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The “3:10 to Yuma” Proof of God

Yuma

“Yeah, that's why I don't mess around with doing anything good, Dan. You do one good deed for somebody...I imagine it's habit-forming. Something decent. See that grateful look in their eyes, imagine it makes you feel like Christ Hisself.” – Ben Wade

“Virtue is not an act, but a disposition (a habit).” –Aristotle
 

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft famously describes the “Bach argument for the existence of God,” wherein God’s existence is clearly posited by a) the beauty and b) the coherence of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. God couldn’t fail to have created a universe with such order. Among Kreeft’s students polled about their inchoate path to Christian faith, this simple argument popularly outranks the more technical Aristotelian-Thomist proofs of God. No surprise: in order to convince, such proofs require a good deal more training than most under-equipped, under-educated college students possess today. As such, the “Bach argument for the existence of God” is a nice appetif for the more technical arguments.

I propose an innovation in this vein of aesthetically inclined God proofs: the 3:10 to Yuma argument. In a word, God’s existence is more or less required by a) the beauty and b) the coherence of this film’s commanding moral realism. Both elements countervail upon the powerful forces of Modernist moral mediocrity burnished in most every other film I’ve ever seen. 3:10 to Yuma is moral realism at its very finest. In this Christian morality tale, even the term (“moral realism”) has its definition polished up and reinvigorated, after three or four centuries of ill—even opposite—popular usage.

Conceptually distinct from Kreeft's aesthetic Bach argument and the standard moral argument for God, is a combination of the two: the argument expressing the natural beauty of morality.

3:10 to Yuma restores moral realism from its perverse, longstanding Modernist misinterpretation (i.e. “all men eventually sell out, which is okay in survival situations”) to meaning its sheer opposite, the truer construction that “fiat justitia ruat coelum.” The latter corresponds with what Dan Evans, the film’s protagonist, means when he says, “I’m seeing the world the way it is.” He counteracts the usual appropriation of these words, most often employed by cowards who justify selling out by recourse to a silly dichotomy: moral theory versus the “real world.” When the hammer meets the anvil and moral principles confront life-or-death situations, “pretty much everyone wants to live,” to use the film’s villain’s diabolically commonsense leverage. And up until this film, it has been filmically acceptable to sell out for survival. But Dan Evans is a true moral realist.

The previous misconception of so-called moral realism actually incorporates not one but two toxic worldviews. They are pragmatism—a weak, pseudo-moral argument in favor of comfort, convenience, or survival over principle, (“I just like to do things easy,” as per the film’s villain Wade)—and consequentialism—a weak, pseudo-moral justification of immoral means toward a winsome end (“Every way of man is right in his own eyes,” as per Wade, again). In 3:10 to Yuma both are laid to abject waste.

Upon the epic conclusion of 3:10 to Yuma, the world over, self-justifying cowards and lovers of guiltless creature comforts afforded by pragmatism and consequentialism, will groan in discomfort. (The discomfort of conscience.) Moral mediocrity will no longer avail them, not in this film anyway. 3:10 to Yuma simply leaves in its wake no compelling excuse not to be a man of virtue, a real man.

Misinterpreting 3:10 to Yuma

Sadly, one of the most famous online critiques of this film by Michael Karounos misinterprets—in fact, oppositely interprets—it as “anti-Christian.” Literally, nothing could be farther from the truth. The critique it puts forward runs that in 3:10 to Yuma “honor and truth are shown to be hollow principles,” and that Dan Evans’s “only concern is getting money to buy back his water rights.” Karounos thinks that the film mocks Christianity. Baffling. I’m not sure whether we were even watching the same film! In 3:10 to Yuma, honor and truth are shown to be the only principles worth living (or dying) for—which repudiates pragmatism—and Evans goes well beyond the satisfying of a contracted-for goal—which repudiates consequentialism.

Indeed, the main point of 3:10 to Yuma lies in repudiating what I call the “Gandhi protocol,” a lame critique of Christianity which runs that, “I would convert to Christianity if I ever met a true Christian.” (And thus, the film does the opposite of what Karounos’s critique alleges it does.) The film’s Scripture-quoting villain, the infamous outlaw Ben Wade, essentially embraces just such a worldview until he runs into Dan Evans. In short, Evans is the first non-hypocritical Christian that Wade has ever met. And the arc of the story gives the viewer occasion to scrutinize Wade’s gradual acknowledgement thereof. Just waiting for Evans’s resolve to crack, Wade watches Evans with vigilant interest during their dangerous trek to Contention, where Wade is to be put onto a prison train going to Yuma Prison.

But what will Wade do if and after he finds in Evans a man who will not abandon righteousness—a man who does not at all conform to Wade’s moral categories? Will he reevaluate his own moral calculus?

Up until his confrontation with Evans, Wade associates the Bible either a) with devilishly stone-cold excerpts to say to someone you’re offing (a la Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winfield), or b) with the high standards overwhelming the deeds of lukewarm social hypocrites of the petit bourgeois (as according to the tired, less-than-insightful “Gandhi protocol”). One example of the latter kind would be Byron McElroy, the “Pinkerton” in Wade’s transport posse helping Evans get to Contention, with whom Wade bandies familiarly throughout the journey, as only well-acquainted “frenemies” would do (until Wades offs him, that is). In other words, Wade insinuates that he has memorized many passages from the Bible simply in order to taunt Christian hypocrites like McElroy.

But when Wade comes to know Evans more and more, the viewer finds Wade unprepared to accept the possibility of a man like Evans, a veritably good man, willing to do: a) what is right, b) because it is right, c) no matter the cost. Wade’s eventual moral conversion at the behest of the taciturn Evans occurs in precisely these three progressive phases. When correctly understood, these three stages of conversion are distinctly Christian, which disproves Karounos‘s above criticism altogether.

Moral Conversion in Three (Not So) Easy Steps

Step 1 - Doing what is right: The first step in Ben Wade’s moral conversion occurs when he sees Evans’s plain commitment to doing what is right. This occurs gradually between the beginning of the transport posse’s trek and the (penultimate) hotel room scene in Contention. There Dan Evans arouses profound moral sentiment among all listeners, including Ben Wade, with a speech reflecting his conviction not to abandon the task. Evans will be the only member of the transport posse still willing to see the task completed, in view of the lengthening odds against it. In short, Evans bids farewell to his son William forever, telling him to return home with a parting message for his mother: “your old man was the only one left standing or willing to walk Ben Wade to that train [the payment for which will follow].”

Counterintuitively, during Evans’ simple yet florid farewell, the viewer watches the bystanding Wade much more closely than either conversant, Evans or his son. Wade is clearly moved. Only minutes before, Wade had in exchange for his freedom, privately offered to quintuple the sum guaranteed Evans (for the accomplishment of the task). Evans had turned Wade down. So well before the speech is made, Wade already acknowledges that Evans cannot be bought off.

Yet while Wade is clearly touched by Evans’s rejection of the buyout sum and then by his farewell speech, a keen observer notices that as Wade looks on, he seems at one distinct moment to replace the former notion that Evans must be motivated (not by true goodness but) by money with the new notion that Evans must be more truly motivated by desire for his son’s and wife’s respect. The latter is as false as the former.

Honor is a more noble desideratum than money. Thus, Wade by imputing this higher false motivation to Evans, has taken one step—even if on a mistaken basis—toward conversion. But if Evans were actually motivated only by the prospect of deceiving his son and wife into respecting him, as Wade thinks, this would not constitute true Aristotelian virtue, or doing the right thing for its own sake.

Step 2 - Doing what is right because it is right: Everyone then leaves except Wade and Evans, who are left alone to complete the task and to get to the train station. Half an hour later, the two men flee the hotel amid the gunfire of over forty hired guns (hired by Wade’s gang) aimed at Evans. Wade and Evans make it most of the way to the station—the final destination—by stumbling into a little shack. There, Wade announces loudly and suddenly to Evans that he “ain’t doing this no more,” because “your son’s already gone home, hero.” Translation: I helped you to deceive your boy into believing you went the whole nine yards (because, inexplicably, I like you), now get out of my way as I return to my gang. Return to your family.

Evans seems almost oblivious, and responds by insisting that they must keep moving to the train station. To this, Wade reacts violently. He knocks Evans down and begins to choke him. What insane idea, what daemon, has possessed this strange man Evans?! No one does what is right simply because it is right!

As Wade chokes the breath out of Evans, Wade’s eyes soften. His spirit is converted from violence. We see (as much as we hear) him say, “alright.” He has met his match: one true Christian (even on the tendentiously high standard set on the Gandhi scale). Ben Wade now accepts that there is at least one follower of Christ who will do what is right simply because it is right. But Wade remains unsure how far Evans will go in the name of this right action.

Step 3 - Doing what is right because it is right no matter the cost: As Wade and Evans run together on the final leg of their journey, they are have clearly become friends, at long last. Evans trips at one point; Wade helps him up. Wade’s pursuing gang cannot believe their eyes. The viewer forgets that the two willing men run eagerly toward the train which will transport Wade to be hung at Yuma Prison.

They arrive at the small train station, where pinned down by Wade’s gang’s sniper fire, the two men exchange parting stories in a sort of confessional, as they await the train. Eventually, it arrives late and, through fortune and through the actions of Evans’s son, who did not actually go home, Evans manages to get Wade onto the train. “Well, you did it, Dan—“ Wade begins to congratulate Evans, who still stands on the platform, when interrupted by gunfire.

Charlie Prince, Wade’s evil yet faithful lieutenant, kills Evans on the platform with multiple shots. Prince smiles faintly as he fires shots, just as Wade had earlier promised Evans’s son would happen. Prince then restores to Wade his legendary gun, “the hand of God,” which bears a crucifix on the handle. The viewer sees Wade carefully looking down at the gun’s crucifix—at the One Truly Good Man who ever lived—and finally recognizing that Evans fully followed the example of this One Truly Good Man, willfully dying for the sake of others. Wade is in that moment fully converted; his concluding actions accord entirely with such a conversion.

Conclusion

Aside from jamming its thumb defiantly into the eye of the devotee of American pragmatism and consequentialism, this film will also moisten the eye. And to say the least, this features as an unexpected (if not unrelated) quality in a virtually unsung Western remake with non-American leads—an obscure, Wild West adventure film turning out to be more like a crypto-theodicy. In other words, this film has got more Moby Dick to it than McQueen or Duvall.

3:10 to Yuma is about the big issue, the only one which ever interested mankind: as stated in my introduction, the proofs of beauty and moral coherence defeat the two Modernist neurotoxins pragmatism and consequentialism, the flotsam and jetsam of our age. But mankind has forgotten it.

Viewers do not come before a film of the Western genre expecting to take in a real drama; thus, no one is prepared for this film’s arousal of the spirits or its tear-jerking. And that is precisely why 3:10 to Yuma’s plain meaning—an undeniable affirmation of a personal God and His clear, immutable moral law—rests on the mantle, in so many viewers’ memories, like Poe’s “purloined letter,” obvious yet invisible. Tears constitute an unexpected devotional, after all, even in homage before the usual genres like tragedy or melodrama—recall the mighty Hector slain and defiled in front of his grieved father King Priam. Nor are most viewers of the Western prepared to consume a morality tale…or much less a crypto-theodicy. And even less are they ready to spend part of their weekend viewing a Christian morality tale about conversion and martyrdom! Heavens, no: the genre is too “gritty” and “realistic” for that!

Perhaps true realism and (dare I say it) true grit are more about the Cross of Christ than we formerly presumed. 3:10 to Yuma proves as it inspires. The film’s uncanny crypto-Christianity together with its hidden, tear-jerking poignancy, combine with the film’s unrepentant moralizing (pun intended) to suggest something of an almost mystagogical character, revealing the “way the world really is,” which is to say, the best path for men: the way of martyrdom. This film is sui generis insofar as it spits moral realism back in the face of the consequentialist Western genre. The Western leitmotif of having your cake and eating it too, be damned.

No more saving the world and saving your own skin. That is the stuff of children’s tales. 3:10 to Yuma puts the better to his money: “If you want to do right, fantastic. But don’t forget to pay the toll, which is precisely one death, and keep the change.”
 
 
(Image credit: New York Times)

Timothy Gordon

Written by

Timothy J. Gordon studied philosophy in Pontifical graduate universities in Europe (Gregoriana and Angelicum), taught it at Southern Californian community colleges, and then went on to law school. Currently, he resides in central California with his wife and four daughters, where he writes and teaches philosophy and theology. His forthcoming book from Catholic Answers Press is titled Why America Will Perish without Rome. Follow Tim on Twitter at @catoandbrutus, for one-lined musings on politics, philosophy, culture, and the NBA.

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  • David Hardy

    While I do want to respond to this post, I think it is important to first make a comment about the style in which it is written. Although I hope it was not the intent, the author of this OP has written in a way that is likely to offend those who disagree with him, as his tone seems to indicate significant contempt for their position and for them in holding it. I will offer two examples, for the consideration of those reading:

    Among Kreeft’s students polled about their inchoate path to Christian faith, this simple argument popularly outranks the more technical
    Aristotelian-Thomist proofs of God. No surprise: in order to convince,
    such proofs require a good deal more training than most under-equipped, under-educated college students possess today.

    I have put part of this passage in bold for emphasis. The implication here appears to be that people reject Aristotelian-Thomist proofs of God do so because they are "under-equipped" and "under-educated", and also seems to disparage the quality of their education.

    The previous misconception of so-called moral realism actually incorporates not one but two toxic worldviews. They are pragmatism—a
    weak, pseudo-moral argument in favor of comfort, convenience, or
    survival over principle
    , (“I just like to do things easy,” as per the
    film’s villain Wade)—and consequentialism—a weak,
    pseudo-moral justification of immoral means toward a winsome end
    (“Every way of man is right in his own eyes,” as per Wade, again). In 3:10 to Yuma both are laid to abject waste.

    Again, the bold quotes are my added emphasis. In this passage, the author first shows his contempt for these positions by referring to them as "toxic" and "weak, pseudo-moral" arguments. He then expands this to include those who take them, implying they do so for selfish reasons or to justify immoral means. This sort of apparent contempt is unlikely to foster openness and respect in response.

    To avoid a single, overly long post, I will present my response to the content of this article in a separate post. However, the tone of the article was hostile enough, whether intended or not, that I felt it warranted a comment.

    • Raymond

      I just went through three "Converting the Atheist" presentations - all Catholic. And they all had that condescending, arrogant, mocking tone. And none of them were at all convincing.

      • Lucretius

        I just want to point out that young people tend to find this sort of rhetoric convincing, even whether or not the writer/speaker actually makes an argument. I'm quite guilt of this myself, as a twenty-one year old :-/

        Christi pax,

        Lucretius

    • Mathew Woodley

      David, get a grip, dude. There's a lot at stake in these arguments. It's not "hostile" to use words like "weak" when discussing the merits of an argument. Stop whining and show us a better argument.

      • Raymond

        So what are your feelings about "pseudo-moral", "toxic", and "under-equipped" and "under-educated"?

        • Mathew Woodley

          Yea, good point. I agree that "pseudo-moral" and "under-equipped" are a bit over the top.

          • Raymond

            some of those statements are personal, directed toward the person, rather than to the argument. "Weak" is fine if used to describe an argument.

