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Is “Heaven” to Blame for Murder?

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Filed under Heaven

Heaven2

A tragic story has been circulating around the Internet in the last few days about a Canadian man who allegedly murdered three of his relatives and then posted a confession about it on Facebook. According to NBCnews.com:

"A father in Canada appears to have admitted on his Facebook page to killing his daughter, then wife, then sister before taking his own life. 'Over the last 10 days I have done some of the worst things I could have ever imagined a person doing,' read a post on Randy Janzen's Facebook page on Thursday afternoon. In the apparent confession, the British Columbia man says that his 19-year-old daughter Emily had been plagued since elementary school by migraines, which had gotten so debilitating that she had missed two years of college.
 

'I just could not see my little girl hurt for one more second,' the post, which was not verified by NBC News, read. 'I took a gun and shot her in the head and now she is migraine free and floating in the clouds on a sunny afternoon, her long beautiful brown hair flowing in the breeze, a true angel.' The post goes on to say that he then shot his wife, Laurel, because a mother should never have to 'hear the news her baby has died.' A couple days after that, Janzen allegedly killed his sister, Shelly, 'because I did not want her to have to live with this shame.'"

This is of course very sad, but what I find surprising about this story are atheist bloggers who use this as evidence against religious beliefs (no doubt because of the man’s quote about heaven I’ve bolded above). Patheos atheist blogger J.T. Eberhard even said that, “The culpability for this is, at least in part, on the people who filled Janzen’s head with promises of heaven – even if, like Janzen, they did it out of love.”

Now, to say that people like me are culpable for a triple-murder is quite an accusation. Does this charge stand up to scrutiny? No, it doesn’t. Arguments like Eberhard’s essentially they boil down to this, “If Mr. Janzen hadn’t believed in heaven, then he would not have killed his relatives in order to send them there. Therefore, heaven is a bad thing to believe in.”1

But there’s a huge problem with this argument – it commits a logical fallacy called “the appeal to consequences.”

The Fallacy Explained

The fallacy of “the appeal to consequences” goes like this:

  • Belief X causes negative consequence Y.
  • Therefore belief X is false.

Or

  • Belief X causes positive consequence Y.
  • Therefore belief X is true.

When it’s phrased this way it’s easy to see the fallacy. True beliefs can cause seemingly bad consequences and false beliefs can cause good consequences. Whether a belief is true or false cannot be determined solely by looking at the consequences of affirming (or rejecting) that belief.

For example, the truth of atheism, be it strong atheism (there are no gods or God) or weak atheism (there is no evidence for gods or God), can’t be determined by looking at the consequences of being an atheist. The actions of Stalin, Pol Pot, and totalitarian atheistic governments don’t disprove atheism while the actions of Thomas Edison, Stephen Hawking, and pleasant, marginally religious Scandinavian countries don’t prove it either.

This kind of argument against belief in heaven can also be turned on its head against atheism. For example, it’s not unheard of for people who lose a child to commit suicide because they think they will never see their child again. A Christian could argue that if some of these people had known they could see their child again in heaven they would not have killed themselves. Or, what about non-believers who kill because of they don’t believe in an afterlife? Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer once said in a TV interview that:

“If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing.”2

Does the fact that not believing in heaven might motivate some people to commit murder or suicide prove that heaven exists? Of course not.

Most atheists would say that just because some atheists make poor decisions in light of the apparent finality of death it does not follow that atheism is false or that Christianity is true. But if that’s the case, then it also follows that just because some religious people make poor decisions based on their knowledge of heaven it does not follow that there is no heaven or that we should not believe in heaven.3

LGBT Issues and the Appeal to Consequences

I’ve also seen this appeal to consequences crop us with other issues that divide Christians and atheists. For example, some atheists argue that it is wrong to say homosexual behavior is disordered because that can cause LGBT teens to commit suicide. But once again, that’s a fallacious appeal to consequences.

Such an argument is on par with claiming that we should not say a certain war was unjust because some veterans of that war might commit suicide. Of course, how the veterans react to the truth about such a war is irrelevant to the war’s moral status, just as how the practitioners of a certain sexual behavior react to the truth about that behavior is irrelevant to the behavior’s moral status.

So what does this mean for LGBT issues? If homosexual behavior is not disordered, then of course it’s wrong to spread such a destructive falsehood. Spreading the falsehood would be wrong in and of itself since it is an offense against truth, but it would become even worse because of the falsehoods fatal consequences.

However, if homosexual behavior is disordered, then we just have to learn how to compassionately present this truth to other people. We can’t ban or rebuke that belief, or any belief for that matter, just because we dislike it. There are many truths related to issues like climate change, factory farming, foreign labor, atheism, and religion we may not like, but that doesn’t justify ignoring or ridiculing those truths.

Instead, whether we are an atheist or a Christian, we should examine a contested belief primarily in light of the evidence for or against that belief. The consequences of that belief might motivate our investigation in the first place, and they might even give us a clue about whether the belief is true or false, but they should not be our primary litmus test for deciding whether or not we will incorporate this belief into our worldview.

Notes:

  1. Another argument I hear related to this case is, “Religion causes people to uncritically accept false ideas like heaven and then people make bad decisions after accepting those false ideas.” Eberhard essentially makes this argument in his post when he says, “You want to know why I fight religion with all that I am? There it is. It teaches people to embrace bad ideas, to believe because you want to believe, to cast aside critical thinking in favor of faith.” But this is really just an argument against uncritical thinking. First, it assumes religious beliefs are false or bad without proving it (I know that’s not the subject of Eberhard’s post but it’s a frequent style of argument I see a lot). Second, uncritical thinking can corrupt lots of true beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon beliefs that can cause people to do bad things. For example, just as we shouldn’t abandon science because some people practice scientific racism, we should not abandon religion just because some people use religion to justify evil actions.
  2. Interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994.
  3. I would also argue that those who kill in order to send people to Heaven do so because they operate under another false belief, namely, that they have the authority to decide when someone’s mortal life should end. But the Catholic Church, along with most major monotheistic religions, teach that human beings lack this authority (since life is a gift from God then only he has the authority to reclaim that gift from us) and so that is why suicide and murder are grave sins. Of course, this is a much deeper issue that I will have to save for a future article.
Trent Horn

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Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • Kraker Jak

    People commit murder for many reasons including relgious beliefs. I don't think this can be denied. But the Canadian case is not one of them. The father who did the killing just wanted the suffering to stop....including his own. He was in unbearable pain over his daughters situation and mistakenly thought he was helping his family end their suffering. He would probably have done the same thing if he believed that he was sending them into oblivion. Many people including atheists I am sure have done the same thing.

  • I don't think I understoo9d what the author considered to be the 'primary litmus test for deciding whether or not we will incorporate this belief into our worldview.'. I would expect it to be the 'objectivity' of the existence of God.
    I once drew up a hierarchy with respect to the various model of morality I was aware of.

    If I can remember, or think through again it was like thisl

    The empirical values of such philosophies as utilitarianism, and consequentialism. I may have forgotten one. Within the state I believe such ethical orders are not replaceable, and they are most suited to government programs, as for instance, welfare systems with Canada. I thus consider these are more 'legal' structure than 'private moral ones'.

    The necessitarian ethic of Baruch Spinoza. His book on ethics I found to be an incredible read. He convinced me almost with certainty of his thesis. It was like modern theories showing the inevitable playing out of language. Because of this I was somewhat uncomfortable with it, because, although I recognize the Hegelian adage: Freedom is the recognition of necessity, and also the Christian 'Thy Will be done', somehow it gave me the feeling that I would not be choosing my own errors. And I do like the idea of freewill, as well as my consciousness of self, even those these are considered to be illusions in this case, and in the book I read by Dennet.

    The virtue ethics of Aristotle. Also within this category are the Eastern traditions which are also based on a schemata of a 'middle way'.

    The deontological ethics of Kant. The idea of duty is a bit disconcerting. I think it denies the need for charity and love. Like Christianity the emphasis, The Categorical Imperative, as with the Natural Law, is placed on reason, perhaps ignoring even the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    The examples, of Jesus Christ, but also Buddha, and Gandhi, etc. etc. Because these are actual individuals, and like I learned in childhood, when the saints and all the other gods were discussed,following a good example is the best way to learn.

    As per the Golden Rule, which as shown by the Baha'i can be found in all faiths, following my son's reaction to this when I told him about it years ago, I recently came also to the realization that it would assume that my understanding of myself or others is necessarily a good criteria. Taken to an extreme, (it presumes that I do actually understand what is the good in either case) how would I apply this rule say if I were suicidal or something. But yes, it is Kantian, and a law ethic.

    On consequentialism, I did appreciate the argument, and contested a friend who believed that it was the finest of all ethics. Then he told me that there was a direct consequentialism, in that what we do is a direct consequence of result of our intention. This made more sense to me. I did however, leave out an ethic based on intention, intentionally. After all, everyone has to figure out these things for themselves, and I'm a little 'unknowing' actually, with respect to the reasons why I am going into this whole thing again in the first place, when I'm trying to limit the number of my comments.

    Is it all a matter of ethics?

  • Kraker Jak

    atheists argue that it is wrong to say homosexual behavior is disordered

    Of course it is wrong to say. What an insulting label to lay on anyone, like calling them mentally ill.

    • "Of course it is wrong to say. What an insulting label to lay on anyone, like calling them mentally ill."

      A label is only insulting if it is both 1) false and 2) derogatory. But neither is the case with calling someone mentally ill if they are truly mentally iill. Nor is it insulting to call a behavior disordered if it is genuinely not ordered to its natural end.

      Also, as is regrettably common in our culture, you've failed to distinguish a person from his or her act. Calling homosexual behavior disordered is to asses a particular type of action--it says nothing about the person committing the action (whether they're culpable, etc) or about a particular instance of that action. And it's certainly not to lay "an insulting label...on anyone."

      It's an assessment of an action, not a label of a person.

      If you're unable to make that distinction, I'm afraid you'll never truly understand the Catholic position (and thus never have warrant to reject it.)

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        One problem with your analysis lies in your assertion that it is not "insulting to call a behavior disordered if it is genuinely not ordered to its natural end." That is so for two reasons.

        First, you've not taken care to note that you are using the word "disordered" (often phrased as "intrinsically disordered" in the Catholic Catechism and other writings by the Church theologians) in the technical sense in which it is used in Catholic theology, as David Nickol painstakingly noted in a later comment of his in this thread.

        Do you truly not understand why those not steeped in the minutia of Catholic theology take offense when they hear Catholics continuously referring to the desire of gay and lesbian Americans to marry others whom they love but who happen to be of their own gender, of LGBT Americans to act on their own innate sexuality just as heterosexual Americans are "permitted" to do by the Church (albeit only under certain prescribed circumstances!), of any American to use artificial means of contraception, and of abortion, as being "intrinsically disordered" and think of those words in common parlance and usage?

        Second, you appear to be conflating Catholic notions of moral behavior (behavior having to be "genuinely ordered" to its "natural end") as if they represent the "Truth" in terms of objective reality.

        Of course, many people reject Catholic moral teaching in this regard and thus find the Catholic position both false and insulting.

      • William Davis

        A label can be insulting even if it is true, it depends on the intentions of the person giving the label.
        If I walk up to a person out of the blue and say " You have a big, ugly nose", it is still insulting even though it is true, because my intention was to be insulting (assuming you aren't apply for some movie role that requires a normal nose). In general, I don't think good Catholics intend to be insulting when they call homosexuality disordered, but sadly there are plenty of not so good Catholics and other Christians that abuse this position in order to be intentionally insulting. Just because this happens isn't directly an argument against the Catholic position, but it is an excellent reason to seriously scrutinize the position, and make sure it is actually true.

        In a nutshell, the core problem with the Catholic moral philosophy and sex is that it seems to ignore the fact that there are two natural functions of sex. The first obvious function is reproduction, and the second (slightly less obvious) is pair bonding. I can bring in plenty of biological evidence for the second function if need be, but both homosexual (the non-promiscuous varieties at least) and sterile sex still fulfill the second function. With this in mind, it makes it very hard for a non-Christian to agree with you here.
        If I extend this argument to other things, we get some absurd results. 0-calorie candy would be immoral, for instance, because it provides no nourishment, the natural end of eating and digestion. It would be immoral to take a car for a pointless joy ride, because it it is the natural end of a car to take you somewhere.
        If you believe God is behind the designed of the human body, it's interesting that it seems designed for pleasure from homosexuality. A female's clitorus is easily accessible by another female. A male's prostate is capable of generating sufficient sexual pleasure that orgasm and thus the associated biological pair bonding is possible. If God was so dead set against homosexuality, why would he allow the human body to make it so easy? The absence of a clitorus and a sensitive prostate would possibly eliminate homosexuality altogether (or pretty close), but that isn't the bodies we find ourselves in.

        • Pofarmer

          There are actually more than two natural functions. There are several.

      • David Nickol

        It's an assessment of an action, not a label of a person.

        But the Church refers to "homosexual persons" and "homosexual orientation," not just homosexual acts. The following is from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons:

        In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

        Also, there is the following from Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons:

        10. “Sexual orientation” does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non-discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder (cf. Letter, no. 3) and evokes moral concern.

        11. There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.

        12. Homosexual persons, as human persons, have the same rights as all persons including the right of not being treated in a manner which offends their personal dignity (cf. no. 10). Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct. This is sometimes not only licit but obligatory. This would obtain moreover not only in the case of culpable behavior but even in the case of actions of the physically or mentally ill. Thus it is accepted that the state may restrict the exercise of rights, for example, in the case of contagious or mentally ill persons, in order to protect the common good.

      • I must tell you quite conclusively that you are 'wrong' on this issue. Are you not aware of all the effects of stigma on the mentally ill. And that is precisely what your 'opinion' does. It creates/casts a label on a 'person'. How can you separate the 'label' given someone from the person you are referring to? Certainly the 'person' who is burdened with such a label does not. Indeed it is the label, itself that has been demonstrated the consequences or effects which most often result in prejudice and even inhuman treatment.
        The same with the 'label' of homosexuality, and so many other stigmas in society. Is Catholicism something you do, or believe, or something that you are? If it is the first, then why be concerned about any possible 'stigma' attached the concept. If it is the latter, can you not learn from something about 'stigma' from a similar use of words within this context, and not feel it necessary to support the validity and beneficent, etc. etc. of any concepts or labels .describing or related to Catholicism, .

