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Was Mother Teresa Really an Atheist?

As is now well known, Mother Teresa of Calcutta suffered severe spiritual afflictions through much of her remarkable life: “This terrible sense of loss – this untold darkness – this loneliness – this continual longing for God.” These first emerged in 2001, but were only fully disclosed with the 2007 publication of her private writings and correspondence in Come Be My Light, edited by Fr Brian Kolodiejchuk MC, the postulator of her cause for canonization.

In these writings, Teresa describes to her confessors and spiritual directors how over long periods, ultimately stretching to over 40 years with only fleeting respites:

"Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason. – The place of God in my soul is blank. – There is no God in me. – When the pain of longing is so great – I just long & long for God – and then it is that I feel – He does not want me – He is not there…"

Given these startling and graphic admissions from one who whose canonization on Sunday – 19 years after her 1997 death – will be one of the swiftest of modern times, the level of popular and media interest has been considerable. Understandably, Teresa’s words have been widely interpreted as proving her to be an atheist, pure and simple.

The truth is, as ever, far from being so straightforward. And yet there is a qualified, analogical sense in which one can indeed speak of Teresa’s experiential “atheism”. This is the “atheism” of one who acutely, and painfully, perceives God’s seeming absence. Somewhat similar experiences, of one sort or one another, are far from unprecedented within the Christian spiritual tradition. Some of the greatest of saints – John of the Cross, Gemma Galgani, Paul of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, Padre Pio – all reported periods of spiritual desolation or abandonment.

Among the many striking things about Teresa’s “atheism”, particularly noteworthy is quite how early in life she was afflicted by such darkness. While still a Loreto Sister in 1937 – and, indeed, a full nine years before the “call within the call” which would ultimately lead to her founding the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 – she wrote to her former confessor in Albania:

"Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses – that is the flower which I hardly ever find on my way. Quite the contrary, I have more often as my companion ‘darkness’. And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me as if I must end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus. If He wants me to go there – I am ready – but only under the condition that it really makes him happy."

This early statement is far from being as detailed, or as heart-rending, as some of her later ones would be. However, we do see here one of the hallmarks of Teresa’s “atheism”, which will endure alongside even her most tortured avowals of faithlessness to come: an abiding trust in, and abandonment to, the will of God.

Arguably, Teresa’s strongest and most eloquent statement of her darkness, and of the intense suffering which it caused her, comes from 1959:

"Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? […] I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I cling – no, No One. – Alone. The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. – Unwanted, forsaken. – The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. – Where is my faith? – Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. – It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy. – If there be God, please forgive me. – Trust that all will end in Heaven with Jesus. – When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my soul."

And yet, even here, in the midst of a string of prima facie atheistic statements, one cannot escape from the fact that one is reading a text that is consciously, and unmistakably, a prayer. This much is especially clear from her concluding paragraph:

"If this brings You glory, if You get a drop of joy from this – if souls are brought to You – if my suffering satiates Your Thirst – here I am Lord, with joy I accept all to the end of life – & I will smile at Your Hidden Face – always."

In precisely the same way that Jesus's address to “My God, my God” undermines his own declaration of having been “forsaken” (Mark 15.34), Teresa’s paradoxical choice of genre undercuts any unthinking identification of her as an unbeliever.

This realization is not in any way intended to diminish the force of her harrowing experiences. Having at other times in her life felt Jesus’s joyful and loving presence, his subsequent and sustained absences from her interior, spiritual life were all the harder to bear. The same is true, of course, for some of the other mystics mentioned above.

The 16th-century Carmelite poet, St John of the Cross, described his own experiences in similarly evocative terms:

"When this purgative contemplation oppresses a man, he feels very vividly indeed the shadow of death, the sighs of death, and the sorrows of hell, all of which reflect the feeling of God’s absence, of being chastised and rejected by Him, and of being unworthy of Him, as well as the object of his anger. The soul experiences all this and even more, for now it seems that this affliction will last forever."

John famously termed his sense of godforsakenness the “dark night of the soul”, a phrase that is commonly applied to all such episodes within the Christian tradition.

It is worth noting, however, that Teresa herself denied that her own, seemingly similar experiences, were accurately so designated. For Teresa, her own abandonment was not for the purposes of her spiritual purification (as she understood “dark night” to imply), but was instead both an identification with Christ’s passion, and a form of solidarity with the unwanted, unloved, abandoned, and bereft.

What is beyond doubt, though, is that it was her thirst for Christ that motivated and sustained her courageous life of service and devotion. Not finding him in her interior life, she sought out Christ both on the altar and “in His distressing disguise”. Hence as she once put it:

"To those who say they admire my courage, I have to tell them that I would not have any if I were not convinced that each time I touch the body of a leper, a body that reeks with a foul stench, I touch Christ’s body, the same Christ I receive in the Eucharist."

For as Teresa herself once told the superiors of her communities, without alluding to her own experience: “It often happens that those who spend their time giving light to others remain in darkness themselves.”

 
 
This article is adapted from Stephen Bullivant’s “Christian Spirituality and Atheism”, published in Peter Tyler and Richard Woods’s The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality. It appeared originally at the Catholic Herald.

Stephen Bullivant

Written by

Dr. Stephen Bullivant is Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary's University, England. A former atheist, he studied philosophy and theology at Oxford University, and converted to Catholicism while completing his doctorate on Vatican II and the salvation of unbelievers. In 2010, he was the first non-American to receive the "LaCugna Award for New Scholars" from the Catholic Theological Society of America. Stephen writes and speaks extensively on the theology and sociology of atheism, and the new evangelization. He recent books include Faith and Unbelief (Canterbury Press, 2013; Paulist Press, 2014), and (co-edited with Michael Ruse) The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford University Press, 2013). His latest book is called The Trinity: How Not to Be a Heretic (Paulist Press, 2015).

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  • Lazarus

    Bill Donohue, in his new "Unmasking Mother Teresa's Critics", has a rather helpful chapter on this question. Amongst other arguments he convincingly draws a distinction between MT's feelings and beliefs. As this article also points out, one needs to understand the "dark night of the soul".

    There really is no case to be made for MT having been an atheist.

    • David Nickol

      As this article also points out, one needs to understand the "dark night of the soul".

      But as this very article tells us, Mother Teresa did not believe she was experiencing what is described as the "dark night of the soul." Was she wrong about herself?

      • David Nickol

        P.S. I think a great many Catholics are horrified by much that comes out of Bill Donohue's mouth. I am amazed that you direct attention to him. Donohue is to Catholicism what Breitbart and the alt-right are to American conservatism.

        • "P.S. I think a great many Catholics are horrified by much that comes out of Bill Donohue's mouth. I am amazed that you direct attention to him. Donohue is to Catholicism what Breitbart and the alt-right are to American conservatism."

          See: ad hominem. I struggle to read this comment as anything but a personal character smear.

          I'm not a big fan of Donohue in general, but his defense of Mother Teresa against modern critics is excellent and carefully researched. To caution against calling attention to a book that covers the exact topic under consideration, simply because of other things he's said about other unrelated subjects, is unwarranted.

          • David Nickol

            See: ad hominem. I struggle to read this comment as anything but a personal character smear.

            As someone who is somewhat familiar with the viewpoint of many liberal Catholics, I stand by what I said. If we can't give an opinion about Bill Donohue here, then I don't see why we can give an opinion about Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, or Lawrence Krauss, either. Many Catholics are not happy with Bill Donohue, and particularly not happy that the media so often turn to him as a Catholics spokesperson.

            Bill Donohue's book may be fine, but he is not the person I would turn to for a "fair and balanced" view of Mother Teresa, just as I doubt that you would want to read a book about Mother Teresa by Sean Carroll or Sam Harris.

          • Lazarus

            Well, it was a bit more than just an opinion. You expressed "amazement" at my mere reference to Donohue. That's different.

            And speaking of opinions, here's one of mine. You seem a lot more cranky nowadays, less generous and more irritable with traditional Catholic positions recently. Is that my imagination?

          • David Nickol

            I am unaware of any "traditional Catholic positions" involved here. When I first started writing here, I actually thought of myself as very evenhanded. I defended Catholicism when it was attacked, but I challenged it when it made no sense to me. But I think all the banning of so many critical voices here makes me seem "crankier" by comparison, as you so eloquently put it. :)

          • Lazarus

            Just an observation. You'll know best.

        • Lazarus

          I specifically mentioned Donohue, because as controversial as he may be, he also often gets it right. His book is well-researched and factual.

          But, if you are still not able to see the facts behind the persona, his distinction between belief and feelings (as they pertain to MT's experiences) were checked with her main adviser and confidant, Fr. Kolodiejchuk, and he agreed with the assessment.

          • David Nickol

            I accept that Mother Teresa's beliefs and feelings were not in accord. But that does not seem to me something that is consistent with mental health. I would prefer to think that if God exists, he did not deliberately inflict mental agony on Mother Teresa.

          • Lazarus

            Why should we accept that such pain would be "deliberately inflicted" by God? Why was it not simply how MT reacted to and experienced the facts of her life?

            We must also remember that she willingly walked this path, year in year out. She could have exercised a host of alternative options at any stage.

            If one person pays this price to benefit so many others, that seems like wonderful mental health.

          • David Nickol

            Why should we accept that such pain would be "deliberately inflicted" by God?

            This quote is consistent with what I remember reading about Mother Teresa's spiritual counseling:

            Mother Teresa received pastoral counseling, but it was cloaked in a somber and discouraging theology. Suffering from a felt absence of God, some of her counselors urged, was God’s way of drawing her close to him. This reading of her state of mind understandably did not reduce her misery. Perhaps she would have rejected secularized psychiatric attention, but unfortunately, we will never know.

            There were theories that this suffering was a special "gift" that she was granted by God. I just can't conceive of anyone who believed in an all-loving God inventing theories like that.

          • Lazarus

            I still don't see how it follows that any such suffering would be actually willed by God, although of course that must be a possibility.

            Wherever it originated from, she willingly accepted it, and the results benefited thousands of people. Conventional psych therapy would have brought what benefit? More selfishness?

            Why do we accept sacrifice and even suffering as part and parcel of mundane pursuits like an athletics or musical career, but not a spiritual one?

          • David Nickol

            I still don't see how it follows that any such suffering would be
            actually willed by God, although of course that must be a possibility.

            Because her spiritual counselors told her it was a "gift"—as the quote I provided says: "God's way of drawing her close to him." How is that consistent with these words of Jesus?

            “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

          • Lazarus

            It is also that same Jesus that, through his life and resurrection, teaches us that life does not always pan out like we want it to be, that sometimes we have to go through pain and frustration to get to our goal. Depending on which source we consult doubt is a part of that road. Maybe that's the way it should be.

            Reading her letters in "Come be my light" it's clear that MT sought Jesus in those around her. Who knows what her role would have been if she was a happy and content believer, with no darkness to work through.

          • David Nickol

            Well, you can't say I am inconsistent. I remembered that when the news broke about Mother Teresa's internal anguish, it was discussed on the Commonweal Blog. Almost 9 years ago to the day this was my first reaction:

            I suppose we have to reserve judgment until we read the book (which I look forward to doing), but my first thought is that I don't know how wecan reconcile the experience of Teresa with many of the words of Jesus,such as, "And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Or, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentleand lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." And I have to ask if we weren't deceived by Teresa's public persona.

