "rape in the Bible" on the "Evil Bible" website about how the men of the Tribe of Benjamin got their wives. Then I looked up the actual passage in the Judges. No where did I see God ordering or approving this. In fact the chapter ends with the comment, "every man did what was right in his own eyes" which is not a necessary formula for righteousness."

            So, after checking out the first reference on the first page that showed up in the Google results, you're comfortable saying there are no instances in the Bible where God commands or condones of rape. Have you read any of the Pentateuch?

            "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31%3A7-18&version=KJV

            "And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee."

            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2020:10-14&version=KJV

            "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive. And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife."

            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2021:10-14&version=KJV

          • CoastRanger

            I know these kinds of Old Testament passages can be explained but I don't see how they can be condoned--I don't know of anyone who does condone them. They are at odds with the Catholic understanding of the natural law. They are not instructions on how we should live our lives. The Jews today don't think that.

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "I know these kinds of Old Testament passages can be explained but I don't see how they can be condoned--I don't know of anyone who does condone them."

            You mean, you don't know of anyone condoning these things other than Moses, preaching what God had told him. Right? Or other authors of the Old Testament, likewise preaching / writing in accordance to what God told them.

            "They are at odds with the Catholic understanding of the natural law."

            Yes, and the road from Pentateuch to current Catholic teaching is an interesting an winding one, which seems to rely on a fair amount of moral relativism.

          • CoastRanger

            What do you mean about moral relativism?

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "What do you mean about moral relativism?"

            This would be an example of what seems a lot like moral relativism (bold mine):

            "In referring to the "dark passages" of Scripture, he began by saying:

            42. In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult.

            Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history.

            God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.

            In other words, when reading the Bible we must bear in mind the particular stage of God's plan that a passage deals with. We cannot simply take a passage at random and claim that it is a direct expression of God's will for all ages or for our own.

            This is what Pope Benedict means when he stresses (the italics are in the original) that biblical revelation "is deeply rooted in history" and that God's plan "is manifested progressively . . . in successive stages."

            Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/pope-benedict-on-the-dark-passages-of-scripture#ixzz2Uc04Gn5H

          • CoastRanger

            I see. I would not call it relativism but gradualism.

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "I see. I would not call it relativism but gradualism."

            So genocide gradually became less acceptable? Murdering children for the offenses of others became less acceptable? Or is it more accurate to say that these are only acceptable when God decides they are? An interesting case you're making here.

          • CoastRanger

            "Something is moral because God says so" is not a doctrine of Catholicism. Rather, morality inheres in the nature of the person.

            An example of gradualism is 'an eye for an eye' is better than 'total revenge' and 'forgiveness of enemies' is is better than 'an eye for an eye'."

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "An example of gradualism is 'an eye for an eye' is better than 'total revenge' and 'forgiveness of enemies' is is better than 'an eye for an eye'."

            1) I would also argue that 'gradualism' is a subset of 'relativism' - you're still justifying things in terms of changing historical norms; 2) I think we're talking past each other a little here. I'm trying to figure out why it was ever ok for God to command, condone, or otherwise specifically allow "total revenge", etc; 3) The idea that gradualism was God's plan would be much more palatable were this goal stated at the time; 4) How ironic that God's word would be used to retard the gradualism he was (silently) hoping for.

          • CoastRanger

            By 'total revenge' I meant the immoral fallen state of man (which in Genesis can be seen in Cain's murder of Abel and his descendant Lamech's seventy-seven times revenge). Revenge is unjust and not condoned in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the principle of an "eye for an eye" is just, even if it seems harsh. Forgiveness, however, goes beyond justice motivated by love.

            My reading of the OT is that at times God DID order Israel to wipe out its enemies in the Promised Land and plunder them. I don't know what that's all about.

          • Chris_Lisi

            "I see. I would not call it relativism but gradualism."

            Hmm. So gradualism is just a slower version of relativism.

          • Andre Boillot

            Coast,

            "Again, Catholics don't condone rape anytime or place."

            Again, I haven't said this. I've just noted that Catholics and Ms. Hodder seem to find a way to reconcile those parts of the Bible that do just fine. To the extent that she's able to do so, I find her characterization of Harris' views on torture to be facile, lacking.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Although I'm left wondering about the cover-ups going on. They may not condone those rapes, but they have systematically failed to condemn them throughout history until they have had no option after the cat has got out of the bag.

            I'm also left wondering why and where the concept of marital rape was legal until not too long ago. There is anecdotal stories about Irish priest telling abused wives that it is their husbands rights according to scripture. The New Testament texts bare this philosophy out.

            "The roots of the concept lie in many older cultures' treatment of women as chattel, or the property of their fathers, brothers, and eventually, husband. In the modern era, as women have been understood and legally recognized as "human beings", the concept of a wife being the property of her husband for the purpose of perpetuating his progeny has fallen by the wayside. However, not all cultures or traditions have entered this "modern era" yet."

            I'm sure the it was the Catholic church that controlled the morality of most of the western world for a major part of the last 2000 years. What was that about "Catholics don't condone rape anytime or place"...yeah right!

          • Love these people who have no first hand knowlege or understanding of scripture and spout it off randomly in a lame attempt to shut the ones who do down.

          • articulett

            I think most atheists are more familiar with the bible than most Catholics-- in fact, it's what made many of us atheists.

          • articulett

            But wouldn't a real god have a duty to let people know when they've misunderstood his message-- how could a real moral being allow the passage "thou shall not suffer a witch to live" to be in his guide book?

            Is the bible divinely inspired or not? Who decides which are the divine parts and which aren't? Why would a real god not clarify? Why should anyone who hasn't been brainwashed to think the bible is divinely inspired think so? I just would expect a much higher quality of writing from a book that was inspired by a purported OMNIPOTENT being-- not something that looked pretty much on par with uninspired writings. A real god shouldn't need humans to do his interpretation or make excuses for him.

          • CoastRanger

            Articulett, You are doing what the Iraqi insurgents did, hold the AK out from around a corner and spray bullets in every direction, hoping to hit something. I counted seven questions/claims you wanted answered.

            I'll just address in your first paragraph, the Mosaic law about capital punishment for Jewish women who practiced witchcraft.

            Thomas Aquinas distinguished three kinds of laws in the Mosaic Law: natural law precepts, ceremonial laws on how to worship God, and laws for running the nation of Israel. Only the first one applies to everyone. The second and third are pretty much obsolete, since there is no longer any Temple or theocratic nation of Israel.

            I'd say the command to put witches to death falls in the third category. So the question is, was it prudent for Moses to give the Chosen People 2500 years ago a law to put witches to death?

          • articulett

            So "thou shall not suffer a witch to live" was okay-- the kind of thing you'd expect to find in a book inspired by the best being ever? And the Inquisition fine? Did your god know this would happen? Does he care that children in Africa are being accused of being witches today-- and killed because of that passage? Does it matter that there are no such things as witches or magic spells? If your god didn't want witches, why not just poof them away? Why all the instructions to kill?

            How do you decide which laws to obey and which not to? What about keeping the sabbath day holy and not coveting your neighbors stuff (including his wife... which was considered his property)? Do you have control over what you covet? Can you think of some other commandments that might have been better-- like thou shall not torture; thou shall not rape; thou shall not molest children? What do you think of the fact that Muslims think Christians are disobeying the first commandment by worshiping Jesus as god?

            I think your analogy meter may have been severely damaged by your faith if you imagine my volley of questions is on par with AKC firing. I think the bible passages you want to ignore have much more in common with todays wars than my little questions. I suspect inability to parse the difference has to do with your indoctrinators calling atheists militant for writing books-- while theists aren't considered militant until they use force to inflict their views on others. Like Muslims, you've learned to ignore and excuse all horrors done in the name of religion-- while equating criticism of your particular supernatural beliefs with hate speech and violence.

          • Susan

            >I'd say the command to put witches to death falls in the third category.
            Out of curiosity, how do you determine which category putting witches to death falls into?

          • CoastRanger

            You determine it by reason.

          • Susan

            Could you be more specific? It's an honest question.

          • CoastRanger

            If Aquinas is right, there are only three categories so it must fall into one of them.

            Killing witches obviously does not pertain to worshiping God properly. It also does not pertain to the natural law, since the natural law only tells us what to do and not to do. It then must fall into "positive law" of how the People of God are supposed to live when they settle in the Promised Land.

            This gets a bit confusing, I admit, since every positive law, that is every law put into a specific law code, gets its legitimacy from the natural law. But the positive law also has a penalty attached. What is a reasonable penalty will vary from time to time and place to place.

          • articulett

            Susan is right. Give us your reasoning-- because some people clearly have and did interpret it differently--

            Why do you imagine you know what god meant? Why wasn't your god clear? Why didn't the Pope know what your god meant during the Inquisition? Did your god know the suffering that would result from that passage? I'm not omniscient, and I think I could have foreseen disasterous consequences.

            To me, this passage exists because the bible is not any more divine than the Quo'ran-- it was written entirely by superstitious people who may or may not have really believed they were channeling some deity's desires. But what is YOUR answer?

          • CoastRanger

            There you go again, spraying your AK-47 bullets everywhere! I have given "my" reasoning above and below in regard to the "witches" question.

          • articulett

            I bet those accused of being witches would prefer my "bullets" (aka questions) to what believers in your bible did to them.

            It sounds to me like you don't have a competent answer as to why that horrid little passage is in a book purported to be written by a divine being.

          • tedseeber

            Let's see- pre-Christianity, witches hanged by popular vigilante mob. Post-Christianity, witches tried in a court of law and only hanged or burnt at the stake if they were found guilty, with far more being let loose than convicted.

            Hmm, which would I rather go for?

          • Susan

            Can you direct me to that comment then? I can't seem to find a clear response.

          • Susan

            Sorry Coast Ranger. I just found your reponse now. My last comment wasn't meant sarcastically.
            I must say though, that I haven't found your point any clearer.
            Can you try again?

          • CoastRanger

            This website has a weird glitch, which is when you reply to a comment, it does not show all the other comments that have been made on a thread.

          • tedseeber

            Catholicism's official answer is that the Bible is a record of man's contact with the Divine, and is a library of books, not a single textbook.

            As for the inquisition- I think I prefer even a flawed law and order to the vigilantism that is the correct option. You seem to think that witches weren't burnt in pagan times, but that is incorrect.

          • Michael Murray

            So what do witches have to do with running the state of israel ?
            Michael

          • articulett

            Indeed-- and why capital punishment?

          • CoastRanger

            A criminal code delves into all kinds of behavior it deems negative. You might as well ask, what does racing cars in front of schools have to do with running the state of Alabama? A criminal code will proscribe anything it deems bad for people.

          • Michael Murray

            Fair enough. I'm glad nobody thinks the Alabama Criminal Code is the word of god.

          • Out of curiosity, how do you determine which category putting witches to death falls into?

            Embarrassment.

          • Susan

            :-)

          • severalspeciesof

            "So the question is, was it prudent for Moses to give the Chosen People 2500 years ago a law to put witches to death?"

            Uh, is this a trick question?

            If the answer is 'yes, because things were different then' what does that say about the claim of moral objectiveness?

            If the answer is 'No' then I'd say, oops, guess god should have been mad at Moses for putting that one in, but just forgot?

          • CoastRanger

            Moral objectiveness pertains to the natural law, the first category, like, "Thou shalt not murder." I think the natural moral law says it's not cool to summon demonic powers to benefit yourself. You might disagree but the only basis we would have to argue it is reason.

          • articulett

            There is no reason to believe in "demonic powers".

            I don't think your understanding of natural law is the same as mine. Your natural law seems to involve supernatural agents-- supernatural invisible bad guys and good guys with super powers. I don't see how you can argue "reason" with somebody that believes in such things.

          • Susan

            >I don't think your understanding of natural law is the same as mine. Your natural law seems to involve supernatural agents--

            I understand what you mean, articulett. I've just been trying to wade through some information on "natural law" in the Catholic Encyclopedia and it's not very "natural".

            I remember the phrase being used often when I was a child (ex-catholic school girl) but it was very murky and full of more assertions than answers.

            My questions were sincere then as they are now and from my perspective, there's an almost Orwellian manipulation of language that takes place when inquiring about the assertions.

            There's nothing very "natural" about the catholic interpretation of this "law".

          • articulett

            Great-- so it's not just me. I think Catholics are confusing their ideas about morality with natural law-- just as they are confusing what they think with "what god thinks." They don't understand emotions and inclinations and how they evolve-- so powerful good feelings like love-- seem divinely inspired... and hatred and jealous and sexual attraction to the wrong things seems demonic in origin.

          • Susan

            >Great-- so it's not just me

            No. It's just you articulett. :-)

            > I think Catholics are confusing their ideas about morality with natural law

            In my experience, they invoke "natural law" without explaining what it is or how it applies and when I investigate it, I just find more unevidenced assertion. Now, I'm not saying there's not more to it but I have yet to encounter a catholic who goes to the trouble of defining their terms, and supporting what those terms assert.

            >just as they are confusing what they think with "what god thinks."

            Or more specifically, what other people tell them "god thinks" with what they think. Maybe more accurately, a cocktail blended from both.

            >They don't understand emotions and inclinations and how they evolve-- so powerful good feelings like love-- seem divinely inspired... and hatred and jealous and sexual attraction to the wrong things seems demonic in origin.
            They've already settled on explanations that might have made sense to most of us a long time ago, but the evidence tells us that those are very bad answers.
            Though I agree with you that that long ago, there were people who didn't find those answers satisfactory. It's just that very bad things would happen to them and often their families and friends if they said this out loud. That sort of thing shapes the way the human world works. Grooves get dug, so to speak.
            Sean (a contributing priest for whom I have a soft spot) told me one of the Jesus stories from the gospels where the report is that Jesus held "the Kingdom of Darkness" responsible for disease and that there is some "inspiration" there. .
            Whatever stories we have about Jesus, this was the prevailing assumption in the day. That there were evil forces behind disease.
            We know better now. But knowledge puffs and pants trying to keep up with established beliefs.
            Thank you for responding.

          • We know better now. But knowledge puffs and pants trying to keep up with established beliefs.

            I think this is a good place to insert Steven Pinker's work on how we are naturally becoming less violent.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            Hey if you want a good understanding of the Natural law i think Chersterton probably had the best way of understanding it and how it applies to life. i can try to get the title of the book if you would like?

          • Michael Murray

            demonic powers ?

            Have I stumbled into a WoW forum by mistake ? Can we come back to the real world.

          • ZenDruid

            Protip: To generalize, we atheists regard 'demonic' as synonymous with 'imaginary'. Likewise, 'supernatural'.

          • CoastRanger

            I understand, but if you were in charge, would you not legally proscribe "imaginary" thinks, like teaching creationism to children?

          • Longshanks

            Only in secular educational settings.

            You're free to abuse your children's intellects however you see fit in the ?comfort? of your own home.

            We simply can't allow teachers to do the same with federal monies.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The point is that positive law legislates morality by threatening harm to those who would do what that authority procribes. Stone a witch. Fire a Creationist.

          • Longshanks

            So society has the same moral imperative, in your mind, to punish murder of toddlers as it does witch-stoning? All proscriptive laws have the same validity because they are proscriptive?

            Stone a witch vs. Fire a Creationist is not an equivalency.

            You stone a witch for being a witch.

            We don't legislate against creationism. We legislate against the teaching of it by federal/state employees for two reasons:

            1) It violates the non-establishment clause, breaking down the separation of church and state, thus making religious belief a matter of law, which it should not be, and destroying the protection of free expression of those who don't believe as you do

            2) To the best of our knowledge, y.e.c. is not only religious in nature, but incorrect. Schools have a mandate to give students the best education that we are currently able to provide, which y.e.c. isn't.

            The the point is not that both are laws which proscribe, the point is that you've set up a false dichotomy to knock down.

            A straw law.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. I'm only pointing out that "positive law" is always based on some notion of morality (even if wrong) and uses some form of violence (from taking your life on down) to enforce it.

          • I think that is stretching the idea of natural law beyond the point where even natural law theorists would take it. Positive law in many cases has what most would consider a moral purpose, but there is much in positive law that is merely a matter of good order, and positive law (in the United States, at least) also guarantees the right of people to do things that are morally wrong. For example, blasphemy laws are unconstitutional.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not at all. Good order is morally good. Allowing blasphemy is based on the judgment that freedom is better than the problems which would come along by an establishment of religion.

            These laws are based on a judgment of what is good for human beings.

            The judgment may be right (slow down around schools while kids are present) or totally wrong (you may murder your unborn child).

          • Longshanks

            Funny how it took non-Catholics, Christians, Deists and Atheists to arrive at:

            "Allowing blasphemy is based on the judgment that freedom is better than the problems which would come along by an establishment of religion."

            You'd think that the Infallible church would've gotten around to it in...what...1800 years, give or take?

          • Andrew G.

            Pope Gregory XVI, encyclical "Mirari vos", 1832:

            This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, ...

            and

            Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor.
            [...]
            The Church has always taken action to destroy the plague of bad books. [...]

            and

            Nor can We predict happier times for religion and government from the plans of those who desire vehemently to separate the Church from the state, and to break the mutual concord between temporal authority and the priesthood. It is certain that that concord which always was favorable and beneficial for the sacred and the civil order is feared by the shameless lovers of liberty.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you love truth you should stop distorting things to score points.

            Those are prudential judgments civil governments have made and have nothing to do with the Catholic understanding of the infallibility of the Church.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            Respectfully, you seem to be engaging in some distortion of your own here. I've not seen much evidence that the Church loudly advocated against the laws or punishments enacted / enforced by these supposedly separate and independent civil governments (as it does today re: abortion, for example). The idea that the Church shares in none of the blame in these instances - because it was merely adjudicating and not sentencing/executing - seems divorced from the reality of the political / social power the Church used to wield.

          • Longshanks

            I do love truth, more than my life and more than my ?soul?

            What I am describing does not seem like a distortion to me. Maybe you're feeling the same way Scientologists feel when their cult is attacked.

            I wish someone better educated and quicker on his feet than I would give us a post clearly illustrating what many people from the outside see as "Catholic understanding."

            Oh, here we go. http://strangenotions.com/atheist-orthodoxy/#comment-917766604

            ---

            You feel like I'm twisting what you have to say, no?

            We started with the premise that "natural law" would dictate the immorality of conjuring spirits to help you. I don't believe natural law has anything to do with non-extant supernatural beings.

            You then modified your view to mean proscriptions against "imaginary" things, putting "demons" and "creationism" into the same category.

            They are not. I don't believe demons are extant, I do believe creationism, while incorrect and foolish, exists.

            You then moved to a position of "legal proclamations are enforced with penalties," which, while surely true, seems a tautology hardly worth mentioning, certainly not overly relevant.

            You then moved to "secularism is good," (something it took revolutions and horrendous suffering and bloodshed to prove -- hardly a point in your favor again) with a dash of "kids are cool, abortion isn't."

            Next up was "stop being mean," and "you don't understand the church."

            Look, I *know* that your pontiff is never really infallible, I just think it's odd that it took two millennia until non-catholics fought against a pseudo-catholic monarch before the world was treated to another round of semi-secular pluralism. If your religious tradition had any claim to special moral authority, you'd think it'd be on at least *one* of the winning sides in *one* of the major moral revolutions of the last two thousand years.

            Finally, if you're now trying to move to a logical holding ground of "the Church made declarations of faith, not secular punishment," well. Shame on you. The Inquisition may, as I've heard argued, not have harmed a single hair on anyone's head (although I doubt that this is true, I haven't done sufficient research to come down one way or the other), the "religious" judgements it made knowing full well that the "secular" governments who would then take custody of "heretics" and would put them to torture/death place the blame squarely on it's shoulders too.

            That's the same argument, correct me if I'm wrong, that the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees came up with. "We declare Jesus to be a heretic, blasphemer, and subject to punishment by death. But we have no civil authority, here, you take him and carry out the sentence."

            As I recall, the Roman governor was said to have found the whole thing so distasteful that they wrangled back and forth before he gave up.

            No no, your argument that the Church is not culpable for civil governments who themselves were under pain of excommunication for not following the edicts of Rome is truly a tortuous one.

            At least as I understand it, perhaps what I understand is a distortion, but I don't believe so. It's certainly what I've heard around these round tables.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It might be more productive to stick to one point at a time.

          • Longshanks

            Wait, your point was that "humans have made laws, which have punishments"?

            Oh, I thought you were trying for something not already known by everyone here.

            I thought you were trying to say that stoning a witch for what she believes is as morally licit as firing a creationist for what they believe. (that is to say, if we say that stoning witches is bad so is firing creationist teachers)

            I thought you were trying to draw a parallel between religious teachers and pagan worshipers being persecuted.

            But you were not.

            You were telling us that laws exist. Cool.

          • articulett

            I don't want your religion's magic stories taught to my child as fact just as you don't want some other religion's magic stories taught to your children as fact. Gods, demons, and fairies, have no place in science class because there is no evidence that such things exist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree that science should be taught in science classes in public schools in this country. Would you agree that atheistic humanism should also not be taught in such classes? That is not science either.

          • Michael Murray

            Have you got an example of what teaching atheist materialism in a science class might look like ?

            I guess materialism and reductionism might be taught in science classes. There isn't any need to teach atheism as the science speaks for itself for those who have an open mind.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Science does study the material world and how everything in it interacts (e.g., the relationship between biology and chemistry and physics) but materialism ("nothing" exists but material things) and reductionism ("everything" comes down to the interactions of subatomic particles) are philosophical conclusions.

            Science teachers are human beings who bring their non-science views to bear all the time. When one says something like "science teaches us that there is no God and that all religion is just ignorant superstition" he is not teaching science but the atheist creed. High school science teachers say things like that all the time.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Kevin. I suspect we live in different countries which is why this surprises me. I'd find a comment like this from a science teacher unacceptable unless there was some context like a question from a student. It would also depend a bit on the age of the students.

            Reductionism and materialism are a part of science -- they are working assumptions that have yet to be found wanting. You can avoid using the words but you can't avoid the students noticing how science proceeds. Better to spell it out as part of a discussion of the scientific method I would have thought.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin, a few responses to your post:

            "Science does study the material world and how everything in it interacts (e.g., the relationship between biology and chemistry and physics) but materialism ("nothing" exists but material things) and reductionism ("everything" comes down to the interactions of subatomic particles) are philosophical conclusions."

            Not really. They inferences implied by our data. There is simply no need to posit any extra factors into scientific hypotheses or theory. Science did not begin with materialism, or suspect a reductionist (though terribly complex) universe. That picture emerged with our understanding.

            "Science teachers are human beings who bring their non-science views to bear all the time."

            The first half of this sentence is certainly true on this planet, and the second part I would like to see some studies on to see how much of the time science teachers depart from science teaching before signing off on.

            " When one says something like "science teaches us that there is no God and that all religion is just ignorant superstition" he is not teaching science but the atheist creed."

            I think I would couch this in more scientific terms, that it is to say the language of probability and nuance, on the general deist form of gods, but on the more concrete forms of gods, I think science really has done away with as superstition and myth. For instance we can relegate the Abrahamic religious story of the Flood and Noah safely to myth bin (and appreciate any poetry or meaning it may have for the human animal from there). Accepting the story of the Flood, is to be ignorant, This is equally the case for the story of Adam and Eve. And so on for a great many tales found in the Christian bible. It is not the duty of a science teacher to help reconcile religious beliefs with scientific findings. All an honest science teacher can say when asked by a student, "Where do gods fit into the picture," is to answer, "Gods are unnecessary in our models. There is no evidence for them, and our explanations and evidence for these explanations is no less robust for their absence."

            "High school science teachers say things like that all the time."

            Not in the US. Not by a long shot. What happens in the US vastly more often is the attempt to have non-science like Creationism/ID sneak in. Good high school science teachers often dread the idea of tackling evolution in high school bio because it is a situation almost always promising trouble, especially in the American south and often in the Mid-west. Also in pockets everywhere else.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with a lot of what you say (not that THAT gives either your or my view any validity!). I'll just comment on one thing in your response:

            "All an honest science teacher can say when asked by a student, 'Where do
            gods fit into the picture,' is to answer, 'Gods are unnecessary in our
            models. There is no evidence for them, and our explanations and evidence
            for these explanations is no less robust for their absence.'"

            I think a better response would be to say, "Science studies only material things. If anything supernatural exists, it stands outside the scientific enterprise and science can say nothing about it."

          • Max Driffill

            But that is false. Science can and does study supernatural things. It can study the efficacy of prayer (it doesn't work as it turns out), or astral projection/remote viewing (also doesn't work) the story- which I am sure you don't believe literally- of the Genesis flood (quite a supernatural event and one unrevealed by paleontology, biology, anthropology), the supernatural story of Adam and Eve (also fails the test of science).
            If the supernatural is as you and your co-religionists claim, then it affects the real world in real ways. Those effects should be measurable and noticeable and so, in principle at least, testable by the scientific method.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Faced with a spontaneous, sudden, and complete cure of a hitherto incurable disease, a scientist "as scientist" could only say, "I don't know how that happened." He could say "as man," that "I think it was a supernatural miracle."

            A scientist could say, "as scientist" that "The universe appears to have begun 13.7 billions ago, before which time nothing existed." As a scientist, he could not say how something came out of absolutely nothing. He could say, "as philosopher," that this implies a creator.

            Of course the findings of science can be applied to many fields. For example, if someone says the universe is only 4000 years old, anyone who knows the finding of science could point of that there is lots of evidence that the universe is way, way older. Or a sociologist can use scientific statistical methods and conclude that people who pray and go to church tend to be healthier, happier, live longer, have better sex lives, give more to charity, and so on, that some other segment of the population.

          • Longshanks

            What percentage of sub-Saharan Africans pray?

            I won't ask about the sex lives.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin
            "Faced with a spontaneous, sudden, and complete cure of a hitherto incurable disease, a scientist "as scientist" could only say, "I don't know how that happened." He could say "as man," that "I think it was a supernatural miracle."

            "Do you think god was involved in my healing doctor?" asks the much relieved patient.
            "There is no evidence for that hypothesis, about 10% of patients with condition X remiss, we aren't sure why yet, but if you want to believe that was a miracle I certainly won't talk you out of that conclusion."

            But who cares what, as a "man', he could say. What he could say is a near infinite list of unjustifiable things.
            "I think the FSM touched you with his noodly appendage, and healed you of X."
            "Odin in his all seeing eye, saw that you had not yet been steeped in valor and thus were not yet ready for his Great Hall, in his wisdom he healed you to give you more time."
            And on, and on.
            It seems an intellectually honest person proportions their confidence in a position with positive evidence for the position.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It would be good if you would not descend to insult. FSM? Intellectual honest?

          • Max Driffill

            How on earth did I descend into insult. The Flying Spaghetti Monster isn't insulting. It is one of the many options the person not tethered by positive evidence has to choose from.
            And I implied no insult in my use of the phrase intellectually honest.

          • I see your point, and I would be tempted to make the same argument myself. But I do wonder if we can make that argument because undeniably miraculous cures just don't happen. Suppose I am a doctor and someone is brought into the emergency room who has been in a car accident and is horribly injured, with cuts all over his body and a leg completely severed. Then suppose the hospital chaplain comes in, lays hands on the injured man, whereupon all his cuts are healed, his leg is reattached, and he gets up, says, "I've never felt better in my life," and checks out of the hospital. I think even the most "scientific" of scientists would acknowledged he or she had witnessed a miracle.

            But in "normal" miracles, the truly impossible just doesn't seem to happen. Severed limbs don't spontaneously reattach. Missing limbs don't grow back right before your eyes. Usually what is considered a miracle for purposes of, say, canonizing a saint is some kind of spontaneous remission of a disease. These kinds of things are known to just happen.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Agreed.

          • Max Driffill

            I had a reasonable response to this post, but it has apparently disappeared.

          • Andre Boillot

            Since there's no other explanation: God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This site keeps hiding comments for some reason!

          • Max Driffill

            Well for the record Kevin, I had no intention of insulting you and if my comments did offend you, know that was not my intent.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks, man.

          • Longshanks

            "Accepting the story of the Flood, is to be ignorant"

            Advocatus Diaboli:

            Wouldn't our growing climatological/geological understanding of the near-long ago give us a plausibly consonant touchstone for Noah's flood?

            By that I mean, if I accept that the oldest books of the O.T. are, as I understand them to be, the agglomerated transcriptions of an ancient mesopotamian nomadic tribe's oral traditions (which, I think, is a form of knowledge transmission surprisingly impervious to major error), what's to stop the Flood myth from being rooted in the even more ancient human experiences of the end of the last ice age?

            After all, again as I understand it, the Iliad and the Odyssey were thought to be pure myth and the story of Troy a fiction until its ancient ruins were uncovered.

          • Max Driffill

            I stand by my statement, "Accepting the story of the Flood is to be ignorant."

            Now it is possible that some oral traditions reference, however obliquely, some ancient event, which are over time highly mythologized. Evidence may support that, there is a plausible explanation for the flood myth that involves a major flood near the Black Sea if memory serves. So there is nothing really stopping your suggestion.

            But such a thing in no way implies any thing like the Flood occurred, there is no reason on the basis of this thin tissue connection between a myth and some ancient event to assume any supernatural element of the story is true. No one, on the basis of a the alleged ruins of Troy, wants to now argue that Homer's supernatural elements now suddenly make sense and it all must have been true. Why the double standard?

            Also I am not sure what you can possibly mean by "surprisingly impervious to major error." Note the story of the Genesis Flood bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to the details of the Black Sea flood that are provided by anthropology and that the story itself probably invents out of whole cloth a cast of characters for its strange morality tale.

            So even if you accept that we could find a grain of historical truth in a myth, doing so does not mean you have accepted the details of the myth.

          • Longshanks

            I see now why the Vatican has phased out the office of the Devil's Advocate, he gets it from both sides. :)

            Also I am not sure what you can possibly mean by "surprisingly impervious to major error."

            I meant that, from what I understand about the transmission error-rates from generation-to-generation in oral-tradition societies, the error rate is surprisingly low. Of course, that's a purely subjective statement, it might not be surprising to anyone else, but I do find it interesting that passing information with fidelity and integrity has been a pursuit of our species for a while now.

            I suppose I should've noticed from your capitalization of "the Flood" that you were referrencing the biblical story with all it's bells and whistles. To me, the trappings of the supernatural in these accounts is pure window decoration, I just see them as humans telling humans stories for millennia.

            Bearing that in mind, I find it strangely stimulating to imagine that for generation upon generation, a story about a world (whatever the scope of that word would be for a human 17 thousand years ago) ending flood could be preserved in anything like coherency. I mean, some humans must have made it to high ground during major floods of the early-post Ice Age, perhaps the 'real' Noah was some dude that got to high ground while his tribe died in the lowlands.

            I fully take your point about (are they 'alleged'?) the ruins of Troy not supporting the theistic claims about Pallas Athena, Aphrodite etc...

            I merely wanted to draw attention to the perhaps proto-truth of ancient gigantic flood stories.

            Also note that I have no idea whether or not the melting of the glaciers 17k years ago would've produced anything resembling a 'flood' vs. a gradual sea/ocean/river rise on a year-to-year time scale.

          • Max Driffill

            Oh, I meant to say I did the way you introduced your deviling!

          • Max Driffill

            I am also totally fine with everything you have just said here. And I thought I was mostly fine with your last statement, this post definitely clears up any ambiguity on my end.

          • Haha Longshanks, I do appreciate your willingness to take up the Devil's Advocate position. You're a martyr for both causes.

          • Andrew G.

            I don't put much credence in theories that actual large-scale floods explain flood myths, simply because none of the large-scale floods ever suggested for this purpose ever receded and all are much too long ago.

            Sea levels reached approximately their current positions by about 6000 BC, and the purported Black Sea flooding (which moved coastlines no more than ~20 miles in most places at rather less than walking pace) would have been in 5600 BC if it occurred. In both cases any inundation was permanent. The fastest known period of sea-level rise was not more than 20 meters in 200 years and was probably much less; long-term rates were more like 10 meters per 600 years.

          • severalspeciesof

            Really? It's reasonable to speak of 'demonic powers to benefit yourself'? And then to argue whether or not it is reasonable to burn/kill them? That's not reason, that's just... uh... I'm at a loss for words here *head hits desk*

          • CoastRanger

            Why don't you just say you think it is irrational both to outlaw witchcraft and to punish witchcraft?

          • articulett

            It's irrational to believe in witchcraft.

          • VelikaBuna

            What is natural law to you may not be natural to someone else.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So when the rape victim is crying, "Why are you doing this to me?" the rapist can reply, "What's the problem? This is my idea of natural"?

          • VelikaBuna

            Exactly, ducks and roosters rape all the time. Seems pretty natural to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ducks and roosters are not moral agents. Also, you don't have a duck or rooster nature. You have a human nature.

          • So the question is, was it prudent for Moses to give the Chosen People 2500 years ago a law to put witches to death?

            But in Exodus, it isn't Moses who says, "You shall not let a sorceress live." It's God himself.

            Aquinas's categories, at least as you describe them here, are very convenient, because there are no clear criteria for classifying the various commandments in any particular category.

            But clearly the Catholic Church would see the command not to let a sorceress live as containing moral content. After all, the Catechism says,

            2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

          • CoastRanger

            David, Every law in every legal code needs to have some basis in the natural law to be legitimate. CCC 2117 is explaining the natural law in regard to occult practices. What any society might do about it is a different question altogether. Is there anything you think a law should condemn and punish?

          • Well, here in New York City we have "alternate side of the street parking." Cars must be parked on one side of the street one day, and the other side the next. This allows for street cleaning. How in the world that has a basis in natural law I'd like to know!

            In any case, it seems to me you aren't reading the Old Testament the way I understand the Catholic Church to. For example, in the Old Testament, the punishment for adultery is death for both parties. The punishment for sorcery is death. The punishment for homosexual sex between two men (but not two women!) is death. The Catholic Church does not maintain that those commandments were merely a part of the governance of the tribe and are no longer applicable. It maintains that the moral judgement implied by the commandments is correct, but the penalty is not taken to be applicable nowadays. The Catholic Church does not advocate stoning adulterers or executing sorceresses, but it does still forbid adultery and sorcery. Some are trying to explain away the command to execute sorceresses. You can't explain it away. It wasn't a "prudential decision" on the part of Moses for good governance. It was, as it appears in Exodus, a commandment directly from God himself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Alternative street parking does have a basis in the natural law because of the social nature of human beings. It is good for us to cooperate to advance the common good. it is good for us to have clean streets. The City of NY comes along and says, "And if you don't cooperate, we'll tow your car away and it's going to cost you so much money and inconvenience you'll never disobey do that again."

