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Catholicism and Free Thought

Ladder

Many people believe that Catholicism, because it is a dogmatic religion, stifles free thought and free speech. “How nice for you,” some will say to a Catholic convert, “Now that you’re a Catholic, you won’t have to think anymore.” Or, “It must be nice to be a Catholic and have such ‘certainty.’” This is said with a snuffling, cynical laugh because by ‘certainty’ they often mean that one has become a mindless robot—a Kool Aid drinking cult member following the demands of his leader in white, without thinking.

Another jab Catholic converts often hear is, “Of course there are some folks who need that kind of certainty.” The subtext here is, “You’re not really smart enough to think things through for yourself, and you are probably emotionally and socially insecure and immature so you need to belong to a mutual self-love group which offers its members certainty in all things.”

Like any criticism leveled against the Church, this one is partially true. There certainly are cults that offer their members mind-numbing ‘certainty’. There are emotionally insecure and immature people who need to belong to such cults. We have to admit that there are some Catholics like that, and that there are, sadly, some Catholic sub-groups, religious orders, and movements in which members have sometimes behaved like this.

However, abuses do not undo right uses. My typical response to the charge that, “You Catholics all thoughtlessly follow your leader, believing and doing whatever he tells you” is that “You clearly don’t know very many Catholics. The vast majority take little notice of what their leader tells them and have scant understanding either of the dogmas or the moral teachings of their Church.”

But that is to make a cynical response. Instead, there is a more reasoned argument, and it is this. Let us ask foundational questions. Either there is such a thing as truth or there is not. If there is no such a thing as truth, then every man may think what he likes and the world is absurd. If there is such a thing as truth, then because we are creatures who use language both in thought and speech, we must be able to put that truth into words.

We put that truth into words in many different ways. We tell stories, we write poems, we discuss and debate and reason our way into truth, and one of the ways we express the truth is through propositional theological statements. These statements, or resolutions, are not the whole truth, but they state truth in a propositional way as precisely and completely as possible. This statement of theological truth we call dogma.

If this process is possible at all, then a church (which is founded to proclaim and live the truth) must in some sense be dogmatic, and if it is at all dogmatic, then it must be in the business, at least in a minimal sense, to declare that dogma be necessary. If the dogma wasn’t necessary, then it wouldn’t be dogma. In other words, that church must have the authority to say, “This particular proposition is true. That means you must believe it if you belong to this Church because the Church lives to proclaim and live the truth. It can’t be true sometimes, but not at other times. It can’t be true for me, but not for you. If it is true, then it's true always and everywhere for all people whether or not they understand it."

Now this is something solid, something real. It is a rock on which to build a worldview. Without such a thing as dogma (and the authority to declare a belief a dogma), the Church is built on the shifting sand of subjective personal opinion. This will eventual cause the whole worldview to collapse. But when you build on rock, you stabilize 'free thought,' not stifle it. Dogmas may seem to suppress free thought because, by virtue of declaring some things true, they must necessarily declare other things to be false. To say, "My apple is red” is  also to say “My apple is not blue.”

Dogma is demanded not because it gives all the answers, but because it gives the foundation upon which to ask the right questions. Dogma gives thought wings because it gives thought a structure.

Even when a person dissents from Church teaching and denies the dogma, they are still affirming the necessity for dogma, otherwise what would they have to rebel against? Even the person who kicks a rock proves that the rock exists. Indeed, it is arguable that it is the person who kicks the rock who is most affected by the rock, for by kicking the rock they have hurt their foot. Therefore even the ‘free thinker’ who rejects dogma proves the reality and solidity of that dogma.

Therefore dogma gives thought structure. It not only gives thought a structure, but dogma, combined with tradition, give a person a context and structure for a unified world view. There are corridors in the mind, shelves of knowledge which are cataloged, galleries of art to enlighten. There are libraries of great minds which illuminate, biographies of the wise and righteous to guide. Catholicism, rooted, nurtured, and flourishing within the Western classical tradition, provides a unique and irreplaceable structure in which truly free thought can flourish.

Without this structure and context, the ‘free thought’ is simply a jumble of impressions and emotional reactions, conditioned by a scrap of propaganda here, a bit of education there, and a swirl of sentimental reactions sparked up by popular culture. It becomes like playing tennis without a net. Totally ‘free thought’ is free, but it is not thought—it is an expression of opinion, or an exclamation of emotion.

Dogma provides the structure necessary for real thought. To end, consider the creed, which many 'free thinkers' consider restrictive—an antiquated formula for a dying religion. It is a straight jacket, a set of blinders, a cage for the mind. But Catholics don't see it this way. It's not a cage to constrict, but a ladder on which to climb. It's the stairway on which to ascend, the map for the journey. And, as we all know, it's the climbing, the ascent, and the journey which matter most.
 
 
Originally posted at Standing On My Head. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Mud Preacher)

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. He was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and then in 1995, he and his family were received into the Catholic Church. For the next ten years he worked as a freelance writer, contributing to more than fifty magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Fr. Dwight is the author of many books including The Quest for the Creed (Crossroads, 2012); More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith (Ignatius, 2010); and Catholicism Pure and Simple (Stauffer Books, 2012). Connect with his website DwightLongenecker.com, or his Patheos blog, Standing On My Heard.

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  • stephen ryan

    "Free will is simply not allowed by science," Nobel Prize winner, recipient of the prestigious Templeton Award and inventor of the Laser, Dr. Charles Townes said recently. "I can move my hand this way and that and any way I want. Very few scientists could disagree that free will exists. There are many things we don't understand. Where is this free mind," he said, referring to "the creator" who might have had a hand in designing the universe? " Great post Fr Longenecker. The burden is on the atheists to explain "free will" People of faith say it is a gift from God. Atheists have no answers...

    • Free Will is a different issue than free thought. You are right, free will is impossible and this is a problem for theists, not atheists.

      • Vasco Gama

        Nowhere it was demonstrated that free will doesn't exist, that it impossible or that it is an illusion (in spite a variety of people pretend that this is the case). You know that you can choose (even if remotely you find that you are creating an illusion to yourself) and that those choices can have consequences and that your way of choosing these consequences may be good (or bad), that they may bring you comfort or not, or that they may have negative or positive consequences on others (in spite you may be inclined to consider them as illusions doesn’t change much except your assumed accountability for the decisions).

        • As tempting as it may be I am not going defend determinism here, as that topic is on a different scale that that proposed by the article.

          I would point you to Sam Harris' talks, book and Dan Dennet's work on this as well as a great Radio Lab podcast on this called "Blame".

          • Vasco Gama

            I am well aware of the ideas of Harris and Dennet on free will, and I don't agree with them (and here I am in the company of theists and most atheists that I know). Thanks anyway.

      • Randy Gritter

        If free will is impossible then free thought is too. That is not just a problem for theists. It is a problem for all of us. It would mean theists are wrong but it would also mean humanists are wrong. If Nihilism is true we all lose. The Nihilists will be able to say, "I told you so!" but that pleasure will be as hollow as everything else in life.

        • Octavo

          "If free will is impossible then free thought is too."

          Free thought just means "intellectual inquiry without dogma." How is that incompatible with a non-libertarian theory of consciousness?

          ~Jesse Webster

        • I think it raises issue that we need to address, but like I said the scope of these issues are very different. I disagree that it means free thought is impossible. The absence of free will does not mean the absence of choice. It just means that the choice is made solely by the brain. The mind is the brain. The decisions the brain makes can be constrained by dogma it accepts. We should not accept unnecessary or unreasonable constraints of dogma.

      • Paul Boillot

        " You are right, free will is impossible and this is a problem for theists, not atheists."

        As imprecise a language for discussing the possible intersection of philosophy and the progress of physics as English is, I can't be sure that I know what you're saying here.

        But if we're talking about the same concepts, I'm not convinced. I certainly can't call to mind any conclusive evidence of the lack of free will.

        I happen to agree that what we think of as "free will" is an illusion, but what do you base your statement "free will is impossible" on?

        • Sure, I mean what is commonly thought of as a conscious experience of decision-making, and specifically that this consciousness is a separate, non-physical layer in which these decisions are made on the basis of weighing factors and feelings, is an illusion. Decisions are made as the result of complex physical neurological processes. These processes create the illusion described above rather than the conscious thought directing the neurology. Of course I can't say I know this with anything like absolute or scientific certainty, it is my view.

          Again, this stuff is very counter intuitive and takes much longer to explain than we could explore here. If you haven't watched a talk by Sam Harris on this I highly recommend it.
          http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_FanhvXO9Pk&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D_FanhvXO9Pk

          • Paul Boillot

            Mr. Adams,

            First, despite having watched this clip many moons ago, a refresher of Harris's views is rarely a burden. I find myself agreeing with much that the has to say in this talk, yet I don't find myself pushed passed a threshold of, let's say, 70% acceptance.

            He breezes through many intricate points, and makes assertions which rely on us believing that he has intellectually pushed the walls of the Death Star's determinism/randomness trash compactor close enough together for the free will gap to disappear.

            I'm not sure I buy it philosophically, and at the level of scientific experiment I think there's almost all the work yet to be done.

            I just want to end my skeptical rant by noting that he talks about the impossibility of attributing blame because my brain state is not the product of my volition, while totally ignoring the fact that prior 'choices' or 'decisions' I've made change my biology.

            My current brain state is not just the product of prior causes, genes, upbringing (things over which I couldn't *possibly* have held sway), but also the electrochemical consequence of my habitual thought patterns and the biological changes they cause.

    • felixcox

      Saying God made free will neither proves the existence of free will nor explains it. And most atheists are okay without having all the answers. Christians, on the other hand, assert categorically things they cannot know. That's what their faith rests on.

      • stephen ryan

        that is good to know your point of view. I find it interesting that free will is where science and religion meet. It is where faith meets reason.

    • Mikegalanx

      "prestigious" Templeton award?

      • stephen ryan

        yes prestigious . the by-laws of the award require the monetary prize to always be larger that the nobel prize.

        • josh

          That seems almost the opposite of prestigious. 'Petty and venal' perhaps?

        • Really? The by-laws of the award require that the prize be more than the Nobel Prize? That's the first bad thing I've heard about the Templeton Prize.

          • stephen ryan

            what's wrong with that?

          • The Ronald Regan School for Right Thinking is a well-respected university. They promise to pay their professors 10% more than Harvard professors. They'll even throw in a free refrigerator.

    • John Smith

      That is just stupid...

    • John Smith

      All you did was pull bullshit right out of your ass. You just say what ever comes to your mind. If I say "Goddit", does that explain anything? Of course not. I you are making a claim(no matter if it's positive or negative), you have the burden of proof.

  • David Nickol

    I suppose this makes a certain sense if you believe that every Catholic dogma is true, but if you are not a Catholic, or if you are a Catholic who gravely doubts a particular dogma, then dogma really is a "straight jacket, a set of blinders, a cage for the mind." I will never forget an incident in my high school religion class in which one of my teachers (a Christian Brother) explained something, and the class objected. He said he would research the topic. When in a later class he revisited that topic again with the benefit of his additional research, the class raised further objections. He said, "I can't explain it, but this is what you have to believe." This always makes me think of Alice in Wonderland:

    'I can't believe that!' said Alice.
    'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'
    Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.'
    'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'

    • "I will never forget an incident in my high school religion class in which one of my teachers (a Christian Brother) explained something, and the class objected. He said he would research the topic. When in a later class he revisited that topic again with the benefit of his additional research, the class raised further objections. He said, "I can't explain it, but this is what you have to believe.""

      The key question here, of course, is whether that teaching was a dogma. If not, this anecdote is noteworthy but irrelevant to the current discussion.

      • David Nickol

        The key question here, of course, is whether that teaching was a dogma. If not, this anecdote is noteworthy but irrelevant to the current discussion.

        I actually don't remember the specifics, although I am quite sure it was a matter of sexual morality, quite possibly masturbation. It was an all-boys school.

        But of course dogma is not the only thing Catholics "have to believe."