            Cathleen Kaveny, whom I admire tremendously, said this about psychiatry and spiritual direction:

            I think the relationship between a dark night and depression is something that only an experienced and wise spiritual director, working in conjunction with a psychiatrist open to faith, would be able to sort out. It's the flip side of the relationship between demonic possession and other forms of mental illness. Maybe the reason Mother Theresa didn't mention this was also to avoid a perverse kind of bragging. Larry Cunningham, this is your sphere. Isn't it true that the Church has traditionally taught that dark nights aren't something that are commonly experienced by the spiritually immature, or those weak in faith? Your typical twenty year old college student in coming in with a crisis of faith--a sense of God's absence--isn't' likely to be to told she or he has a dark night. This is the tough stuff.

            By the way, I used to know (sort of—very close friend of a very close friend) a clinical psychologist who treated only priests, nuns, and brothers.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Just based on what I've read here, I don't think it is right to say that Mother Theresa's beliefs and feelings were not in accord. She interpreted her feelings in light of her beliefs. Specifically, she interpreted her sense of abandonment as communion with Christ. In that sense I don't see any tension between her beliefs and her feelings.

          • Lazarus

            The difference between her beliefs and feelings explains her actions and her struggles. I like your summary, that she "interpreted her feelings in light of her beliefs".

          • miki

            If you would like to understand catholic viewpoint on suffering i recomend "Salvifici doloris" from st. Pope John Paul II.

          • David Nickol

            If you would like to understand catholic viewpoint on suffering i recomend "Salvifici doloris" from st. Pope John Paul II.

            Thanks. I will look at it in some detail. But I am not sure the Catholic viewpoint on suffering is at issue here. What I am addressing is a particular theory about the suffering of Mother Teresa. To put the question bluntly, was God Himself the one who deliberately caused Mother Teresa's suffering. Did he deliberately withhold from her, or deny to her, a sense of his presence in order to cause her to suffer for some greater good? Everyone who has ever lived has suffered in some way. But we generally think of God as permitting suffering. Even in the case of Job, it is not God Himself who inflicts the suffering. But one of the "popular" theories about Mother Teresa's suffering seems to be that God Himself directly withheld the sense of his presence from her. It is this idea that troubles me.

          • Lazarus

            I think that your question highlights a very significant difficulty that arises with discussions like these, be they about MT specifically or the more general Catholic approach to suffering.

            I look at the language used by someone like MT or even the Cathecism and the more standard secular approach to this, and I wonder whether these two worlds can really effectively communicate when it comes to questions like this. Can the Catholic position even be understood, or meaningfully evaluated if you don't accept Christ as a reality, if the cross is a scandal or an outdated or barbaric symbol, if redemptive suffering is rejected ab initio?

            I need to give your question a bit more thought, David. For now I really just have the standard Catholic responses to hand, and you may deserve more than that.

          • Valence

            I look at the language used by someone like MT or even the Cathecism and the more standard secular approach to this, and I wonder whether these two worlds can really effectively communicate when it comes to questions like this. Can the Catholic position even be understood, or meaningfully evaluated if you don't accept Christ as a reality, if the cross is a scandal or an outdated or barbaric symbol, if redemptive suffering is rejected ab initio?

            I can imagine the world view of someone like MT, but I really don't think the idea of redemptive suffering is appealing to most of us, for good reason. Corrective suffering makes sense, as we need negative reward to correct mistakes so we don't repeat them, but redemptive suffering seems barbaric. I'll quote the definition of redemptive suffering I'm using:

            Redemptive suffering is the Catholic belief that human suffering, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for one's sins or for the sins of another, or for the other physical or spiritual needs of oneself or another. Like an indulgence, redemptive suffering does not gain the individual forgiveness for their sin; forgiveness results from God’s grace, freely given through Christ, which cannot be earned. After one's sins are forgiven, the individual's suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.

            Why must there be a divine penalty for making a mistake, if that penalty isn't for the goal ensuring the mistake won't happen again? What is the purpose of such a penalty if not vengeance. Why would God need vengeance which is basically eye for an eye? Why not think this is something a vengeful human invented?

            With this in mind, it appears that the Catholic Church must think this suffering is a good thing, or at least, not a bad thing. Thus, it is not it's goal to remove this suffering from the world, and there is no evidence that Mother Theresa did anything to help in the long term, at all. I've much more respect for the work of Bill Gates and Normal Borlag like the author of this NYT piece

            Yet a deeper look might lead you to rethink your answers. Borlaug, father of the “Green Revolution” that used agricultural science to reduce world hunger, has been credited with saving a billion lives, more than anyone else in history. Gates, in deciding what to do with his fortune, crunched the numbers and determined that he could alleviate the most misery by fighting everyday scourges in the developing world like malaria, diarrhea and parasites. Mother Teresa, for her part, extolled the virtue of suffering and ran her well-financed missions accordingly: their sick patrons were offered plenty of prayer but harsh conditions, few analgesics and dangerously primitive medical care.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=0

            What if Mother Theresa had put her efforts into doing things that would help solve some of the causes of this suffering? I'm certainly not angry with MT, she had a heart of gold and did what she thought was right, it just seems clear to me that the Catholic approach doesn't solve the problem and never will, as it doesn't look at unnecessary suffering as a problem to be solved.

          • Lazarus

            Your comments show the differences in these worldviews in an even starker light. You seem to understand the Catholic position, while preferring the more secular approach. I think we should leave that there, I understand the objections.

          • Valence

            Sure thing. I would add that Jesus seemed to want to take the "stop the suffering approach" at least in the gospels. Healing children is something I can certainly get behind, and have donated to. It seems in some cases, miracles really can be bought :)

            http://www.dukechildrens.org/giving/childrens_miracle_network

          • Hervé Villechaize

            Thank you, Valence. This really gets to the heart of the issue. And, I think it is one of the major reasons the modern world has moved past the Catholic worldview.

          • Valence

            Feel free to correct me if I'm somehow understanding redemptive suffering incorrectly...perhaps you are right that I can't understand it, but it's worth trying :)

          • Lazarus

            You have it spot-on. I could give you lots to read to make more sense of it, but that's uncool ;)

      • Lazarus

        She may well have been wrong in assessing herself. That is why she had spiritual advisers, a well-established practice in Catholicism and several other religious traditions.

      • Michel

        Possibly, the poem the dark night of the soul is rather joyful, however the feeling of emptibess and darkness associated with it is found in the catholic tradition and within other religiones (like buddism and sunyata). In fact this letters helped her become a saint because this periods of despair are normal amongst saint. A jesuit theologitian once told me when I was in high school that when Jesus said why did the Father abandoned him at the cross, it was because before joining with Good, Jesus must have has to feel the abscence of God first, as some sort of challenge

        • Valence

          A jesuit theologitian once told me when I was in high school that when Jesus said why did the Father abandoned him at the cross, it was because before joining with Good, Jesus must have has to feel the abscence of God first, as some sort of challenge

          The impression one get's from Mark, likely the first gospels, is rather heartbreaking. It appears Jesus hopes the Father will save him from the cross, Mark 14 in Gethsemane

          35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

          Jesus understandably doesn't want to be crucified, and is pleading with God to save him. With this in mind, Jesus's words on the cross seem to be a legitimate question as to why God didn't save him, Chapter 15

          33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land[h] until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[i]

          These events read quite different in later accounts, especially John.

    • David Nickol

      It seems to me that when your beliefs and your feelings are so at odds with one another, there is something profoundly wrong. Does anyone know if Mother Teresa sought real therapy, not just "spiritual counseling"? I remember reading that one of her spiritual advisers told her what a privilege it was for her to be allowed to suffer so much. Perhaps she needed something like cognitive behavioral therapy and a good antidepressant. And I say that not to denigrate her. Perhaps she suffered needlessly and could have been even more effective had she received appropriate help.

      • Lazarus

        There are difficulties and joys that cannot be addressed with pills, David.

        • David Nickol

          Very true, but there are difficulties that can be addressed with pills. And I don't think some kind of psychological or psychiatric help would have done any harm. I don't know the intimate details of Mother Teresa's psychological life, but I would be very interested to know if she sought psychiatric help. If she didn't, she should have. And once again, I say this not to denigrate her.

          • Lazarus

            I'm not offhand aware of any traditional psychiatric help that she sought or obtained. I dare say that such therapy would be rather unusual. Given the network of advisers and spiritual friends around her I would also have regarded such therapy as unnecessary.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess the thing is, longing for God is not a disease. Longing for God is what we are made for (or at least, that's what I believe, and I imagine she must have believed something along these lines). She was a spiritual athlete who was able to enter into a depth of longing for God that few (or perhaps none) of us will never know. You don't take a pill to cure that. If anything, we should all take a pill to develop that ability, if such a pill existed.

            Now, if this life is all there is, then all her longing will never be fulfilled, and it would have been better to just take some heavy meds. But if there is a beatific vision at the end of the road, then she is going to revel in that homecoming in a way that none of us will be able to. Not because God will love us any less, but because we won't have learned to love our home with God with the same depth of feeling that she apparently did.

          • David Nickol

            I think we (and I include myself) have to admit that we cannot say anything for certain about Mother Teresa's mental life. Anything we can say is speculation, no matter how well informed.

            I guess the thing is, longing for God is not a disease.

            In the great Strange Notions tradition, I pronounce this a straw man. Nobody has said here that longing for God is a disease. Certainly I have not said it. (Even if I believed it were a fact that there is no God, I would not consider longing for God to be a disease.) But certainly we can say that Mother Teresa's experiences, to the extent that they have been accurately reported, are unusual in the extreme.

            She was a spiritual athlete who was able to enter into a depth of longing for God that few (or perhaps none) of us will never know.

            No, I don't think that is accurate. It was not that she longed for God more than the average believer or more than the average saint. She she felt he was withholding the experience of his presence—almost sometimes even his very existence—from her. I remember in my high school we began each class with prayers, and we had a bell ringer who rang a little bell halfway through class, whereupon we would say in unison, "Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God." It seems to me, based on some of what I have read by her, that she would have been deeply pained by such things. She didn't long for more of God. She experienced anguish at his total absence. This is certainly atypical for any Christian, saint or no saint. Her accomplishments in this life may (or may not) serve as a model, but no one should aspire to emulate her interior life.

            You don't take a pill to cure that. If anything, we should all take a pill to develop that ability, if such a pill existed.

            As I said, we cannot know for sure how to characterize her bleak interior life. If it was a gift from God, I hope he is very sparing in handing out such gifts! But why, even if we believe she lived an exemplary life, must we assume she could not have been helped by psychotherapy and antidepressants? Would you claim no one should take antidepressants because they interfere with God's work? Are saintly people immune to clinical depression? Or are they supposed to endure it? I think I can say without fear of contradiction that if Mother Teresa did not suffer from clinical depression, then antidepressants would have done nothing to change her psyche at all. Antidepressants alleviate chemical imbalances in the brain. They do not somehow magically make unhappy people happy. There is a reason why antidepressants have little or no "street value," but stimulants, opioids, an tranquilizers do. It is like aspirin and headaches. Aspirin may make headaches go away, but taking two aspirin when you don't have a headache does not make your head feel better than normal!

            Who is to say Mother Teresa didn't accomplish what she did in spite of her interior anguish?

          • Will

            FWIW, I never recall longing for a personal God like what Christians talk about with Jesus. I long for truth and understanding, but that is something quite different from a personal relationship. Baruch Spinoza called it the "intellectual love of God" but of course God=Nature in his view.

            If I ever did met God I wouldn't be asking for a big hug at first, I'd be asking nerdy questions about his creation, the first of which is "why did you build a giant search engine".