        I would hold that both perspectives, action and person are very integrated,as in the description that we are our thoughts, words and deeds. May I expect that you would conclude that I have an ' incorrect understanding of the relation of substance to essence, accident, and form. Unfortunately, I am still trying to sort out all of the different perspectives I have found in relation to these concepts. So does 'you are wrong' mean that 'you' are wrong, or that your 'opinion' is wrong. Please do not suffer any because of the equivocation inherent in language. I am merely wondering whether you will dismiss these comments as coming from someone who simply is incapable of understand the issue of 'stigma', whether you will put forth some sort of defense or justification, or simply 'prove' that I am wrong.

        • Thanks to OM and KJ for the thumbs up on the above comment. I'm back after posting on the current post and my response to the possibility of 'perfection'. Just wondering if, or how there could possible be a stigma attached to the concept of 'incoherence' perhaps, and a possible relationship to even the possibility of mental illness. So I'm posting again the comment I deleted.- read it at your own 'discretion'.

          I must tell you quite 'conclusively' that I 'believe' you are 'wrong' on this issue. Are you not aware of all the effects of stigma on the mentally ill. And that is precisely what your 'opinion' does. It
          creates/casts a label on a 'person' with the potential this involves to do 'great damage'. How can you separate the 'label' given someone from the person you are referring to? Certainly the 'person' who is burdened with such a label does not. Indeed it is the label, itself that has been demonstrated to produce consequences or effects which will often result in actions based on such prejudice and even inhuman treatment.

          (So maybe this can be made relevant to today's topic).
          The distinction between fact and value in this regard was most succinctly presented by the 'evil overlord' at SN.
          The same with the 'label' of homosexuality, and so many other stigmas cultivated through the use of language within society.

          Is Catholicism something you do, or believe, or something that you are? If it is not the first, why be concerned about any possible 'stigma' attached to the concept 'Catholic', even if the remark is directed to specific rituals or other behavioral contexts.. If it is the latter, can you not learn something about 'stigma' from a similar use of words within other contexts, and apply these alternate meanings in a way that will transform any negative ideas so that your image can indeed reflect the ideal you desire.This is necessary perhaps in order to support the
          validity and beneficent consequences of the teachings you endorse. Surely any negative concepts or labels must be met with strategies that will offset the criticism and evangelize the truth inherent in the 'proper'
          meaning..

          Hopefully,the above comparison demonstrates why I would hold that both perspectives, action and person are very integrated, as in the description that we are our thoughts, words and deeds. May I expect that you could conclude that I still have an ' incorrect understanding of the relation of substance to essence, accident, and form. Unfortunately, I am still trying to sort out all of the different perspectives I have found in relation to these concepts. So.I must admit this conclusion is true. I might have difficulty defending my position because I wouldn't know which interpretation to adopt. But I still feel I would have a 'warrant' to protest any possible or real perception of 'negative' effects produced by the stigma upon my 'being'.

          So does 'you are wrong' mean that 'you' are wrong, or that your 'opinion' is wrong. Please do not suffer any because of the equivocation inherent in language. I am merely wondering whether you will dismiss these comments as coming from someone who simply is incapable of understanding the correctness of your point of view,, and is consequently deviating from the true religion.. I am simply wondering hether you will put forth some sort of defense or justification for any action taken, or give metaphysical 'proof' that my opinion is wrong, or dismiss the whole issue because of the 'behavior' revealed in any comments that have been made, including any possible incoherence, even though I believe this is a representation of 'who' I am .The difficulty for me will be in sorting out the distinctions, precisely because there are so may implications attached to 'stigmata': the tone heard within the utterance; the pain felt in the wound associated with the word.

      • Doug Shaver

        A label is only insulting if it is both 1) false and 2) derogatory.

        So, if I call someone a bigoted fool, I'm not insulting them if they really are a bigoted fool?

  • David Nickol

    Arguments like Eberhard’s essentially they boil down to this, “If Mr.
    Janzen hadn’t believed in heaven, then he would not have killed his
    relatives in order to send them there. Therefore, heaven is a bad thing
    to believe in.”

    It seems to me JT Eberhard is not committing the fallacy Trent Horn writes about. Eberhard is not saying Christian beliefs are false because they influenced someone in this case to commit murder in order to send suffering people to heaven. He is saying there is no heaven, and so people who engage in mercy killing are acting on false beliefs.

    Eberhard says, “The culpability for this is, at least in part, on the people who filled
    Janzen’s head with promises of heaven – even if, like Janzen, they did
    it out of love.”

    Eberhard is not trying to demonstrate that the idea of heaven is pernicious because belief in heaven played a key role in what Janzen did. Eberhard clearly has concluded the idea of heaven is false, and he is saying the people who "filled Janzen's head with promises of heaven" are partly culpable for what happened because Janzen believed those false ideas and, based on them, killed three people and himself.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    This was good explanation of the "appeal to consequences" fallacy, but I'm not sure that the example from JT Eberhard fits it. Mr. Eberhard did not say "Belief in heaven leads to negative consequences, therefore, heaven does not exist." What he said was (paraphrased) "Belief in heaven leads to negative consequences, therefore, it is better not to believe in heaven."

    To use the formulation from the article, Mr. Eberhard's argument is closer to:

    * Belief X causes negative consequence Y.
    * Therefore belief X should be avoided. It is a bad thing to believe in.

    As David Nickol pointed out, Mr. Eberhard already believes that there is no heaven for other reasons.

    Otherwise, a good summary of the "appeal to consequences" fallacy.

  • David Nickol

    However, if homosexual behavior is disordered, then we just have to
    learn how to compassionately present this truth to other people.

    I think Trent Horn's very presentation fails to achieve this goal. The word "disordered" is, for many people, ambiguous. As I have argued in previous discussions on this topic, the way the Catholic Church uses the word "disordered" is quite different from the way the psychological or psychiatric establishments use the word "disordered." Consequently, many religious people conclude that homosexuality is a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

    But of course the Catholic Church doesn't stop with "disordered." If you google the words "grave depravity," you will get pages full of hits to Catholic sources quoting the Catechism to the effect that, "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity . . . . " In fact, if you do a google search of the entire Vatican web site for the words "grave depravity" ("grave depravity" site:vatican.va) you will find only references to homosexuality.

    When a significant number of young people who discover their homosexual orientation do commit suicide, I think it is important for everyone (and of course especially people who condemn homosexuality) to take care that they aren't contributing to this tragedy.

    I just recently finished reading the autobiography of the great writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks. His mother, when she learned of his homosexuality when he was a young man still living at home, said, "You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born." (The Sacks family was Jewish. Both Christians and Jews know where the word "abomination" comes from in respect to homosexuality.)

    The Catholic Church must, of course, speak the truth. But it is difficult for me to believe that a Church that claims Jesus as its founder would ever want to speak in ways that drive young people to suicide. And yet they do. Or so it seems to me.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Many people think homosexual acts are disordered. Some homosexuals commit suicide. Are you saying this is a matter of cause and effect?

      • David Nickol

        Seriously, is that what you got from what I wrote?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You wrote, "But it is difficult for me to believe that a Church that claims Jesus as its founder would ever want to speak in ways that drive young people to suicide." You post was about words the CC uses to describe homosexual acts. You are arguing that CC words are driving young homosexuals to suicide. Right?

          • David Nickol

            You are arguing that CC words are driving young homosexuals to suicide. Right?

            Well, it seems rather improbable to me that any young gay people have read paragraphs in the Catechism on homosexuality and, as a direct result of those few paragraphs, committed suicide. However, with those words, with words from the CDF that I have quoted, and with attitudes both the Church (and our whole society up until quite recently) have encouraged, many young people have suffered harsh treatment even from their own families and have considered themselves so loathed and so damaged that they have committed suicide. When, as a young man, your own mother says to you, "You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born," how are you expected to feel?

            Words like "disordered," "grave depravity," or "more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil" are so inflammatory that they either should be used with extraordinary care or, better yet, not at all. It seems to me that even reasonably well informed Catholics seem to think that because the Church says homosexual acts or a homosexual inclination are "disordered," that means gay people are "sick" or "mentally ill." So gay people are perceived as both evil and mentally ill. It is hard to imagine how this is helpful to young people who are attempting to come to grips with the realization that they are gay.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Despite that this distraught woman allegedly said, do you really think the Church thinks that it would be better if any person never existed (except maybe Judas)? Christ came for sinners.

            In Catholic moral theology, every sin and tendency to sin is a disorder and all seriously wrong actions are depraved.

            People's motivations for the actions they take can be very mixed up and impossible for us to unravel: deep-seated psychological suffering, same-sex attraction, risky behavior, self-harm, and even suicide.

            What language would you recommend to avoid nobody misunderstanding what the CCC says about homosexuality?

          • David Nickol

            Oliver Sacks's mother was devoutly Jewish, so she was not speaking for the Catholic Church! However, Catholics and other Christians have long been fond of the word abomination in arguing against homosexuality, and it is very strong language!

            In Catholic moral theology, every sin and tendency to sin is a disorder and all seriously wrong actions are depraved.

            I think for a very long time, but not so much in the very recent past, homosexuality was in a special class of the most "disordered," detested, and shameful sins. Christianity, with a great deal of help from the Catholic Church, was significantly (though by no means solely) responsible for this. How anyone can deny this is beyond me.

            What language would you recommend to avoid nobody misunderstanding what the CCC says about homosexuality?

            Well, on the one hand, I am disinclined to rewrite sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On the other hand, I once claimed I could write a better set of commandments than the Decalogue. (I haven't done it yet, but I still think I can.) So watch this thread, since before it dies I may rewrite paragraphs 2357 through 2359. :)

            By the way, you know one of the few changes from the first to the second edition was a toughening up of the section on homosexuality.

            2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. [First Edition]

            2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. [Second Edition]

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure. That is because when the Magisterium draws from the social sciences it may have to update that data when the social sciences change. A common argument that used to be advanced but is pretty tenuous today is "I was born that way" or "there is a gay gene." It is more accurate to say, "We don't know why people have SSA" or "It is forbidden to talk about why people have SSA."

          • David Nickol

            That is because when the Magisterium draws from the social sciences it may have to update that data when the social sciences change.

            Unfortunately for this rationalization, the first edition is more in line with the social sciences (in saying that homosexuals do not choose their orientation) than the second edition (in omitting it).

          • David Nickol

            . . . . or "It is forbidden to talk about why people have SSA."

            I think this admittedly very minor bit of snark gives a hint of the antagonism you harbor against gay people and the gay rights movement. How unjust it is that Catholics have to be careful about what they say when talking about gay people! After all, Catholics couldn't possibly be bigoted or prejudiced, because Catholics have Truth with a capital T.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is good because I read the original in my email inbox.

          • Doug Shaver

            A common argument that used to be advanced but is pretty tenuous today is "I was born that way" or "there is a gay gene." It is more accurate to say, "We don't know why people have SSA" or "It is forbidden to talk about why people have SSA."

            I think it highly improbable that a single gene determines a person's sexual inclinations, but that doesn't mean genes have nothing to do with it. I'll be glad to stipulate that we don't know why some people are born homosexual, but if it's not because of their genes, I'm not aware of any other potential causes. And the evidence that at least some homosexuals, if not all of them, are in fact born that way seems compelling to me. I have seen no counterargument that does not boil down to an appeal to some ancient dogma.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Studies of identical twins.

          • Doug Shaver

            Could you be more specific, please?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't find the original sources but here is a summary of some of them:

            http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/01/the-genetics-of-same-sex-attraction

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm aware that the relevant science has been frequently misused, distorted, or blatantly misrepresented. That always happens with science that pertains to subjects about which people have strong feelings.

            But, I have been personally acquainted with a great many homosexuals during my lifetime. From my interactions with them, I cannot give any credence to the notion that they have simply decided to be intimate with people of their own sex in the same way, or in any analogous way, to how I decide which meal to order when I'm in a restaurant.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is an interesting thing I've heard from many other sources--usually people with personal experience--in this case from a former "active" homosexual:

            Those without a personal investment, or with the fortitude and courageousness to look beyond the propaganda, discover that homosexuals are deeply wounded, desperate, and angry people: in every study conducted, homosexuals have significantly higher rates of childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, and molestation, than heterosexuals; homosexual men have more than 3X as many sex partners as straight men; and, consequently, are 140X more likely to contract HIV or syphilis than heterosexual men.

            http://www.josephsciambra.com/2015/05/prominent-cardinal-goes-gay-and-wants.html

            Sciambra is saying some SSA arises from childhood trauma.

          • Doug Shaver

            Sciambra is saying some SSA arises from childhood trauma.

            So what if he says so? Lots of other people say it doesn't. You believe him, I believe the others. Now what can we do to resolve that impasse?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the impasse can be resolved over time through people's testimony and the unbiased findings of social scientists. That time is not now, though.

          • Doug Shaver

            I got my first college degree in a social science. Unbiased findings are hard to come by in that area. That is no reason, of course, to stop trying to get them.

          • David Nickol

            do you really think the Church thinks that it would be better if any person never existed (except maybe Judas)?

            Jesus said it would have been better that the one who betrayed him had never been born, not that he never existed. If the hope is justified that the unborn who die without baptism are saved, it would have been better for anyone who goes to hell never to have been born.

          • Pofarmer

            "In Catholic moral theology, every sin and tendency to sin is a disorder and all seriously wrong actions are depraved."

            Which is just one more reason Catholic Moral theology is hooey.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So is the idea that adultery is wrong is hooey?

          • Pofarmer

            In non monogamous cultures, which do exist, yes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So whatever the culture dictates is right or wrong?

          • Pofarmer

            I think that is pretty much the historical precedence, yes. For example, at one time it was considered morally acceptable by Christians to murder heretics. It is currently still going on in some Muslim Cultures. The majority of the world seems to see that as immoral.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This comment does not make any sense to me. Are you saying actual morality is dictated by culture or not?

          • Pofarmer

            I thought it was pretty clear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Now you are being coy?

    • fergalf

      The Catechism does not refer to depravity or disorderedness when discussing homosexuality. I searched the Vatican site for depravity and its getting all sorts of hits and it is not correct to say you only references to homosexuality.

      • David Nickol

        Please note that I said the following:

        In fact, if you do a google search of the entire Vatican web site for the words "grave depravity" ("grave depravity" site:vatican.va) you will find onlyreferences to homosexuality.