        Here is some information which I posted recently and will post again below from By What Authority? A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful by Richard R. Gaillardetz on levels of Church teaching and the required response of the believer, from highest level to lowest level. (I have had to change the format, since in the book it is a chart.)

        Dogma - Assent of Faith [The believer makes an act of faith, trusting that this teaching is revealed by God.]

        Definitive Doctrine - Firm Acceptance [The believer "accepts and holds" these teachings to be true.]

        Authoritative Doctrine - "A Religious Docility of Will and Intellect" [The believer strives to assimilate a teaching of the Church into their religious stance, while recognizing the remote possibility of church error.]

        Provisional Applications of Church Doctrine, Church Discipline and Prudential Admonitions - Conscientious Obedience [The believer obeys (the spirit of) any church law or disciplinary action which does not lead to sin, even when questioning the ultimate value or wisdome of the law or action.]

        • Thanks for sharing! I'm not sure these four distinctions accurately convey the Church's teaching here, but they're helpful nonetheless.

          For example, a dogma is defined not by the level of assent among Catholics, but by its source. Dogmas are only those infallible truths which have been divinely revealed to the Church.

          The broader category of doctrine would include dogmas, but also any other teaching proposed by the Magisterium.

          • Octavo

            Does the Church have a website that clearly lays out these distinctions and provide an encyclopedia of Catholic beliefs? I thought the New Advent Encyclopedia was accurate, but I've been told by commenters here (and by other Catholics) that it does not fully or accurately represent Catholic teachings.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Octavo, I assume you're referring to the old 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia posted on NewAdvent.org (since there's no "New Advent Encyclopedia"), and if so, then you'd be right. While it's mostly trustworthy and good for reference, there are some minor points of variation from Church teaching.

            If you'd like to understand the distinction between dogma, doctrine, and other forms of Church teaching, I'd recommend two things. For a shorter presentation, check out these two links:

            http://marysaggies.blogspot.com/2009/05/dogma-vs-doctrine.html

            http://www.ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?number=564105

            For a more thorough examination, I recommend Dr. Ludwig Ott's classic text, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

          • Octavo

            Thank you.

          • Geena Safire

            The Three Levels of Magisterial Teaching from Catholicism dot org - an online journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Benedict Center, New Hampshire

            (I just quoted the heading of each section. Lots more there.)

            "I. To the first category belong 'truths taught as divinely revealed.' Some theologians call these truths “infallible dogma' or 'definitive dogma.'

            II. The contents of the second category, 'definitively proposed statements on matters closely connected with revealed truth,'

            III. Our third category is 'ordinary teaching on faith and morals.' "

          • David Nickol

            For example, a dogma is defined not by the level of assent among Catholics, but by its source.

            Gaillardetz is not saying a dogma, definitive doctrine, or authoritative doctrine is defined by the level of assent that must be given to it. He is saying that once a given proposition is deemed a dogma, a definitive doctrine, or an authoritative doctrine, the level of acceptance he specifies is required.

            Here are his definitions of dogma and doctrine:

            A dogma is any propositional formulation which is (1) divinely revealed and (2) proposed as such by the magisterium, either through a solemn definition of a pope or council, or by the teaching of the college of bishops in their ordinary and universal magisterium.

            A doctrine is any authoritative or normative formulation of a belief of the Church, whether revealed or not. A church doctrine is intended to articulate a formal belief of the Church that it draws in some fashion from its reflection on divine revelation even if it may not itself be divinely revealed.

      • josh

        Whether or not the specific teaching David had in mind is a dogma, his point about why one should accept any particular dogma (or otherwise labelled teaching) stands.

        • The only point I detected was that: "[Accepting Catholic dogma] sense if you believe that every Catholic dogma is true."

          Well, of course. This is a tautology.

          "...but if you are not a Catholic, or if you are a Catholic who gravely doubts a particular dogma, then dogma really is a "straight jacket, a set of blinders, a cage for the mind."""

          I would agree that a particular dogma might seem that way to a non-Catholic, but it could also mean the non-Catholic is wrong.

          Either way, that's not the question. The question is whether dogmas qua dogmas, on Catholicism, are reasonable.

          • josh

            Why isn't whether or not Catholic dogmas are wrong 'the question'? If, 'on Catholicism', the dogmas are definitionally correct, what non-circular point do you have? You demonstrate the 'straight-jacket' aspect of this thinking by being blind to the alternatives.

  • My concern with Catholicism and other religions is not that they create robots and stifle all enquiry, but that the structure they rely of as foundational, the dogma, is unjustified, unreasonable and dangerous.

    The author refers to this structure as "theological truth". For me the is little, if anything that I would label as "truth". The word is so loaded towards absolute certainty that if seems to overstep our powers of observation. When we speak of knowledge, we can have levels of confidence. One might call the most demonstrated and consistent ideas "true" but these would never be open to the modifier "theological".

    My suspicion is that the label "theological" means faith-based, which to me means usually non-verifiable or unreasonable. To me this leads to poor foundations or axioms upon which to base further enquiry. But the author does not tell us what kinds of things he is talking about as dogma or how it's "truth" is known.

    • Vasco Gama

      What is (in the Catholic faith, I mean) that is "unjustified, unreasonable and dangerous" (besides your general suspicions)?

      • Conclusions based without against reason, on faith. For example, the idea that our existence in the material universe is a tiny part of human experience compared to the infinite afterlife. This goes against everything we observe other than ancient mythologies.

        To develop this would get into my beliefs and epistemology. This piece was in defence of Catholic the world view. Do you know what these theological truths are and how they are arrived at?

        • Loreen Lee

          There was a posting on Jimmy Atkins (?spelling) site - The secret society or something, that explained that infallible dogma concerned such issues as the divinity of Christ, the Assumption, etc. I took note that these were definitely articles of faith, and thus could be held to be 'infallible' because they were beyond the antinomies of reason as defined by Kant, and were based purely on 'rational' "foundations", exclusive of empirical content. They however, are not like tautologies held to be 'empty of content'. Yet, like tautologies they are held to be 'infallible' and not capable of being either proved or disproved. Unlike tautologies they are not a matter of definition, grammatically, but as this article states are despite this held to be 'definitive'.

        • Vasco Gama

          Brian,

          I did not ask you to agree with my faith (or with me). You said that something in the Catholic faith (may the dogmas or something else) is "unjustified, unreasonable and dangerous".

          Nowhere in the catholic faith it is said (or suggested) to go against reason, or that accept by faith against reason, or anything remotely related (the acceptance of a variety of dogmas is a commandment for those that chose to share this faith, this is not forced upon anyone that doesn’t accept it, and those dogmas refer to mysteries that were largely debated in the Church, and are “imposed” so to speak as they do not refer to simple issues that one can easily recognize). The idea that there is an afterlife (even if it was possible to demonstrate that this was not the case), in any point leads to something that is remotely "unjustified, unreasonable and dangerous", clearly not.

          • If the dogma of Catholicism is always well-reasoned, of what use is this word "faith" to it then?

          • Vasco Gama

            That is a very good point and I can not provide you an answer (not based on guessing and wishful thinking). And I guess that you must ask someone who knows more than me, maybe Brandon can answer you.

            But as far as I know the dogmas are reasonable assumptions (at least I could not find reason not to accept them).

        • stephen ryan

          Mr. Adams what do you have to say about the dangers of atheism that we experienced with state sponsored atheist communism.. Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, The greatest slaughter of mankind was at the hands of people who tried to rid the world of religion.

          • Andre Boillot

            First, I don't think any serious historian would argue that the primary goal of those regimes was to rid the world of religion. Second, perhaps you should first be required to demonstrate how the atheistic elements of these regimes were responsible for the slaughters perpetrated.

          • Vasco Gama

            Good point. If we consider things correctly (but then may be we would require a serious historian to get things in the proper order) it may well be the case that religions are to accountable for those evil deeds.

          • Andre Boillot

            I don't know if it's religions per se.

            When I look at Stalin, I see a fanatic and a Marxist-dogmatist. That Marxism has atheist elements doesn't explain the decisions to slaughter millions of political dissidents.

            Similarly, when I look at the Crusades, I see a Pope acting in flagrant contradiction to what seems to be the core of the Gospel message.

          • Vasco Gama

            Marxism is philosophically antitheist (it is not a marginal conception or a side feature), and Stalin being an atheist that considers the elimination of religion a good thing is no accident or a personal characteristic.

            Popes are no saints and are prone to err (although we might expect that they don’t, but this is no reasonable expectation).

          • Andre Boillot

            "Marxism is philosophically antitheist (it is not a marginal conception or a side feature), and Stalin being an atheist that considers the elimination of religion a good thing is no accident or a personal characteristic."

            I'm not sure Marxism, let alone atheism, calls for the extermination of political dissidents, though I'm happy to be shown otherwise.

          • Randy Gritter

            It is a huge problem though. Can a belief system treat non-adherents well? Christianity is just learning to do that in the last few centuries. I am not that optimistic about atheism. There is no principle in it that prevents the worst forms of abuse.

          • Sqrat

            Why should there be? Atheism is not a set of ethical principles, it is the rejection of a fact claim (the claim that God exists).

          • Randy Gritter

            It is a not a matter of what should be but rather what is reasonable to expect. If there are no ethical principles associated with an ideology then one can expect that human impulses to eliminate opposing ideas will be acted upon. That has led to genocide in the past. Is there any reason future atheist regimes will be different?

          • Sqrat

            A rejection of a particular fact claim is not an ideology, so atheism is not an ideology.

            What is an "atheist regime"? A regime that uses state power to promote atheism?

          • felixcox

            Oh goodness. Look at the "atheist regimes" in scandinavia. Most politicians there are openly atheist, as are the population. They prosper no worse, even better than the United States. Please remove the "atheists are amoral" blinders!

          • Andre Boillot

            "There is no principle in it that prevents the worst forms of abuse."

            Neither is there a principle which calls for such abuse. That's what you get when your only position relates to the existence of god(s).

          • felixcox

            Randy, you speak of atheism as if it's a coherent set of beliefs. That is a common misconception among believers. It simply denotes one who does not subscribe to a religion. Most atheists are humanists, and humanism is not genocidal.

          • Vasco Gama

            Marxism per se doesn't call (in the sense that it is not mandatory) for the extermination of political dissidents, but it justifies these actions in order to achieve a greater good (as they can arbitrarily consider that the ones that disagree may constitute a treat to the wellbeing of others, the working class or whatever, and this type of actions generally are framed under the concept of “class struggle” that theoretically justifies the harassment and eventual extermination of the contra revolutionary).

          • Paul Boillot

            Of course Stalin didn't consider the elimination of religion a good thing.

            The former Georgian Orthodox Catholic Seminarian was well versed in the power of religion to control the masses.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Early_life

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja3dsuZtv3w

          • Vasco Gama

            realy? all this for my enlightement and delight (that is an impressive authority on ?, atheism?, journalism?, science?,
            rethorics?, mass control?, history?, politics?...).
            thanks, I guess.

            Is it really there something you wanted to say?

          • Paul Boillot

            Vasco,

            You're welcome! I'm glad you find him enlightening and delightful, we're in agreement there.

            He is indeed an impressive authority on atheism, journalism, rhetorics, history, politics, and mass control; although I wouldn't go so far as to call him a scientific expert.

            I'm not sure I fully grasp the meaning of your last sentence, the grammar seems a bit off. Are you asking if there's anything I could possibly add to his response to improve it?

            Probably not. The Hitchens says what needs to be said: calling Stalin's regime irreligious does not follow. He came to power in a state whose population had religion in their bones, and he used that fact to the uttmost.

            You might want to read Brian's comment a bit earlier for a look at Harris' take on the subject.
            http://strangenotions.com/catholicism-and-free-thought/#comment-1094001791

            Or maybe look at the "Personality Cult" section of the Stalin wiki page.

            Cheers!

          • Paul Boillot

            I will say that the clip I linked earlier is deficient in on respect: it's not long enough.

            Here's the whole exchange, starting from the original question.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjuS6gkkfp0&feature=player_detailpage#t=6040

            (Of course, the whole debate is worth watching.)