          • David Hardy

            I will second what Raymond has said on this, but with an added point. If a person holds a position in contempt, they are likely to understand it in a way in which that contempt is justified. This is often far different from the way those who hold the position understand it, and the conversation often circles into the person with contempt telling the other person what there belief "actually" is, and rejecting efforts to correct that understanding. I pointed out the issues above in the hopes of raising awareness to something that can easily derail any meaningful dialogue. You may consider that whining if you wish, I can accept it if you see it as such.

    • Mike

      maybe he should have put a trigger warning up at the top alerting people to the strong language he'd be using?

      • David Hardy

        I do not comment on the wording because it offends me, but because it is indicative of an approach that is unlikely to foster respectful dialogue that leads to greater understanding. If you are interested, please see my comment to Mathew Woodley for an additional expansion on this issue.

        • David Nickol

          The point is a very simple one. If you are a Catholic apologist attempting to convince people they should convert to Catholicism, it is best not to come across as the kind of person of which people say, "If that's what Catholics are like, I don't ever want to be one."

          Of course, this holds not just for Catholics, but for members of any group trying to attract followers.

          • Rob Abney

            That sounds familiar, do some authors refer to it as "The Gandhi Protocol"!

          • (deplorable) gabwin

            Dear God! What a bunch of snowflake crybabies! We're so sorry his TONE offended you. Do y'all need safe spaces to run to after reading this?

            I wonder, have any of you read the common atheist diatribes against faith and Christianity? Do you find them equally offensive?

          • David Nickol

            The point, which you seem to have missed entirely, is that whether you are a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, an atheist, or whatever, and you want to draw people to your cause, if you come across as a jerk, people will say to themselves, "Why would I want to become one of those jerks???" We were always taught (in Catholic school) that the way to draw converts to the Church was by good example.

    • Lucretius

      I have put part of this passage in bold for emphasis. The implication here appears to be that people reject Aristotelian-Thomist proofs of God do so because they are "under-equipped" and "under-educated", and also seems to disparage the quality of their education.

      In my experience, most people, even trained philosophers, misunderstand the arguments. I think they make these mistakes because they try to perceive the argument in modern philosophical categories. This is probably why Dr. Peter Kreeft and Dr. Ed Feser are very effective at helping others understand: both work in popular language, as well as Scholastic language and Modern philosophical langauge. So, in part, their education makes it harder, but at the same time, it doesn't mean their education was in itself terrible (except in so far as they haven't studied medieval philosophy, of course ;-) ).

      Christi pax,

      Lucretius

      • David Hardy

        In my experience, most people, even trained philosophers, misunderstand the arguments.

        I would not challenge such a position, since it speaks only to personal experience. I would object to generalizing this into an assumption that this is the case when the arguments are rejected.

        This is probably why Dr. Peter Kreeft and Dr. Ed Feser are very
        effective at helping others understand: both work in popular language,
        as well as Scholastic language and Modern philosophical langauge.

        Also a good point, that if an argument is misunderstood, it may have in part fall on the teacher, not the student.

  • David Hardy

    3:10 to Yuma restores moral realism from its perverse, longstanding Modernist misinterpretation (i.e. “all men eventually sell out, which is okay in survival situations”)

    People selling out happened long before Modernist views arose, and Modernist moral positions do not support this as a strategy. Anyone can justify selling out for personal gain from any moral position if they truly want to, and that usually reflects the moral character of the person, not the quality of the moral philosophy they are using.

    consequentialism—a weak, pseudo-moral justification of immoral means toward a winsome end (“Every way of man is right in his own eyes,” as per Wade, again). In 3:10 to Yuma both are laid to abject waste.

    I am not, specifically, a consequentialist -- I believe that morality is a complex subject, and a number of different philosophical positions capture different aspects of it, but I do believe consequentialism has value in moral thinking. First, it does not justify immoral means -- it may, in a particular situation, suggest that a particular act, while normally immoral, is justified in that situation. A common example is lying to a tyrannical government about whether you are hiding innocent people that it is trying to persecute -- the consequence of supporting the tyranny outweighs the harm of lying. More generally, however, one can point to the harmful consequences of using immoral means as, at least, a partial explanation of why it is immoral.

    Second, I would argue that Christianity embraces consequentialism, but differs in what it believes are the consequences. At a personal level, a person might weigh whether a particular act or aim will result in him or her going to Hell, judging the act by the consequence. At a more selfless level, however, God is often defined in Christianity as the Highest Good. By extension, following God and seeking to do His Will is seeking to follow and do the Will of the Highest Good. This suggests basing morality and action on whether it will achieve the most positive consequence identified, within the worldview of the person. As stated before, consequentialism does not capture the whole of moral thinking, but I hope that this shows how it plays a role even in the moral approach being upheld by the author.

    I will end with a short comment on the author's proposed steps to moral conversion:

    Step 1 - Doing what is right

    Someone who takes a particular moral philosophy seriously does not use it to try and justify immoral behavior. He or she uses it to help determine and clarify what is right, especially in situations where there are conflicting moral issues that must be prioritized, such as the above example of lying versus supporting tyranny. Therefore, this step misses the fact that we are talking about the way to determine what is right, prior to doing it. Doing it then involves commitment to one's principles.

    For that matter, doing it because it is right and regardless of consequence also have to do with commitment. To return to consequentialism, the Christian could be presented as either accepting martyrdom as a necessary negative outcome to achieve the greater outcome of acting according to God's Will, or as not viewing martyrdom as a negative outcome at all, due to the firm faith that it will ultimately by undone by the return of Christ and the Resurrection. To say "no matter the consequences" does not actually discredit the validity of consequentialist thinking within the situation, since consequentialism is not simply an appeal to consequences, but a serious effort to evaluate what the ethical choice is.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Great post.

      A problem that the OP doesn't seem to address is that we try to do good from a position of only partial knowledge regarding what "the good" is. A reasonable moral epistemology would seem to fall somewhere between the extremes of complete moral agnosticism and complete moral certainty. In terms of Catholic anthropology, it seems impossible to affirm the effects of Original Sin while at the same time claiming personal moral certainty. Only the most advanced or gifted spiritual athletes (like Dan Evans in the movie, from what I gather) are within their rights to speak and act prophetically, from positions of moral near-certainty. For the rest of us, heuristics based on consequentialist thinking and pragmatic thinking may be helpful, as may our pre-cognitive moral intuitions, though none of these heuristics should universally trump the other. Well-calibrated humility (calibrated to avoid cowardice on the one hand and messianism on the other) should be the order of the day.

      • Raymond

        Another thing the OP doesn't consider is that this film is a work of fiction, so it presents the concepts and reactions that the author wants to present, without any basis in reality necessarily. If Wade finds Evans' actions food for thought, it is because they author decided the character would react that way, whether or not the actions are meaningful to anyone else.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          without any basis in reality necessarily

          Nothing anyone says has any basis in reality necessarily (i.e. just by virtue of the person saying it). But I think we can judge, based on Timothy's description, that the film is true to life, in the sense that we sometimes encounter, and are reoriented by, people who have a very clear sense of what is right and a very strong commitment to acting on their moral insight (I am reminded of the Liberty University student alumnus who had such a reorientation upon listening to Bernie Sanders: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/9/16/1421659/-An-Evangelical-responds-to-Sanders-speech-at-Liberty-U). Reflecting on the film is a way of reflecting on the phenomena of our real lives. So, I have no problem with the OP's approach as far as that goes. In fact I very much favor this approach.

          • Raymond

            The point I was trying to make (poorly) was that the moral insight that Wade gets is a made-up response to a made-up situation. It can be seen as a commentary on morality, but it is not "is a way of reflecting on the phenomena of our real lives". Our real lives don't include these types of phenomena to allow moral situations such as this.

    • Rob Abney

      I think you're misunderstanding consequentialism. Gordon is claiming that considering the consequences is the wrong way to decide on the action. When you say it may be better to lie to a tyrant to prevent persecution then that is considering the consequences to determine the action. What would Dan Evans do in that situation? He would say something like "yes,he's here but you'll have to come through me before you can take him!" His actions would be based on not lying and still giving his best effort to protect the other.
      Likewise, in the movie he could have shot Wade at any point and Justice would've been served but he knew that final Justice was not to be served by him but only by higher authorities and his rightful response was only to do what he said he would do.

      • David Hardy

        Gordon is claiming that considering the consequences is the wrong way to decide on the action.

        What about considering whether the consequence will be a furthering or defying of what one conceives God's will to be?

        • Rob Abney

          Good point David, but I think consequentialism is best described as "does the end justify the means" rather than "do the means justify the end". For example if I conceive that God's will is for me to be united with Him and then I avoid all risk so as to avoid the occasion for wrongdoing then that is not a virtuous life, whereas if I lead an active virtuous life despite the opportunities to make bad decisions then I have a better chance of uniting with God. As Gordon alluded to with the Aristotle quote, it is the habits that form us.

          • David Hardy

            Good point David, but I think consequentialism is best described as "does the end justify the means" rather than "do the means justify the end".

            That may be a decent, very quick summary, but I would caution against understanding any position from a summary. Perhaps a similar position for Christianity would be a Christian is "someone who follows Christ". This, however, does little to capture the range and depth of positions that fall within the description of being "Christian".

            In consequentialism, the consequences of a particular means is also of concern. In other words, a consequentialist could reject a certain means, such as murder or lying, precisely by evaluating the consequences of using that means rather than another (Kant's principle of envisioning how a particular act, if commonly used, would impact people and societies would be an example, although he was not specifically a consequentialist). In such cases, the means could still be rejected despite some immediate good coming out of the end, due to the more long term consequences of the act.

            I have a better chance of uniting with God.

            Which would also be evaluating what course (avoiding immoral behavior versus actively pursuing positive moral action) is most likely to achieve the desired outcome.

            As Gordon alluded to with the Aristotle quote, it is the habits that form us.

            Building off the prior point, the fact that acts can lead to habits, and the consequences of those habits, could also be considered within consequentialism.

            On a related note, perhaps a legitimate criticism of consequentialism is that focuses so much on the process over content. Consequentialism relies on efforts to judge actions by consequences, but this raises the question of how one judges consequences themselves to be good or bad. As this conversation indicates, consequentialism can mold itself to both an atheistic and theistic framework, and lead to different judgements based on what outcomes are deemed desirable (or possible) within the framework.

            From that criticism, one could then point to consequentialism being a potentially useful model that is, nevertheless, incomplete in guiding moral decisions, since it depends on a content-based moral framework. Another common criticism of consequentialism is that it depends on being able to accurately predict the outcome of a particular course of action, while many moral dilemmas involve uncertainty in the outcome no matter what course one chooses.

      • David Nickol

        When you say it may be better to lie to a tyrant to prevent persecution
        then that is considering the consequences to determine the action.

        Within Catholic moral theology, it is an unresolved question as to whether telling a willful untruth is always wrong. The current classic example (but based on centuries of debate that has gone before about similar scenarios) is being asked by the Nazis if Anne Frank is hiding in your attic. Is it wrong to lie to the Nazis, who will seize and kill Anne Frank if you answer truthfully?

        I am no expert here, but I don't think it is "consequentialism" to consider the consequences of an action. To quote Wikipedia, "Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct."

        Suppose I am a policeman, and it is my duty to capture and arrest criminals. Must I, then, attempt to capture and arrest a criminal no matter what the consequences? Suppose the criminal is armed and in a very crowded area. Am I obligated as a policeman to pull my gun and attempt to capture the criminal no matter what the consequences to the innocent people in the crowd whose lives will be risked in the crossfire?

        • Rob Abney

          Consequentialism is wrong because of the emphasis on the outcome justifying any action. Just as your definition points out by saying "the ultimate basis".
          You as a hypothetical police officer would have the habit of protecting the citizens and Your actions would align with that way of being but if you were a consequentialism officer your only concern would be the criminal.

          • That makes no sense. A consequentialist police officer would consider the consequences for civilians around as well.

          • Rob Abney

            I agree but in the end his desired consequence would rationalize his decision even if he endangered the civilians.

          • Or it could convince them not to act that way.

          • David Nickol

            Do you actually understand anything about consequentialism? It sounds to me like you don't. Mind you, I don't claim to be any kind of expert myself, but you have missed my point. It is not "consequentialism" to consider the consequences of an action. It is not consequentialism to refrain from performing a good action if it is going to have bad consequences. For example, a Catholic has a serious obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. However, if a Catholic woman has a sick child and can find no one to take care of the child for her while she attends Mass, then she can miss Mass without doing something wrong. This is why I object to the OP endorsing "doing what is right because it is right no matter the cost. (I will accept, at least for the purposes of this discussion) that it is never acceptable to do something wrong so that good may come of it.) I just think it is a vast oversimplification to claim that there are certain right actions to take, and one must always do them no matter what the cost.

          • Rob Abney

            I do agree that you are no expert on this either!
            One point of clarification, it is not that one must do the right action but that one chooses the right action no matter the cost.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            I agree but in the end his desired consequence would rationalize his decision even if he endangered the civilians.

            Rob, you do understand that, should we ask our hypothetical police officer, “Why did you become a police officer?” and he answered, “Because I wanted to help people and make the world a better place.”, this would be a consequentialist answer?

          • Rob Abney

            The distinction, in my view, is the justification of actions based only on the consequences.
            Have you seen the movie? Evans and Wade could both be asked a similar question and both could answer it with the answer you gave. But they had very different actions so there must be something more fundamental that is driving their actions.

  • bdlaacmm

    The 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma with Glenn Ford is INFINITELY better than the 2007 re-make. If you haven't seen the original, you have NOT seen 3:10 to Yuma.

    At least, not in all its glory.

  • I don't see any proof of any gods in this post or an argument in favour of the existence of any gods. I see a championing of one kind of morality, (I guess a form of intuitive morality that ignores consequences?) over pragmatism or consequentialism, as advanced by characters in a fictional film.

    He mentions the existence of beauty and coherence itself, as being indicative of the existence of deity, but this is never explained, nor is any such inference reasonable.

  • David Nickol

    Indeed, the main point of 3:10 to Yuma lies in repudiating what
    I call the “Gandhi protocol,” a lame critique of Christianity which runs that, “I would convert to Christianity if I ever met a true Christian.”

    As far as I can tell, Gahndi never uttered the "Gandhi protocol." His famous quote regarding Christianity was, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    I am not sure why the OP goes out of its way to denigrate Gandhi—one of the most revered figures of the 20th century—as some kind of enemy of Christianity.

    • Raymond

      According to the "no one comes to the Father except through Me" standard, Gandhi is in hell. I guess he's sitting between Hitler and Stalin or something.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        How are you able to ascertain that Gandhi did not come to the Father through Christ? What does it mean to you to "come through Christ"?

        • Raymond

          It doesn't mean anything to me to "come through Christ". My comment was paraphrasing Rob Bell's anecdote in Love Wins. He mentioned Gandhi in a sermon and a sweet little old lady came up to him afterwards and said "you know Gandhi is in hell, dont you?"

          • Mike

            on atheism ghandi doesn't exist any more and never again will exist. is it better to not cease to exist than to spend eternity seperated from God? is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? is it better to never have been born than to have lived a life of disappointment and sorrow?

          • Raymond

            So you are arguing annihilation? That is another concept that is meaningless to atheists. We already think nothing happens once you die, and we (well...I) am OK with it.

          • Mike

            right so there is no punishment no reward no reckoning no justice beyond the grave, nothing. those who had a rich life just got lucky and those who had a miserable life just didn't correct?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And it makes you feel better knowing that God designed the situation outlined in your question?