        I even gave the correct form for the Google search:

        "grave depravity" site:vatican.va

        • fergalf

          I think are cherry picking. Grave depravity is a highly specialised word arrangement.

          • David Nickol

            It is unclear to me what point you are trying to make. Are you claiming that the Church does not use harsh language to condemn homosexuality?

          • fergalf

            In my experience there is very little harsh language. People who talk on and on about this come across as trying to pick a fight.

      • Michael Murray

        You say that

        The Catechism does not refer to depravity or disorderedness when discussing homosexuality.

        This is just wrong. David gave you the quote in short. Here it is in full.

        2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

        • fergalf

          OK fair enough but I still think the church is far more sympathetic then given credit for.

          • Michael Murray

            Based on what evidence ?

          • fergalf

            Its been experience and the majority of people saying otherwise are cherry picking.

  • William Davis

    If you believe the Bible, you believe that the tree should be judged by the fruit.

    Luke 13

    6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’

    If this isn't an appeal to consequences (in parable form), I don't know what is. It has been my experience that Christians are no different than anyone else, i.e. they do not bear fruit in their lives. Perhaps there are almost no "real Christians", but that seems like special pleading. Appeal to consequences doesn't prove something true or false, but even the gospels writers knew the consequences of belief really matter. Isn't the primary goal of a religion like Christianity to get people to behave ethically.

    On a side note, I disagree that belief in heaven had anything to do with this man's terrible actions. His primary motive was to end her pain, heaven was probably just a happy side effect.
    The sad fact is that migraines can be complex but are usually manageable with the right medical care (and attention to diet, food allergies are very common triggers). What a waste :(

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      If this isn't an appeal to consequences (in parable form), I don't know what is.

      I think it depends on how the parable is interpreted. In it's barest form, I don't think it is an appeal to consequences. "The tree has bad consequences, therefore, don't waste soil on it," is a different statement from "The tree has bad consequences therefore the tree doesn't exist or the tree is wrong." The latter is a fallacy, while the former is similar to what JT Eberhard stated.

      However, many Christians do interpret this parable into an appeal to consequences. They say that if Christians act virtuously, then that would prove the truth of their religion. It would not. It would only show that the religion, true or not, has positive consequences.

      • William Davis

        I agree about interpretation, the Bible is probably the most varied interpreted book in human history, lol.
        I'm a bit of a pragmatist and big on self improvement. If I thought Christianity could make me a better person, I'd embrace it even if I might have doubts about it's objective truth. I think the behavior of Christians is a powerful evidence, probably the most powerful of all (I can pull in psychology to back that up).
        My Dad grew up in a poor rural southern town, and most of the people he was around were drunks. His grandma was an exception, and she was Christian. If it wasn't for her example, I'm pretty confident (and my Dad admits this) he would have never become Christian. I've had better experience with well educated non-Christians, and have seen the worst behavior from Christians, creating a polar opposite bias. I think all the obsession on "evidence" completely ignores the facts of religious conversion. Evidence rarely convinces anyone to join a religion, it's people they know and the emotional attachment to those people, at least in my view. If I had had great experiences with Christians growing up, it's entirely possible that I would be a Christian right now (though it's hard to guess the effects of altering a bias that deep, they are hard to remove in thought experiments). Logical fallacy or not, appeal to consequences (so to speak) is powerful.

        • Doug Shaver

          If I thought Christianity could make me a better person, I'd embrace it even if I might have doubts about it's objective truth.

          In the early period of my recovery from alcoholism, I sought the assistance of Alcoholics Anonymous. I wanted very much to utilize the 12-step program, but could not accept the God concept in any literal way. I found a metaphorical interpretation that made a little bit of sense to me, though, and took advantage of AA's insistence that they were serious about the qualifier in "God as we understood him."

  • Ignatius Reilly

    It is a utilitarian argument. It is not seeking to answer whether or not Christianity is true, but rather trying to assess its utility.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think it is vain to try to find some kind of rationality in Janzen's actions. All we know is what he did and why he said he did it. The former can be verified. That latter, impossible for us.

  • I’ve also seen this appeal to consequences crop us with other issues that divide Christians and atheists. For example, some atheists argue that it is wrong to say homosexual behavior is disordered because that can cause LGBT teens to commit suicide. But once again, that’s a fallacious appeal to consequences.

    It's wrong to say that gay sex is disordered because it's not. Trent's claims are bigoted. Some say that using the word "bigoted" shuts down dialogue. But once again, that's a fallacious appeal to consequences.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      "bigoted" = a person who is intolerant of towards those holding different opinions
      "intolerance" = a person unwilling to accept other views or beliefs

      It's wrong to say that gay sex is disordered because it's not.

      I can believe that gay sex is ordered towards something, for instance, satisfaction of the sexual urge. But I agree with David that if we're going to say something is ordered or disordered, we need to have some point of reference for which we can measure order or disorder.

      • To call gay sex disordered full stop is to say "(a) I know what the purpose of sex should be and (b) although I don't personally know much about you or your intimate relationship, I know you're doing it wrong."

        Online Marriam-Webster Full Definition for Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance. I think the word fits here.

        I can believe that gay sex is ordered towards something, for instance, satisfaction of the sexual urge.

        Or it may be an expression ordered toward the romantic and selfless love of another person.

        • mgcruss

          This needs to be repeated I think: "Or it may be an expression ordered toward the romantic and selfless love of another person." Thank you.

        • Jonathan Brumley

          To call gay sex disordered full stop is to say "(a) I know what the purpose of sex should be and (b) although I don't personally know much about you or your intimate relationship, I know you're doing it wrong."

          If a persons believes they know the purpose of sex, and if they believe gay sex is not ordered towards that purpose, then how is holding this belief "hatred" or "intolerance"?

          Or, how is holding this belief any different from that of a vegetarian who believes eating meat is disordered towards the health of the environment? Would you also call the vegetarian a bigot?

          Or it may be an expression ordered toward the romantic and selfless love of another person.

          The "intent" may be to satisfy a romantic urge or even selfless love. But intent is different from purpose, and having good intent does not make an act ordered. Sex doesn't exist to satisfy sexual or romantic urges. Romantic and sexual urges exist so that sex will happen, and sex exists so that reproduction will happen.

          • To translate, just using some different words:

            If a persons believes they know the purpose of sexual reproduction (the preservation of one's own race), and if they believe having interracial children is not ordered towards that purpose, then how is holding this belief "hatred" or "intolerance"? How is this belief different from that of a vegitarian?

            Because it targets an entire group of people who were born that way. Sexual orientation has much more in common with one's race than with one's dietary preferences.

            Additionally, I'm opposed to people with their own dietary preferences passing laws to restrict my dietary options.

            sex exists so that reproduction will happen

            It is too bad then that much of the sexual congress enjoyed by the elderly is disordered. Since according to you that's the sole purpose of sex.

            After all, a sterile couple may intend to be open to having children all day. That doesn't affect the purpose of the act, and their act can't be ordered to that purpose, since it's (in some cases) as physically likely for them to have children together as it is for to men or two women to have children together.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No one ever actually argued that black and white people could not marry. The very fact that they could and could have mixed race children was why these racist laws were enacted.

            We *are* arguing that men cannot marry men and women cannot marry women because of what marriage is.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            So people cannot marry other people of their same sex because marriage is a legal institution where two consenting adults become family of each other and gain certain legal and tax benefits and obligations... sorry, but your argument doesn't follow logic. Unless, of course, when you say "marriage" you don't mean actual marriage but something else that your religion made up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The definition of marriage includes that it is between a man and a woman. What you probably want to do is to redefine.

          • Doug Shaver

            The definition of marriage includes that it is between a man and a woman.

            Historically, that has been the case.

            What you probably want to do is to redefine.

            Yes, some of us think it's time to do just that.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            The definition of marriage includes that it is between the husband, his wife and his concubines. Or between a rapist and his victim. Or between the husband, his wife and her property (including her slaves). Or between a husband and one or more wives. Or between a male soldier and a female prisioner taken as spoils of war (virgins only, though).
            And yes, we have redefined all of that and nobody had a reason to complain. Those changes didn't "destroy" marriage or "diminish" its value, rather the opposite.

          • People have argued that interracial children are unnatural, and that interracial sex is disordered (sadly, I know, I've encountered some of them!)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            People argue all sorts of things.

          • Doug Shaver

            No one ever actually argued that black and white people could not marry.

            They certainly argued that it was morally wrong for them to do so.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Doug.

            Indeed. Thus the anti-miscegenation laws in many states that were done away with by the SOCTUS in the Loving v. Virginia case in the late 60s.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And that moral judgment was wrong.

            But the reverse is the case with SSM. It is actually not morally wrong for a SS couple to marry because it is ontologically impossible for them to do so.

          • Doug Shaver

            it is ontologically impossible for them to do so.

            You seem to be making some metaphysical assumptions that I don't make.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. Ontology is a big word admittedly, but it just means (in this case) 'in their beings'. Two guys can't have a baby. Two women can't have a baby. Every baby has to have a mother and a father. Each man and each woman is lacking something that only a person of the opposite sex can supply.

          • Doug Shaver

            Two guys can't have a baby.

            That is a biological fact. The assertion that two people should not marry unless they can have babies is not a fact. It is a judgment. The assertion that they are not married even if the law of the land says they are married is a metaphysical claim having no obvious (to me) basis in reality.

          • Michael Murray

            I can remember, when I was very young, wondering how couples lost of desert islands could have children without a priest there to marry them. Nothing like a quality Catholic education.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The civil laws against murder--are they not also based on metaphysical claims?

          • Doug Shaver

            In some people's minds, I suppose they are. The rest of us find sufficient basis in utilitarian considerations.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I get that many Christians are offended by the notion that we would use the word "marriage" in the context of two men or two women joining together to live a life together.

            But, I highly doubt that this is actually the true motivating rationale for the opposition.

            Here's one way to test the proposition.

            New rules in the US:

            1. Churches are free to bless only the union between one man and one woman in accordance with their canon law and doctrinal beliefs, and no other unions. Society will agree that the word "marriage" will be reserved for use in religious ceremonies only. The word "marriage" will no longer have any meaning whatsoever under secular law.

            2. Secular society will use a separate term -- say "civil unions" but the specific designation is unimportant here -- for all unions between two people of whatever sex who wish to join together to form a family unit that has any legal consequences for purposes of federal or state law.

            I doubt you are ok with this, but perhaps I'm wrong.

            I don't truly think the objection of Christians is to the use of the word "marriage" to recognize the legal joining together of two men or two women for secular legal purposes. It seems to me the objection is fundamentally to the notion that two men or two women should be permitted to join together legally as a family purposes even under the secular law, whatever the word used to label that union.

            But, have we truly missed a relatively painless way to bridge the chasm and resolve this divisive dispute?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think I really want to get into this, although I definitely stuck my big toe in already.

            I think Ryan Anderson has already provided the best answers.

            It begins with the truth that marriage is a natural human institution that predates any government. Government can recognize it but it is not created by government or even any human authority, much less the Church.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Marriage is surely a human cultural convention, devised by human beings as a means of family formation within the broader scheme of how human societies are organized and structured.

            That is the case whether the human societies under consideration were the very ancient, largely kin-based and relatively small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers or, within the last few millennia in most parts of the Earth, larger, more complex, more pluralistic and interdependent societies that have arisen in the wake of the development of agriculture and mercantilist/trading economies.

            The forms of government may have changed and become more formal (and in some societies, within the past couple centuries, nominally more broadly representative in character) in larger, more complex societies but all human societies always have some form of government to enforce societal norms and mores, including the form(s) of marriage recognized within that society.

            While it is a familiar tactic of some in the religious right to claim that "marriage" has always meant the union of one man and one woman, that is not an historically informed statement.

            Forms of marriage have differed between different human societies and cultures at any given point in time and have also evolved and changed within any given society as time moves on and conditions change and the culture evolves.

            Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out some counter-examples a few weeks back during the oral argument on the same-sex marriage case arising from the Sixth Circuit which will be decided by SCOTUS by the end of June.

            Geena Safire, who is no longer permitted to comment here (great loss to the SN community), had a very interesting post over at Estranged Notions, referencing an article from the Friendly Atheist, "Biblical Marriage Isn’t About One Man and One Woman" from last December, in the wake of a conversation between the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

            In that article, Hermant Mehta states that "the Bible never claims that God said marriage is a union between one man and one woman." Mehta continues (and with apologies for the long quote that follows, but it seems quite germane to this discussion):

            "The Bible is full of specific examples of marriage — some of them allegedly directly sanctioned by God — that contradict the fairytale version of marriage that Christians claim as “Biblical” nowadays.

            What follows is a list of types of marriage defined in the Bible, often by God. . . . :

            Biblical marriage is a man arranging to buy a girl from her father for an agreed upon purchase price (Genesis 29:18)

            Biblical marriage is a wife “giving” her servant to her husband as a “wife” for sex and procreation, regardless of her maid servant’s wishes (Genesis 16:2-3, 30:3, 30:9, etc. [citation form shortened])

            Biblical marriage is a raiding party murdering the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters of a people but saving the young virgins because they want “wives” (i.e. women to capture and legally rape) (Judges 21:10-14), [or otherwise] lying in wait to capture more women as “wives” (Judges 21:20-24)

            Biblical marriage is God commanding the massacre of every male and non-virgin, and handing over the virgin women to his followers. Like the 32,000 women counted among the “spoils” in Numbers 31

            Biblical marriage is a victim being forced to marry her rapist with no hope of divorce (but don’t worry — her father is suitably compensated in cash for the trouble, and this is only valid if the woman is not already another man’s property… so relax! No property rights are violated by this arrangement) (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

            Biblical marriage is selling your daughter as a slave to be given to her owner or owner’s son for sexual exploitation as a “wife” (though denied even minimal protections) (Exodus 21:7-11)

            Biblical marriage is one man taking multiple, even hundreds, of wives and concubines (see: David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham, etc)

            Biblical marriage is a woman as property whose own happiness is inconsequential, but whose property status is absolute (see: David and Michal)

            Biblical marriage is for those who “cannot control themselves” and so must opt away from what is “good for them”: unmarried celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:1-9)

            Biblical marriage is a woman marrying her dead husband’s
            brother (whether either party wishes it or not) so that she can have a kid in the dead husband’s name (Deuteronomy 25:5). Sometimes, it manifests as a woman seducing her former father-in-law in the guise of a prostitute in order to fulfill her God-ordained obligation (Genesis 38, Judah and Tamar). . . . Even according to the Bible, it doesn’t seem to have been a very happy implementation of the institution

            Biblical marriage is neither partner being able to refrain from sex without the consent of the other (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)

            That’s what the Bible actually says about marriage. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Biblical marriage is almost always two or more men deciding between themselves what woman an individual will take as a wife — be it a father selling his daughter into sexual slavery, a husband-to-be arranging with a father an agreement suitable to both parties (irrespective of the wife-to-be’s wishes) on how to dispose
            of/acquire the female in question, a party of soldiers or raiders
            murdering a woman’s entire family in order to claim her (sometimes supposedly at the direct command of God), a rapist grabbing an unattached female and at the same time getting himself a new wife, etc."