          • stephen ryan

            Mr. Boillot, it is pretty clear from your post you see what you want to see...The important fact, the inconvenient truth, is atheistic governments killed more people than all religious wars combined.

          • Andre Boillot

            The important fact, the inconvenient truth, is atheistic governments killed more people than all religious wars combined.

            If you're naive enough in your view of the role that atheism played in the decisions to exterminate millions, and you restrict the comparison to "religious wars", then yes.

            However, again, I'd refer you to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll

          • stephen ryan

            Like Chis Hitchens, atheists are quick to dodge the fact that their ideology was somehow a factor in the mass murder under atheist regimes. Atheists are beholden to the ideal that they are simply misunderstood warm and fluffy godless animals from which only goodness flows. The truth is dark, violent, hearts lurked in many leaders of atheist regimes who answered to no higher power and were only concerned with with their own totalitarian authority.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Like Chis Hitchens, atheists are quick to dodge the fact that their ideology was somehow a factor in the mass murder under atheist regimes."

            A 'fact' that you've yet to demonstrate, and a 'factor' that I would think religion could just as easily be considered as.

          • stephen ryan

            Dear Dre,
            I did not want to get all "religious" on you but to answer your question about "facts" it all starts with "Fatima". In 1917 a strange event occurred witnessed by over 70,000 people. This was followed by a statement - a prophesy, if you will, that "Russia would error' .. "that nations would be annihilated' Within a matter of years Russia would "error" in the form of Atheist communism which was followed by the fall of many nation into the Soviet Empire -the "Iron Curtain" . My point is I see the wickedness of atheist communism from a religious perspective, you choose to construct arguments that absolves atheism of any root cause of violence. I am pretty sure we will remain far apart on this issue.

          • Andre Boillot

            My point is I see the wickedness of atheist communism from a religious perspective, you choose to construct arguments that absolves atheism of any root cause of violence. I am pretty sure we will remain far apart on this issue.

            I suppose that -- until you demonstrate how a lack of belief in god(s) caused the Holocaust (itself fueled by religious hatred of the Jews) and/or the slaughters of communist regimes -- yes we will remain far apart on this issue. Further, you would have to explain why, if atheism is to be considered a significant explanatory factor, the same does not hold of every atrocity committed by nations associated with religions.

            PS. Just messing with you on 'Dre' vs 'Mr. Boillot', but upvotes for using the latter :)

          • stephen ryan

            Took everything I had not to call you Dr. Dre. and yes I knew you were messing with me.
            But you do bring up something that is very important and I chose not to go there (the whole hitler internet theory i.e. all internet arguments end with that) What you bring up is the great lie and deceit that hitler was religious. He was a godless racist. He thought Jews were a stain on the Aryan race. But I am resigned to the inexorable revisionist history on this and I made a decision long ago not to tangle with this one..

          • Andre Boillot

            "What you bring up is the great lie and deceit that hitler was religious."

            I never claimed that Hitler was religious. I claimed that the Holocaust was fueled by religious hatred of the Jews. It's fairly clear that Hitler was not religious in private - though that did not stop him from pretending to be Christian in public and publicly attacking atheist groups (though the latter is likely in an attempt to guard against communist elements).

          • stephen ryan

            I don't disagree with your points .Though importantly it was the heart of a godless racist that was behind the atrocities and made it happen.

          • Andre Boillot

            A "godless racist", who managed to convince a lot of Catholics and Christians to slaughter Jews and other minorities by the millions. So, even assuming that your characterization is all their was to explain Hitler, what's the defining characteristic? Is it the godless part, or the racist part?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Atheists are beholden to the ideal that they are simply misunderstood
            warm and fluffy godless animals from which only goodness flows"

            That is a five-yard penalty.

          • Paul Boillot

            Repeat second down?

          • Ben Posin

            The "atheism was responsible for Stalin/Lenin/atrocities" argument isn't very persuasive to me. I think Sam Harris put it best:

            "People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."

            I agree with him. When people (like me) promote atheism, we tend not to be promoting it as something good in and of itself, but instead we are promoting thinking reasonably, and arguing that reasonable thinking leads to the rejection of religious claims. To paraphrase Harris, the problem with Russia under Stalin was not that people were going around saying "hey, is there sufficient evidence to justify our world view and actions?" It's that they bought into an ideology that did not brook questinoing or disobedience, in essence a secular religion.

            The real dividing line is not belief in god vs. belief in no god. I'm having a hard time thinking of a perfect pithy replacement, but it's something like faith v. evidence/reason. It's possible for someone to fall on the dangerous side of that line and still believe there is no god, perhaps as an article of faith!

            So no, the lack of a belief in God wasn't the problem.

          • stephen ryan

            What if there is 'evidence' of faith?
            As I said in another post a great "wonder", a miracle occurred that was witnessed by 70,000 people in Portugal. The event is know as Fatima. The Catholic church, without reservation, says a miracle occurred that was followed by a prophesy that said Russia would "error" ...I am a wealth advisor by profession. I worked on Wall st. I am a professional skeptic. CEO's lie about the how great there company's prospects are. I don't take things at face value. My point is a have drilled down into Fatima and what happened is spectacularly persuasive and i encourage those who are away from God to investigate Fatima. I would love to hear your thoughts. But please spare me the Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich analogies.
            My overall point is applying reason to faith one can find evidence that faith is the truth.

          • David Nickol

            My point is a have drilled down into Fatima and what happened is spectacularly persuasive and i encourage those who are away from God to investigate Fatima.

            Well, it is clear that something happened at Fatima, but it is not clear what. I don't see anything in press photographs, of which there appear to be many (although not of great quality). Not all people present reported seeing anything unusual, and there were different accounts from those who did see something, indicating that not everyone saw the same thing. Observers of the sun (for example, astronomers) who were not at the site of the alleged miracle saw nothing out of the ordinary about the sun. The only conclusion is that the sun did not "spin in the sky" or do any of the things witnesses claimed, since if the sun actually spins in the sky, everyone looking at it at the same time, no matter how far apart they are, should see the same thing. So the alleged miracle was a local phenomenon, and as I noted, even some believers present saw nothing out of the ordinary.

            A distinction is made between an apparition and a vision. Let's assume for the moment that both are supernatural events. If the Mary appears to someone, she is there. If someone has a vision of Mary, she is seen, but not actually present. Again, assuming the miraculous, a person who has a vision is given that vision directly. Mary is "visiting" the person having the vision by causing the person to perceive her "through the mind's eye."

            It would seem that the alleged miracle of the sun, if miraculous, was more in the nature of a vision. If the sun had actually done something unusual, all present would have seen it, and all observing the sun from other locations would have seen it.

            So the question really is not so much what happened to the sun—nothing—but what happened to people's perception of the sun. Were some people miraculously caused to have something comparable to a vision? Did people in their religious fervor and excitement look directly into the sun, which would result in rather dramatic visual effects (don't try it!)?

            As unexplained phenomena go, this is one of the more intriguing, but I it is far from conclusive. And I am not sure what it has to do with dogma.

          • Andre Boillot

            David,

            But who in 1917 could have predicted that Russia was headed for trouble?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Revolution_(1905)

          • felixcox

            LOL!
            Yeah, things were looking pretty stable until right then. Only a certified prophet could have foreseen bad things comin'.

          • stephen ryan

            I think what needs to be understood is that something DID happen. Again using my background as a stockbroker there is something called the "wisdom of markets" In aggregate the crowd saw the sun spin (or whatever you want to call it) . This is an enormously well documented event. The evidence is overwhelming. Of course this was not a physical occurrence that would be seen by all the world. But at Fatima for those present it seemed that for a moment the physical world stepped into the spiritual world. Simplistic dismissals or speculations of the events that had thousands of eye witnesses is something nonbelievers need to get away from. It is as if a non-believer was speaking with one of the eye witnesses who is telling the atheist what they saw and the atheist says "No, that is not what happened, let me explain to you what happened" This kind of argument is very frustrating. I am using my reason and logic to understand Fatima and the Atheist dismisses the facts because they are attached to there "faith" that God does not exist.

          • Andre Boillot

            "This is an enormously well documented event. The evidence is overwhelming."

            Which makes me wonder why all the appeals to your stock-broker background, and not to, you know, all the overwhelming evidence and documents.

            "Simplistic dismissals or speculations of the events that had thousands of eye witnesses is something nonbelievers need to get away from."

            A few points (in no particular order of importance):

            1) thousands who had gathered expecting a miracle to be performed (how many accounts of mass miracles do we have from unsuspecting/unbiased witnesses?)

            2) most of these accounts seem to come from just one source (De Marchi), interviewing people 25-30 years after the event

            3) many of these accounts differ from each other.

            So please, let's not pretend like it's unreasonable to suspect decades old accounts from a few sources concerning differing accounts from a crowd of observers who self-selected to be there anticipating a miracle.

          • stephen ryan

            Point one..Many of the witnesses were journalists from a well known atheist/socialist newspaper. There were dozens of unbiased witnesses..
            Point two..this is barely worth responding to but there were many stories about the events the next day in a number of newspapers. The Catholic church is famously careful and meticulous when it comes to claiming an event to be supernatural or 'worthy of belief" The Church understands what happened at fatima better than you do with all due respect,
            Point three "many accounts differ from each other" I think it is fair to say that any event that has multiple witnesses will result in diferent descriptions. Furthermore, they all said something happened. Something DID happen

          • Andre Boillot

            Point one..Many of the witnesses were journalists from a well known atheist/socialist newspaper. There were dozens of unbiased witnesses..

            By all means, point to these documents instead of alluding to them.

            Point two..this is barely worth responding to but there were many stories about the events the next day in a number of newspapers.

            Why is it not worth pointing out that so many of these accounts come from a biased reporter, who's interviewing people 25 years after the fact, who were themselves predisposed to believe there would be a miracle that day?

            The Catholic church is famously careful and meticulous when it comes to claiming an event to be supernatural or 'worthy of belief"

            Also famously careful and meticulous to not *require* belief in any of these events, lest they be disproved and weaken the faith. Heads-I-win-tails-you-lose.

            Furthermore, they all said something happened.

            *All*? That's pretty strong phrasing. There was *nobody* that saw nothing?

            Again, it would be nice to be pointed to some sources other than De Marchi. I hear the event was enormously well documented, so it shouldn't be too hard.

          • felixcox

            Please read a little psychology before these sweeping declarations. As I noted in other posts (and many others have noted elsewhere), there are thousands of comparable "witnesses" to miracles in India- but because they're hindu, you're not likely to swallow it hook-line-and-sinker the way you do with catholic miracles. Seems you are appropriately skeptical of all other claims but catholic ones. Oh well, nothing new here.

          • WhiteRock

            I would like to point out Felix, for something to be declared miraculous by the Church requires months, years or even decades of investigation. A perfect example of claims being made but no support from the Vatican of supposed miraculous visions right now is Medjugorje. Some Catholics may choose to believe in what has been claimed to go on there, but without proper evidence (and a lot of suspicious activity from merchants in the area...) many of us are not convinced, and neither is the Vatican. So I hope you don't think that something "out of the ordinary" simply has to be claimed for Catholics or the Church to believe it, because you would be mistaken.

          • David Nickol

            I think what needs to be understood is that something DID happen.

            It would be difficult to deny that something happened. I certainly don't deny it. Something quite unusual happened. The question is whether it was miraculous, and if so, exactly what it means.

            Simplistic dismissals or speculations of the events that had thousands of eye witnesses is something nonbelievers need to get away from.

            I think it has to be acknowledged that nothing happened to the sun itself. No one other than some in the crowd at Fatima saw the sun do anything unusual, and even some eyewitnesses in the crowd did not see anything unusual. There seem to be only two possibilities. One, something really did happen to the sun itself, and everybody who was not at Fatima (and some who were) were prevented from seeing it. Two, nothing happened to the sun, but some in the crowd at Fatima experienced something subjectively that nobody else did. One possibility is that God caused them to perceive the sun doing something that it was not actually doing—he granted some (but not all) there a kind of vision. Another is that there was some sort of natural phenomenon involving sunlight. Still another is that there was some kind of "mass hysteria." Very strange things do happen that seem impossible or "miraculous" that either have "locigal" explanations or forever remain unexplained. One might imagine that a crowd of 70,000 believers who turn out on a rainy day hoping to witness an appearance of the Virgin Mary would be predisposed to believe they were witnessing something miraculous.