          • Mike

            there's no purpose otherwise. no justice, just random physical variations.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What makes you so sure that a god that would create this mess of a universe is going to make everything right in the end?

            You committed the fallacy of division by the way.

          • Mike

            what makes me sure is a separate q and the point of the site. btw the universe is ordered beautifully according to the best physics.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It's a shame that over the past so many years the site still hasn't been able to answer the question and you can only dodge it. What does ordered beautifully mean?

          • Mike

            i think it's doing a great job.

            see this for nature's ie God's beautiful universe:

            https://www.amazon.ca/Beautiful-Question-Finding-Natures-Design/dp/1594205264

          • David Nickol

            Have you read the book?

            Here's a quote from Frank Wilczek:

            Another thing that shaped my thinking was religious training. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic. I loved the idea that there was a great drama and a grand plan behind existence. Later, under the influence of Bertrand Russell's writings and my increasing awareness of scientific knowledge, I lost faith in conventional religion. A big part of my later quest has been trying to regain some of the sense of purpose and meaning that was lost. I'm still trying.

          • Mike

            i am half way through it. it's ok so far. maybe he's a better physicist than writer or maybe i need a bit more basic physics training to get everything.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So first you assert things, while committing fallacies then you link to unpopular and esoteric book with 1 amazon review that was most likely done by a relative of the author. I am nowhere closer to understanding what you mean by the universe is beautiful and how that has anything to do with God.

          • Mike

            if you don't see how a beautiful universe is at all related to God then i am sorry for you bc that sucks from my perspective.

            anyway a nobel prize winner wrote it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sigh. Stop dodging. What does it mean for the universe to be beautifully ordered and what does that have to do with God?

            Have you read the book Mike?

          • Mike

            i am half way through the book.

            it means that the way that the universe operates strikes us as beautiful. it resonates with us. the inexplicable thing is that we can actually probe it and understand it. when we do that we discover that the fundamental operations seem to us to be like beautiful painting, they speak to us. there is harmony, a math invented for no reason 200 years ago ends up being exactly what is required to solve some physics problem. the universe seems to have had us in mind, like we are so much a part of it that it couldn't have existed w/o us. indeed it 'grew' us, from star dust and chaos gradually order and slowly us. it's like the processes that govern the universe are creating more and more order and complexity. small 1 celled bacteria become mozart.

            all of that makes ppl think that there is some reason for their existence for the universe. things begin to look like they were planned like there is some thing more just beyond the horizon. and that leads ppl to believe that maybe there is something like God some principle of order some source of all this beauty.

            something like that anyway.

          • Rob Abney

            That sounds like St Francis of Assisi studying physics. Hello brother particle wave, hello sister bacteria!

          • Rob Abney

            That looks like a great book Mike.

          • Mike

            it's ok not great imho.

          • Raymond

            Who said life was fair?

          • Mike

            that's my point that it isn't. but on your belief that's just too bad for the unlucky one.

          • Raymond

            If you want to imagine a supernatural afterlife in which everyone gets what they have coming to them, that's your prerogative. If it helps you feel better about the life we have, congratulations. Once you die, you will either have your expectations realized, or nothing will happen and you'll never know.

          • Mike

            YES! exactly we'll all find out who was right in the end. if i disappear well nothing but if we both 'wake up' i'll gloat ;).

          • Raymond

            Isn't gloating a sin? Is it a moral decision to gloat over someone else's misfortune?

          • Mike

            just a joke.

          • Raymond

            Many a truth is said in jest.

          • Mike

            well don't say i didn't try to warn you about your after life ;)

          • Raymond

            I'd be glad to do my I Told You So dance after we die, but neither of us will be around to "enjoy" it. :-)

          • Mike

            i've tried seriously to imagine dying and never waking up. and i can imagine it pretty well except for when i think that i won't be asleep for a month or 100 years but for ever for a billion billion billion years and on and on. so i think well if i really do never wake up then what does what i do in 89 years matter compared to infinity. to me none of this makes sense by itself but that's the big diff. atheists generally seems to be just fine with this being all there will ever be. maybe theists are too sentimental.

          • Sample1

            so i think well if i really do never wake up then what does what i do in 89 years matter compared to infinity.

            Do you seriously believe that what you do today does matter compared to infinity?

            And you suggested that I was stuck up? :-D

            to me none of this makes sense

            But there are lots of things that don't make sense in religions. Why privilege them?

            atheists generally seems to be just fine with this being all there will ever be.

            Atheists have no special power of contentment.

            maybe theists are too sentimental

            Believers have no copyright on sentimentality.

            Mike
            Edits done

          • Mike

            yes it matters bc we are eternal creatures who do not perish when we die. however if there really is no God which on a 'catholic' conception is an impossibility then imho nothing that we do matters in the least. i should clarify that i think that eliminative materialism is the most coherent atheist philosophy.

            i don't think i privilege them of course i think they just make more sense. but i also want there to be God, like Nagel said he just didn't want him to exist. i want justice for ppl for all the brutality for the gulags for the camps etc.

            atheists by defn have to be ok with this being all there is. to them it doesn't seem to pose many problems, now the vast majority are relatively rich and white so perhaps that explains it.

          • Sample1

            yes it matters because we are eternal creatures

            Why does being eternal make something matter? My spaniel matters a lot to me despite knowing he won't live past 15-18yrs.

            I don't think I privilege them

            Sure you do. You know there are unknowns or things that don't make sense in religions. There are also unknowns and things that don't make sense in naturalism. Yet you privilege religion.

            I just want justice for people

            Well, people in hell want ice water and there is no knowledge of what happened to all the countless civilizations who just prayed to the wrong gods or were swallowed up in lava, earthquakes, disease, or storms before they met the credentials of a fairly recent religion.

            Justice. We are currently living in what is likely to be the most peaceful era of our species' existence according to the evidence (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Steven Pinker).

            I approach justice for my long dead ancestor cousins by trying to provide a better world for tomorrow's inhabitants. Voting for Bernie Sanders is one way. :-) Wishing for justice doesn't seem as effective.

            atheists by definition have to be ok with this being all there is

            Wrong, wrong, wrong. Atheists are just people who don't believe in gods or supernatural stuff. Full stop. Please learn that.

            How an atheist tries to be ok in relationship to his/her surroundings is entirely dependent on the person.

            Mike
            Edits done

          • Mike

            being eternal only makes this life our decisions right and wrong matter. eternal as such doesn't make anything matter i don't think.

            there are unknowns for both but naturalism for me is a non starter bc i think it's false but even if it were true it would i believe 'dissolve' my ego my will my intellect into some aspect of nature which would mean that i may think i am me but i am really just a kind of machine responding to stimuli like a complex rat but a rat nonetheless.

            before christ ppl were judged accordingly; the RCC has always taught that the so called noble pagan or whatever is the word could be in heaven and was. they usually i think attributed that to ppl like plato or aristotle etc. the RCC just believes it has the fullness of the truth not that there isn't truth outside it. anyone and everyone who wants truth and love and is open to humbling themselves for love will be in heaven.

            sanders is a rich white liberal jew; what can he possibly know about average americans! ;)

            we are peaceful today but only what 20 years the us and ussr had 1000 nukes pointed at each other and actually still do.

            ok this about atheists JUST not believing in God is strange. it's weird bc so much hangs on whether or not there is at least some other dimension some source of order some source of reason indeed this universe. i suppose that's why many atheists seem to see no issue with acknowledging something like immaterial morality even thought they deny God bc to them denying God is exactly like me denying Zeus or Ra or whatever. but i think that a denial like that is well imho not worth the paper it's written on bc to us denying God means things like denying change, denying efficient causality, denying the contingency of this world, denying final causlity and denying things like goodness truth etc.

          • Sample1

            Sanders is a rich white liberal jew

            Oh, like Jesus.

            Feel the Bern,

            Mike

          • Mike

            JC was rich?

          • Sample1

            Oh yes. That case has been made many times in many ways. Presented with wealth at birth, wearing clothes expensive enough to be gambled for by Roman soldiers. Even today, if the stories are to be believed, Jesus literally lives in golden houses (ornate tabernacles) throughout the planet. Many ways to argue it but I'm not too interested considering I am agnostic about his existence.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ah you have an interesting defn of rich.

          • Will

            I hope that what I do makes a difference for future people. One has to think bigger than one's self to understand this. I believe the "self" is a construct anyway, one that seems quite malleable. The obsession over this construct we find in most organisms is surely due to survival and reproductive advantage. Critical thinking can allow us to at least partially free ourselves from the slavery of instinct if we put our minds to it :)

          • Mike

            but those ppl in the future will end in the same place sooner or later. that's why i believe that if this is all there is then nothing ultimately matters. if i were an atheist i'd be an eliminative materialist like a. rosenberg.

            doesn't the fact that the evolution process 'favors' or 'rewards' more and more life and more and more complexity seem to you like an impossibility unless there's some source of that order unless there is something which made things that way? absent that source to me means that all of this is a dream, that we really are nothing more than molecules randomly arranged w/o any meaning at all.

          • Will

            Evolution doesn't favor more and more complexity. Much of evolution has been a treadmill of parasites adapting to defense of hosts, and hosts adapting to parasite. Same with predator and pray. Half a billion years of life with crab like creatures evolving more than once, and it took this long for the search engine of natural selection to "find" humans. It seems to have started with the evolution of hands for climbing, and in the right context hands made greater intelligence have a survival advantage in spite of the increase in energy cost of larger, more complex brains. Now that intelligent minds exist, of course, they should be able to decent job of providing a telos to the matter of the universe, assuming we don't destroy ourselves with our own inventions...

          • Mike

            are you saying evolution favors less off spring, less smart progeny? come on you folks say that our intellect evolve bc it was advantageous - you can't have it both ways.

          • Will

            I didn't think my post was hard to understand, but clearly you didn't understand it. I don't know what to say except to study evolutionary theory and biology.

          • Mike

            if evo doesn't favor complexity why are we on top of the food chain? clearly it does via natural selection; those things that aren't complex enough to survive don't.

            now these may be totally blind processes that are 100% not ordered towards truth or complexity or anything at all - there are random mutations maybe bc of radiation or issues with copying and then those that by total chance survive get to live and those that don't don't. but in that case as we are the result of a totally blind purposeless process that does NOT select for truth or complexity or anything, if we are the result of that process how can we even trust our own brains? if someone told you that a piece of software was the result of a totally random purposeless process would you buy it? would you trust it?

            if we are the result of a mindless purposeless process then why isn't all of our morality a delusion or illusion?

            this is where i think you folks want to have it both ways. on one hand we are a total accident w/o any purpose at all; on the other morality is not an illusion we have inviolable dignity as ppl and we can trust our logic and reasoning faculties! but both can't be true.

            that's why if you folks are right then this is just a total accident w/o ANY meaning at all beyond what we delude ourselves with.

          • Sample1

            Complexity or simplicity is not needed for the discussion. You are fighting a straw man. Natural selection favors traits that lead to reproduction. Evolution is what we see.

            Mike

          • Mike

            thats my point evo only is concerned with passing on genes so where does truth right wrong etc come in exception contingently?

          • Sample1

            I don't understand. Can you reword your question?

            Mike

          • Mike

            how can a process that is based ONLY on random mutations and animals not living long enough (natural selection) to reproduce account for things like truth justice beauty except in the most contingent way?

          • Mike

            are you comfortable describing evo using the word "favor"? ;)

          • Sample1

            Yes.

            Mike

          • Mike

            so evo can 'favor' certain things? how if it is according to you 100% bereft of goals or purposes?

          • Sample1

            Smart, your use of that human word, is not helpful here.

            Right now springtime is upon us and a certain bird is hunted until May 15th. Some people call them dumb birds in polite conversation because they are so easily shot with a .22 rifle. When spotted, the bird's natural response is to be still.
            I am constantly pointing out that these birds have survived millions of years longer than humans by having excellent camouflage and keeping still while threatened by eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. That's not dumb, those are traits that are advantageous and are passed on in reproduction. They didn't evolve in a landscape of Zeiss binoculars and Winchester rifles wielded by apes.

            Traits that give a reproductive advantage will be selected for. No Selector needed. The words smart and dumb are not needed to understand how natural selection works.

            Mike
            Edits done.

          • Mike

            right so how does a system which has no concepts at all let alone truth right wrong fair just etc lead to an animal that is convinced that these things are real? seems a paradox there.

          • Sample1

            If you are open-minded and willing to concede that your belief system is not an accurate representation of reality, I think studying evolution will present a plausible solution to your so-called paradox because you'll discover how simplicity* can give rise to complexity*.

            What you're really hung up on isn't evolution (you'll discover that if you study it) but philosophy. Einstein said the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it's comprehensible. That is a mind-fuck. But it has nothing to do with evolution, per se. Your uncomfortability isn't unwarranted, only misplaced.

            Mike
            *Correct context for the words
            Edits done.

          • Mike

            i think my world view is accurate but we could go on about that all day. evo is an acknowledge fact what is in dispute is whether an outcome can have 'more' than an input; whether an effect must have been in some sense in the cause.

            in any case read this if you have 10 mins. the fascinating thing is that there is much more complex at the very base of reality than once thought:
            http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/10/fearful-symmetries

            but either way i think you deny formal causality but if you didn't it's easy to see how even pure random mutations can 'be the source' of intelligence. the issue i think is that if you accept formal causality you'll be stuck or snooker.

          • Lazarus

            I enjoyed the article, thanks.

          • Sample1

            If reductionism has challenges or limitations in utility, presupposing that evolution could be directed, as Barr does, is a downright contradiction of Darwinian theory.

            Barr should publish his own theory of evolution rather than strawman something that isn't there.

            I'll stick with Darwin. Leading people to atheism since 1859.
            :-)

            Mike

          • Lazarus

            Yes, let's stamp out that dissenter right there.

            I don't think it's fair criticism that Barr is now proposing his own ToE. He is pointing out a few very valid concerns, and coming from a respected and established scientist like him I have found the article to be very interesting.

            I agree that Charles has been leading many people to atheism. For me, a more interesting question is whether ToE should lead us to atheism.

          • Sample1

            Careful, your first sentence sounds emotionally charged and emotion never adds to the truth of a statement. It can be, however, revealing in its own right. :-)

            Please note my reply and see if it is emotionally charged:

            I wouldn't dream of telling you not to find something interesting. Not my place. I just don't share your position.

            -----

            Whether evolution leads one to atheism is dependent on a few things. Do you agree that the human mind is capable of avoiding mental discomfort through a process called compartmentalization?

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Lazarus

            So many assumptions in one brief post.

            The only emotion I expressed was disappointment, in the fact that someone like Barr could be so easily dismissed because he's not a biologist. If we should only value opinions of specialized experts we should all go home.

            Compartmentalization, cognitive dissonance-yes, those are all realities that we should all be very cautious of. For example, any cognitive dissonance caused by Barr's article could be minimized by dismissing him as not being competent to express such views.

          • Sample1

            Are Catholics allowed to say, "I concede the dogmas of my religion might be wrong?" For example, I can happily concede that Darwinian evolution could be wrong.

            I find the imbalance of intellectual honesty discouraging to discussion. Unless, that is, you can show me to be in error. Will you concede that everything you think is true in Catholicism could be wrong?

            Yes, no, or "I'm not allowed to say without risking punishment"will do.

            Thanks!