            About your second paragraph, I agree with you. The Ten Commandments are both natural law precepts and were revealed to Israel through Moses. The Church does say the natural moral law condemns adultery and sorcery always and everywhere.

            It is a whole different matter what should be done about these actions, though. I think the Church would say, God did reveal to Israel what the Jews could have known through reason (that adultery and sorcery are wrong), and then God did order that Israelites who did these things should be punished with death. Is this penalty intrinsically wrong?

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"The Ten Commandments are both natural law precepts and were revealed to Israel through Moses."

            This is simplistic thinking based on circular reasoning. Moses being a mythical figure.

            >>"The Church does say the natural moral law condemns adultery and sorcery always and everywhere."

            Are you suggesting that sorcery is real? As in "Use of supernatural power over others through the assistance of spirits".

            Does the church still say the natural moral law still condemn adultery and sorcery always and everywhere?

            >>"It is a whole different matter what should be done about these actions, though.

            It is indeed. Like burning sorcerers at the stake for instance. Why was it the morally right thing to do until it wasn't. What about adultery? Seems rather hypocritical of the church. Everyone from Popes to paupers have committed it. Seems rather ridiculous to have these two "crimes" in a set of moral turpitude. For a god that knows everything, the first, sorcery, is a stupid nonsense and the later is part of human NATURE and as I said, practiced by every class from royalty to the indigent and only morally wrong given the Mosaic Decalogue. Many cultures have little or no issue with it. Of course men have little to fear from adultery laws, it is the poor women that suffer.

            "The head of the U.N. expert body charged with identifying ways to eliminate laws that discriminate against women or are discriminatory to them in terms of implementation or impact, Kamala Chandrakiran, has stated that: "Adultery must not be classified as a criminal offence at all"

            Even the word "adultery" is Abrahamic. With a quarter of the worlds population engaging in it, Hell is going to be cramped, but those there will be in some very aloof company indeed.

            >>"I think the Church would say, God did reveal to Israel what the Jews could have known through reason (that adultery and sorcery are wrong), and then God did order that those Israelites who did these things should be punished with death."

            Or maybe a man/men "did reveal to Israel what the Jews could have known through reason."...even if it was unreasonable, as we now know it is.

            >>"Then the question becomes "Is this punishment scandalous?"

            There is absolutely no question whatsoever that being put to death for adultery, or the fictitious crime of sorcery, is ridiculous. That on its own should make it obvious that no god come up with the concepts. Anyone that thinks killing folk because they have committed adultery or have been accused of sorcery is acceptable has no place being part of my species.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you think it's okay to dehumanize someone who you think merely "thinks" something you don't like.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jeez...why do you folk love to build strawmen?

            We are not talking about philosophical underpinnings of the like and dislike of Brussels sprouts at the Xmas dinner table.

            If what you are inferring is that I think it is inhumane to MERELY think it is okay to kill people for adultery or alleged sorcery? Then yes, yer darn tooting I think it is inhumane, don't you?

            It's because of people who MERELY "thinks" its okay to be so barbaric that the barbarians that do the deeds have succor from the MERELY "thinkers" to actually carry out the barbarism.

            What is wrong with religious people? You pontificate to the non religious about being on the moral high ground because of your beliefs, while carrying on with such irrational thoughts...atrocious irrational thoughts...in trying to defend said religion.

            No thanks! I'll stay down here in the gutter with my reasoned social mores...you can have your faith based pedestal.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know what you are talking about.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I know ya don't.

            You said, "So you think it's okay to dehumanize someone who you think merely "thinks" something you don't like."

            It wasn't just "something" someone merely "thinks", such flippancy is astounding. it is merely thinking that someone should be put to death for adultery or alleged sorcery that is despicable and inhumane. Like the RCC merely thinking that it is much better to protect abusive clerics as opposed to protecting the innocence of little children in the churches care.

            But then you're hero believed that merely thinking was a crime so what's your problem? Mind you, in contrast, he was condemning to death those thought crimes and also for ridiculous reasons.

            Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28: You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder,” and “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

            One cannot control their desires(coveting) anymore than any other feeling. They can only control how they act on those desires, but that isn't good enough, the crime has already been committed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ignorant Amos,

            (1) I don't think what you think I think, but based on what YOU think I think YOU would declare me outside the human species. That is dehumanization.

            (2) The Catholic Church decidedly does not think pedophiles should be protected.

            (3) It is not true that we cannot "control" our thoughts and desires. While thoughts and desires arise spontaneously, what we decide to do about them is how we control them. One can decide something in thought, word, or deed. You can mentally choose a course of action. That is part of free will.

          • David Egan

            "(2) The Catholic Church decidedly does not think pedophiles should be protected."

            You ought to tell that to all the kids who were abused by the pedophiles who were protected and moved from place to place over the years. I suspect they'd disagree.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are conflating the actions of a few with the institution as a whole. Child abuse is a universal problem.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            "You are conflating the actions of a few with the institution as a whole. Child abuse is a universal problem."

            It's a personal pet-peeve of mine that people try to defend the RCC sex-scandal by citing the minority of priests involved, and the prevalence of child-abuse outside the RCC. People understand that large organizations will almost inevitably contain a few "bad apples". The crime the RCC is being charged with is the decades long cover up, as well as disciplinary practices which allowed more children to become victims. Please stop casting this simply in terms of the number of priests charged.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"(1) I don't think what you think I think, but based on what

            YOU think I think YOU would declare me outside the human species. That is dehumanization."

            There ya go again with the straw men. I don't know what you think. What I said in my original comment was...

            " Anyone that thinks killing folk because they have committed adultery or have been accused of sorcery is acceptable has no place being part of my species."

            ...which I stand by. If your paranoia has you thinking something that isn't so, then the problem is in your head. If you do just "merely think" it is just fine to think it is okay to murder adulterers and alleged sorcerers, then I pity you, and yes, it IS inhumane a thought in the 21st century. Otherwise, I apologize if you mistakenly thought the original comment was personal. I've learned the hard way myself that paying attention is important.

            >>"(2) The Catholic Church decidedly does not think pedophiles should be protected."

            That you are not prepared to face the truth under overwhelming evidence to the contrary does not surprise me one little bit.

            Four government sponsored investigations in Ireland say different. And just last week we read this after a parliamentary investigation...

            "Cardinal George Pell Admits Abuse Cover-Up To Protect Australian Catholic Church"

            There are plenty more examples, including the one that brought down an Irish government.

            >>"(3) It is not true that we cannot "control" our thoughts and desires. While thoughts and desires arise spontaneously, what we decide to do about them is how we control them. One can decide something in thought, word, or deed. You can mentally choose a course of action. That is part of free will."

            Why do you just fire from the hip instead of reading what I said? It is the thoughts and desires that arise spontaneously that are the crimes. "You can mentally choose a course of action. That is part of free will.", it is also a crime according to the Mosaic law and what Jesus is alleged to have said in Matthew. Here, in case ya missed it first time...

            "You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

            To covet your neighbors ass is a thought crime. To covet your neighbors wife is a thought crime.

            "The prohibition against desiring forbidden things is also seen as a moral imperative for the individual to exercise control over the thoughts of his mind and the desires of his heart."

            Yes, that's right, it's nonsense.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So are you writing this from a pub in Ireland?

            I've read your third point about three times. I think you are mistaken. To commit a sin, the will must consent. That is why a spontaneous thought or urge cannot be a sin. It may be unfortunate or disordered but it does not become a sin until the person consents.

            To "look at a woman lustfully" means to consent to the desire.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"So are you writing this from a pub in Ireland?"

            The relevance being?

            >>"I've read your third point about three times. I think you are mistaken. To commit a sin, the will must consent. That is why a spontaneous thought or urge cannot be a sin. It may be unfortunate or disordered but it does not become a sin until the person consents."

            You are entitled to think what you like. Who says, "To commit a sin, the will must consent" when dealing with desire?

            "The prohibition against desiring forbidden things is also seen as a moral imperative for the individual to exercise control over the thoughts of his mind and the desires of his heart."

            Catechism of the Catholic Church 2514-2533

            The key word being "concupiscence"

            >>To "look at a woman lustfully" means to consent to the desire."

            This is a lot of semantics and you know it. If lust was the last think on my mind when I turned the corner to the sight of a scantily clad supermodel, desire at such a pont might be inevitable before I even had a chance to consider not thinking about it. Intrusive thoughts are a fact, by the time they are dismissed as intrusive thoughts, the individual has already had them. It's like trying to ask the jury at a murder trial to disregard something that has been brought up in court during a trial. The juror maybe able to omit what they have seen or heard when making their conclusion, but that's about it.

            "...notable religious figures such as Martin Luther and St. Ignatius were known to be tormented by intrusive, blasphemous or religious thoughts and urges."

            "Baer believes that blasphemous thoughts are more common in Catholics and evangelical Protestants than in other religions,..."

            This is a trait of OCD sufferers. They cannot prevent the intrusive thoughts, it's what they do next is what matters.

            Or if you prefer, Tourettes sufferers, they have the thought without thinking. By the time their brain has caught up, the words are out.

            As for "free will", that is a whole other debate, but I'm not buying it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            (About the pub, you mentioned Irish bishops so I figured if you were in Ireland you wouldn't be sitting in a Starbucks.)

            IA, I think you are just not understanding the passages you are quoting.

            How could you or I be guilty for a thought that popped into our heads out of nowhere? But even if it is my fault that I have spontaneous angry feelings, I only sin if I consent to the anger.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"(About the pub, you mentioned Irish bishops so I figured if you were in Ireland you wouldn't be sitting in a Starbucks.)"

            Fair observation I suppose. I'm Irish right enough, so if I was in Ireland I'd no doubt be sitting with a drink in my hand. As it happens I'm currently residing in Spain...commenting with a drink in my hand.

            No comment on the "cover-up" remark?

            >>"IA, I think you are just not understanding the passages you are quoting."

            Me and millions of others no doubt...hence the pickle the passages have put us all in. Are you understanding them? How do you know? A history of alternative interpretations by Theologians means "No True Scotsman".

            >>"How could you or I be guilty for a thought that popped into our heads out of nowhere? But even if it is my fault that I have spontaneous angry feelings, I only sin if I consent to the anger."

            While that has been my point, nevertheless, what does the commandment say? "Thou shall not covet [desire] thou neighbors wife"...where is the instruction manual that defines that passage to mean what you think it means?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            IA, Here is a quote from St. Augustine in an article by Germaine Grisez, a well-respected Catholic moral theologian on sins of thought:

            "There are three steps in the commission of sin: suggestion, pleasure, consent. Suggestion comes about either through
            memory or a sense perception as when we see, hear, smell, taste or touch anything. If to enjoy any of these sensations brings pleasure, the pleasure, if forbidden, must be checked. . . . Were we to yield consent to it, we would commit sin surely, a sin in the heart known to God, though actually it may remain unknown to man.”

            Sin requires consent.

            The full article is here: http://www.twotlj.org/G-1-15-E.html

            I don't follow you on the cover-up remark.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>IA, Here is a quote from St. Augustine in an article by Germaine Grisez, a well-respected Catholic moral theologian on sins of thought:

            While I appreciate that to some this person is a well respected theologian on sins of thought, but not to everyone.

            It should be ringing alarm bells all over your head that there is even a requirement for a well respected Catholic moral theologian. That a compendium of books, allegedly inspired by the divine, is so obscure that it requires multiple interpretations is quite worrying. That makes my point. What makes this guy a well respected theologian, as opposed to, say, another theologian that is deemed less well respected.

            >>"There are three steps in the commission of sin: suggestion, pleasure, consent. Suggestion comes about either through memory or a sense perception as when we see, hear, smell, taste or touch anything. If to enjoy any of these sensations brings pleasure, the pleasure, if forbidden, must be checked. . . .

            Where does it say these things in the scriptures?

            >>"Were we to yield consent to it, we would commit sin surely, a sin in the heart known to God, though actually it may remain unknown to man.”

            I've read elsewhere on these pages that ignorance of the sin, negates culpability. But anyway, You are repeating a non sequitur. The commandment says nothing of yielding consent to the desire, it clearly states that just holding that desire is criminal. The desire is an unavoidable concept. The commandment is a thought crime, it is not the only one by the way.

            >>Sin requires consent.

            Consent to think...which has been "par for the course" with religions.

            But it is interesting that the other well respected Catholic theologian who is copiously quoted here is getting a rest.

            According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “Covetousness is the root of all actual sins.” (A Tour of the Summa, 84- 1)

            "Covetousness is a strong desire to obtain what belongs to another."

            “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” (1 Timothy 6:10-11)

            Notice it says the love [desire?] of money, not the pursuit of money mind you.

            "St. Augustine saw envy as “the diabolical sin.” “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.” (CC 2539)"

            You know what envy means.

            Karen Dudek , who might be known to the mods, being a scholar of ND, writes an interesting article on it here...

            http://www.examiner.com/article/thou-shalt-not-covet-what-does-that-really-mean

            Theologians present all sorts of philosophies and preponderances on biblical texts, unfortunately not a lot of the sophisticated theology seeps down to the man on the street. As has been witnessed on these forum boards.

            >>I don't follow you on the cover-up remark.

            You stated that "The Catholic Church decidedly does not think pedophiles should be protected". The few examples I offered as evidence that it "decidedly" does think pedophiles are to be protected wrought a question about my native drinking habits, was this obfuscation to avoid a reply, or do you concede you are wrong?

          • Michael Murray

            So if I don't enjoy it it's not a sin ? So someone who performs an abortion doesn't commit a sin ?

          • Kevin, there is no reasonable way to argue in favor of alternate side of the street parking from natural law. Your argument seems to be that natural law dictates that there should be a well ordered society, and that things like street cleaning should be done for the common good. But that is such a general principle as to justify virtually anything a legislator can come up with. If natural law dictates laws requiring parking on opposite sides of the street on alternating days, would it be against natural law to have parking on one side of the street in the morning and the other in the afternoon? Do you really want to argue that natural law, which deals with such things as murder, theft, adultery, and so on, must also be applied to parking schemes in big cities? Show me one work by a natural law proponent that deals with parking!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To me this is a non-argument.

            Look at Aquinas' definition of law: "An ordinance of practical reason for the common good made by those who have care of the community and promulgated." These ordinances can take an infinite variety of forms depending on circumstances and can change as prudence dictates. As long as they are reasonable, they are participating in the natural law.

            I think that's right.

          • "Participating in the natural law" is a very vague phrase. What I am saying is that while natural law theorists would derive prohibitions against lying, murder, adultery, and theft as principles of natural law, no one would make a natural law argument for parking regulations. If I propose one parking scheme, and you propose another, and they are both consistent with good order, natural law is not going to help decide which one is better. It seems to me you are watering down the concept of natural law to cover anything practical or efficient.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You could be right.

          • Then the question becomes "Is this punishment scandalous?"

            I would say that if God himself directly commended the Israelites to kill sorceresses. Or take this:

            This is what the LORD of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt. Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.'"

            Here's a footnote to that passage from the NAB:

            Under the ban: in such wars of extermination, all things (men, cities, beasts, etc.) were to be blotted out; nothing could be reserved for private use. The interpretation of God's will here attributed to Samuel is in keeping with the abhorrent practices of blood revenge prevalent among pastoral, seminomadic peoples such as the Hebrews had recently been. The slaughter of the innocent has never been in conformity with the will of God.

            Yes, by the standards of today, many things attributed to God in the Old Testament are abhorrent.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So the NAB note is saying that Samuel was NOT saying what God was saying? It is saying Samuel was speaking from his limited human perspective?

          • That is certainly how I would interpret it.

          • Longshanks

            "Thomas Aquinas distinguished three kinds of laws in the Mosaic Law"

            Just as a side note I'm not sure that I've read one discussion here where the ultimate recourse was not, eventually, Aquinas.

            Odd that the bible needs such verbose and labyrinthian explication as he afforded.

            Also: classy move on the Iraqi insurgent analogy. Because every Iraqi insurgent's tactics, let alone motives, are easy to classify and understand, and thus appropriate fodder for generalization.

          • Longshanks

            I suppose I assumed that it was commensurate with god's will because Lot is described as a "righteous" man and as the only one such in the region. Your god spares him and not the town, so I figured that his actions, as opposed to those of the townspeople, were deemed licit and good by the lord.

            I am certainly willing to accept that a god who supports offering virgins for rape would not be a pleasant person, that was just my understanding of the passage, which is certainly not infallible, and I have read many people's interpretations to the contrary.

            But if it was evil, why is Lot "righteous?"

            On the other hand yahweh certainly does command the genocide of neighboring tribes, well, the adult male portions. And the women who are not virgins. And the male teenagers. And the male infants. And the male newborns. And the female newborns and infants.

            In fact, as far as I remember/my understanding allows, the only persons to be spared the sword were the young women of fertile age who had not yet been spoiled.

            Who, no doubt, went to their inevitable hebrew-beddings with willing and open hearts.

            No rape there.

        • tedseeber

          Are they? Or are they cultural artifacts of a different time and place?

          • Andre Boillot

            Tedseeber,

            "Are they? Or are they cultural artifacts of a different time and place?"

            Good point. Are we opening this interpretation up to the New Testament, in addition to the Old?

          • tedseeber

            Kind of have to, don't we? Otherwise, you'd have a damn good case (as the Southern Baptists used to argue) for the book of Philemon promoting slavery (as opposed to Paul presenting a new model of slavery that fit both Christianity and Roman Law- upon conversion to Christianity treating one's slaves as members of the family).

            Trying to remember that analogy I used in another discussion. Discipline is like the experiments science teachers do to explain the process. Doctrine is the math and models used to explain the data gathered. Dogma is the data.

            Trying to separate Dogma from Doctrine internal to the Bible is hard. Now add 4 different versions of the Bible (for different rites under the Pope- multiple others if you count the other Orthodox groups plus yet another 3 for various Protestants, plus outliers like the Book of Mormon and localized translations that evangelical Catholics may well run into), local small-t traditions, the big T Apostolic Tradition, and 2000 years worth of direct observation and experimentation into what works and what doesn't, and you quickly see why Catholic priests need at least a Master's and usually a PhD in their field.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "you quickly see why Catholic priests need at least a Master's and usually a PhD in their field."

            Yes, it's quite frustrating that the eternal truths taught by a carpenter and spread by fishermen require so much grad-level coursework to really understand. Especially when so many of the old teachings conflict with the new.

          • Mark Hunter

            Sort of throws this sawing under the bus.

            "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

          • tedseeber

            And yet, St. Therese of Lisieux is a doctor of the Church. Go figure.

          • tedseeber

            I think the problem there was the "spread by fishermen" part- we see that already with the Council of Jerusalem, which took place sometime *before* 70 A.D. and before Luke wrote his two part Gospel.

            Having said that, the Didache seems to have survived quite well, and gives us some insight into what those actual eternal truths were, as opposed to the bias modern peoples read into them. Well, for a certain definition of "survived".

          • Erich

            Andre,

            I see that you are hung up on some of the tough passages in the Old Testament. Understandable.

            First off, when approaching the Bible, realize it isn't just one book. It's a library, a collection of books. If you're reading literally the section of poetry, there's going to be some confusion. I'm not saying you are doing that in this instance though, just saying that you shouldn't give a Fundamentalist reading of the Bible.

            The Catholic view of God is diverse, it's impossible to say exactly what God is. God is not another being among many beings. His actions are always good because he is the source of all goodness. He is the being that gives life to every other being. Each life is a gift, and God can take that life away whenever He chooses, in whatever manner He chooses.

            Back to the OT. First we have to see the reasons behind why God would impose a genocide on a certain people, in this case, the Canaanites. They worshipped God, but also had a pantheon of deities they also worshipped. They were idolaters. Their culture was corrupt.

            Now, these passages are either literal or they are symbolic. Instructing to wipe away their culture could be a symbol not to live as the Canaanites do, and to live morally. Or it is literal, in which God, being the giver of life and creator of all things could instruct. If the Canaanites were so corrupt that they deserved death, it is up to God's judgement of if and how they are dealt with. Now, there were probably innocent people among the group. God is just with His punishments. Those who were righteous would be with God for eternity, even though they suffered death and destruction on earth.

            These are hard passages, no doubt. If God had these people killed just for tortures sake, then God would ultimately be unjust. But God is not unjust, there is meaning behind every action He does, whether we can see it clearly or not.

          • Andre Boillot

            Erich,

            "His actions are always good because he is the source of all goodness."

            Tautology.

            "First we have to see the reasons behind why God would impose a genocide on a certain people, in this case, the Canaanites. They worshipped God, but also had a pantheon of deities they also worshipped. They were idolaters. Their culture was corrupt."

            I believe the same could be said about the Israelites prior to being given the 10 Commandments, no? Luck of the draw, eh? God choosing this tribe, but not the next.

            "These are hard passages, no doubt. If God had these people killed just for tortures sake, then God would ultimately be unjust. But God is not unjust, there is meaning behind every action He does, whether we can see it clearly or not."

            And more tautology.

          • Guest

            "First we have to see the reasons behind why God would impose a genocide on a certain people,

            Oh there can be reasons for genocide. I didn't know that. Someone should nip over to the Hague and explain it to the ICC.

            Are we seriously having a discussion about reasons for genocide? This is the problem with theism. The attempt to continual rationalise the gap between reality and the superstition leads to absurdities. Sometimes it's angels on pinheads but sometimes it's very nasty absurdities.

          • Michael Murray

            Sorry Andre. I made a reply to you by mistake which I deleted. Now buggy Disqus has done it's favourite trick where instead of deleting it assigns the post to Guest. I'll flag it in the hope that the mods can remove it.

          • Andre Boillot

            No worries!

          • Erich

            Andre,

            I see your point in calling it tautology. But you are debating the Christian view of God, which I only gave so little of. Christians see God as the total Good. Not a good among many goods. It is part of His nature. All life comes from God. It is a gift. If God sees something as corrupt, it is up to Him how it is to be dealt with.

            And like I said before, there is no telling whether these passages are meant to be taken literal or as symbolic. It appears God is saying, "Wipe out the Canaanites" but history shows that the Canaanites were not completely wiped out. This goes to show that language 3000 years ago is not to be read as if it were written in the 21st century. It could be a stern teaching on not falling into idolatry and corruption. After all, these are the people who were given responsibility to be God's light in the world.

          • articulett

            Do you think the god of the old testament is a good god?

            Can you think of any good excuse a human could give so that you'd excuse them for unleashing bears to maul 42 kids to death (2Kings2)?

            If Christianity is monotheistic-- then the old testament god is also Jesus, right?

            Can you think of any good reason to give anyone eternal punishment? If you had the power to keep someone from existing-- or to have them exist knowing that they would be tortured for all eternity, what do you think is the more moral option? Do you think it's better for a baby to be aborted and not go to hell... or to be born and face the risk of going to hell? What do you think is an acceptable risk regarding the possibility of ETERNAL torment, because I wouldn't have children if I believed there was any possibility that my beloved child could suffer such a fate. But Catholics do. How is this moral?

          • Michael Murray

            "First we have to see the reasons behind why God would impose a genocide on a certain people,

            Oh there can be reasons for genocide. I didn't know that. Someone should nip over to the Hague and explain it to the ICC.

            Are we seriously having a discussion about reasons for genocide? This is the problem with theism. The attempt to continual rationalise the gap between reality and the superstition leads to absurdities. Sometimes it's angels on pinheads but sometimes it's very nasty absurdities.

            These are hard passages, no doubt. If God had these people killed just for tortures sake, then God would ultimately be unjust. But God is not unjust, there is meaning behind every action He does, whether we can see it clearly or not.

            Or maybe, just maybe there is no god. Problem solved.

          • Erich

            Michael,

            If your argument here is "God, the giver of life, had a people He saw as corrupt eliminated, so there is no God" then you don't have a solid argument in my opinion. Perhaps that isn't your argument.

            What problems are solved if there is no God? How is God existing bad?

          • Michael Murray

            If there is no god there is no need to explain the excess of suffering in the universe nor it's apparent lack of purpose.

          • Erich

            And what does that do for us? Besides say life has no purpose and is pointless?

          • Michael Murray

            Why should a fact about the universe do anything for us ? If there is no god there is no god. The truth is the truth. Fact's don't exist so they can be useful.

            You might as well ask what is the point in blackholes existing. What does it do for us ?

            If you want your life to have a purpose then invent one. I've got a lot of purposes in my life although running out of time to get to them all.

          • Erich

            When talking about God, Christians don't view Him as a material to be found and studied within the universe. If God were not to exist, objective morality would not exist. That leaves everything up to the opinion of individuals. Everything.

            You seem to have great faith as I do. I have faith in God, whereas you have faith in Him not existing. Even if you invent a purpose for yourself, some task to accomplish or milestone to reach, that doesn't mean your life matters or has purpose (if there is no God). Say God does not exist. I devote my life to changing you, Michael Murray, into a believer. Say I succeed. It wouldn't matter. Say I don't succeed. It still wouldn't matter. It would have been a time filler. Something to occupy my mind. Essentially, without God, that's all life is. Filling in time from birth till death. I think there is a reason that most atheists I speak with are huge cynics.

          • Michael Murray

            You are not answering my question. Why does the fact that god existing would give your life purpose make god exist ?

            My life would be much nicer if my bank balance was more like Bill Gates' but that doesn't affect my bank balance.

            Need doesn't change reality.

            If God were not to exist, objective morality would not exist. That leaves everything up to the opinion of individuals. Everything.

            Again you are just telling me it would be bad if god did not exist. I disagree with you but that is beside the point. The point is that unpleasant consequences of gods non-existence don't make god exist.

            I have faith in God, whereas you have faith in Him not existing.

            Don't tell me what I think. I've looked at the world and I've seen no gods. That's not faith that's examining the evidence.

            that doesn't mean your life matters or has purpose

            Let me say it again. If you find that bleak that is not an argument for it not being true. Uncomfortable truths are still truths.

          • Erich

            I haven't been giving arguments for God's existence. I am just illustrating that human beings have an ingrained yearning for something higher than themselves. That only points to God. Nothing on earth is higher than man. If there was a completely un-arguable proof for God I think it would have been thought of already. But there is always room for doubt. If you are into philosophy, you may know that some philosophers argue that there could be no such thing as reality. It has something to do with everything we sense being controlled somehow by an outside force, such as a computer linked to the brain or something else. Yet I think you probably believe we do exist and are experiencing reality.

            I haven't seen God either yet I believe in His existence. I was once a non believer as well and dismissed any talk of God as nonsense. Until I studied Christianity. Authentic Christianity, not a mega-church or a non denominational church that reads every part of the Bible literally and denies science. I think, while on earth, God is something to be felt, not seen. Kind of like love in a way. I have never seen love, because it isn't material. I can't measure it with an instrument. Yet I believe it to be real because I have felt firsthand its affects on me.

            Finally, I'm not looking for any hostility, just good discussion.

          • ZenDruid

            I haven't been giving arguments for God's existence. I am just
            illustrating that human beings have an ingrained yearning for something
            higher than themselves. That only points to God.

            I think it's more like an instinctive false positive, which has had obvious survival advantages in the past. For example, the simple immediate question of whether that's an apex predator or the wind moving the tall grass over there.

            In the case of God it is modified to be a permanent Damocles' sword or bogeyman or monster under the bed. That definitely puts a crimp in this little boy's worldview. If there's no discernible sign, there's no immediate threat, and no cause for the strange fallout of a troubled imagination.

          • articulett

            Yes-- religions capitalize on this fear as well as the fear of death. Men can get masses to do their bidding by claiming to humbly speak for this invisible being (and indicating that eternal torture awaits those who don't comply).

            It's kind of like a chain letter-- if you believe and get others to believe-- then you live "happily ever after" when you die... for such a small investment-- spread the good news!

            Don't ask questions (it's arrogant to question god!)

            Of course, if you don't believe or don't believe the right thing-- the worst thing imaginable awaits you-- (why take chances with eternity?)

            It's a clever meme that has worked to program many people into many virulent religions-- not just the Catholics. Information is the antidote to many a superstition... and the internet is an efficient mode of delivery.

          • ZenDruid

            It occurs to me, that there is nothing better than the threat of eternal torment to give a child a reason to become an expert at lying.

          • articulett

            Yes... and I think religions encourage people to lie to themselves as well as others-- to pretend to know things that one doesn't know.

            As a Catholic girl, I'd worry that I wasn't believing in the right invisible guy with the right ferevency or that I may be believing the wrong religion... but I didn't know how to fix it if I was wrong or even to find out what the right religion was-- or what the rubric was for getting into heaven. I did wonder why scientists weren't testing the Pope and Mormon prophets and so forth to see who was the most divine since it seemed that our collective eternities were at stake... I hadn't yet realized that everyone was going to hell according to somebody's religion. Nor had I realized that faith is not a virtue nor is it a method of knowledge.

          • Michael Murray

            I haven't been giving arguments for God's existence. I am just illustrating that human beings have an ingrained yearning for something higher than themselves. That only points to God.

            So how is "That only points to God" not an argument for God's existence ?

            My complaint about your non-argument pointing is the same as it was before. Let's accept your statement that "human beings have an ingrained yearning for something higher than themselves". How do you deduced that because we have a desire for it something exists ? I've got a yearning desire for humanity to be able to travel to the stars. But that doesn't mean it's possible.

            Yet I think you probably believe we do exist and
            are experiencing reality.

            I act and plan my life as if that is true. If pressed I'd admit I can't rule out that I'm a brain in a vat or in a Matrix scenario. But just like in the Matrix if I hit my hand with a hammer it hurts so it's a difference that makes no difference for me.

            God is something to be felt, not seen.

            But if you feel God then that is an interaction with the brain, a change in energies levels of some particles and fields. So you are back to asking if science can detect God. So God can be "seen" if by seen you mean detectable by science.

            Finally, I'm not looking for any hostility, just good discussion.

            No hostility. Just allergic to the " I want it so it must be there" argument. If you would rather I stopped replying just say.

          • articulett

            So you went from believing in no invisible beings to deciding that a 3-in-1 god who became his own son is real?

            How do you decide which invisible beings are real and which are mythological? Why should a rational person consider your method to be better than someone who went from atheist to Hindu?

            Is your belief in god contingent upon a belief in souls? That is, if souls weren't real-- would you want to know? Is your belief tied to the idea that you might be rewarded for faith in some afterlife if you believe the right unbelievable story and/or punished in hell if you don't (Pascal's wager). Would you still believe in a 3-in-1 god who became his own son if you didn't believe in souls? Would you believe in a god who wanted to be "believed in"?

            Do you believe the universe was created so that humans (including you) could exist? Do you think animals have souls? How would god need to manifest so that you were sure it was god if he wanted to test you like he tested Abraham (asking you to kill your kid) so that you were sure it was god-- and not just a misperception of some sort?

            How would Jesus need to manifest to you if he wanted you personally to give away all your possessions to the poor like he asked of his followers in the bible? Why haven't you done so and how would Jesus need to appear to you to get you to believe he was the Jesus you believe in?

          • articulett

            Is there any evidence that could convince you that the god you believe in is as imaginary as the ones you dismiss as myth?

            Do you think you are any more receptive to finding out you might be wrong than the average Muslim is?

          • articulett

            I don't think Buddhists yearn for god belief.

            So what would it take for you to believe in reincarnation?

            It always seems to me that believers set a very low bar when it comes to some of their supernatural beliefs-- but they set the same sort of bar that an atheist sets when it comes to conflicting supernatural beliefs-- or believing that Jesus want's THEM to give all their money to the poor.

          • Michael Murray

            All that polemic aside it's not that bleak facing the truth. It will hurt from where you are now but there are so many advantages for someone like you who clearly wants to understand the world at an intellectual level. No more squaring impossible logical circles all the time.

            That's what drove me away from the church as a teenager. I took it seriously. Nobody around me did they just did what they wanted and went to Church on Sundays.

            Of course there is the business of getting family and friends to accept the change. That's tough.

          • Longshanks

            "That's what drove me away from the church as a teenager. I took it seriously. Nobody around me did "

            Amen brother.

          • Erich

            If I were to switch back to being an atheist my family wouldn't care. They are not people of great faith. Christianity was something I discovered. It has changed my life.

            So you're telling me you left your faith in God, and replaced it with faith in atheism because you took your faith in God too seriously as a teenager? I don't see why. What did your friends being lapsed Christians have anything to do with you losing your faith?

          • articulett

            You don't need any more faith to be an atheist than to not believe in Scientology.

            It takes no faith at all to disbelieve in things that have never been substantiated to exist in the first place-- To me, believing in god would be like trying to believe in Santa again. The Catholic god never really made sense to me... but I still thought faith was good... I segued to new age type beliefs (reincarnation and such) because they made much more sense than Catholicism... they "resonated" with me and made me feel good.

            But then I grew up and learned that faith and feelings are very poor ways of getting at the truth. There is no evidence that any sort of consciousness can or does exist absent a material brain. Anyone claiming to know about souls or any other immaterial conscious being is claiming to know something they do no really know. God belief is the same as ghost belief as far as the evidence is concerned.

            I think it's funny when theists try to frame lack of belief as being a belief in itself. I think they do this to keep themselves from realizing that the atheist doesn't believe in their faith for the same reason the theist rejects all those other crazy faiths/myth/cults/superstitions!

          • Erich

            I am being bombarded with emails from this site so I apologize if I don't get back to all of your replies, I have other things to do. If you don't have faith in something, you have faith that it isn't true. That isn't a hard concept to grasp.

          • Okay Erich, I understand that you have things to do. While you are doing those things, consider what it would take for you to believe in the Lord Krishna (hundreds of millions of people do). That should give you a better idea of where we are coming from.

          • Michael Murray

            The family issue is a big problem for some people.

            It wasn't my family being lapsed Catholics -- they weren't. They went to Mass, confession, communion, etc. It's just that I tried to understand Catholicism and found it severely wanting whereas they seemed to ignore all the glaring inconsistencies. I never understood that really but their behaviour didn't influence mine.