            I have no idea whether something supernatural occurred that caused people to see "the miracle of the sun," but it is not difficult to find accounts of mass hysteria that demonstrate that very bizarre and sometimes inexplicable events occur that are witnessed by large numbers of people.

          • stephen ryan

            Thank you David for your thoughtful response. But again this easy dismissal of the supernatural due to "mass hysteria" numbs the mind, The Fatima facts are more complicated, more documented, more researched, The events went on for six months. The "event" was witnessed by hundreds if not thousands of doubters, Then the prophesy of Russia. I have not just chosen to believe but to apply reason, to deeply understand the facts - apply logic. I have come to my own conclusion. Please understand the an internet quip or snarky blurb about Fatima does not change the reality of what happened. Look it up or read my book. "The Madonna Files"

          • David Nickol

            But again this easy dismissal of the supernatural due to "mass hysteria" numbs the mind

            I was not writing about all of the events surrounding Fatima but only about the "miracle of the sun." I also did not dismiss the "miracle of the sun" as mass hysteria. I said that was one possible explanation.

          • Ben Posin

            If the evidence points to God, then it's reasonable to believe in God. That's not blindly believing in ideology without regard for whether one's beliefs are reasonable, it's the opposite. My point above is that beliefs aren't free floating things that are good or bad to have outside of any context (for example, the belief that there is no God), but that it's the source of this belief, and the willingness to test a belief, that is what really matters.
            David Nickol below goes into some of the reasons why the Fatima event has not been considered persuasive evidence of a God by many atheists who have looked into it.

          • WhiteRock

            "Believing" (faith) and "knowing" (evidence) are indeed different things, but the perspective that many atheists have is that faith is sub-rational and/or that it has no value next to mighty reason/evidence. However, to the Catholic, to have authentic faith means to have reasoned to it. I'm in no way de-valuing the importance of "knowing", so please do not misunderstand me. They are different, indeed, but one is not "lower" than another, nor are they at odds. Catholic tradition explicitly states that authentic faith is *not* faith that has sacrificed the intellect. Authentic faith *requires* the intellect.

            So, forgive me for going on a slight tangent from the main article, but it's one of those things that really must be put to bed if our two thought-camps are going to discuss matters of religion accurately. Faith v. reason is not "v." at all. It's faith & reason.

            Thanks for your post & I'm looking forward to your reply! :)

          • Ben Posin

            Whiterock,

            The problem for me is that I don't see how you've put this to bed, other than authoritatively stating that no conflict exists. I'm afraid I do not see faith and reason as complements, and do see reason as having the better track record. To the extent that Catholic tradition states otherwise, I don't agree with Catholic tradition.

            How does one reason to faith? If one can reason to a position, based on the evidence, where is the faith involved?

          • WhiteRock

            Mr. Posin,

            Whenever I hear that someone thinks faith and reason are incompatible, upon further digging, I find that there is a strong misunderstanding of what faith is.
            Before moving forward, could you tell me what you think faith is and I can go from there.

            To jump ahead a little bit, one reasons to faith when reason has reached it's limits (and it does) and your reasoning has made way for something that you can't base on principle. I really enjoy Fr. Barron's metaphor of "getting to know someone" as a perfect example of this, but I'll get into that after your response!

          • Ben Posin

            WhiteRock,

            From where I sit, faith is belief stronger than that warranted by the evidence (note that I'm not saying that faith means there is NO evidence for a belief). So hopefully now we're at the part where you can tell me how I'm misunderstanding faith, and how faith and reason complement each other.

            But fair warning: your mention of a "getting to know someone" analogy is setting off alarm bells. If this is going to involve metaphors about the "faith" I have in my wife or family or friends, and how that is similar to the faith one learns to have in God or religion, I am going to heave a heavy sigh.

          • Vasco Gama

            Faith is a belief that one assumes to be justified (it doesn't have to be weaker or stronger than anything).

            Just to use a metaphor is like believing that in fact E=mc2, just because your teacher told you so, maybe he explained to you that that expression was proposed by Einstein to substatiate his point. Every one of us regards this to be true by faith (in the teacher, in Einstein, in the proficiency of physics, ... ). Even if it is possible for us to look for the reasons that leaded Einstein to propose that relation, we, as a rule, find it reasonable to accept it on faith, and this seems quite rational and it is rational for us to accept the authority of the teacher (regardless of his personal or scientific competences), and of Einstein, ...). And we take it on faith (nothing else), as we take a large number of concepts (ideas, values, ...) on our daily life. Faith constitutes an important part of our everyday life and life would very complicated if we found reasonable not to rely on faith.

            There is nothing peculiar (or metaphysical) about faith (in spite of some popular misconceptions about it).

          • Ben Posin

            I can't really disagree with this strongly enough. I don't have faith in physics in the way one might have fiath in religious dogma; I have a reasonable level of trust in established physics findings because they have been confirmed by experiment, and because they produce observable output. GPS wouldn't work if Einstein's theories were incorrect; these computers wouldn't work if physics as we understood it didn't work (or if our current understanding was not at least an adequate model or approximation of how things worked).

            Whether intentionally or not, your argument amounts to a word game. The "faith" the average person displays in their daily life ("faith" in the prescriptions of doctors, the findings of physics, the reliability of family, etc.) is NOT the same "faith" that theists have in God. For the purposes of this conversation there's a pretty obvious distinction between trust based on experience, and faith that goes beyond experience or evidence. Equivocation of the two just gums up the gears of this discussion.

          • Paul Boillot

            Hear hear!

            You could, at least in principle, re-create every experiment which has ever lead to a consensus view of the world, and find out for yourself it that consensus is right.

            There's no experiement I can recreate to figure out of god(s) created the universe, exist, or if their name(s) is Shiva.

          • Vasco Gama

            We have different types of believes (knowledge that we think are true), one knows that he has a right foot or knows that one’s brother exist. We just know that. But we know also that there is country called Japan, which has a capital that is Tokyo, and that took part in the WW2, and was bombed by the US. We just know that to be true, even if we were not there, and that is in a different level of knowledge.

            If someone is married to a woman and trusts that she loves him, as she is gentle and caring (and feels comfort in that presumption), is that rational. I think so, unless she gives cause for one to be suspicious. Does anyone fells that it is rational to question if that love exists, if it is just an illusion.

            Of course religious faith is different indeed, does it make it less rational, I don’t think so. Neither of us can be proven to be wrong (in spite of probably being wrong on something).

          • felixcox

            "of course religios faith is different indeed, does it [sic] make it less rational"
            OK, if you believe your words, then you believe islam is a reasonable belief system, or mormonism, etc.
            I guess you are a unitarian?
            It's difficult to singularly judge religious faith because the phrase encompasses many many things, about which many people disagree.
            Most of the non-believers stick to criticizing the particular beliefs of the religious, such as completely unprovable claims about the life of Jesus.
            I'll give you an example of a dogma that is impossible to prove, yet the faithful still say it's reasonable to assert it- that Jesus was a perfect man who never sinned. Absolutely impossible to prove; even if Jesus was an adult right now, we'd have no way of knowing if his thoughts were 'perfect.' That's an unreasonable proposition, yet christians cling to it.

          • Vasco Gama

            I don't know Islam well enough to say that it is not a reasonable belief system. The same for mormonism or unitarism. But as a principle I would consider them rational, however I would question the validity of their basic assumptions (but not the lack of rationality).

            You are completely wrong in what respects to Jesus not being perfect and never have comited sins. Jesus is God (and is perfect and without sin). Besides I know that I am not able to prove it (however since you don't believe in God it is quite irrelevant).

          • felixcox

            I know you can't prove Jesus was perfect. Absolutely impossible to prove. That's the unreasonableness we're talking about.

            As to non-christian religions, how can you simultaneously question the validity of their assumptions while stating they are rational? Can an invalid assumption be rational? If so, can you show me?

          • Vasco Gama

            That is not unreasonable at all if Jesus is God (as Catholics claim), by definition He is perfect and without sin (you may even consider Jesus to be above the definition of perfection and holiness, if you can understand what I say, which, at this point, I sincerely doubt).

            An invalid assumption is an error. It has nothing to do with rationality.

            As an example some people claim that “Jesus was not God”. This is not irrational it is an error (not the same thing).

            Atheism is not irrational per se. But it is an error (not the same thing).

          • felixcox

            Incoherent reasoning would be insisting that a man is perfect, even though there is no way to verify it . And that's the unreasonable assertion upon which Catholicism rests. You can keep repeating "jesus was perfect" until you are blue in the face, but that won't make it a reasonable proposition. It's inherently unreasonable, since it's absolutely unprovable and flies in the face of absolutely everything we've seen and learned about humans. You demonstrate circularity by claiming that jesus was perfect because he's god; he's a god, therefore he's perfect.
            Thanks for your responses.

          • Mikegalanx

            As I've said elsewhere, i tend to disagree with my fellow atheists on this- I believe that to some extent the atrocities committed under communism were at least partly justified by the atheism that is a tenet of Marxism. If History is your only judge, you don't have to worry about what you are doing now. It's all for the greater good.

            Though we have to be very careful about our distinctions here; especially between wars and civil massacres and executions; and the reasons for them.

            The greatest 'mass dying ' in total numbers caused by humans was the Great Leap Forward, with up to 30 million deaths. The point of this, though, was not to murder Chinese; it was to improve their lives and make them healthier and wealthier. Unfortunately it was an incredibly stupid idea (which the Soviet Union warned against), with backyard steel furnaces and other crazy ideas implemented everywhere. For example Mao said "we must plant more wheat" so fanatic cadres insisted Tibetans stop planting barley and plant wheat instead- which doesn't grow at Tibetan altitudes.

            Crazy policies and a dictatorial cult which refused to pay attention- hardly the fault of atheism.

            Unless you'll agree that the Irish Potato Famine was the fault of Christianity.

          • Andre Boillot

            "If History is your only judge, you don't have to worry about what you are doing now. It's all for the greater good."

            Except for that there's nothing inherently atheist about this mentality. Not only that, but swapping out 'History' for 'God' is just as problematic. I think the best you could say is that, in societies conditioned to believe that morality comes only from god, that removing god from the equation is the equivalent of taking the safety off a gun. However, that's not the same as saying it's the reason the gun was fired.

          • Paul Boillot

            "Chris" is spelled with an "r," and the dead gentleman just seanced with me to let you know that he prefers his actual full name, "Christopher."

          • felixcox

            You are arguing from tribalism, not reason. You just want to say "religion is great and atheism is evil," so you ignore all the posts that point out the flaws of your logic (like repeating that atheism is an ideology...). That would make you a troll. How unpleasant.

          • felixcox

            There are atheists rulers in scandinavia today, and they are doing just fine- no mass murder.
            I understand it's important for you to show how naughty atheism is, so I'm sure you'll just ignore this inconvient fact, but that's beneath the aspirations of this website.

          • stephen ryan

            Who was that dude who shot up all those kids on that island in Norway, or somewhere up there.

          • felixcox

            You are swinging your sword at windmills. Nobody asserted all atheists are good! You claimed atheist regimes are evil. I pointed out ones that are in fact just as good as the one in the USA, and you, like a troll, don't even respond to that. You just attack a straw man. Points for consistency!

          • Mikegalanx

            You mean this guy, Anders Breivik?

            "In 2009, he wrote "Today's Protestant church is a joke. Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like minimalist shopping centres. I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic."[187]
            On his Facebook profile, Breivik described himself as a Christian,
            though he is critical of the Catholic and Protestant churches, objecting to their "current suicidal path".[citation needed] Before the attacks, he stated an intention to attend Frogner Church in a final "Martyr's mass"."