            Mike

          • Lazarus

            All I can give you is my personal opinion., and that is a simple concession that yes, all that I think is true in Catholicism can be wrong. Any other opinion would be arrogance. I'm not sure where you get the idea from that concession would be wrong, specifically whether that would be the Church's stance. We should distinguish between saying "This is dogma, it is correct" and "We hold these things to be correct, but yes, they could be wrong".

            I take it that you would similarly concede that everything you hold to be true in your worldview could be wrong as well?

            But I find your assumption of an "imbalance of intellectual honesty" to be a troublesome statement. If one party in a discussion so blatantly feels that the other parties are not intellectually honest, where does one even begin to have a meaningful discussion?

          • Mike

            OF COURSE the dogmas might be wrong BUT the christian religion claims to be way bigger than little old biology. that's a silly comparison.

          • Sample1

            I very seldom witness a practicing Catholic (one who follows their catechism) admit that dogma could be wrong. That admission is what I would call a healthy skepticism. You surprised me, thank you.

            Yes, I too hold that my worldviews could be wrong. Humans and their organizations, be they religious or not are imperfect so error is possible. I would never die (martyr myself) for a belief for instance. Beliefs can be wrong. At any rate, I am always turned off by anyone who behaves like the final phrase in this poem (and I'm glad you are too):

            When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal. -An Old Jew of Galicia [Czeslaw Milosz].

            I'm glad we got that out of the way. I generally do not get into online discussions with others if their position is absolute certainty. It's usually a dead end.

            -----

            Regarding evolution. If I said that natural selection had a purpose or was goal-oriented implying a need for an outside designer (aliens, deities) you would be right to call me out as that isn't required for the theory. But I never said that. It is ok to describe artificial selection as having designers who may also have goals and purposes. Shaping the traits of domestic dogs through purposeful breeding practices is an example of that.

            Mike
            Edits done.
            Bold mine.

          • Mike

            i think the RCC position is that one has to ascent to the dogmas and that they are non negotiable articles of faith that have to be taken on faith but ascent doesn't mean you must be able to defend the claims logically or something like that. it claims to have supernatural help and so it insists they are not wrong but if a person wants to be skeptical towards them but still ascent then i don't think the RCC has an issue with that.

            it's always good to have a healthy skepticism and to question one's one pre-suppositions.

            i understand what you mean by evo in that there is no designer picking hair color or strong legs or whatever and i agree. i just think that either that means that even our brains are the result of a purposeless accidental process in which case how can we trust them or 2 that evo is a giant search engine looking for the right dna combos.

          • Sample1

            Well, people like me agree that our minds (the software on the hardware) are susceptible to all manners of biases. Scientific literacy is about knowing the tools to defend against them. Who taught you, or where did you learn, that evolution is 100% random? That is wrong. Sorry you got a poor education. This stuff is pretty easy to discover online.

            I don't think we see quite eye to eye on the dogma/doubting issue. If one has to ascent, as you say, because they are not negotiable that is not the same as my position in which all claims are at least potentially negotiable.

            Mike

          • Mike

            but biases are not necessarily indicators of problems in the underlying 'design' unless you know what the goal was in the first place. you are kind of assuming that this process is 'working towards' the elimination of biases in the first place, which i believe on your conception of evo is unwarranted.

            the story on dogmas is more complicated i guess but the RCC is not a debating society either:
            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05089a.htm

          • Sample1

            Oh dear. We are speaking entirely different languages. I'm afraid I am unable to help you.

            Mike

          • Mike

            i think you are still thinking in terms of 'goals' and 'purposes' which i believe you are not entitled to.

            i've enjoyed the discussion. if you have a few mins take a look at this post on 'goals' and 'purposes' etc on naturalism:

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2013/08/eliminativism-without-truth-part-i.html

          • Darren

            Sample1 wrote,

            I'll stick with Darwin. Leading people to atheism since 1859.

            Carefull, there. A-Theism is just fine without Darwin; they are called Deists.

            The arguments against the existence of a Theist deity are quite unrelated to Natural Selection. It is the Deist God who was made superfluous.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It is the Deist God who was made superfluous.

            Huh? Why would even that be true?

            As Dr. Barr's argument suggests, the particular structure of DNA, and the particular structure of the environments in which DNA evolves, also require explanations (unless one wants to abandon the project of reductionism, which I wouldn't recommend). It should be obvious that natural selection is not going to explain the very things (like DNA) that it presumes as explanatory points of departure. The reductionist project should therefore proceed (or recede, depending on one's point of view) from biology to chemistry to physics, where we seem to encounter exquisite and nearly fundamental symmetries. The natural question is then, "how did these (nearly fundamental) symmetries arise?" Even if we ever find a ToE or ultimate explanatory symmetry, it seems to me we will still be left wondering where that came from. Any concepts that help us navigate that wonder are not superfluous. I personally find the deist conception of God to be impoverished, but even this impoverished concept seems to be quite helpful for referring to the mystery that underlies the fundamental symmetries of reality.

          • Darren

            Jim Hillclimber wrote,

            Why would even that
            be true?

            Prior to 1859, it was difficult to account for the apparent design that was found in nature. Following the intuitive principle that like causes yield like results, and the only known cause, at the time, of design being the human mind, it was reasonable to conclude that whatever was responsible for this apparent design was something like a human mind. Theism having its own baggage, the Deist God reigned over the post-Enlightenment natural sciences. As it should have.

            What Darwin provided was an alternative source of apparent design: unintelligent, unguided, algorithmic natural processes.

            We may quite rightly ask ourselves where these natural
            processes came from, as you have. We can also rightly ask ourselves where our proposed designer came from. If we allow the Theist (or perhaps the Deist) to declare Brute Fact, God is and is uncaused by means we know not, we must have a very good reason to deny the naturalist the same Brute Fact, Nature is and is uncaused by means we know not.

            Neither answer is particularly satisfying; Munchausen’s Trilemma strikes again.

            When faced with two Brute Facts, Occam would incline us to pick the simpler: the non-sentient, non-omnipotent, non-personal something-or-other natural explanation on the far side of the Big Bang.

            Occam might be wrong, of course. It is a good practice, not a Law.

            This is why I said superfluous. Darwin did not disprove God (contra Sample1), he just gave us a less complicated alternative.

          • Mike

            "algorithmic .. processes" sounds pretty designed to me!

            wouldn't you agree? honestly.

          • Lazarus

            You have been napping in Prime Mover class then. Catholicism doesn't ask that God be a brute fact at all, as the cause(s) of evolution calls for.

            You are also being very liberal with old Occam's favorite tool. Why would God be a less simple proposition than Just Because?

            Who is it that said that skeptics are not skeptical enough? Some are wonderfully skeptical, right up to where they must continue and ask one or two further skeptical questions. Finish the job ;)

          • Will

            There is a good argument that any free parameters in the basic constants of physics cries out for an explanation. Of course, more advanced physics may reduce the number, or perhaps explain why they had to be the way they are, but until then...the laws of physics aren't to the level of brute fact in the estimation of some philosophers.

            The easy part of the answer is therefore: Yes, fine-tuning cries out for explanation to the extent to which it is correlated with an excess of free parameters and a resultant lack of simplicity.2

            2 At the risk of redundancy, let me stress that the simplicity principle used here is not that every phenomenon must have an explanation (which would be version of the principle of sufficient reason, which I do not accept). Rather, what I mean is that we have an a priori epistemic bias in favor of hypotheses which are compatible with us living in a relatively simple world. Therefore, if our best account so far of some phenomenon involves very non-simple hypotheses (such as that a highly remarkable coincidence happened just by chance), then we may have prima facie reason for thinking that there is some better (simpler) explanation of the phenomenon that we haven’t yet thought of. In that sense, the phenomenon is crying out for an explanation. Of course, there might not be a (simple) explanation. But we shouldn’t be willing to believe in the complicated account until we have convinced ourselves that no simple explanation would work.

            The book I linked to is by far the best discussion of the anthropic principle and fine tuning that I've seen. It's a pretty long discussion, however.

          • Lazarus

            Thanks, that looks like a good read.

            My favorite part in the preview - "Suppose there exists a universe-generating mechanism ..."

            Anything. Anything but God ;)

          • Will

            My favorite part in the preview - "Suppose there exists a universe-generating mechanism ..."

            To be fair one must consider all of the possible hypotheses, or at least all that we have thought of so far. He mentions in another place that many alternate hypothesis to the Cosmic designer have the advantage of avoiding the problem of evil. I agree that's a pretty big advantage :)

          • Lazarus

            Some of those he pulled out of his universe generating mechanism.

          • Darren

            Lazarus wrote,

            You have been napping in Prime Mover class then.

            Mmmhmmm. Claiming God is Necessary because it is his Nature to be Necessary does not get you out of Brute Fact land (though I am aware that many Catholics think, somehow or other, that it does).

            Why would God be a less simple proposition than Just Because?

            Occam is ripe for abuse. Still, positing

            * Something exists which is necessary
            * That thing is capable of creating the universe as we see it

            is somewhat less complicated than going on to posit
            and
            * That thing is intelligent
            * That thing has moral intentions
            * That thing is intentional
            * That thing is a person
            * That thing cares a great deal where primates put their penises
            * etc.

            Or to rephrase using your appropriate terminology, God is just-'cause-plus-a-whole-lot-of-extra-just-'causes.

            I'll stick with the minimal number of just 'causes where I can.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In terms of objective analysis, I don't have any compelling argument against the idea of "Nature" as its own explanation or as the "root" of reality (I assume that by "Nature", you mean something like "the universe"). However, whatever "it" is at the root of reality, I know that I feel an intrinsic need to respond to it. As two examples: 1. I experience beauty and I feel that I should stop and take a moment to be awestruck, and 2. I experience some dim sense of "how things should be" and I feel the need to work toward that state. Whatever is the mystery at the depths of reality, I know that I am supposed to swim in it.

            Those experiences are, to me, part of the "data" that a good theory would account for. Since I understand "Nature" / "the universe" to be more or less completely indifferent to me, I find that I can not reflect in any satisfactory way on these subjective experiences if I conceptualize an uncaring universe as the ultimate explanatory terminus. I mean, I can explain my experiences in terms of the electrochemistry of my brain and all that, but that level of explanation is of limited value in terms of navigating the experiences of my life. For that reason, I find Spinozan pantheism (which is admittedly a "simpler" theory) to be too simple. And I prefer the version of Occam's razor put forward by Einstein: things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

          • Sample1

            Darwin leading people to atheism does not semantically entail that Darwin did not disprove God. I understand what you are saying about the historical context though.

            I see the atheist occupying a null position which doesn't require the disproving of anything. Being an atheist is one who lacks belief in all gods, deist or otherwise.

            Mike
            Edit done (clarified)

          • Will

            Even though the science behind the multiverse hypothesis isn't all that solid, philosophically it makes perfect sense...reality is a giant search engine. Evolution behaves like an additional and more specific search engine. Search engines are not intelligent. This is a core reason why I no longer consider myself a deist, and the Spinozan type of Deism was generally against "God" being minded. Any common definition of God requires a mind.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            William, you and I had some nice civilized and informative exchanges a couple weeks. Then I left it aside for a few days, and next thing I know, you were commenting about my vacuousness and bragging about how you had supposedly put me in my place. You might have considered whether there could be other reasons that I let the conversation drop.

            Not for the first time, I found myself not liking your style, and not inclined to engage you further. I'm not sure why you would want to engage someone as vacuous as myself anyway.

          • Will

            Sounds good. I find myself not caring for a person who is willing to defend hell and call it poetry.
            Why engage? To explain problems with your approach, and thinking. Also to help Darren. I do find you vacuous and said that basically to your face.

          • Will

            Oh, and just fyi, you never responded to this comment so I went with what it was pretty clear you meant:

            Jim:"That we think shapes who we are. It just doesn't completely define who we are. I think many people manage a high level of competence in the way that they live their lives, in spite of very muddled thinking at the conscious level. Nonetheless, it is best to correct errant thinking where we find it."

            Please clarify what you mean by muddled and errant thinking. If you mean what I think you mean...

            The context was the Church considering atheism the most serious problem of our time, so it seems pretty clear that you consider atheism to be very muddled thinking. I give what I get. I'm just telling you what I've thought for a while, I was trying to be nice until that. Say what you really think of me, I don't mind. Since I'm an atheist, obviously I have some "very muddled thinking going on at a conscious level". ;)
            Did I mention Catholicism seems to be loaded with errant thinking?

          • Sample1

            unrelated to natural selection

            I'm going to double down on my "leading people to atheism" quip. :-)

            If it's a Catholic theism, natural selection alone raises the question: which distant ancestor was the first to be human, with a human soul? Catholic theists, because of Aristotelean essentialism, must claim that a single point in time existed when that happened. However, natural selection explains why that question is nonsensical: offspring are the same species as their parents with evidence supporting gradual speciation.

            Checkmate A/T believers, because of Darwin.

            Mike

          • Darren

            All very good points and I agree, mostly. Perhaps it is pedantic of me, and I suppose I am focusing on the distinction between Darwinian Evolution the scientific paradigm and Darwin's own contribution, substantial though it was.

            I agree that evolution is fatal to essentialism, and all that implies, but my understanding is that evolution was already becoming the dominant paradigm decades prior to 1859. It was the mechanism of this evolution that Darwin contributed. Maybe Lamarckian evolution is less damaging to essentialism, but I don't think so.

            I won't say that some haven't been led to atheism by evolution, but I certainly was not. While I do agree with you that Darwin, and all that he implies, is fatal to theism for all the reasons you listed, this does not stop the majority of Christians and the RCC from thinking the two can get along. They are wrong, but personally I would just as soon let them persist in their delusion than risk angry mobs of newly-informed Christians burning our natural history museums and libraries...

            That has happened before...

          • Sample1

            This is heading into gish-gallop territory. Rather than bring in a physicist, let's stick with biology.

            If you can't talk academically about biology, just say so.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Mike

            but biology can't get off the ground w/o physics. the complexity is there at the most fundamental level.

          • Sample1

            I'm not claiming your worldview is innaccurate rather I'm asking if you are willing to concede that it could be. Yuge difference.

            Mike

          • Mike

            no i may be wrong i think. but i am convinced that if there is no God or super intelligence or other dimension alien that all of this my life yours etc is an illusion a dream an accident that is totally bereft of purpose meaning etc.

            but anyway according to trad. theism God is not a probability but a metaphysically necessary being so it's impossible that something like God does not exist.

          • Raymond

            Actually, there's very little imagining to it. Just think back to what your life and experience were like before you were born. It's like that.

          • Mike

            yes! of course.

            but honestly how can anything matter then? what if i kill a homeless man in such a way that no one ever finds out. you can say that that's wrong in and of itself but if there is no afterlife of any sort nothing at all then how can you be justified in believing that?

            suppose a person goes into a school house and murders 45 kids and then turns the gun on himself. he gets away with it. he's gone they're gone. only the families and communities have to go on with the pain.

          • Raymond

            I don't have any interest in doing those things because I have respect for those people and wouldn't want anyone doing those things to me or my family. There are certain more than enough people around who do those things or want to do those things to suggest that there is no Natural Moral Law that prevents it.

            And what do surviving families do to cope with the pain? Some try to deal with it on their own, with varying levels of success. Some get help. Some pray. There is no clean indication that any of those methods have better outcomes than the others.

            Are you trying to convince me of something?