          • Erich

            What glaring inconsistencies are you referencing?

          • Michael Murray

            All the usual ones you can find in any atheist book.

            1. Clear lack of any purpose or design in the real world.

            2. Appalling lack of any morality in the world -- enormous amount of suffering at all leaves and for all creatures is intrinsic to the worlds "design"

            3. Inconsistency between magical claims of RCC and modern scientific knowledge. We know these things are not possible.

            4. Enormous difficulty we have understanding the world beyond our own. High energies, short distances, these things are not intuitive.

            They are perhaps not inconsistencies but other things that strike me are

            5. Christianity looks just like it would if it was made up by people. Hotch potch of claims. Reliance on terrible rationalisations that only work if seen through the "lense of faith".

            I understand that it does't look like that to you but you asked me how it looks to me. That's how it looks.

            In short: how would the world look if there was no god and no purpose in nature. Pretty much like it does now.

            In addition I found many Catholic ideas on morality and it's superiority complex unpleasant and still do. I hold it, and Christianity more generally to a large extent responsible for the impending environmental disaster over population is bringing on us. Of course as I argued to you this doesn't make it wrong. But it sure makes it unpleasant.

          • Erich

            Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, I'm working a lot and have been bombarded with replies from other people on this thread. I don't have near enough time to answer each reply, and for some reason I can't view most of them. But anyway.

            1. Are you saying that the Catholic Church lacks a purpose in the world?

            2. What specific teaching on morality in the Church do you find appalling?

            3. I wouldn't say magical claims, but miracle claims. These things are impossible to humans, but to God nothing is impossible. That is why the Church labels them as miracles and mysteries. We full well acknowledge that things such as rising from the dead and virgin birth are impossible for man. Modern science doesn't need to tell us that, because Christ's disciples knew it was impossible too. It seems reasonable to me that Jesus, showing He was/is God, would do something miraculous, beyond human comprehension and explanation. Who would proclaim Him as God if all He did was say He was God and do completely normal, average things? People today do that.

            4. I'm don't understand what that has to do with the Church, if you could explain please.

            5. It may appear that is was made up to you. But I don't think if I was an average guy, creating a religion with my buddies, that I would leave in the hard parts if I was trying to achieve converts. Nor would I, when pressed to give up my faith in the religion I made up, die for its teachings, along with my buddies, as the Apostles all did, except John.

          • Michael Murray

            1. Are you saying that the Catholic Church lacks a purpose in the world?

            No I'm saying there is no purpose in the world.

            2. What specific teaching on morality in the Church do you find appalling?

            The negative attitude towards human sexuality which leads to enormous amounts of guilt over perfectly normal things like masturbation, pre-marital sex, oral sex, homosexuality etc.

            3. I wouldn't say magical claims, but miracle claims.

            I'd say magical.

            4. I'm don't understand what that has to do with the Church, if you could explain please.

            Not everything is about rejecting the RCC it's also about rejecting gods. Once you reject gods you have to rather reject the RCC as well. My point in number 4 is that I understand quite a bit of relativity and quantum field theory and I know how counter intuitive it is. So if the world at its most fundamental level is counter intuitive why do we expect to be able to understand god who would be very fundamental ?

            5. 5. It may appear that is was made up to you. But I don't think if I was an average guy, creating a religion with my buddies, that I would leave in the hard parts if I was trying to achieve converts.

            I doubt it was made up over few beers like that. It grew over time, stories attached themselves to historical facts, bits got made up and added in, etc, etc. Then Paul came along and organised it all into a religion.

            Michael

          • Erich

            Alright, since you're an atheist, I can see why you come to the conclusion of number 1. I can't argue with you there.

            I don't see a negative attitude towards sexuality. I think the Church shows how human sexuality is beautiful and special, not something to be used at any whim of desire.

            You can use magical if you like, but that just emphasizes how much you don't know about the Church and it's teachings.

            We expect to understand God by way of His revealing Himself to us. That is Divine Revelation. That includes Judaism, which was fulfilled in Christ.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see a negative attitude towards sexuality. I think the Church shows how human sexuality is beautiful and special, not something to be used at any whim of desire.

            The RCC has ruined the lives of many people by imposing an enormous burden of guilt on normal sexual behaviours such as masturbation and responsible caring sexual contact between adults. Perhaps you didn't suffer from this when you where young or met anyone else who did. But I did and I met lots of others who did. Instead of sex being a normal healthy activity it became furtive and scary -- not helped by the difficulty of obtaining contraception. I'm not big on the word obscene but I'll use it for the way the RCC imposes its morality on young Catholics and the rest of the world.

            There is no moral reason for people not to undertake sexual activity if they are responsible and caring and aware of the risks. It seems the rest of the world agrees with me if you look at the numbers of extramarital births

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

            Look at the countries that rate highly like Northern Europe and Scandinavia -- are these really countries on the brink of destruction because of their immorality ? Look also at the changes recently in "Catholic" countries.

          • Erich

            The Church doesn't have any power to impose guilt on anyone, Michael. Guilt is felt when a person has done something they know is wrong. The Church lays its teachings out clearly. It does not force people to follow them. I hated the Catholic Church when I was an atheist. I thought their teachings on sexuality were backwards. Yet for some reason, when I committed oh so pleasurable sexual acts, I felt extremely guilty. It wasn't the Church that imposed guilt on me. It was my conscience. It's crazy to think that the teaching I hated the most about the Catholic Church lead me to actually investigate the Church and study its teachings, and then join it. 10 years ago I would have laughed at that notion.

            I know full well a lot of people disagree with the Church's sexual moral teachings. They aren't easy to follow, but that doesn't mean they aren't right. I'm sure it's more pleasurable to hook up with anyone you please for selfish pleasure. I'm sure it's more pleasurable to have sex with your hand, and to objectify naked women on the internet. I'm sure it's easier in a marriage to use your spouse merely for pleasure in sex, whether through intercourse or other means. You showed me that the majority of the population is selfish and after easy pleasure. What's new? An action doesn't have to physically harm anyone to be immoral. So no, Northern Europe doesn't look like it's about to fall into destruction in the sense that people will be physically harmed by their sexual immorality. But if you are talking about a moral destruction, well sir, that time has come and gone, and we live in it now.

            "In short the RCC behaved yet again like a human political organisation bereft of any divine inspiration. That's the point."

            No, it shows that men have free will to do good or bad. And even those who lead the Church still have their free will to do bad, unfortunately. Becoming Pope or bishop doesn't make a man any less susceptible to evil actions. Jesus warned that his chosen disciples still have the ability to betray, look at Judas.

          • Susan

            >The Church doesn't have any power to impose guilt on anyone, Michael. Guilt is felt when a person has done something they know is wrong.

            Excuse my interruption. But do you really think that the only time a person experiences feelings of guilt is if they have done something they "know" is wrong?

          • Erich

            "Excuse my interruption. But do you really think that the only time a person experiences feelings of guilt is if they have done something they "know" is wrong?"

            I wouldn't limit it to just that.

          • Susan

            I wouldn't limit it to just that.

            So then, people can feel guilty when they've done nothing wrong. Is that what you mean?

          • Erich

            "So then, people can feel guilty when they've done nothing wrong. Is that what you mean?"

            No. A person can feel guilty when they haven't done something when they know they should have. Perhaps an old lady falls and a person just walks by. There is a good chance that he/she will feel guilty for having done nothing to help the old lady.

          • Susan

            Walking by an old lady is doing something wrong, isn't it?

            Unless you think there is nothing wrong with that.

            I'm not sure what you're saying Erich. Can a person have feelings of guilt even if they haven't done anything wrong or not?

            Do you think that feelings of guilt are only produced by wrongdoing?

          • Erich

            It's possible to feel guilty when one hasn't done something wrong, sure.

          • Max Driffill

            Guilt is used in two different ways, and it seems to me you are neglecting one of these ways.
            1. Guilt can be used to describe an emotional state of remorse and sorrow at actions performed, thoughts, whatever. It can be produced by actions that are really reallly bad (murder, rape, theft, dishonesty etc) or it can be produced for non-moral reasons (pre-marital sex, masturbation, homosexuality).

            2. Guilt is also used to designate culpability in court. A person is found guilty. The Church can certainly find people guilty in this way.

          • Erich

            "1. Guilt can be used to describe an emotional state of remorse and sorrow at actions performed, thoughts, whatever. It can be produced by actions that are really reallly bad (murder, rape, theft, dishonesty etc) or it can be produced for non-moral reasons (pre-marital sex, masturbation, homosexuality).

            "2. Guilt is also used to designate culpability in court. A person is found guilty. The Church can certainly find people guilty in this way."

            I was only speaking of the first type of guilt, the second doesn't matter in this discussion. My only point was that the Church cannot make anyone feel guilty.

          • Max Driffill

            Sure it can.

          • Erich

            Please explain.

          • Max Driffill

            The scope of guilt is also delimited by one's cultural milieu and its attendant rules.
            Growing up Catholic one cannot help but to hear its proscriptions and incorporate them into their vision of the world. These outlooks can seriously affect one's emotional states. This includes the emotion of guilt.

          • Erich

            One does not need to grow up Catholic to feel guilt when doing something the Church teaches against. One can be a complete atheist and hate the Church, or what they think the Church to be, as I once did, but feel guilt on something the Church teaches against.

          • Max Driffill

            I have written an entire blog about one specific way in which the Catholic Church can create guilt, among other things in a person. Here is the link.

            Also, do remember that I am not saying the Church is the only creator of guilt in people, but it is one, very effective vector.

            http://maxiitheblindwatchmaker.blogspot.com/2013/04/catholicism-is-characterized-by-another.html

          • Erich

            Interesting blog. A lot of insulting comments, not much different from any other atheist blog I have read. A complete misunderstanding of the Church's teaching on sexuality. I invite you to go read what they are and why the Church teaches them. You are the first to advocate for a 5 year old to masturbate though that I have read.

          • Max Driffill

            Erich,

            In what way have I misunderstood the Catholic perspective on human sexuality?

            "I invite you to go read what they are and why the Church teaches them. You are the first to advocate for a 5 year old to masturbate though that I have read."

            I advocated nothing. I noted that kids exploring their sexuality was common, normal and probably healthy. If I advocated for anything, it was the ignoring some ancient befuddlement about human sexuality, and not making kids feel guilty, icky and evil over normal human curiosity and desires. These impossible preachments encourage self-loathing, dishonesty and hypocrisy.

          • Erich

            You know the Church's teaching on masturbation and sexuality, but I would guess you don't know why the Church teaches what it does. Could you tell me why the Church teaches what it does on masturbation?

            Ancient? Sort of. Ancient in that it's a very old teaching, along with the rest of the Church's teachings. But the teachings certainly still exist and are alive today, even if not practiced by the popular culture. Befuddlement? Certainly not. it is quite clear.

          • severalspeciesof

            "The Church doesn't have any power to impose guilt on anyone," Maybe yes, maybe no, but it does create the atmosphere for guilt that wouldn't be there if people were much more knowledgeable about sexuality... honest sexuality, not the sexuality that the church espouses, making sex so fraught with 'whatever' that it promotes the idea that it's own figure for a mother is an eternal virgin... because, well, how could anyone think she would have sex? Sex is impure you know...

          • Erich

            Read what the Churches teachings on sexuality are and why they teach them and you will see it's not to "oppress people" or "limit fun." The Church shows how beautiful sex is and its purpose. It just doesn't promote sex to be a selfish act merely for the goal of pleasure. By saying you think the Church teaches sex is impure, you have showed you know close to nothing of its actual teachings. I invite you to look them up, they're available online. Or you could go talk to a Priest. Those guys are awesome.

          • Michael Murray

            The Church doesn't have any power to impose guilt on anyone, Michael.

            Erich that is totally at odds with reality. People are raised as Catholics. That is how they learn to feel guilt. Would you be happy if the RCC stopped baptism, communion and confirmation, catechism classes and attending mass for children until they are 18. Then they can make an adult informed choice.

            Yet for some reason, when I committed oh so pleasurable sexual acts, I felt extremely guilty.

            Were your raised as a Catholic ? That would account for it. If you weren't why go to the Church for help ? Why not see a mental health care professional ?

            But if you are talking about a moral destruction, well sir, that time has come and gone, and we live in it now.

            Evidence ?

          • Erich

            "Erich that is totally at odds with reality. People are raised as Catholics. That is how they learn to feel guilt. Would you be happy if the RCC stopped baptism, communion and confirmation, catechism classes and attending mass for children until they are 18. Then they can make an adult informed choice."

            If the Church taught that a child should kill his/her grandparent once that grandparent reached the age 70, I am sure that no one would feel guilty about letting their grandparent live, and defying the Church's teaching. The Church cannot make anyone feel guilt, that's not possible. If Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris were to tell their followers that something was completely immoral, they could not make their followers feel guilty about doing whatever that action was. An 18 year old can make an adult informed choice whether raised in the Church or not. I have plenty of friends who were raised Catholic, and unfortunately they do not practice the faith after being raised in it.

            "Were your raised as a Catholic ? That would account for it. If you weren't why go to the Church for help ? Why not see a mental health care professional ?"

            I was raised by parents who were Christian but did not teach their kids the faith, nor practice it. The extent of my Christian upbringing was praying for people who were sick or going through a rough time. I had never been taught what the Church teaches about sexuality, and had the view that most pop culture holds: the more sex the better. I was an atheist through and through. I didn't need to ask a doctor why I strangely felt that I was doing wrong by objectifying naked women on the internet and having sex with my own hand. Nor did I need the Church to tell me it was wrong. I didn't need to ask a doctor why I felt guilty using girls as instruments for my own pleasure, whether they enjoyed it or not. It was all selfish use. And I used to call it love. What a joke.

            "Evidence ?"

            Well, abortion is legal. Do you need more evidence than that?

          • ZenDruid

            My impression is that the Church's dogma is a massive Pauline guilt-trip. With song and dance, bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors. But then, I'm a prejudiced outsider.

          • I think the Church shows how human sexuality is beautiful and special, not something to be used at any whim of desire.

            Depends on what kind of human sexuality.

          • Longshanks

            Define cynic.

            Am I cynical about the morality of people who hold your viewpoint?

            Yes.

            Do I love kittens?

            You betcha.

          • severalspeciesof

            The purpose/meaning of life... If god exists, is god's greatest shell game.

            Let me explain (If the christian god exists): In the end, in heaven, it is us that is giving purpose/meaning to god, not the other way around...

            Giving praise for eternity to a god that will throw someone in hell for not wanting to give it praise isn't a good purpose...

          • Erich

            Hmm. Giving praise to God means a number of things. It does mean to give thanks. But it extends past that. We praise God in our good actions. We praise God by being good friends, good husbands, wives, etc. Using our gifts is a way to glorify God and give Him praise.

            Hell is a difficult concept to grasp. It was created for the people who choose not to love God. A place without God. That's what makes it so bad. It is more a place we choose for ourselves, not somewhere God throws people because He wants them to suffer.

          • articulett

            I'm pretty sure humans created hell as a way of manipulating people into belief and making them afriad to question those claiming to know what god(s) want.

          • Max Driffill

            Erich, here are a few responses:
            "When talking about God, Christians don't view Him as a material to be found and studied within the universe."
            It depends greatly on what Christians you talk to. Most of your Southern Baptist co-religiounists seem to think something very like this. They certainly think it is possible to see said being very active in the universe.

            "If God were not to exist, objective morality would not exist. That leaves everything up to the opinion of individuals. Everything."
            1. This is a logical fallacy, The Argument from Adverse Consequences.
            If X is true that would be bad does not constitute any kind of proof against X. X is either true or it isn't. This would be very like saying "Well doctor that can't be right, because if I had cancer that would be really bad." The outcome of being bad will have no effect on the truth of any statement. Reality doesn't care.

            2. Even if this were true, so what? But it clearly isn't true. There are plenty of questions that humans might have to find out, but about which opinion won't matter. Evidence can be adduced. consulted, etc. Perspectives considered.

            3. It isn't clear to me that you do believe in objective morality. Christian behavior has changed massively over the course of the last 1700 years, changes in morals, in beliefs etc. What is so objective about the Church's currant teaching vs the way it behaved a few hundred years ago?

            "You seem to have great faith as I do."
            No.
            "I have faith in God, whereas you have faith in Him not existing."
            Not so. You have faith in God, that is to say, belief absent the necessary evidence. I have no faith that god's don't exist, anymore than I have faith bigfoot doesn't exist. I have no reason to accept the propositions as true. As they stand (big foots and gods) accepting them would require me to find them consistent with reality, prior to having any good reason to do so. That doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

            "Even if you invent a purpose for yourself, some task to accomplish or milestone to reach, that doesn't mean your life matters or has purpose (if there is no God)."

            Its true, on the scale of the Universe my life has no point. And there ultimately is no point for anything at that scale. Not to be found outside us at any rate. But so what? My happiness is attuned to that scale. Ultimately our "point" is the same as that of the dinosaurs which lumbered about living, eating and reproducing for over 250 million years before being mostly snuffed out by a random event.

            "Say God does not exist. I devote my life to changing you, Michael Murray, into a believer. Say I succeed. It wouldn't matter. Say I don't succeed. It still wouldn't matter. It would have been a time filler. Something to occupy my mind. Essentially, without God, that's all life is. Filling in time from birth till death. I think there is a reason that most atheists I speak with are huge cynics."

            1. This seems again like the Argument from Adverse Consequences. Which is to say that it is an objection that doesn't matter.
            2. While on the scale of the Universe our actions may not matter, the debate about whether to waste one's life on a baseless speculation vs facing it squarely matters greatly. It is a conversation very worth having, and does matter at the scale of human lives. The resolution of which has very real meaning to the principals.
            Say you did convince Michael. He would maybe have to shun members of his family, if they were gay, or in some other way run afoul the teachings of the Church. Much more of his time would be spent in the Church, doing churchy things. He would be obligated to financially support the Church, he would be pressured to leave some portion of his estate at the time of his death. This could deprive his own family these resources, and over the course of a life time represent thousands of dollars of cost.
            I should say the conversation is very important from Michael's perspective and from yours.

            3. Anecdotal thought it is, I really haven't met many atheists that are huge cynics.

          • Erich

            I am not arguing for Southern Baptists. What teachings in the Catholic Church have changed over time?

            How can there be objective morality without God?

            I wouldn't say Christianity is baseless. It gets it's base in Judaism. It also is based in the Gospels and the rest of the Bible.

            You already admitted that life has no purpose without God. So it wouldn't matter if he went to Church and lived a Christian life if there was no God because there would be no point to anything he did anyway. He would soon die, be forgotten, and that's that. To me that view point is depressing. (That last sentence is just an opinion, not an argument for God.)

          • You already admitted that life has no purpose without God.

            I mentioned the subject in another place, but for you I will restate that the lives of all my ancestors have great purpose for me. Without them, I would not be here to experience being alive and looking upon the awesome Universe around me. Perhaps my life has no purpose, but their's surely did. And when we are talking about going back a billion years of ancestors, nearly all of those are your ancestors, too.

          • Max Driffill

            You have managed, perhaps consciously, perhaps not, to miss my point.
            I would point out that the Church's ideas on how to spot and then deal with Witches has changed somewhat over time. That is I don't think the Malleus Maleficarum is in wide use anymore. Or is it? I see so few witch burnings these days, or Inquisitional torturers. Though this could simply because the Church lacks the political power it once had.

            I would say that it is empirically baseless, and that engaging in recursive discourse is baseless in every way that matters. That Christianity was built on baseless notions found in Judaism isn't helpful. By baseless I hope you see that I mean that the Church has no sound basis for its doctrines to be discovered in reality.

            "You already admitted that life has no purpose without God."
            I don't believe that is what I said. It is certainly not what I meant. I think, when set against the immensity of the Universe, human lives have no purpose, none but WHAT WE MAKE FOR OURSELVES. In five billion years the Sun will swell into a Red Giant and swallow Earth. If earth life some how escapes that fate, then it will have to contend with the Andromeda Galaxy colliding with our own in another five billion years, this will create quite a lot of trouble. And there are countless other cosmic hurdles to jump and dodge. So no, on that scale of time and space, whether I help an old lady across the road won't matter a bit.

            But it will matter a great deal to her. And it her perspective, and my perspective, and your perspective that counts here, not that of the unaware, unfeeling universe. In every way that is important, things do matter to the conscious, feeling beings who have to experience things.

            A person going to Church or not going to church can have a huge impact on the quality of life of the person going or not going. So this outcome, while not mattering one whit to the universe at large (which of course doesn't care, cannot care, about anything) matters a great deal to the person in question. This choice can either add burden, or detract from burden, it can edify or not, and all of it is terribly important to the life being lived.

            I don't know why the ultimate pointlessness of the universe is so problematic, or why it should cause the malaise you imagine. It is a very rare person indeed who wakes up in the morning and decides to forget about the day because in 100 billions years there will be the heat death of the Universe (on current evidence).

            I am not sure that positing a god adds to meaning to human life either. Or maybe I am not sure that any point it would add would be a worthwhile one.

          • Erich

            Malles Maleficarum was written by a Catholic clergyman in the late 1400s. That doesn't mean it was ever taught as official Church teaching. A Catholic Priest came up with the Big Bang theory yet I doubt you credit the Catholic Church with coming up with the theory.

            I would ask you to do your research on the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish government gave special benefits for its Christian members of society. Many non Christians posed as Christians to receive those benefits. It was the Spanish government who questioned the people on their beliefs and at times used torture. I'm not sure of the Church's involvement. It may have had some. If so, that only proves what the Church has always taught, that men make mistakes and sin. I would never defend, nor could I, that every clergyman, lay person, or anyone who endorses the title of Catholic has never done anything evil. But I will defend that it has never had an official teaching that is immoral.

            I think we are mixing a "point" and "meaning." I am saying without God, life would have no meaning, as it wouldn't matter what we did here on earth is respect to the whole of the universe. The universe does have a point, it is moving towards an end.

          • Max Driffill

            I was not referring specifically to the Spanish inquisitions as there were many others. Galileo was not threatened with torture by the Spanish arm of the Inquisition which was as much a method as thing characterized by a region. In any event, there were several periods of inquisition and we might note they were all deeply unethical,and never decried by the Vatican, or the Pope, so please lets avoid the "no true scotsman' fallacy if we could.
            Here is a quote from the handbook for inquisitors (its tone might explain a bit, why such awful methods were used). This from the 1578 hand book for inquisitors about the purpose for the penalties: " ... quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur. Translation from the Latin: "... for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit."
            (Taken from wikipedia, for the whole link about the Inquisitional periods go to the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquisition)
            In any event even in the Spanish example, the Inquisition, while not sanctioned by the Holy See, it was thorough going Catholic affair, complete with clergy and other holy personnel. While it was certainly a corrupt enterprise (a case could be made for that of all the Inquisitional efforts) I can find no indication that it was ever criticized or opposed by Rome. In any event we have several horrific bouts of Inquisition started and supported by the Vatican and under direction by Popes. Threatening Galileo with torture if he did not recant his ideas, was, from top to bottom, and bottom to top an immoral thing. As were all of the Inquisitions.

            No I don't think we are mixing our terms. Life has plenty of meaning to those who are living that life, whatever our status is with respect "to the whole universe." But again, I have to say who cares?
            The universe doesn't have a point either. It just is. It isn't conscious, and may not have an end, at least not in a sense that is congruent with our sense of the word.

          • Erich

            I don't see where you are going with this. I know full well that members of the Church have committed terrible acts. Even Popes. They weren't living up to the teachings of the Church by doing so. All Catholics know this.

            Do some more, not one sided research on the Galileo incident. it wasn't just some members of the Church that disagreed with his theory, it was the other scientists at the time too. It was a radical idea at the time. His bad mouthing of the Pope is what got him in trouble with Church.

          • Max Driffill

            Erich,

            "I don't see where you are going with this. I know full well that members of the Church have committed terrible acts. Even Popes. They weren't living up to the teachings of the Church by doing so. All Catholics know this."

            How can they have been violating Catholic teaching, when things like the Inquisitions, the handbooks for Inquisitions, and numerous other policies that resulted in very real human harm were EXPLICITLY Catholic teachings. These heinous actions (which I am glad to note your disapproval) were done in the name of, and flowing from RCC teachings.

            "Do some more, not one sided research on the Galileo incident. it wasn't just some members of the Church that disagreed with his theory, it was the other scientists at the time too. It was a radical idea at the time. His bad mouthing of the Pope is what got him in trouble with Church."

            This deflection, which has become much more common of those seeking to protect their Church from critique for past and obvious wrongs, one of the more offensive maneuvers in Catholic apologetics.

            So what the Church did was the right thing to do? Threaten with death and torture another human being over a difference of opinion? What you are suggesting is that since Galileo might have been wrong the Church was justified in making the very real threat of pain, injury and death. It is necessary to remember though the Church never bothered to do the science necessary to establish their position, never entered the debate. When it had very real temporal political power -a commodity its leaders today crave- it also had a boot that it was more than willing to use to silence opposition.

            The friction between the Pope and Galileo is a complex thing, but it doesn't, though you seem think it does, justify the threats the RCC, at the height of its political power, was prone to make against its adversaries.

          • Erich

            "How can they have been violating Catholic teaching, when things like the Inquisitions, the handbooks for Inquisitions, and numerous other policies that resulted in very real human harm were EXPLICITLY Catholic teachings. These heinous actions (which I am glad to note your disapproval) were done in the name of, and flowing from RCC teachings."

            Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It contains every teaching of the Church. In it you will find nothing that supports any of the bad things that Catholics have done, whether that be clergy or lay person. In using torture, even if instructed by a bishop or pope, it is against Catholic teaching because no Catholic teaching says that an evil action can be used for a good ending result, whatever that may be. In short, the ends don't justify the means. So, if a pope is teaching something that is against Church teaching, as some methods in the inquisition were, it does not fall under authentic Catholic teaching and the pope would be in the wrong. It would be like the President issuing something against the constitution, only Catholic teaching on morals can't change, whereas the constitution can in some areas.

            Galileo was not tortured. Read the history of the Galileo encounter from a source that isn't completely biased against the Church. He was imprisoned but offered a lot of conveniences. I'm not justifying his imprisonment, but he was certainly not tortured. It is a good thing that the Church did not rush to embrace Galileo’s views, because it turned out that his ideas were not entirely correct, either. Galileo believed that the sun was not just the fixed center of the solar system but the fixed center of the universe. We now know that the sun is not the center of the universe and that it does move, it simply orbits the center of the galaxy rather than the earth.

            As more recent science has shown, both Galileo and his opponents were partly right and partly wrong. Galileo was right in asserting the mobility of the earth and wrong in asserting the immobility of the sun. His opponents were right in asserting the mobility of the sun and wrong in asserting the immobility of the earth.

            Had the Catholic Church rushed to endorse Galileo’s views, and there were many in the Church who were quite favorable to them, the Church would have embraced what modern science has disproved.

          • Max Driffill

            Erich,

            A few things:

            I never said the Church tortured Galileo. They did threaten him with that course, under the euphemism "sterner measures."

            The Church had no business in the debate. It certainly had no business silencing opinion. It was not a scientific body, it never argued from evidence. In any event, Galileo seems to have made enemies in the Academy, and some of them marshaled some shrill Dominicans into denouncing Galileo, and the sciences generally, from the pulpit. In part because he thought the scriptures were metaphorical. The Church again and again, in the Galileo affair, says again and again that the problem with heliocentricity is that it is contradicted by "Holy Scripture" (apparently there was a time when Catholics took the scriptures much more literally). The Church made a crime of stating an opinion based on good evidence. This is preposterous. And deeply immoral.

            The only sensible thing one can say when it comes to the Church and Galileo is that it behaved monstrously. No defense of its actions is justified.

            I would be interested to hear your deflections for the awful treatment of Giordano Bruno.

          • Erich

            The Church had no business in the debate. It certainly had no business silencing opinion. It was not a scientific body, it never argued from evidence. In any event, Galileo seems to have made enemies in the Academy, and some of them marshaled some shrill Dominicans into denouncing Galileo, and the sciences generally, from the pulpit. In part because he thought the scriptures were metaphorical. The Church again and again, in the Galileo affair, says again and again that the problem with heliocentricity is that it is contradicted by "Holy Scripture" (apparently there was a time when Catholics took the scriptures much more literally). The Church made a crime of stating an opinion based on good evidence. This is preposterous. And deeply immoral.

            Problems arise greatly when people misread the Scriptures. Long before Galileo's time, Augustine and Origen taught on how not everything in the Bible is meant to be read as literal. The Church doesn't have a definite stance on how the Bible is to be read. Some teach from a more literal stand point, some teach parts as more metaphorical. The Church had consulted many other scientists. Galileo's view was considered radical. Most of the other scientists thought his theory was flawed. People wrongly believe Galileo proved heliocentricity. He couldn't answer the strongest argument against it, which had been made nearly two thousand years before by Aristotle. Aristotle's argument was, "if heliocentrism were true, then there would be observable parallax shifts in the stars’ positions as the earth moved in its orbit around the sun." However, given the technology of Galileo’s time, no such shifts in their positions could be observed. It would require more sensitive measuring equipment than was available in Galileo’s day to document the existence of these shifts, given the stars’ great distance. Until then, the available evidence suggested that the stars were fixed in their positions relative to the earth, and, thus, that the earth and the stars were not moving in space, only the sun, moon, and planets were.

            I'm not going to defend people of the Church who have done wrong and immoral things. I'm sure countless people, followers and clergy, have done despicable acts. But they do so against Church teaching. Official Church teaching. Read the Catechism, it supports no evil acts. If you're trying to make a list of people that were wronged by members of the Church, you can stop. They were wronged. No question. There is no justification for any bad action done by any Catholic.

          • Max Driffill

            Well we seem as close to agreement as we are going to get on this.

          • Erich

            Perhaps we have. I hope you have a great future Max. Maybe we'll end up duking it out on here another time, I'm not sure. I try not to get on too often because it drains my time. An internet hour goes by much faster it seems. Either way, all the best to you.

          • Andrew G.

            He didn't say Galileo was tortured. He said he was threatened with torture. And that threat was certainly present regardless of whether anyone stated it explicitly, given that torture was a common practice of the church at that time.

            There's a quote, from Asimov I think, that goes something like this: "Once, people thought the earth was flat; they were wrong. Later, they thought the earth was spherical; they were also wrong. But if you think that the second position is just as wrong as the first, then you are more wrong than both of them put together."

            The pathetic recent attempts to whitewash the church's role in the Galileo affair do not hide the central facts: that the church pronounced judgement on a scientific issue on the basis of theology alone, and that on this basis it compelled Galileo to recant, banned his works (and many others on the same topic), and sentenced him to house arrest.

          • Erich

            "He didn't say Galileo was tortured. He said he was threatened with torture. And that threat was certainly present regardless of whether anyone stated it explicitly, given that torture was a common practice of the church at that time."

            Thank you for clearing up my misreading of his statement. Weapons for torture were normally present in European trials at that time. It was part of the culture. That doesn't justify the Church using them by any means. If any member of the Church, no matter what status, tortured or advised torture, they were dead wrong and going against the teachings of the Church.

            "The pathetic recent attempts to whitewash the church's role in the Galileo affair do not hide the central facts: that the church pronounced judgement on a scientific issue on the basis of theology alone, and that on this basis it compelled Galileo to recant, banned his works (and many others on the same topic), and sentenced him to house arrest."

            It's not whitewashing, it's showing the Church wasn't as in the wrong as atheists and other opponents of the Church might like to believe. Now, they still were in the wrong with how they handled the situation. No question. It is not a fact that the Church pronounced judgement on a scientific issue based on theology alone. Galileo was not the only scientist in his time period. The Church wasn't the only doubter of his theory. Most of the other scientists also thought his theory was crock. Many people wrongly believe Galileo proved heliocentricity. He could not answer the strongest argument against it, which had been made nearly two thousand years earlier by Aristotle: If heliocentrism were true, then there would be observable parallax shifts in the stars’ positions as the earth moved in its orbit around the sun. However, given the technology of Galileo’s time, no such shifts in their positions could be observed. It would require more sensitive measuring equipment than was available in Galileo’s day to document the existence of these shifts, given the stars’ great distance. Until then, the available evidence suggested that the stars were fixed in their positions relative to the earth, and, thus, that the earth and the stars were not moving in space, only the sun, moon, and planets were.

          • Michael Murray

            In short the RCC behaved yet again like a human political organisation bereft of any divine inspiration. That's the point.

          • Ignorant Amos

            His bad mouthing of the Pope is what got him in trouble with Church.

            While that would surely be a compelling hypothesis, it somewhat falls a bit short in light of the churches apology some 400 years later. Add to that the politics at that time...I'm forced to draw an alternative conclusion.

            "In addition, the trial of Galileo occurred during the Thirty Years War, which entered a critical phase exactly at the time of the Galileo trial in 1632. The trial may have been a reaction to the political pressure being put on Pope Urban VIII by the Spanish (and others). By attacking Galileo, the Pope could be seen as showing the more conservative elements that he was not a radical. Perhaps also this was a veiled way of putting political pressure on the rich and powerful Medici family, who were Galileo’s patrons, to stay out of choosing sides in that war."

            The church certainly had to change its ideology on the subject.

            "The interpretation of the bible was certainly one of the principal contributing factors to the controversy. At the council of Trent, at the height of the protestant reformation just about twenty years before the birth of Galileo, the Catholic Church had solemnly declared that only the church could authentically interpret the bible and that private interpretation was forbidden. Now in 1616, just as the controversy about a sun-centered Copernican universe was heating up, the church’s holy office declared that Copernicanism was formally heretical because it contradicted many passages in the bible (e.g. Joshua 10: 11-13, in which the sun stops moving in the sky). Galileo had already written several essays on the interpretation of the bible in which he essentially said that the bible was written to teach us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens ago. In these documents he essentially anticipated by about 400 years what the Catholic Church would teach about the interpretation of the bible, but he did so privately."

            Poor Bruno Giordano didn't fair so well when condemned by the Roman Inquisition.

            "The Roman Inquisition was a system of tribunals developed by the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church during the second half of the 16th century, responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of a wide array of crimes relating to religious doctrine or alternate religious beliefs. In the period after the Medieval Inquisition, it was one of three different manifestations of the wider Christian Inquisition along with the Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition."