          • stephen ryan

            yes that's the guy..Is your point only Christians engage in mass murder? Perhaps Christians go postal at a higher rate than atheists but you all have a heck of a track record killing people on an institutional scale (Lenin, Stalin Mao, etc)

          • Mikegalanx

            No,my point is that you were implying that Scandinavian atheism led to mass murders,when the actual mass murderer was not only a Christian (albeit a not particularly orthodox one) but also cited Christianity as one of his reasons.

          • felixcox

            depends on how you define religion. Stalin certainly enacted something like a godless state-religion. Nothing about not believing in gods entails mass murder.

          • Vasco Gama

            What exactly is that is dependent upon the definition of religion?

            If I understand that you are trying to suggest, it is completely preposterous, if you are considering that the communist regime of URSS can be considered religion (or religious, or being in any way remotely related with religion apart from the real persecution of religion that took place during that regime) is a complete non sense. But if that strange notion gives you any kind of comfort, please be my guest. But understand that the idea can hardly be taken seriously by anyone Trying to twist history in a way that conforms to our ideas (or in order to support our understanding of reality) may seem convenient, but is not honest and has no credibility.

            But I agree with you when you say “Nothing about not believing in gods entails mass murder.” You are right, in principle it shouldn’t. But as a general rule states that intend to suppress religion by force tend to find reasonable the systematic suppression of those that do not share their views. But it may be just a coincidence.

          • felixcox

            I'm sorry you haven't given this thought. I'll try to get your gears turning. Please define religion. Then ask ten other catholics to define religion. If the results are all the same, I'll give you a shiny penny. I'm pretty sure that they will not be the same definition. That's my point. I'm sorry you didn't get it. I simply introduced nuance where you didn't want any of it.
            I agree that states that systematically suppress religion tend to commit mass murder. That has nothing to do with asserting that atheist regimes will necessarily lead to genocide (as I said, see scandinavia for a present day example of peaceful, godless regimes).
            Have you read about stalinist russia? do you disagree that he enacted an extremely dogmatic regime (yes, godless, but extremely dogmatic) that could stand absolutely no intellectual challenge? They had all the answers. If you see no parallels (note I did not say "equivalence") with god-centric religions, then you have not read very much history. I explicitly said stalinism was quasi-religious. That's different from saying it's religious. Do you know what the word "quasi" means? Please read carefully before responding. A little nuance goes a long way.

          • Vasco Gama

            When we speak about religion we know what we are talking about, it may well be that religions are quite different from one another. I understand that you are trying to make a gross generalization of the term in order to include what you arbitrarily may see as a religion (but to me and to people that know what religion is about it makes no sense).

            The Scandinavian countries are not atheist regimes they are secular, just as the rest of western countries, at most in their population there are more atheists than in the other countries (but that is it). The notion of an atheist regime is a regime that doesn’t admit and persecutes religion and religious people, it makes no sense, unless we are referring to tyrannies (such as communist regimes).

            You speak of “Stalinist Russia” as if it was a “personal regime”, but this is not the case it was a political regime, where the first leader was Lenin that was followed by Stalin, and when this died was replaced by Khrushchev, … . This regime was a totalitarian political regime where a proletariat's dictatorship was devised to defend the workers from contra revolutionary forces (and these forces revolutionaries were “arbitrarily” defined by the regime in order to encompass all those who didn’t frame into the regime concepts, such as dissidents, …). In spite of the brutality of the regime under Lenin and Stalin, and that things soften with Khrushchev the rules didn’t change.

            As I said you can see this as if Stalin "enacted something like a godless religion", it is an allegory that you use to characterize the situation (this is not supposed to be realistic). You can say that it is a little nuance (but it is offensive to religious people).

          • felixcox

            Yes, you got offended for no reason, as do many of your cohorts. If your skin is this thin, perhaps you should stay away from boards that encourage rational discussions about controversial topics. Christians here, even on this thread, routinely call atheism an ideology. It's not, and were we as thin-skinned as you, we'd whine about it in your fashion. Instead, we simply correct the record and move on.
            You condescend to proclaim that YOU know what religion is about, implying that I don't. Well, that's small-minded of you. I was raised religious and remained devout until my early twenties. I've read lots over the years and I'm every bit as qualified as you to talk about religion.

            And yes, there was a soviet regime. But it's also true that Stalin's reign was a cult of personality. The two statements are not mutually exclusive. Sorry you missed that!

          • Vasco Gama

            I didn't feel offended, however someone might. And I am not saying you don't know what religion is (or that you know, or anything for that matter). The fact that I didn’t feel offended, is only due to the fact that I expect you be like that (it is not that I am behaving as Catholic in what concerns to insults, there is no charity in this case). You have the right to be rude and disrespectful (but only to a point, please behave, and if you are unable to do so then don’t address to me, and I will ignore you, if that is what you want). My claim was only that the reality of communism (where Stalinism is used to describe the way things were in URSS, and not to address any specific theology, ideology or political regime) is not so simple and straightforward as you pretend and the simplistic approach you used is a mischaracterization of reality.

          • felixcox

            first you said "that's offensive," and now you say you weren't offended. Then don't bother responding with "that's offensive." It is irrelevant that someone somewhere might get offended. Stick to the points.

            You've got problems if you take it as rude and disrespectful that people commonly refer to the USSR as a secular religion. As I said, you need to read a bit more broadly to understand the context of such comparisons. Again, should I start crying "That's rude," all the times atheism is compared to fundamentalism or is described as an ideology?
            Satalinism is often distinguished from the soviet regime in general because his tenure was particularly murderous, orders of magnitude more so than any other soviet.
            I like how you conveniently exclude scandinavia from the list of atheist regimes since that would undermine your obsession with equating atheism with amorality.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not offended.
            If you think it is reasonable to describe USSR as a secular religion, please do it.
            If it fits into your needs to include scandinavian countries as atheists, no problem.
            I have no obsession in equating atheism with amorality, in fact I don't agree with that assumption and never stated it in way (where did you got that from?)

          • stephen ryan

            Mr. Boillot,

            Please check your history books. Vladimir Lenin specifically attacked Christianity. He killed thousands of priests and destroyed countless Orthodox churches or converted them into bureaucratic offices . Destroying Christianity was a significant objective of Lenin. I think it is important to understand and accept the reality that Communist china and Russia were "State sponsored" atheist governments. Religion was illegal, The fact remains these governments were responsible for the greatest mass murder and violence against humanity in history. I think it is important for all atheists to meditate on that fact

          • Andre Boillot

            Only my friends call me "Mr. Boillot", for complete strangers like you, it's "Dre".

            Please check your history books. Vladimir Lenin specifically attacked Christianity.

            My point was that, while they all featured anti-religious aspects, those regimes were primarily concerned with power. Lenin was revolting against capitalism and an imperial establishment with deep ties to the Orthodox church.

            The fact remains these governments were responsible for the greatest mass murder and violence against humanity in history. I think it is important for all atheists to meditate on that fact.

            Yes, though I would argue this has more to do with the technological / industrial / population aspects of the 20th century. I invite you to reflect on the outcomes of other conflicts in history, if given modern weapons and similarly large concentrations of people.

            For example, try sorting these conflicts by 'Percentage of the world population': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll

          • felixcox

            Serious question here- Stephen, are you unfamiliar with atheists response to these charges? If not, you really should read more because this type of exchange is VERY common on any such forum.
            If you are familiar with it, assuming you are a thoughtful person arguing in good faith, you would make yourself look a little more serious if you addressed such refutations instead of starting back at zero...

          • I say there is nothing in the absence of a belief in any gods that leads to any of the atrocities you reference. This is a pretty tired old correlation without causation.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          An example of the Catholic world view can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm).

          These theological truths have been arrived at by the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church comparing every sort of world-view statement over 2000 years to the Deposit of Faith (everything God has revealed in Christ) and saying "This is consistent with that" or "This is not consistent with that."

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You make the point that belief in "our existence in the material universe is a tiny part of human experience compared to the infinite afterlife" is "dangerous because it can lead to harmful behaviour here justified by eternal rewards such as suicide bombing and wars in the Middle East."

          Any statement taken out of context and isolated from everything else can lead to harmful behavior.

          Since Catholics believe it is mortally sinful to act as to directly harm innocent persons, that dogma would cancel out the danger you think believing in eternal life entails.

          • Right, this would be a general concern with a number of religious viewpoints that use unreasonable theological truths in the face of reasonable logical conclusions.

            Certainly Catholicism did not shy away from violence in the past. These days my concerns with the church is a general abdication of reason and the resulting positions on abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and birth control.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Brian, the prohibition of directly harming innocent persons does not mean you cannot use violence to defend yourself or another innocent person. This is the basis of just war theory. It is reasonable to argue that the Crusades were a reasonable response to 400 years of attacks on Christendom by Islam.

            I'm actually amazed that you think the Church's positions on abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and contraception are not based on reason. They are eminently based on reason. They are natural law positions, which is right reason reading what is really good or bad for human beings.

          • josh

            "I'm actually amazed that you think the Church's positions on abortion,
            homosexuality, euthanasia, and contraception are not based on reason."

            How many people have to tell you that these aren't reasonable positions before you will stop being amazed?

          • Andre Boillot

            josh,

            we can argue that their premises are flawed (and I would on most of them), but for the most part, the Church's position on those issues is fairly reasonable.

          • josh

            I think having reasonable premises is part of being reasonable! Also, that it is unreasonable to draw a conclusion from dubious premises, even if one thinks those possible premises are 'reasonable' in some sense. But, I also don't think the Church reasons particularly well even starting from certain assumptions, so I guess I'm going to disagree pretty thoroughly.

            Take contraception: this is clearly a position that comes from the Church's longstanding fear of sex, misogyny, and repudiation of 'worldly' pleasure. (Inherited from Judaism and other local cultures of the time). That's not a reasonable position to start with, but even based on that the Church has to contort itself to allow married couples to have sex, including the rhythm method, but somehow keep contraceptives out because that has become part of the accepted doctrine.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Josh, this is a perfect example of false premises + sound reasoning = wildly wrong conclusions.

            Your idea of the premises of Catholic sexual morality are completely wrong.

          • josh

            I didn't say I was stating the official Catholic premises, merely outlining where the Church's position comes from historically. The current attempts to justify it are post hoc rationalizations in my not-so-humble opinion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In the Thomistic synthesis (which stands about in the middle of the history of Catholicism, and so what it synthesizes must have existed earlier, else Thomas could not have had anything to synthesize), all pleasurable good fall under the virtue of temperance, which is regulating pleasure according to right reason.

            Temperance, if it is working correctly, tells one when it is right to take the action which will lead to the pleasure and when one should not so act.

            Thus, there is no "fear" whatever of pleasure, only the aim of experiencing the pleasure at the right time, in the right place, in the right circumstances, with the right person, etc.

          • josh

            That's one of the more fearful descriptions of pleasure I've ever read.

            But of course there is nothing unique in Catholicism about the idea that some pleasures should be offset by other concerns, be they ethical or practical. This says nothing about the Catholic fear that sex outside of a narrowly prescribed window is one of the 'bad' pleasures.

            Jesus supposedly said that looking at a woman with lust was the same as adultery. And the Biblical punishment for adultery is death. You don't think there is any fear there? Or look at the idea that one should 'become a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven' if possible. Or the 144000 male virgins who will be saved during the apocalypse.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not pleasure that moral persons fear, it is bad acts.

            Have you ever read in the Gospel when Christ saved the woman caught in adultery from being stoned?

          • felixcox

            Can you elaborate on what you mean by the church holding reasonable positions built on flawed premises?
            [oops i just saw josh respond to the same, nevermind]

          • Andre Boillot

            For example, if life - and here I mean the how the RCC would define it - begins at conception, then their position on abortion is reasonable.

          • felixcox

            I agree with you vis-a-vis abortion. The RCC position on contraception, however, is unreasonable. I get your point though, thanks.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Josh, because I know something about the reasoning behind these claims and the reasoning put forward against them, I have a basis for being amazed that I can understand you but you (for some reason) can't understand me.

          • josh

            Since I, and many other critics, also know something about the 'reasoning' behind these claims, and have explained the problems in detail, how can you be amazed at the claim that they aren't reasonable?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've been following SN since June and I have not yet seen these reasonable and detailed reasons.