            It's interesting that atheists and believers do have different thinking styles pretty consistently. Atheists tend to be more analytical/reflective, and believers tend to be more intuitive. Notice that in the conversation about free will, intuition was a convincing argument for the believer, and the atheists ignored it as flawed or untrustworthy data.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4824409/

            Shenhav and his colleagues investigated that question in a series of studies. In the first, 882 American adults answered online surveys about their belief in God. Next, the participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?"

            The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people's first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use "reflective" reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.

            Sure enough, people who went with their intuition on the math test were found to be one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right. The results held even when taking factors such as education and income into account.

            In a second study, 373 participants were told to write a paragraph about either successfully using their intuition or successfully reasoning their way to an answer. Those who wrote about the intuitive experience were more likely to say they were convinced of God's existence after the experiment, suggesting that triggering intuitive thinking boosts belief.

            The researchers plan to investigate how genes and education influence thinking styles, but they're quick to note that neither intuition nor reflection is inherently superior.

            I agree completely that the reflective thinking style isn't superior for everything (especially social interaction and personal relationships) so I had to learn to think more intuitively when it was appropriate. Naturally I do tent to think more reflectively, and the fact that I had a nearly perfect score on the math section of the SAT could be evidence for a more reflective bent.
            I've never seen any evidence for a universal longing for God. Doesn't that lack of evidence work against the Catholic theory here? Of course, that's me being analytical/reflective again ;P

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Oh my. 800 out of 150 million or so is fine if one actually had tackled the arguments against the materialist's accounting with something other than what inevitably ends up as a dive into illusion or the pains of circularity. Even on causation you claimed what you could not justify, never mind will / volition. If you disagree with Carroll on the illusory and count it a bridge too far, well that is fine, but then you didn't come close to unpacking the problem of contingency, which illusion solves for Carroll. Your claim here (then) about the quest for the rational is, so far, evidence free and in fact seems driven more by emotion than evidence, and here’s why:

            With causation and with the problem of intention and with the temporal or eternal cosmos you’re simply perseverating on the irrelevant with respect to the question of God/No-God. The metaphysical baggage rendering philosophical naturalism the philosophy of boys isn't gaps within this or that strata of physicalism, but its ever widening arrays of the forced reductio ad absurdum at all foci. Your unawareness of the problem on the table seems to be combined with an odd flavor of fallacious scientism, and all of that is combined with what are all derivatives of the fundamentally irrational serving (on all fronts) as your truth-finder – leaving you chasing after ever more deflationary truth values once your presuppositions actually have to do some work. And all of that noise is irrelevant to Christendom's truth claims. “Reason’s impossibly extravagant appetite” finds such to be, factually speaking, calorie free.

            In this thread on humanitarian relief and the lives who give themselves to such work, once again we find our Non-Theist friends amid something that is evidence-free. The Non-Theistic employment of value syntax isn't seamless with its own claim of the rational and whether Non-Theist’s like it or not the rational had better be seamless with the moral (the amoral in their case), on pain of circularity. Non-Theists tend to be so intuition based that they unwittingly sacrifice the more analytical side of reality's various equations. But both are needed. Feelings are certainly important, and, given Christianity's moral and causal paradigm, can and do weigh in towards factual ends. But they (our mutable and contingent feelings) are not the "whole-show", as is necessarily the case in *all* Non-Theistic attempts atop the moral inclines of praise and/or disgust. Rather, evidence, feelings, reason and reality must all converge, convergence being a mark of lucidity.

            The metaphysical baggage rendering philosophical naturalism the philosophy of boys isn't gaps within this or that strata of physicalism, but its ever widening arrays of the forced reductio ad absurdum at all foci. As they say, "Reason's impossibly extravagant appetite...."

            ".....if reason’s primordial orientation is indeed toward total intelligibility and perfect truth, then it is essentially a kind of ecstasy of the mind toward an end beyond the limits of nature. It is an impossibly extravagant appetite, a longing that can be sated only by a fullness that can never be reached in the world, but that ceaselessly opens up the world to consciousness. To speak of God, however, as infinite consciousness, which is identical to infinite being, is to say that in Him the ecstasy of mind is also the perfect satiety of achieved knowledge, of perfect wisdom. God is both the knower and the known, infinite intelligence and infinite intelligibility. This is to say that, in Him, rational appetite is perfectly fulfilled, and consciousness perfectly possesses the end it desires. And this, of course, is perfect bliss.” (David Bentley Hart – The Experience of God)

          • Will

            You have no idea what it means to make your comment relevant, do you?
            Save your personal insults for someone who cares what you have to say, please. You made it quite clear you have no idea what you are talking about before, and this comment is no different.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            That you think the problem is one of intuition and feelings rather than a logical argument against your paradigm's inevitably forced reductio ad absurdum on far too many fronts tells me you do not fully understand the nature of the problem nor the disagreements. I pointed out where feelings do and do not weigh in, on two different fronts (universe vs. moral etc.). Personal test scores were left out, simply because of their irrelevance to the content of the questions/disagreements.

          • Will

            Look, it's clear that you have no idea what I'm talking about, nor do you comprehend the study that relates thinking styles to belief in God.
            It's also clear to me that you do not understand my arguments when I present them to you, so why do you bother commenting on things I say at all.
            I've tried having a conversation with you, it failed miserably. I won't try again, because I'm convinced, after observing some of your conversations with others, that rational conversation is impossible with you. You are capable of mixing plenty of insults into your incoherence, but that doesn't help your case at all.
            To help us both, I'm not blocking you so I no longer see your posts. May you find something productive to do with your time, as this certainly is not it.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I'm refuting two of your claims, that's all. First, 800 out of 100 million is fine, as I said, and, though I can't imagine there's sufficient power there, that's not the point. The point is your second claim: you imply that this has *something* to do with the disagreements which the Christian has against materialism's (Non-Theism's, etc.) metaphysical baggage. That's false. The Christian is logically compelled (analytical, not intuition) to reject, rather than tolerate, that baggage given that "gaps" are not the problem, but, rather, too many forced reductio ad absurdums.

        • Valence

          Correct, and pills often aren't that effective. Dietary changes and omega 3 can work better than pills, and exercise is critical (even in the elderly).
          These days therapists often want to use CBT if pills don't work (pills are simply cheap and easy) and cognitive behavioral therapy often reminds me of what you'd get from a religious counselor. Talk of love and approach to relationships (healthy relationships also seem critical to mental health in normal people) reigns there.

          http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/04/02/spiritually-based-cbt-shown-to-be-effective-for-depression/83067.html

        • Doug Shaver

          There are difficulties . . . that cannot be addressed with pills,

          Of course. But do we know that her difficulties were of that sort? Did she herself have good reason to think that her difficulties could not be, or should not have been, remedied with medication?

          • Lazarus

            I'm in the process of reading a few books about her, I will be on the lookout for that. I doubt however that she would have been too concerned about any psychological evaluations or interventions. Like it or not, she had the cure for all ailments.

      • Peter

        In a world where the default position is to care about one's own welfare and pleasure, anyone who radically sacrifices their life for the benefit of others is deemed mentally ill, in need of counselling and therapy.

        • David Nickol

          I have never seen it implied by anyone—and certainly not by me—that Mother Teresa's dedication of her life to ministering to the poor, the sick, and the dying was a cause to question her mental health. Frankly, I am insulted by your implication, which I take to have been intentional.

          The revelation that Mother Teresa experienced forty years of mental anguish is what raised questions about her "mental health"—specifically questions as to whether she was suffering from clinical depression that might have been alleviated by therapy and/or drugs.

          I think for purposes of this discussion, it may be a mistake to use the terms "mentally ill" or "mental health." While clinical depression is, technically speaking, "mental illness," to refer to it as such implies that Mother Teresa (had she been clinically depressed—and we will never know) was somehow not in her right mind, or not in touch with reality.

          I think for anyone who has suffered severe depression, it would not take anything away from Mother Teresa's life and accomplishments to suggest she may have suffered from depression. It would make her all that remarkable.

          I hope no one here defending Mother Teresa against what is imagined to be an attack would suggest to anyone, no matter how religious, that if he or she is suffering mental anguish, therapy and drugs are out of the question, because mental suffering must somehow be a gift from God. No one, not even living saints, should be discouraged from seeking diagnosis of a condition that may be depression. And if so diagnosed, not one should shun treatment in the mistaken belief that depression is a gift from God.

          Once again, I repeat that I do not know the cause of Mother Teresa's suffering, and unless she was evaluated by experts and diagnosed, no one will ever be able to say whether or not she suffered from clinical depression. However, I find it difficult to believe that God deliberately visits torment on individuals who are trying to serve him. If there is a God, then clearly he permits bad things to happen to good people. But I would prefer not to believe that he makes bad things happen to good people.

  • David Nickol

    "If this brings You glory, if You get a drop of joy from this – if souls
    are brought to You – if my suffering satiates Your Thirst – here I am
    Lord, with joy I accept all to the end of life – & I will smile at
    Your Hidden Face – always."

    This sounds to me like masochism, or something very much like it. I must confess I don't know what to make of Mother Teresa and the rush to canonize her. The stories don't all come together and make sense. I do not find her inspiring at all. When I first heard of her experiences of "darkness," I found it very distressing. I had assumed she was a good woman who did the things she did out of love. When the news came out about her bleak interior life, it seemed to me that she had been somewhat of a fraud. You had looked at the good woman who took care of the sick and the poor, and perhaps you thought, "I would like to be like that." Then you find out that she considered herself to be in agony a great deal of the time.

    And of course there is another side to her work. I have no particular interest in the negative books that have been written about her, but I do gather that her order did not always provide decent medical care, while Mother Teresa herself hobnobbed with celebrities and raised millions of dollars. There are some doubts as to how much she alleviated the suffering of those who were sick and dying and how much she merely collected those people. But I am not so much interested in that question.

    It does not seem to me that what she experienced is the kind of life that the Jesus of the Gospels called people to. He talked about his continued presence. He said things like, "Ask and you shall receive." He said wherever two or three were gathered together in his name, he was there. He said,

    “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

    He didn't say, "Expect a nightmare of suffering and darkness. Don't expect me to be there when you call. Just keep going no matter how much it seems I have abandoned you. I get joy from your suffering."

    Her life and her experiences do not make sense to me next to other great saints, even those who experienced times of deep depression, like St. Francis of Assisi. And of course it seems to me rather schizophrenic on the one hand to have saints like Saint Teresa of Avila, who experienced great ecstasies, and then Mother Teresa who experienced years of mental anguish. And both are seen as having been blessed.

    I find it very difficult to see Mother Teresa's suffering as the will of a loving God.

    • Lazarus

      Faith is not an easy thing, and maybe it shouldn't be. We find some of the great spiritual figures throughout history struggling mightily and with great difficulty against doubt, against darkness, isolation.

      Personally, my best explanation is to see our spiritual journeys as paths of growth, if we are successful in following them. Growth implies pain, maybe suffering, sacrifice, starting over, falling, hope, redemption. Being human.

      As Catholics we expect these frailties. Some of us would say MT's struggles led to the fruit that all but a most cynical and ignorant group of detractors would deny.

      It is also in examples like this that we see some of the inconsistencies of some of the atheist arguments. We often hear how faith is a crutch, a fairy tale because we are afraid of the dark. But here, why did MT hang on? Because she truly believed, because she truly loved.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I've thought about it a bit, and I can only agree that the "if You get a drop of joy from this ... if my suffering satiates Your thirst" quote seems very theologically problematic to me.