            Here's the link to the article itself: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/09/11/biblical-marriage-isnt-about-one-man-and-one-woman/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What you call Biblical marriage has no relevance to our secular discussion of what kind of marriage our government will recognize and what it will do to enforce it.

            However, for Catholics, what the Jews did has no relevance either. We read the OT in light of the New. Thus the basis for Catholics for biblical marriage is this statement:

            3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? 6 So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Mt 19:3-9)

          • William Davis

            Just so you know, there are ancient, pre-Christian precedents for same-sex marriage. It really isn't as unnatural as many currently suppose. There is no evidence marriage predates government (that I'm aware of). The first known city, Eridu, had a government, though it was a simple monarchy. The right of the king to govern came from the gods. Gods have always been used as a source of authority until the enlightenment and secular governments. This is what Nietzsche meant when he famously said "God is dead". In this since, he was completely correct. Governments have continuously shifted to a secular style since Nietzsche's death. The original use of the concept of "god" is no longer binding or even considered valid.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions

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

          • Doug Shaver

            marriage is a natural human institution that predates any government. Government can recognize it but it is not created by government or even any human authority, much less the Church.

            What you're talking about is just mating, not marriage. If they're the same thing, then I've been married a bunch more times than the official records would indicate.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Because it targets an entire group of people who were born that way.

            Are you sure people who like meat aren't "born that way"?

            Additionally, I'm opposed to people with their own dietary preferences passing laws to restrict my dietary options.

            So what makes a person a bigot, simply having beliefs about what is right and wrong, or does wanting to pass laws make a person a bigot?

            After all, a sterile couple may intend to be open to having children all day. That doesn't affect the purpose of the act, and their act can't be ordered to that purpose, since it's (in some cases) as physically likely for them to have children together as it is for to men or two women to have children together.

            This statement conflates the difference between sexual acts which are intrinsically not reproductive and conjugal acts which are not reproductive as a consequence of factors not intrinsic to the act.

          • So what makes a person a bigot, simply having beliefs about what is right and wrong, or does wanting to pass laws make a person a bigot?

            See my responses to Kevin Aldrich. And once you do, please also consider the question: what possible evidence would change your mind on the ethics of gay sex?

            This statement conflates the difference between sexual acts which are intrinsically not reproductive and conjugal acts which are not reproductive as a consequence of factors not intrinsic to the act.

            If all sex is about is reproduction, then there's no intrinsic difference I can find between a woman past menopause having sex with her husband and someone masturbating.

            To think the sole purpose of sex is reproduction, what an impoverished and mechanical view of sex. Is that really your position, or do you think that sex has other purposes too?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            And once you do, please also consider the question: what possible evidence would change your mind on the ethics of gay sex?

            My agreement with the Catholic definition is based on philosophical arguments and what I have concluded is the meaning and purpose of life and human sexuality. So, something that could change my mind is if someone were to expose a flaw in one of these philosophical arguments.

            If all sex is about is reproduction, then there's no intrinsic difference I can find between a woman past menopause having sex with her husband and someone masturbating.

            It's two different acts. The first act is the conjugal act, which is intrinsically reproductive under the right circumstances. The second act is intrinsically not-reproductive.

            I think the reason you see no difference is you're thinking purely from a perspective of consequentialism.

            To think the sole purpose of sex is reproduction, what an impoverished and mechanical view of sex. Is that really your position, or do you think that sex has other purposes too?

            Sex has at least one secondary purpose, which supports the primary purpose of reproduction. Reproduction creates children, which need to be cared for. Caring for children is very difficult with just one parent. So to support the bond between mother and father, sex releases oxytocin (the same hormone released in breastfeeding). This chemical establishes attachment between the two persons, and that attachment supports the permanence of their relationship.

            When I say sex has a purpose, I'm not denying that sex is exciting, or enjoyable, or beautiful. Those aspects of sex are attractive, but those aspects are not the purpose (function) of sex. But all these things add to the desire for sex and inherently support of the purpose of sex.

          • William Davis

            Sex has at least two major biological purposes. Reproduction is the first, pair bonding is the second. Non-procreative sex fulfills the second purpose, if not the first. This disproves that non-procreative sex is disordered. Problem solved :)

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

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK97287/

            It's really that simple for me. The fact that Catholics ignore the facts and logic just shows they are trying to defend tradition, nothing more.

          • Something that could change my mind is if someone were to expose a flaw in one of these philosophical arguments.

            I'm very glad to hear you are open to changing your beliefs.

            It's two different acts. The first act is the conjugal act, which is intrinsically reproductive under the right circumstances. The second act is intrinsically not-reproductive.

            To look at a more stark example, say that the woman has had her uterus removed. The first act then has a small but non-zero chance at being reproductive. The second case is also highly unlikely to be reproductive. Maybe the result of the masturbation somehow is preserved and makes its way into another person's body. There's a small but non-zero chance. So I don't seen the intrinsic difference. Both acts are equally reproductive as far as I can tell.

            Finally, you don't seem to be open to the possibility that sex can be unitive and loving. Why couldn't gay sex be unitive or loving? Why can't that be the purpose of sex?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      1. What is the order you see in homosexual acts?
      2. What is the disorder you see in Trent's claims?

      • 1. What is the order you see in homosexual acts?

        I tend to think of "order" and "disorder" as physical processes, and not so much in terms of free actions. I have trouble telling the difference between "disordered action" and "action I personally find distasteful".

        Someone might say (and for thousands of years people have) that the subjugation of women and relegation to traditional roles is as God intended, or as God ordered, and therefore that women holding positions of power or authority would be disordered, and would lead to the degradation of the social order.

        But if we thought of "order" in terms of a purpose, the reason for the act, then I suppose it would depend on the individuals in question. Two people might have sex in order to show their love and unite spiritually and personally, to become one flesh. Nothing about that reason necessarily involves a man and a woman. The two people could also be two men or two women.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You have trouble telling the difference between a disordered action and an action you find distasteful. What about ordered or purposeful actions and actions you find palatable?

          How do you distinguish among those four things without being arbitrary, or is your disgust with anyone calling same sex sex disordered just a personal preference you share with a lot of people today (who would not have had that preference, say, fifty years ago)?

          • The first question suggests you missed my meaning with the scare quotes. When people use the phrase "disordered action", it seems to me as though they are using it to mean "action I find distasteful". I tend to avoid the terms "ordered" and "disordered" outside of physical systems, so I don't personally have these sorts of troubles at all.

            You are asking me to distinguish labels I rejected from my first comment. I've only adopted one label: "bigoted".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Am I right to assume by "bigot" you mean something bad and presumably avoidably bad.

            What do you mean by that word? I was called a bigot on another website just this morning.

          • I'd go with the definition given above, re: Brumley

            Online Marriam-Webster Full Definition for Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

            Yes, I think it's avoidably bad.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then, Paul, you should realize how inappropriate it is. We are not obstinate or intolerant. Our views are not based on opinion or prejudice. We do not treat people with SSA with hatred or intolerance. (And SSA persons are not a racial or ethnic group.)

            Did these qualities characterize you or Obama or Hilary just a few years ago?

          • David Nickol

            Did these qualities characterize you or Obama or Hilary just a few years ago?

            They stopped short of supporting the right to same-sex marriage at the time. On the other hand, the Church, in a very real sense, does not recognize the right of gay people to exist. (Notice I say gay people and not homosexual persons. ) By gay people I mean men and women who do not see their sexual orientation as "intrinsically disordered" and who believe they have a right (if they so choose) to engage in sexual activity in private under basically the same legal rules that straight people follow.

            According to the Catholic Church, there must be no laws protecting the rights of gay people. The Church states that almost all problems of discrimination against gay people should be solved by the gay people remaining "chaste" and closeted. In other words, there should be no gay people, though there will be "homosexual persons" who have more or less strong inclinations to objective moral evils.

          • Michael Murray

            Well you have to admit it was working until recently. Unless you were gay. But then gay people came out and lots of people discovered they knew somebody gay who turned out to have a "companion" they had been living with for years and the whole thing became a non-issue for most people. I really admire the courage of the gay people who came out in a much harder world and thereby made possible the changes we see in the world today culminating in the wonderful news from Ireland on the weekend. I think we are both about the same age so you can no doubt remember what the world used to be like for gays. The change in my lifetime has been dramatic and gives me real hope for the world. We can discard old prejudices.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            David, this is complete bombast, although there is a better word that starts with "b" that describes your comment.

            You argue that the Church should not use the word "disorder" because of its connotations that psychologically hurt young people with SSA. Then you throw out a highly- charged-with-negative-connotations phrase like "does not recognize the right . . . to exist."

          • David Nickol

            Then you throw out a highly- charged-with-negative-connotations phrase like "does not recognize the right . . . to exist."

            I write carefully, and I expect to be read carefully. What I said was that "the Church, in a very real sense, does not recognize the right of gay people to exist." I then go went to explain what that sense is. To ignore all that and simply quote "does not recognize the right . . . to exist" is called quoting out of context. The CDF famously said

            But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behaviour to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

            How can gay people be said to have a right to exist when the behavior that (in part) makes them gay people is something "to which no one has any conceivable right"?

            You argue that the Church should not use the word "disorder" because of its connotations that psychologically hurt young people with SSA.

            No, I did not argue that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is super basic, DN. There is a difference between the person and his behavior. No one has a right to all sorts of behavior but that does not mean that person does not have a right to exist.

          • David Nickol

            No one has a right to all sorts of behavior but that does not mean that person does not have a right to exist.

            I believe I made that quite clear. I did not say the Church wants to execute gay people. I said the Church does not recognize their right to be gay people. They must "convert" to being "chaste," closeted "homosexual persons." In the Catholic Church's ideal world, gay people would not exist. People with a homosexual orientation would choose not to identify as gay people.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            They must "convert" to being "chaste," closeted "homosexual persons."

            On the contrary, the Church desires conversion but does not "expect" conversion or somehow "require" it.

            In the Catholic Church's ideal world, gay people would not exist.

            On the contrary, the Church believes that concupiscience is a just consequence of original sin, for the sake of a greater good.

          • Galorgan

            Do you disagree with Trent Horn then? This is what he said on another post on his own blog:

            “So our desires don’t define us, and they don’t condemn us. But our actions do define us, and we can be held accountable for them. Or, as Batman would say (switch to guttural Batman voice), “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” - Sharing the Faith at a Gay-Pride Parade

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What makes you think the two statements are in contradiction?

          • Galorgan

            So there is a difference between a person and what defines that person? Or there is a difference between behavior and action?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is a difference between an individual person and his or her behavior. However, his or her behavior over time shapes the character of that person. Telling one lie does not make a person ontologically a liar. However, telling lies constantly until lying becomes "natural" to one does make one a liar, maybe even ontologically.

            To say to someone you have no right to behave a certain way is not at all to say that you don't have a right to exist.

          • Galorgan

            I think that's David's point. You are saying that people have no right to behave a certain way - having a committed monogamous sexual same sex relationship in this case. Thus, the person has no right to be a "gay person" under David's use, even though they can be homosexual.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm saying two men don't have a right to marriage because that is not what marriage is.

          • Galorgan

            Is that all you're saying? Do two men have the right to be in a committed monogamous sexual same sex relationship if they don't call it a marriage?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We have not rigorously defined the word "right" have we?

            I would say that there is something in human nature that gives a man the right to marry a woman and visa versa (assuming free consent, etc.) and for them to found a family. Unless there are serious obstacles, no one has the right to stop them.

            I don't think there is anything in human nature that does the same for a man to marry a man or for a woman to marry a woman.

            In your definition, why do you include "sexual"? Why can't two or more people of either sex commit themselves to a permanent and exclusive relationship without sex being part of it? I'm sure there are some people out there who would like to do this.

          • Galorgan

            I include sexual because that it was the Catholic church forbids and that's what we're talking about. Did you think I was mandating sexuality?

            So you have the right to stop two men trying to be together (sexually) even if it's not being called marriage?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Me?

          • Galorgan

            Anybody?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Anyone has the right to try to stop it if he disapproves of it and it is under his roof or under his legitimate authority, just as I would not let allow one of my own children to share one of the beds in my house with someone he or she was not married to.

            As a citizen, anyone who disapproves of SSS has the right to make his views known and to try to put those views into laws if that is prudent and possible.

            City, state, and federal laws in the US in the past did just this. Many countries around the world still do.

            The question is, would any of these prohibitions be just. I don't think that just because a government makes a law that law is automatically just. It has to be judged by a higher law--the natural law.

          • George

            I hear the catholic apologists and spokesmen via iowa catholic radio (Al Kresta, Trent Horn, Patrick Madrid, etc) lament the crumbling of society by citing... Lawrence vs Texas and Don't Ask Don't Tell being repealed. Yep, DADT, the policy which went "Here are the ground rules, but the folks in power can violate those rules and just kick people out who don't tell in the first place."

            "but that does not mean that person does not have a right to exist."

            true. but what the hypersensitive minds that evangelize over the radio have shown is that they want this -

            *consenting adults having privacy in the bedroom*

            - to no longer exist.

            Just what the heck is Rick Santorum's definition of freedom and privacy?

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            Sorry, but quote mining is an informal fallacy and thus doesn't support your cause. I'd say it even undermines it.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            By gay people I mean men and women who do not see their sexual orientation as "intrinsically disordered"

            On the contrary, the Church recognizes there are people who do not agree with its dogmas, moral judgments, or other assessments.