          • Mike

            no just that on your system there is no justice.

          • Raymond

            Sometimes there is justice in this world. Not every often. But as I said before, life isn't fair. It's pretty to think that there could be some Justice in the afterlife, but if good people who don't believe in Jesus go to hell, where is the justice in that?

          • Mike

            all good ppl go to heaven IF they are willing to admit that their version of good may not in fact be good for them. that includes pope francis and me and everyone.

          • Raymond

            I'm sorry. That statement makes no sense. Every instance of the word "good" in your first sentence has a different meaning. I think you are trying to talk around the idea that you have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven. I think we covered that ground before - pretty thoroughly.

          • Mike

            NO you don't have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven.

            We just believe that once you get there it'll be really JC and you'll be like whoa damn so it was you all along.

          • Raymond

            That is not the Catholic teaching. We established that Pope Francis said something similar to what you said, but that the Magesterium walked that back. Non-believers go to Hell.

          • Mike

            AH non believers! but that's not a person who by defn believes in JC.

            if you don't want go on "vacation" but stay home instead no one will force you. but in purgatory you'll hopefully change your mind.

          • Raymond

            I'm sorry. This statement doesn't make any sense either. I think we are going around in circles. Thanks for playing.

          • Mike

            yes it does. you said unbelievers don't go to heaven and that's true. i said that ppl who don't want to go to heaven won't have to which is also true.

            you want to make it seam like the RCC believes that only ppl who believe in Jesus go to heaven which is not true.

          • Raymond

            well, this remark made me go google some articles. You are correct when you say that the RCC says that people from other religions, even non-Christian religions, who seek God with a sincere heart and follow the Church's moral strictures of their own volition can be redeemed. But it is because Jesus is actually behind their "godly" natures and it is their inadvertent following of Jesus' teachings that they get to Heaven. Which I suspect any good and decent Muslim or Buddhist or atheist or whatever would find arrogant and offensive.

            But the RCC does have a knack for "dancing around" difficult questions.

            "Why does a loving God send people to Hell? And why is Hell a place of eternal conscious torment?" God doesn't send people to Hell. People reject God, so it's their own fault they go to Hell. And Hell is not truly fire and brimstone. It is a place where God is not present and people are in moral agony for knowing the truth and missing out.

            "Do well-meaning people in other religions go to Hell because they don't believe in Jesus? 'No one comes to the Father except through me' and all that." Good people in other religions can go to Heaven, because even if they don't believe in Jesus, they ACT as if they believe in Jesus, and that's good enough."

            When the Church encounters criticism that is embarrassing or damaging, they frequently update/change their teachings to account for that criticism, saying that's what they meant all the time.

          • Rob Abney
          • Sample1

            How come CS Lewis (the link you posted) isn't canonized?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Good question! You must be a CS Lewis fan, do you like GK Chesterton also?

          • Sample1

            Only read Mere Christianity. Nothing of Chesterton that I recall.

            Mike, happy humanist.
            PS: I don't think Lewis can be canonized. I don't think the Church is able to officially know who is in heaven except for official members. ;-)

          • Rob Abney

            I don't completely understand your ps. Do you believe in heaven but don't think the church can know who is there or do you reject that heaven even exists? And who are the official members?

          • Sample1

            I don't know if an afterlife exists. I certaintly don't believe in one or any of the stories about one. Took a while to work that out mentally, having many emotions to deal with, but I'm content with my position.

            I made the comment because your particular religion thinks it can know exactly who is in heaven (it makes them saints). However, to my knowledge, there are no canonized saints who aren't Catholic, so it stands to reason the Church might be unable or unwilling to proclaim who is in heaven unless one is an official member of its group. I just find that odd. Others may not.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Here's an explanation from Mark Shea who has written some articles for SN.
            "I do not think he will (or should) be canonized by the Church. Nor, indeed, does the Church canonize non-Catholics. The reason is simple: that’s not what canonization is for. Canonization is not intended to say that saints are in Heaven but nobody else is. Rather it is intended to say, “This person shows us how to fully incarnate the life of Jesus in union with the Catholic Church, in which the fullness of the revelation subsists.” Lewis can’t do this, precisely because (as Lewis would be the first to say), he did not believe the fullness of the faith subsisted in the Church."

            http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/canonize-non-catholics/#ixzz44xwXIOcj

          • Sample1

            How does canonization literally work? What is the mechanism (charism?) involved to determine infallibly who is in paradise? How does that mechanism work? We know the Romans don't use the omens of flying birds like the augurs once did to discern spiritual matters. We call that superstition now, rightly so.

            Does anyone know?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I don't know the exact mechanisms involved, but in general terms the church is discerning that the person being considered has aligned his/her will with God's will to such a degree that he/she is able to help others know God better. There must be strong evidence for miraculous intervention due to the intercession of that person.
            The process is reasonable, it can have reasonable arguments against various aspects of it but it is not a un-reasonable superstition.

          • Sample1

            Darn. Can you point me to someone who does? Right now my suspicion is that nobody really knows.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            This article has specifics, and tells who really knows: the cdf, the magesterium, and all Catholics.
            http://www.catholic.com/blog/timothy-ryland/a-merely-human-gesture-by-a-pope

          • OldSearcher

            Perhaps this Wikipedia article can give you some clues:

            Congregation for the Causes of Saints

          • Mike

            well at least now you know that anyone is saved who wants to be. the rest of your comment is just typical atheist bluster.

          • Raymond

            None of that means "anyone is saved who wants to be". What it means is that the RCC is saying that some people will get Catholic saving whether they want it or not, because they were born into the wrong religion but met the criteria more or less by accident.

            So why do people who leave the Church (like me) not get saved, if they meet the requirements otherwise?

          • Mike

            God will judge everyone accordingly. if you want to live with "God" i believe you will.

          • Raymond

            What if I want to live with Gandalf?

          • Mike

            then you're probably delusional as Gandalf is a fictional character.

          • Raymond

            I am unable to advance the conversation at this point.

          • Mike

            no you're not.

            all the best.

          • Sample1

            Though I'm not a Christian, didn't you get the impression of "why even bother with religion" if good people are going to be ok anyway? We know that people don't need religion to be good or moral, or...pick any metric (except some negative ones, those do require religion!).

            Mike

          • Raymond

            That is an interesting idea. I wish it had occurred to me. You don't need religion to be good or moral, and people who do have religion can be evil and immoral. So what's the point?

          • Sample1

            I'm no historian when it comes to justice (Plato, Rawls, Locke, religions, etc.) but I do reject any definition of fair justice if the consequence for a finite action is eternal.

            Mike
            Edit done, switched around the word fair

          • Rob Abney

            Then you are in agreement with the Catholic Church.

          • Sample1

            Ha ha. Good one. You might be in agreement with Hillary Clinton on certain issues too, so what.

            Fact is, I think the Catholic Church is a unique force for much pain and suffering in the world. I'd be ok if it went bye-bye.

            Mike

          • Darren

            but I do reject any definition of fair justice if the consequence for a finite action is eternal.

            Then you are in agreement with the Catholic Church.

            Hah, you are a slippery one aren't you!

            Since, per Aquinas, consequences of a crime depend upon the stature of the party offended against, and God is infinite, then any offense against God is deserving of infinite punishment!

            EDIT to add: I find it amusing how you stated that as if you agreed with Sample1, and knowing he would read what you said as agreement, when you knew you were agreeing to the literal reading of his statement (with a hidden parameter known to you) contra his intended meaning.

            Worthy of a Bishop, my friend!

          • Sample1

            Thank you for pointing those things out. I think I've just grown tired of caring about them.

            Meh.

            Mike
            PS. You might want to screen shot your reply. :-P

          • Rob Abney

            You use good logic, I admire that. How did you come to be a YEC previously?

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            You use good logic, I admire that. How did you come to be a YEC previously?

            That is kind of you.

            I grew up Assembly of God. It was, in hindsight and to use the words of Carl Sagan, a demon haunted world, dominated by superstition and folk magic. We even had our own version of the Boy Scouts, the Royal Rangers, the BSA being, even in the 1980s, regarded with suspicion.

          • David Nickol

            Since, per Aquinas, consequences of a crime depend upon the stature of the party offended against, and God is infinite, then any offense against God is deserving of infinite punishment!

            Then why does the Catholic Church distinguish between "mortal" and "venial" sins? It would seem to me that by the reasoning you attribute to Aquinas, even the most minor offense against God would still be "infinite" and would have to be punished accordingly.

          • Darren

            David Nickol wrote,

            It would seem to me that by the reasoning you attribute to Aquinas, even the most minor offense against God would still be "infinite" and would have to be punished accordingly.

            It would indeed.

            For those who want the original reference:

            Articles 3 & 4 of Question 87 of the Summa Theologica

            Article 4 touches on the severity of punishment being proportional to the status of the offended party; Article 3 discusses unending duration of punishment due to the offended party, God, being eternal.

            There is discussion of the divisions of sins, per your comment. Near as I can make out, the venial sins aren’t offenses against God and so only merit temporal punishment.

            …as, for instance, when a man is too fond of some temporal thing, yet would not offend God for its sake, by breaking one of His commandments. Consequently such sins do not incur everlasting, but only temporal punishment.

            I imagine Aquinas considered sloth and gluttony as such sins.

            Note, I am not a Thomist, due diligence is advised.

          • Sample1

            I agree that it sucks that bad people can get away with their crimes. Of course that happens.

            But we can wish for a lot of things. It doesn't mean our wishes have any basis in reality.

            Mike

          • Mike

            i agree. what matters is NOT what we FEEL emotionally but what reason reveals.

          • Sample1

            Why would you conclude that?

            Mike

          • Mike

            bc you said that the fact that there is no justice doesn't matter if the truth is there is no justice; that our wishes are not what matters but what is true.

          • Sample1

            I'm so sorry that I am unable to help you. I need to take a break from you.

            Cheers!

            Mike

          • Mike

            no problem take care i've enjoyed the discussion.

          • Mike

            ps why do you say you can't "help me" do you mean help me to understand your pov?

          • Raymond

            Yes, you have warned me. You have covered your behind, as GWB said.

          • Darren

            Raymond wrote,

            Isn't gloating a sin? Is it a moral decision to gloat over someone else's misfortune?

            Depends upon the misfortune, I suppose.

            Aquinas said the faithful would rejoice in the torment and agonies of the damned, knowing it signified God’s perfect justice.

          • Raymond

            To Aquinas's discredit.

        • I guess Raymond fell into that straw man of thinking Catholics believe people who do not convert to Christianity, are damned.

          • Raymond

            I turned away from Christianity and my wife and her family believes I am damned. Or that I will be damned if I don't come back to my senses.

            Well...they probably thought I was damned anyway, because I was Catholic before my beliefs changed.

          • I was Calvinist before I was Catholic. So I was told often in sermons that I had eternal security. I was saved and could not be lost. Then I became Catholic. Guess what? Some of those same Calvinists became very worried I would go to hell.

          • Raymond

            "All atheists go to heaven?

            During a homily in Rome last May, Francis said that God redeems everyone -- not just Christians, but atheists, as well.

            "We must meet one another doing good," the pope said. To those who say: " 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' " the pope said, "But do good: We will meet one another there."

            So, was the pope saying that people can go to heaven, even if they don't believe in God?

            Probably not, say church experts.

            Catholicism has long held that salvation is open to everyone -- but with a really big caveat: If you know about the church and don't become a member, the door to heaven is likely closed, a Catholic spokesman said.

            Many American atheists say they appreciated the olive branch from the pope, however unclear his remarks may have been."

            http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/19/living/pope-said-what/

          • It is not a question of not knowing about the church. It is a matter of knowing in your heart that the church or the bible or whatever is the road to truth, beauty and goodness and still not pursuing it. Some atheists seem to me to be honestly pursuing holiness wherever they can find it. Some seem to me to be pretty self-centred. Of course God knows their hearts.

            Pope Francis is just charitably assuming this man is in the first category. I am not sure that is wise. We are not supposed to judge. Judging someone to be on the road to heaven is a judgement just as much as judging them to be on the road to hell. Both judgements can be wrong and very damaging.

          • But in the end Catholics do not have a position on what damnation is, or how to avoid it? Is it eternal conscious torture, oblivion, being separated from God?

            Do we have to get it through works or faith? Do we need to believe in Jesus to be saved? Do we need to believe he is God? Do we need to repent?

            Did the church at one time think it knew the correct answers? If it was wrong about these fundamental questions, why should we trust it now with respect to things like the effect of divorce, abortion, contraception?

            It would seem to me that the first set of questions are fundamental to Christianity and were at the heart of Jesus' mission and statements, but that the church now takes what he said as ambiguous. However, he said virtually nothing about these other social issues, and yet the church feels very comfortable in taking a strong position.

          • Mike

            you're confusing christianity for a technical instruction manual.

          • No I am not. The questions I posed are central to the Christian religion and questions many if not most Christians believe have been answered.

          • Mike

            i guess i am not sure what you are looking for exaclty.

          • What Catholics believe about these questions? If they don't know, because the bible is so vague, how are they so sure about homosexuality? Divorce? contraception?

            The church is clear and unequivocal about these things. Based often on vague often Old Testament passages.

            Yet passages like, none may enter the kingdom but through Jesus, or John 3:16, which seem to obviously say you need to believe in Jesus to be saved, the church says this is not yet clear.

          • Mike

            oh geez bc things like homosex divorce and contraception are NOT essentially catholic. everyone hindus taoists in japan used to believe (and i think still do believe) that for example same sex activity was undignified below the nobility of man a perversion of something beautiful etc. those kinds of things. see what Ghandi said about contraception he thought it would lead to chaos. almost all ppl used to think no fault divorce was an insane idea.

            the church sees itself as the guardian of truth but these controversial issues were not as big a deal even 50 years ago.

          • But those reasons are inherently and obviously fallacious. Which is why the only reasons for declaring these wrong are religious ones.

            Same sex, and contraception are not in any way contrary to human dignity, rather, as has been held repeatedly by courts around the world, discrimination on this basis is a clear affront to human dignity.

            Racism, slavery, the oppression of women, child labour, child abuse, have all been endemic in world societies for millennia.

            You can rely on the naturalistic fallacy if you like, but even on this very site we have had posts referencing Old Testament scripture as the reason homosexuality is sinful. We have also had strange interpretations where in exodus, where it clearly says "god hardened Pharoah's heart" to mean Pharoah hardened his own heart, that when the author of Matthew says the bodies of the saints got up and walked around, he was speaking metaphorically. That although the trinity is never referenced in the Bible, theologians can infer it indirectly. However, when it comes to interpreting the direct words of Jesus Christ on the central issue of the faith, how to be saved by Gods grace, the church throws up its hands and says John 3:16 is ambiguous and maybe even those who did not believe in Jesus may have eternal life.

            I call BS on this. The reason is, is that if the Pope came out and said, you must believe that Jesus is God to be saved, it acknowledges what the Bible actually has Jesus say directly: that most humans will not be saved. Most humans, aborted babies, all miscarriages, the mentally ill, the millions who lived for 1500 years before Christian missionaries arrived. The billions who are Muslim, Hindu etc. will all be damned.

            And while we're on damnation, this interpretation that "hell" may not be eternal conscious torture is ridiculous.