      I would like to argue that Saint Teresa was not so much imagining that God might find joy in her suffering per se, and that she was instead imagining that her response to her alienation from God might give God joy (in the same way that I'm happy if my wife says that she missed me while I was gone). But that is unfortunately not born out by the text. She doesn't say, "if my response to my suffering satiates Your thirst ... ". Did she mean what she actually wrote, or did her words fail to precisely convey her meaning? If it is the former, I have to say that I also find it deeply problematic. That would not be the sort of God I believe in.

      Perhaps those who have read her letters in greater depth can provide context that would help in inferring her intent with this bit of writing.

      • David Nickol

        If it is the former, I have to say that I also find it deeply problematic. That would not be the sort of God I believe in.

        That is basically my position. Or I might put it a little more strongly and say, "This does not seem to be consistent with the God I was taught about in twelve years of Catholic education and decades of reading." It is from the point of view I learned as a Catholic that I question some of the interpretations of Mother Teresa's experiences (including, perhaps, some of her own interpretations).

  • David Nickol

    Noted without comment, from Amazon.com:

    In this carefully researched book, Donahue pulls the curtain back on Mother Teresa's critics, showing that virtually all of them shared an abiding disdain for Catholicism.

    Her critics were militant atheists, Donahue explains, and strongly embraced socialism, viewing Mother Teresa's work as a deterrent to government-controlled programs.

    In these pages, Donohue responds point-by-point to all of her critics claims, and proves that their attacks on her are motivated almost entirely by her conviction that life begins in the womb.

    Don't let Mother Teresa's critics win. Read this book, and be armed with all the evidence you need to put to rest those cruel myths that are being promoted by those who wish to destroy the legacy of one of the Church's most admired saints.

    • Will

      It's odd that Donahue is worried about government controlled programs when the Catholic Church is a government.

      The politics of Vatican City take place in a framework of an absolute theocratic elective monarchy, in which the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power over the State of the Vatican City[1] (an entity distinct from the Holy See), a rare case of non-hereditary monarchy.

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

  • If she believed in God, how could she be an atheist? I guess I just don't get this one.

    • David Nickol

      At least we're not talking about Bill and Ted anymore!

      • I've never even seen the movie. :-D

        • David Nickol

          It's apparently a spiritual classic. Like the remake of Ben-Hur.

    • Lazarus

      Fair question, but I suppose the article seeks to address conclusions drawn by people like Christopher Hitchens who argued that MT “was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication.”

      • neil_pogi

        religion, a human fabrication? - if you happen to see an ancient sculpture, what would be your initial reaction? 'there must be a creator of this'

        • Lazarus

          Neil, you did notice that I was referring to a quote by Hitchens, right?

          • neil_pogi

            ok, i didn't notice that.

            i sometimes feel that religion really is just making money out of believers' pockets. there is a filipinized 'christian' sect here in the philippines that declares 'they are the only true church'. hundreds of thousands or millions have embrace that sect even some of its mainstream beliefs are incompatible with christianity's.

            if mother teresa really did say that phrase, that's her personal opinion. everybody is entitled to that. if she is still alive today, then, i would say to her; 'who do you think you are?' i am thinking that MT is just making publicity out of her charitable works with/for the poor.

          • Lazarus

            I accept that English is not your first language, but first you ascribed the quotation to me, now you've ascribed it to Mother Teresa. It is a quote by Christopher Hitchens. Please try to read more carefully, Neil. A lot of your arguments here simply stem from poor reading comprehension.

          • neil_pogi

            i am only making my opinion, not ascribed to anyone.

        • Will

          Yes, and that the creator of the sculpture is a human. God could exist, and all religion could still easily be manmade. That would be why they seem so anthropomorphic compared to creation itself.

          • neil_pogi

            but it is not a fabrication. it just comes in naturally in someone's mind. if i happen to see the pyramids in egypt, i will think that some ancient people that lived in egypt have built that. just an analogy.

            even the most ignorant people will even think, 'why i'm here'? of course nobody thinks in his right mind that he just 'pop' out of nowhere.

      • OK, google turned up this new clip. But IMO the quotes Hitchens used don't especially support his claim. Mother Teresa said she didn't feel God's presence. To me there's a big difference between that and if she said she didn't feel there was a god.

        • Lazarus

          Yes, from reading her letters you get a clearer understanding of what she is really saying : God / Jesus exists and is there, is good, but he just does not make his presence known to her. She's not saying that she does not feel God's presence, therefore he does not exist.

    • Doug Shaver

      If she believed in God, how could she be an atheist? I guess I just don't get this one.

      The handful of people who accused her of atheism denied that she actually believed in God. According to those people, if she said she did, then either she was deluding herself or else she was just plain lying.

  • neil_pogi

    everybody can become a mother teresa, whether he is an atheist or not.

    the bible says: 'faith without works is dead'

  • Jersey McJones

    Mother Teresa was regularly and traumatically confronted with the most difficult apologism of Christianity to accept. Do we feel God is with us when we stand with Him in what what sure seems like hell? It's tough. Her open honestly should be appreciated. It mustn't have been easy on her.

    JMJ

    • neil_pogi

      maybe MT is referring here on most christian's doctrine on hell and evil's persistent existence. if she only had time to listen and understand what really is the true teachings of existence of evil, she might not have said that.

      • Jersey McJones

        I think she had a better grasp of all that than you.

        You sound a social darwinist, of the Escape Theology. It's easy to just blame it on evil. It's harder to try to deal with reality.

        JMJ

        • neil_pogi

          atheists blame God for existence of evil. ( i don't know how they blame Him if he just didn't exists). the existence of hardships, the existence of sickness.. all these we face every day.. this is reality. nature produces evil

          • Doug Shaver

            atheists blame God for existence of evil.

            Not exactly. We say that if he were real, he would be to blame.

            nature produces evil

            Exactly. And so, for us naturalists, no further explanation is needed.

          • neil_pogi

            ..then you recognised that there is a Creator!!

            if nature really produces evil, then why blame God? he is the 'supernatural'!

          • Doug Shaver

            ..then you recognised that there is a Creator!!

            Another of your non sequiturs.

          • Jersey McJones

            Atheists don't believe in evil.

            JMJ

          • neil_pogi

            then you can freely kill, steal and rape even your loved ones!

          • Sample1

            Brandon Vogt, manager of this site, calls your comment total nonsense.

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            i didn't see the Vogt's comment?

          • Sample1

            So what?

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            you said my comments is just non-sense, according to Vogt. in order to know that he did say it, i demand you to produce his comments/statement?

          • Sample1

            What the fuck are you talking about?

          • neil_pogi

            why not re-read again your comment 'Brandon Vogt, manager of this site, calls your comment total nonsense.

            Mike'??

            you are an educated human, it's quite disturbing to see 'fuck' on this post!

          • Sample1

            Unhelpful. But no matter, I know what I know. You're being a goofy. Nothing you say is making sense.

            Fuck this chat with you. Come back with something better preferably before hair stops growing on your body.

            Mike

          • Mike

            swearing can get you banned i think.

          • neil_pogi

            you still didn't point out evidence that Vogt really is disgusted about my comments (nonsense). all you did is blah, blah, blah..

          • Sample1

            Nope. I see you've got nothing. Get back to me when you do.

            Got evidence?

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            that is Atheist Experience

          • Sample1

            I totally did.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Demand away you funny man. Why don't you construct some evidence for your assertion in a manner that will reach me? Or are you just making shit up again?

            The way I see it, you have nothing.

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            my message is clear. why not just provide me evidence that,according to Vogt, my comments are nonsense!

          • Sample1

            Stop with making wild claims you goofball! Put up or shut up.

            Got evidence?
            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            Atheist Experience

          • Doug Shaver

            Atheists don't believe in evil.

            then you can freely kill, steal and rape even your loved ones!

            Logically speaking, that does not follow.

          • neil_pogi

            well you've just said that 'Atheists don't believe in evil.'...??

            and i made those statements that 'you can freely kill, steal and rape even your loved ones!'!!

            and now you're saying that 'Logically speaking, that does not follow.'??

            that doesn't make any sense at all!

          • Doug Shaver

            that doesn't make any sense at all!

            You can't make sense of it. That doesn't mean no one else can.

          • neil_pogi

            here you are, quoting again my statement incomplete

          • Doug Shaver

            Then I'll quote it complete.

            well you've just said that 'Atheists don't believe in evil.'...??

            and i made those statements that 'you can freely kill, steal and rape even your loved ones!'!!

            and now you're saying that 'Logically speaking, that does not follow.'??

            that doesn't make any sense at all!

            You can't make sense of it. That doesn't mean no one else can.

          • neil_pogi

            first, you have to read the very beginning of my thread or post. it's called: context.

          • neil_pogi

            first, you have to read the very beginning of my thread or post. it's called: context..

          • Jersey McJones

            So, is that what you would do, Neil, if you discovered there was no such a thing as evil? Really?

            JMJ

          • neil_pogi

            im a theist and a christian, and i believe evil and good are real and not illusion. you've just said that you don't believe in evil. and i ask you personal question. why don't you just kill and rape your loved ones? if you can't or don't then you are recognizing that it is evil. so how could someone believe evil doesn't exist when you know that killing and raping are all evil?

  • Sample1

    severe spiritual afflictions

    No clue what this means.

    Mike

  • LHRMSCBrown

    “The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist.” (C.S. Lewis)

    “It was a yell rather than a thought. Let me try it over again. Is it rational to believe in a bad God? Anyway, in a God so bad as all that? The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile?” (C.S. Lewis)

    “All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred. I was getting from it the only pleasure a man in anguish can get; the pleasure of hitting back. It was really just Billingsgate— mere abuse; ‘telling God what I thought of Him.’ And of course, as in all abusive language, ‘what I thought’ didn’t mean what I thought true. Only what I thought would offend Him (and His worshippers) most. That sort of thing is never said without some pleasure. Gets it ‘off your chest.’ You feel better for a moment – But the mood is no evidence.” (Lewis)

    “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” (Lewis)

    “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask— half our great theological and metaphysical problems— are like that. And now that I come to think of it, there’s no practical problem before me at all. I know the two great commandments, and I’d better get on with them.” (Lewis)

    “But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” (C.S. Lewis)

    “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.” (Martin Luther)

    “I think, when a man says, ‘I never doubt,’ it is quite time for us to doubt him, it is quite time for us to begin to say, ‘Ah, poor soul, I am afraid you are not on the road at all, for if you were, you would see so many things in yourself, and so much glory in Christ more than you deserve, that you would be so much ashamed of yourself, as even to say, 'It is too good to be true.'" (Charles Spurgeon)

    “The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy … The life of Luther might suffice to give a thousand instances, and he was by no means of the weaker sort … His very deathbed was not free from tempests, and he sobbed himself into his last sleep like a great wearied child.” (Charles Spurgeon)

    “Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” (John Calvin)

    “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.” (C.S. Lewis)

    “Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We've all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them.” (Jorge Mario Bergoglio / Pope Francis)

    “I am at times a reluctant Christian, plagued by doubts and still recovering from bad church encounters. I’m fully aware of all the reasons not to believe. So then, why do I believe? In my own days of skepticism, I wanted a dramatic interruption from above. I wanted proof of an unseen reality, one that could somehow be verified. However in my days of faith, such supernatural irruptions seem far less important, because I find the materialistic explanations of life inadequate to explain reality. I’ve learned to attend to fainter contacts between the seen and unseen worlds.” (Phillip Yancey)

    “On 10 September 1946 during the train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat, (Agnes Bojaxhiu) Mother Teresa received her “inspiration,” her “call within a call.” On that day, in a way she would never explain, Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls took hold of her heart and the desire to satiate His thirst became the driving force of her life. Over the course of the next weeks and months, by means of interior locutions and visions, Jesus revealed to her the desire of His heart for “victims of love” who would “radiate His love on souls.””