          • josh

            You just said you've seen the reasoning put forward against them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't mean on SN. I meant in the culture at large. Sorry.

          • josh

            "Since Catholics believe it is mortally sinful to act as to directly harm
            innocent persons, that dogma would cancel out the danger you think
            believing in eternal life entails."

            Well, we know from history that this isn't true. You just have to believe that harm in this life is outweighed by 'higher' concerns about the afterlife. Or you define 'innocent' people in an arbitrarily narrow way. With religion, anything can be justified.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You objections are in serious need of explanation and evidence. I guess you think what you mean is obvious?

            (Without religion, anything can be justified, too.)

          • Andre Boillot

            "(Without religion, anything can be justified, too.)"

            Sure though, crucially, claims of men carry only so much weight and are, by and large, easier to challenge and overturn than claims of god(s) and their prophets.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There was a lot of discussion here (which I ignored because it was wrongheaded) about whether there was any inherent link between atheist political movements, which exterminated and enslaved millions, and atheism.

            Any modern movement, whether it includes belief in God or is atheist, because it has access to so much more power than movements in the past, will be deeply destructive.

            The claims of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot could easily be overturned but that did not stop them in the least. Al Qaeda's religious inspired claims (if they really are religious) can also be easily overturned, but those terrorists don't have the power that a modern state holds, so they can't do nearly as much evil.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Any modern movement, whether it includes belief in God or is atheist, because it has access to so much more power than movements in the past, will be deeply destructive."

            This is a good point.

            "The claims of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot could easily be overturned but that did not stop them in the least..."

            Though one will notice how comparatively brief their holds on society tends to be, when viewed opposite fundamentalist religious movements, for example. Also, I'm not sure if I accept your analysis of fundamentalist power. They are currently ruining the lives of millions of people the world over (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, etc...), especially those of women, and - if we are to believe them - are constantly attempting to gain access to WMDs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you about how dangerous radical Islam is. The Taliban had power in Afghanistan, but because the society is so primitive, and the state so backward, their evil was limited in scope. Imagine how much harm they could do in a highly organized society where they could exercise more unlimited power.

          • Andre Boillot

            I don't know about you, but even if we restrict this analysis to Afghanistan, you're talking about the plight of 15m women there. That's not what I would consider limited in scope - and the backwardness concerning women is not limited either to Afghanistan or Islam.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry. It is definitely evil and I don't want to minimize it.

          • josh

            Your claim was that dogma about harming innocents would cancel out any harmful effects from belief in the afterlife. Consider the conquest and forced conversion of American Indians. Consider the Albigensian Crusade. We know that Christianity didn't prevent slavery historically, or witch-burnings, or persecution of Jews, or any number of wars.
            Maybe this will help:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apologies_made_by_Pope_John_Paul_II

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't know that Catholic missionaries forced Indians to convert.

            In Mexico, the Conquistadors conquered in the name of God (actually, God, gold and glory, not necessarily in that order), but the missionaries won hardly an converts until the apparition of Guadalupe. The Jesuit missionaries of North America were brutally martyred by the Indians, not the other way around.

            Unless you are only interested in scoring points, all those issues need to be taken apart to see what was right and was wrong about them. For example, the Church did all kinds of things to limit warfare during the middle ages. Have you heard of the Peace of God and the Truce of God? To say Christianity did not prevent any number of wars means what? Do you know about Papal mediation in the Beagle conflict?

          • josh

            Have you heard of the Pax Romana? The claim isn't that no one associated with the Church (or any other would be totalitarian order) ever did anything good, it is that the occasional 'good' doctrine hasn't prevented the bad effects of religious belief. To say that Christianity did not prevent any number of wars is to say that there were a large number of wars fought by Christians which Christianity did not prevent, and many in which it played a contributing or dominant role.

            How effective some subset of missionaries were is of course irrelevant. You can't really separate the conversion of Indian populations (and that's just one group) from the conquest and general abuse by the Spanish and other colonizers. We don't need to take apart every abuse in history to acknowledge that some admirable sentiments don't cancel out bad actions. 'All Men are created equal' didn't prevent slavery. 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' didn't prevent injustice in Communist regimes. 'Judge not lest ye be judged' doesn't erase a couple thousand years of Catholic wrongdoing.

            Now you want to argue, perhaps, that Christianity was an improvement on what came before, or a work in progress that hasn't always lived up to its ideals. The same kind of argument can and has been made for American democracy, or the overthrow of Tsarist Russia, etc., etc. It's a very precarious argument with respect to Christianity since there are so many unknowns, but it's an argument you can make. But why choose the best bad system? I don't want a Catholic society and I don't want a Stalinist one. I want to throw out the irrational and dangerous parts in both (and many others). 'Protect the innocent'-that's an idea I can get behind. 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me' -toss that on the rubbish heap of history.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree. Let's reform all evil systems. But how will we judge them, Josh? Based on what? You yourself have said, "Protect the innocent" yet you seem to support abortion and euthanasia in which the innocent are "protected" to death.

            To me, the fundamental is human beings, not systems. The evil in the systems comes from the evil tendencies of human beings.

          • josh

            Great. How do we judge things? That's a long conversation, but surely it starts with discussing what we want out of a system of society or government. Generally speaking, I want people to be happy, but that itself I think requires a commitment to the truth (otherwise you don't know what makes people happy or if they even are).

            People are part of the system, and no doubt not ideal for any design on a 'perfect' society. Although a lot of that has to do with problems that are independent of 'good' or 'bad' tendencies in humans. Disease would still exist, resources would still be limited, foresight would still be flawed, accidents would still happen even with ethically ideal people. But the system we should aim for is one that expects and ameliorates the worst effects of non-ideal people. That's generally why we oppose dictators and dogmatic thinking. People and ideas that can't be questioned, or that are just assumed to be correct are too dangerous. In principle, there could be totally benevolent tyrants or unquestionable dogmas that really do redound to everyone's best interest. But the odds aren't good

            and the potential harm is almost unlimited.

            This is the underlying ethical problem with religion in my view. That is, there are lots of specific problems with Catholicism, or Islam or any other major religion, but people always say 'Well, religion doesn't have to have this specific problem' for some generic idea of religion. But religion in general is defined by its all consuming nature, its self-declared self-importance and its lack of critical evaluation. Once something becomes the 'highest' principle, the fundamental assumption, then anything can be justified and criticism becomes impossible. Given human nature, that seems to inevitably happen. 'Tithe to charity' and 'burn the infidel' are equally justifiable commandments in a religious framework. One will say, 'But I subscribe to the one and not the other', but that's not something I can rely on. Human nature means I can't rely on people to irrationally come to beneficial conclusions, which means I try to discourage the absolutist thinking at the root.

            About 'protect the innocent', that's just a starting point, not a full theory of ethics. I also think we should protect the guilty for example. But, with respect to abortions, one can't elide the word 'person', 'protect innocent people' is a (slightly) fuller statement. An embryo is innocent in the same sense that a tumor is, in that it isn't capable of guilt. Euthanasia is entirely about protecting the right of innocent people to end their lives on their own terms, it's a protection from suffering.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            YOU WROTE
            I want people to be happy, but that itself I think requires a commitment to the truth (otherwise you don't know what makes people happy or if they even are).

            MY RESPONSE
            I totally agree with you. That is the Catholic position.

            YOU WROTE
            The system we should aim for is one that expects and ameliorates the worst effects of non-ideal people.

            MY RESPONSE
            I totally agree with that, too. That is consistent with the Catholic Faith.

            YOU WROTE
            People and ideas that can't be questioned, or that are just assumed to be correct are too dangerous.

            MY RESPONSE
            I'm in total agreement. That is also the Catholic position.

            YOU WROTE
            The underlying ethical problem with religion is . . is defined by its all consuming nature, its self-declared self-importance and its lack of critical evaluation. Once something becomes the 'highest' principle, the fundamental assumption, then anything can be justified and criticism becomes impossible.
            . . . I try to discourage the absolutist thinking at the root.

            MY REPLY
            I think you are really talking about ideology, not religion. The "set" is ideology; one "subset" is some religions. Many religions are not absolutist ideologies and many non-religious systems are absolutist ideologies.

            Can you tell me why you think the Roman Catholic faith is a destructive, absolutist ideology?

            YOU WROTE
            About 'protect the innocent', that's just a starting point, not a
            full theory of ethics.

            MY RESPONSE
            Would you agree that we can use reason to build a full ethical system which is just? That would be the Catholic position, too.

          • josh

            You respond: 'That is the Catholic position'. I can't say I agree with this on all points.

            As discussed above, the Catholic position doesn't start from 'making people happy' but rather from a restriction to 'proper' pleasures and ultimately from an alleged fulfillment of God's purposes. It's a Catholic contention that this will make people happy, but it's not the starting point, and there are certainly many people whom Catholicism has made unhappy.

            The Catholic system doesn't adequately deal with the effects of non-ideal people. As noted, Catholic preaching hasn't prevented a great deal of barbarity done in the Catholic name and/or for Catholic reasons. For a recent example, look at the pedophilia coverup scandal, or abuse of adoption in Spain and Argentina.

            Which brings us back to the idea that people and ideas can't be questioned, which you say Catholicism opposes. What is one to make of papal infallibility and dogma then? The article above assumes one should take Catholic dogmatic statements as foundational. Where is the Catholic who sincerely questions the wisdom of Jesus? If you think you have an absolute source of truth in divine revelation, I fail to see how you are questioning your beliefs. When people claim to have proven not only God, but the authority of the Catholic church by reason I can't see any evidence of non-absolutist thinking.

            I agree that religion is a subset of ideology, and not the only dangerous one. Whether or not we call dogmatic Stalinism a religion is really secondary to the issue of its dangers. But what we call religions are inherently rather absolutist. Homeopathy is a superstition and potentially dangerous, but not a religion because it doesn't claim to be revealing 'ultimate' truth or 'higher' reasoning. Catholicism on the other hand, claims to deal with something so important that all other concerns pale in comparison, to speak with 'magisterial' authority when dictating right action and belief, to subsume every aspect of life under a Catholic understanding, to deal in moral and metaphysical absolutes. Virtually everything about it is absolutist.

            As for destructive, like I said you only have to look at the history of atrocities done for Catholic reasons. Burning heretics, wiping out apostates, etc. The modern Church is improved over its historical self, but this seems mostly the work of extra-Catholic forces of modernity and secularism. Its worst power is broken. But it still does a lot of harm in opposition to abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, contraception, in clashes with other religious groups, infringement on secular rights, conflicts with science and history, and abuses like the scandals mentioned above. Like I said, even if all those were fixed, I wouldn't trust the irrational and absolutist thinking not to eventually lead back to the problems.

            "Would you agree that we can use reason to build a full ethical system which is just?"

            The problem is that one does have to start with some common understanding of what 'ethical' or 'just' should look like. That part, what we desire at base, is arational. But given some goal then, yes, we can try to use reason to build an ethical system that realizes it. (Although you aren't guaranteed to get a fully consistent system.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            YOU WROTE
            The Catholic position doesn't start from 'making people happy' but rather from a restriction to 'proper' pleasures and
            ultimately from an alleged fulfillment of God's purposes. It's ... the starting point.

            MY RESPONSE
            What do you base that on?

            This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says under II. The Desire for Happiness:

            1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it: (27, 1024, 2541)

            "We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated." (Augustine)

            How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. (Augustine)

            God alone satisfies. (Aquinas)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            YOU WROTE
            The Catholic system doesn't adequately deal with the effects of
            non-ideal people.

            MY RESPONSE
            I don't know what you mean by this? Do you mean that Catholics don't behave well? Or do you mean that the Catholic Church doesn't have structures in place to deal with bad behavior by Catholics?

            You cite the pedophilia cover up as an example of a barbarity done in the Catholic name or for Catholic reasons.

            1. There is nothing Catholic about doing that evil or covering that evil up. In no way is pedophilia sanctioned. It is completely evil, despite the fact that people did it and bishops and religious superiors didn't act well in response to learning of it.