          • Ignorant Amos

            If so, that only proves what the Church has always taught, that men make mistakes and sin. I would never defend, nor could I, that every clergyman, lay person, or anyone who endorses the title of Catholic has never done anything evil. But I will defend that it has never had an official teaching that is immoral.

            I was reading an interesting article recently.

            http://biltrix.com/2012/03/14/the-immorality-of-birth-control-is-no-longer-a-teaching-of-the-catholic-church/

            "By appointing a commission of 77 experts, weighing their opinion, and considering the past magisterial teaching on the issue before issuing Humana Vitae, that is exactly what Paul VI did when he officially pronounced the Church’s decision on the immorality of contraception."

            So, was the teaching on contraception immoral or moral prior to Humana Vitae?

            Is it moral or immoral today?

            "Now, if ordinary people can just reject willy-nilly the law of any authority on the basis that authority is derived from the consent of the governed, then rule of law loses it’s force and society eventually falls apart. Catholics who declare that the Church has no authority on the grounds that the faithful do not consent are arguing for the dissolution of the institutional Church."

            All very interesting stuff.

            Of course, on the subject of contraception, the morality isn't really an objective morality is it?

          • Erich

            I read the article. It is interesting. I don't see where it shows the Church ever supported contraception. All morality is objective or morality doesn't exist.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It doesn't, I know, it was just an example of today's confused Catholic thinking vis a vis the churches. Most pew sitters are not theologians, they take their teachings from fallible teachers. Many of those teachers are at odds with the authority on subjects requiring a modicum of common sense in today's world. Attitudes have changed within the church over the past few centuries, no one can deny that. I reckon contraception issue will be the next big domino to fall.

            The church is the sum of its people, if the people are against a set rule, I can't see how the church will survive or how the people can call themselves as following their faith will disregarding and flaunting central tenets.. I read somewhere that there are caveats on contraception...like male prostitutes with HIV, is that true?

            I could never get my head round the concept of confession. Everything is redeemable by absolution so long as the individual repents through a priest by confession. The Catholic say that without God there is no morality, I'd say that with God, there is no morality, as long as the immoral gets to the confessional or gets the last rites before pegging it.

          • I could never get my head round the concept of confession.

            Confession (absolution) doesn't "work" unless the person regrets the sins confessed and sincerely resolves not to commit them again. It is basically like any other kind of repentance or apology. If it is not sincere, it is worthless.

            I read somewhere that there are caveats on contraception...like male prostitutes with HIV, is that true?

            Using a condom to prevent the transmission of HIV is not contraception. The Catholic Church does not say, "If you are going to have sex outside of marriage, at least use a condom to prevent transmission of disease." On the other hand, the Catholic Church doesn't say, "If you are going to have sex outside of marriage, don't use a condom." The Church says, "Don't have sex outside of marriage. Period." It does, of course, say not to use condoms (or other contraceptives) in marriage. The question of whether, according to Catholic thought, a married couple in which one spouse is infected and the other not may use condoms to protect the uninfected partner is unanswered.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Confession (absolution) doesn't "work" unless the person regrets the sins confessed and sincerely resolves not to commit them again. It is basically like any other kind of repentance or apology. If it is not sincere, it is worthless.

            That's fine and dandy on paper, well not really, but for our purposes lets just say what you state is true. Are you trying to tell me that sins confessed for absolution are never repeated by the sinner? Is subsequent confession and absolution for a repeat offender null and void for the sinner? Are those that repeat offend damned for all eternity?

            Using a condom to prevent the transmission of HIV is not contraception.

            Great, then anyone should be allowed to use condoms for protection against infection, just as long as they are not using them for the purpose of contraception. Why doesn't the church tell people this?

            The Catholic Church does not say, "If you are going to have sex outside of marriage, at least use a condom to prevent transmission of disease." On the other hand, the Catholic Church doesn't say, "If you are going to have sex outside of marriage, don't use a condom." The Church says, "Don't have sex outside of marriage. Period."

            Exactly, so saying a male prostitute may ascribe to using a condom is moot...why mention it at all? BTW, that brings us back to the confessional. You and I both know that Catholics have sex outside marriage, most times using contraception, multiple times. Are these Catholics damned? Because I don't believe for one minute they are taking the situation seriously. They are, as Daniel Dennett asserts in "Breaking the Spell", believing in belief, not the beliefs themselves. So on that basis, the Catholic edifice is constructed on faulty foundations.

            It does, of course, say not to use condoms (or other contraceptives) in marriage.

            Yes it does, in the face of unreasonableness. You and I both know that Catholics, by and large, use some method of birth control. Otherwise the planet would be over run with Catholics. So, whether it is withdrawal or condom, the place is full of Catholics destined to damnation or they are all liars.

            The question of whether, according to Catholic thought, a married couple in which one spouse is infected and the other not may use condoms to protect the uninfected partner is unanswered.

            Why?

          • Michael Murray

            Why? They are still gathering evidence using The Large Cardinal Collider. It accelerates cardinals up to near light speed and collides them together. Careful examination of the scattered particles can reveal new dogma after application of the methodology of Pontifical Field Theory.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ha...that's another keyboard ya owe Michael...a just drenched this one in Sangria after reading that exposition.

            I think you might be sailing a bit close the the edge with me there, too.

          • Michael Murray

            Sorry about that. The hysteria sets in sometimes!

          • Are you trying to tell me that sins confessed for absolution are never repeated by the sinner? Is subsequent confession and absolution for a repeat offender null and void for the sinner? Are those that repeat offend damned for all eternity?

            My answers here are not necessarily what I believe personally, but what I understand the position of the Catholic Church to be.

            When confessing a sin, what is required is a sincere intention not to commit that sin again. Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that having even the most sincere intentions not to do something are no guarantee that you won't do it again, repeatedly.

            You and I both know that Catholics have sex outside marriage, most times using contraception, multiple times. Are these Catholics damned?

            Not only that. Probably 95 percent of married Catholics use some kind of birth control forbidden by the Church.

            The Catholic Church doesn't say who is damned. It sometimes claims to know who is in heaven (the saints), but it never says who (if anyone) is in hell. Someone may do something objectively wrong, but in order to merit hell, they must do something gravely wrong, with full knowledge and full consent. The Church may declare some specific action (murder, adultery, etc.) gravely wrong, but it does not pretend to know if a particular individual who commits that specific act did it with full knowledge and consent. (My own personal opinion is that it is very rare that a human being does something so gravely wrong, with full knowledge and full consent, that he or she merits hell.)

            As for married Catholics who use contraception, they may be doing so based on a their own consciences. Everyone is obliged to follow his or her consciences. Or they may not have full knowledge that contraception is a "mortal sin," or they might not be giving full consent. Or, the Church may be wrong about the alleged sinfulness of contraception the way most people use it.

            One again, the Catholic Church doesn't say this or that unmarried person who has sex outside of marriage or uses contraception in marriage goes to hell. The Church can't know the heart of individuals. I think it's doubtful that many people know their own hearts fully.

          • Ignorant Amos

            My answers here are not necessarily what I believe personally, but what I understand the position of the Catholic Church to be.

            Sorry David, what I should have said was, "Are you trying to tell me that [the church says] sins confessed...yadda, yadda, yadda...?"

            When confessing a sin, what is required is a sincere intention not to commit that sin again.

            Sincerity be the subjective element I guess.

            Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that having even the most sincere intentions not to do something are no guarantee that you won't do it again, repeatedly.

            True, true...but, usually when people are warned that their health is at risk if they renege on the dieting, the sincerity is...well, more sincere. Now if I really believed in my heart of hearts that re-offending and my sincerity not to do so might impinge on eternity...I'd be paying a great deal more attention.

            Not only that. Probably 95 percent of married Catholics use some kind of birth control forbidden by the Church.

            The Catholic Church doesn't say who is damned. It sometimes claims to know who is in heaven (the saints), but it never says who (if anyone) is in hell.

            Well, it sort of does...sinners for starters...

            "The penalty to be undergone in the future life is divided into the pain of loss (pæna damni) and the pain of sense (pæna sensus). The pain of loss is the privation of the beatific vision of God in punishment of turning away from Him. The pain of sense is suffering in punishment of the conversion to some created thing in place of God. This two-fold pain in punishment of mortal sin is eternal (1 Corinthians 6:9; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:45). One mortal sin suffices to incur punishment. (See HELL.)"

            [Catholic Encyclopedia]

            Someone may do something objectively wrong, but in order to merit hell, they must do something gravely wrong, with full knowledge and full consent. The Church may declare some specific action (murder, adultery, etc.) gravely wrong, but it does not pretend to know if a particular individual who commits that specific act did it with full knowledge and consent. (My own personal opinion is that it is very rare that a human being does something so gravely wrong, with full knowledge and full consent, that he or she merits hell.)

            I'm sure there are many...here's a short list...

            Leon Degrelle

            Emil Hacha

            Ante Pavelic

            Adolf Hitler

            Benito Mussolini

            Antonio Salazar 3

            Fr. Josef Tiso

            Francisco Franco

            Konrad Henlein

            Pierre Laval

            Henry Petain

            Far from exclusive I know, but surely these guys must be in eternal damnation?

            As for married Catholics who use contraception, they may be doing so based on a their own consciences. Everyone is obliged to follow his or her consciences. Or they may not have full knowledge that contraception is a "mortal sin," or they might not be giving full consent. Or, the Church may be wrong about the alleged sinfulness of contraception the way most people use it.

            I suppose so.

            One again, the Catholic Church doesn't say this or that unmarried person who has sex outside of marriage or uses contraception in marriage goes to hell.

            No, best not to damn the hand that feeds ya. All a bit light weight compared to the church when it had teeth.

            The Church can't know the heart of individuals. I think it's doubtful that many people know their own hearts fully.

            Which is why it shouldn't blanket condemn its adherents for such silly reasons.

            "4. The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life."

            [VADEMECUM FOR CONFESSORS CONCERNING SOME ASPECTS OF THE MORALITY OF CONJUGAL LIFE]

          • The Catholic Church does not teach that any of the people you listed are damned. It does not teach that any particular, identified person, no matter how objectively evil his or her life, is in hell. It may say something like, "Murder is a mortal sin. A person who commits murder will be damned if he doesn't repent. A person who commits the mortal sin of murder and dies without repenting goes to hell." However, the Church does not teach that Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin or Pol Pot is in hell. The Church does not claim to have any way of knowing which individuals have gone to hell. There are Catholics in good standing who argue for the possibility that no one goes to hell. See, for example, Hans Urs von Balthasar's book Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

          • Ignorant Amos

            The Catholic Church does not teach that any of the people you listed are damned.

            I know it doesn't, as bad as those people were, they didn't even warrant excommunication.

            Let's look at what crimes do warrant excommunication. Just this last century.

            ...the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion after being raped and impregnated by her stepfather, who was not excommunicated.

            Nice.

            All the Catholics and legislators who promoted the abortion law in Uruguay

            But not a man who was responsible for the murder of millions...Nice...what happened to the pro-life debate on that one?

            Father Romolo Murri, a leader of the Italian Catholic Democrats, for giving speeches against Papal policy

            Speeches against the church, heavens to Murgatroyd, the evil of such heresy.

            It does not teach that any particular, identified person, no matter how objectively evil his or her life, is in hell. It may say something like, "Murder is a mortal sin. A person who commits murder will be damned if he doesn't repent. A person who commits the mortal sin of murder and dies without repenting goes to hell."

            We can dance the semantic and theological two-step if you like, but excommunication to a true believer is all. And it still doen't answer the question as to why some folk, who no the face of it compared to others, avoided much deserved excommunication.

            However, the Church does not teach that Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin or Pol Pot is in hell. The Church does not claim to have any way of knowing which individuals have gone to hell.

            The church has no way of knowing a whole lot of things that it professes to know, doesn't stop it making claims though, does it? The point of the matter is the general conception and how the church is teaching, the church being the people involved in this case, not the sophisticated theology that the folk on here are trotting out. The stuff that would make a post modernism generator explode. .

            There are Catholics in good standing who argue for the possibility that no one goes to hell. See, for example, Hans Urs von Balthasar's book Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

            My point, and it is a point being missed by the Catholics in good standing on this site, is, that the RCC is at 6's & 7's over this issue, as they are on many issues.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (CCC 1035).

            http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1035.htm

            A favourite of mine, because a friend did his theses on this man, as the man that most influenced Constantine, without whom there would be no Christianity...orthodox Christianity at least...which I had the pleasure of reading is...

            Lactantius

            "[T]he sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire, the nature of which is different from this fire of ours, which we use for the necessary purposes of life, and which is extinguished unless it be sustained by the fuel of some material. But that divine fire always lives by itself, and flourishes without any nourishment. . . . The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment. . . . Thus, without any wasting of bodies, which regain their substance, it will only burn and affect them with a sense of pain. But when [God] shall have judged the righteous, he will also try them with fire" (Divine Institutes 7:21 [A.D. 307]).

            Popes are included on this issue too though...

            In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II wrote that too often "preachers, catechists, teachers . . . no longer have the courage to preach the threat of hell" (p. 183).

          • I think you don't fully understand the purpose of excommunication. It is not a statement of approval or disapproval. If someone was a (practicing) Catholic in the past but no longer practices or considers himself or herself a Catholic, excommunication is pointless. The dictionary definition of excommunicate will suffice here:

            : to put out of communion or fellowship; especially : to cut off or shut out by an ecclesiastical sentence from communion with the church

            Excommunication deprives you of the right to participate in the sacraments and other aspects of life in the Church. It is meant as a way to force a person at odds with the Church to set things right. It is the Church saying, "You can't have the rights and privileges of being a Catholic until you get your excommunication lifted." If you have left the Church behind, obviously you don't care if you are excommunicated or not. If you don't care, there is no point at all in your being excommunicated. Excommunication is supposed to deprive you of something you want (communion with the Church) and want to get back. It is supposed to prod you to make amends for whatever you were excommunicated for so you can get back in the Church again. If you don't want to be in the Church, there is no point in excommunication.

            Also, excommunication is not expulsion from the Church. A Catholic who is excommunicated is still a Catholic. He or she is still expected to practice the Catholic religion—for example, to attend Mass on Sundays.

          • Max Driffill

            Here was what excommunication did in the case of my mother. She was excommunicated for marrying my father, who was a divorced Lutheran. This put her in a terrible bind, and no doubt made her feel an enormous amount of guilt for having done so.

            The Church of course offered her no solution to this dilemma. New divorce was out, and she was pregnant with me, and my dad is, as it happens and excessively cool cat. But she was deprived of an institution that had given her great solace and point of bonding with her own father. For years my mom took me to mass, and sat unable to partake of sacraments that, at the time, meant a great deal to her. I wonder these days if my first communion was painful for her to watch as it was happy. It was, I know a painful thing for her, but it was not temporary as there was no way back. She and my dad have been married, more or less happily, for 40 yrs. The RCC essentially crapped on this successful pairing. Only one priest among numerous priests in our experience ever advocated for my mother.

            I only found out about this because I always asked my mom why she never took communion. In the fifth grade she finally decided that I would not probably believe a stomach ache much longer, I mean, every Sunday is a little too regular. Of course this was deeply strange to me, as well as utterly immoral.

            There is practical example of how wonderful the tool of excommunication is in practice. I always marvel that no member of the SS was ever excommunicated, but that my mother was.

            Here is a hilarious fact: Goebbels was excommunicated, but for marrying a Protestant.

          • Ignorant Amos

            It is just a pity that the reality is very much different from the theology.

            Here is a hilarious fact: Goebbels was excommunicated, but for marrying a Protestant

            I think that one is an urban myth.

          • Max Driffill

            Not that this makes it so, but Hitchens reported the Goebbels excommunication in "god is not Great." And a little bit about is mentioned here. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Positive_Christianity

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not that this makes it so, but Hitchens reported the Goebbels excommunication in "god is not Great."

            Yep, I read it in the same book. I've been trying to find a reference source. My hard copy is in the UK, I might have a look at the Kindle version later to see if it gives a source. I'm about to start reading "Hitler's Pope"...perhaps it might shine more light.

            And a little bit about is mentioned here. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/P...

            Yep, read that too...it cites no source either...perhaps the author got his reference from Hitch, which may have been sarcasm...I'll continue searching.

          • Max Driffill

            As will I.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Update:

            "Johanna Maria Magdalena Goebbels née Behrend"

            A good Christian girl of the RC kind.

            "Ritschel [her biological father] took her [Magda] to Brussels, where she was enrolled at the Ursuline Convent in Vilvoorde. At the convent, she was remembered as "an active and intelligent little girl"

            Magda was born illegitimate, her mother later married and divorced a Jew. He died at Buchenwald concentration camp.

            The future Mrs.Goebbels, a "nice RC", married a Jew, divorced him, had extra-marital affairs, murdered her children and committed suicide.

            Of course Goebbels himself was no angel, a serial philanderer and fornicator, all well known about by Magda because he made no secret of it and did it right under her nose, it was his intense affair with the Czech actress Lída Baarová that was to be the last straw. Magda, having her nose rubbed in it long enough, asked Hitler for a divorce...guess what, Hitler refused. He couldn't have his poster family for the Aryan race fall from grace, so a quick word in Goebbel's lughole along with a few threats and he soon toed the party line.

            Goebbels and Magda committed suicide after murdering their six children. I can't find it in any place where he was excommunicated by the RCC, you have to be a nine year old rape victim of your father that has had an abortion for that grievous punishment.

            I'd laugh at the absurdity of it, if it wasn't so sick and twisted.

          • Max--you are aware of the distinction between the penalty of excommunication and the ipso facto status of not be able to receive Communion due to the situation of an irregular or invalid marriage?
            While it's true that Catholics in the US were once subject to the penalty of excommunication as a result of divorcing and then re-marrying outside the Church, that was done away with, I believe, in the very early 1970s.
            But in any case, all such a couple needs to do is have any/all previous marriages examined and declared "null" (invalid) and then exchange valid consent (convalidation) in the Church. That is, there *is* a process at hand with which such a couple can seek to rectify the situation and allow the Catholic spouse(s) to return to the Sacramental life of the Church.

          • Max Driffill

            Jim,

            Its tempting at this point to simply drop the f-bomb, followed by the word you and move on. But I will instead respond to you because I hope to demonstrate how callous and uninformed your Catholic filter makes you.

            "Max--you are aware of the distinction between the penalty of excommunication and the ipso facto status of not be able to receive Communion due to the situation of an irregular or invalid marriage?"

            I'm not sure this distinction matters much to the excommunicated. I do like how you have implied my mother and father's marriage was irregular or invalid. I can assure you it is neither. Implying that it is such is offensive.

            "While it's true that Catholics in the US were once subject to the penalty of excommunication as a result of divorcing and then re-marrying outside the Church, that was done away with, I believe, in the very early 1970s."

            I get the sense that you are suggesting my story is some how a fabrication here. My parents were married in early late '72 or '73. Apparently they missed this miracle change of policy of the "early 70s." My mother married my father, who had been through a messy divorce with a woman who just skipped out. My mother had never been married prior to this. My dad was nominally a Lutheran. I was born in late 73.

            "But in any case, all such a couple needs to do is have any/all previous marriages examined and declared "null" (invalid) and then exchange valid consent (convalidation) in the Church. That is, there *is* a process at hand with which such a couple can seek to rectify the situation and allow the Catholic spouse(s) to return to the Sacramental life of the Church."

            You make this sound spectacularly easy. My parents spent nearly a decade trying to process my mother's way back into good standing with the ever so loving arms of Mother Church before giving up. The RCC still has the temerity to list my mom and dad in their parish directories.

          • A couple things--the terms "irregular" and "invalid" refer to the "juridical" status of the married relative to the Church. And that is the spirit in which I used the terms. Obviously, you wouldn't deny that, as regards the Catholic Church, the marriage is certainly neither "regular" nor "valid." So there it is. But those terms involve the objective realm and are not meant in any subjective sense.
            And I wasn't implying you were fabricating anything at all. I simply wasn't clear as to whether the timing of your parents' marriage meant it was under the "excommunication" period or after it, at which point being in the marriage did not involve "excommunication" but would involve refraining from Communion.
            And yes, the annulment process is not "spectacularly easy," but it's do-able; particularly if someone is really desirous of seeing it through and returning to the Sacraments.

          • It should be noted that my resources indicate that in 1977, the penalty of excommunication for remarriage after divorce that was established by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore was lifted retroactively, at the request of the US Bishops at that time.

            So, effectively, the divorced and remarried are no longer excommunicated even if at the time of their wedding they fell under that juridical penalty established by the US bishops around 1884. Rather, they still cannot receive Communion until they have their marriage convalidated (after having any prior marriages declared null/invalid). There *is* a remedy for these situations....and today, here and now, and even reaching into the past, the Church no longer considers those divorced and remarried to be "excommunicated."

          • Max Driffill

            That is interesting JIm, because, by as late as the early 80s my mother was still trying to get back into the good graces of the Church. I'm not sure when she stopped trying. I am glad SHE DID STOP TRYING.

          • Max,

            I am sorry to hear about your mother's experience, and I do think the Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage is cruel. Although on the other hand it seems to me that what Jesus says in the Gospel is clear, even though other denominations allow divorce and remarriage.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I think you don't fully understand the purpose of excommunication.

            I don't? No, really, I do...it's a stick with which to beat the fallen back up onto the pedestal with, but unfortunately, it rarely works out like that.

            "[T]he effect upon the individual is open to debate, especially when confronted with the Pauline indictment that such a one should be delivered "over to Satan" (T.E.V.), an expression that occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. The consensus in theological circles equates "deliver over to Satan" with excommunication. Calvin comments: "Delivering over to Satan is an appropriate expression for denoting excommunication; for as Christ reigns in the Church so Satan reigns out of the Church, as Augustine, too, has remarked, in his sixty-eighth sermon on the words of the apostle, where he explains this passage. As, then we are received into the communion of the Church, and remain in it on this condition, that we are under the protection and guardianship of Christ, I say that he who is cast out of the Church is in a manner delivered over to the power of Satan, for he becomes an alien, and is cast out of Christ's kingdom."

            It is not a statement of approval or disapproval.

            C'mon, behave now. Why use it as a threat then? Why bother even invoking it? And again, why are the worst Catholics not apportioned it?

            If someone was a (practicing) Catholic in the past but no longer practices or considers himself or herself a Catholic, excommunication is pointless.

            Hardly an epiphany.

            Excommunication deprives you of the right to participate in the sacraments and other aspects of life in the Church. It is meant as a way to force a person at odds with the Church to set things right. It is the Church saying, "You can't have the rights and privileges of being a Catholic until you get your excommunication lifted."

            Which essentially means being banished from heaven. What about those that cannot or are unable to "set things right"?

            And again, why are there so many that "are at odds" with the church that are not excommunicated?

            If you have left the Church behind, obviously you don't care if you are excommunicated or not. If you don't care, there is no point at all in your being excommunicated.

            I don't understand why you are hammering away at the obvious here. Forget about those that care not a jot. What about those to which that excommunication meant something?

            Excommunication is supposed to deprive you of something you want (communion with the Church) and want to get back. It is supposed to prod you to make amends for whatever you were excommunicated for so you can get back in the Church again. If you don't want to be in the Church, there is no point in excommunication.

            First, not having communion with the church means not going to heaven, pretty harrowing to those that belief in such a place. There are those that believe that if you are not going to heaven, you are destined for somewhere less savoury. So it is a bigger deal to the less sophisticated that you are making out here.

            Secondly, whether the church thinks there is a point in excommunicating certain folk, rather than others is hardly the point, parity might be an idea for starters. It's hardly an example to the masses if a mass murderer is let off.

            "Excommunicating a head of state might have been a dangerous or risky thing to do, but it was the right thing to do, particularly after 1942 when the extent and nature of the genocide became known to the pope and some members of the curia. Even though I think that excommunication would not have changed Hitler or his policies, I do think that excommunication of the entire Nazi leadership, in addition to the threat of excommunication to any Catholics involved in the business of mass murder, combined with strong, specific, and clear instruction to Catholics to refrain from denouncing, deporting and murdering Jews because it was a crime and a mortal sin, may have worked toward the goal of creating a moral revolt against genocide."

            Also, excommunication is not expulsion from the Church. A Catholic who is excommunicated is still a Catholic.

            According to what I've read, anyone who was baptised a Catholic remains a Catholic forever, unless that person applies for debaptised. But the church is at odds on that account too.

            "An official from the Roman Catholic Church says that it is "impossible" to undergo "de-baptism" as a growing number of people in Western Europe and the United States request such a process."
            http://www.christianpost.com/news/catholic-church-says-de-baptism-is-impossible-68280/#JGGZhuZi98zage0e.99

            or is it?

            "But "de-baptisms", a church's deletion of one's name from the official baptismal registry at a parishioner's request, are a recent phenomenon, and they are taking place in both Protestant and Catholic communities."

            He or she is still expected to practice the Catholic religion—for example, to attend Mass on Sundays.

            Why? What would be the point?

          • I don't? No, really, I do...

            Then why would you use as your main sources in this message an article from a Sevent-Day-Adventist magazine (Ministry: International Journal for Pastors) and information from a web site that blames Christianity for the Holocaust (probably not incorrectly, let me add)?These are not reliable sources for information about excommunication in the Catholic Church.

            First, not having communion with the church means not going to heaven . . .

            No, the Church has no way of preventing someone from going to heaven. Thomas Aquinas said, "It is better to perish in excommunication than to violate one's conscience."

            There is no way to be unbaptized. Erasing a person's name from a baptismal registry does not undo baptism. There is no confusion on that point. One may formally resign from the Catholic Church, but that does not undo baptism.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Then why would you use as your main sources in this message an article from a Sevent-Day-Adventist magazine (Ministry: International Journal for Pastors) and information from a web site that blames Christianity for the Holocaust (probably not incorrectly, let me add)?These are not reliable sources for information about excommunication in the Catholic Church.

            I don't just use the source quoted as my main source. I try not to be bias, although that can get rather difficult sometimes.There are a variety of definitions of excommunication, it was YOUR choice to use that particular dictionary definition. Why are ya so heat about it, they give the roughly the same Catholic take on the subject you aspire to, along with others, shouldn't we see the others...the RCC didn't invent excommunication ya know? If you wish to present exactly what the RCC's definition on excommunication is, the Catholic Encyclopedia is a hany place...but it is really a bit confusing...

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm

            "The right to excommunicate is an immediate and necessary consequence of the fact that the Church is a society. Every societyhas the right to exclude and deprive of their rights and social advantages its unworthy or grievously culpable members, either temporarily or permanently."

            Exclude permanently...is that what it says?

            The Christian church is not without a portion of culpability for the Holocaust, and in no small portion, the RCC in particular.

            "Indeed, in the Christian world — I’m not saying on the part of the Church as such — erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament relative to the Jewish people and their presumed guilt (for the Crucifixion) circulated for too long, engendering sentiments of hostility toward this people. That contributed to a lulling of many consciences, so that — when Europe was swept by the wave of persecutions inspired by a pagan anti-Semitism that in its essence was equally anti-Christian — alongside those Christians who did everything to save those who were persecuted, even to the point of risking their own lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity expected of Christ’s disciples."

            I guess that's about as much as one could expect from a biased source.

            http://catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0031.html

            "His[Pope Pius XII] silence cost us millions of lives," Lau said in Tel Aviv. "One who does nothing to avoid the bloodshed is like a partner to the mass murder of human beings. He didn't do it, but he didn't stop it."

            I'm not saying the church was largely to blame, but without the RCC support, Nazi's would not likely have made it to power.

            No, the Church has no way of preventing someone from going to heaven. Thomas Aquinas said, "It is better to perish in excommunication than to violate one's conscience."

            It ain't what the church can do or can't do, it's what it says it can do or can't do...better still, it is what the bums on pews believe and are taught what happens.

            There is no way to be unbaptized. Erasing a person's name from a baptismal registry does not undo baptism. There is no confusion on that point. One may formally resign from the Catholic Church, but that does not undo baptism.

            I admit the subject is weird...like the nonsense that is baptism, de-baptism appears to me as equally naff. Still, it seems to be important to some. But the phenomenon does exist, and the church, in like many other areas, needs to be clearer to the minions.

            "Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French Bishops Confederation, says the church views de-baptisms with vigilance and willingness for dialogue, but that the phenomenon should not be exaggerated." How does that seat with your comment...

            "It is supposed to prod you to make amends for whatever you were excommunicated for so you can get back in the Church again."

            If one is excommunicated "permanently", how does one get back in "again"?

            "In the first Christian centuries it is not always easy to distinguish between excommunication and penitential exclusion;..."

            That is another way of saying it gets changed to suit.

            "This extension of the use of excommunication led to abuses. The infliction of so grave a penalty for offences of a less grievous kind and most frequently impossible to verify before the public ecclesiastical authority, begot eventually a contempt for excommunication."

            And it still exists, even after the Council of Trent where measures were made to curtail it. Anyway, it was like molasses to get through to the point I lost the will to live.

          • Michael Murray

            It's the timing that's critical though! It would be safer I think to just be good or perhaps like the powerful of old keep a priest handy.

          • Erich

            "It doesn't, I know, it was just an example of today's confused Catholic thinking vis a vis the churches. Most pew sitters are not theologians, they take their teachings from fallible teachers. Many of those teachers are at odds with the authority on subjects requiring a modicum of common sense in today's world. Attitudes have changed within the church over the past few centuries, no one can deny that. I reckon contraception issue will be the next big domino to fall."

            If you have never talked to a priest, I invite you to do so, though you know you don't need my invitation. These are smart men who had to go to college for 8 years for their profession. These aren't confused men that reject modern science. Most of the priests I know have a bachelor's in one of the physical sciences. I wouldn't hold your breath on the contraception issue. It won't change. Not in our lifetime, or the lives of anyone after us.

            "The church is the sum of its people, if the people are against a set rule, I can't see how the church will survive or how the people can call themselves as following their faith will disregarding and flaunting central tenets.. I read somewhere that there are caveats on contraception...like male prostitutes with HIV, is that true?"

            That is one definition of the church. Another would be the set teachings on faith and morality. The Church will survive regardless if a number leave because they don't like a teaching. If people studied why the Church teaches what it does on contraception and tried practicing it, they might see how it is something that is ultimately good and not restricting sexuality, but showing how beautiful authentic human sexuality is. And I have no idea about anything involving male prostitutes with HIV.

            "I could never get my head round the concept of confession. Everything is redeemable by absolution so long as the individual repents through a priest by confession. The Catholic say that without God there is no morality, I'd say that with God, there is no morality, as long as the immoral gets to the confessional or gets the last rites before pegging it."

            When you view it as a game like that, I can see why it's hard to understand. Confession isn't there for people to be able to say, "Hey, well I'll just go to confession afterwards." To be forgiven, a person has to be truly sorry for what they did and know it's wrong and honestly attempt to not do it again. It is there to amend people's lives, not a get out of jail free card. One of my favorite parts of my faith is confession. Not that I enjoy telling the priest all my wrong doing, which is a lot, but to hear his counsel afterwards. These men are wise. They do not pass judgement and are only looking to help anyone who asks for it. If you've never gone, I encourage you to try it out.

          • ... Essentially, without God, that's all life is. Filling in time from birth till death.

            From my point of view, the lives of all my ancestors going back into deep time (nearly all of whom were also your ancestors), seem very important.

          • Erich

            Important for your existence. That doesn't mean their lives had purpose. It means they had to happen for you to happen.

          • Yes, that is quite important, to me.

          • Erich

            Me as well. I'm glad you exist. I'm sure you have a large impact on those close to you.

          • Thanks. Same for you.

          • articulett

            It sounds to me like you need to believe in a divine purpose-- even if it isn't true-- in order to feel good about your life.

            Very few of the athiests I know are cynics-- I suspect you are imagining cynicism in order to feel like your faith is worth something-- even if it isn't true.

            I think it's exciting to live in a time where more and more people can move beyond the superstitions of their ancestors and learn the origin of our species along with other amazing discoveries that even the smartest people could not know 100 years ago. Did you know your DNA shows that you share common ancestry with your pets and your food and the trees in your yard? And just think of our technology which allows us to talk in real time to people all over the world-- this would make us seem like gods to the people who wrote your holy book!

            To me, it's sad that people have to spend so much energy twisting myths into "higher truths" as they keep themselves from "biting from the tree of knowledge."

          • Ignorant Amos

            And what does that do for us? Besides say life has no purpose and is pointless?

            Why do theists continually rattle this sword like it has some meaning.

            No god(s) = no purpose and a pointless life.

            Is the only purpose and point to your life the existence of your god? How sad that would be if it were true.

            Does the thought of no Allah, no Thor, no Mithras, no [insert deity of choice] mean your life is pointless and has no purpose? Atheists just go one god further in the hypothesis. Contrary to your ego scratching, the universe is not about us. It tootled along as it had for 14.7 billion years before us, it will tootle along for at least a similar period after us.

          • Erich

            "Is the only purpose and point to your life the existence of your god? How sad that would be if it were true."

            God gives life purpose. It makes the things we do matter, good or bad. If God did not exist, what we do has no meaning, it does not matter. Without God there is no such thing as morality, there is only human opinion.

            "Does the thought of no Allah, no Thor, no Mithras, no [insert deity of choice] mean your life is pointless and has no purpose? Atheists just go one god further in the hypothesis."

            Perhaps the mistake is made in putting Zoroastrianism and Norse mythology on the same level of Christianity. Zoroaster borrowed a lot of common themes for his religion from Judaism. Asatru openly admits it's stories are legend and the gods mostly stand in place for something in nature. For example, Thor, since you brought him up, in Asatru is considered the god of weather, specifically thunder.

          • Ignorant Amos

            God gives life purpose. It makes the things we do matter, good or bad. If God did not exist, what we do has no meaning, it does not matter. Without God there is no such thing as morality, there is only human opinion.

            That is all just your conjecture. The starting premise is not proven. But you ARE right about the human opinion bit, that is just another way of describing morality, because morality is just a consensus of human opinion as some theists have made obvious by playing the zeitgeist canard.

            Perhaps the mistake is made in putting Zoroastrianism and Norse mythology on the same level of Christianity.