    “Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.” (Agnes Bojaxhiu / Mother Teresa) “The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist....... I know the two great commandments, and I’d better get on with them.” (C.S. Lewis)

    A collage of quotes from MT in her journey within reality’s highest ethic, reality’s irreducible Trinitarian processions, and therein man’s greatest science:

    The greatest science in the world; in heaven and on earth; is love. ~~ I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. ~~ When you have nothing left but God, you have more than enough to start over again. ~~ We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. ~~ Joy is strength. ~~ Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self. ~ If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve. ~~ In loving one another through our works we bring an increase of grace and a growth in divine love. ~~ A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. ~~ Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness. ~~ A life not lived for others is not a life. ~~ See Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus. ~~ Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. ~~ What we need is to love without getting tired. ~~ Do we know our poor people? Do we know the poor in our house, in our family? Perhaps they are not hungry for a piece of bread. Perhaps our children, husband, wife, are not hungry, or naked, or dispossessed, but are you sure there is no one there who feels unwanted, deprived of affection? ~~ Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love. ~~ The success of love is in the loving — it is not in the result of loving. ~~ Give, but give until it hurts. ~~ People are unrealistic, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. ~~ Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus. ~~ I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?” Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery. ~~~ May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in ~~~

  • Sample1

    I don't know about anyone else, but I view this woman as a near complete failure of a human being. Tragic, tragic individual unworthy of imitation let alone praise but certainly deserving of contempt.

    Would anyone here seriously consider sending their family to one of her homes to die? Why or why not?

    Mike, faith free

    • Lazarus

      I think it takes a particularly cold and unimaginative individual to dismiss her work in the language that you are using here, unable to adopt a nuanced view where after all her mistakes, all the gossip and inter-religious rivalry are deducted you are still unable to grant her and her hospitals credit for the immense good work that they have done. The world, who has heard all of the bile that people like Hitchens and a few others have spat out, still sees this as a unique and remarkable woman.

      It is in strategic mistakes like this unbalanced criticism of MT, in the incessant negativity and ceaseless criticism of all that is good, without managing to construct something of better and lasting value, that atheism will continue to sink into irrelevancy.

      As to your question about sending a family member there : if I lived in that community then yes, I would send a family member there to die, and I would go there myself to die, all the while counting myself as blessed.

      • Sample1

        I dismiss it all. Her morality is wretched.

        Mike

        • Peter

          Because you, as a smug member of humanity's pampered fringe, have never been in need of it.

        • Mike

          but your morality is imaginary. it's all just a bad send up by your genes, by the iron laws of chemistry and physics, no?

      • LHRMSCBrown

        Their aversion to the world's traveling city of humanitarian relief isn't unreasonable you know. You may have forgotten (or not) their bit about pummeling children on playgrounds finding no ontic-vector by which reason should rightly refuse her delights in such affairs, "Schoolyard bullies who beat up smaller children aren't *wrong* in the same sense that it's wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe....But that's how the world is."

        • Sample1

          Haha, is this code for something I should care about?

          Mike

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Your "Her morality is wretched" isn't seamless with your own claim of the rational and whether you like it or not the rational had better be seamless with the moral (the amoral in your case), on pain of circularity. Since you're unaware, or worse: The Non-Theist’s capacity for missing the point is exceptional and that he is completely unaware of the nature of the problem is now demonstrable. While the Christian interprets reality and feelings through the rational, the fact that the Non-Theist is not merely impacted by but in fact led by evidence-free feelings is obvious, even demonstrable. That he then supposes he arouses anything short of intellectual and moral pity from us is troubling as such is a mark of something far worse than merely being uninformed. That there is any “insistence” of “wretchedness” or of “goodness” or of “ought-yes” or of “ought-no” traveling along any semantic incline whatsoever brings us to the Non-Theist’s perseveration upon the irrelevant. Indeed, *if* the Non-Theist (who is found employing value syntax) actually was wholly and thoroughly indifferent to suffering or any other contour of evil, or *if* he actually counted all such things as irreducibly horrific, factually (ontologically) laced through and through with that which sums to love's relentless call of ought-not-be, we then could (given one of those two postures on his part) have a discussion in fact shaped by the rational, which justifiably pursues reality *as* reality. But that never happens for when reason as truth-finder demands the real, the irreducible, the fundamental nature of the particular state of affairs on the table, we find the Non-Theist unmasked in the midst of a disconnect, in this dishonest and irrational twilight zone of heat and emoting at that which sums perhaps to [1] the sight of suffering, or perhaps to its contradiction in [2] the world’s traveling city of humanitarian aid seeking to abate said suffering – and – then – we find all of that evidence-free emoting inexplicably couched inside of his own intellectual delights within cosmic indifference defining his reason’s cherished mistress. Such obvious incoherence has obviously conceded the rational and forces our hand: it’s far more productive, and rational, to have these discussions with the likes of Hume than with, not all, but a large swath of the contingency of Non-Theists here who are lost in some kind of bizarrely autohypnotic and unintelligible twilight zone.

            The unsound (irrational) atheist emerges as the rational on his end fails to find a seam of entry into the moral on his end:

            “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.” (C.S. Lewis)

            Non-Theists tend to be so intuition based that they unknowingly sacrifice the more analytical side of the equation. But both are needed. Feelings are certainly important, and given Christianity, can and do weigh in towards factual ends. But they're not the whole-show, as in all Non-Theistic attempts atop the moral inclines of praise and/or disgust. Rather, evidence, feelings, reason and reality must all converge, convergence being a mark of lucidity.

        • David Nickol

          "Schoolyard bullies who beat up smaller children aren't *wrong* in the same sense that it's wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe....But that's how the world is."

          You seem preoccupied with this passage, but you are misquoting it. From the book, it is as follows:

          "The lack of an ultimate objective scientific grounding for morality can be worrisome. It implies that people with whom we have moral disagreements—whether it's Hitler, the Taliban, or schoolyard bullies who beat up smaller children—aren't wrong in the same sense that it's wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe.

          Your misquote makes "schoolyard bullies" the ones who "aren't wrong." In actuality, those who "aren't wrong" are "people with whom we have moral disagreements." The quote continues as follows:

          We can't do an experiment, or point to data, or construct a syllogism, or write a stinging blog post that would persuade them of why their actions are bad. . . .

          Now, I know you disagree with Sean Carroll. But it is not the case, as you constantly seem to imply, that all "non-Theists" hold (as does Carroll) that there are no moral facts. You spend a lot of your time writing about the "non-Theist" as if he were the boogeyman rather than one of the parties invited to dialogue on this site.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I don't disagree that you might disagree with Hume and Carroll. The driving theme is that we affirm the fact that Reason as truth finder has the (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality. Moral disagreements abound, but the point is that the rational man embraces objective reality *as* reality.

            While some may be satisfied stopping at serotonin surges as their definition of "the fundamentally true", Hume and Carroll and myself and in fact anyone seeking to understand the fundamental nature of reality cannot justify stopping there.

            If anyone wants to offer an argument which strips the rational of that right, that is fine. All any of us need to do is show reason (our truth finder) reality's irreducible contours after which she must (to be "reason-able") chase. That's it. Facts. Note Hume's appeal to that which reason is justified in chasing after. Carroll affirms this and the level of reality in play is that which is far more fundamental than those derivatives of the irrational which we label serotonin surges.

            "People with whom we have moral disagreements" are not *wrong* in any objective sense, and, I've seen no evidence to the contrary within that paradigm.

            Hume and "-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer..... destruction.... whole world...." is syntax which Carroll affirms when it comes to the objectively true. All that is left to contradict that is the foist of this or that derivative of the irrational, which some term feelings, and others term serotonin surges.

            What is it that reason justifiably chases after? Well it's reality *as* reality.

            The focus in all of this is simply the fact that Carroll and Hume and a growing swath of Non-Theistic proponents intellectually converge in the affirmation that one's rationally available explanatory contours provide one with no such thing as the moral fact and "therefore" it is the case that reason as truth-finder hears only the sound of her own mutable voice, itself contingent upon nature’s four fundamental forces, what always was, and is, and always will be vis-à-vis reality’s irreducible indifference, and she finds there within her own voice no possibility whatsoever of a fact termed the morally *un*reasonable.

            We affirm the fact that Reason as truth finder has the (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality, and the rational (given that right) justifiably finds that, factually speaking:

            “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. -Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. -Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Hume Treatise of Human Nature 2.3.3.6).

            While some may be satisfied with invented axioms (feelings) as their definition of "the fundamentally true", Hume and Carroll and myself and in fact anyone seeking to understand the fundamental nature of reality cannot justify stopping there.

    • This does make sense. St Paul says that if Christ has not been raised then we are of all people most to be pitied. Mother Teresa is like that. If there really isn't a God who cares for the poor then what she did was stupid. If Jesus really isn't alive and is not God then reordering your life because you think Jesus spoke to you on a train is crazy.

      So I admire your consistency. You follow your creed to its logical conclusion. That is much better than most Christians and most atheists do. At some point you need to ask if this logical conclusion is the place you want to be. If you change some of your underlying assumptions you can end up in a much different and I think much better place.

      • Sample1

        Ummm...what a weird reply but thanks for the backhanded compliment?

        Mike

      • Doug Shaver

        At some point you need to ask if this logical conclusion is the place you want to be. If you change some of your underlying assumptions you can end up in a much different and I think much better place.

        Is that how we should judge all our assumptions? Accept them if they lead to conclusions we like, and reject them otherwise?

        • LHRMSCBrown

          "Her morality is wretched". For those who employ value syntax along any incline: The Non-Theist’s capacity for missing the point is exceptional and that he is completely unaware of the nature of the problem is now demonstrable. While the Christian interprets reality and feelings through the rational, the fact that the Non-Theist is not merely impacted by but in fact led by evidence-free feelings is obvious, even demonstrable. That he then supposes he arouses anything short of intellectual and moral pity from us is troubling as such is a mark of something far worse than merely being uninformed. That there is any “insistence” of “wretchedness” or of “goodness” or of “ought-yes” or of “ought-no” traveling along any semantic incline whatsoever brings us to the Non-Theist’s perseveration upon the irrelevant. Indeed, *if* the Non-Theist (who is found employing value syntax) actually was wholly and thoroughly indifferent to suffering or any other contour of evil, or *if* he actually counted all such things as irreducibly horrific, factually (ontologically) laced through and through with that which sums to love's relentless call of ought-not-be, we then could (given one of those two postures on his part) have a discussion in fact shaped by the rational, which justifiably pursues reality *as* reality. But that never happens for when reason as truth-finder demands the real, the irreducible, the fundamental nature of the particular state of affairs on the table, we find the Non-Theist unmasked in the midst of a disconnect, in this dishonest and irrational twilight zone of heat and emoting at that which sums perhaps to [1] the sight of suffering, or perhaps to its contradiction in [2] the world’s traveling city of humanitarian aid seeking to abate said suffering – and – then – we find all of that evidence-free emoting inexplicably couched inside of his own intellectual delights within cosmic indifference defining his reason’s cherished mistress. Such obvious incoherence has obviously conceded the rational and forces our hand: it’s far more productive, and rational, to have these discussions with the likes of Hume than with, not all, but a large swath of the contingency of Non-Theists here who are lost in some kind of bizarrely autohypnotic and unintelligible twilight zone.