            2. If you actually look at the reality, you would see the extraordinary lengths that Catholic institutions that deal with children have gone to protect children. I could spell some of them out if you wish.

          • Andre Boillot

            "yet you seem to support abortion and euthanasia in which the innocent are "protected" to death"

            Let's not muddy the waters by mixing these two topics. I'll assume that by 'euthanasia', we're talking about people making choices for themselves on when to end their lives, and not being forced into something against their will. It's really sloppy to have that in the same category as abortion, were at least you can argue non-consent for one of the parties.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            ANDRE
            By 'euthanasia', we're talking about people making
            choices for themselves on when to end their lives, and not being forced
            into something against their will.

            KEVIN
            Yet legalized euthanasia actually results in all kinds of pressure to kill yourself or have yourself killed.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Yet legalized euthanasia actually results in all kinds of pressure to kill yourself or have yourself killed."

            This would seem like a claim worthy of some better evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You can read the evidence in Chapter 10 of Healing the Culture by Robert Spitzer.

            He gives a talk here in which he summarizes the chapter (talk #15: https://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=6710&pgnu=.

            You can also see a summary of the argument on page 332 of the book if you go to amazon.com and use the look inside feature and use the search engine to go to that page. It is on diagram 14.

          • Andre Boillot

            Let's leave aside the how utterly biased Fr. Spitzer is on this topic, and I'll just mention that I was hoping for more academic evidence.

            I'm 2min into Spitzer's talk and he's already trying to use the 'Remmelink Report' as evidence that Holland practices forced euthanasia, and as evidence that the elderly are no longer protected under the law in countries that allow euthanasia.

            To the claim that the weak and the elderly are not sufficiently protected under the law, here are the safeguards and requirements involved:

            The criteria that enable the defence of necessity to apply are:(139)

            -The request for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide must come only from the patient and must be entirely free and voluntary.

            -The patient's request must be well considered, durable and persistent.

            -The patient must be experiencing intolerable suffering, with no prospect of improvement. The patient need not be suffering from a terminal illness. The suffering need not necessarily be physical suffering.(140)

            -Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide must be a last resort. Other alternatives to alleviate the patient's situation must have been considered and found wanting.

            -Euthanasia must be performed by a physician. The case law establishes that the defence of necessity cannot be invoked in this context by another health care professional (such as a nurse).(141)

            -The physician must consult with an independent physician colleague who has experience in this field.(142)

            As for the charge that euthanasia is being involuntarily forced, here's the conclusions of that report re: cases they term as 'involuntary euthanasia':

            In more than half of these cases the decision had been discussed with the patient or the patient had in a previous phase of his or her illness expressed a wish for euthanasia should suffering become unbearable. In other cases, possibly with a few exceptions, the patients were near to death and clearly suffering grievously, yet verbal contact had become impossible The decision to hasten death was then nearly always taken after consultation with the family, nurses, or one or more colleagues. In most cases the amount of time by which, according to the physician, life had been shortened was a few hours or days only.

            I'm not seeing the pressures you outlined substantiated in this report, and sadly Fr. Sptizer's fears don't strike me as strong evidence. If you have any serious studies outlining your concerns, I'm all ears.

            http://www.chninternational.com/breakdown_on_dutch_euthanasia.htm

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Did you actually listen to Spitzer's talk beyond two minutes or just assume because he's a Catholic priest he is too biased to be objective?

          • Andre Boillot

            Yes, I did. The way he dramatized and the intonation of his speech were just as incriminating as his chosen beliefs and occupation.

            Do you actually read anything about the report he cites, or just trust him to represent its conclusions because he's a Catholic priest?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I read what you cited.

          • Andre Boillot

            In any case, it's the 'death panel' scare tactics that I don't approve of. There are ways of addressing the concerns that are often raised about euthanasia - which it's clear that Holland's system both takes seriously and attempts to deal with. More broadly speaking, there's a great deal the public doesn't understand about end of life care, and it's quite illuminating to look at difference in how doctors would prefer their own deaths handled.

            http://www.radiolab.org/story/262588-bitter-end/
            http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2011/11/30/how-doctors-die/ideas/nexus/
            http://www.wnyc.org/story/265564-doctors-end-life-care/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Andre, due to a bunch of other things (and my mental distractability limit), I can't give this thread the attention it deserves. If you want to pursue this, I'll book mark it and promise to get back to you.

          • Andre Boillot

            "If you want to pursue this, I'll book mark it and promise to get back to you."

            Don't trouble yourself on my account. I'm happy to let your euthanasia claims rest on shaky ground.

            -Enjoy the weekend.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We've only discussed bad consequences of legal euthanasia. We haven't even touched on the actual grounds.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In addition, I want to stop this verbal jousting and point scoring.

            I would prefer that we only try to understand the truth and to acknowledge when the other has made a better point. There are some things you probably see better than me and maybe things I see better than you.

        • Alden Smith

          In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.

          In terms of casualties, religious wars account for only 2% of all people killed by warfare. This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.

          • I am not claiming that wars are caused by religion, I am rejecting the implication that Stalin or Mao's atheism was the cause of their atrocities.

            What I would really like to know, is what the theological truths that Catholics believe are and why one would accept these as a reasonable basis for further thought, instead of a fetter.

          • "What I would really like to know, is what the theological truths that Catholics believe are..."

            This should help.

          • I'm sure it would, but I am not going to read all of that, can you give me just one?

          • Alden Smith

            What other reason would Stalin have for killing 34 Russian Orthodox bishops and 1200 or so Russian Orthodox Priest. Communism and Socialism came out of Atheism.

          • Andre Boillot

            Le sigh...

            1) Atheism merely proposes that there are no god(s).
            2) Communism merely proposes the community ownership of all property, the benefits of which are to be shared by all according to the needs of each.
            3) Socialism merely proposes that major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.
            4) It should be noted that #1 does not cause #2 or #3.
            5) It should be noted that neither #2 or #3 require #1.
            6) It should be noted that both #2 and #3 are quite compatible with religions, including (especially?) Christianity.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_theology
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_socialism

          • Paul Boillot

            "secular dictators in the 20th century alone"

            What other century are you going to point to to find 'secular' dictators?

            In what was is a state secular when it has enforced a cult of personality?

    • Randy Gritter

      There is a difference between disagreeing with a particular dogma and disagreeing with the very notion of dogma. It is the second concept Fr Longenecker is addressing. The idea that joining a faith community and accepting a fairly comprehensive and well-defined faith in its entirety is both rational and intellectually healthy.

      Of course, the faith you accept cannot be irrational in itself. Catholicism is not. It not only claims not to be but has had many highly intelligent adherents that affirm this.

      So if the dogmas are not irrational then the only objection is they are not mine. I would not arrive at them if I had my druthers. That is just God taking you down a road you would not otherwise have traveled. It is an intellectual road. Maybe that makes it harder. If God tells you to move to New York that is OK. If God tells you to be pro-life that might be harder for some. Sometimes it is easier to follow God with our body than out mind.

      • felixcox

        Some of the dogmas (or beliefs) are irrational, whether you admit it or not. Claiming Jesus was perfect and in fact a god is not reasonable when there is nothing to attest to it but ancient hearsay. We know such an assertion is completely groundless because to assert jesus was without sin is to assert that even his thoughts were perfect. Ancient witnesses can offer no such evidence. That's irrational, and that's pretty foundational to chritianity in general, including catholicism.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I tried to respond to your comment fc, but it seems to be all over the place.

          If you want to come up with one irrational dogma of the CC, I'll be happy to try to show you that it is reasonable to believe.

          • felixcox

            I can give you some examples, but I'm warning you that these might not technically be dogma. I just googled "catholic dogma," and the second link (holyjoe.org) had a list of 252 dogmas- my examples come from there.
            "God's nature is incomprehensible to man"
            But then there's a long list of extremely specific beliefs about god's nature, such as "god is absolutely perfect," and "god possesses an infinite power of cognition."

            Forget about my quibbles with each- they are mutually exclusive.

            I could go on and on. There's simply no way anyone could know those these things with absolute certainty. For instance, even if I granted there is a god, how do you know he's THAT smart? Do you administer an IQ test? Or does he just tell you that? And please don't refer me to Aquinas- I've read a fair amount and see how his arguments rest upon unproven assertions.
            I'm not trivializing such beliefs; I used to harbor them. I just took so many assumptions for granted and bought into superficially persuasive rhetorical defenses which don't make sense upon careful introspection. Remember- I'm not asserting catholicism is wrong. I'm simply saying it rests on unreasonable assumptions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've read a good amount of basic philosophy and talked to philosophers and I would not conclude that their field is worthless in knowing the truth about reality. The claim that God is omniscient is as much a philosophical one as a religious dogma.

            In regard to God's intelligence, if he exists, I think one has to conclude that the universe gives evidence of a vastly powerful intelligence, given the way things start out (some forces we know almost nothing about give rise to a few elementary particles which can be combined into all the elements, all the molecules, all the chemicals, all the living organisms, etc.) and the way they exist presently (the incredible intelligence in the genetic code; the way reproduction occurs and living organisms retain their integrity as long as they live).

            If all that comes from the mind of God, then that mind must be as great as or greater than all that.

          • felixcox

            Kevin, I never said philosophy or theology, or ANY field was worthless.
            You did not address the contradiction between declaring that god's nature is beyond human comprehension with specific attributes of god, such as his perfection or infinite intelligence.
            As to his intelligence, even if I grant that he exists and is intelligent, it does not logically follow that he has infinite powers of cognition. More than human does not mean infinite. Such a broad assertion is a good example of an unreasonable assertion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't address *everything*! To read more about omniscience--reasoning by philosophers about omniscience--you can spend some time here if you wish: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/omniscience/

            There is no rational contradiction between knowing something about something (divine attributes) and not knowing everything about something (the divine nature).

          • felixcox

            I'm somewhat familiar with such literature, and again, I submit it's built on faulty premises. the pre-christian plato is just as bad. It's one thing to say, "maybe god is omniscient," it's another to state it categorically WHEN THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY ANYONE COULD TEST THAT.
            Typical theistic leaps in logic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The link is not to Plato. The link is to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You seem to be rejecting the field of philosophy.

          • felixcox

            sorry if I was unclear. I reject arguments that I've seen that try to prove god's existence through natural reason. Obviously that means I reject arguments that claim to tell us something about this god.
            We began our back-n-forth when you challenged me to cite examples of the unreasonableness of dogma- here's one I'll repeat, since you haven't directly addressed it. It's one thing to say, "maybe god is omniscient," it's another to state it categorically WHEN THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY ANYONE COULD TEST THAT.

            I

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God exists, he is that being than which nothing greater can be conceived. If that definition holds, then he must be omniscient, because under the aspect of knowledge, nothing greater can be conceived than all-knowing.

          • felixcox

            You are defining god the way you want. I'm saying you haven't justified defining him that way. Just because we can conceive of omniscience doesn't mean anyone/god possesses that. Just like stinkiness- we can imagine a being of infinite stinkiness. That doesn't mean such a being exists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I suppose you'd need an infinitely big nose for that.

          • felixcox

            Now you are getting at the absurdity of such reasoning. Exactly because we can imagine an infinitely large nose we should now assume god has an infinitely large nose... Just like with intelligence or goodness.
            These are rhetorical exercises that do not at all justify the attributes of god that most catholics (and other christians) take without substantial challenge.
            That's the bed of faulty reasoning that I"m criticizing. You don't help your cause by not addressing it. You actually helped me by showing how silly it is when applied to other attributes. thanks!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Felix, I'm not a philosopher but know a bunch and they would know if they were just picking their own noses rather than doing rigorous philosophical work.

          • felixcox

            Kevin, philosophers are a disparate lot- they do not agree, yet each will assert the correctness of their reasoning. For every philosopher you cite that proves god through natural law, i can cite you another who shows why that's false.
            Just saying "smart guys believe it" will not persuade me. If you have an argument to make, I'll listen...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Would you agree with the statement that "the being than which nothing greater can be conceived" is an adequate definition of God, regardless of whether God actually exists?