            No, the mistake is in your judging those religions based on modern knowledge. To the followers of ancient religions the religions were every bit as important to its adherents as your faith is to you. More so, I'd surmise, the comings and goings of the world depended on it. But if you want to split hairs, and I notice you do because you omitted Allah, why not replace those silly ancient religions with some modern alternatives...Ganesha for example...or those fruit bats of the Aetherius Society...or as I said above, "[insert deity of choice]" which you appear to have overlooked in a vain effort to obfuscate the subject.

            Zoroaster borrowed a lot of common themes for his religion from Judaism.

            You don't see that at all ironic? It's a non sequitur anyway. Islam, Christianity and others have plagiarized older religions, so what. Heck, Judaism isn't original, so what is your point?

            "The ancient roots of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age polytheistic Ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, a syncretization with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible."

            Asatru openly admits it's stories are legend and the gods mostly stand in place for something in nature.

            So what? Your point is? At least there is a honesty here when confronted with the reality of what we know about ourselves and the universe we live in today, it wasn't always the case for these religion. Christianity is doing the same thing...slowly....many of the biblical accounts are now being accepted, by those using their brains, as metaphor, allegorical, poetic or myth. The Flood is undoubtedly plagiarized from the epic of Gilgamesh, as are other myths derived from the same source. At least one esteemed Rabbi has confronted the issues with Exodus story and concluded that it probably didn't occur. It certainly didn't occur as described in the scriptures.

            For example, Thor, since you brought him up, in Asatru is considered the god of weather, specifically thunder.

            Well that isn't an epiphany Erich. Even Yahweh was an underling god with the specific duty of the god of war at one time and he had a girlfriend too no less.

            "Yahweh, prior to becoming Yahweh the national god of Israel and taking on monotheistic attributes in the 6th century BCE, was a part of the Canaanite pantheon in the period before the Babylonian captivity. Archeological evidence reveals that during this time period the Israelites were a group of Canaanite people. Yahweh was seen as a war god, and equated with El. Asherah, who was often seen as El's consort, has been described as a consort of Yahweh in numerous inscriptions."

            Ba'al was the big cheese of the 14th century BC.

            "At first the name Baʿal was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two [Canaanite and Judaism] from where religions developed, the name Baʿal was given up in Judaism as a thing of shame, and even names like Jerubbaʿal were changed to Jerubbosheth: Hebrew bosheth means "shame"

            The fact that Yahweh devoted the first four rules of the Decalogue to his paranoia of other gods, before all the stuff that is really about morality, signifies that there was other gods to be paranoid of...at least that is, the authors of the scriptures thought so anyway.

          • Andrew G.

            Zoroaster borrowed a lot of common themes for his religion from Judaism.

            That would have required a time machine.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Indeed, Judaism nicked ideas from Zoroastrianism, as did certain sects of Christianity.

            Although it was a lot of smoke and mirrors to the point of my comment, I'm quite glad it was raised. It is an excellent example of how earlier religions are adopted and bastardized to suit a different culture at a different time.

            Had Christianity not been given a leg-up by Constantine...things today might have been a whole lot different. Mithraism appears to have been mighty popular until the Christians wiped it out.

            "Ulansey holds that "Mithraism declined with the rise to power of Christianity, until the beginning of the fifth century, when Christianity became strong enough to exterminate by force rival religions such as Mithraism." According to Speidel, Christians fought fiercely with this feared enemy and suppressed it during the 4th century. Some Mithraic sanctuaries were destroyed and religion was no longer a matter of personal choice. According to Luther H. Martin, Roman Mithraism came to an end with the anti-pagan decrees of the Christian emperor Theodosius during the last decade of the 4th century."

          • Erich

            Why is that? Judaism dates back to around 3000 BC or earlier. Zoroaster lived around 600 BC.

          • Andrew G.

            Judaism most certainly does not date back to 3000BC. The available evidence is that before around 800BC the Israelite religion was not significantly different from that of other Canaanites; none of the earliest biblical material can be safely dated to before the 700sBC.

            While Zoroaster was traditionally dated to ~600BC, linguistic and cultural evidence rules this out, and dates him to before 1000BC (possibly significantly older) based on the relationships between the Old Avestan language and the early Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda (dated 1700-1100BC).

            While the history and development of Zoroastrian doctrine is largely unknown, there are clear similarities between post-exilic Judaism (or at least some sects of it) and Zoroastrianism, and these similarities are more consistent with the early Zoroastrian texts than with pre-exilic Judaism, and therefore are more likely to be Zoroastrian influences on Judaism than the reverse. (For example, pre-exilic Judaism had no concept of hell, whereas a long punishment for the followers of the Druj (lie) is mentioned in the Gathas.)

          • Erich

            "Judaism most certainly does not date back to 3000BC. The available evidence is that before around 800BC the Israelite religion was not significantly different from that of other Canaanites; none of the earliest biblical material can be safely dated to before the 700sBC."

            I used 3000 BC because it is usually the most accepted date. I have heard numbers that go back to 6000 BC, but that is only a certain number of scholars. Judaism didn't start when its first texts were recorded. It was an oral tradition.

            "While Zoroaster was traditionally dated to ~600BC, linguistic and cultural evidence rules this out, and dates him to before 1000BC (possibly significantly older) based on the relationships between the Old Avestan language and the early Vedic Sanskrit of the Rigveda (dated 1700-1100BC)."

            Again this depends on what scholars you are getting your information from. History isn't a science. There is a lot of differing opinion.

          • Andrew G.

            History may not be a science (depending on how you define it), but linguistics is.

            The evidence from archaeology is that early Israelite religion (the term "Judaism" is not properly applicable until the second temple period) was not a distinct entity but was in continuity with other Canaanite religious practices. Furthermore, when we look at those parts of the OT that are claimed to preserve older oral tradition, we find that the content - references to places, customs, other nations or cultures and so on - is consistent with the late iron age but not with bronze age or earlier periods. (Classic example: we know when the Philistines arrived in the Levant, but they appear, anachronistically, in narratives supposedly set in much earlier times.)

          • Erich

            Yes I went to a presentation on that last year. It's interesting stuff.

          • Longshanks

            So, if god, the giver of life, the font of being, the one who before anyone else was, is, if that cat wants you to die because you don't believe in him then that's totally cool with you?

            It is?

            Sweet, just wanted a reminder of why I don't worship sadism.

          • Erich

            You're twisting what I was trying to say. My point was, God, the giver of life, can take away life whenever He chooses. Since life is given, it is a gift. It isn't sadism. We don't believe God is some unjust, wicked ruler who enjoys watching people suffer. If you study Catholic beliefs a little bit our discussion would flow a little nicer.

          • Well Erich, I can understand you would see it that way through the "lens of faith" but when you are talking to non-believes, we are unlikely to see that as a rational explanation. Remember, we see your deity as in the same group with all the other thousands of deities made up by people over thousands of years. Any attachment that strikes us as morally repulsive (for a deity who is not seen as a monster by attribution) makes it much harder to make that "leap of faith."

          • ZenDruid

            Your 'giver of life' demands blood sacrifice at every turn.

          • articulett

            Most Muslims believe that "Islam is a religion of peace."

            Although most Muslims are peaceful people, it's difficult for outsiders to the faith to agree "Islam is a religion of peace."

            And the same goes for Christian sects.

          • Erich

            I am only defending Catholicism not every Christian sect.

          • articulett

            You were defending the old testament god... the god from which all Abrahamic faiths supposedly sprang. I believe you were trying to justify the barbarism in the OT god.

          • Longshanks

            Wait, god's not sadistic because he is allowed to take back gifts?

            How does that help your claim that he is not sadistic?

            FYI I'm imagining tear-filled christmas mornings at your house right now, just thought you should know.

          • Erich

            Because God doesn't take away life for His own pleasure. He doesn't give us life to torture us, and isn't happy when we are suffering. Like I said before, our discussion would go smoother if you studied up on Christianity and what it teaches.

            What makes you imagine tear filled Christmas mornings at my house?

          • VelikaBuna

            God cannot commit genocide. This term is only proper to a creature not to a creator. Just because you see things only from a human perspective, and do not differentiate between the Creator and the creature, you reach erroneous conclusion. What God does is ultimately good, weather we see it or not.

          • Michael Murray

            Got any evidence for gods ?

          • VelikaBuna

            From that perspective no genocide took place, only the natural process was a bit sped up. Nothing important in the purposeless existence.

          • Michael Murray

            So you're OK with genocide ?

          • VelikaBuna

            If atheist view of our existence is true, I see no ultimate difference how and when one ceases to exist.

          • Michael Murray

            Strange. All the atheists I've met do. It only seems to be theists that worry they'll pillage the world if god disappears.

          • VelikaBuna

            According to atheists what purpose is there and does it square with their ideology and how do they reconcile the two?

          • Michael Murray

            Where did I mention purpose? Atheists don't have an ideology they just don't believe in gods.

          • VelikaBuna

            That statement is contradictory. One must live according to some ideology. It is impossible not to have one.

          • Michael Murray

            But it doesn't follow from the atheism. So it's not "their ideology".

          • VelikaBuna

            Tell me what do atheists believe the purpose of existence is? I am not asking what they don't believe. Why is genocide wrong? Wrong against who?

          • Michael Murray

            Existence doesn't have a purpose.

            Genocide is wrong because it contradicts the golden rule.

          • VelikaBuna

            Rules are just illusions, you choose to follow, some phantoms.

          • Michael Murray

            Gods are just illusions, you choose to follow, some phantoms.

            Rules are summaries of what I think are the correct way to behave. The golden rule has been a pretty basic summary for a very long time. I would imagine it dates back to our early primate years. Our primate cousins certainly exhibit these kinds of behaviours.

            strong support for empathetic reactions has come from studies of rhesus macaques. In studies by Wechkin et al. and Masserman et al., these macaques refused to pull a chain that delivered food to themselves if doing so shocked a companion.[14][15] This inhibition to hurt another was more pronounced between familiar than unfamiliar macaques, a finding similar to that of empathy in humans.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion_in_animals#Primates

          • VelikaBuna

            Now you have changed the topic completely. Now you are arguing something completely off topic of purpose. You as an atheist claim to be aware (unlike monkeys) that you have no ultimate reason for existence (makes no difference if you exist or not), yet you choose to exist, why? What do you think you can contribute? Is my being wrong about gods going to make any difference to either one of us when we cease to exist?

          • Michael Murray

            You as an atheist claim to be aware (unlike monkeys) that you have no ultimate reason for existence (makes no difference if you exist or not), yet you choose to exist, why?

            Why not ? Life's good. If I was suffering badly I would rather not live of course. Not that the RCC would help me.

            By the way that wasn't off-topic I was explaining the basis of non-theistic morality to you.

          • VelikaBuna

            Explaining something is not the same as the truth. Your explanation could be completely wrong for all we know, inspite of making apparent sense. So you are saying although you believe all your actions in this world will be nullified once you cease to exist (from your perspective), you are not in a hurry to reach this ultimate end, although according to the ideology it would be the perfectly logical conclusion?

          • Michael Murray

            Explaining something is not the same as the truth.

            Yep so we gather evidence and test ideas. How else do you propose to find the truth.

            according to the ideology it would be the perfectly logical conclusion?

            Why does it follow as a "logical conclusion" from believing life has no purpose that I should kill myself. Death has no purpose either so why is it not just as logical to want to stay alive?

            In any case why would I want to cause hurt to those who love me by killing myself ? To leave my family wondering why I couldn't be bothered to go on living ?

          • VelikaBuna

            Because you know that ultimately you will cease to exist inspite of what you do, wheather pleasure or suffering. The game ends upon death, why do people choose to wait? Isn't that just stupid to wait for something inevitable, and at the same time be in control of it?

          • Michael Murray

            I honestly don't understand your point. It's like saying: why bother starting sex because at the end you'll just have an orgasm and it will all be over. Why eat because I'm just going to excrete it all anyway.

            You sound depressed.

          • VelikaBuna

            Atheism when thought through and when considered properly does make one depressed. Can you imagine standing on a conveyor belt slowly carrying you to the ultimate demise, all the while one is pretending that they are happy and have a purpose. That is what atheism is for me. There is no joy in it, one has to disregard it in order to experience the joy of life.

          • Michael Murray

            You think that's depressing. Imagine believing that you are just trundling along through life to entertain and praise a cosmic dictator who might at any moment pour suffering upon you for his own amusement.

          • VelikaBuna

            How is that worse? Explain please. I thought both parties will cease to exist equally?

          • Michael Murray

            No the second party gets to spend eternity praising the Great Leader in Heaven.

          • VelikaBuna

            I thought the Great Leader was in Korea, and the Great attractor was somewhere out there, over the rainbow.

          • VelikaBuna

            I thought the Great Leader was in Korea, and the Great Attractor was somewhere out there, over the rainbow.

          • Longshanks

            "Atheism when thought through and when considered properly does make one depressed."

            Here I think you're being unkind to atheists: many of them have thought long and hard about what they believe. What I think you're trying to say is that atheism, "when considered the way I consider it."

            Fair enough, it gives you the willies.

            Additionally, let me say that you seem to be criticizing my humanism, not my atheism. My atheism doesn't say anything about ultimate purposes or any of the rest of it, merely that I don't believe in gods.

            My humanism contends that meaning, purpose, truth and justice are terms which only have validity when speaking about humans and on human scales. They are human constructs and not correlated with the nature of the cosmos, except in so far as we are products of that cosmos, and they products of us.

            To be sure I "disregard" the heat-death of the universe in my day-to-day life the same way that I "disregard" the fatality statistics and general inherent danger about driving whenever I get on the freeway. Not so that I can act like a maniac, but so that I don't drive in an unsafe manner because of paralytic fear, and thus fulfill my orbid prophesy.

            Of course every once in a while a good memento-mori is a healthy thing.

            We are all destined to be emptied of purpose, form and meaning, just like my last bottle was emptied of liquid joy.

          • VelikaBuna

            The ultimate end nullifies all your actions. You can play pretend this and that, but you are doing all for no logical reason at all.

          • Longshanks

            I mean, again: I'm sorry I came into being in the first place, I promise, it won't happen again.

            Unless the buddhists are right.

            But until that ultimate nullifying end which renders me illogical, can I humbly ask your permission to enjoy the sights along the way?

            Oh, and may I, and I know this is a stretch, may I beg leave to not be murdered? I promise if you let me stay I won't murder anyone else either.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>" The game ends upon death, why do people choose to wait? Isn't that just stupid to wait for something inevitable, and at the same time be in control of it?"

            The person that has no belief or concept of a life in the great here after, is more likely to make the best of whatever they have got in the here and now.

            Conversely, why do the religious get so upset when someone close dies or gets a magic ticket to the great beyond? Is it jealousy even though that's a sin? Why does a reverent person when faced with their own mortality, endeavor to prolong that mortality by whatever means? In the ideal religious world, the hospitals should have plenty of beds for the Atheists. Why would the believer want to extend their time here when such glory awaits them? Unless it is not real belief and just belief in belief. Makes no sense to me otherwise.

            Amazingly, the affluent religious seem to be at the forefront of prolonging their earthly suffering.

          • Longshanks

            "are saying although you believe all your actions in this world will be nullified once you cease to exist"

            What? Actions taken during life can have effects post-mortem. I'm still a huch Hitchens fan despite his passing.

          • VelikaBuna

            Because I knew of this possiblilty I have included in the brackets from the perspective of one ceasing to exist. In your example from the perspective of Hitchens. Did Hitchens achieve anything to alter his ultimate end? You may read and marvel at his great wisdom, but does Hitchens care now that he does not exist anymore?

          • Longshanks

            I suspect he does not.

            I am glad that he did not let the fact that because he would eventually not know or care that he was dead you would be extremely confused about many things stop him from writing brilliantly.

            Incidentally, while he certainly did show flashes of wisdom from time to time, I don't not find that trait to be his strongest suit.

            Sublime honesty and introspection, plain joy in living life, delicately chosen phrases, which like shards of glass were beautiful and dangerous, and a thundering good stage presence...these...these

          • VelikaBuna

            All he did was for naught.

          • Longshanks

            I mean...in your case, that might be true.

            From where I stand, allow me to respectfully disagree.

          • VelikaBuna

            He has no use for what he did, and neither will you.

          • Longshanks

            Once I'm dead? No, I doubt I will.

            Will others?

            There will ALWAYS be youtube, all hail our beatific and benevolent google overlord.

          • Longshanks

            "yet you choose to exist, why?"

            Well, to be fair, I didn't have much say in it when my father and mother rang up the Stork hotline.

          • VelikaBuna

            lol

          • Michael Murray

            Or maybe they were using natural family planning ?

          • VelikaBuna

            NFF is unbeknownst to many at least as effective as the birth control.

          • Michael Murray

            I did know. It's called "a joke". I make them sometimes although I have no idea why because one day I'm going to die and it's all so completely pointless.

          • VelikaBuna

            Most people don't know this. That is why I mentioned it, I had no intention of attacking you. Sorry for the misunderstanding on this issue.

          • Longshanks

            Oh god, it's so awful.

            Time to open another beer.

          • Michael Murray

            Why do I keep thinking of Marvin in Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy. Life ...

          • Longshanks

            One of my favorite books.

            I should add, for tall the FBI and ATF officers following this conversation, that it's a turkey pot pie, and I'm actually out of beer.

            And now I really am sad.

          • VelikaBuna

            Good time to pretend life has a meaning again? Enjoy your beer.

          • Longshanks

            Why would you think that I'm pretending.

            I am currently being crushed by existential angst.

            And the fact that my pot-pie won't be done for another fourty three minutes.

          • Michael Murray

            Actually according to wikipedia it's perfect use effectiveness is half as good as oral contraception. It's actual use effectiveness is guite a bit higher than oral contraception. I guess because it's used by a small and devoted group who work hard at it.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_birth_control_methods

          • Longshanks

            Right, I get you.

            If atheism is a negative belief, ie a lack, what then do 'we' as a group believe.

            This question doesn't, however unsatisfying my response may be to you, make sense.

            The one thing and the only thing which unites atheists is a lack of belief in god.

            There are myriad positive beliefs held by individuals, but you'll find that most of us resist being categorized by statements like 'atheists believe ________". If you want to know, you'll have to ask.

            One at a time.

          • VelikaBuna

            What is death?

          • Michael Murray
          • Max Driffill

            I'm not sure why the fact that ultimate pointlessness of the universe should blind one to the fact that actions in the here and now have very real meaning to the actors involved. Why should we care that none of it will matter with heat death of the universe?

          • VelikaBuna

            Why should we care? Precisely my point.

          • Michael Murray

            Because you have empathy. Because you have social relationships impacted by your negative behaviour. Because there are laws that will impact on you in unpleasant ways. Because you will lose your self-respect.

          • Max Driffill

            All things that affect us in the present time,

          • Max Driffill

            We do care, because actions in the here and now have very real consequences for the actors in the very real here and now. I don't want to be made to suffer unnecessarily while I live out my few decades on this rock. You don't want to suffer unnecessarily. I don't want the people I care about to suffer unnecessarily, I hope, (though I have my doubts when these questions come up) that you feel the same. These kinds of things matter to us. Why is that not enough? Why do you need more?

          • VelikaBuna

            But you are selling an illusion which is not real. Reality is there are no ultimate consequences.

          • Max Driffill

            No I am not selling an illusion. I can suffer, I don't like to suffer. You can suffer. Our family and friends can becauseed to suffer by our action or our inaction. Our family and friends and strangers can also be made to be joyful and happy at our action, or by our inaction. This is a very real, if temporary thing. It happens in real brains that interact with the world. There is nothing unreal about it. That matters to me vastly more than the fact that I don't have an ultimate point on the scale of the universe. I don't have an ultimate point on the scale of the Rocky Mountains either, or a Redwood tree, but that is not germane to me or my experience.

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not disputing that we can suffer. Is there any purpose to suffering, if not why it exists and do you think death is the best way to eliminate suffering?

          • Michael Murray

            Why does everything have to have a purpose ? Pain helps us survive. More existential suffering I think is a result of self-awareness. Self-awareness I think is just an accidental side-effect of developing a brain that modelled the behaviour of those arounds us. We started modelling our own behaviour and then we decided to call that model "self".

            Why would death eliminate suffering ? It would cause great suffering to those around me. If you want to eliminate suffering you might want to try Buddhism.

          • VelikaBuna

            I believe everything has a purpose, but I don't know what the purpose of everything is.

          • Max Driffill

            You may not be disputing it, but you, like many believers, continuously ignore it when this topic pops up.

            But no I would not say death is the best way to eliminate suffering. It is certainly the end of suffering, but there would be no enjoyment in that. The best way to eliminate suffering is to reduce or eliminate the causes -as best we can, always trying to improve- of suffering in the world. To the extent possible the more we can maximize human well being and human flourishing the greater the reduction in suffering we are likely to see.

          • Michael Murray

            A good experiment is to get a hammer and hit your hand repeatedly while at the same time shouting "there are no ultimate consequences".

          • VelikaBuna

            Again I am not disputing that we can suffer. Question is why do we put up with it if we know that we can just cease to exist?

          • Longshanks

            Okay, that was funny.

            Also; reminiscent of fight club.

          • Sample1

            Pardon me for offering my .02, but nobody is requiring anyone to care. You don't have to. There may be maladaptive psychological consequences for adopting such a position or they may not be.

            Consider this situation: you are diagnosed with radiation poisoning tomorrow and conservatively given 3 months to live. You have a dog and your faith says non-human animals don't go to Heaven. You can go home and continue to provide love and companionship for your canine companion or you can say, "what's the point?"

            Mike

          • VelikaBuna

            You can kill yourself and cease to exist. What harm is that from the perspective of one who does not exist?

          • Longshanks

            I could find your point of view less revolting if god himself did the killing.

            Not much, mind you, but a least a skosh.

            Instead, he had the tribe of Israel do the killing.

            Surely if god isn't a demented, evil, contemptible maniac for, say, the Flood, at least you would concede that the Jews were guilty of the crime of genocide, even if on divine orders.

          • VelikaBuna

            They were not guilty if they followed the orders from the Creator. If they did it on their own accord then they would be guilty. However if there is no God or justice beyond this world and this life. If all the parties involved ceased to exist in any conscious way, then it would be silly to claim that there was a crime if there is no proportional justice possible. in other words the ones who were killed reached their ultimate lack of purpose before the perpetrators of killings. I'd could argue that the ones who remained living suffered more over the years (cumulatively) than the ones who disappeared earlier.

          • Longshanks

            The conclusion
            2 - all parties cease to be conscious
            does not follow from the premise
            1 - there is no God or [universal platonic ideal of] justice.

            "the ones who were killed reached their ultimate lack of purpose before the perpetrators of killings"

            I'm not sure I understand the words you wrote in the order you wrote them.

            "I'd could argue that"

            Lawyers can, and do, argue for thing which aren't valid every day. The ability to type words into a comment box does not truth or meaning unto them impart.

            I understand that you're trying to say that atheists have no concept of justice or purpose or meaning, but let me be the first to un-cloud your judgement: that is not the case.

          • VelikaBuna

            I am not arguing that atheists don't have concept of justice or purpose. This is precisely why their argument for the lack of purpose contradicts their lived experience. Atheists do have concept of justice and morality, yet claim that this justice and morality is just if one chooses to exist (live) and one can choose not to exist (die), and at this point all justice and morality ceases to exist from the perspective of the one who dies.

          • VelikaBuna

            "the ones who were killed reached their ultimate lack of purpose before the perpetrators of killings"

            Sorry about this. The sentence means this; There is no ultimate purpose to our existence, we cease to be upon death, therefore those killed just reached their ultimate destiny (cease to exist) a bit earlier. No crime committed, because there is no reason for them to be here in the first place.

          • Longshanks

            My ideas about crime are not that it is a contravention of divine (or superior of any sort) authority, merely the breech of social contract which has varying levels of penalty.

            The crime does not lie in whether or not the victims have an inherent purpose, but in the fact that we, as a species, have come to the conclusion that things like genocide have no place at our round table.

          • VelikaBuna

            That is a consensus opinion and one is not harmed by disobeying this arbitrary law. One ceases to exist without discrimination, regardless of whether one chooses to obey arbitrary laws or not.

          • Longshanks

            "and one is not harmed by disobeying this arbitrary law"

            Well, I would quibble with the arbitrary point, I think that these laws proceed from our evolved psychologies, so I suppose I could've said that I'm citing the authority of our DNA.

            Additionally, I wonder what you mean by "one is not harmed." I think that if we incarcerate or execute convicted murders, they might feel that harm was being done to them.

          • Longshanks

            What is the obsession with this phrase " hung up on ."

            Such a dismissive way to sidestep someone else's serious problems with the morality/sanity of your viewpoint.

            Sure, I mean, I can see that some people got hung up on the precise methods used during the Shoah.

          • Erich

            It wasn't dismissive. What would have been a more suitable phrase for me to use that would not offend you?

        • NOOOO Dummmy--God left them there in scripture to show us what NOT to do!!!!! And GOD DID NOT tell Lot to do that--if you had really read the account it was Lot's own idea--NOt God's--Those accounts are left to show us that human nature has not changed much and that we need a Saviour.

          • Andre Boillot

            Liz,

            Speaking of people that haven't read things, I never held up Lot as an example of God's commands.

          • Michael Murray

            Love these people who haven't read the forum commenting rules.

      • severalspeciesof

        I feel sorry for the first born male Egyptians too...

        • Brad

          Don't forget the inhabitants of Jericho...

        • VelikaBuna

          Why? They could be in heaven.

          • severalspeciesof

            *head hits desk... slowly raises it* Then you also need to speak to Kevin and tell him not to feel revulsion about the innocent...

      • Brad

        It's interesting that you feel revulsion to the Passion story, even though it is the case that it HAD to happen. I was a Protestant so maybe I was raised with a different view of the whole thing but the idea to me seems to be that yeah the act was horrible but it was God's plan for our salvation. It had to happen. So, as revolting as it may be, it is still a human sacrifice of the innocent to pay for the guilty.

        Yeah hell may be self-inflicted, but who doesn't make mistakes. I mean how cruel is it that someone who rejects God doesn't get to realize he was wrong until he dies and then it's too late. Hell for eternity, torture for eternity. That is the Protestant view so maybe the Catholic is different. I think it is impossible to square a loving being with the existence of hell, if hell is eternal torment as the bible does describes.

        On slavery I think it is a fair position to assume, based on what the Bible actually says, that slavery is sanctioned by God. At the very least God really doesn't seem to have much of a problem with it. Now if God truly is loving and the Bible truly is his word for us wouldn't it make more sense for there to be a commandment against slavery rather than instructions as to how it is to be performed?

        • CoastRanger

          I'll just address what you remember about hell from your Protestant background, Brad.

          Catholics don't believe that people go to hell for mistakes.

          C.S. Lewis and others have written on reconciling God's justice and mercy better than I ever could, but I'll try to at least paraphrase it. God wanted to created human persons who could freely love. That means giving human beings the freedom to hate. The ultimate freedom to hate is hell.

          • Brad

            I'm just saying that once one is in hell they would presumably realize that somewhere along the line they made a mistake to end up there. It doesn't have to be any mistake in particular. Maybe it was just a rejection of the existence of God? I don't know. The point is, that person did something wrong. If hell is what is described in the Bible then whatever landed a person there would be seen as a mistake by that person which I'd assume they'd like to do over. In my opinion a loving God would grant a do over. It seems that isn't the case.

          • tedseeber

            If they do, Hell becomes Purgatory, they repent of their mistake, and go to Heaven.

          • CoastRanger

            You are making the same mistake as Plato (congratulations, you're in the best of company!).

            The root of evil is not ignorance but malice. I imagine the default thought in hell is not "Oh, [expletive deleted]! I screwed up," but "[expletive deleted] you, God!"

          • Vuyo

            Coast, you're exactly right. In hell people blaspheme God. They don't repent. This is implied somewhat in Rev 16:21. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

          • Brad

            What does this say about God, that he would intentionally eternally punish by fire those who have malice towards him? How does that make sense with the idea of turning the other cheek? Also, how could anyone possibly blame someone for having malice towards a God who has set up such a system. Sounds like a tyrant. Would you not curse a being that was eternally torturing you? Besides this, it seems to me that you're saying that the only ones that go to hell are those that hate God. I know that the church has been moving towards this opinion for some time and I think it's because it's much more attractive to people in modern times. The fact is that this idea contradicts many passages in the bible. I think it is much more easy to read the bible and come to the conclusion that you need to be a Christian to avoid hell, not that you need to just not be evil and not hate God. Look at much of the artwork of the churches history, especially Counter-Reformation artwork in churches such as Il Gesu. It's pretty clear what the message is to non-Catholics. It's "you're going to hell, and it's going to be painful." The people who made that artwork were following the message of the bible much more closely than those that try to sugar-coat everything by implying that only the evil, God-haters go to hell.

          • CoastRanger

            The one who gave us the phrase, "Turn the other cheek" spoke about hell more than any other figure in the Bible, so that is a legitimate question of how the two ideas can be reconciled.

            I also think it is a fair question to ask why God would create human beings with eternal souls (who will necessarily be around forever) when some number of them would choose self-ruin.

            I guess one could say life is a game, but it is a real game. Once it is over, there are no "do overs." You are assuming persons in hell want to leave.

          • Brad

            I don't know how anyone would not want to leave the hell that is portrayed in the bible.

          • CoastRanger

            I don't either, Brad, but I can imagine them seeing it as the lesser of two evils.

            I've read speculation that the angels who became devils fell at the very moment of their creation. The reason is that they were given tremendous intellects, perfect infused knowledge, and indomitable wills. They "saw" what God had planned and utterly rejected it, even knowing the consequences. They have no reason to change their minds.

            Our saving grace on earth is we are so ignorant we can always change our minds and regret our actions.

        • tedseeber

          "I mean how cruel is it that someone who rejects God doesn't get to realize he was wrong until he dies and then it's too late."

          What do you think this website is for?

          • Brad

            As far as I can tell this website has been mostly effective in demonstrating that at best both sides of the argument have valid points. It seems to me that the arguments of the non-believers on here more than hold their ground. One could easily read every article and thread on here and still come to the conclusion that God doesn't exist, which they would only find out is wrong about the time the flames touch their toes.

          • tedseeber

            "doesn't get to realize he was wrong"- I would point out that just by reading a website like this he had the chance, should his mind be sufficiently open. I have yet to see any atheist actually hold their ground on anything; the automated rejection of the supernatural and any potential evidence that could even point to the supernatural puts them at a severe disadvantage in any discussion on metaphysics.

          • Brad

            It seems to me that a website like this more than anything makes it clear that what matters most is not the arguments themselves but what each person's starting belief is. If you're an atheist then you will be impressed by the arguments here in your favor. If you are a theist then you will make comments like you just have. If one can't see the effective atheistic arguments that have been made here then I could just as easily say that the theist is the one with the closed mind. For example, I have made a criticism of God's character that so far no one has responded to, and it is regards to God's opinion on slavery. Now this is not evidence that atheism is true but it is an argument an atheist could make against the existence of good God.

          • tedseeber

            Either that or it is because I've actually tried the atheist arguments, and found them to be severely lacking.

            The book of Philemon was the final word on God's opinion of slavery, and it was the same as in Deuteronomy, and for that matter the Talmud- slaves should be treated as members of the family. Nothing new there, and nothing particularly scandalous either, unless one wants to read the Bible as a 19th century United States Southerner instead of as a Catholic. If you want to actually research how this worked, I'd suggest looking up the story of how Fr. Augustine Tolton was educated, sent off to Rome for seminary, at the expense of his former "owners", to return after the war to serve as a Priest and Freeman in the United States.

          • Brad

            I don't think I really need to research how it worked. I think it's pretty clear. I am of the opinion that slavery in any form is immoral. God apparently is not. If you would like me to find scandalous passages in the bible in regards to slavery I will. Now it is my lowly opinion but wouldn't a good God have just said something more like "thou shalt not own other human beings as property," rather than give instructions as to how slavery is to be executed.

          • tedseeber

            Then you are against modern capitalism, which due to the tendency of corporations to pay less than the productive value of labor in order to make a profit, is practicing wage slavery?

            And are also against Communism, which of course reserves the right of property ownership to the State, which is also a form of slavery?

            If so, then yes, you're right with Pope Leo XIII, who urged as a replacement for these forms of slavery a *universal right to own productive private property*, for all human beings. It will only be when the employer-employee relationship is abolished that we will achieve "slavery in any form is immoral", and we ain't there yet.

            Not to mention the great work the Church *was* doing to end the sex-slave trade, until Obama decided that was a consensual relationship that should be allowed and encouraged with free abortions, and cut off the federal partnership to end the sex slave trade.

            I would also point out that if you are truly treating the slave you bought yesterday as a member of the family today, the first thing you do is free him- and that during the so-called "Dark ages", indentured servitude and slavery almost died out completely in Catholic Europe, only to be brought back by Protestants and Islamics in the new world. St. Paul's version of "give instructions as to how slavery is to be executed", when practically executed, WAS "thou shalt not own other human beings as property". Same effect, different words.

          • Brad

            I really don't think I need to explain the differences between capitalism and slavery. Also, I think it is a bit of a stretch to describe Paul's opinion of slavery in that way, but I'll allow it because Paul is not God. How about God's opinion, which is to be found throughout the Old Testament? I'll ask you a question. If you were God for a day and had the power to re-write the ten commandments would you see fit to add an eleventh stating that owning people, like you own animals, is wrong?

    • tedseeber

      Hell isn't eternal torture. To some, it is paradise.

  • Jim Russell

    Gotta say that the billboard "Beware of Dogma" is really excellent--I mean as a marketing effort. Very catchy. Not that, as a cleric, I agree, but it makes me chuckle...

    • Science has been able to make its progress through the dogma of no dogma.

      • Mark Hunter

        I would argue it's if not the only way to make progress, it's certainly the best way to make progress.

      • tedseeber

        Too bad people quickly turn scientific hypothesis into dogma.

        • Yes, tedseeber, that is true. It calls for better education in understanding the Scientific Method.

        • Mark Hunter

          SOme do. But science reserves its greatest rewards for those who overturn existing theories.

          • tedseeber

            That is only when they can break through the "peer review" barrier. I'd also point out that for those who can break through the peer review barrier, our most famous Catholic theologians, the ones that end up called "Doctors of the Church" are also ones that overturn previous dogma. Aquinas is one such, so are Saint Catherine of Sienna and the Little Flower St. Therese of Lisieux. (the second of which set many older men on a different path).