          The unsound (irrational) atheist emerges as the rational on his end fails to find a seam of entry into the moral on his end:

          “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.” (C.S. Lewis)

          Non-Theists tend to be so intuition based that they unknowingly sacrifice the more analytical side of the equation. But both are needed. Feelings are certainly important, and given Christianity, can and do weigh in towards factual ends. But they're not the whole-show, as in all Non-Theistic attempts atop the moral inclines of praise and/or disgust. Rather, evidence, feelings, reason and reality must all converge, convergence being a mark of lucidity.

          • Doug Shaver

            "Her morality is wretched".

            That wasn't my statement. Were you intending to respond to somebody else?

            Rather, evidence, feelings, reason and reality must all converge,

            And when they don't, what do you suggest we ought to do to resolve the situation?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Unfortunately for your evidence-free emoting (about evil in the upcoming quote), reason as truth finder has every (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality. [1] “And when they don't, what do you suggest we ought to do to resolve the situation?” Follow logic and reason. It’s called being rational. [2] “Nature produces evil.” “Exactly. And so, for us naturalists, no further explanation is needed.” Given that you disagree with S. Carroll and Hume on the objective moral fact as you are inclined to employ value syntax wider than indifference, there’s the following two parts. Part 1: Your "That X is evil” along with “That X is morally wretched" along with any employment of such value syntax isn't seamless with your own claim of the rational and whether you like it or not the rational had better be seamless with the moral (the amoral in your case), on pain of circularity. Since you're unaware, or worse: The Non-Theist’s capacity for missing the point is exceptional. That he is completely unaware of the nature of the problem is now demonstrable. While the Christian interprets reality and feelings through the rational, the fact that the Non-Theist is not merely impacted by but in fact led by evidence-free feelings is obvious, even demonstrable. That he then supposes he arouses anything short of intellectual and moral pity from us is troubling as such is a mark of something far worse than merely being uninformed. That there is any “insistence” of “wretchedness” or of “goodness” or of “ought-yes” or of “ought-no” traveling along any semantic incline whatsoever brings us to the Non-Theist’s perseveration upon the irrelevant. Indeed, *if* the Non-Theist found employing value syntax actually was wholly and thoroughly indifferent to suffering or any other contour of evil, or *if* he actually counted all such things as irreducibly horrific, factually (ontologically) laced through and through with that which sums to love's relentless call of ought-not-be, we then could (given one of those two postures on his part) have a discussion in fact shaped by the rational, which justifiably pursues reality *as* reality. But that never happens for when reason as truth-finder demands the real, the irreducible, the fundamental nature of the particular state of affairs on the table, we find the Non-Theist unmasked in the midst of a disconnect, in this dishonest and irrational twilight zone of heat and emoting at that which sums perhaps to [1] the sight of suffering, or perhaps to its contradiction in [2] the world’s traveling city of humanitarian aid seeking to abate said suffering – and – then – we find all of that evidence-free emoting inexplicably couched inside of his own intellectual delights within cosmic indifference defining his reason’s cherished mistress. Such obvious incoherence has obviously conceded the rational and forces our hand: it’s far more productive, and rational, to have these discussions with the likes of Hume than with, not all, but a large swath of the contingency of Non-Theists here who are lost in some kind of bizarrely autohypnotic and unintelligible twilight zone.

            Part 2: You’ve not demonstrated any rationally available explanatory contours which afford your syntax the right to contradict Hume, which find a moral fact and (therefore) reason as truth-finder hears only the sound of her own mutable voice, itself contingent upon nothing more than reality’s four fundamental forces whereby reason hears what always was, and is, and always will be vis-à-vis reality’s irreducible indifference. Painfully, reason finds there within her own voice no possibility whatsoever of a fact termed the morally *un*reasonable. Unfortunately for your evidence-free emoting, reason as truth finder has every (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality. The rational is (therein) perfectly seamless with the *non* moral. Given Non-Theism. Whereas, given the triune God, reason justifiably carries us into the fundamental nature of all things per the Christian metanarrative as we find the unending processions constituting reciprocity's timeless "one-another" (D.B. Hart) via Trinity. Indeed, love’s timeless self-giving in and of and through reciprocity’s immutable processions awaits reason at all ends of all vectors such that should reason chase after some other constitution amid one-another, some other form, or procession, or contour, she would then (factually) be contra-reason, or *un*reasonable. The rational is (therein) perfectly seamless with the moral.

          • Doug Shaver

            You do have an effective way of silencing anyone who questions you.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            MT's fighting against the silence: There's no pressing point to be made that's not obvious. Being rational with respect to our feelings is unproblematic. I'm surprised you had to ask. On the syntax of evil, of suffering, of whatever, you claimed, as far as I can tell, that it sourced to Nature. However, to have a comment about something being wrong with some part of the world, of something that can be better, one must stand not upon Nature for she has no such syntax of the objectively wrong / better, but upon one's own feelings. But to define reality by feelings forces us to bisect reality. So much for the rational then. It is the syntax of reason's race to indifference, and hence to silence, of Hume and Carroll which becomes inevitable. They've no means by which to fight against the dark silence for it just is the rational given Non-Theism. The Christian rationally disagrees -- and fights against it. We see it in MT but we see it in all of us and to varying degrees. Christ overcomes it. Obviously the transcendentals change over inside of a paradigm shaped and defined by the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

          • Doug Shaver

            However, to have a comment about something being wrong with some part of the world, of something that can be better, one must stand not upon Nature for she has no such syntax of the objectively wrong / better, but upon one's own feelings.

            Yes. To call something evil to render a judgment, not to state a fact, except in this sense: If anyone says "My judgment is X," they are asserting a fact about their state of mind.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            S. Carroll and Hume agree. I'd say they're not doing so on the grounds of Idealism or Solipsism, though, if they did, it still leaves it all awash in the dark night of indifference with no (rational) means to (rationally) fight against the dark. Whatever "dark" is supposed to mean. "Depression" emerges and testifies:

            Within the silence of indifference, given the illusion of dark, of light, and therefore ipso facto of sight, it's not obvious that prescribing medications to treat one illusion and foster another illusion counts as good medicine. They'll help with feelings of course, just not with the interpretation of reality, that is given Non-Theism's silence of indifference. "I feel like hurting" equates to "I feel like loving" equates to "I feel like dying" equates to "I feel like living" as Carroll and Hume converge amidst a hollow void of moral facts. Reason finds no rational justification to prefer one over the other, or to prefer the scratching of one's finger over the destruction of the whole world (Hume, Carroll, etc.). Those prescriptions do factually help interpret reality if reality presents reason with an irreducible shape amid love's one-another and thereby with rational means layered over and amalgamated with rational ends.

            We find then prescriptions vs. deep brain stimulation vs. surgery vs. stroke/trauma vs. brain chemistry vs. morality vs. reality all in the avoidance of (factual) category errors.

            Perhaps: Let's say that we remove dualism -- just for fun -- and go with a straight-up material man and, given the moral and causal paradigm which comes with [1] Non-Theism vs. [2] *God* (The-Good, etc.), nothing thus far in this entire analysis changes for us within the arena of man and perception and knowledge, deflationary or otherwise, moral or otherwise.

            Edit:

            Reason as truth finder has the (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality, and the rational (given that right) justifiably finds that, factually speaking:

            “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. -Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. -Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Hume Treatise of Human Nature 2.3.3.6).

            “[S]choolyard bullies who beat up smaller children aren't wrong in the same sense that it’s wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe..... But that's how the world is." (S. Carroll)

          • Doug Shaver

            it still leaves it all awash in the dark night of indifference with no (rational) means to (rationally) fight against the dark.

            I disagree. A judgment is still a belief, and any belief needs a rational justification.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 15 min) If you want to equivocate on the term moral fact and claim rational justifications for moral non-facts that is okay, but I was talking about what S. Carroll and Hume talk about with respect to moral facts, which they rightly concede don't exist. Given such a state of affairs, prescribing medications to treat one illusion and foster another illusion counts for nothing with respect to moral facts. They'll help with feelings of course, just not with the interpretation of reality, that is given Non-Theism's silence of indifference. "I feel like hurting" equates to "I feel like loving" equates to "I feel like dying" equates to "I feel like living" as Carroll and Hume converge amidst a hollow void of moral facts. Reason finds no rational justification to prefer one over the other, or to prefer the scratching of one's finger over the destruction of the whole world (Hume, Carroll, etc.). Those prescriptions do factually help interpret reality if reality presents reason with an irreducible shape amid love's one-another and thereby with rational means layered over and amalgamated with rational ends.

            Reason as truth finder has the (justified) prerogative to chase after reality *as* reality, and the rational (given that right) justifiably finds that, factually speaking:

            “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. -Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. -Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (Hume Treatise of Human Nature 2.3.3.6).

            “[S]choolyard bullies who beat up smaller children aren't wrong in the same sense that it’s wrong to deny Darwinian evolution or the expansion of the universe..... But that's how the world is." (S. Carroll)

          • Doug Shaver

            I was talking about what S. Carroll and Hume talk about with respect to moral facts, which they rightly concede don't exist.

            I get that. I'm simply disputing the assertion that we therefore cannot rationally justify our disapproval of certain behaviors.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Agree. Everyone has goals. Reason finds no such fact as the morally *un*reasonable. The sound of one's own voice being the only (real) metric.

          • Doug Shaver

            Agree. Everyone has goals.

            That wasn't quite my point. There are goals that some people have that the rest of us are, through the exercise of reason, justified in opposing.

            The sound of one's own voice being the only (real) metric.

            Some people act as though they think so.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "....through the exercise of reason, justified in opposing...."

            Reason cannot justify asserting illusions. You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right such that their reasons/goals are objectively false/wrong. Feelings/Goals vs. Feelings/Goals seems to be what you are showing us, but showing us ontological equals is irrelevant.

            While some may be satisfied stopping at serotonin surges as their definition of "the fundamentally true", Hume and Carroll and myself and in fact anyone seeking to understand the fundamental nature of reality cannot justify stopping there.

          • Doug Shaver

            Reason cannot justify asserting illusions.

            I have not said it could, and I have not said that morality is an illusion.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            And you've not offered anything other than colliding ontological equals. Why is Hume wrong? And Carroll with him? Getting to the point about their error isn't something I see you accomplishing.

            BTW: your reply ignored this part:

            You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right such that their reasons/goals are objectively false/wrong. Feelings/Goals vs. Feelings/Goals seems to be what you are showing us, but showing us ontological equals is irrelevant.

          • Doug Shaver

            Why is Hume wrong? And Carroll with him? Getting to the point about their error isn't something I see you accomplishing.

            I'm not saying they're wrong. I agree with them that moral facts don't exist.

            You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right

            I don't need to, because I have made no claim about being objectively true or right.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Yes that was not clear on the quote: The quote I was referencing was this: “Nature produces evil.” “Exactly. And so, for us naturalists, no further explanation is needed.” The other quote was what I initially started with and as your question about how to clarify feelings/reality was to that I just stayed with it.

        • What does "conclusions we like" mean? It can mean that the conclusions we arrive at resonate with us at a deep level and feel right. Nihilism does not feel right to me. Catholicism feels right. Life should mean something. Love should be superior to hate. The poor should have dignity. Any system that tells me those instincts and everything else are all just nonsense is going to be something I tend to resist. Yes, if that could be proved conclusively I would have little choice. The fact is it can't. Radical skepticism is not the only way to proceed.

          • Doug Shaver

            What does "conclusions we like" mean?

            You tell me. You're the one who said, "At some point you need to ask if this logical conclusion is the place you want to be."

            Radical skepticism is not the only way to proceed.

            I think my skepticism is justified. Whether it merits the modifier "radical" seems to be a matter of personal judgment.