            The point of this rant is to draw out how the church interprets and reinterprets scripture, not based on any objective morality, but to fit the moral world it finds itself in. Hundreds of years ago, it had no problem starting wars to conquer holy land, burning witches and heretics, torturing and oppressing those who sought freedom of religion. Killing Bruno, arresting Galileo. It also was very clear that if you were not Christian, you were damned to eternal conscious torture. What has changed? Not scripture, not the writings of the church fathers, not gods own holy and perfect unchanging morality. What has changed is society has found these things o be immoral. Yes, secular morality has changed. But of course a church cannot admit that is what it is doing, nor would it think that it is changing to fit secular moral values. It just thinks, hmm, maybe burning most of humanity in an unquenchable fire for eternity is not consistent with being a perfectly good being, I guess we were wrong in our interpretation.

            And of course now, since homosexuality is becoming more mainstream, it will soften on this too. In fact it has already signalled this with the bishops talking about the gifts of gays

          • Mike

            again my point was just that these issues are not religious or particularly catholic but are essentially about human nature and dignity. that's where the dispute is: whose anthropology is correct. the church is pretty sure that it is and i for one agree and so do MANY ppl even in the west.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Got evidence? Just asserting that condoms are bad and then using your power to limit access to contraception is very bad form.

          • Mike

            latex is not haram in the church.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So a Catholic couple can use a condom to prevent pregnancy and the Church is okay with that? The is great news!

          • Mike

            why would they "use" a condom to prevent pregnancy? seems to me there's a much more effective way.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because I hear sex is unitive

          • Mike

            your assuming there is some intrinsic connection btw intercourse and babies, correct?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I wouldn't phrase is that way. Intercourse is the method our species uses to reproduce. Having two genetic parents rather than one is advantageous to a species, which explains its evolution.

            In humans, sex had non-reproductive benefits. It makes sense to take advantage of these benefits, whether or no a person/couple plans on reproducing.

          • Mike

            you mean one aspect of sex but not the other? but doesn't the emotional part depend on the former? isn't it the possibility of creating new life that gives sex its emotional charge. even from an evolutionary perspective.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you being serious? I'm quite certain that the prospect of creating a new life is not what gives sex its emotional charge. A significant amount, if not a vast majority of sex acts are committed using methods that would prevent life from occurring.

          • Mike

            but the emotional feeling is definitely as a result of the evolution of it no? i mean the intense feeling of pleasure is surely to get ppl to reproduce so the 2 are linked at least biologically.

            ppl like the feeling so do it but the point of it is to join their bodies so that reproduction is possible.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sex gained other uses besides reproduction.
            You claimed that the emotional charge is due to the possibility of creating life. Do you still think this is true?
            What do you mean the point is to join bodies so that reproduction is possible?

          • Mike

            "Old Testament scripture as the reason homosexuality is sinful."

            really btw, where? i've never seen that.

          • Darren

            Brain Green Adams wrote,

            The point of this rant is to draw out how the church interprets and reinterprets scripture, not based on any objective morality, but to fit the moral world it finds itself in.

            ...and the relevant SMBC:

            Meat Land

          • Mike

            so are human being kind of idiot cave men or do beliefs in an afterlife turn ppl into metaphorical cave men?

          • Mike
          • Not really, it is the same A-T point of view, that I do not share or think is reasonable.

            'But to opt for a completely anti-essentialist and anti-teleological
            view of the world -- one which holds that the natural order is entirely
            mechanistic and that there is nothing beyond that order -- is, the A-T
            philosopher would argue, to undermine the possibility of any sort of
            morality at all. For it entirely removes from the world essences and
            final causes, and thus the possibility of making sense of the good as an
            objective feature of reality. (See The Last Superstition for
            details.) And since modern atheism tends to define itself in terms of
            such a radically anti-teleological or mechanistic view of the world, it
            too is to that extent incompatible with any possible morality."

            I do not share this metaphysics or this understanding of what "good" means or, it would seem "morality".

          • Mike

            that's fine but his retort would be that that just means you can't ground your morality or your system for figuring out good and bad. obviously things must have natures otherwise nothing will be good/bad for them or contrary to what's "good for them".

          • I certainly can ground my morality and can have a grounded basis for figuring our what is good or bad.

            I agree things have natures.

          • Mike

            just one more point: for ex with homosexuality today. the way that ppl get around things having natures which it is wrong/immoral to contravene is by constructing new natures. so for example homosex is NOT immoral IF a man happens to be a "homosexual". so the new nature is "homosexual" and so for this person i suppose the immoral thing would be to have natural intercourse. etc.

          • I don't know what you are saying. Do you think homosexual acts are immoral? If so why?

          • Mike

            we've gone over this before. you think that the underlying metaphysical 'system' that i am working on is wrong so until we iron that out there's no point in continuing. don't you agree?

          • Sure. Take care.

          • Michel

            The first pope to ban contraception said in a personal conversation with a jesuit that he wasnt against it, he just didnt want to endorse pre marital sex

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Church teaching about homosexuality, divorce, and contraception is based on the Catholic understanding of Natural Law, which, in turn, is believed to be reflected in Sacred Scripture. That's different than simply saying "'Cause it's in the Bible." Catholics are not Protestant evangelicals.

          • Will

            Yep, it's more a confusing set of parables.

          • Mike

            yes the parables are confusing but don't you think they somehow touch on the profundity of life if life is more of a drama a Hamlet than an ikea manual?

            maybe Christ didn't just give us the maxwell equations or whatever bc ultimately essentially our purpose - as wonderful and beautiful as probing the ultimate nature of reality is and can lead a person to transcendence - is not to solve complicated puzzles but to learn to love and to contemplate the source of all being and goodness?

            i am not an engineer and always a b+ math student so maybe that's why i've never seen the sense of ambiguity as a major obstacle. life the drama of the everyday to me has always seemed like more a fantastic story unfolding than a set of wave functions or whatever.

          • Will

            I think the teachings about love are great. I think the dogmas about beliefs and sexuality get in the way of love, however. Maybe Christianity is such a mixed bad because of confusion? There is a ton of evidence that early Christians radically disagreed on what to make of many aspects of their religion. No agreement on the trinity until Constantine forced the issue with the council of Nicea, for instance.
            I will say that in most fields, lack of clarity is a big problem for truth. In engineering, it gets people killed and blows things up ;)

          • Actually the answer the church gives for how to be saved has not changed. What has changed is the answer that applies to those who are not listening to the church. That is not all that relevant. They need to give a positive response to God's grace in some form. The graces that come through the church are always there.

          • Raymond

            Atheists don't "pursue holiness". We don't think holiness exists. Atheists do the right thing in the same proportions as religious people do. (Maybe more, since some peoples' religion leads them to do horrible things.) We also don't do things in order to get to heaven, so statements that atheists can get to heaven are irrelevant.

          • Michel

            According to certain theologitians holiness is only attained when it is not pursued

          • Raymond

            That's nice.

          • I know you would not use those terms. Yet you can feel an impulse to do good in your heart. You can obey it or disobey it. That impulse could be God's call for you to become holy. It could also be the way you can express your desire for heaven without ever accepting intellectually the idea of heaven.

          • Raymond

            Religious and non-religious people feel the impulse to do good. Or evil But that doesn't suggest at all that there is a greater power or a desire for heaven. It's just religious people trying to validate their religious beliefs by projecting them on non-believers.

          • Are we projecting? You just said you feel an impulse to do good. Would you be happier if we said it came from a lesser source than out impulse to do good?

          • Mike

            so you do the right thing so long as you feel like it? where's the constraint on that? MANY ppl already feel like morality is an illusion, why are they wrong on atheism?

            but you do do good things for some reason don't you? probably for that feeling of superiority you get when you remind yourself that you also did it as a sacrifice for no reward out of the pure goodness of your heart. i know ppl who ridicule Christianity but preach none stop about the evils of plastic bags.

            see you folks also believe in a higher more noble standard it's inescapable. the only difference is that our system can account for it whereas yours can not in principle.

          • Raymond

            At what point did I say atheists only do the right thing because they feel like it. I said that atheists and theists to the right thing in the same proportions. Which is to say that a sense of morality or Christian Virtue doesn' come into play for those decisions.

            And of course, atheists don't accept that your "system" accounts for anything, so your sense of superiority is misplaced.

          • Mike

            but how can atheism account for morality? isn't it just our genes doing their thing? isn't morality a delusion where only evolutionary forces are at play?

          • Raymond

            That is basically my whole point. There is no supernatural basis for morality. People make moral choices in the same proportions whether they are religious or non-religious, so clearly supernatural morality is not a discriminating factor.

          • Mike

            there has to be a supernatural basis otherwise its just a useful delusion at best. if all there is is random evolutionary changes then what we think of as good is just a ruse to get us to reproduce.

          • Raymond

            If there were a supernatural basis, wouldn't you think that believers would behave more morally than non-believers, across the population?

          • Mike

            i think they do. history is clear on this point but i don't want to go down that road.

            then again many atheists for ex think homosex is good and natural and that abortion is also good so we might be comparing apples and oranges.

          • Raymond

            No one considers abortion to be "good". But we do believe that it is a decision between the woman and her doctor.

            And if you want to compare behaviors between believers and non-believers, I'd be up for that, but I don't want to go down that road either.

          • Mike

            i am pretty sure that many atheists really do believe that it is a good thing to abort a child whether or not it is a private decision.

          • Raymond

            They may think that if the mother decides it is in the best interests of her and the baby, that it is acceptable, but that doesn't mean they think it's good. It's just the best of several bad decisions for the mother, in her situation.

          • Mike

            ok well good to know as it's like pulling teeth it seems getting an atheist to admit that killing a baby is still bad.

          • Raymond

            It was you that said that we think it's good. I would think that common sense would tell you that that is not a universal opinion. Or even a majority opinion. There are plenty of atheists who would never consider abortion for themselves or their wives. But we think that if others do consider it, it's none of our business.

          • Darren

            Raymond wrote,

            They may think that if the mother decides it is in the best interests of her and the baby, that it is acceptable, but that doesn't mean they think it's good.

            Raymond, I am going to disagree with you here as you are promulgating a view which I do not hold and which I think is both mistaken and detrimental.

            It is not that abortion is deemed a moral wrong, but permissible under certain circumstances or out of respect for a female's personal autonomy (though it might be).
            The issue, for me at least, is whether or not a fertilized egg / blastocyte / fetus is a morally autonomous person. Is it sapient? Is it self-aware? Does it have thoughts? Does it perceive itself and the world in the way that each of us perceives ourselves and each other? Or is it tissue, genetically human, with the possibility of someday becoming a person, if a long chain of contingencies occurs, but not a person yet?

            If it is not a person, then it belongs in a different moral category and notions such as "not good but permissible" are misplaced.

          • Raymond

            I accept your positioning of the issue. I do not agree with it, but I agree that that is the fundamental separation the sides. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

          • Mike

            btw you missed 1 key point: the tissue is not only human as so are skin cells and not only new as mutated skin cells are new but comprised of a unique complete set of dna half from a father and half from mother.

            there is no other cell that has that. it is a new human life, tiny, extremely vulnerable but a new you. what we do about that is a related but separate question though.

          • Rob Abney

            The fertilized egg has the human potential to be actualized like no other. The sperm doesn't have that potential and neither does the unfertilized egg, neither does a fertilized egg of any other nonhuman mammal. It is a living soul just as is a just born soul who likely is unable to perceive himself as each of us do, and just as much as a brain damaged individual cannot perceive himself as we do. It is not just a possibility of someday becoming human, it is human with the need for actualization to attain the development you consider important. The long chain of contingencies is only necessary for us to recognize full human development but not necessary to be a human.

          • Michael Murray

            It is a living soul

            Maybe we could use Kirlian photography coupled to an ultrasound to see when the astral body of the foetus attaches to the silver cord ? Surely we can safely abort it before then or at least before its chakras are fully aligned ?

          • Rob Abney

            And would you be opposed to aborting it after that point?

          • Michael Murray

            I think I would consult the I Ching. Or possibly my Spiritual Guide.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe you are only trying to be humorous, but if you would take such an approach then it would seem to be inconsistent with the rest of your life where you use logic and rational reasoning for most important decisions. Admittedly, I don't know what an I Ching is.

          • Michael Murray

            I would regard any superstition such as the Catholic concept of an immortal soul, auras, chakras, silver cords etc, which is unsupported by evidence as inconsistent with logic and rational reasoning.

            The I-Ching is an Eastern method of divination. You throw sticks and match the pattern they make on landing to one of 64 standard hexagrams in a book called the I-Ching or Book of Changes.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching

            One of the side-effects of being raised as a Catholic for me seemed to be that even after I had stopped believing in my mid-teens I retained a vague interest in mysticism for a decade or so.

          • Rob Abney

            Mysticism drew me back to the church but then I had to have sound reasoning to keep me there. The reasonableness of the immortality of the soul was the key that connected the rational proof of God with the mystical resurrection for me.

          • Will

            The sperm doesn't have that potential and neither does the unfertilized egg,

            This is simply wrong. The sperm and egg certainly have the potential, they simply must unite with each other to have their potential actualized. If you are going to use these terms, at least understand what they mean?

          • Rob Abney

            You are correct, thanks. The fertilized egg is an actualized human. That makes my point even stronger.
            I do understand these terms but it is often difficult to use them since they are very uncommon in popular worldviews.

          • Will

            The egg is an actualized human egg. The potential of the egg to become a human being is not actualized until near to birth, depending on how human being is defined. No one in their right mind believes a single cell is a full human being. This isn't hard.
            If one accepts the idea of the rational soul, a humans rational potential does not begin to actualize until they begin to speak. If something without a rational soul isn't human, you can easily justify infanticide. Your ethical system is so full of problems it's silly, but there is no ethical system that doesn't have problems. Ethics are very difficult.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think you've settled on a good definition here. If a human doesn't have a rational soul until he/she can speak then that doesn't occur until 1-2 years after birth and maybe never for some people who most of us still refer to as human beings.
            We agree that ethics are difficult.

          • Will

            We agree that ethics are difficult.

            I will agree that potential and actuality is somewhat useful in certain ethical discussions, depending on how one once to frame them. For example allowing a brain dead 95 year old to die by removing life support is less weighty than allowing a 15 year old the same fate because of the potential left in the 15 year old. There is reason to work harder to save the 15 year old even if at first it appears hopeless, and that reason is best captured in potential, at least to me.

          • Will

            If you want something on the subject by an actual philosopher of ethics, here is a link to a discussion of the subject in "The Oxford Handbook of Ethics." How much have you actually read on philosophy?

            Here is a case where a mouse was able to reproduce without sperm. With a little help the egg has the potential to make a new organism on its own. As I said...quite wrong.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the link but the actual philosopher doesn't seem to understand potency. I'll be satisfied with discussing it with you.

          • Will

            Thanks for the link but the actual philosopher doesn't seem to understand potency.

            Said by someone who apparently doesn't understand it himself. You know better than the Oxford Handbook of Ethics. LOL! To say he doesn't understand it, you need to explain why. I just explained why you clearly don't understand it. The potential in all matter is generally unknown, in that new technology can actualize a potential for novel purposes. Thomas Aquinas had no clue that within silicon lay the potential for electric circuits when combines with the right elements and form. It took time to realize that electric circuits had the potential to become computers with the right configuration. Some have theorized that eventually intelligence will convert all matter to a form most appropriate for information processing, but that's a bit far fetched. As I said, an egg has the potential, by itself, to become an entire organism.