          • felixcox

            No. I would not agree with that statement, even if I grant god exists. Because I live in this very imperfect world, I can conceive of a much greater being than the one that left us with this place.

            Also, it may be the case that 'god' is simply much smarter than humans. it doesn't have to be the case that if he exists then he's infinitely smart. that's a logical leap, and therefore, unreasonable.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "I can conceive of a much greater being than the one that left us with this place."

            Then the one you think left us with this place cannot really be God. The greater one is the more true conception.

          • felixcox

            Kevin, I don't understand your thinking. If indeed it could be shown that the universe was designed by a superior being, you would insist that it's not a god? Again, it's flawed logic to assert that if god exists he must necessarily embody the maximum positive attributes anyone can imagine. There's simply no reason why it must be so.

            Anyway, arguing about a detached creator is not as interesting to me as debating the reasonableness of christianity (or any other widely accepted religion).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If indeed it could be shown that the universe was designed by a superior
            being, you would insist that it's not a god? Again, it's flawed logic.

            It could be flawed logic, but it seems to me that if I can conceive of something greater than that limited being, that makes me greater in intelligence then that limited being. So that limited being could not be God, if God really exists.

          • felixcox

            Then a 7 year old is more intelligent than all of us because she can imagine people greater in intelligence. Our expectations don't have to dictate the nature of others.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            But the seven-year-old can't really do that. But she could conceive of a God who is more simple, innocent, and good than we can.

          • felixcox

            Yes, I know several seven year olds with vivid imaginations- they most certainly can imagine beings of superior intelligence. At any rate, it makes no difference. A superior being's essence wouldn't necessarily be bound by our imagination (unless that's really where this supposed beings exist...).

          • Paul Boillot

            In any case, such a definition seems inconsistent with human psychology; it's very nearly meaningless.

            Much as children dare each other, then double dare, then double dog dare...there is nothing of which I can conceive that I cannot conceive, one second later, something greater.

            If you define God as the greatest possible being, I'll just say "nu-uhn, God is your god plus one greatness unit." It's a problem of infinite progress. There is no upper bound on imagination.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure there is. Complete or perfect is the upper bound. A being that know almost everything knows less than one who knows everything.

          • Paul Boillot

            No no, my god knows everything there is to know aaaand he knows what it would be like not to know everything.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Brian, you yourself are asserting theological truths by saying that talk about God is only faith-based, and usually non-verifiable or unreasonable.

      You are asserting that every religious theology is based on propositions which are unjustified, unreasonable, and dangerous.

      Those claims can be tested, so we can have some idea if they are true or not.

      > What is an example of a Catholic claim of truth you find unjustified, unreasonable, and dangerous?

  • Octavo

    Given the fact that most Catholic Dogma has been agreed upon by councils of men, the idea that only Dogma can give proper context and structure to a person's worldview ends up being quite sexist.

    "Even when a person dissents from Church teaching and denies the dogma,
    they are still affirming the necessity for dogma, otherwise what would
    they have to rebel against?"

    This is word salad. Dissenting from an idea does not affirm the necessity of said idea. Rebellion and dissent does not always exist for its own sake, but rather to tear down oppressive power dynamics or to correct falsehood.

    "Without this structure and context, the ‘free thought’ is simply a
    jumble of impressions and emotional reactions, conditioned by a scrap of
    propaganda here, a bit of education there, and a swirl of sentimental
    reactions sparked up by popular culture."

    It sounds like the author is trying to attack emotivism that is backed by a poor education. Trying to paint all non-dogmatic philosophies as the above strawman isn't an impressive or charitable argument.

    ~Jesse Webster

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think the author is saying that the human being needs a comprehensive set of truths.

      The Deposit of Faith is one such set. The person who rejects this explicitly has to be asserting a different set of truths, or at least things he thinks are true.

      I think he means if you don't do that, you do have an emotive jumble of ideas in your head.

      • josh

        I think a list of 'divinely revealed' truths is an emotive jumble.

        • Well, even the best of us think wrongly at time :)

          • josh

            If only Catholics could apply that insight to Jesus Christ :)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Jesse, My wife subscribes to all the propositions these "man-councils" formulated. What does that make her, a "anti-feminine woman"?

      • Octavo

        I don't really want to speculate on the beliefs of someone I don't know. I don't think "anti-feminine woman" is an applicable term, though.

        ~Jesse Webster

    • "Given the fact that most Catholic Dogma has been agreed upon by councils of men, the idea that only Dogma can give proper context and structure to a person's worldview ends up being quite sexist."

      Not only is this a textbook case of the genetic fallacy--judging an idea "sexist" because of where it originated--but it's also demonstrably untrue. In fact, *most* of Catholic dogma has not been agreed upon in councils, but has been divinely revealed through Scripture, Tradition, or the infallible teachings of popes.

      • Octavo

        "...textbook case of the genetic fallacy."

        I'm not saying the beliefs are sexist because they were agreed upon by men. I'm saying that the process of ecumenical church councils staffed solely by men is a sexist process.

        ~Jesse Webster

  • Every club needs rules, and clubs organized around beliefs and practices have to have rules about what members must believe. The president of American Atheists can be a freethinker, but he is not free to think that all Catholic dogma is binding. If he thought that, he wouldn't be allowed to be president of American Atheists. The organizer for an LGBT society better not be a member of NOM at the same time.

    I want freethinkers in the senate, but I don't want senators to be free to think that America is the Great Satan and Sharia Law is a valid alternative legal system, while remaining senators.

    People should be free to believe what they want. But people with certain beliefs should not be free to be part of just any club.

  • gwen

    Once again, another article filed under "anthropology" with no references whatsoever to anthropological work that might provide insight to the topic addressed. Is it possible for some apologist on this site to write an article that illuminates the mysterious use of the word "anthropology" in Catholicism? From an outsider's perspective, it's akin to categorizing articles under "Literature" and then talking about the mechanics of fountain pens.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I'll try gwen.

      I think anthropology means "what a human being is."

      I've heard and used the phrase "adequate anthropology" which means a full or compete picture of what a human being is, so one can begin to reason about what is good or bad for human beings.

      I'd say Marxism, for example, rests on an "inadequate anthropology" as leaves out things (it only sees economics as important) and gets things downright wrong (human beings have no intrinsic value but only in relation to the state).

      • gwen

        Thanks Kevin. Why is there a deliberate move not to include the work of any anthropologists? I think I've had my nose buried in books so long, I'd forgotten the term might be used in casual conversation, as in "an adequate anthropology"

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Anthropology can refer to two distinct fields. One is philosophical anthropology, which is, I guess, what this OP is.

          The other is the scientific/historical field of anthropology, which is not Catholic per se. It would be interesting to hear from what these anthropologists say about ancient human beings.

  • Paul Boillot

    I think it's inevitable that, especially during the centuries of religious hegemony, a huge proportion of the 'free thinkers' be Catholics. I can't imagine anyone have a difficult time embracing the oxymoron that people who want to be lead and thought-for and people who do not are often both expressing the same creed...humans are weird.

    That being said, there's a whole bunch of stuff that I disagree with in this article:
    1.

    If there is such a thing as truth, then because we are creatures who use language both in thought and speech, we must be able to put that truth into words.

    This assertion is underpinned by no thing. If 'truth' exists, there is no necessarily correlation to our ability, or it's lack, to 'express' it.

    2.

    it must be in the business, at least in a minimal sense, to declare that dogma be necessary

    I might be misunderstanding 'necessary,' but this is again unsubstantiated. If a church is dogmatic, and if dogma is some sub-set of truth, there is no reason that that truth be 'necessary': is the truth of the color of an apple necessary to someone devoid of eyesight? Aren't there truths not touched on by dogma?

    3.

    Catholicism, rooted, nurtured, and flourishing within the Western classical tradition, provides a unique and irreplaceable structure in which truly free thought can flourish.

    Gallileo?

    4.

    Without this structure and context [of Catholicism], the ‘free thought’ is simply a jumble

    If the Catholic Church is dogmatic, and dogmatic means outlining-a-subset-of-truth, there is no causal link between lacking the subset and intellectual chaos. See point #2.

    If I'm a child who is too fat, and I'm stuck in a geodesic jungle-gym, it's effectively a cage; for others it's a fun framework to climb over. The usefulness of Catholicism as an intellectual structure, it seems to me, varies widely.

  • Slocum Moe

    It's true that most Catholics decide for themselves what the church teachings mean to them within the context of their own continuing relationship with Jesus Christ.

    I do think that Catholics run a slightly higher chance than members of other mainstream Christian denominations of being characterized by some of thier self proclaimed "orthodox" fellow religionists, as being not a "real" follower of the faith.

  • DannyGetchell

    I think it's important here to separate "dogma" from "the whole catalogue of pronouncements by Catholic spiritual leaders".

    As I understand it, the actual dogmas of Catholicism are fairly concise, and I think that they could be printed on a sheet of paper, in a rather small font of course.

    But there is a whole history of writings by bishops, cardinals, and popes which do not constitute "dogma", right??

    It seems to me that when a pope opines on economics, immigration, climate, weapons, etc. he is giving his personal view, which is binding upon no one. And everyone, Catholic or not, is 100% entitled to think freely on those issues without constraint.

    • WhiteRock

      You are correct. Dogma refers to principles that lay the foundation for an ideology that are necessarily true. In the Catholic tradition, you also have doctrines, disciplines and devotions. Some doctrines are dogma, but things like disciplines and devotions, while stemming from the reason of a particular dogma, are not dogma in-of-themselves. Does that help?

  • Paul Boillot

    Shoot, I forgot to add this point to my first reply.

    Even the person who kicks a rock proves that the rock exists. Indeed, it is arguable that it is the person who kicks the rock who is most affected by the rock, for by kicking the rock they have hurt their foot. Therefore even the ‘free thinker’ who rejects dogma proves the reality and solidity of that dogma.

    I reject the dogma of Valhalla, so where does that leave us using the author's logic?

  • Sandro Palmyra

    Dwight says what he wants to be. In fact, Catholicism is the biggest of big tent religions. It has by far the most diverse set of beliefs among it's adherents. It's leadership structure is too arbitrary and non representative to ever be taken seriously by the majority. It is also a very dynamic church. It adapts congregationaly, regionally and as a whole, in different ways, simultaneously, to societal change and cultural differences.

    When they talk about "eternal truths", what they really mean is, "we know you don't believe this now but we'd like you to start". Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but if there is one thing that Catholic clericalism has learned over the ages, it is nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Dwight has already been variously in his life, which is far from over, an anabaptist, evangelical protestant, Anglican and now Catholic priest but still manages a marriage and large family. As a Catholic priest, how dogmatic can he really be and what, one must wonder, will he morph into in another few years.

    • Hartic

      A priest once told me that the three things that cause most of the problems in the church were......legalism, clericalism and triumphalism.

  • Hartic

    Most people only react with cynicism to Catholics, when they are trying to
    proselytize (share their faith). This most of the time comes across as judging in the others' eyes. Pray for us in private if you want....but Catholics would do well to keep the preaching to themselves. If you want to "preach" do it by being kind to people and helping others in their need.....not by looking down noses at the atheist, agnostic or the Muslim. I find that the most preachy Catholics are those who are converts from fundamentalist churches....it is almost as if they are still trying to convince themselves.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Great piece!

    Bizarrely, I hear the charges against us, with which this article starts, mostly from my 'non-denominational' Evangelical friends.

    That said, if you suggest their 'non-denominational' mindset differs little from that of a Secular Relativist, they suddenly come over all prissy and dogmatic, just like Secular Relativists... :)

    The difference is, Catholics are not in denial of dogma. Dogma gives thought structure, as you say.

    They, on the other hand, simply don't admit it. However, if they did, they'd see just how embarrassingly erroneous their non-denominational/Relativist mindset is.

  • AC

    Thank you, Fr. Dwight Longenecker! As a nonreligious person, I think it is rare to find educational Catholic articles that capture the atheist's point of view on the matter. This here is an excellent article written for atheists that addresses my concerns exactly in my language, and it's helped increase my respect for Catholics. Beautiful!