          • Mark Hunter

            Name one Catholic Dogma that's been overturned.

            As to peer review, if you present the evidence it will be accepted. Look at this major break through in number theory.

            http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/05/24/Professor-who-once-had-to-work-at-Subway-makes-math-breakthrough/UPI-22491369438028/

          • tedseeber

            One recent one is the contrast between the Feeneyite version of Extra Ecclesiam Nullas Salvas (which admittedly had only been taught as a mainly political doctrine since the 950s) and Paul IV's encyclical Nostra Aetate.

          • Mark Hunter

            You were referring to Dogma, not doctrine and while I would agree that the teaching of "outside the Church, no salvation" has changed you will never get a Catholic theologian to agree. They'll nuance what "outside" means. 1000 years ago it meant those schismatic Orthodox, not it means that Christ redemption is offered to the who world through his Church so all people are in a sense "within the Church" and without the Church as a conduit of Christ's redemption none could be redeemed.

          • Dogma can't change. It's a subset of Doctrine that has absolute certainty attached to it. I've stated many times that if Dogma were to ever change, I would leave the Church in a second, because it's an admission that they don't have absolute moral and metaphysical Truth.

            Doctrine does change, however.

          • Mark Hunter

            There are three levels of Catholic teaching, Dogma, Doctrine and Discipline. Dogma and Doctrine don't change, discipline does. An example of discipline is clerical celibacy, it has changed over the years, is optional in some non Latin rite Catholic rites and one can get a dispensation in the Latin Rite.

            No Dogma or Doctrine of the Catholic Church, once defined, has ever changed. (http://www.roman-catholic.com/Roman/Articles/three_ds.htm)

          • I am properly chastised. I blame a conflation of the terms doctrine/dogma (which is appropriate) and doctrine/discipline (which is not). I stand corrected.

          • tedseeber

            Yes, all changes are officially clarifications. Deeper into the same example:

            "With faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin . . . Furthermore, we declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff."(Denzinger 468-69)

            And to this clear declaration of a dogma, add the clarifying definition of Pope Eugenius,

            "It (Roman Church) firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life . . .and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church." (Council of Florence (1441), Pope Eugenius, Decree for the Jacobites, in the Bull Cantata Domino; Denzinger 714)

            Now let us turn our attention to the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, which informs catechumins that:

            "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

            846. "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. . .

            847. "This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

            "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. " (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday:New York, © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 244 w/Imprimi Potest of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)

          • tedseeber
  • Mark Hunter

    I'm glad for you Megan, you're certainly bucking the trend. ( http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/religiousswitching21.gif )

    But it puzzles me as to the use of the word orthodoxy in the title. There is no orthodoxy in atheism, either in position, morals or approach to atheism. As one atheist podcast says the only think we have in common is we all don't believe in the same God.

    Contrast that with Catholicism which requires you to believe every dogma, doctrine of the Catholic Church and adhere to every discipline. You have freedom on devotions however.

    You mention Sam Harris and that's the exception that proves the point. He approves of torture and has been criticized strongly in the atheist community because of that. Not that he can't be an atheist anymore or will be excommunicated from the non existent atheist fold, but because atheists are respectively disagreeing and arguing among themselves to advance their moral stance. Contrast this with Catholicism where the US bishops have spoken strongly against torture calling it an intrinsic evil ( http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/torture/upload/torture-is-an-intrinsic-evil-study-guide1.pdf ) and Catholics are required to adhere to this orthodoxy and not dissent.

    I happen to agree with the Catholic bishops on this issue (as would probably most atheists) but whereas they teach from authority (no dissent allowed on issues of faith or morals) atheists must deal with dissent as we have no orthodoxy.

    One last point - The late Christopher Hitchens, much to the chagrin of many atheists argued against abortion after the initial trimester. No orthodoxy there.

    • severalspeciesof

      If I recollect correctly, Hitchens was against abortion like you say, but wasn't against it to the point of using laws to prevent it. Though I could be wrong here...

      • Mark Hunter

        True. Personally he opposed it but didn't want laws to oppose it. I'm mostly in agreement with him, and as for laws. I've never seen anyone suggest what any new penalty should be for the woman for has the abortion. Without penalties, no laws.

        • But you could apply a penalty to a doctor performing an abortion, right? Which would then make it a law, without punishing the woman for anything.

          • Mark Hunter

            Why would you not penalize the mother other than the fact that it would ruin any chance for a law? No one would accept it.

          • Because most of the women who seek abortions are pressured into them and taken advantage of, so seeking to punish them is like seeking to punish a child in a statutory rape case.

            http://www.lifenews.com/2013/05/24/64-of-women-having-abortions-faced-pressure-how-one-woman-overcame-it/

          • Mark Hunter

            Treating women like children is not a good sign. Women are not all pressured into abortions. If they are pressured it's factors like no maternity leave, no health care, no affordable daycare, no enforcement of child support. If you start jailing people who apply that pressure, we'd have agreement.

          • See my comment above. And I will say I do agree, as a society we have a responsibility to provide for women and their children in difficulty, and being pro-life while being anti-assistance I believe is an untenable position.

            However, I realize I make up a small subset of the pro-life group as a whole.

          • Mark Hunter

            Then work to make it a majority. Start with paid maternity leave. No one who is pro choice should oppose it. Here in Canada it's through employment insurance and every worker pays into it.

          • I do what I can. I wrote a post on this a while back, and in the second half of it said that the whole of society was guilty every time a woman got an abortion because of pressure, financial or otherwise.

            I mean true financial pressure, not "but I won't be able to afford a second vacation home!" But I think we're on the same page here.

          • Mark Hunter

            We are on the same page. It reminds me of an argument on funding public schools in Denver many years ago on PBS where a conservative was arguing against funding "extras" like swimming pools, libraries, gyms, etc. in depressed neighbourhoods (but all for it in the affluent suburbs). When his opponent has his chance to reply as to why this should be done, didn't give any equity fairness argument, merely said "Shouldn't we do this because they are children".

          • tedseeber

            I know plenty of pro-choicers here in the states that support it. They are mainly business owners who are profiting from it not being available.

          • Michael Murray
          • tedseeber

            If it is the Truth, why would we worry about it being a good sign?

            " If they are pressured it's factors like no maternity leave, no health care, no affordable daycare, no enforcement of child support."

            How about instead of jailing anybody, we provide maternity leave, an absolute right to health care, an absolute right to daycare (might end the whole "Stay at Home Mother Unemployment" issue right there) and start absolutely enforcing child support *then* make it illegal?

          • Mark Hunter

            tewdeeber - We have most of that in Canada. It's great.

          • Who are you and what have you done with Theodore?

          • tedseeber

            I've been preaching to legal conservatives for the past 20 years that the best weapon against abortion is charity; I mimic that with my charitable giving in this area. Locally, Mother and Child, Pregnancy Resource Clinics, and Fr. Taaffe Homes for Unwed Mothers get the majority of my pro-life dollars and activity.

            I am still quite anti-choice; I want to make it so no abortion comes about as a matter of CHOICE (I also want future anti-abortion laws to not make the same mistake the pro-choice crowd has; doctors and nurses working in emergency rooms need an *absolute* right to conscience in matters of triage- and yes, sometimes that means killing the mother to save the child).

          • I just meant the name change. Were you blocked?

          • tedseeber

            Oh, I likely just switched from my Google account to my Facebook account, for posting on Disqus.

          • Mark Hunter

            "Killing the mother to save the child" If you can't kill the child to save the mother, why would the converse be ethical?

          • tedseeber

            Under Catholicism, it is evil, but legitimate, to kill the child to save the mother. It is rare, but it is done.

            You have to understand that under Catholicism guilt isn't binary, but rather analog. You can look this all up for yourself, and it would be rather hard to go into all the nuance in a combox discussion.

            A good google start would be "Catholic" and "doctrine of double effect"

          • No, under double effect, it is never permitted to (directly) kill the child to save the mother. It is permitted to medically intervene to save the life of the mother even if the medical intervention will result in the death of the unborn child. But that is not (directly) killing the child. The classic example is the removal of a cancerous uterus of a pregnant woman if the cancer is life-threatening. The child will die, but its death is not intended. In many cases, a question to ask is whether the medical intervention would be done if the woman were not pregnant. If so, chance are the medical intervention is licit even if the baby will die as a result. But it can get very complicated.

          • tedseeber

            Thank you for the explanation that went deeper than mine.

          • tedseeber

            Ok, 2nd answer, but shorter. Google "principle of double effect". Quite well known to Catholic philosophers, classic case for abortion is ectopic pregnancy, where to avoid a true abortion many Catholic physicians will go for the safer tubal removal.

          • Mark Hunter

            Shame the double effect wasn't applied to that woman in Ireland and when than nun in Denver (?) evoked it she was excommunicated.

          • tedseeber

            Actually, the decision of the Medical Board in Ireland was that the principle of double effect was legal and always has been, and the doctors were wrong to ignore it. And I'm not sure about what nun in Denver you are talking about, unless it is the one who has been spouting off about how great it would be if lesbians could get married, which I don't see what it has to do with the topic that abortion is *specifically* allowed in Canon Law (though still an evil which needs repenting for) in the case of the life of the mother being at stake.

            But of course, your mind is made up, don't confuse you with the facts, right?

          • Mark Hunter is no doubt referring to the case of Sister Margaret McBride in Phoenix (not Denver) in which the hospital ethics board (of which she was a member) approved an abortion for a woman was close to death because of complications (pulmonary hypertension) resulting from her pregnancy. The local ordinary (Bishop Olmsted) publicly declared that she had excommunicated herself. Both the rational for the abortion and the statement by the bishop were very controversial at the time. There were questions as to whether the abortion was direct or indirect. And there were questions also about whether the bishop had followed canon law in his treatment of Sister McBride.

          • tedseeber

            My wife had pulmonary hypertension- a common C-Section fixed it, and my son is alive today. The principle of double effect can't be used when alternative treatment is available.

          • The woman was only 10 weeks pregnant, and so near death they did not even move her to an operating room to perform the abortion. You can't do a C-section when the baby is only 10 weeks old. No baby younger than 21 weeks has ever survived, even with all the medical technology in the world.

          • tedseeber

            Doesn't matter- there have been many mistakes in calculations about "only 10 weeks pregnant" in the past. The principle of double effect says we must try; it does not promise success. Medical technology can only progress if we try instead of give up.

            Besides, an equal treatment for pulmonary hypertension used to be leeches. It occurs to me that the operation itself might help resolve the issue (due to loss of blood volume).

          • Andre Boillot

            ted,

            "Doesn't matter- there have been many mistakes in calculations about "only 10 weeks pregnant" in the past. The principle of double effect says we must try; it does not promise success. Medical technology can only progress if we try instead of give up."

            Wouldn't it be more correct to say: "The principle of double effect says we must try [if the likely benefits outweigh the likely costs]"?

            I'm curious as to whether you're aware of what's involved with treating the very prematurely born, and the ethical questions that arise just from the acts of trying to keep them alive. I would be surprised if, after speaking with a medical professional in that field, you still thought it a good idea to try to bring a 10 week pregnancy to term. What you're suggesting seems not far removed from experimenting on the unborn, with little chance of either survival, or quality of life.

            I would recommend this podcast as a primer to anyone that thinks there are black and white answers in these cases: http://www.radiolab.org/2013/apr/30/

          • tedseeber

            "Wouldn't it be more correct to say: "The principle of double effect says we must try [if the likely benefits outweigh the likely costs]"?"

            Given the immense value of a human life in comparison to all of economics, it is hard to see a situation where even the unlikely benefits of having another human being to help share the load of caring for previous generations would NOT outweigh all conceivable cost.

            "I'm curious as to whether you're aware of what's involved with treating the very prematurely born, and the ethical questions that arise just from the acts of trying to keep them alive. I would be surprised if, after speaking with a medical professional in that field, you still thought it a good idea to try to bring a 10 week pregnancy to term. What you're suggesting seems not far removed from experimenting on the unborn, with little chance of either survival, or quality of life."

            Quality of life is not a sufficient argument against the unborn, unless you are the type who discriminates against the disabled. Length of life (survival) is equally not a good argument; I've known children who have had more good effect on their families in an hour of life granted to them by being born, than many hundred year olds in a century of life.

            Thus, to me it doesn't matter. The absolute right to life *always* outweighs the materialistic cost. But I will listen to the podcast anyway so as to gain a better understanding of that material cost.

            Better to live a short life of suffering, engendering compassion from others, than no life at all.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "I've known children who have had more good effect on their families in an hour of life granted to them by being born, than many hundred year olds in a century of life."

            "Better to live a short life of suffering, engendering compassion from others, than no life at all."

            I'm sure those children were happy to be of service. But seriously, talk to people that have to deal with this day in and day out. It's very easy to moralize hypotheticals, quite something else to decide whether to risk surgery on an infant who's skin is too thin to be sewn back up, and whose organs are so prematurely formed that they disintegrate on contact.

          • tedseeber

            I am the person you would consider to be unfit. So is my wife, so is my son. So are many of our friends, with a wide spectrum of functionality, from totally nonverbal and on life support to highly functioning

            Our diagnoses aren't quite as severe as this, but I find this "decide to risk surgery on an infant whose skin is to thin to be sewn back up, and whose organs are so prematurely formed that they disintegrate on contact" to be horridly prejudiced for any scientist. Technology doesn't advance out of fear instead of courage. Futile is a ridiculous idea, when it comes to a human life. One small premature baby in a neonatal care unit is worth more than the entire economy of the world.

            I can't help thinking that all these decisions are much much easier with a respect for life, than with moral relativism and not going to Chick-Fil-A because of heterophobia.

            Life is never easy, it was never meant to be easy. But the key is to TRY.

            In your example, listen to the last 10 minutes, you'll see what I mean. $14,000 for RSV flu shots, struggling with reading and math (my son) , it's all worth it. Every last bit.

            But even those who only live an hour, are worth it. Are worth every penny that we invest in their short, short lives.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "In your example, listen to the last 10 minutes, you'll see what I mean. $14,000 for RSV flu shots, struggling with reading and math (my son) , it's all worth it. Every last bit.

            But even those who only live an hour, are worth it. Are worth every penny that we invest in their short, short lives."

            I'm not going to pretend to know what the correct decisions in these situations are. When talking to people that do this for a living, they're saying that there's a 30% survival rate for babies born that young. That's survival of any kind, including horrendous birth defects, blindness, deafness, etc. Even here, I'm not going to pretend to know what the right decision is. There are examples of babies born that young that go on to healthy, productive lives, as well children that suffer horribly in their short time on this Earth, and everything else in the middle.

            Also, not that I would put a price on life, but you mentioned the $14k flu shots. That's a drop in the bucket. Her 1st month of care cost $2.4 million dollars.

            For me, the science is outpacing the morality. We're being faced with ethical questions arising from our new found ability to sustain life where it would never (or rarely) naturally occur, and the black & white approach just doesn't do it for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm much closer to the Catholic position than the mythical "abortion on demand at any time" position. I just don't see how you can ask parents to risk everything when there's so little hope.

          • tedseeber

            The worth of the human being is not based on the productivity, or how much their lives cost.

            I can ask parents to risk everything because I've been in this position of risking everything. Losing all material goods, when gaining even a minute of experience with a child, even a child with "horrendous birth defects" is worth every penny.

            I do believe we should support such births better than we do. But then again, I'd like to see agriculture, housing, and medicine taken out of the free market entirely under a universal right to life.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "Losing all material goods, when gaining even a minute of experience with a child, even a child with "horrendous birth defects" is worth every penny."

            I respect your view, I just don't see how you can impose that on other people. Thanks for the chat.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "I can't help thinking that all these decisions are much much easier with a respect for life, than with moral relativism and not going to Chick-Fil-A because of heterophobia."

            I got a good laugh out of this. Never heard the term heterophobia before. Good times.

          • tedseeber

            The definition is the inappropriate usage of politics in regard to human sexuality surrounding the normal human family.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            I'm surprised to see somebody that described himself and his family as "unfit" trot out the phrase "normal human family" this way. Anyways, just wanted to say I had a chuckle.

          • tedseeber

            Well, at least I'm heterosexual- even if borderline fertile.

            And don't think I don't know the pain of infertility- 12 years of practicing NFP in reverse, and we have exactly ONE special needs child to show for it.

          • tedseeber

            I would point out, that I'd have a problem with this *pregnancy* to begin with- it was not conceived in love, it was conceived in a lab. There was NOTHING "perfect until it wasn't", this wasn't a perfect pregnancy to begin with. It is a story about an IVF failure, mainly.

            The fact that they were even attempting IVF instead of NFP in reverse, is a good example that they were pretty morally relativist to begin with; not accepting reality, they attempted to monkey with it.

            I do a lot of work with the Archdiocese of Portland Office of People with Disabilities. What we mainly do is make sure people *just like this girl* don't file "wrongful life" suits, but instead have a reasonable life. We have one young man, ironically named Michael Jordan. Ironic, because he has Downs Syndrome, and was a premie born at 23 weeks, 34 years ago. Severely disabled. But boy does he have spirit- at one of our Adaptive Mass worship services, he's usually right up there with the priest, showing us Christ in a way.

            His mother is most certainly a living saint. Due to her age, she recently had to give Michael a form of independence- set up a trust fund for him and found him a semi-independent living situation, including a job.

            Life has to be an absolute right.

            Likewise, I recently visited the graves (just this weekend) of four children who didn't survive in my family. One from 1930, in a grave beside his mother who died in childbirth at the age of 20. Two from between 1940 and 1960, that never got gravestones and whose metal placards rusted away- but who are still there, recorded in the registry (died young enough to not have names- just "Baby" and "Baby Jarvis", hinted at on the cemetery map. And the brother of my wife, who was stillborn in 1978.

            I am not saying we should try to bring a 10 week pregnancy to term in that situation. I'm saying, take the child out to save the mother, and let the medical advances happen if they can. If they can't- well, a cesarean in a modern operating theater is *still* safer than an abortion outside the hospital with what we now know about abortion clinics.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "I would point out, that I'd have a problem with this *pregnancy* to begin with- it was not conceived in love, it was conceived in a lab. There was NOTHING "perfect until it wasn't", this wasn't a perfect pregnancy to begin with. It is a story about an IVF failure, mainly.

            The fact that they were even attempting IVF instead of NFP in reverse, is a good example that they were pretty morally relativist to begin with; not accepting reality, they attempted to monkey with it."

            I won't argue with you about IVF, or what the *right* way to get pregnant is. I'll just say that it doesn't seem to have much bearing with regards to my earlier points.

          • tedseeber

            It does, however, go to show that this isn't exactly a couple who is into objective truth to begin with. Their decisions would have been far more clear had they started with the belief that human life, and sex, is sacred.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "It does, however, go to show that this isn't exactly a couple who is into objective truth to begin with. Their decisions would have been far more clear had they started with the belief that human life, and sex, is sacred."

            What an uncharitable judgement to pass on somebody you know so little about. Shame on you.

          • tedseeber

            Are you unaware that IVF has been condemned by the Catholic Church? For reasons *beyond* the mere "accidental abortion" issue?

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "Are you unaware that IVF has been condemned by the Catholic Church? For reasons *beyond* the mere "accidental abortion" issue?"

            What does this have to do with you presuming to know the mind of this couple?

          • tedseeber

            If they had been following a rigid, objective morality regarding sexuality, they would never have tried IVF in the first place, because IVF is in and of itself *morally relativistic*.

          • A C-section performed on a woman 10 weeks pregnant (or even just believed to be 10 weeks pregnant) is a direct abortion, otherwise anyone 21 weeks pregnant or less could licitly obtain a C-section and claim she hoped the baby would survive. Any method you use to remove a baby from the womb at a point when the baby is too young to survive is a direct abortion and is forbidden by the Catholic Church.

            To perform a C-section on a woman 10-weeks pregnant who was at the point of death from pulmonary hypertension would almost certainly kill her, and of course the baby could not possibly survive. In your application of "double effect" in this case, the "double effect" would be to kill two people.

          • tedseeber

            Um- no. It wouldn't. As I said before, my wife had this- true enough at 30 weeks, not 10- and the operation did NOT kill her.

          • Michael Murray

            So how do these people get on with their local bishops

            http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/

            Serious question. Abortion politics in Australia is straightforward so I'm still getting my head around the US situation.

          • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has denounced Catholics for Choice, and one bishop went so far as to published a list of 12 organizations, one of which was Catholics for Choice, and excommunicated anyone in his diocese who did not resign from those organizations. My impression, for what it's worth, is that Catholics for Choice does not have any significant support among Catholics, even Catholics who may not be strongly opposed to abortion.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks David. I thought it seemed like radical departure. I thought at first it might just be about contraception but then I realised they were taking on the whole abortion debate as well.

          • Leila Miller

            This occurred in my diocese, under my wonderful bishop. I wrote a bit about it here:

            http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/11/journalists-loaded-words-nuns-proud.html

          • tedseeber
          • severalspeciesof

            Just where did those statistics come from? Neither lifenews or the link within it cited the source(s). At least I didn't find them.

          • Did some digging to find the study, not sure if it's online. "VM Rue et. al.,

            “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10(10): SR5-16 (2004)."

            But that statistic becomes irrelevant in my conversation with Mark below. It doesn't really matter how many women are pressured or by whom, any instance of pressure to abort at all is inexcusable on the part of the pressure-er

          • Mark Hunter

            Medical Science Monitor has had some problems with "incestuous" citations (http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/06/record-number-of-journals-banned-for-boosting-impact-factor-with-self-citations.html) It should be viewed with some suspicion

          • Tbh, not surprised. But in my line of work we deal with a lot of cases of sex trafficking as related to abortions, usually with a pimp forcing one of his prostitutes (often times a minor) to get an abortion. It does happen. And it's not rare, else I'd be out of a job.

          • But your link 404'd me

          • severalspeciesof

            "It doesn't really matter how many women are pressured or by whom, any
            instance of pressure to abort at all is inexcusable on the part of the
            pressure-er" I definitely concur...

          • cowalker

            Mark Hunter puts it too mildly. Trying to relegate women to the legal status of children in the case of abortion is not only a TERRIBLE idea for the rights of women: it would lead to legal chaos if practiced. If women are judged to be in a special group with regard to one "crime," why not all crimes? Is the too smooth boyfriend the only one to blame if he persuades a woman to help him steal money from a bank or commit fraud? And it would be utterly wrong to punish the wife who hired a contract killer to shoot her husband if she is under the influence of a lover. Jail the hired assassin and lover forthwith, but leave the little woman alone! Certainly those persuadable women couldn't be allowed to have responsible jobs. Gosh, I don't think they could even be trusted with the care of children or permitted to choose their husbands or own property!

          • Mark Hunter

            Well said cowalker. The people who want to criminalize abortion realize that penalizing women is a non starter, at least at first.

          • And even if a minority of women who seek abortions were pressured into it, it's still not ok.

            Whether the pressure comes from a family member, a spouse/boyfriend, or their pimp, doesn't matter. Susan B. Anthony (or another feminist arguing against anti-abortion laws, it's disputed) said "...the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed... but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime."

          • Mark Hunter

            I agree pressure is wrong, but still you have to have a penalty for those for pressure the women.

          • Again, I agree. Thrice guilty is he who put her there. And he should be charged.

          • Michael Murray

            So we could just roll things back to before the 60s. Backyard abortions, Magdelene Laundries, adopting babies from single-mothers. Great.

        • The best prevention of abortion is not law, but rather, effective contraception.

          • Mark Hunter

            Effective contraception, education on its use and availability of access. (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/10/04/free-birth-control-access-can-reduce-abortion-rate-by-more-than-half/) Those who oppose contraception are free to do so, but for those who don't have problems with it certainly reducing abortions takes precedent to your right to impose your beliefs on people who don't share your religion.

          • tedseeber

            Usually because we view contraception as a special case of abortion.

          • Mark Hunter

            "Usually because we view contraception as a special case of abortion." So is celibacy?

          • tedseeber

            Celibacy is spiritual parenthood. Francis even put it in those terms recently- encouraging nuns to be fertile in their spiritual work, since they had forgone fertility and marriage.

            At a special needs mass, which contained many women who would be celibate for non-religious reasons related to their disability, on Mother's Day we prayed for "all who love with a mother's heart".

            Compare that to contraception, whose sole usage is to make women more available for sexual exploitation.

          • stanz2reason

            ... except of course that it's not by any commonly used definition of the term 'abortion'.

          • It depends on the type of contraception. We toss a lot of abortifacients into the catch-all contraception.

          • Andrew G.

            Such as?

            There is a lot of misinformation (and indeed outright lying) on this point, so be specific.

          • Without getting into specifics, because I'm not a doctor, anything which prevents sperm from meeting egg is a contraceptive, anything which works post-egg/sperm joining is abortifacient. Life begins at conception, and contraception is "against conception". So whatever meets that criterion

          • Andrew G.

            But you made the claim; you must have had something in mind.

          • I don't know which work like what. From what I understand, the plan B pill works to prevent embedding of the zygote. That would qualify.

          • Andrew G.

            Your understanding is incorrect. This is probably the most widespread example of the misinformation I referred to.

            All available evidence suggests that Plan B (Levonorgestrel) has no effect on either the chance of implantation or the survival of an already-implanted fetus. The mechanism of effect is solely to prevent ovulation.

            If you want an example of methods that might fit your criteria, the ones I know of offhand are: ulipristal acetate (ella) which is embryotoxic, copper IUDs used as emergency contraception (in normal use they prevent fertilization), and breastfeeding (which sometimes results in ovulation occurring but the luteal phase being shortened too much for implantation).

          • stanz2reason

            You've chosen to expand what you consider abortion beyond the common definitions I've listed above from various non-partial sources. This seems like you're needlessly creating a lot of confusion, as abortifacients already have a word for them that differentiates them from other forms of contraception... it's call 'abortifacients'.

          • Which means it makes abortion (literally).

            Its no different from a chemical abortion, in terms of catholic philosophy.

          • stanz2reason

            And condoms? Or diaphragms? What about birth control pills (as opposed to the morning after pill)? Or the foolish 'pull out' method? Are these abortions too?

          • No... those are contraceptives (though the pill is up for debate)

          • stanz2reason

            ... which is exactly my point. I'm not clear where the disconnect here is.

            Ted said "we view contraception as a special case of abortion."

            To which I replied "... except of course that it's not by any commonly used definition of the term 'abortion'."

            You and I are seem to be in agreement here on this matter.

          • tedseeber

            Common to whom? I thought that moral relativists didn't believe in "common"- of any sort- that each case had to be judged on its own merits.

            Perhaps what you don't understand is why abortion is objectionable. The death part is just propaganda, so is the legalism. The real objection is that it frustrates the pro-creative part of the sex act. Which contraception, obviously, is meant to do as well.

            Thus oppressing women in a particularly nasty way- refusing to let them become mothers, polluting their bodies and the environment with metabolic poisons, etc.

          • stanz2reason

            No silly, it's common to Websters Dictionary:

            Abortion: the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus: as
            a : spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation — compare miscarriage
            b : induced expulsion of a human fetus
            c : expulsion of a fetus by a domestic animal often due to infection at any time before completion of pregnancy — compare contagious abortion

            or the Oxford Engligh Dictionary:

            Abortion: the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.

            or the American Heritage Dictionary:

            Abortion:

            a. Induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the embryo or fetus.
            b. Any of various procedures resulting in the termination of a pregnancy

            of dictionary.com:

            Abortion: the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.

            See teddy, by no commonly used definition of 'abortion' could contraception be classified as a special case of it. When you see words in there like 'fetus' or 'pregnancy', this should set off a red flag that this is no longer in the same category as a condom. You're using your make-believe definitions of words again. I know the invocation of imaginary things comes all too easily, but please try to avoid doing so as to avoid aborting the english language... ohh now I'm doing it too... thanks.

          • tedseeber

            Some forms of contraception, particularly pseudoendocrine chemical methods, result in Webster's b & c. As they are taken to prevent pregnancy, they fit the Oxford English Dictionary description, as both a & b of the American Heritage Dictionary version- as well as the one you quoted from dictionary.com. So yes, contraception is a special case of all four of your definitions- for they all are about *preventing a pregnancy from completing*.

            So can we return to the idea of charity as the primary method for ending the supposed "need" for both contraception and abortion?

          • stanz2reason

            Shame on me for even entertaining such nonsense. Which forms of contraception result in a fetus being expelled??

          • tedseeber

            Any using pesudoendrocrine chemicals without a barrier can. In addition, a wide variety of medications for men can- my amitriptyline for my migraines has the warning that it can cause abortions in women, so can Viagra and Cymbalta.

            It isn't just birth control either. Weight loss tablets, beta blockers, antidepressants, there's a huge variety of abortifacent chemicals out there.

            But isn't that the entire point of Family Planning? To reduce the population, by any means necessary, including trickery and lying?

          • stanz2reason

            None of which are contraceptives. Stop redefining words. Stop following tangents to weightloss pills. Just stop. You sound ridiculous.

          • tedseeber

            Birth control pills (pseudoendrocrines such as artificial estrogen) are not contraceptives?

            I was trying to broaden your horizons, but you seem quite satisfied to be ignorant and in the dark.

          • cowalker

            tedseeber you tend to undermine your own arguments by veering off course with remarks that seem to be based on deliberately misunderstanding what someone has written in order to score some kind of obscure point.

            One example is when stanz2reason posted "except of course that [contraception is] not by any commonly used definition of the term 'abortion'." You responded "Common to whom? I thought that moral relativists didn't believe in 'common'- of any sort- that each case had to be judged on its own merits." Your "question" is both pointless and annoying, since you are both obviously referring to the definition of a word, rather than a moral value. That remark added nothing to a conversation where you proceeded to explain that you believe that some hormonal birth control medication acts as an abortifacient. Fair enough, but what did the sniping about moral relativism contribute?

            Then you go on to say " So yes, contraception is a special case of all four of your definitions- for they all are about 'preventing a pregnancy from completing'." If there were no difference between "preventing a pregnancy" and "preventing a pregnancy from completing" there would be no need for the additional phrase "from completing" to change the meaning. I get that you believe both are immoral but they are NOT the same action. If I prevent a forest fire by containing my campfire so that the forest never catches fire, it is not the same as preventing a fire from burning down the forest by dropping tons of water on it from airplanes. Never being hired for a job is not the same as being fired. You are pretending not to understand the difference between "terminate" and "prevent" and that convinces no one that you are making a legitimate point.

            Then, after throwing in off topic references to medicines that pregnant women are warned to avoid (do you advocate banning them from anyone's use? what?) you finish with "But isn't that the entire point of Family Planning? To reduce the population, by any means necessary, including trickery and lying?" I'm sure you believe that that is what Planned Parenthood means by Family Planning, but family planning actually includes the practice of NFP. It is much bigger than Planned Parenthood, and your implied attack on Planned Parenthood's supposed agenda only distracts readers from your actual points.
            You have lot of good knowledge to share on Catholicism. Don't fall into bad writing habits that make it frustrating to read your posts.

          • tedseeber

            If you have moral relativism, you can't have definitions for moral words. The rest of your comment just goes to moral relativism.

            As for what Planned Parenthood believes by NFP, the Guttmacher Institute released a report on THAT in 1970. It is available here for $29.99, or you can read it online for free if you have a library card.
            http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2133834?uid=3739920&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56177019863

    • Randy Gritter

      Orthodoxy for atheism would not involve a specific morality. Just the assertion that morality is based on reason and therefore there is no way to pick between two reasonable moral codes. No atheist can say Sam Harris is wrong to accept torture. To claim he is wrong based on anything but your own reason is to dissent from atheist orthodoxy. But you can't claim he is wrong based on your reason either. You can just say you disagree. So torture becomes an acceptable option for any atheist.

      • hiernonymous

        "But you can't claim he is wrong based on your reason either."

        Why not? If my argument is sound enough, I could do exactly that.

      • articulett

        You are very confused about "atheist orthodoxy". Perhaps you should get your information about atheists from atheists rather than people who imagine that they are saved for what they believe. The latter has a vested interest in believing and spreading disinformation about nonbelievers.

        It seems to me that torture is a much more "acceptable option" for theists since their god repeatedly endorses it. In fact, their god is endorses the worst punishment imaginable-- infinite torture! For finite "misdeeds"!!

        I don't think an atheist needs to know why they think rape or pedophilia is wrong to believe that it is. The bible certainly doesn't command against these things-- in the bible it's more important to keep the sabbath day holy and not covet the neighbor's ass (but I don't see Catholics taking those commandments particularly seriously either.) So how do theists seem to know it's wrong? And the bible god endorses slavery-- but even most theists recognize this as repugnant-- as morally stunted as their religions might make them. Certainly if a human did what god did to 42 kids in 2 Kings 2-- (send bears to maul them) we'd all think it was horrific no matter what the excuse. And even Catholics know that killing purported witches is wrong despite the bible's declaration that "thou shall not suffer a witch to live." My dog doesn't have to have a theory as to why it doesn't kill other
        dogs or cats or the people it comes across so why do theists imagine they need or have such things. You make it sound like you'd be the most hideous of people if you didn't believe your god was spying on you. Fortunately most atheists are able to be moral without such threats.

        Speaking of morality, Jesus does say to give all ones money and possessions to the poor-- but no Catholic seems to take that one seriously, eh? And yet theu are all for making more poor via encouraging people not to use contraception, but they are the first to protest if their taxes go up to support these poor. It looks to me like Catholics are cherrypicking their magic book so that it says what they want it to say.

        An atheist gets their morality from their culture and the genes which evolve in cooperative species... that is why we see rudimentary forms in other social animals. Monkeys don't have religious wars; they share and have a sense of fairness. Dogs don't go on killing spree. The most secular areas of the world are the happiest and healthiest: http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/4691/norwayhell.jpg Secularists are much more likely to be pacifistic than their religious peers.

        So though your indoctrinators may have you believe that atheists think torture is an acceptable option, you'll find that theists actuallly torture many more people-- often with the belief that their god commands it. (See the Inquisition). Moreover, males torture many more people than females.