            Potential is big topic in physics and engineering. Electrical potential is known as voltage, for example. Potentiality and actuality is a very simple and intuitive concept. It has limits to it's usefulness, of course. Believe it or not, skin cells have the potential to become embryonic stem cells.

            P.S. You are claiming Hugh LaFollette, and extremely well published philosopher, doesn't understand potentiality and you do...you must have a job were you can get by being oblivious, you often amaze me.

          • Rob Abney

            "The whole potential and actualization think seems to be an unnecessary use of words trying to sound fancy, in my view. I really like philosophy, but that stuff is completely useless and all modern philosophers completely ignore it (other than a few Catholic ones) for good reason."
            That was your quote from a couple of weeks ago, so I am surprised that you are now quite interested in it today.
            I don't claim to know it better than a philosopher but I think he mis-used the term in the book chapter that I read upon your suggestion. Then I replied that I don't mind discussing it with you rather than a real philosopher.
            Electrical potential is a different use of the term altogether.
            And my understanding of the egg becoming fertilized without sperm is that it can only occur if the other cell has the altered makeup of the sperm, but I didn't spend enough time on that article to discuss it.

          • Will

            Potential and actuality are often used when plain English will suffice and even work better. Often it's better to say "It's possible to use silicon to make semiconductors" than "silicon's potential to become a semiconductor is actualized when it becomes a semiconductor". See how much longer and more confusing that second sentence is than the first? Apparently you did not understand what I meant the other day. Sometimes I feel like the "alien" here, where Catholics are unable to grasp my concepts, but I certainly grasp theirs.
            Electrical potential is actualized to perform work when a circuit is completed. Charge in a battery has the potential to cause a starter to turn which has the potential to start an engine as long as other conditions are met. These potentials are actualized when a person makes the circuit by putting the ignition in the start position. All this would be easier to describe using plain English as I pointed out the other day...

          • Will

            And my understanding of the egg becoming fertilized without sperm is that it can only occur if the other cell has the altered makeup of the sperm, but I didn't spend enough time on that article to discuss it.

            Your understanding is close enough, but the philosophical point is that the eggs potential to become an embryo was actualized without sperm, even though the process was certainly artificial. The potential was still there, waiting to be exploited if one wishes to think of it that way. Engineering could be argued to be the art of exploiting potentials.

            P.S. Electrical potential is a subset of potential energy in physics. From wikipedia:

            The term potential energy was introduced by the 19th century Scottish engineer and physicist William Rankine,[3][4] although it has links to Greek philosopher Aristotle's concept of potentiality. Potential energy is associated with forces that act on a body in a way that depends only on the body's position in space. These forces can be represented by a vector at every point in space forming a vector field of forces, or a force field.

            Thought you might like the Aristotle plug :) Hopefully we are in more agreement about potentiality. I suppose it seems obviously intuitive to me because of my engineering career so I apologize if I have been excessively condescending. I'm generally annoyed, however, that we are constantly told that if we understand philosophy then we will see the "truth" of Catholicism. After learning a good bit of philosophy Catholicism seems worse because of all of the philosophical errors I see that are swept under the rug. I'm guessing your understanding of potentiality and actuality came from a Catholic apologist...spreading error in my opinion. I suppose I do agree with Catholics in that we should oppose the spread of error when we see it, we just obviously disagree on what amounts to error ;)

          • Darren

            Hello, Rob. That was a very nice summary of your religious view of the mater.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks. What part of my answer makes it religious?

          • Sample1

            ...there has to be a supernatural basis otherwise it's just a useful delusion at best.

            Error alert. Useful is anthropocentric thinking. There is no evidence of that. Delusion, no. Though there are illusions.

            if all there is is random evolutionary changes

            Error alert. That's not all there is. Even Vogt and the bishop must disagree with this wording. But Team Catholic tends to be pretty quiet sometimes. At any rate, we've been over and over this before on SN. Evolution is not just random change, it also encompasses selection which is the opposite of random.

            ...a good ruse

            Error alert. This word ruse requires a sense of agency. No evidence of that.

            Mike

          • Mike

            so do you concede that evolution favors some things over others? do you concede that is has direction a goal ie more and more complex life?

          • Sample1

            I concede nothing, Your understanding of evolution (on display here) is without substance and will be ignored. No offense.

            Mike

          • Mike

            oh geez lemme guess evolution is totally devoid of any goals or direction there is no design yet morality is real and human beings have infinite dignity?

          • Sample1

            Fallacy of composition.

            Mike

          • Mike

            see i told you.

          • Sample1

            You tell people a lot of things. That's fine.

            Mike

          • Mike

            are you always this robotic?

            question what is the most convincing argument for and against God in your opinion.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sample1 is very far from robotic.

          • Mike

            maybe stuck up then ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No not that either

          • Sample1

            Remember the old pinball machines? When I read the scenario you've constructed (in the form of a for and against question) I am reminded of the word *TILT*

            I'm labeling your questions as tilting questions as they simply void conversations for me (as they void pinball games).

            I don't expect you to understand why you've asked a tilting question. It probably sounds like a perfectly good way to scratch an itch for you, or to begin a talk with me.

            It isn't.

            I'm unable to help you.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok take care

          • Sample1

            Some atheists seem to me to be honestly pursuing holiness wherever they can find it.

            Care to share some names?

            Secondly, what does pursing holiness look like and what does that mean?

            Mike

          • Sharing names would be judging. God's judgement and the person's judgement are relevant. Nobody else's matters.

          • Sample1

            Oh. Well what do you mean by judging? Can you share any names of Christians who you think are pursuing holiness?

            Mike

          • I don't think we can judge their hearts. You could say some things about some things they do. We do need to discern whether or not we want to follow their example. Yet commenting on the totality of their relationship with God seems problematic. It is a moving target and it is largely one we cannot see.

            After someone has died the church sometimes declares them to be saints. She never declares anyone to be damned. Still that is very much a gift the church was given to tell us what holiness looks like. It is precisely because we can't do that on our own that the church needs to get involved.

          • Sample1

            First, I think you mean to say brains. The heart is not the seat of the mind. :-)

            Hmm. Lots of ways to approach this.

            Let's go back to the beginning. You said some atheists do seem to you to be pursuing holiness.

            Who are you thinking of? Haven't you already made a kind of judgement already?

            Mike

          • I can see atheists co-operating with grace. I can see atheists just pursuing wine, women and song. Yes I am tempted to figure out who is who. I just think we need to fight that temptation. We just don't know. We can't give up on anyone and we can't presume anyone has it made.

          • Sample1

            Oh, so now you mean that you can hypothetically imagine things rather than actually observing atheists pursuing holiness.

            Perhaps you can edit your original comment to accurately reflect what's in your heart brain. :-)

            I can imagine a lot of things too :-) so unless you have more to add, thanks for your Catholic views.

            Mike

          • I do observe atheists doing good and bad. I don't know their hearts. I try and assume their motives are good. So it is not hypothetical. Yet judging real people is wrong. So I won't give names.

            Some atheists who have become Catholic do analyse their pre-conversion mindset in this way. That is they were called by God but did not know it was God at the time. What the church says is a positive response to that call does not always lead a person to the sacraments. If it does not it can still lead to salvation. It is still better if it does but some are so strongly opposed to the idea of becoming religious they might become anonymous Christians.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I can see atheists just pursuing wine, women and song.

            And what is wrong with wine, women, and song?
            What if you are completely wrong and all the drunkards, womanizers, and revelers are in heaven? God might like good company. Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

            You are claiming that God doesn't like certain things (wine, women, and song), but likes other things. How do you know this? It seems rather bold to claim to know the mind of God.

          • There is nothing wrong with wine, women and song. They are just not the highest goods we can pursue. Do you need to know the mind of God to know that? Sort of. God gives us a lot of ways we can know it and a lot of opportunity to deny it. It always comes back to free choice. God calls us all self-sacrificing love. We can respond to that call or we can just turn inward on ourselves. Rejecting religion does not actually change that basic reality.

          • Michel

            According to theologists like Cabodevilla the door to heaven has the lock in the opposite direction than the rest of doors, meaning that the entrance to heaven is a personal choice. Nevertheless concepts like purgatory may apply in those cases

          • Raymond

            So are you saying it's a personal choice after death? In that case, I think I'll wait to see whether that actually happens.

          • Michel

            It is a personal choice during life, meaning that hell is only the desperation suffered while living

          • Raymond

            I don't agree with the term "choice". If you don't choose to accept or not accept the supernatural. And I don't feel any desperation, yearning, longing or whatever for supernatural truth.

          • Michel

            It has more to do with feeling bad after doing bad things

          • Raymond

            I'm afraid you would have to define "bad things". Huck Finn felt awful about doing what he was taught was the right thing.

          • Raymond

            Really? I have very little desperation in my life. I'm not crazy about my job, and I sure could use more money, and I perceive how rotten things are in a lot of places on Earth, but I don't feel desperation about them. I guess that means I can do Hell standing on my head, as it were.

          • Mike

            a step forward is always better than a step back but 2 steps back are always better than 3.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, no. Some Catholics, perhaps many Catholics, do believe that, so it's a legitimate position to argue against and not a straw man. However, my point is that such Catholics, as well as Raymond, might question what that phrase, "No one comes to the Father but through me" might actually mean. I don't think it is obvious.

          • Too bad Jesus didn't say what we need to do to be saved. Other Christians are convinced it is obvious, that believing in Jesus as God will more or less do it.

            I think I am trolling the comments because this post lacks much content of interest.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But this is life we are talking about. If you want to instruct someone about a machine or a piece of software, maybe you give them a precise technical manual. If you want to teach someone something as complex as how to live a human life, you paint them a picture. Or, lacking the medium of oil and canvas, maybe you tell them a parable or two. Or, better still, you make your very life and death into a work of art that communicates the essential nature of reality.

            Of course the polyvalent nature of artistic communication is both a blessing and a curse since, as you indicate, some folks will go off the rails with their interpretations. As a check on that, thankfully, we have some fairly simple directives that can be used to re-root our interpretations, directives such as Matthew 22:36-40.

          • Darren

            Jim Hillclimber wrote,

            But this is life we are talking about. If you want to instruct someone about a machine or a piece of software, maybe you give them a precise technical manual. If you want to teach someone something as complex as how to live a human life, you paint them a picture…

            Yes, pictures are good. After all, when something is important, equivocal is not where you want to be standing.

            Equivocal = Bad

          • One of many links, and one of many approaches: http://www.bokus.com/bok/9780226557038/poetic-interaction/

          • Raymond

            I think there are a lot of people to interpret that statement to mean "no one goes to Heaven unless they believe in Jesus". I know there are other interpretations, but many of those interpretations seem to try to apply "wiggle room" to the basic understanding. "Pursing holiness" and all that.

          • Lazarus

            Indeed. I have through the years heard a few very plausible interpretations that would establish salvation for non-Christians, including for example "no-one comes to the father unless you are like me (Jesus)" or that "through me" simply means "I will judge, in my discretion".

          • David Nickol

            I think it is not a matter of what Jesus meant. I think it is a matter of what the author of John's Gospel meant. Few biblical scholars believe that the theological discourses John placed on the lips of Jesus were actual sayings. Even the most naive reader can tell that there is a dramatic difference between the way Jesus speaks in the Synoptics and the way he speaks in John's Gospel.

            I would say that it was part of my Catholic education—in the dark ages of the 1950s and early 1960s—to prevent me from being a naive reader who could see the obvious difference and indoctrinate me in such a way that the difference was not apparent.

            Of course, since the Catholic Church accepts John's Gospel as divinely inspired scripture, the discourses are still very important. But I think it is mistaken to approach them with the question, "What did Jesus mean when he said . . . .?" It is rather, "What did John mean when he had Jesus say . . . ?"

          • Lazarus

            That's a more accurate approach, I agree.

        • David Nickol

          What does it mean to you to "come through Christ"?

          Apparently, it can mean just about anything anyone wants it to mean. It is interesting that some of the words attributed to Jesus are to be taken at anything but face value, while others are taken to be literally true.

          • Mike

            when christ said he was the door did he mean a literal door? can a door serve as a metaphor, gee i wonder.

          • David Nickol

            Was it purely metaphorical when Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." Of course, being "born again" is metaphorical, but isn't Jesus here saying baptism is essential? And yet the Church invented "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire." And the Church offers hope that infants who die without baptism are saved. It would seem to me that Jesus said quite unequivocally that baptism was necessary for salvation.

            Now, I personally don't believe that if Christianity is true, an all-loving God would make baptism necessary for salvation. What people who lived in parts of the world for well over a thousand years after Jesus where baptism was unheard of? I think there are Catholics who would argue that such people had little chance of salvation, or even no chance of salvation.

            In any case, Jesus certainly did say no one could enter the kingdom of God without being baptized. What part of "no one" is unclear to you?

          • Mike

            Jesus was speaking to ppl 2,000 years ago and had to use the ways of communication that they would respond to.

            he meant no one who wasn't first re born in a spirit of truth and washed of their sins and iniquity. that seems the point to me.

            imagine an alien from another dimension trying to explain to ppl what he knows. i suspect the alien would say alot of weird sounding things too.

          • David Nickol

            he meant no one who wasn't first re born in a spirit of truth and washed of their sins and iniquity. that seems the point to me.

            So is it your opinion that Jesus wasn't really saying the Sacrament of Baptism was essential? Why is it still an open question whether infants who die without baptism are saved or not? You seem to be disregarding about 2000 years of Catholic thought by claiming that, when Jesus spoke of being "born again of water and the Spirit," he was using baptism merely as a metaphor.

            imagine an alien from another dimension trying to explain to ppl what he knows. i suspect the alien would say alot of weird sounding things too.

            Are you saying God Incarnate had a problem expressing Himself clearly to His creatures? Jesus wasn't an alien. He was God.

          • Mike

            if you want to stretch things then yes of course he wasn't saying it is essential. the church interprets what he meant and concrete things like sacraments are good but don't they point beyond themselves? i suspect the saved w/o baptism q is a technical one but i have no idea. the church tries to put as much 'flesh' on things as possible but in the end it is God's call.

            i know Jesus wasn't an alien. i am saying that no matter what he said it would sound strange. it would be like explaining to a person 2,500 years ago that light is an electro magnetic wave or whatever.

          • Darren

            Mike wrote,

            Jesus was speaking to ppl 2,000 years ago and had to use the ways of communication that they would respond to.

            It is not as though we expect our high school students to read and comprehend writings from 2,000 years ago.

          • Mike

            why not?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            David, you know I love so many of your comments, but I just find this bizarre. You, a non-Catholic, apparently find it to be perfectly clear that when Jesus referred to "being born of water and Spirit" refers with perfect correspondence to a canonical baptism within the RCC. Meanwhile, Catholic teaching itself speaks to a more flexible interpretation of this Biblical passage, an interpretation that you refer to as an "invention". So, is your complaint:

            a. That the RCC is being unbiblical interpreting baptism in such a vague way, i.e. the passage should actually be understood to refer to a canonical rite and nothing else. Or,

            b. The Roman Catholic teaching is not Roman Catholic enough for your tastes.

            ?

          • David Nickol

            You, a non-Catholic, apparently find it to be perfectly clear that when Jesus referred to "being born of water and Spirit" refers with perfect correspondence to a canonical baptism within the RCC.