            According to the Catholic Church, there must be no laws protecting the rights of gay people.

            This contradicts what the Church has actually written about discrimination against persons with homosexual inclinations.

          • David Nickol

            This contradicts what the Church has actually written about discrimination against persons with homosexual inclinations.

            The Catholic Church is opposed to any law that explicitly protects people on the basis of sexual orientation.

            Go read the CDF document Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons. Then come back and tell me if I have misinterpreted it.

          • David Nickol

            (And SSA persons are not a racial or ethnic group.)

            So anti-Catholicism is not bigotry because Catholics are not a racial or ethnic group?

            The word "especially" and the parenthetical phrase "as a racial or ethnic group" in the quoted definition do not limit the definition of a bigot to people who express hatred and intolerance to racial and ethnic groups.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I agree that Pres. Obama and Hilary Clinton were pandering to their perceptions of what the American electorate would accept in 2007-08. That was contemptible, in my view, if understandable in the real world of politics. (If you can't get elected, you don't even get the chance to try and put your policies into place.)

            To their credit, they've changed now, in Obama's case several months in advance of the 2012 presidential election. At that time, that was still something of a political risk:

            (1) The anti-same sex marriage crowd was batting something on the order of 32-0 in state constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage and limiting marriage to "one man and one woman" prior to the November 2012 election.

            (2) There were only six states at the time of the 2012 election in which same sex marriage was legal, and in three of those that result had come about by virtue of state court judicial decisions (one of which, in Iowa, led to three of the Supreme Court justices who had ruled that way losing their seats on the court when they came up for reelection), rather than through statutes passed by the leglislatures.

            In contrast, we have the GOP.

            The GOP, for all intents and purposes, is still where the party was 35 years ago. (And not just on same sex marriage, which was hardly a blip on anyone's radar screen at the time -- the SCOTUS had summarily denied certiorari in a case presenting the issue arising out of Minnesota, IIRC -- but on a whole wide range of issues, but that's another discussion for another day. ;) )

            If we wind up with 20 Republican candidates throwing their hat in the ring this cycle, we can pretty much guarantee every single one will come down against same sex marriage. Of course, it is entirely possible the SCOTUS will come to their rescue within the next five weeks with its ruling in the same sex marriage case hailing from the Sixth Circuit by ruling that the states may not deprive the equal protection of the laws to same sex couples wishing to marry, and thus allowing the GOP field to say, in effect: "Well, I'm personally against it, but the Supreme Court has spoken so that's that."

            And, yes, to answer the question you posed to Paul, this has been my position for decades, since I started to actually think about the issue as I became an adult, employed some empathy, realized that I myself had never consciously chosen heterosexual attraction, so why would I have any reason to think that others consciously chose to be attracted sexually to others of their same sex, especially in those days (tail end of the 70s and early to mid 80s), when "coming out" frequently had calamitous consequences to one's career and social and familial relationships.

            I was appalled when Pres. Clinton in the 90s issued the order implementing the DADT compromise in the US military and signed DOMA into law shortly before the presidential election in '96 and in the wake of the shellacking the Democratic Party had sustained in the '94 off-year election cycle with the ascendancy of Gingrich and the GOP revolution of that year. But, then, few politicians are known for exemplary, visionary political courage and leadership on tough issues, and that would have been an extraordinarily courageous political stance for Clinton to have taken back then.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "I agree that Pres. Obama and Hilary Clinton were pandering to their perceptions of what the American electorate would accept in 2007-08. That was contemptible, in my view, if understandable in the real world of politics. (If you can't get elected, you don't even get the chance to try and put your policies into place.)"
            So they are liars and you approve.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Don't you suppose most native English speakers understand use of the word "contemptible" to express disapproval?

            Did you actually read what I wrote?

            No, I didn't approve. As i said.

            Nevertheless, I don't know if either Obama or Clinton was lying because I don't know what was in their hearts and what they themselves actually believed at earlier points in time when they publicly expressed different views.

            It is possible they were.

            But, it is also possible they've changed their minds, having thought about the matter.

            Many of us think that remaining open to evaluating new evidence and willingness to listen to and consider new points of view and to changing our minds on a position we previously held when warranted by new evidence and new perspectives is a positive thing.

            That is one problem, I submit, that is hamstringing the Church. It illustrates the problem of adopting cultural conventions and mores from Iron Age peoples in a small society in one tiny corner of the world who, putting those mores into the mouth of a God created in the image of male elites in that society, sought to entomb such mores as granite monoliths that can never be changed as time moves on, conditions change, and human cultures evolve.

            But, it is not hard to understand the appeal to some from such an approach: since the moral views have been attributed to God, it's a way of seeking to evade having to actually engage with your fellow citizens and seek to convince them of the actual moral and ethical value of your beliefs, thinking you can shut down that entire conversation by pulling out the God trump card.

            That may have worked better in earlier times. These days, authority per se doesn't have the same cache it may have had centuries and millennia ago.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is one problem, I submit, that is hamstringing the Church. It illustrates the problem of adopting cultural conventions and mores from Iron Age peoples in a small society in one tiny corner of the world who, putting those mores into the mouth of a God created in the image of male elites in that society, sought to entomb such mores as granite monoliths that can never be changed as time moves on, conditions change, and human cultures evolve.

            But, it is not hard to understand the appeal to some from such an approach: since the moral views have been attributed to God, it's a way of seeking to evade having to actually engage with your fellow citizens and seek to convince them of the actual moral and ethical value of your beliefs, thinking you can shut down that entire conversation by pulling out the God trump card.

            Baloney.

            I have been engaging with my fellow citizens my entire adult life, seeing to convince them of the ethical value of my beliefs, never seeking to shut down the entire conversation.

            Your narrative is disingenuous, and you attribute to others what you do yourself--which is to dismiss the other side out of hand as a bunch of stone-age sexist idiots.

            And although you are corrected, you keep repeating it.

          • William Davis

            I have been engaging with my fellow citizens my entire adult life, seeing to convince them of the ethical value of my beliefs, never seeking to shut down the entire conversation.

            I agree that is what you do, but that is not what WAY too many Christians do (not all mind). Though we disagree on a lot, I've never gotten the impression that you are trying to shut down conversation. I think the Church's arguments for sexual morality are extremely poor, but that's just my opinion, I respect your right to disagree. Personally I'm amazed at the amount of energy you are willing to invest trying to defend Catholicism on this forum. The only explanation for this (to me) is that you are sincere in your beliefs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you. I also have had the time, which I did not used to have, and hope I will not have so much of in the future!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            False.

            I am referring to the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church and the Church's insistence that its dogmas and doctrines regarding morals and ethics came from God and are binding on human beings.

            I am not dismissing all Catholics as "stone-age sexist idiots." Point me to a single comment I've made in the dozens of comments we've exchanged in the past week in which I've said any such thing.

            The problem is with the Church as an institution, not with every individual who considers himself or herself a Catholic, for whatever battery of reasons.

            As Manny said elsewhere, a sentiment with which I heartily concur, many Catholics are eminently reasonable people most of the time. As are many who happen not to be Catholic.

            Some Catholics may be mostly unreasonable a great deal of the time. Some may even be mostly hateful and bigoted. As I'm sure we can all agree likely applies to virtually any other sufficiently broad grouping of human beings grouped together around some perceived common uniting belief or characteristic.

            To the extent that you care, let me note that while I respect Paul Brandon Rimmer's opinion regarding bigotry expressed earlier in this comment thread, mine is different. I don't happen to think that everyone who opposes same sex marriage is bigoted, although I think they are wrong
            morally. I think many are blinded by their acceptance of religious dogmas and attitudes and whose own natural humanity and empathy would allow them to see things in a different light but for those religious beliefs.

            Note: edited to replace "reasonable" with "unreasonable" in the 6th paragraph; typo in original.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am referring to the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church and the Church's insistence that its dogmas and doctrines regarding morals and ethics came from God and are binding on human beings.

            No. The Church insists that her moral theology comes from God *and reason* (based on human nature), which is why Catholics can be in dialogue with non-Catholics.
            It is true that the Church and Catholics who accept the Magisterium find a huge range of sexual/reproductive actions morally wrong based on her belief--which is reasonable--that the two interrelated purposes of human sexuality are unity and procreation.

          • David Nickol

            No. The Church insists that her moral theology comes from God *and reason* (based on human nature), which is why Catholics can be in dialogue with non-Catholics.

            The problem here is that it is also a dogma of of the Catholic Church that God can be known by reason alone. Therefore, the morality that the Catholic Church espouses assumes the existence of God and "natural law." Consequently, atheists who disagree with Catholics are being "unreasonable."

            One of the constant themes here on SN is that without God, there is no grounding for morality. In fact, it appears to be the Catholic view that without God, there is no morality at all. The concept doesn't even make sense.

            So, in essence, the Catholic argument is, "We have Truth, we are reasonable, you would agree with us if you were reasonable, and if you don't agree with us you are both unreasonable and wrong."

            The best use of reason in the world will get you nowhere if you begin with faulty premises, and Catholics basically maintain that it is only from within Catholicism that you can begin with true premises.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Has someone stolen the real DN? Where are you getting all this?

            Who says non-Catholics cannot be reasonable? Who says you can't have morality without God? Who says your third paragraph? Why are you asserting these are Catholic views?

            You've got a weird view of Catholicism that you are trying to impose on it.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            While I expect David will weigh in for himself, as he inimitably does, my reaction is this: from so many of the articles posted on SN, and from thousands upon thousands of comments posted by many Catholic commenters on SN over the past couple years.

            Now, to the extent that your point is that the Catholic Church itself may not claim in any officially-binding documents promulgating doctrine that non-Catholics cannot be reasonable, that may well be a legitimate point. But, surely non-Catholics in dialogue on this site can't be expected to disregard every single comment posted by every Catholic author and commenter that deviates an iota from some portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or some papal bull or encyclical.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            David is evidently imagining premises and then arriving conclusions.

          • David Nickol

            You are ignoring the premises of your own religion. By the way, I have never said that they are wrong. I don't pretend to know for a fact. But there are certain inescapable logical conclusions that follow from the premises of Catholicism. And one of those conclusions is that atheists and agnostics are not "reasonable," because the existence of God can be known by reason alone. Another is that homosexual behavior is "disordered" and entirely impermissible. According to Catholicism, this can be known by reason alone. So those who disagree are not "reasonable." (Notice the quotes. By "reasonable" I mean something like "starting with correct premises and reaching a sound conclusion.")

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How frequent do you think it is that people think about either the existence of God or their sexual desires by beginning with premises, trying to establish if they are sound, and then employing logic to arrive at conclusions?

          • David Nickol

            David is evidently imagining premises and then arriving conclusions.

            If my premises are wrong, then you need to identify them and explain why they are wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your three claims:
            1. Atheists who disagree with Catholics are being "unreasonable." That is an unwarranted conclusion you draw. The Catholic position is that reason can tell us that God exists, not that any particular person will get there by reason.
            2. Without belief in God there is no grounding for morality at all. This isn't a Catholic belief, since we believe everyone will be judged based on their conscience. No knowledge of moral law, nothing for the conscience to judge according to.
            3. "We have Truth, we are reasonable, you would agree with us if you were reasonable, and if you don't agree with us you are both unreasonable and wrong." Again, this is just an idiosyncratic line of reasons you have adopted.

          • David Nickol

            1. Atheists who disagree with Catholics are being "unreasonable." That is an unwarranted conclusion you draw. The Catholic position is that reason can tell us that God exists, not that any particular person will get there by reason.

            You are ignoring the meaning I clearly stated for my use of "reasonable" in quotation marks. I said the following:

            Notice the quotes. By "reasonable" I mean something like "starting with correct premises and reaching a sound conclusion."

            An atheist, according to the Catholic Church, is not starting with correct premises, so even if he or she reaches the same conclusions about morality as the Catholic Church (which is unlikely, particularly in a thread like this one, the atheist has not reached those conclusions "reasonably."

            2. Without belief in God there is no grounding for morality at all. This isn't a Catholic belief, since we believe everyone will be judged based on their conscience.

            I am not talking about Catholic beliefs regarding how people will be judged. I'm talking about the grounding of morality. There's an interesting web site you may have heard of called Strange Notions. I'd recommend some of their articles on morality such as

            Must Objective Morality Be Grounded?
            Why God is the Ground of Objective Morality
            Does Objective Morality Depend Upon God?
            Why Goodness Depends on God

            Again, this is just an idiosyncratic line of reasons you have adopted.

            That contains no information as to why you think I am wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think that atheists and agnostics can be rational, reasonable, and have good will. The Magisterium of the Church also holds these attitudes.

          • David Nickol

            Who says non-Catholics cannot be reasonable?

            I didn't say "non-Catholics," a term I try to avoid. I said "atheists." If God and his existence can be known by reason alone, what must that say about people who say there is no God?

            Who says you can't have morality without God?

            Time and again, it has been argued on SN that without God, morality has no grounding. Yes, some atheists may adhere to exactly the same morality as Catholics, and they can be "good people" (in a sense), but ultimately they have no reason for following Catholic morality, because one of the axioms of Catholic morality is the "Catholic God" and his intentions in creating the world.

            Who says your third paragraph? Why are you asserting these are Catholic views?

            Because they are.

            Answer me this. Suppose you are mistaken and atheists are right. What is the meaning of "moral" or "immoral"?

          • William Davis

            Who says non-Catholics cannot be reasonable? Who says you can't have morality without God? Who says your third paragraph? Why are you asserting these are Catholic views?

            I've seen this on SN over and over again, that reasonable people must believe in God. I've also seen it over and over again from Catholics who wonder around the internet trying to bully atheists (I just engaged one on patheos). Maybe they have it all wrong, but it does seem to be a common Catholic fallacy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a Catholic teaching that reasonable people must believe in God but rather that belief in God is reasonable and that the existence of God can be known through reason. That does not mean people will necessarily arrive at the belief.

            So what if you've had some unpleasant experiences on the Internet. Doesn't that cut both ways?

          • William Davis

            So what if you've had some unpleasant experiences on the Internet. Doesn't that cut both ways?