        Face it, theists get their morality the same way as everyone else-- only they imagine their morality comes from "on high". But if faith made people moral, there'd be no pedophiliac priests! And we wouldn't need laws to punish those for whom the threat of hell is not enough to keep them from hurting others. Theists are over represented in prisons-- not under represented. Maybe some think they don't have to obey laws if they are answering to a higher authority. Of course all the evidence shows that their authority is in their head-- just like their god. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/30/creating-god-in-ones-own-image/

        Even Fred Phelps and Muslim extremists imagine that their morality is the best morality of all and that it comes from god. So did this lady. What theist doesn't? http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/women/women_killers2/9.html

        But you'll have a hard time convincing rational people that Catholics are more moral than anyone else. You may succeed in convincing yourself -- but all religionists do that regarding their religion.

    • But it puzzles me as to the use of the word orthodoxy in the title.

      Yes, struck me as a bit like "non-stampcollector orthodoxy."

    • Michael Murray

      He approves of torture

      My memory was it was more that he could not see why have have a complete ban on it and he could imagine hypothetical situations where it might be the least evil path to follow. Sam is good at inventing hypothetical situations that leave one's ideas disturbed. He was also contrasting it with the way he are willing as a society to launch into wars which we know will have a certain amount of "collateral damage" in the form of innocents maimed and killed. But that's apparently OK because it's not intentional. But rather than rely on my aged memory have a look at his website

      http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2#torture

  • This is the part that caused me to raise my eyebrows:

    Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault."

    First, I find it odd that a college student is fully aquanted with Thomistic thought. I'm not trying to disparage the author's intelligence, but merely wish to point out that the Summa itself is 5 volumes long and the reading is quite dense, even for philosphers with PhDs. I see this type of phrase used frequently by Catholic apologists, as if simply by understanding Thomas Aquinas one will logically accept Catholocism. Such phrases are typically thrown around without further explication, as is the case here.

    Second, even if Aquinas' s arguments logically follow from each other, this doesn't mean he is necessarily correct. His metaphysical arguments are made with a faulty understanding of science and the physical world and he often simply enters the world of pure speculation. Just because I can imagine something and make rational arguments for it, does not make it true, especially if I'm opporating with insufficient knowledge about the world. The average high school student today has a better understanding of science than Thomas Aquinas did. This is not an insult to Aquinas. The man was brilliant, but he was working with a faulty data set, using arguments from authority, and drawing faulty conclusions (homunculi, anyone?). This carried over from his physics to his metaphysics.

    Third, even the Catholicism of Aquinas' s day is different than the Catholicism of today. For examle Aquinas, in his typical style, makes an exhaustive argument for why the redeemed are happy despite their loved ones suffering in Hell. Aquinas doesn't minimize the suffering nor does he say that it is simplya seperation from God. This goes against what neo-Catholics have said here when this topic comes up.

    • tedseeber

      I read it at age 18. But then again, I read at 1500 WPM and *still* found it quite dense.

      • Longshanks

        I read it when I was super young, and I'm super smart, and this was super tough for me... I can only imagine that it'll be super duper tough for you.

    • Randy Gritter

      Thomistic philosophy develops just like the rest of Catholic thought. We don't abandon it but we do update it based on the latest science. So just reading the Summa is not enough. You need to read someone like Peter Kreeft to figure out what modern Thomism looks like. The remarkable thing is how few changes were actually needed but there were some.

  • tedseeber

    I hope you are correct on that last point. I can easily see the political tide turning against Catholicism as well, as everybody rejecting the great beauty of Homosexual Love and the absolute need to reduce the population to only the perfect, gets herded into camps and euthanized.

  • Ben

    Atheism is just the lack of belief in gods - it doesn't prescribe any particular ethical scheme. If you find Sam Harris's support of torture intuitively repulsive, that only tells you Sam Harris's ethics are inconsistent with your intuition.

    Since not all atheists support torture, your problem is with Sam Harris's ethics, not atheism in general.

    When Sam Harris talks about torture, he seems like he is only defending theoretical "ticking time-bomb" scenarios, rather than the actual recent history of the application of torture to Muslims by Christian-dominated institutions such as the CIA.

    I would argue that on purely utilitarian grounds he is mistaken in supporting torture. Given the limited competence of the authorities, there is a high risk of torturing innocent people. Furthermore, if there is a genuine ticking bomb scenario, it would be easy for a committed captive to 'admit' to dozens of different scenarios so the authorities couldn't check all of them in time. Finally, if the torture is revealed, it may radicalise those who identify with the captives, or at least provide a useful source of propaganda.

    That's a pragmatic disagreement about the facts. I also find torture intuitively repulsive - but what makes you think our moral intuition is a useful guide to what is right? The evidence suggests that human moral intuition is an evolutionary adaptation to promote group cooperation. You should no more trust your moral intuition than you should believe that how you perceive an optical illusion reflects reality, or that your sense of disgust at a food which gave you food poisoning when you were a kid means the food is inherently disgusting.

    If you believe that moral intuition is important, then consider the following implications of Catholic morality: "a woman who is impregnated by a rapist should be forced to bear the rapist's child" or "it's wrong for a woman to make a man wear a condom to protect herself from HIV infection". Those propositions seem intuitively disgusting to me. Try polling some rape survivors or HIV patients and see what they think.

    If your criterion for rejecting an ethical scheme is that it produces intuitively disgusting imperatives, then you have to reject Catholicism (and that's not even to consider the implicit ethical implications of the church's actual track record, such as "making a pact with Hitler to protect the church in Germany is acceptable" or "preventing child rape is less important than preserving the church's reputation" - both calculations which were made by Catholics at the highest level).

    I find your complaint that atheists are simply "drifting with the cultural tide" ridiculous, since the same applies to religious people a hundred times over - most theists tend to have been indoctrinated into their faith as children, and in religiously-dominated countries atheists are ostracised and persecuted. I agree that most people drift with the tide to reach a worldview, rather than carefully examining the pros and cons of every position, but it's religions who exploit that human tendency most effectively by running "faith schools" and "madrasas" and so on. You even cite your "friendships with practicing Catholics" as a factor in your conversion - if faith is a "radical act of will", why did you need to surround yourself with people who believed the same way to convert?

    Fortunately, as many commenters have pointed out, there is no evidence of any form of atheism 'waning'. In fact, quite the opposite, in the developed world, at least. The fact is that, in our country (I'm assuming you're in the UK, based on where this piece was first published), Christianity (in its various forms) enjoys immense privilege, controlling a third of all schools and denying non-believers access, wielding an automatic right to place bishops in one of the Houses of Parliament to make the laws the rest of us have to obey, and lobbying vociferously to impose its sexual mores on the whole population even as Catholic bishops are exposed as prolific sex offenders. Christians have spent enough time dominating the public square. I am delighted by the prospect of the thorough deChristianisation of my country's institutions within my lifetime.

    • Ben

      Also, if an adherent of a worldview using it to justify torture is cause to reject it, you should reject Catholicism because of the inquisition.

      • severalspeciesof

        On top of this, Aquinas, which Hodder has fallen under the spell of, also advocated torture AND the death penalty for heretics...

  • Next, metaphysics. I soon realised that relying on the New Atheists for my counter-arguments to the existence of God had been a mistake: Dawkins, for instance, gives a disingenuously cursory treatment of St. Thomas Aquinas in The God Delusion, engaging only with the summary of Aquinas’s proofs in the Five Ways—and misunderstanding those summarized proofs to boot. Acquainting myself fully with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, I found them to be a valid explanation of the natural world, and one on which atheist philosophers had failed to make a coherent assault.

    Having 'acquainted yourself fully' how about telling us how 'atheist philosophers have failed'? Remember, Richard Dawkins is not a formal philosopher, but Bertrand Russell was, A.J. Ayer was, W.V.O. Quine was, J.L. Mackie was, Daniel Dennett is, A.C. Grayling is, ... (just a short list) and all can show you how Aquinas built castles in the sky upon floating premises.

    • tedseeber

      I've read them all. Or at least, all you have mentioned. They all failed to be convincing, and most came back to arguments that Aquinas actually discussed and rejected.

      • articulett

        Can anything convince someone that their magical beliefs aren't true if they believe they are "saved" for having those beliefs (and damned to hell for all eternity for losing them)?

        If so, there's a lot of brainwashed Muslims, Christians, and members of other cults who could benefit from your deprogramming expertise.

        All the most virulent religions push the meme that faith is a virtue (but they really only mean faith in THEIR religion) and that doubt brings despair. They punish/shun doubters and praise those who show the most allegiance to the dogma.

        Fortunately the internet is delivering the cure to this mind virus to many, but it doesn't look like you are likely to be one of them.

        • Longshanks

          Oh god, the stories ex-Scientologists tell of the shunning/pain deprogramming they've gone through are heart wrenching.

    • Mark Hunter

      Prof. Dawkins may lack finesse in philosophy and theology and he may have fallen to God's trap "because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" but one thing he did give in his book that I've not seen elsewhere, a theistic definition of God.

    • tedseeber

      Just because I suddenly noticed, however, your relative's work on Set Theory has been invaluable to me both in rejecting atheism (and moral relativism) and in my professional work as a computer programmer (nobody should code in SQL without it!).

  • stanz2reason

    I expected—and wanted—to find bigotry and illogicality that would vindicate my atheism.

    Catholic bigotry and the lack of reason in belief is more subtle. They don't surround themselves with crosses and wear pointy white hats and robes like the klan... well actually they do, but that similarity is purely a superficial coincidence.

    Non-theistic morality, to my mind, tended towards two equally problematic camps: either it was subjective to the point of meaninglessness or, when followed logically, entailed intuitively repulsive outcomes, such as Sam Harris’s stance on torture.

    First, and this might have been mentioned below by others, but Harris's stance on torture lies more in ethical questions generated in a 'ticking-time-bomb'-like scenario rather than a tacit approval of torture. From Harris's article "I will now present an argument for the use of torture in rare circumstances.... I hope my case for torture is wrong, as I would be much happier standing side by side with all the good people who oppose torture categorically... I would be sincerely grateful to have my mind changed on this subject.". Those are hardly the words of an advocate of torture. Would you consider an advocate of catholicism someone who says I'm presenting an argument for catholicism in rare cirumstances, I hope that I my case for catholicism in any situation is wrong and would be sincerely grateful to have my mind changed ??

    Next, there is a false choice here between meaninglessness or roads leading to 'repulsive outcomes'. True, with the absence of a deity, there is a strong case for a lack of inherent meaning in the world. This does not make you powerless to ascribe whatever meaning you feel sufficient to define to it, and in fact being an atheist helps liberate yourself to do so. In addition, the notion that someones logic will lead to a 'repulsive outcome' means you're objecting to their particular line of reasoning, not to atheism. Bottom line though, there's no 'either/or' here.

    But the most appealing theories which could circumvent these problems, like virtue ethics, often did so by presupposing the existence of God.

    I find believers are attracted to many lines of thinking that pre-suppose the existence of god...

    ...the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed

    Isn't that like saying once you accept that magic is real, all the Harry Potter stories seem to make much more sense'??

    I grew up in a culture that has largely turned its back on faith.

    The result of more education, greater access to information, and the comfort of an expanding secular community that is slowly replacing that offered by the church. Hip Hip Horray for all of that!!

    As the popularity of belligerent, all-the-answers atheism wanes

    I'm sorry, which atheists are those who suggest they have all the answers? I think this belligerent bunch is likely a figment of your imagination, which thinking about it is consistent with being a believer in the first place.

  • Oddly, this post reminded me of a forgotten story from decades ago. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Ron Nessen was a reporter for NBC News. He was a war correspondent in Vietnam, and then he was NBC's Washington, D.C., correspondent. When Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became president, Nessen left NBC to become Ford's press secretary. On day, after a particularly rough session taking questions from the White House press corps, Nessen walked away from the podium and was overheard to say, "To think I used to be one of those jerks!"

    Megan Hodder used to be one of those jerks too—in this case, an atheist jerk. She read the New Atheists and pushed any uncertainties about theism to the back of her mind. She began "researching the ideas of the most egregious enemies of reason, such as Catholics." She read a book by Pope Benedict XVI not just expecting, but wanting to find "bigotry and illogicality." She found "the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency." She tried so hard to remain one of those jerks, but she just couldn't. The pull of Catholicism was apparently so strong that despite her best efforts, she couldn't resist becoming a Catholic. She left us jerks behind.

    How do we explain the fact that everybody isn't Catholic? How do we explain that many Catholics have left the Church, either for other Churches (particularly the Episcopal Church) or no church at all? They must be even worse than the former atheist Megan Hodder. The case for Catholicism is just so compelling, something is clearly wrong with people who resist it.

    There are many people whose religious faith I find quite touching and appealing. But what I see so much of from those who attempt to practice apologetics is not faith, but certitude. A few years ago we learned of Mother Teresa's internal, decades-long struggle with darkness. She wrote things like, “In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” Why, I wonder, didn't she just read something like 20 Arguments for the Existence of God or The Atheist Orthodoxy That Drove Me to Faith? Apparently Mother Teresa only had faith—plain old shakeable faith—not the intellectual certainty that, like an understanding of mathematics, could convince her in times of doubt that God exists as surely as circumference equals pi times diameter.

    When Peter got out of the boat and tried to walk on water, he began to sink. Peter, who actually knew Jesus in person, not only didn't have certainty—he lacked sufficient faith. Unfortunately, Christian apologetics hadn't been invented, or someone could have proven to him, with inescapable logic, that he needn't bother with faith. He could have certainty.

    • CoastRanger

      Apologetics is the art of showing the reasonableness of a belief. In does not claim to give anyone absolute intellectual certainty about anything.

      • I am confused. What do proofs of the existence of God do. Demonstrate it is merely reasonable to believe in God?

        • CoastRanger

          It depends, of course, on what is meant by words like reasonable, certain, certitude, and proof.

          The part of apologetics called the preambles of faith establish through reason things like God exists, people have immortal souls, there is a moral law, the person Jesus Christ really existed, really worked miracles, really rose from the dead, really founded a Church, and so on.

        • CoastRanger

          For some reason, I didn't see your second paragraph. You are correct entirely correct.

          However, "proof" has different meanings in different realms of knowledge, right? There is inductive and deductive reasoning. There are mathematical, scientific, historical, even literary standards of proof. In law there is 'preponderance of the evidence' and 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.

          Speaking only for myself, the proofs for the existence of God are nothing like a mathematical proof and more like a proof in law. I'd say intuitively we know God exists. Most of us can follow a line of reasoning or multiple lines of reasoning to conclude with a preponderance of the evidence that God exists. A few can concluded God exists beyond a reasonable doubt.

          Other lines of reasoning, and even more so passions, emotions, physical maladies, psychological states, and the specter of death can rock a person's mental convictions and their faith. Your Mother Teresa example is apt.

          • A few can concluded God exists beyond a reasonable doubt.

            Indeed. If you approach the question of "proof" from both sides you will find that there is a gap in the middle. Apologists can rely on the "lens of faith" when trying to convince people, of faith, that it is reasonable to continue to hold their views. It is another story when trying to sell such positions to people who are not starting from faith. When someone like Mother Teresa can no longer get the pieces to fit together, she falls into that gap.

          • CoastRanger

            In researching a screenplay about Mother Teresa I never found her write that she "thought" God did not exist.

            She "felt" that.

            That is a big difference. Feelings overpower mental convictions.

            I don't know that MT ever doubted God's existence. She built her entire life her relationship with God, she felt close to God for the first four decades of her life, when she got her call within a call and waited the two years it took to get permission to leave her religious order she experienced incredible closeness to God. Then, some time after she began working with the poor in Calcutta, all those feelings and experiences of consolation left her.

            It is not uncommon.

          • Ignorant Amos

            >>"That is a big difference. Feelings overpower mental convictions."

            That is an interesting statement given our discourse elsewhere.

            BTW, the saintly MT was hounded out of Belfast by...the Catholic church.

            "An Irish nun has revealed how she saw a letter by Mother Teresa that proves that she was forced out of Ireland by the church 40 years ago."

            An interesting investigative documentary was made and aired a few years back, detailing the allegations, by the BBC. I'm not sure if it is available to you.

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13037492

            Not all things to all people then, even within Catholicism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I looked at the link and like Oakland, there is no there, there.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            IA, your "aside" also is an example a basic tactic atheists use to try to disprove God. You try to find some scandal, either in the behavior of God, or the Church, or some Christian and then say, see, it can't possibly be true.

          • Ignorant Amos

            IA, your "aside" also is an example a basic tactic atheists use to try to disprove God.

            My "aside" as you put it, was to demonstrate that not everyone has been singing off the same hymn sheet all the time. I just thought it might be a point of interest that you may or may not have been aware of. It is in no doubt that MT was not quite as saintly as Catholics may percieve her.

            " The quality of care offered to terminally ill patients in the Homes for the Dying has been criticised in the medical press. The Lancet and the British Medical Journal reported the reuse of hypodermic needles, poor living conditions, including the use of cold baths for all patients, and an approach to illness and suffering that precluded the use of many elements of modern medical care, such as systematic diagnosis."

            Is just one condemning observation of her "charitable" works.

            She said..."she felt no presence of God whatsoever", "neither in her heart or in the eucharist"

            "Mother Teresa expressed grave doubts about God's existence and pain over her lack of faith:"

            "Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."

            Call me old fashioned, but what this describes is exactly what many believers here describe as Atheism.

            Now there are those in the church that claim this does nothing to diminish MT as a shining light of Catholicism, while due for martyrdom. In fact, they claim it supports the saintly claim further. But that is just more inconsistent thinking.

            The irony is, that on another thread on these pages great distance is being attempted in an article about a once unbelieving dotard, a senile old gentlemen doing something very similar. Why the double standard?

            You try to find some scandal, either in the behavior of God, or the Church, or some Christian and then say, see, it can't possibly be true.

            Well, even if an Atheist "tactic", it's not hard to do is it? There is something about the words "scandal" and "church" that means they should remain separate. Remember, it is the religious that is hold their perceived religiously based morality as the beacon to which all should rally.

    • Longshanks

      "Megan Hodder used to be one of those jerks too—in this case, an atheist jerk."

      I mean sure, belittle the people you want to win over, then slowly give them treats until they agree with you.

      Isn't this how you train dogs?

      • Guest

        Oh.

        Oh no.

        FRIENDLY FIRE.

        I hop on here after long, sometimes draining hours at work aaaand sometimes the brain pan doesn't work too gooder.

        "Unfortunately, Christian apologetics hadn't been invented, or someone could have proven to him, with inescapable logic, that he needn't bother with faith. He could have certainty."

        Does someone have a keyboard cat to play me out now?

  • articulett

    I find the Catholic churches involvement and cover up of pedophilia to be abhorrent...

    And I find the doctrine of hell to be repulsive. Why would a real god need to manipulate people into belief with such threats?

    AndI find blood atonement creepy-- and the god of the old testament to be really sociopathic.

    But that's not why I'm no longer a Catholic. I just don't believe in souls-- or any other immaterial forms of consciousness. I think the invisible beings that the Catholics believe (angels, 3-in-1 gods, demons, saints, Satan) are as imagnary as the ones they dismiss as myth (gremlins, Thetans, Zeus, fairies, Vishnu). If there was any real evidence for any of that stuff, real scientists would be testing refining and honing that evidence for their own benefit. Consciousness requires a brain-- it makes no sense to talk about immaterial forms of consciousness. Real things should be distinguishable from imaginary things when scientifically tested-- but the supernatural thingies that Catholics "believe in" have no more evidence in their favor than the religions/myths/superstitions they reject! I suspect that most believers believe (or try to make themselves believe) because they they've heard good things happen to those who believe and that eternal torture awaits those who don't. What sort of god would be hung up on what people believe? And if some god was so petty to care about such a thing, who have they got to blame but themselves? As far as I can tell, most Catholics are much more moral than the 3-in-1 god they worship.

    • Dan

      It might be helpful to understand that the soul is NOT an "hypothesis" to explain how consciousness works. Catholicism does not necessarily depend on a Cartesian dualism. I think that's one mistake there. Once can accept a physicalist account of mind/brain and still believe in a "soul" as a theological concept.

      • severalspeciesof

        If one believes in the physicalist account of mind/brain, how does the 'soul' connect with the body?

      • articulett

        Yeah, but why try to make yourself believe in a 3-in-1 deity who wants to be "believed in" if you don't think there are rewards in some afterlife for this belief or punishment for doubt?

        Catholicism just seems like every other myth to me.

    • Sage McCarey

      articulett, you've nailed it again. Please write more. Why would anyone worship a god who demands everybody has to worship it? Why would an all powerful being need to be worshipped and glorified all the time by everybody? Religious people talk about their "Lord, King, Master" who bought them at a price and they should therefore glorify him/it. Well, that's what Paul said in Corinthians and that sounds like slavery to me. Slavery was so common back when Paul was writing but now we know slavery is a bad thing, don't we? I was always so uncomfortable with the kneeling and bowing and begging for blessings, and with ppl in the church telling me if I asked any questions I was in danger of hell fire. I was frightened when I first began to question because they might be right and god might sentence me to eternal damnation. But it just was not possible for my brain to believe because someone told me to. Especially when what they told me to believe seemed like the more frightening fairy tales I read and they were just stories that someone made up. I could never believe I was born in sin because some people thousands of years ago ate a fruit (whether it is literal or metaphorical), or that some Jewish carpenter's death could save us from sin. In this country we threw out the rule of kings a long time ago but we haven't thrown out the religion that was part and parcel of the rule of kings.

  • hiernonymous

    This piece calls to mind the graduate student who fervently believes whatever he has last read. Ms. Hodder careens from certainty to certainty, seduced, it appears, more by her new-found familiarity with (which she seems to have mistaken for mastery of) a new argot and a new place to belong. At the ripe old age of 20 (or so), she is "fully acquainted" with Thomistic-Aristotelian ideas, and asserts (without actually showing) that lightweights such as Dawkins have built their own house of certainty on sand - engaging Aquinas's proofs in summary only, and - alas - still failing to comprehend them.

    If one is inclined to read the musings of an atheist who struggles to disprove Christianity and ends up embracing the faith, the reader might find that C.S. Lewis approached the topic with a tad more grace and depth, and a little less self-congratulation.

  • 42Oolon

    Cannot argue with your views or journey. I can say that mine has been the exact opposite. The more I read of the Bible and religion the more I see dogmatism, arbitrariness and oppression. Religious people seem generally as kind as non-religious, but this seems to be in stark contrast to the actual content of many holy texts.

    I too cannot understand why you would decry atheist "orthodoxy" in the title and place a picture or "Beware of Dogma" under it. You fail to describe any orthodoxy or dogma by atheists.

    By contrast, Catholicism seems to be one of the most dogmatic views around. For centuries it has been very specific in telling people what kind of behaviour is right and wrong and what to believe. This very website is filled with statements beginning "Catholics believe..." You are concerned about Sam Harris' views on torture, you are aware of the Holy Inquisition I take it? This was not something done by people who happen to be Catholics for reasons of national security. It was done for expressly religious reasons by the people who you claim are the best interpreters of this being you identify as the "self-expressing standard of goodness and objective truth". Catholicism is brimming with rules and dogma. Atheism has none. It is arguably not even an ism.

    The only way to be a bad atheist is to believe in a god. That is as orthodox as we get.

    • tedseeber

      "I too cannot understand why you would decry atheist "orthodoxy" in the title and place a picture or "Beware of Dogma" under it. You fail to describe any orthodoxy or dogma by atheists."

      Anybody else see this as circular logic?

      • 42Oolon

        Please explain.

      • Octavo

        How is it circular to ask someone to make the content match the headline and picture? That seems linear to me.

        • tedseeber

          I meant that the headline and the picture are the circular part.

          "Dogmas Are Dangerous", as an example of atheist orthodox dogma.

          • Octavo

            So a warning about Dogma is proof that atheists believe in dogma. That's...not a logical conclusion.

          • tedseeber

            Correct, but it is a neat paradox, and an accurate description, like most neat paradoxes are.

            A hint- non dogmatic people don't file lawsuits to make trouble for the neighbors, regardless of how much their neighbors violate whatever supposed dogma they think the neighbors are violating.

          • Octavo

            One atheist org having some legal opinions does not mean that atheists have Dogma.

            I would say instead that there are atheist cultures and they are sometimes (often) toxic. There isn't an orthodoxy, though. There is no actual top down leadership. Hell, a lot of atheists think Richard Dawkins is an ignorant, (hmm, searching for terms that won't violate the comment policy...) sexist person who speaks without thinking. To pretend that we have an Orthodoxy removes any meaning from the term.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • tedseeber

            Quite toxic indeed when they promote sexual libertinism.

            But noted. After all, the Unitarians have an atheist arm, and they're probably the least dogmatic religion I've ever heard of.

          • Octavo

            I attend on Unitarian services on rare occasions. Nice people. I enjoy being incapable of assuming what their individual beliefs are.

            ~Jesse Webster.

          • 42Oolon

            What would be an example of a non-dogmatic group?

          • tedseeber

            I think human beings are naturally dogmatic. We like to be certain, even when we don't have enough data to be certain.

            One of the more paradoxical doctrines in the Catholic Church is that absolute certainty (especially about salvation and the existence of Heaven and Hell) is the sin of presumption. We can be morally certain of their existence, but never ever ever absolutely certain. And while we can warn a living person that they may be going to Hell, due to the combination of deathbed conversion and Purgatory, we can never be absolutely certain anybody actually went there- not even Judas, who is often depicted as the worst sinner of all time.

            I like to say this puts us between 1.1-5 on the Dawkins scale of theistic probability. We can be morally certain God exists, to whatever level our personal experience describes- but Carl Jung was committing the sin of presumption when he claimed to KNOW that God exists.

            Officially, though, Agnostic Scientists are the least dogmatic. They have a philosophy that actively prevents dogmatism, the word impossible is banned from their musings, and they constantly have the possibility of being wrong.

            I don't have a problem with dogmatism- but I do find it a funny paradox when a group claiming to fight dogma is being dogmatic in their fight against dogma.

          • 42Oolon

            What is this dogma you speak of?

          • tedseeber

            "Dogma is dangerous" is in and of itself a dogmatic proclamation.

          • 42Oolon

            But that is not what the sign says, it says "Beware of Dogma". In any event my criticism is that it is disingenuous to write a piece so titled and fail to state what she thinks the orthodoxy is, and why it pushed her away. It is worse to then say she was driven by it to an extremely orthodox and dogmatic religion.

            Sure, the foundation that posted that sign may be a bit dogmatic about challenging dogma, but they would also encourage everyone to beware of that aspect of their foundation. This is not circular, it is a good idea. Question everything, even whether or not you should question everything.

          • articulett

            The constitution is dogma?

            I believe the FRFF files lawsuits to protect the 1st ammendment.

            I bet you are one of those people who thinks it's deep to be skeptical of skeptics, eh?

      • 42Oolon

        Can't say I see what you are talking about.

        • tedseeber

          The sign itself, that dogma is dangerous, is in fact a dogmatic statement of Atheist Orthodoxy. Quite obviously some dogmas ARE dangerous- but as a blanket statement like this, it is inaccurate at the very least.

          Of course the tendency to read "from" where the Constitutional Fathers of the United States wrote "to" is also problematic.

          And while you are right that Catholicism is *easily* the king of dogmatic religion out there, that doesn't mean that other systems of thought are NOT dogmatic.

          • 42Oolon

            Atheism is not a system and it has no dogma or orthodoxy. It is a single position on a single issue. Go ahead and criticize the Freedom From Religion Foundation if you like. It may be dogmatic, I do not know. (Kinda hard to criticize an organization for being dogmatic when they post billboards saying 'beware of dogma'... but go ahead and try.)

            But it is not fair to suggest that "Atheism" is dogmatic or has any kind of orthodoxy without pointing to what you are talking about. It is quite disingenuous to suggest one fled "Atheism" because of its "orthodoxy" and then chose probably the most orthodox, dogmatic christian sect, (except perhaps those that actually have "Orthodox" in the name.)

      • severalspeciesof

        No...

      • Max Driffill

        Also, no.

      • Max Driffill

        The title seems to indicate that it was some kind of atheist orthodoxy that drove Megan to faith. No where does she describe this Orthodoxy, or how it affected her. So why the title?

  • josh

    I'm trying to find the atheist orthodoxy in this story. There is no 'orthodox' position on morality in atheism. There is no atheist belief that Catholics are strictly literalist (no one is by the way) or that they hold to sola scriptura. I don't see a person 'driven' away from atheism by anything but the usual emotional bromides and pseudo-profundities that appeal to some people.

  • Max Driffill

    I know it has been said a few times already, but why did the author choose this particular title? There is no "atheist orthodoxy" exposed, explored, or critiqued. It seems like this piece should be titled, "I used to be a bit of an atheist, now I am not, here is why I think that is."

    • articulett

      Theists like to believe that non-belief in their religion is secretly a belief; in this way, they don't have to recognize that atheists reject their supernatural beliefs for pretty much the same reasons they reject other religions and myths of yore.

      I reject Catholicism for the same reason I reject gypsy curses, Scientology, Islam, and belief in witches. I think it's fine for these believers in magic to have their own morality, but I don't want Catholic morality inflicted on me any more than Catholics what Muslim morality inflicted upon them. I want Catholics to be as private with their beliefs as they want these others to be. I certainly don't see Catholics as being the stellar moral examples that they imagine themselves to be. I find many of their teachings-- not only wrong-- but repugnant. And I find the cover up of the rampant pedophilia to be so repulsive that I would never seek out a Catholic to give me moral advice.

      • CoastRanger

        Catholics don't have a particular morality. They hold to the natural law which anyone can know. This is the same law you must believe in to condemn pedophilia or covering up crime.

        • Michael Murray

          Well deciding to follow natural law would seem to be a particular morality but I'll let that pass. Presumably natural law has something to do with nature. How do you decide which parts of nature? For example if I marry a widow with chuldren is it ok to kill them as a male lion or polar bear might ? Bonobos use sexual activity as a way of bonding between members of the tribe. Is that ok? Many animals engage in sexual activity between those of like gender. Is that OK? Male ducks rape female ducks. Is that OK?

          Michael

          • articulett

            His natural low seems to involve supernatural agents, so I'm not sure what the hell he's talking about.

          • severalspeciesof

            "His natural low" Freudian slip? ;-)

          • articulett

            Perhaps. :)

          • Michael Murray

            Are they called "Agent Smith" by any chance ? Maybe all that Matrix stuff is true and I'm just a Duracell for a bunch of artificial intelliegences ?

          • CoastRanger

            What people or ducks may do have nothing to do with the natural law tradition.

            Tell me, on what basis would you condemn rape or killing innocent children, other than that these are just your personal preferences?

            Atheists get more moralistic than any Bible thumping preacher when it comes to finding scandal in religion. But on what basis do you get so righteous, if not some underlying universal moral law that is not determined by some particular time or place or creed?

          • Michael Murray

            If you base your morality on nature why does it not apply to ducks ? Maybe you need to actually explain what natural law is. It's been a long time between catechism classes for some of us.

            My morality is based on the golden rule.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is a good article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Kevin for the link. I've only just noticed your reply -- I must have lost the Disqus email.

          • Sample1

            But on what basis do you get so righteous...

            Figuratively speaking, when my heart and lungs cease to function at the level of the brain and the screen credits roll, there will be a Star Wars-like list crawling into infinity thanking innumerable people, dogs and even a llama for being a part of my excellent adventure.

            For reasons I don't fully understand, Yahweh's followers, in almost true gangster (not gangsta) fashion, insist on an Executive Producer shout out and often 10%.

            No. My life is an independent production!

            And because I'm terrible at stopping before I've blunted my point, I'll also say that you won't find this in my screenplay: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm confused by your post. My question was attempting to ask "Where do atheists get their moral code, which they think applies to everyone?"

            If you atheists did not think your standards applied to everyone you (pl.) would not condemn others with the gusto you (pl.) typically do.

            I actually would like to know.

          • Sample1

            Fair enough. Thank you for asking for clarification. Let's start again:

            Where do atheists get their moral code

            First, I can only speak for myself. If anyone, including you, insist that I speak for others or extrapolate my reply to reflect the reasons of others, I'll reject that action as being based on faulty logic and perhaps a willful distortion of my intent.

            Speaking as a layman (I am not a psychologist, philosopher or ethicist) who is scientifically literate I claim that I was born with an innate understanding of what you might call right and wrong.

            I offer this short video of a recent Yale Study demonstrating how a five month old baby reacts when watching good and bad behavior as supporting evidence for my claim. I have no reason to think I would have behaved any differently though I am open to examining any evidence you might have to the contrary. To the best of my knowledge (and yes, I have voluntarily subjected myself to scientific examination) I have no history of displaying clinical symptoms for any abnormal cognitive pathology such as sociopathy, autism, savant syndrome, etc. In other words, you most likely could have replaced the test subjects with me at that age.

            As the study strongly suggests (pro-tip: "strongly suggests" in science does not mean the evidence is quickly ignored in favor of statistically negligible artifacts of any well designed study) three to five month old babies are not just cooing blobs of adorableness but intelligent beings with heretofore unknown moral understandings that favor choosing goodness more than 75% of the time.

            The origins of selflessness, or altruism, has an explanation thanks to Darwin's theory of evolution. Whereas Stephen Hawking recently remarked that God is not needed to understand how the universe came to be, Darwin could have also said, God is not necessary to understand morality.

            To understand how morality can emerge from what is commonly called, "survival of the fittest" one can readily access any number of evidence-filled books from the technical masterpiece Adaptation and Natural Selection by George C. Williams to the widely popular and beautiful literary works of Richard Dawkins written more generally for the non-expert.

            I do want to thank you for making my answer much easier to give than it might have been. You've only asked where I think I get my morals. You haven't asked my opinion about how I might subsequently develop and maintain my morality based on life experiences after childhood.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You might be surprised but I think Catholic theologians and
            philosophers will largely agree with you and the findings in this 60 Minutes video. Our view is that the moral law did not need to be revealed by God but can be discovered by any human being who uses his reason. Our view is that the moral law is also inherent in the person. That is, it is in human nature. We can discover what is in us. (Whether we will discover it is another question. So is whether we have the power always to choose good over evil.)

            I think the claim made by many (all?) atheists that “God is
            not necessary to explain morality” misses something. Catholics believe God is the ultimate cause of everything that is. If you look at the physical development of a human being, from conception to birth, you will not see God anywhere. The same would be true if you could watch evolution from its start to today.