            I don't see how I classify myself (Catholic or not) as being at all relevant. I was born and raised Catholic, and I went to Catholic elementary school and high school in the "golden age" of Catholic education. Having seen surveys of what contemporary Catholics know of Catholic doctrine, I am confident if given some objective test, I would score well above average.

            As I have said, I wouldn't attribute the "born again of water and the spirit" comment to Jesus, but rather to the theology of John, so I personally don't think it is a matter of what "Jesus meant." But I also don't doubt (having just taken a fresh look at the Catechism section on baptism) that the Catholic Church sees in that and other sayings attributed to Jesus a definitive need for the Sacrament of Baptism.

            Unlike some other "sacraments," the practice of baptism would seem to go back to the earliest Church. Even Jesus himself was baptized, and baptism was practiced by some sects even before John the Baptist. So I don't think there can be any reasonable doubt that in the passage under discussion, John (writing near the end of the 1st century) was referring to actual baptism as practiced from the beginning.

            a. That the RCC is being unbiblical interpreting baptism in such a vague way, i.e. the passage should actually be understood to refer to a canonical rite and nothing else. Or,

            b. The Roman Catholic teaching is not Roman Catholic enough for your tastes.

            Neither a. nor b. Given my current level of doubt about religion in general and Catholicism in particular, I think that when the Catholic Church interprets a passage from the Bible, it doesn't make sense for me to say either that the Church is right or the Church is wrong. I do not accept the Catholic approach to the Bible, particularly the idea that the entire Bible must be read as one coherent book, with the Old Testament being filled with prophecies and references to the New Testament.

            I think the Church is, in its own way, absolute about the necessity for baptism, but of course it stretches the concept to include baptism of desire and baptism of blood. I suppose believers would say the Church has authority from God to invent as many new kinds of baptism as it wants.

            I think the Church creates problems for itself by insisting on the necessity of baptism for salvation, on the one hand, and then declaring we can hope that infants who die before baptism are saved in some way or another, we know not how. Because what the Church is really saying is that they can't really say what the fate of the unbaptized is. Limbo was a brilliant solution to the problem, because it maintained the necessity for baptism without calling into question the goodness of God. But now the Church says it just doesn't know what becomes of the unbaptized.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks for the very reasonable and in depth answer.

            Let me clarify first of all that I was not in any way doubting the extent of your knowledge of Catholicism. I just sometimes find it ironic that there is a line of ex-Catholic thinking, an interpretive stance, that would be most at home in, say, the Society of St. Pius X. So, it was a matter of being surprised by your interpretive stance, not a matter of questioning your knowledge.

            At a technical level, I fully accept the distinction you are making between "things Jesus said" and "things John said 'through Jesus'", but:

            1. In general, I find that to be a very stilted way of speaking. When we are talking amongst well-informed adults, I think in most cases it can simply be understood that when we talk about "what Jesus said", we really mean (for example) "what Jesus said in the Gospel of John". In cases where it is valuable to make the distinction, let's go ahead and make the distinction. Otherwise, let's consider the value of economy in conversation.

            2. The "theology of John" was a reaction to the life and death of Jesus. So, when we read John's reaction to Jesus, we are (indirectly) "hearing Jesus". In that sense, I'm not sure that the distinction you are making is always that important.

            If I could summarize your view on baptism (correct me if I am wrong), you see insufficient continuity between baptism of the sort that John the Baptist was practicing and the so-called "baptism of desire". Personally, I do perceive an essential continuity. You could perhaps say that I work within a "vague phenomenology" (to borrow a phrase that Johnboy Sylvest used to like using) of baptism that includes both of these things and see them both as a decisive reorientation toward God. But, where some people see "a recognition of essential continuity", others will see discontinuity and "invention", and I don't see any easy way to adjudicate who is right. In any case, I find your view to be reasonable and I thank you for explaining.

            P.S. to nitpick a bit, I don't believe that the Church insists, or even suggests, that the Bible be read "as one coherent book". What it suggests, I believe, is that all the books of the Bible participate in some way in one narrative trajectory, much in the same way that the family scrap book -- cacaphonous as it may be -- speaks to the narrative trajectory of a family.

          • David Nickol

            Don't answer this, but do you really think I am so stupid as not to recognize metaphors? Do you believe I think Jesus was a vine?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Face value meaning ... to whom? To us? Or to the audience who heard the twice or thrice translated words a couple thousand years ago?

            As Lazarus indicated, one can, and many have, put forward perfectly reasonable and well-informed arguments to suggest that those words probably meant something like, "you become close to the Father in the measure that you conform yourself to my pattern". I don't think it would be similarly possible to put forward a reasonable and well-informed argument that the words meant, "I like applesauce served with my pork chops". They can't mean just any old thing that we want them to mean, as you are hyperbolically suggesting.

          • David Nickol

            They can't mean just any old thing that we want them to mean, as you are hyperbolically suggesting.

            I suppose it was hyperbole, but then again, so was saying it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. But if Jesus really meant, "You become close to the Father in the measure that you conform yourself to my pattern," why did he say, "“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.” And of course the complete discourse continues at considerable length, so it is perhaps not to interpret it out of context.

      • Mike

        btw hitler and stalin! wow that's intense.

        • Raymond

          ok...maybe Castro and Hugo Chavez.

          Wait....is Fidel Castro dead? Then how about Glenn Castro, his great-uncle.

          • Mike

            why would the castros be in hell?

          • Raymond

            Atheistic pinko Commie bastiches!

        • David Nickol

          "Catholic" hell is an interesting place. You'll find someone who skipped church on a Sunday or ate meat on a Friday (back in the old days) brushing shoulders with mass murderers, rapists, and serial killers.

          • Mike

            what a weird thing to say David.

          • David Nickol

            How so? Isn't skipping Sunday Mass a mortal sin? Wasn't eating meat on Fridays a mortal sin in the old days? What happens to a person who dies in a state of mortal sin?

          • Mike

            does the church not have power to bind and loose? plus even if you do in a state of mortal sin does the church say you will go to hell?

          • David Nickol

            Absolutely and unequivocally, the Church says if you die in a state of mortal sin, you go to hell.

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            How could you not know this?

            Do you see a loophole in there somewhere?

          • Mike

            no i agree the church has that authority. but it's not as simple as you seem to want it to be. mortal sin isn't easy and still there is hope as if a person is truly "sorry" then they have hope. plus even benedict has said that ultimate justice belongs to God himself:

            "Moreover, an unrepentant person guilty of mortal sin objectively risks eternal damnation in hell; however, "although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of a person to the justice and mercy of God" (, No. 1861)."

          • David Nickol

            Nothing you say takes away from the fact that if—according to the Catholic Church—a person dies in a state of mortal sin, he or she goes directly to hell. It is not up to us to say that someone who appears truly evil and unrepentant is in a state of mortal sin, which is why the Church doesn't attempt to name anyone who is damned, be it Judas, or Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot. But the Church still teaches that both skipping Mass on Sunday and mass murder are mortal sins.

          • Mike

            well they don't go directly bc God makes the final judgement.

            but i concede that skipping mass doesn't seem to qualify as mortal. just like eating fish on friday before. i think i know the church's reasons though and understand them but still it seems very strange where i am coming from.

          • David Nickol

            but i concede that skipping mass doesn't seem to qualify as mortal.

            But it does.

            2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

          • Mike

            ok but deliberately to commit mortal sin requires 3 things apparently. but anyway even committing mortal sin on purpose with full knowledge and intent doesn't send one to hell.

            i accept btw the church's reasoning but it still seems weird to me.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Just the other day we were talking about people choosing hell. Now we are back to judgement and condemnation

    • Mike

      yeah but apparently he was an ultra hindu nationalist.

      • David Nickol

        yeah but apparently he was an ultra hindu nationalist.

        Do you actually know what you are talking about? What is the point of this comment?

        • Mike

          i've read he thought that hindus were superior ethnically to others.

          • David Nickol

            Hinduism is a religion, not an ethnicity, although admittedly it is more complicated than that. But I would like to see some proof of what you say, and hear what you think it means. Was Gandhi evil? Do you know why he was assassinated?

    • Do you really think that what the OP said about the "Gandhi protocol" constitutes denigration of Gandhi and an implication that he was an enemy of Christianity? That seems like quite the stretch to me.

      • David Nickol

        Do you really think that what the OP said about the "Gandhi protocol" constitutes denigration of Gandhi and an implication that he was an enemy of Christianity?

        I think there was no reason whatsoever for Timothy Gordon to refer to Gandhi or to name a "protocol" after him. Gandhi did not say the words Gordon put in quotation marks to describe the "protocol." That is, Gandhi did not say, “I would convert to Christianity if I ever met a true Christian.” As I pointed out above, I assume this is a reference to Gandhi's famous quote, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Why would Gandhi, a devoted Hindu, ever have given conditions under which he would convert to Christianity?

        And how is the "Gandhi protocol" characterized? "[A] lame critique of Christianity . . . tired, less-than-insightful . . . tendentiously high standard set on the Gandhi scale." None of this characterizes anything Gandhi himself said, but who reading the OP would not tend to associate Gandhi himself with the "Gandhi protocol"?

        And then in addition to that we get Mike's remark, "yeah but apparently he [Gandhi] was an ultra hindu nationalist." I surmise that the point was supposed to be, "Well, even if Gandhi didn't invent the 'Gandhi protocol,' he was some kind of non-Catholic extremist."

        I do not know Timothy Gordon and have only read a couple of his posts, so I will not try to characterize him. But I will say that there is a certain strain of thought among some people associated with Catholic Answers that anyone who is not a Catholic is less deserving of respect, since Catholicism is so clearly and self-evidently true that it is the only philosophy/religion that any intelligent, intellectually honest person would accept. It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

        The nun asked the class what they wanted to be when they grow up.
            A little girl raised her hand.
            "Yes," the nun said, calling on the little girl. "What do you want to be?"
            "I want to be a prostitute with I grow up!" said the little girl.
            The nun almost fainted. When she got over the shock and could speak again, she asked, "What did you say you wanted to be???"
            The little girl replied, "I said I want to be a prostitute."
            The nun heaved a great sigh of relief and said, "Oh, I thought you said you wanted to be a Protestant!"

        • I can see Gandhi's actual comments as an inspiration for what Timothy Gordon calls the "Gandhi protocol". I might even push back on its alleged stupidity, based on internal critiques such as Rom 2:23–24 and 2 Tim 3:1–5. As a response to that pushback, I might expect Gordon to distinguish between (i) becoming like Christ; (ii) being like Christ. The former accounts for arbitrarily terrible starting positions while the latter remains ignorant of them.

          As to @disqus_XEcp5NANcH:disqus's comments, why think that Timothy Gordon condones them? Generally I find that moderators of sites let commenters go beyond the bounds of the blog post authors themselves.

          I get that you're trying to push for a different style, but... I just doubt your current tactic will be effective. I suggest asking for evidence that (a) Gandhi ever approved of such a protocol; (b) Gandhi was an ultra-nationalist. I find that just asking simple questions of outrageous claims often makes them go away more effectively than taking offense (no matter how legitimate). Just my two cents.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes

          That's a funny one.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          I do not know Timothy Gordon and have only read a couple of his posts, so I will not try to characterize him.

          He's off to a really bad start. One more post like this and I for one will put him on the do not read list.

  • David Nickol

    One certainly might argue that handing someone (even a tried, convicted, and clearly guilty man) over to his executioners is not the most "Christian" thing to do. I oppose capital punishment in the United States today. This is not necessarily to say it might not have been justified in other times and under other circumstances.

    I don't think I can endorse "doing what is right because it is right no matter the cost." I don't think it is necessary to be a consequentialist in order to take into account what the cost of an action will be. Aquinas famously argued in favor of tolerating certain evils (e.g., prostitution) lest greater evils result.

    I don't think it is necessarily the case that to not do something that is theoretically "right" is the same as doing something that is wrong. Under Catholic morality, it is never permitted to do evil such that good may come of it, but apparently it is permitted to tolerate what is wrong—that is, to refrain from interfering with it—if interfering will make things worse.

    FWIW, I agree with those who have found the tone of the OP offensive. The Catholic Answers mentality seems to be characterized by such certitude that no thought is given to disguising contempt for those who disagree. If I have to choose between Catholic Answers and Gandhi, I choose Gandhi. Note that I did not say "choose between Catholicism and Gandhi."

  • Francis Miller

    I liked the essay. I recognized it is on a work of fiction and that Mr. Gordon found in it a moral tale but if a different kind. I saw the movie a few years ago. I liked it but was left feeling disappointed or maybe uneasy is a better word. The moral certainty of Evans is unusual to see in a good guy in a movie. Wade's rationalized certainty is much more common in good and bad guys. I am Catholic and therefore the moral dilemma as identified challenges me, less for Evans who offers example but for Wade who represents the rationalist. Wade is believable, Evans is challenging. Wade is somehow influenced in a positive way by the experience. This seems like any of us who encounter goodness and truth. The tone of the essay did not hurt my feelings. Moral certainty is challenged by contemporary mores. In that it is a fiction and that pragmatism and consequentialsm are the only reasonable alternatives. They too make me uneasy. I know that they are real alternatives in daily decisions but that I have that small voice repeating "be good, be like Christ, you were created for something else'.

  • So this was your April Fool's Day post, right?

  • After watching a recent episode of Better Call Saul, I'm thinking the approach to morality defended here is reminiscent of the character Mike.

    Spoilers.

    While both Mike and Jimmy had the opportunity to take an enormous amount of money but both did "the right thing" by returning it. jimmy later regrets this thinking, why did we do that? There was little actual harm if they took it.

    Mike tells jimmy he didn't take the money, because he was hired to to a job to do and that didn't involve taking the money. Now mike has murdered a number of people at this point, as part of his own moral code involving justice. But he is steadfast in keeping his word and his honour. In the recent season, he convinces a client not to hire him to murder a person, rather to let him help put him behind bars. This backfires and the victim will not serve much time, and mike gets a big payout. But he then pays back the client because he failed to deliver. He is a man of his word.

    So here we have a character, who keeps his word and is tenacious and steadfast as the protagonist Yuma appears to be, but the content, what they are being moral about is very different.

    All this to say that this op seems impressed by how great a job the protagonist sticks to his convictions, only part of a question of morality. What the convictions are, and how sticking to them affects others, is vital in moral questions as well.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      That is such a great show.

  • Rob Abney

    " 3:10 to Yuma simply leaves in its wake no compelling excuse not to be a man of virtue, a real man"
    Just watched the movie again after first seeing it 7 years ago. That is a very good review, really makes you think about the behavior of the characters.
    As I awaited the Netflix DVD delivery I found another movie on Netflix streaming service called Amal. Ironically it is about a Hindu Indian who displays great virtue in daily living and gets closer to God in the end.

  • Doug Shaver

    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I find nothing in the synopsis presented here that "repudiates consequentialism." As a consequentialist, I believe that the consequences of an action, and nothing else, are what determine its moral status. But that doesn't mean I think that the consequences to me are the only ones that matter. In some situations, the right thing for me to do could have consequences for me that I won't like one bit, just because of its consequences for other people. My moral decisions are my own responsibility, but that doesn't put me personally at the center of the moral universe.

  • Doug Shaver

    No more saving the world and saving your own skin. That is the stuff of children’s tales.

    Absolutely right, if saving the world means perfecting the world. But if all we're trying to do is improve it, we can't do even that if we don't collectively save our own skins, though a few of us might have to make the ultimate sacrifice before that can happen.