            Lol, I never said my experiences were unpleasant. These overly dogmatic dunning-kruger types are often quite entertaining in a contemptible sort of way. I've been using such discussions to cultivate patience, anyway...it's now a habit :)
            One that's fascinating is how effective preaching is against many of these types. When they behave in un-Christian ways, I'm quick to whip out Bible verses. This is only after trying to be reasonable at first, which sometimes works (decent people often feel guilty if the other person "turns the other cheek" when being insulted). If the gospels are any indication of the actual Jesus, he was right about a lot :)

          • Greg Schaefer

            David.

            So well said, David.

            I am greatly in your debt for all that I've learned from your comments over the past couple years here.

          • OldSearcher

            I am greatly in your debt for all that I've learned from your comments over the past couple years here.

            Greg, David. I thank both of you. I am enjoing and learning a lot from your posts.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I understand that the Church contends that her moral theology comes from God through divine revelation but that (great) portions of it can also -- according to the Church -- be derived independently by humans by means of reason.

            I indicated in our discussion on last week's article by Joe Heschmeyer that, unfortunately, I am not up to speed on Aquinas' explications and elaboration of natural law moral theory which I understand serves as the foundation for Catholic teachings regarding the natural law. So, I can't discuss that aspect with you.

            But I'd ask you to reflect on the following.

            My understanding is that Aquinas in his early years engaged in extensive study of both the Old and New Testaments and Catholic doctrines in place at the time. He became a Dominican Friar and was later appointed the Dominican Chair in a Faculty of Theology. His primary profession thereafter was as a theologian, although he studied Aristotle deeply (and some of his writings are philosophical as well). More than a few, in fact, claim his great genius was in adapting Aristotelian philosophy to Catholic dogma, thereby providing a more imposing systemic philosophical (at least at that time) edifice and grounding for Catholic theology.

            An article on Aquinas in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that in theology (in contrast to philosophy):

            "the discourse of the theologian is ultimately driven back to starting points or principles that are held to be true on the
            basis of faith, that is, the truths that are authoritatively conveyed by Revelation as revealed by God."

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aquinas/ Section 2, 4th paragraph.

            It was on precisely that ground that Bertrand Russell criticized Aquinas's philosophy:

            "The appeal to reason [by Aquinas] is, in a sense, insincere, since the conclusion to be reached in fixed in advance. . . . There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times."

            Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy, Entry on Thomas Aquinas, pp. 462-63 (Simon & Schuster ed.).

            So, my questions to you:

            (1) Do you truly contend that Aquinas would have independently derived the same principles of so-called natural law morality had he not been steeped in the Bible and Catholic doctrine when he set out to write the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles equipped with advance knowledge of what the "answers" were?

            (2) For these purposes, I'll stipulate that Aquinas was a monumental intellect. But, there have been many other monumental intellects throughout human history. There have been others who likewise have sought to explicate so-called natural law theories. Some of them may also have been extremely intelligent and rigorous in their thinking. So, why then do the natural law theories of other philosophers -- say Thomas Hobbes or John Locke -- not arrive at identical principles and answers as did Aquinas?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me ask you this, had not Bertrand Russell hated Christianity, would he have given such a negative assessment of Thomas Aquinas? ;) I don't see how it is valid to criticize one's philosophy based on his theology.

            In theology, the starting point is the data of Divine Revelation. That data may be able to be known by reason (like, say the goodness of honoring one's parents) or impossible to know by reason (like the Trinity). Theologians then use the tools of reason to understand that revealed data, see connections, and find or speculate on new truths that can be uncovered.

            Philosophy does not begin with revelation but only reason. None of the basic concepts Aquinas and the Scholastics employed were derived from the Sacred Scriptures or Catholic dogma (say, a finding of an ecumenical council). That's why you see things like act, potency, efficient causation, quiddity, substance, accidents, and so on.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Nice rhetorical trick. I think you are right that Bertrand Russell was not a great fan of Christianity. But I see no reason to presume that the causation you imply in your first sentence even exists in the first place or, if it does, that it flows the direction you would have it flow.

            Based on what I've read of Russell's writings on the subject, I gather that is because he was not impressed with the evidence put forth in support of the Church's metaphysical beliefs about the existence of the type of God he understood to be venerated in Christianity, because he found the philosophical arguments for God's existence advanced by the Church wholly unconvincing and laid out the specifics of why, and because he deemed many of the Church's moral teachings to be immoral, cruel, with some almost pathologically anti-humanistic and debasing. I'd be happy to recommend some of his writings so you can read them and decide for yourself (but please don't take this as an assumption on my part that you haven't already read at least some of Russell's writings on the subject).

            But, aren't you now engaging in a logical or argument fallacy? Perhaps Jonathan Brumley, David Nickol, William Davis, Brandon Vogt or others on this site learned in such matters can step in and referee.

            Whatever Russell's underlying feelings about Christianity, I believe you still have to deal with the validity of his argument, rather than abjuring to respond because you imagine him to be an ardent opponent of your own or Thomas Aquinas' religious beliefs and the dogmas and doctrines of your Church.

            So, back to mine. Can you answer my two prior questions?

            I'll add a third, in light of your response.

            (3) Can you understand why some of us who are not faithful Catholics and thus don't start from a position of assuming the validity of the Church's doctrines and dogmas are less than impressed by claims that those dogmas can be derived purely on the basis of reason alone, based on the after-the-fact rationalizations of a theologian/philosopher 750 years ago who was starting with the presupposition of the truth of those dogmas in mind when he set out to write?

            The fact that Aquinas, borrowing from then 1,600 year-old Aristotelian philosophy, used philosophical terms not previously deployed in Catholic theology not only does not undercut Russell's point of special pleading but fails even to acknowledge the thrust of that argument.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why don't you give me an example of a Thomistic moral argument that you think puts the theological cart before the philosophical horse?

            As to your two questions, you should ask a Scholastic philosopher. I'll ask one I know but I don't know if he is interested in SN.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I've previously informed you that I haven't read Aquinas' theory of natural law morality. Not having done so, I'm unable to list for you specific examples of the Church's moral teachings that Aquinas contended can be derived solely on the basis of human reason alone, independently of divine revelation. So, it's not so much that I am refusing to answer your question as it is a candid recognition that I cannot engage you in a specific discussion in which I have no pertinent knowledge upon which to do so.

            In contrast, the questions I posed to you actually do not presuppose that I be conversant with the particulars of Aquinas' theory of natural law morality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So I think you are raising an imaginary problem that does not actually exist.

            I thought I did deal with Russell's argument as you quoted it. He's getting down on Aquinas's philosophy because Aquinas also does theology--two distinct fields with different premises and methods.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I don't think this is an imaginary problem. Nor do I think you have fairly addressed Russell's objection to what Aquinas claimed to have done purely from a philosophical perspective.

            The Church's claim is that at least some of its dogmas and doctrines regarding human morality can be determined solely on the basis of human reason.

            In support of that claim, the Church relies on some writings of Aquinas (Summa T? Summa CG? Others? Particular books don't really matter for this point).

            The problem is not that Aquinas was both a philosopher and a theologian.

            The core of the problem arises from the fact that Aquinas was, in fact a theologian (in fact, as I understand it, the Chair of a Department of Theology), had been deeply steeped in the Bible and Catholic dogma then extant, and was an ordained Dominican Friar.

            (It might also be relevant if this was during an era in which the Church's teachings regarding heresy, apostasy and orthodoxy might have been felt with more force among the faithful, in general, and within the Dominican order, in particular. I have no knowledge here one way or the other as a historical proposition. I'm only saying it could be a relevant consideration.)

            With all of this theological knowledge embedded in his mind, Aquinas then set out, wearing his philosopher's hat, to think deeply and to see what he might be able to derive of moral law based on his human reason (thus, the reference to "natural law moral theory" I imagine).

            The gist of Russell's point is that it would have been a far more impressive feat, for the Church's claim, if Aquinas had first sat down as a philosopher -- never having read the Bible or even knowing of its existence, with no prior knowledge of Catholic doctrines and dogmas of morality, never having been trained as a priest, and never having occupied the position of the Chair of a Theology Department -- and derived his natural law moral theory and only at that point sat down with Church authority and compared his purely philosophically-derived natural law moral theory with established Catholic doctrine and dogmas based on revelation to see where the two coincided.

            I don't think this is a difficult concept to grasp, so I guess I must be articulating it poorly.

            Here's another way to think about it.

            Go identify a promising young intellectual with demonstrated abilities in abstract reasoning and logical thinking ability and an interest in philosophy and moral reasoning but without any prior knowledge of the Bible or Catholic doctrines on morality. (I didn't say it would be easy. It's a thought experiment. Maybe someone hailing from a society less suffused with any of the traditions of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.) Ask him or her to write, as their doctoral dissertation, a theory of human morality based solely on reason.

            How much overlap do you imagine you are likely to discover between the dissertation and Aquinas' natural law moral theory? How many of the Church's doctrines regarding human morality do you honestly think are going to appear in recognizable form in the dissertation?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Since you admit not knowing anything about it, why do you do so much speculation about it?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I explained to you what I have not read. I also explained to you why the fact that I have not read Aquinas' Summa T or Summa CG does not foreclose me from posing to you Russell's objection to Aquinas' after-the-fact philosophical rationalizations of matters he already "knew" to be "true" because of his theological beliefs as being special pleading.

            Why are you so unwilling to answers my questions?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            1. I have no idea if this is a real problem or bogus.
            2. I don't even know what the issue is and don't feel like researching it.
            3. Bertrand Russell holds no interest for me.
            4. If it is important to you, find out for yourself.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I'll make one last stab at this.

            Disregard Bertrand Russell. This is not contingent on a dispute between Bertrand Russell and Thomas Aquinas. I only referenced Russell because I thought he had described the problem so well.

            The core point is special pleading. It is far less impressive to non-believers that a believer -- and, in this particular case, not just any odd believer but an ordained Dominican Friar who held a Chair in Theology back in far different times, 750 years ago -- while professing to wear his philospher's hat has written multi-volume works in which he announces that he has derived wholly independently and purely from reason a set of moral laws that, as it happens, coincidentally arrive at the very same "answers" that he already knew, from his theological beliefs, were the Truth before he even set out on his philosophical enterprise.

            Do you understand why that is so?

            A more colloquial way of phrasing it is reasoning backwards, seeking to justify a conclusion you've already reached.

            This is not an attack on your religious beliefs or Aquinas' theology. It is only a comment on whether that which Aquinas -- and the Church derivatively, proceeding from him -- claimed to have been purely a philosophical endeavor was a truly open-minded search for the truth, where the path might lead to truths that turn out to be very different from the religious beliefs of a powerful institutional religion.

            I don't need to find out this one out for myself, as I already have views on the subject. I'm probing simply because I was curious about yours.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is this an accurate statement of your objection?

            Thomas claims to have reasoned himself to moral laws that end up being exactly like the ones he already believed from his theology.

            I don't think Thomas ever made this claim. That is why I think you are imagining it.

            Here is what he said at the beginning of the Summa contra gentiles:

            [2] And so, in the name of the divine Mercy, I have the confidence to embark upon the work of a wise man, even though this may surpass my powers, and I have set myself the task of making known, as far as my limited powers will allow, the truth that the Catholic faith professes, and of setting aside the errors that are opposed to it. To use
            the words of Hilary: “I am aware that I owe this to God as the chief duty of my life, that my every word and sense may speak of Him” [De Trinitate I,37].

            [3] To proceed against individual errors, however, is a difficult business, and this for two reasons. In the first place, it is difficult because the sacrilegious remarks of individual men who have erred are not so well known to us so that we may use what they say as the basis of proceeding to a refutation of their errors. This is, indeed, the method that the ancient Doctors of the Church used in the refutation of the errors of the Gentiles. For they could know the positions taken by the Gentiles since they themselves had been Gentiles, or at least had lived among the Gentiles and had been instructed in their teaching.

            In the second place, it is difficult because some of them, such as the Mohammedans and the pagans, do not agree with us in accepting the authority of any Scripture, by which they may be convinced of their error. Thus, against the Jews we are able to argue by means of the Old Testament, while against heretics we are able to argue by means of the New Testament. But the Muslims and the pagans accept neither the one nor the other. We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent. However, it is true, in divine matters the natural reason has its failings.

            [4] Now, while we are investigating some given truth, we shall also show what errors are set aside by it; and we shall likewise show how the truth that we come to know by demonstration is in accord with the Christian religion.

            http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#1

          • Michael Murray

            But, it is also possible they've changed their minds, having thought about the matter.

            It certainly happens, particularly around marriage equality. Here is a senior Australian Catholic Member of Parliament who has finally decided to support marriage equality discussing his reasons why

            http://www.tonyburke.com.au/ronaldmiz3n/statement_24_may_2015

            I guess he is not a real Catholic.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Michael.

            Thanks for that. Nice to see evidence to support the notion that there is always reason for hope. ;) I say good on you, Tony Burke.

            Another of the things so desultory about the American political scene of recent decades is that it has become so rigidly dogmatic. It is now seen as some kind of heroic virtue in some quarters to never change one's mind on any issue, no matter what new evidence comes down the pike and no matter how much sounder some view or policy other than the one to which one has personally hewed or supported in the past may become in the new day's light.

            I suppose for some that's a function of habits of mind and for others a function of tribal identity. The obvious problem is that immovable grantic monoliths of dogmatic belief are even less capable than some of the reputed lumbering dinosaurs of old legend of adapting to and evolving to meet the challenges and needs of our ever-changing physical environments, the burgeoning libraries of human knowledge about how nature and the world and our universe actually are and the processes that appear to govern them and ever-evolving human cultures and societies.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            "Contemptible, if understandable" doesn't mean that you approve their lying. It means that you disapprove them even though you understand why they lie.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then how about:

            "You don't approve of their lying although you understand why they lie AND you approve of the actual political agenda that the contemptible lie serves."

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            Then you're adding a new claim that is not implied by the original statement.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            GS does approve of the actual political agenda.

            You need to get with the commenting guidelines, unless your first name is actually "El."

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            in response to this comment of yours responding to E.S.J. and your other related comment posted about the same time, also in response to a subsequent comment of E.S.J.'s, "GS does approve of the actual political agenda," I'll note that if the former is an attempt on your part to encapsulate my views, you are failing in a spectacularly ridiculous manner in interpreting my comments and, in any event, you are spectacularly wrong in your assumptions regarding my political beliefs in both of your comments.

            As to the first.