          • What is the difference between justified skepticism and unjustified skepticism? I guess that is the heart of the matter. When what is assumed to be pure logic ends up having a bunch of personal judgement brought it. Our emotions and desires have a way of pushing our reason this way or that.

          • Doug Shaver

            Our emotions and desires have a way of pushing our reason this way or that.

            Yes, they do. Thus the need for eternal intellectual vigilance.

            What is the difference between justified skepticism and unjustified skepticism?

            In the space of a forum post, I can’t answer that to even my own satisfaction, let alone anyone else’s. I’ll attempt a hint at what a more thorough discussion would involve, though.

            Skepticism, to me, is just the habit of asking “Why should I believe that?” and not being satisfied with non-cogent responses such as fallacious or circular arguments. It is especially not satisfied with arguments from authority or with appeals to social or ideological convention. It tends to be committed to some version of epistemological evidentialism, according to which beliefs are justified only if they are inferrable, to some minimal degree of probability, from some set of facts that are reasonably regarded as indisputable.

            Skepticism becomes unjustified, I would say, when it demands a response that eliminates any possibility of error. That is to say, it regards the expression “probably true” as either meaningless or else insufficient as a justification for believing something. This is sometimes manifest as the position of epistemic infallibilism, i.e. the philosophical doctrine that we don’t know something unless we know it infallibly.

          • I don't know that eternal intellectual vigilance can solve the problem. If your mind is biased in one direction then any process of being vigilant will be biased to. It is likely to make you more certain of you conclusions but it is not likely to make you actually right more often.

            Everyone asks “Why should I believe that?” Everyone reject what they see as fallacious or circular arguments. Others may call them that but that is different.

            I think everyone accepts arguments from authority. Nobody can drill down to the lowest level and do all the inferences themselves on every question. What people disagree about is which authority can be trusted and which cannot. In fact, that decision of who to trust explains a lot about why people tend to cluster in certain schools of thought. Those that pick the same opinion leaders tend to have the same opinions. It is a very human way to do it but it can go very wrong.

            Skepticism is often used against an authority someone distrusts but not so much against the authority you trust. This gives people the impression that their opinions are based on logic and not on the choice to trust certain people. We want to believe we are logical but we want to belong as well. We make it work by inconsistent use of skepticism.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't know that eternal intellectual vigilance can solve the problem.

            I didn’t say it could. I wasn’t talking about solving anything. Does the church believe anybody can live a sinless life? Does the church tell people they should try to not sin? If a problem exists and you can’t make it go away, you do what you can to minimize it.

            If your mind is biased in one direction then any process of being vigilant will be biased to.

            That can happen. It is one reason for studying the arguments of your adversaries and making a good-faith effort to understand where they are coming from. I took two courses in the philosophy of religion, both from a protégé of Alvin Plantinga. Near the end of the second course, I went up to him after class one day and said, “I have been dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that Christianity is more defensible than I used to think it was.”

            Everyone asks “Why should I believe that?”

            Not consistently, in my observation. Most people are pretty selective about when they ask it.

            Granted, for all of us some selectivity is necessary. Society wouldn’t last five minutes if we questioned every last thing that anybody told us. And aside from any social fallout, none of us has the time or resources to be The Compleat Skeptick. For every one of us, there are great swaths of things we think we know that we have never investigated and, just because we won’t live long enough, will never investigate.

            I think everyone accepts arguments from authority. Nobody can drill down to the lowest level and do all the inferences themselves on every question. What people disagree about is which authority can be trusted and which cannot. In fact, that decision of who to trust explains a lot about why people tend to cluster in certain schools of thought. Those that pick the same opinion leaders tend to have the same opinions. It is a very human way to do it but it can go very wrong.

            This is an instance of the previous observation. A rational skepticism does not claim that authorities are never to be trusted. It says they are never to be treated as infallible.

            Like most people my age, I need a certain amount of routine medical attention, and I am not constantly challenging my doctors to convince me of the soundness of their advice. I have not attempted to search all the medical literature regarding the medications they have prescribed or to verify every diagnosis they have come up with. But I have done some research. More to the point, I have over the course of my life learned something about the scientific basis of modern medicine and the limits of what the medical community actually knows, on that scientific basis, about what makes our bodies tick. When my doctors talk to me, they are not talking to a scientific illiterate, and they know this.

            Skepticism is often used against an authority someone distrusts but not so much against the authority you trust. This gives people the impression that their opinions are based on logic and not on the choice to trust certain people. We want to believe we are logical but we want to belong as well. We make it work by inconsistent use of skepticism.

            None of us is immune from the pressure to conform or to appear conforming. And human nature precludes our being perfectly consistent in any of our intellectual endeavors.

            An argument from authority is easy to misuse because it is easy to use. As I’ve already noted, to some extent and in some contexts, we all have to use it, correctly or not. The correct usage is: I’m justified in believing X because the authorities say X. The incorrect usage is: X must be true because the authorities say X. But using it correctly doesn’t give you a win by default. Who are “the authorities” being referred to, who says they are authorities, and what did they have to do in order to get anyone to call them authorities?

            Another question often relevant when the subject is biblical criticism: To which authorities are we referring? Some apologists claim a consensus of authorities for certain of their premises (traditional authorship of the canonical gospels, for example) when there is no such consensus if “authority” is defined as it normally is.

            But let’s assume that you and your interlocutor agree on who the authorities are. If the authorities themselves are in substantial disagreement over a relevant issue, then you’re just at an impasse as long as neither of you knows anything more than that some authorities agree with you. If you are to have a productive debate, you will have to do enough of your own good-faith research to figure out how your authorities reached their conclusion and how the other authorities reached the contrary conclusion.

            The biggest burden of proof, of course, is on anyone who challenges a real consensus among authorities universally accepted as such, because good-faith research must be done without presupposing any ignoble motivations behind the consensus. If you’re going to claim that all the experts have made a mistake, it had better be a very ordinary mistake—so ordinary that anybody, good people or bad people, can make it and not even realize that they’re making it.

            And speaking of good people and bad people, I have found it useful in my own research to assume that practically everybody is either (depending on my mood at the moment) as good as I am or no worse than I am.

    • Peter

      Obviously you have never been without food or clean water, without hygiene or medicine, without a home, without dignity, without even an identity. You have never been a worthless piece of humanity prostrate in a gutter surrounded by faeces and refuse.

      If you were, anyone who came to you to give you comfort would be a saint.

    • Mike

      many millions upon millions of indians and the nobel peace committee disagree with you. aren't you stretching your criticism a bit here? after all are you in the slums wiping away nasty sores?

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Caring for people defined as human garbage isn’t easy. The smells alone are too much sometimes. We each have this or that arrangement of temperaments, idiosyncrasies, faults, gifts, and capacities and we each offer what we can to help one another, from the arena of the high-tech to the arena of a few weeks of medical missions to the arena of teaching to the arena of prayer to the arena of simply holding the hand of the world’s unfortunate ones who are counted as human garbage such that the (literally) untouched find, if only in hours or days, the surreal newness of physical touch. Contrary to the hubris of our Non-Theist friends – who wield their Noble Lies despite a bizarre assertion that it is morally better to refrain from the arduous work of the world’s 200K humanitarian workers – we affirm reason’s demands as , "The relentless tenderness of Jesus challenges us to give up our false faces, our petty conceits, our irritating vanities, our preposterous pretending and become card carrying members of the messy human community." (B. Manning) Supposedly the world has about 200K humanitarian workers. About half are from NGO's (non-government organizations) and the other half is from the big boys like the UN and Red Cross and others. Comfort care, humanitarian aid, Hospice care, and other avenues of caring for one another are not easy, and such work, especially as a lifelong decision, isn't for everyone. There's never enough funding, the lines are too long, the conditions are sub-human, the level of care is often sub-standard, and it’s too often not a choice between excellent care vs. no care but between the substandard option vs. death. The reward within the Self is housed in the loving of the Other whereby the Other passes through (we hope) some series of moments strewn together in which what is almost always chronic suffering can, at least for now, abate. Not surprisingly, Wiki stats commented: “The most prevalent issue faced by Humanitarian Aid Workers is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Adjustment to normal life again can be a problem, with feelings such as guilt being caused by the simple knowledge that international aid workers can leave a crisis zone, whilst nationals cannot.”

    The Non-Theist’s straight faced attempt at the humanitarian as he wields the amoral contours of Hume, Carroll, and Nietzsche compels us, for good reason, to pity him. His intellectual mistress justifiably stands behind him as he gives his voice and cheer to Carroll’s moral ascent to Hume whereby pummeling children on the playground finds no possibility of the morally *un*reasonable as his now intellectually affirmed “human garbage” becomes actual, ontic, irreducible. That entire dance seamlessly begets his own reasoning as he voices his disdain for love’s timeless reciprocity within the sweat and pain and self-sacrifice of the world’s collocation of human aid workers who take their shot with whatever bucket they can find, bailing out whatever suffering they can, from whatever capsizing vessel they happen to find as the unending call into the self-giving seamlessly affirms reason’s appetite to the dismay of the Non-Theist’s intellectual mistress. Processions amid Self/Other define all trajectories both upward and outward as love’s timeless self outpouring constituting reality’s irreducible Trinitarian processions awaits man’s reason at the ends of all vectors such that should reason chase after some other constitution amid one-another, some other form, or procession, or contour, she would then (factually) be contra-reason, or *un*reasonable. The rational is (therein) perfectly seamless with the moral.

    Reciprocity:

    Irreducibly volitional motions amid self/other reveal reality’s central message of “You must lose your life in order to save it” as reason affirms Christianity’s eternally sacrificed self within the uncanny semantics of incarnation. “[The] very action of kenosis is not a new act for God, because God's eternal being is, in some sense, kenosis – the self-outpouring of the Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit. Thus Christ's incarnation, far from dissembling his eternal nature, exhibits not only his particular proprium as the Son and the splendor of the Father's likeness, but thereby also the nature of the whole trinitarian taxis. On the cross we see this joyous self-donation sub contrario, certainly, but not in alieno. For God to pour himself out, then, as the man Jesus, is not a venture outside the trinitarian life of indestructible love, but in fact quite the reverse: it is the act by which creation is seized up into the sheer invincible pertinacity of that love, which reaches down to gather us into its triune motion.” (D. B. Hart)

    In a reply to the Non-Theist’s tired appeals with the same old thing in the same old tone, there was this quote:

    “That’s an absolutely stunning comment when 80% of the world lives at 10 dollars per day or below. 22,000 children starve to death, per day. 3rd world debt keeps the bottom BILLION people in a literally impossible economic situation. The 40 poorest countries in the world owe 13 dollars in debt payments for every dollar they receive in foreign aid. Have you ever seen abject poverty? Have you ever gone through an African slum? I have. It engages all of your senses in a way that you don’t forget. The smells in particular are the hardest for me to shake. When I was there, the majority of rich white people that I saw were there to purchase African boys and girls for sexual purposes. I’ll never forget making eye contact with a middle aged German woman with two 12 year old black boys in tow back to her hotel room……

    Jesus’ teachings are about as far away from “values” as you can get. If there’s a single statement in the Gospels that sums up Christ’s moral vision, it’s “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” It’s as outrageous a statement today as it was 2000 years ago.

    Any concept that suggests we’ve made the scope and subversive nature of Jesus’s teachings “dated” through modern psychology makes me wonder, sincerely, without being cavalier: What planet are you living on?

    In the last hundred years, I can’t think of a western moral leader who’s had more positive impact than Martin Luther King. Christ was a plain-as-day guiding imperative on his work, and if you asked him if he had come close to approaching the limits of how far Christ’s teaching can be taken, how far it DEMANDS to be taken, I can only imagine a single possible response.