            Thanks for your response.

          • Michael Murray

            Catholics believe God is the ultimate cause of everything that is.

            Right. So your god is the ultimate cause of the Loa-Loa worm. Glad we got that clear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes.

          • severalspeciesof

            Kevin, that's despicable, I don't like your god...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is your judgment that something is "despicable" because it can harm a human being?

            I happen to like ice in my Scotch but not under my tires. Is God hateful because he is the ultimate source of the laws of physics which determine how water behaves in different circumstances? Or do you demand that God create a perfect world for you or suspend every law of nature just for your benefit?

            Anyway, on what basis do you make that moral judgment? What is the basis for your own moralizing?

          • Susan

            >Anyway, on what basis do you make that moral judgment? What is the basis for your own moralizing?

            On what basis do you judge your deity good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Philosophically, I would judge God as good because he possesses perfectly the transcendental qualities of goodness and love.

            Theologically, I would judge God to be good based on his self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, God-made-man, who has redeemed every human being from sin and death and makes possible our eternal happiness.

            Existentially, I would judge God to be good based on my personal experiences over the last thirty years after leaving atheism behind to return to the Catholic faith.

          • Susan

            >Philosophically, I would judge God as good because he possesses perfectly the transcendental qualities of goodness and love.

            So, Yahweh is good because Yahweh is good? What would your philosophy professor say about that?

            But back to the point. You asked SSO on what basis he made his moral judgement about Yahweh.

            I'm asking you on *what basis* you make your moral judgements about Yahweh. What is the basis for your moralizing?

            Or did I misunderstand what you were asking him?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan,

            I wasn't using a tautology, I was just setting down the conclusion to what would be long chain of reasoning.

            I don't understand your question, though. If you are asking why I think God is good, I think I answered you. If you are asking how I evaluate human moral acts, that's what I've been trying to do all along with the discussion of natural law.

          • Susan

            >I wasn't using a tautology, I was just setting down the conclusion to what would be long chain of reasoning.

            It's the chain of reason I was asking for.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay.

            You'll have to read Part II of Robert Spitzer's "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy."

            I don't have a cheat-sheet version of it although I can try to put one together. The proof will not be inductive (based on observable data) but metaphysical and deductive.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            >I don't have a cheat-sheet version of it although I can try to put one together.

            Thank you. I would appreciate that. I think it's important that you are able to answer the question for yourself that you posed to Several Species Of. It might help me understand your question better.

            >The proof will not be inductive (based on observable data) but metaphysical and deductive.

            No evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My understanding is that inductive arguments use evidence (like multiple examples of something) and deductive arguments use reasoning alone. Emperical science uses evidence, but mathematics uses reasoning.

          • Susan

            Thats my understanding as well.

            Q. Quine just put up this excellent video on the No Naysayers at NASA thread that I think is useful in our discussion as well.

            http://www.youtube.com/v/5wV_REEdvxo&hl=en_US&fs=1&

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's a clever piece of propaganda that again relies on scandal, painting those who believe in God as aggressive, irrational haters and atheists as innocent, reasonable believers. It simply dismisses the rational evidence and arguments that natural religion philosophers have put forth. It's a kind of feel good piece for atheists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have recommended to Brandon that he post a transcript of this video for discussion.

          • Susan

            >I have recommended to Brandon that he post a transcript of this video for discussion.

            Thank you Kevin. That's a very good idea. I think it's central to discussion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It would take me hours to try to put together an argument for God's goodness from reason alone. If you have the time and patience, Robert Spitzer has done it here: http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Reason_and_Revelation#Six_Questions_Toward_Emmanuel

          • articulett

            In what way is making a place of infinite torment good? What's worse than that?

            Could your god, being omnipotent, come up with a better plan? Or is the sort of thing you expect from a "perfect" divine being?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Hell is not a "place" God has made. It is a "condition" of a soul who has chosen to reject life, goodness, beauty, truth, and love.

            How could we with our limited knowledge know what the best possible final state of the universe should be?

            I realize that seems like a ridiculous answer to you.

          • Susan

            >I realize that seems like a ridiculous answer to you.

            If you realize that, and this is a site dedicated to explaining the catholic point of view to atheists and vice versa, why not make an attempt to define and provide evidence for some of these terms? Or it just ends up sounding like Orwellian goulash to ex-catholic school girls. Not because we are close-minded, but because an interest in more accurate maps of reality requires it for anyone with an "open mind".

            "condition" "soul" :life: "goodness" "beauty" truth" "love".
            Start with the first two.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. See comment below.

            I think it's time for me to go to someone smarter than me:

            http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/encyclopedias.html

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan,

            Units B and C of the following link provide evidence and arguments for the existence of the human "soul": http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Why_Believe_in_God%3F

            "Condition" has its normal dictionary meaning.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hell is not a "place" God has made. It is a "condition" of a soul who has chosen to reject life, goodness, beauty, truth, and love.

            The problem is, that for centuries that has not been the case and even today, Hell is understood as a "place". There is good reason for this, ignorant clerics taught it as such and for good reason.

            Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

            Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell.

            Luke 16:22-23 And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried.
            And in hell, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.

            2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment;

            Hell, as described in the Bible, is definitely talking about a "place", and it has been portrayed as such throughout Christianity until it became intolerable.

            "Bertrand Russell, the agnostic British philosopher, once penned an essay titled: “Why I Am Not A Christian.” One of his main objections was this: “[Jesus] believed in hell.” At least he knew what the Lord taught on this matter, which is more than can be said of some who profess an acquaintance with the Scriptures."

            The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 54:16; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God? Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendour. But the damned are utterly estranged fromGod; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know. St. Chrysostom reminds us: "We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to escape it" (In Rom., hom. xxxi, n. 5, in P.G., LX, 674). St. Augustine says: "It is my opinion that the nature of hell-fire and the location of hell are known to no man unless the Holy Ghost made it known to him by a special revelation", (City of God XX.16). Elsewhere he expresses the opinion that hell is under the earth (Retract., II, xxiv, n. 2 in P.L., XXXII, 640). St. Gregory the Greatwrote: "I do not dare to decide this question. Some thought hell is somewhere on earth; others believe it is under the earth" (Dial., IV, xlii, in P.L., LXXVII, 400; cf. Patuzzi, "De sede inferni", 1763; Gretser, "De subterraneis animarum receptaculis", 1595).

            (Catholic Encyclopedia)

            See that bit..."Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth."

            Where ever Hell gets mentioned...folk are "in" Hell, not "have" Hell, which is the terms to which a "condition" is applied.

            You are entitled to make the stuff up as you go along, but then don't pretend you are not. The dogs on the street understand what has been universally accepted as what "Hell" inferred.

            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/Hortus_Deliciarum_-_Hell.jpg

            Some "condition" depicted there.

            How could we with our limited knowledge know what the best possible final state of the universe should be?

            And yet, the religious continually insist on proffering knowledge they can't possibly have, how ironic is that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The claim that hell is a condition, not a place, is a legitimate opinion, which nothing you've cited above contradicts.

            Whenever we use our imaginations, we must resort to our five senses and spacio-temporal reality. That's what all the place, and down, and fire is about.

            Since this is a site in which we are using reason to dialogue, it seemed to me more helpful to define hell or heaven as a condition rather than describe them as places.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Is your judgment that something is "despicable" because it can harm a human being?"

            If there is no reason for it and it has been planned by a sentient being which can prevent that...

            "Or do you demand that God create a perfect world for you or suspend every law of nature just for your benefit?"

            What in the world does a eye eating worm have to do with physics? And what does physics have to do with whether or not something is despicable? If you're looking at this through the lens of 'No god = no ultimate judgement' there doesn't have to be ultimate judgement, only judgement in the here and now (plus reread my first point)

            "Anyway, on what basis do you make that moral judgment? What is the basis for your own moralizing?"

            Society, empathy and apparently not from a being that could do better...

            Kevin, if you view your god in the way I think you do (everything is from it, therefore I'm cool with it) don't bother going to a doctor for any ailment that you might have. You could be disrupting god's 'plan'...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's hard for me to follow what you are saying.

            The ice example is an example of how something can be good for human beings in one way yet evil in another. I used that because I don't know anything about the worms. I definitely don't like black widow spiders but I can imagine they have a place in the natural order and who knows what uses could be found for them. Leeches are now used to make skin grafts successful and to help reestablish the blood supply to an amputated and reattached digit.

            Human beings have a perfect right to transform creation for the benefit of itself. That means curing disease and inventing Scotch and ice makers.

            Philosophers call things like avalanches, tidal waves, earthquakes, cliffs, and stampeding herds natural evils, meaning bad for people harmed by them, but they are not morally or ontologically evil.

          • Susan

            Here is a link about the loa loa worm.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loa_loa_worm

          • severalspeciesof

            Let me revisit the stage here.

            This particular part of the comment thread you wrote about the belief that 'God is the ultimate cause of everything that is'...

            This puts the onus on god for things we have no control over, with regard to the existence of these things...

            If anyone of us 'invented' a thing that caused blindness, with no good over-riding reason, but said it was good, that would be despicable, would you not agree? I cannot fathom what over-riding good reason there would be to allow a Loa loa worm (and I see Susan below has provided a link about the worm) to consume a human eye...

            'God' (your god) has caused this. That is what is despicable...

            Now if you make the counter claim that maybe we don't know what over riding good there may be, I ask you, just take a guess at coming up with some over riding good for this worm...

          • Susan

            As far as I can tell SSO, Kevin is saying that fire can keep us warm and forest fires can burn gazillions of sentient beings to death over the ages, so Yahweh is good.

            Science has figured out a way to harness leeches to aid them in complex and groundbreaking medical procedures and Kevin doesn't like black widow spiders but who knows? Medical science might find a way to use them to help humans too, so Yahweh is good.

            It was nice of you to attempt to answer his question. He hasn't answered it yet, himself. Except to say that there is a proof somewhere that Yahweh is good.

            So, the moral is: Yahweh is good.

            Does that help?

          • severalspeciesof

            Well, nuts... Now I'll have to take back my reply to his follow up
            reply. God is good. End of story. Now why didn't I think of that? ;P *Edit, Disqus is weird... I somehow posted as 'guest' to my own comment*

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm finding it hard to keep these threads in order but here is an answer from reason as to why a good God would create a universe with things that are harmful to us.

            http://magisgodwiki.org/index.php?title=Suffering_Caused_by_Nature

          • Guest

            Well, nuts... Now I'll have to take back my reply to his follow up reply. God is good. End of story. Now why didn't I think of that? ;P

          • Susan

            You haven't been paying attention.

          • severalspeciesof

            Where's the ruler wielding nun when you need one? ;-)

          • Andrew G.

            The difference is that Catholics believe that there are purposes inherent in nature, and that morality inheres in conforming to those purposes, not in the actual facts of nature.

            So for example, Catholic logic says that sex is "for" making babies, and therefore that sexual acts that do not conform to this purpose are inherently wrong. This is a deontological position (the moral weight of an action inheres in the action itself, rather than the actor or the consequences).

            Once you discard the idea of teleology in nature (telos is a mental property, not a physical property, so it exists only in minds), then the foundation of natural law ethics dissolves.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, we think sex is for bonding and babies.

            I don't follow how a physical property alone could ever be the basis of ethics. Please explain. I have a jaw, and teeth, and a digestive system that can handle many kinds of plants and animals, so are you saying that ethically I can eat any plant or animal I can ingest and digest, including other humans? Lots of other animals do eat members of their own species, even their own young.

            In addition, I'm surprised you are making a physical/mental distinction. I thought atheists generally were materialist reductionists.

            Finally, why should teleology be discarded?

          • Andrew G.

            I am indeed a "materialist reductionist". Mental properties reduce to physical ones, but we need names for the abstract concepts, and "mental property" is as good a category name as any. The key point here is that a proposition "the purpose of X is Y" is meaningless without an explicit or implicit reference to some vaguely mind-like object or process complex enough to engage in forward planning, and the truth-value of the proposition inheres in the explicit or implied plan rather than in the object X.

            Whether you can ethically eat other humans does not depend on the nature of your digestive system, but on the consequences of the action.

      • Max Driffill

        Who could argue with that? By all means religious freedoms. But confine that religious observance to within in the walls of your home, houses of worship. Keep it out of our legislation.

        • Michael Murray

          That's the problem though isn't it. They hold a range of beliefs that really demand that the interfere in the lives, and particularly wombs, of non-catholics. Until they back of from those there will be an argument. The price of freedom etc, etc. Ultimately that's what brings me to these places to argue.

          Michael

          • Max Driffill

            That really does seem to be the case. There really isn't any room for a considered and tolerant approach. Not often anyway. Consider Ireland and divorce law to take just one example. Where was the sensible "Well our religion has a specific stand which we try to uphold, but we can do that with out the help of the State and it certainly would be wrong to impose our religious ideas on people who don't share those ideals."

          • It is hard to appreciate the separation of Church and State, until you find yourself in a State of some-body-else's Church.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            How would you respond to an atheist such as myself who believes that life begins before birth??

          • Michael Murray

            Well I don't see what it has to do with atheism. Also not sure why you think I think life begins before birth. That isn't the question anyway. The question is at what point does a foetus or baby get the protection of the law that an adult gets. Bear in mind there are no circumstances in which one adult human being can demand the use of another adult human beings body for survival. Oh and there is the mother who the theists usually like to forget about. What are her rights ?

            Personally I think the mother baby situation is a unique moral dilemma and, with much angst, we have it about as good as we can get it in most western countries. As a non-theist I have the advantage that I'm not expecting that there is some objective moral answer to this dilemma.

          • As a non-theist I have the advantage that I'm not expecting that there is some objective moral answer to this dilemma.

            If there is no objective moral answer to the question of whether abortion is morally acceptable or morally objectionable, then how do you make the case that someone who opposes abortion is any more correct than someone who approves of it?

            Personally I think the mother baby situation is a unique moral dilemma and, with much angst, we have it about as good as we can get it in most western countries.

            What exactly is a "moral dilemma" if there is really no answer to the question of the morality of abortion? If ultimately right and wrong have no objective meaning, what is the meaning of morality or moral dilemma?

          • Michael Murray

            then how do you make the case that someone who opposes abortion is any more correct than someone who approves of it?

            What do you mean by opposes abortion ? I oppose abortion in the third trimester done without serious reasons. I don't oppose abortion done in the first trimester. I would use medical science to inform those decisions and some pragmatism about what we can expect the social reaction to any laws is going to be.

            The moral dilemma is the balancing act between the rights of the mother to control her own body and the rights of the foetus to life. The latter includes deciding if it has rights, when it gets rights etc. I don't see any answer that doesn't potentially impinge on one of those two rights. Most of the discussions I have had around here just try to forget the mother.

          • The moral dilemma is the balancing act between the rights of the mother to control her own body and the rights of the foetus to life. The latter includes deciding if it has rights, when it gets rights etc.

            My question is that if there is no objective answer to whether or not an abortion in the first trimester is morally acceptable but an abortion in the third trimester may be morally objectionable if it is for trivial reasons, what are we doing when we disagree on the matter and argue our respective positions? If I perform late-term abortions for the purpose of sex-selection, how do you convince me and my clients that we are engaged in something morally objectionable? What if I say, "Well, you believe what I am doing is wrong, so for you it is wrong, and you shouldn't do it, but my clients and I believe it is right, so it is not morally objectionable for us to do it."

            If there is no objective answer to when, along the route from fertilized egg to adult a human being can be said to have rights, aren't the standard answers (at conception, at viability, at the point where the human being has a sense of self, etc.) just matters of opinion?

            My own personal answer is, "I don't know." And my position on abortion is pretty much the same as the one you stated.

          • Michael Murray

            But isn't that true of any moral dilemma. We have some basic principles like the golden rule, minimising suffering of others, not impinging on others freedoms etc and then we try to apply them to any particular situation and balance various things.

            As far as late term abortions for sex selection go I would argue that the rights of the foetus to a future life are not overwhelmed by the suffering the couple might have by having a baby of a gender they don't want. I would think that suffering minimal particularly as they could give it up for adoption or they could have got their act together and had an early abortion. You can say this is my opinion but it is based on evidence and some basic principles.

            My problem is when someone pops up with evidence I don't believe in such a soul I can't see or measure but which apparently appears at conception.

          • We have some basic principles like the golden rule, minimising suffering of others, not impinging on others freedoms etc and then we try to apply them to any particular situation and balance various things.

            What if I don't accept the Golden Rule as a guiding principle? Why should I? What if I am not interested in minimizing the suffering of others? Why should I be? Can you convince me or anyone else that I ought to follow the Golden Rule or to care about the suffering of others?

            I would think that suffering minimal particularly as they could give it up for adoption . . .

            It seems to me that outside of the exceptional cases (abortion to save the life of the mother, fetal abnormalities), abortion is not about whether babies are unwanted. They are about whether pregnancy is unwanted. Most women who have abortions could give birth and give the baby up for adoption. So I think, in general, abortion is about unwanted pregnancy, not unwanted babies. Even Peter Singer doesn't buy the "famous violinist" scenario. He thinks it is not too much to ask of a person to be inconvenienced for 9 months to save another person's life. (He does not, of course, believe that an embryo, fetus, or even a newborn baby qualifies as a person.)

          • Michael Murray

            No I can't convince you to follow any set of rules. I can appeal to your humanity and empathy. I can explain why these rules are good for society. I can hope you have been raised with a social conscience. If none of these work we can isolate you from the group. It's what primates do.

            Perhaps people are actually rejecting the pregnancy but that wasn't the way your example was set up.

          • Diogene 66

            David
            You wrote :

            The answer is very simple, and doesn't need any "moral", nor any "sacred orders" approach :

            As far as we have observed human beheaviour since cavemen's times, there are roughly TWO ways for resolving conflicts, dilemmas, opposing arguments, incompatible interests, etc...

            1) the 'bludgeon' type (it ranges from primitive fist-fighting —see "alpha males" in gorillas tribes.... all the way down to the atom bomb —see Hiroshima).

            2) the 'neuronal' type (i.e. : negociation, ability to "get inside" one's opponent's view, consensus-building, etc...)

            In the example you quote, we can say that you are PERFECTLY ENTITLED to not being interested in minimizing the suffering of others ! !

            Amazing, isn't it ??

            Well... the point is that, taking this mental position, you simply barricade yourself in the 1rst option ! You're merely deciding all by yourself, i.e. : without considering what I would call a "comprehensive" view of the situation you encounter.. and that's what I call 'the bludgeon option' !

            Yes ! Very easily : by choosing to be "insensitive" to the situations of others, you take the evident risk that others... won't be "sensitive" to your situation either, and, thus, you TOO can receive a bit of a whack —be it moral or physical !

            So... You actually CAN choose to behave howsoever you want ! ! No problem : you just have to assume the consequences ! I It simply is a choice between evolution-built intelligence... and caveman's behaviour.

            No need, here, of any "god's wordings", "spiritual guidances" or religious prescriptions.

          • Andrew G.

            the rights of the foetus to a future life

            Where do you think those rights come from? For that matter, what do you think "rights" are?

          • Michael Murray

            I think "rights" are a concept we use when discussing moral issues. It's a way of encoding how we think we should behave towards each other. We decide that certain people have a certain list of rights. We decide that sometimes people forfeit those rights.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "where do they come from". Historically I expect it dates back to our primate ancestors habit of living in small groups with a shared gene pool. It was advantageous to look after those around us. Progressively we expanded the "in" group of those who had "rights" by various complicated methods as our brains developed. Quite likely religion played a role here.

            History is full of appalling examples of how easily we can be made to disregard the rights of those who are in the out group.

            Personally I think moral progress consists of progressively expanding the in group. Women are in and blacks are in. Who knows maybe soon homosexuals will be in. Then even maybe atheists. Or perhaps that is a step to far.

          • Andrew G.

            Here's the important bit: if "rights" are just ways to encode how we think we should behave, that means they are derived from some more basic set of moral concepts. That being the case, any time that "rights" don't seem to be doing the job - if two rights conflict, or if something widely believed to be a right is actually proving to be harmful - then we should expect to have to dig down a level to figure out what to do, rather than arguing in circles about conflicting rights.

            (Now, many people have tried to propose a One True Moral Measure - whether it's a global utility function or a single Golden Rule or whatever - but as is often pointed out, there is in general no way to convince someone that they ought to accept it.)

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see why you expect to dig down like that? Morality is based on biologically determined intuition that we try to make logical. It's not axiomatic mathematics. Our dilemmas are also biological. What if men were actually a lot weaker and smaller than women with lower IQs and lived for only long enough to contribute sperm. How would morality look then?

          • Andrew G.

            You have to dig down because arguing at the level of "rights" often fails to make any progress. At some point you have to be able to say "treating X as a right is having a negative impact on society" or "in situation X, right Y must dominate over right Z because otherwise it will cause unnecessary harm".

          • Michael Murray

            Ok I see what you mean.

    • Mary Kay

      so how would you differentiate between an atheist that doesn't believe religion is evil, that is should be eradicated, etc., and one that does believe it to be evil, that it need to be eradicated, that people shouldn't be allowed to wear crosses or headscarfs in public, that, as Dawkins said, raising a child in a religion in worse than sexual abuse? how would you differentiate between these two very different individuals? I think that the word orthodoxy is being used by her to differentiate. what would be a better word?

      • Max Driffill

        Mary Kay,

        so how would you differentiate between an atheist that doesn't believe religion is evil, that is should be eradicated, etc., and one that does believe it to be evil, that it need to be eradicated, that people shouldn't be allowed to wear crosses or headscarfs in public,

        There doesn't seem to be much work here as the difference between the two types seems pretty obvious. I don't know of many atheists who think people should be denied their religious expression in the public sphere whether they think religion is morally neutral, morally bad, or even go so far as to use the word evil. Religious expression falls under the protection of freedom of expression, and most of the New Atheists value and defend that, and Enlightenment values generally.

        That said, there are legitimate debates to be had about whether or not a certain mode of dress, or ostentatious religious expression is appropriate can be limited in certain spheres. Some businesses may want to limit all employees speech and expression in this way for reasons owing to the services they provide, and wanting to present the most welcoming face to a diverse clientele. If you are a governmental agency in the west it may be wise to not allow employees to proselytize or have ostentatious displays of their religious conviction. Those are real and important discussion that must occur, and should probably do so with as little rancor as possible. There is probably more to say and cover in this area, but it need not concern us here.

        A final note on this point. that many (most) atheists would not want the power of the state to limit religious expression in the public sphere doesn't mean that religious expression is then off the table of critique, or that religious institutions can not be questioned about their merits in the modern world.

        that, as Dawkins said, raising a child in a religion in worse than sexual abuse? how would you differentiate between these two very different individuals? I think that the word orthodoxy is being used by her to differentiate. what would be a better word?

        I think it is very important to criticize Dawkins for what he has actually said. And what he has said is that in some cases, perhaps too many, a religious upbringing can certainly be a form of abuse, and sometimes that it can be worse than sexual abuse.

        This is not a very wild claim. I was not one who was overly terrorized by threats of damnation from my local priests, but even that gave me a great many sleepless and terror filled nights where I worried nightly that I might die and be whisked off to hell for an eternity of torture. I was lucky in that my parents never reinforced this terror at home, and that eventually fatigue won out over fear. However, I've known many people whose parents and pastors go out of their way to terrorize children with vivid, hell torture porn. And it affects them and their relationships to their parents even now (decades later). Dawkins' charge doesn't seem abstruse, or implausible to me.

        It also seems like a reasonable question the merits and morality of whether to indoctrinate children into a religion before they have reached the age of reason. This seems unlikely to change anytime soon, but it is worth considering.

        Again I think the author assumes and orthodoxy of opinion here that she doesn't justify. and which she doesn't spell out.

        • Mary Kay

          Thank you, you bring up several good points.

  • Lebez

    Obviously your disbelief was ill-conceived and perhaps if it had been unchallenged, you might have thought more deeply about the subject. You needed a security blanket and we all need something. If this fantasy works for you, baby, then stick with it. In the end it won't matter much except you gave 10% to a church worth billions, is charged with hiding men who abused children for centuries and has some of the strangest traditions that have nothing to do with the only instructions Christians have - the Bible.

    • ... that have nothing to do with the only instructions Christians have - the Bible.

      How consistent or reliable would you say those 'instructions' are?

  • Nove Five

    With respect, I concur with the "security blanket" view of your coming to Catholicism. Religious writing such as yours is, at its core, waxing eloquent about a fictional deity. The fact that you found a social group who has codified this collective delusion into organized religion does not make it any less fanciful.

    I came from the opposite direction of your journey... raised in the evangelical Protestant church, studying religion extensively at the university level (including significant time in the Catholic confirmation process), then serving in a clerical role. Religion proved to be the opiate described by Marx... with no substance at its core, contradictions not adequately explained away by "mystery", and endemic corruption from its all-too-human acolytes. Wishing for a celestial imaginary super-friend did not make it real.

    Religion has inspired some good things, but nothing that cannot be matched from secular sources. For many centuries, however, it has shed blood, terrified innocents and retarded human knowledge and progress in a way that secularism cannot match.

    I have been much, much happier since I put away the childish thing of religion. I savor the things of life much more deeply, and I know real peace. One day, Megan, I hope you will see your current state as relapse rather than recovery. There are plenty of us free from the prison you have voluntarily entered, and we can help you understand that the world we actually have is a good place to be.

    • There are plenty of us free from the prison you have voluntarily entered, and we can help you understand that the world we actually have is a good place to be.

      And some of us are driven to learn what is true about our world, be that truth judged, good or not.

  • Hibernian Faithful

    Welcome to party Ma'am - you are on the winning team and the greatest thing about winning is that we are commanded to share our rewards with all of the Body of Christ, including those who are lost, hopefully on for a short while, and whom are no less than us. It is hard and sometimes unrewarded on Earth, but it is a joyous read. Pray for me as I will for you.
    God Bless

  • jcmmanuel

    I essentially agree with this post. I am myself not a catholic, I would call myself atheist (and I often do) but I prefer to call myself non-theist or transatheist or something like that, mostly in order not to be associated with the "pissed atheists" (aka "new atheists"). Not all atheists follow the unspoken rule that in order to be a good atheist you need to be an asshole and an extreme exclusivist.

    Atheists are demeaning religion worldwide these days, thereby inevitably also dehumanizing even the most sincere, rational believers out there (because if "religion poisons everything" then surely one has to be a psychic of some kind to find fun in poisoning himself, right?). Of course, reality doesn't really work like that.

    In Catholicism there are several voices though, that are worth being heard - including an intellectual like Hans Küng - who isn't a traditional catholic but still making tons of philosophical and scientific sense - and an intriguing vision. Or take Fabrice Hadjadj - how could we ignore Catholics with that amount of insight? That would be silly.

    In non-Catholic Christian circles (Protestantism, as we use to say) there are of course many reasonable / rational Christians thinkers as well (think Alvin Plantinga - one of the best philosophers around - and always good to read in comparison with a friendly / reasonable atheist like Hans Nagel - we should love the 'conversations' these people generate with their philosophical works). Or, could we ignore John Shelby Spoing? Or Gretta Vosper? Only to our own detriment. I am myself very familiar with Christian theology, and I can only say those Christians are among the ones capable of modernizing Christianity with reason - in fact, as it has often been in history. There are always those points where religion comes to a standstill as it were - but even modern Evangelical fundamentalism (in the U.S.) only represents a fragment of the standstill. Many Christians do what believers usually do: they evolve. The new atheists didn't evolve at all. When they came up in 2002/2003 there were already plenty of positive signs going on in Christianity.

    The new atheism is an emotional reaction to nine eleven, there is little more to it. It was an irrational movement from the get go. Nevertheless, it seems like hundreds of thousands of atheists were soon assisting in fomenting the whole attitude - thus contributing to the turning of atheism into what is now about to be seen as the most exclusivist bunch of 'believers' on the planet - with the exception of Radical Islamists I should say (oh and atheists "don't fly planes into buildings" I should say. It seems like not flying planes into buildings has become - at least for some debaters I've met in the culpits of "arrogant atheism" - one of the sublime properties of atheism; oh my goodness).

    I am an atheist who is not interested in atheism at all - and I'm not the only one. But I am all the more interested in religion and in a meaningful approach to religion, having religion changed wherever necessary (and cooperating with believers at this point of course - even enjoying the whole undertaking together with them), rather than ignoring religion, or demeaning it, together with the people who are, just like us, all in the same boat.

    So yes, I encourage religion, if it helps its adherents to become better people. I don't think we need god to be good people - but I also don't think anyone should go around like a machine gun on legs, considering religions his or her personal "Shoot-em-Up" game, and being totally non-engaged with those who dare to see the good in religion as well. Atheists also shouldn't betray the sciences all the time, by suggesting (often indirectly - as R.Dawkins often does) that atheists are sort of more science-minded. We don't need people who do that sort of bad PR to science. Science belongs to no one - or to everyone if you want (it belongs to no one exclusively and to everyone inclusively). Atheists need to get rid of those silly games, this arrogance. Be real. Get a life. Don't think putting a little 'a' in front of someone else's idea (theism) makes us brilliant, or "Bright". And atheists are not all physicalists (like Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Stenger and others) - or pseudo-Buddhists (like Sam Harris). Let's be real.

    Perhaps Megan Hodder's choice was not entirely rational. But from the story I've just been reading here, I would say it's certainly authentic, and demonstrates openness of mind. I can only be glad to observe this in such a young woman. There is hope for new generations. There always is.

    • Pax Humana

      "Atheists also shouldn't betray the sciences all the time, by suggesting (often indirectly - as R. Dawkins often does) that atheists are sort of more science-minded. We don't need people who do that sort of bad PR to science. Science belongs to no one - or to everyone if you want (it belongs to no one exclusively and to everyone inclusively). Atheists need to get rid of those silly games, this arrogance. Be real. Get a life. Don't think putting a little 'a' in front of someone else's idea (theism) makes us brilliant, or 'Bright.'"
      Wow, and yet I am a sort of ersatz Christian (and most certainly NOT Roman Catholic) and I could not have said it better myself. If I knew how to approach and convince atheists to change their mindsets, I would love to hear it from you, too. jcmmanuel, how should I approach someone who is an atheist, as in one like yourself and how do I also approach one of those "pissed (read: new)" atheists to convince them of things that are different, too? Some enlightenment would be greatly encouraged. Also, I have a form of high-functioning autism called Asperger's Syndrome/Disorder, so I have natural issues with adapting to change in my mind and life. Sadly, the majority of atheists and people that promote what history and the REAL laws say is hate speech (and yet somehow magically disguises itself as love and "an alternate lifestyle") are the ones that are telling ME to get a life, to be real, and to grow up in my life. Was this not how things like World War II and the numerous other wars that Communism, Socialism, Fascism, and Nationalism started in this century (the 21st Century A.D.) as well as the past century (20th Century A.D.) , let alone in other times of history, such as the 1st Century A.D. and all the way back to at least Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain that wanted to go after Lot. How can I reason against people that want that, and worse, in their lives, to happen to other people?

      • jcmmanuel

        Maybe you shouldn't try to "convince" them of anything. The problem may be exactly that: many atheists sort of decided they know it all better and anyone who dares to think any further than atheism is simply dead wrong. You cannot "convince" them. A friend of mine once said: if people really want to be a brick wall, maybe you should let them be exactly that.

        If you talk about spirituality with an atheist, chances are dim they will even want to listen - only a small minority would. The others already think you're talking about something "supernatural" - even before you ended your phrase they think you're a dualist, or an irrational freak. I've been debating for years on Facebook, and formerly MySpace. The only people who ever started talking about Fairies, Unicorns, Santa Claus, Godzilla monsters, Spaghetti Monsters, or even "you believe there is a dead horse in your bathroom" - were always atheists, never did a theist come up with this nonsense.

        Yes I'm essentially atheist, but certainly not because I want to. I'm simply on a quest. I lost all notions of God after my best Christian friend suddenly could not forgive me one simple but stupid mistake I made. There was no way to get forgiveness. And somehow, I experienced that it is true what someone ever said to me: that hurt changes people. Hurt, so it now seems crystal clear to me, becomes a part of who you are. Maybe that's partially also the problem with other atheists - although they wouldn't admit it. But some are really hurt by Christianity, they way Christians judge and all that. You need to understand that. You don't need to give in to their arrogance, but try looking deeper. Some of them are really just humble people. But many of them really think their hurt is an everlasting excuse for self-complaint and behaving arrogant.

        Atheism has become one of the most exclusivist mindsets these days. Too bad. But there comes a time when they will see what they've been doing too. Somehow, all hypocrisy always comes to surface. These things just takes their time.

        • Pax Humana

          So, let me get this straight, you are going to be all butt hurt because one so-called "Christian" hurt your feelings, am I right? I have some harsh words of advice to you and they are suck it up, Buttercup. I will also say that you need to worry about your
          OWN state of salvation and righteousness with YAHWEH EL ELOHIM before you rely upon other people. Your friend clearly was in the wrong to not forgive you but you acting just as badly as he did to you does not make the situation right in life. I only act angry towards atheists and anyone else that makes me mad because they are being stupid and that they wish to destroy the world. Were they to possess more than a single brain cell between the lot of them, then I might respect them a bit more in their lives. If the other atheists are butt hurt by Christianity, then they simply need to do likewise because atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism/humanism/secularism and all other related ways of thought are essentially the whiny spoiled brat of religion, or, at the very least, they compete with Islam or Hinduism on that front.

          • Time to reread the commenting guidelines.

          • Pax Humana

            It is time for you to take my advice and to shut your pie hole, or else I will counteract your report for spam with one of my own...are you savvy, sir?

          • What is your goal with these posts?

    • Pax Humana

      Now with that being said, I do agree that science should indeed not belong exclusively to anyone and, truth be told, science, let alone schools in general, should reflect that sort of logic. However, the reality is that the "pissed (read: new)" atheists do not want to proverbially play the fair game of ball and they have proven that time and time again, too. This also extends to various forms of Creationism/Intelligent Design being allowed in schools, too. Children have the right to learn about how things are made from both angles or they have the right to not listen to one, the other, or neither one of those philosophies, or they can even make up their own philosophies in their lives, too, jcmmanuel.