            I didn't say that Obama and Hillary Clinton were lying, with respect to things they have been quoted as saying regarding same sex marriage prior to 2012, including during the 2008 presidential campaign. I said that was a possibility. I said that explicitly here (http://strangenotions.com/is-heaven-to-blame-for-murder/#comment-2049733801), which you appear to be ignoring. Kindly cease from misrepresenting my comments.

            I did say, in an earlier comment here (http://strangenotions.com/is-heaven-to-blame-for-murder/#comment-2049204214) that I thought the expression of those views was contemptible. That was intended to convey how strongly I thought they were wrong, morally, in the substantive views they had expressed opposing same sex marriage. That statement, however, implies nothing about whether their statements were lies or accurate expressions of what they actually thought about the same sex marriage issue at that time. By the same token, I can think (as it so happens I do) that comments Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and others among the Republican contenders for 2016 have made expressing their opposition to same sex marriage place them on the wrong side of the aisle, morally, without thinking that they are lying about and misrepresenting their own actual views on the subject.

            As to the second.

            Not that you have asked, but it just so happens that I don't actually "approve of the actual political agenda" of much of what President Obama has sought to accomplish in his six and a half years in office. In fact, I disagree with many of the policies he has sought to advance and with many of his decisions, and have on several occasions written to register my specific objections to his "agenda."

            As to Hillary Clinton, I don't even know what her "actual political agenda" is. If it turns out to bear much resemblance to those of her husband's and Obama's, it is safe to say that I will object to huge portions of hers, as well.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I withdraw my comments on this matter then.

          • I was a bigot. I still have some lingering prejudice against gays. I'm working on that.

            I'm glad that you aren't obstinate in your position. What possible new information would change your mind on the morality of gay sex?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't imagine what that would be. Aren't there areas of morality that you can't imagine changing your mind about?

          • Yes, there's things I'm obstinate about.

            First part of the definition:

            Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.

            You've just admitted you're obstinate in this opinion, and it's prejudicial, being that it's not at all sensitive to any circumstances of the relationships in question or any new information about those relationships.

            Second part:

            especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

            Gay people generally have no choice in their orientation, any more than I have in mine, so their group is much like a racial or ethnic group. You are opposed to the natural expression of that orientation. Since you are opposed to expressions of love, your regard is hateful. If you oppose laws recognizing these relationships as potentially equal to heterosexual relationships, your regard is intolerant.

            It would seem as though you are a bigot. The word doesn't sound nice. Maybe I should use another word, or avoid labels of this sort altogether, in order to be more charitable in this kind of discussion.

            The word "disordered" doesn't sound nice, either. Maybe that word should be avoided in this kind of discussion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There we are.

          • David Nickol

            Disordered is a technical term in Catholic moral theology. It is unreasonable to expect people who have no knowledge of, or no interest in, Catholic moral theology to use or understand disordered the same way you do.

            In everyday speech, disordered is likely to be taken to mean "sick." Of course, many people do think homosexuality is a kind of mental illness

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So what do we do about the fact that people misunderstand language?

          • David Nickol

            So what do we do about the fact that people misunderstand language?

            When it is technical language, you either don't use it in a nontechnical context, or you are very careful to define your terms. If people persist in seriously misunderstanding technical language that sounds like nontechnical language, you stop using it and update the terminology. That is one reason why we don't classify people with intellectual disabilities as idiots, imbeciles, and morons any more, and why we even hear mental retardation less than we used to. This was all medical terminology, but it became unpleasant and ugly over time.

            But as I said, I don't think you would claim to be misunderstood, since you have any number of times objected to the APA declassifying homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder. It seems to me that you and many others who use disordered as a term from Catholic moral theology find no problem using it pretty much synonymously as a psychological term and feel that mental health professionals who don't consider homosexuality a disorder are either wrong or cravenly caving under political pressure.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know what you mean by the *you* in the second paragraph. Your first sentence does not apply to me, since I don't think I have ever objected publicly to the declassification.

            I don't think the Magisterium of the Church has an opinion as to whether SSA is a psychiatric disorder--the psychologists and psychciatrists came up with that and then the uncame up with it.

            As to why the people who get to decide what is and is not a psychological or psychiatric disorder changed their minds, that is a historical question.

            I do think the Magisterium considers SSA a physical evil, since it is a disordered movement of the passions and affections, just coveting your neighbor's wife is a disordered affection and passion. And it considers SS actions as moral disorders, just as it considers adultery and a whole host of other sexual activities as disordered.

            I have no idea what language the RCC could use that people of that ilk today would not find offensive.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          In regard to "the subjugation of women and relegation to traditional roles is as God intended, or as God ordered, and therefore that women holding positions of power or authority would be disordered, and would lead to the degradation of the social order":

          Check out the Abbess of Las Huelgas:

          The Abbess of the monastery was, by the favor of the king, invested with almost royal prerogatives, and exercised an unlimited secular authority over more than fifty villages. Like secular lords, she held her own courts, in civil and criminal cases, and, like bishops, she granted Dimissorial Letters for ordination, and issued licenses authorizing priests within the territory of her abbatial jurisdiction to hear confessions, to preach, and to engage in pastoral care. She was privileged also to confirm the Abbesses of other monasteries, to impose censures, and to convoke synods. At a General Chapter of the Cistercians held in 1189, she was made Abbess General of the Order for the Kingdom of León and Castile, with the privilege of convoking annually a general chapter at Burgos.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_Santa_Mar%C3%ADa_la_Real_de_Las_Huelgas

          I first heard of her because St. Josemaria Escriva wrote a doctoral dissertation on her in the early 1940s.

        • Michael Murray

          It seems to be a way of claiming God's plan as an excuse for pet prejudices.

          Nicely put !

  • GCBill

    I'm surprised you didn't say more about the tacit consequentialism behind Janzen's actions (though perhaps Footnote 3 alludes to it). Basically, evil acts committed for the sake of bringing spiritual peace to others can only be justified if it is more generally acceptable to "do evil so that good may come." Christians have historically rejected this view, and in my judgment for good reason, for if they didn't it would lead to some disastrous paradoxes:

    • A powerful theory of morality applied to a false belief system can yield arbitrarily crazy conclusions.

      This is actually a good reason why the ancients were right to prefer non-consequentialist moral arguments. A better theory, applied to their traditional beliefs, would not have yielded reasonable moral guidelines. Deontology and virtue theories are more robust in the presence of false belief systems, less likely to go disastrously wrong.

      And of course the same is true now. The progress of science gives us many beliefs which are exquisitely superior to traditional beliefs, so we can reasonably trust these for use in consequentialist thinking. But unfortunately the social sciences have not yet been able to give us the rigorous results we would want before it would make sense to apply them in the same way.

  • Michael Murray

    So. Great news from Ireland on the weekend.

  • Kraker Jak

    Catholic Apologists deserve an A for Herculean effort.

  • Michael Murray

    For example, some atheists argue that it is wrong to say homosexual behavior is disordered because that can cause LGBT teens to commit suicide.

    Not this one. I say that it is wrong to say homosexual behaviour is disordered because I don't accept the whole concept of natural law is anything other than an over blown justification for an existing bunch of prejudices. In this case about sex and human sexual behaviour. It's like apologetics. Decide on the answer. Invent the reason.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Is this true for atheists, too?

    • joey_in_NC

      I say that it is wrong to say homosexual behaviour is disordered
      because I don't accept the whole concept of natural law is anything
      other than an over blown justification for an existing bunch of
      prejudices.

      So, in other words, you don't consider anything disordered? Bestiality? Necrophilia? Neither you would consider disordered?

      • Michael Murray

        I don't think "disordered" is a useful concept. That doesn't mean I don't think there are things that are right to do and things that are wrong to do. I just don't get there by so-called "natural law".

        • joey_in_NC

          I don't think "disordered" is a useful concept.

          If you don't think "disordered" is a useful concept, then how can you make a judgment and say that it is "wrong" to use it to describe homosexuality?

          That doesn't mean I don't think there are things that are right to do and things that are wrong to do.

          So...do you think committing acts of bestiality or necrophilia is wrong? If so, aren't your thoughts just "an existing bunch of prejudices"?

          I just don't get there by so-called "natural law".

          Assuming you have negative thoughts concerning bestiality/necrophilia, how exactly do you arrive at those opinions?

          • Michael Murray

            If you don't think "disordered" is a useful concept, then how can you make a judgment and say that it is "wrong" to use it to describe homosexuality?

            Why not ?

            Assuming you have negative thoughts concerning bestiality/necrophilia, how exactly do you arrive at those opinions?

            Surely you aren't seriously suggesting that Catholic natural law theories are the only way to make ethical judgements ?

          • joey_in_NC

            Why not ?

            You want to have it both ways by stating "disordered" is not a useful concept, but at the same time judging that it is "wrong" to use it a certain way. If you think it can't be used a certain way, then it has to have some actual meaning to you.

            If I think the term "groovy" is not a useful concept, then on what grounds can I judge that it is wrong to say wearing bell bottom pants is groovy? The statement "Bell bottom pants is groovy," should simply be meaningless. I can't say it's right or wrong in any way considering "groovy" is a useless concept for me.

            Surely you aren't seriously suggesting that Catholic natural law theories are the only way to make ethical judgements ?

            No, I'm not suggesting that.

            I see you've evaded my questions. Do you think bestiality/necrophilia are wrong? And if so, how do you arrive at their wrongness if not through some notion of natural law?

          • Michael Murray

            You want to have it both ways by stating "disordered" is not a useful concept, but at the same time judging that it is "wrong" to use it a certain way. If you think it can't be used a certain way, then it has to have some actual meaning to you.

            The only "meaning" it has to me is the one explained to me by Catholics. I don't find that very meaningful though. Which is my point. You seem to be trying to argue something like "you say you don't believe in god but if you use the word you must believe in god" ??

            how do you arrive at their wrongness if not through some notion of natural law?

            Don't shift the goalposts. I'm rejecting the Catholic notion of natural law not "some notion of natural law".

          • joey_in_NC

            I don't find that very meaningful though.

            Then you can just simply say that you do not find the statement "homosexuality is disordered" meaningful. Saying that it's wrong to use "disordered" a certain way implies you find the term meaningful.

            You seem to be trying to argue something like "you say you don't believe in god but if you use the word you must believe in god" ??

            No.

            If you want a more apt analogy, I already gave one. Let me reiterate it. I think "groovy" is a meaningless concept. So on what grounds can I say the statement "wearing bell bottom pants is groovy" is "wrong"? The only way I can say it's right/wrong is if "groovy" already has some meaning to me.

            Don't shift the goalposts. I'm rejecting the Catholic notion of natural law not "some notion of natural law".

            Most obviously you reject the Catholic notion of natural law.

            Once again you have evaded my questions. Do you think bestiality/necrophilia are wrong? If so, why?

          • Michael Murray

            You could know what groovy means to others but reject it as a useful description of bell bottom pants. I understand (I think) what Catholics mean by ordered and disordered in this sort of argument. I just don't think the notions apply in a sensible and consistent way in the real world . Hence my calling these arguments "wrong".

            Once again you have evaded my questions. Do you think bestiality/necrophilia are wrong? If so, why?

            I haven't evaded them I just didn't answer them because I thought it might be educational for you to look up the answer online yourself. In any case William has it covered.

            Let me finish with a quote here that might interest you. This is from a Catholic priest in Ballarat in Victoria Australia where paedophilia amongst priests was common.

            A priest who visited convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale in prison says no-one within the Catholic Church at the time fully understood the effect Ridsdale's abuse had on his victims, and many believed he could change.

            This is appalling at a number of levels. Probably most at the apparent lack of empathy for children. But in the context of our current discussions what interests me is the implication that for members of the Church at the time, some of whom where bishops, morality seemed to be about the impact things had on people not about their instrinsically ordered or disordered nature. Maybe the Church needs to work a bit harder in the seminaries explaining its own ideas.

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-29/catholic-church-did-not-understand-effects-of-paedophilia/6505300e impact things have on people not about their instrinsically ordered or disordered activity. Maybe the Church needs to work a bit harder in the seminaries explaining its own ideas.

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-29/catholic-church-did-not-understand-effects-of-paedophilia/6505300

            EDIT: Sorry for the late edits. I got into a mess with a minor change and Safari.

          • joey_in_NC

            Sorry for the late response...

            I haven't evaded them I just didn't answer them because I thought it
            might be educational for you to look up the answer online yourself.

            I was asking about your own opinions. I can get some online answers about how both these actions are "disordered" and/or "unnatural". Would you agree with those assessments as to why theactions are wrong?

            This is appalling at a number of levels. Probably most at the apparent lack of empathy for children.

            I completely agree the whole situation is appalling on a number of levels, and like you said mostly at the apparent lack of empathy for the victims.

            But in the context of our current discussions what interests me is the implication that for members of the Church at the time, some of whom where bishops, morality seemed to be about the impact things had on people not about their instrinsically ordered or disordered nature.

            I don't think you're correct here, unless you think the Church at the time didn't think pedophilia is disordered in nature. I'm pretty sure they did. What they obviously didn't do is do a good job protecting others from these priests that had these disordered inclinations.

          • Michael Murray

            According to the article they quoted they thought it was wrong but apparently not very wrong.

            He told the ABC that, at the time, the church did not fully understand the nature of paedophilia and the offenders.

            "Even though in the church we knew it was wrong, I don't think there was any sense of the harm it did," he said.

            "I think there wasn't any sense either that it was virtually irreversible. [It was thought] that you tried hard and you would improve."

            He said many priests back then would not have seen Ridsdale's actions as a reportable offence.

            "It's clearer that it's a crime now, because we know the effects of it. Then, I don't think even the psychiatrists and psychologists knew," he said.

            "Just as you wouldn't go to the police if someone was an alcoholic [they didn't report offending to the police], it was the wisdom of the time.

            "So we're a lot wiser, but a bit late."

          • joey_in_NC

            If by that you mean moving paedophiles around so they could find new
            victims and not reporting them to the police you are correct.

            Yes, that's what I mean.

            But tying this back to the subject of this discussion (and since you apparently want to drop the subject of bestiality/necrophilia), do you not think that pedophilia is disordered in any way? Are such actions wrong only because of the negative consequences experienced by the victims?

          • William Davis

            I see you've evaded my questions. Do you think bestiality/necrophilia are wrong? And if so, how do you arrive at their wrongness if not through some notion of natural law?

            I'd say these are wrong because a dead person and a beast can't consent to the activity. They are both also repulsive, but that isn't a logical argument. There is always more to morality than just logic though. We are all gifted (except for sociopaths maybe) with a moral intuition that we use to make value judgement. One problem is that this moral intuition varies from person to person for a variety of reasons, making a universal natural law impossible, though we can get kind of close.
            If someone signed a contract before death saying that x person can have intercourse with them after they died, I'd argue for it being legal. I'd stay miles away from any repulsive person who did that, however. I'm not sure about bestiality, perhaps it should be illegal on the grounds of some type of animal cruelty, but that may depend on the animal involved (I'd rather not delve deeper into that one, lol).

      • David Nickol

        Bestiality? Necrophilia? Neither you would consider disordered?

        I hope this doesn't mean we can't have sex with vampires! :-O

        • Michael Murray

          Something to confess my son ?

          • David Nickol

            Something to confess my son ?

            I was just concerned that Buffy might have been doing something wrong with Angel. But that can't be, can it? When she was brought back to life in Season 6, we found out she had been in heaven.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah good point. I'm not up to date with vampirology or the latest Bufftheodicy.

  • Paul E Frederick Jr

    I don't think Eberhard committed the fallacy you speak of, because I do not think his argument was about whether or not God exists. I think God's non-existence was merely one of his premises. His argument seems to be that belief in God can have bad consequences.

    He did admit that faith can also have good consequences. And you rightly pointed out that atheism can have really bad consequences. I think where you really take issue with him is his claim that this faith is false; or the implication that all faith is false. (again, another of his premises)

    I think a better refutation of Eberhard's blog post might be to point out that bad faith is bad, and good faith is good if it is faith in something true. And that faith in God points toward something good, though men of faith are flawed and do not express it properly; but Atheism simply points to NOTHING; and NOTHING is bad. In fact, to a person of faith, NOTHING is hell.

    • Michael Murray

      I think a better refutation of Eberhard's blog post might be to point out that bad faith is bad, and good faith is good if it is faith in something true.

      If you know it is true then how is it faith ?

      And that faith in God points toward something good, though men of faith are flawed

      You can say that again.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-26/priest-gives-character-reference-paedophile-gerald-ridsdale/6497984

      but Atheism simply points to NOTHING;

      That would be because Atheism is not a pointer. My bicycle flies badly but I try not to hold that against it,

      NOTHING is bad.

      Why ?

      • Paul E Frederick Jr

        God is not a fact that is known; God is a person who is known. To have faith in God is not to believe some fact, but rather to know a person. It's not like believing the earth revolves around the sun; you can't prove God in that way.

        If you don't intuitively know that nothing is bad then I don't really know how to explain that it is. Just compare it to something. Would you rather spend time with something or with nothing. That is essentially the choice between life and death; between heaven and hell.

        • Michael Murray

          God is a person who is known.

          Really ? I will let you take that up with the people here who think God is the Ground of all Being.

          If you don't intuitively know that nothing is bad then I don't really know how to explain that it is. Just compare it to something. Would you rather spend time with something or with nothing.

          That would depend on the something.

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            I have read a lot of proofs for God's existence, never one that I found satisfying. I think the best you can do is say that it's more likely that the universe was created than that nothing turned itself into everything. Still this is not proof. But if God did create the universe then "Ground of all being" would be an apt title. I know it's annoying when people who believe this to be the case use it as a premise to arguments. In fact any argument for Gods existence begs the question in some way.

        • William Davis

          I'm sort of a deist, so I believe in God to a certain extant, though it's the God of philosophy (Aristotle/Spinoza). I think the idea that Jesus was God is absurd on a variety of levels (the most obvious of which is that Mark shows Jesus to be a son of God...to a Jew a son of God was always human, David and Solomon were sons of God).
          I've spent the past 6 months on this site verifying that I have made the right decision, and all the evidence points in the same direction, Christianity is a false religion.
          I have come to this decision in good faith, and with good intentions, I want to know the truth, and I honestly believe what I'm saying, Christianity is not a true religion so I shouldn't believe it.
          How could a just God send me to hell? I've done my due diligence; I've read the Bible, discussed the issues with Christians (my Dad is a preacher), but still come to the factual conclusion that Christianity isn't true, Jesus was likely a good man but not God.
          I strive to be moral the best I can. I strive to know the truth as best I can. I strive for wisdom, and I work to defend Justice. What else could God want from me, why should I believe something that I don't believe is true? Why would God care if I believe he was never a man, when I have good reason not to believe it?
          In general I think Christianity sells God short. I think God would be too just to create something like hell. I think God would be too just to curse Adam and Eve when they didn't even have knowledge of good an evil. Why would God judge me when I think he's better than the way Christianity presents him?

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            There is a lot to think about here. I'll just try to tackle a few.

            First, if God did become man in Jesus at one time in all of history, then it's probably a big deal to him and he of course would care if you believe it or not.

            Son is a loaded title in Judaism. The important thing is that a good son does what he has seen his father do. This is the case with David, Solomon, and Jesus. Of course, what makes Jesus different for Christians is his divinity.

            I respect your search for truth and I can tell you have taken a little heat for not believing the way people you converse with believe.

            Here is something to consider: if God did create the universe in order to make humans in his image, even to the point of having free will, and then they used that free will to sin, how would that God save them without doing away with their free will? What if hell is not a place God created, rather the mere absence of God. And it is not created by God but by the persons to whom God gave free will and they used this free will to choose not to be with God.

            If all of this (Christianity) is true, how would God save us? Would he humble himself to become like us in all ways but sin, to show us the way to live here so that we can go there, to pierce the veil between earth and heaven? To me the answer is "only if he really loved us a lot." But then that makes creation make sense too.

            You sound really open-minded. I think sometimes if you want to find the truth you have to give it some time. Spend some time assuming the truths of Christianity and see how they feel. If you haven't read it, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is a great summary of Christian beliefs.

            One more, the curse of Adam and Eve was God's way of beginning the process of saving them. The fruits of sin are death. Death is the culmination of suffering. God allowed Adam and Eve to experience suffering in order to steer them away from sin. We have to have some way of learning that we are supposed to use our free will to choose life with God. I know this is a theodicy and can sound trite, but Christianity really works in the big picture. It all fits together. You can take out one piece and say "why would God become man? I wouldn't do that if I were him so it must be irrational." The thing is, it makes perfect sense if you know God and what he's working on. The problem is none of us really know God that well, we can't pin him down like that. But the picture Christianity give of God is to me a really cool picture.

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            One more thought: I've always thought of a deist as someone who believes in a God that doesn't really care. Take the metaphor of the watchmaker: God wound up the universe, let it go and doesn't really care where it goes; he's not really watching. In this case, Christianity could never make any sense. It doesn't really allow for any morality because it doesn't matter to god one way or the other. He's just not involved.

            The problem I always had with deism... I mean, come on! Create a universe and not care about it! I painted a picture of a marsh last year, and I love it. I can look at for for hours thinking of what else I want to paint on it. I can't imagine a god who creates a universe and doesn't look back.

      • Paul E Frederick Jr

        And atheism is a pointer: it points to nothing. That is my point. Atheism doesn't opt out of the heaven or hell/life or death choice; atheism chooses hell.

        • Michael Murray

          No. An atheist is someone who holds no beliefs in gods. Typically they do that because they don't see sufficient evidence to support a belief in gods but they don't really need a reason. It's not a choice. It's a lack of belief. You don't choose to lack belief anymore than you choose to believe.

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            Belief is definitely a choice for me. And to me true atheism is a choice as well. If God is the creator of the universe then he is not a part of the universe; so he wouldn't lend himself to empirical fact finding. If the universe has no creator, and there is nothing other than what we see, then what is real? Is there really love? Is there really truth? Is there really fidelity? Heroism? The metaphysics of atheism is really bleak.

            Contrast that with the metaphysics of Christianity. I know that sounds like pie in the sky, and it's not the kind of thing you can argue somebody into. You don't just decide to take it all at once. Rather you choose to believe in one thing that you know is good. And then another. And one day you realize that if there is no God then these good thing are not real; so you choose to believe God is real. Not because you proved it but because you got to know him a little.

          • Michael Murray

            The only metaphysics is the decision to try to believe only things for which there is evidence. It works well in daily life. If I look in the fridge and there are no beers then closing it and deciding to try to believe there are beers in there is not much of a thirst quencher.

            Is there really love? Is there really truth? Is there really fidelity?

            Yes there is love, there is truth and there is fidelity. But they are human things which are real to humans. There is no evidence they are anything to do with the wider cosmos.

            Not because you proved it but because you got to know him a little.

            Without wishing to be rude it sounds to me like you have rationalised something you would like to be true because not believing it is true upsets you.

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            A beer in the fridge is evidence of something in the universe. It's not the kind of evidence relevant to discovering whether the universe has a creator. The evidence in question is the entire universe; and the question is "was it created?" We can't look inside the universe for the creator; and we certainly can't look outside the universe. So we have to use the tools we have, which include our minds as well as our hearts. In my mind, I find it more likely that the universe has a creator than that everything just sprung out of nothing; in my heart, you are correct, believing there is no God would cause me some despair; but my belief in God does not rest solely on my emotions

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            I disagree with you on the metaphysics. Absent God, something like love boils down to a mental state created by the chemistry of the brain. The only thing that's 'real' in the sense I am speaking of is the brain and its state. Love is just a word we use to describe that state. That state is the result of evolution, survival of the fittest. End of story... See? Bleak.

          • Ray W.

            How have I misunderstood you? Perhaps I'm lost here, but in your advice to Paul E Frederick Jr -- did you really mean to say the following? "You don't choose to lack belief anymore than you choose to believe".
            ~~ What then is faith if not a free choice? And if we do not chose to believe, why are there -- if we are to believe the teaching of Jesus -- souls in Hell for choosing incorrectly?
            ~~ Please, clarify this and help me to understand what you intended by this observation.
            ~~ (Would I be correct to suppose that you teach college theology courses?) Thank you.

  • Michael Murray

    So at latest count marriage equality has arrived in nearly all developed English speaking countries except my own. Perhaps it's time for all good Catholics to immigrate downunder where, as they say, the men are men and the sheep are nervous.

    • Kraker Jak

      downunder where, as they say, the men are men and the sheep are nervous.

      Don't panic people....it is just humor.

  • I think this post underestimates the intelligence of theists and Atheists. Of course this man did not kill his 3 relatives because he believed in heaven. And I agree J.T. Is wrong.

    But J.T. Is not arguing that heaven isn't real because a belief in it causes murder. He does accept that the belief in heaven is partly responsible for this murder and he is saying that people who promote this false belief bear some responsibility. I think he is wrong, but he is not making a fallacious argument, the question is whether heaven is real but more importantly whether a belief an afterlife makes things like murder more likely.

  • I would also argue that those who kill in order to send people to Heaven do so because they operate under another false belief, namely, that they have the authority to decide when someone’s mortal life should end. But the Catholic Church, along with most major monotheistic religions, teach that human beings lack this authority (since life is a gift from God then only he has the authority to reclaim that gift from us) and so that is why suicide and murder are grave sins.

    Scenario A:
    A Catholic priest baptizes many converts and absolves many penitents. Eventually they all die, and some go to eternal bliss and others go to eternal hellfire.

    Scenario B:
    A Catholic priest baptizes many converts and absolves many penitents, and murders them all immediately afterwards. Eventually the priest sincerely repents of overstepping his authority in this way. So they all go to eternal bliss.

    So in the Catholic model of reality, the "morally right" outcome is A, but the objectively happiest outcome for all involved is "B".

    This leads me to wonder what Catholics think the point of morality is. Atheists typically say morality is reason plus empathy and that its point is that it helps us achieve the kind of lives we all want. The scenarios above show that nothing as straightforward and desirable as that can be the reasoning behind the Catholic concept of morality.

    So what do Catholics think the point of morality is, since to them it's not about making our lives better?

    • Paul E Frederick Jr

      Scenario B is certainly not a happy outcome. Your question presupposes knowing the eternal resting place of all souls involved, but that is not information the murderous priest would have. Ergo your question is not a moral proposition. There is no possible situation where a priest would know the state of someone's soul and have the ability to send them to heaven by murdering them. This is why we live by morals: because of what we don't know.

      • > Scenario B is certainly not a happy outcome.

        In what sense are you claiming that eternal-bliss-for-everyone is unhappy?

        (The remainder of your paragraph is a refusal of the hypothetical rather than an answer to it, so it's not relevant for me. There's a difference between whether and how we can know a thing versus the thing itself.)

        • Paul E Frederick Jr

          I rejected the hypothetical because it was a reductio ad absurdum. The point of morality is not just the happy outcome. The point of morality is to live right and relate properly to God and to fellow persons and everything else. Yes, morality helps us get to heaven, but it helps us live better here too.

          • But why would you reject reductio ad absurdums though? They're valid logical arguments and extremely important in both ordinary daily reasoning and in rigorous mathematical logic.

          • Paul E Frederick Jr

            Good point. I guess it's not that it's a RAA but that it reduces morality to being something other than it is. If we knew a plan that would earn us eternal bliss, then we should follow it. Morality does give us a way to live but it is not a plan to achieve heaven.

            Example: A little league baseball player wants to play in the majors one day. He probably won't make it, but he dedicates himself to practicing and being the best he can just in case. He spends hours upon hours every day, giving it his best. When he grows up to become an accountant, he doesn't regret all the time he spent playing baseball. In fact, he loves baseball and wishes he still had time to play.
            Morality is like this in some ways. It definitely points to heaven and eternal life. At the end of a moral life, one can look back and realize that they love the way they lived their life and wish they had more of it. And without knowing it, they are ready for heaven.

            In contrast: the boy spent all of his time playing video games instead and he regrets it and never wants to see another video game.
            -and- At the end of an immoral life, one looks back and hates the way they lived and don't see what the point of it all was since all their money is going to their greedy, fighting kids. He's ready for hell.. or at most purgatory.

  • Michael Murray

    The fallacy of “the appeal to consequences” goes like this:

    Belief X causes negative consequence Y.
    Therefore belief X is false.

    Or

    Belief X causes positive consequence Y.
    Therefore belief X is true.

    It's nice to see this fallacy explained so clearly. So often I see supposed arguments against atheism that take the form that "if there is no God horrible thing X will happen" or "if there is no God my life will have no meaning".