    “Lord have mercy, no.”

    All the psychology, psychiatric medication and post-modern education hasn’t added up to a fraction of the profound effect MLK’s work had on the cultural moral compass. This is because we have adopted a thoroughly legalistic approach to morality. “How far can rights extend and how near can the limits of responsibilities be drawn?” That is the entire scope of modern moral reasoning.

    Christ says “You don’t need rights among men, you have rights as Children of God and heirs to His Kingdom. Your responsibilities are your vocation, they are what it is to be human, and you need to become more human than you’ve ever imagined. I don’t bring law, I bring life.”

    Christ’s central message of “You must lose your life in order to save it” will haunt modern man’s quest for moral actualization. Always. We tell ourselves “That’s not practical, we can find some balance of self-interest and shared values… and higher test scores and the right legislation, progress will continue, and the New Scientific Jerusalem awaits.”

    Meanwhile, on CNN…

    You must lose your life in order to save it” will never not be what man needs, it will never be overtaken in scope and promise, and when we as a culture finally really abandon it, we will discover new levels of misery, confusion and hopelessness.

    End quote. (quote by “GM”)

  • neil_pogi

    this is my question regarding MT's charitable works:

    was she just trying to 'help' the needy because media's camera's on her? -(8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.) - Ephesians 2:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    how about the others who give their hands uncondionally, voluntarily and without pretensions?

    why only mother teresa?

    how about oskar schindler? who save more than 1,500 jews during world war 2?

    how about my philippine presiden manuel quezon? who save 1,300 jews escaping from germany, and he was the only president who unconditionally accepted them? (the Philippines is the only country that saves 1,300 jews during WW2, and the U.S. refused to accept them)

    the Bible says that 'all believers are saints'

    "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." - revelations 14:12

    • Arthur Jeffries

      was she just trying to 'help' the needy because media's camera's on her?

      She was helping the needy before she became famous.

      What do you mean by writing 'help'? Are you implying that she did not in fact help the poor? Perhaps you think that you have served the poor better than she?

      What is the relevance of your quote from Ephesians?

      how about the others who give their hands uncondionally, voluntarily and without pretensions?

      How about them? Catholicism is grateful for all people who live out the beatitudes.

      why only mother teresa?

      What do you mean by only Mother Teresa?

      how about oskar schindler? who save more than 1,500 jews during world war 2?

      how about my philippine presiden manuel quezon

      How about them? Catholicism does not take the position that no one else has engaged in good works other than Mother Teresa.

      the Bible says that 'all believers are saints'

      This is acknowledged in various Catholic documents, speeches and homilies from popes, etc. Of course those Biblical passages are in all Catholic bibles. What of it?

      "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." - revelations 14:12

      This book and passage is included in all Catholic bibles. What of it?

      • neil_pogi

        quote: 'She was helping the needy before she became famous.' - everybody is doing that

        quote: 'How about them? Catholicism is grateful for all people who live out the beatitudes.; - i didn't say why the catholic church is only choosing MT as only the qualified saint. my message is clear, why only MT? there are thousands or perhaps million people are extending their hands to help others?

        quote: 'How about them? Catholicism does not take the position that no one else has engaged in good works other than Mother Teresa.' - i didn't say why the catholic church is only choosing MT as only the qualified saint. my message is clear, why only MT? there are thousands or perhaps million people are extending their hands to help others?

        quote: 'What is the relevance of your quote from Ephesians?' - in this passage, the author is telling the ephesians that if someone's in need, try to help them quietly so that boasting is prevented, just like in other passage,'"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others....'Matt 6:5.

        quote: 'This is acknowledged in various Catholic documents, speeches and homilies from popes, etc. Of course those Biblical passages are in all Catholic bibles. What of it?' -- i'm only saying that when someone became a christian, he became a saint.

        • Arthur Jeffries

          quote: 'She was helping the needy before she became famous.' - everybody is doing that

          You asked if Mother Teresa was only "trying to 'help' the needy because media's camera's on her." She wasn't. Now you are saying that neither does anyone else. If everybody helps the needy before becoming famous, why did you ask if Mother Teresa was only "trying to 'help' the needy because media's camera's on her"? Did your wonder if she was the negative exception to your positive rule?

          i didn't say why the catholic church is only choosing MT as only the qualified saint. my message is clear, why only MT? there are thousands or perhaps million people are extending their hands to help others?

          Your message is not clear at all. What do you mean by "only"?

          in this passage, the author is telling the ephesians that if someone's in need, try to help them quietly so that boasting is prevented, just like in other passage,'"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others....'Matt 6:5.

          Mother Teresa eventually received media attention because of her work. If the modern news media existed in the first century, surely Christ and the apostles would have received plenty of media attention.

          The fame of Mother Teresa was helpful to her task of caring for the poor. If you were to try to help as many of the poor and sick as she did, you would understand how media coverage can be beneficial.

          Aren't you a Seventh-day Adventist? The Adventist Development and Relief Agency does not do its work quietly at all, and there is plenty of boasting at its website.

          Why wasn't Barry C. Black, a Seventh-day Adventist, forbidden by Adventist authorities from accepting the position of chaplain of the United States Senate? That position involves plenty of public prayer. Do you approve?

          i'm only saying that when someone became a christian, he became a saint.

          Canonized saints are those who are known to have lived up to the title of "saint."

          • neil_pogi

            i'm only enumerating some people of interest in the fields of charitable works and saving lives. schindler was declared 'righteous' by jewish state israel because he saved more than 1,500 jews during holocaust. he saved more than what was the achievemnts of MT. MT did saved sick and miserables, i don't question that. i only question is why only her? what about schindler and quezon, and others who are unknown?

            ADRA of course publishes its achievements of works on their website so that donors and the public know its activities. there's no boasting here. all the accounts can be seen in their achives where the donations went.

            quote: 'Why wasn't Barry C. Black, a Seventh-day Adventist, forbidden by Adventist authorities from accepting the position of chaplain of the United States Senate?' -SDA never participate in political realm.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The Catholic Church honors many people who engage in good works. Mother Teresa is not the only Catholic saint, or the only person to ever be honored by the Catholic Church.

            The Catholic Church in your country is perfectly capable of initiating a process to have Quezon named a saint. If they have not initiated such a process, Catholics in your country can petition them to do so.

            There is plenty of boasting about ADRA's good works at the ADRA website, irrespective of how they spend donations. That is a fact.

            Look up Barry C. Black. He is a famous living figure in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church here in the US, not someone whom I made up. The office of Senate chaplain involves plenty of public prayer, yet Black is celebrated. Do you approve?

          • neil_pogi

            as i've said, ADRA publishes publicly on their website or in the SDA church or in the newspapers of general circulation, where the donations went. it is not boasting as what you are trying to say. Of course, since ADRA is a non-profit organization, they are obliged for accounting of all receivables (donations in kind or in cash).

            as i've said, seventh day adventist church never participates in political agendas.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The ADRA website does not merely list the organization's accomplishments, it also boasts about these accomplishments and ADRA's abilities. Pretending otherwise does not change that reality.

            Stop dodging the question about Barry C. Black. In the US he is is a celebrity within Adventism, and yet his job requires public prayer. Do you approve?

      • Doug Shaver

        Are you implying that she did not in fact help the poor?

        I suppose they were better off in her beds than on the streets.

        Perhaps you think that you have served the poor better than she?

        I'll admit to having done very little for them. I've also never asked anyone for any money to help me do it.

        • LHRMSCBrown

          Finally, a jazzy slogan for humanitarian relief around the world :-0

  • Peter

    The universe is made up of knowledge; some we know, much we still do not. The source of that knowledge is a great mind. We conscious creatures are products of the universe, products of that knowledge, products of that great mind. As conscious creatures we have an in-built programme to seek out the source of the knowledge that creates us, to seek out that great mind, to seek out our Maker.

    Most of us do not experience the spiritual presence of the Creator within us, even for a fleeting moment, This can include those selfless individuals who sacrifice their lives to comfort the destitute and who, for their heroic efforts, are sneered at by the bloated elite on the pampered fringes of humanity. Of one thing I am certain, though. God may not have shown his interior presence to St. Theresa of Calcutta, but he most surely would have done to the many whom she and her Sisters comforted in their dying moments.

    Although few of us have a spiritual experience of our Creator, we all as conscious beings have the desire to seek him out and we all respond in different ways. It is the in-built desire to seek out our Maker which is the indelible sign of the Creator within us. Even atheists who seek out alternatives to God, are driven by that same desire to uncover the ultimate source of their existence.

    • Will

      Does all knowledge come from God? Let's use knowledge of Hinduism, for example.

      • neil_pogi

        if you begin from the beginning, all were created by God.. and since Hindus are created too, i would say that the knowledge of hindus stemmed from God

        • Will

          Why would God invent a false religion?

          • David Nickol

            I think the answer of contemporary Catholicism would be that God did not invent Hinduism, nor is Hinduism a "false religion." Nostra Aetate says, in part:

            From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.

            Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

            That is, although the Catholic Church believes itself to have the "fullness of truth" revealed by God, other religions have found some truths and are not "false" but rather incomplete. To non-Catholic ears it may sound somewhat condescending, but what are you supposed to do when you believe that your own religion is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (to borrow a phrase)?

          • Will

            I've seen that before here, was curious as to what old Neil would say. Wouldn't Catholics agree that other religions are, at least in part, a human fabrication? If Hinduism were just incomplete Catholicism, there should be a lot less to it, but as it stands, it's probably as complicated, if not more complicated than Catholicism. It is also around 5000 years older.

          • David Nickol

            Wouldn't Catholics agree that other religions are, at least in part, a human fabrication?

            Yes, I think there is no question about that.

          • Will

            Based on that, I wonder how they can be certain that at least part of their own religion is a fabrication. If so, the task of figuring out what parts are fabrication becomes daunting since none of it is directly testable.
            There is also the problem of divine plan. If there is one, these religions must still persist for some reason.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            In the relevant sense here, "Total Error" can't exist. As per the items in my comment to Jim a few minutes ago, there is the intentionally provocative quote that everything about Satan is good. It is impossible for Man, or any contingent X, to invent realities, such as a new primary color, or a moral fact. "Human fabrication" isn't possible in the sense of truth / non-truth. Given God, there are no such things as contours void of the Divine. Hence there is only less/more true, less/more complete, less/more rational, less/more lovely, less/more Good. Given the fact of God, "Total Error" would be, simply, non-existence, non-entity.

          • Will

            Is "Gone with the wind" more true than "Star Wars". Are you serious?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            The definition of "fiction" has a meaning. That meaning is real. You're conflating categories. Granted, on Non-Theism, *ALL* "meaning" is ultimate / cosmic fiction. Illusory. Fabrication. But we're giving you the corrective of your paradigm's forced conclusion there regarding all meaning, of your less rational, self-negating, paradigm:

            “……a good many philosophers would agree with Augustine. That would be to say that evil is not a thing. God is the creator of everything that exists but evil is not itself a thing. It doesn’t have any positive ontological status. Rather, evil is a privation; it’s a deficit in being. A good example of this would be cold in physics. In physics, cold is the privation of heat. It has no positive reality. It is simply the absence of heat. Or think of darkness. Darkness has no positive ontological status; it’s the privation of light. And similarly, I think we would say that evil doesn’t have any positive ontological status, it’s just the privation of right order in the creaturely will. Rather than being oriented toward God as the greatest good, the summum bonum, the creaturely will is oriented often toward lesser good, finite goods, and therefore falls short of the correct order it should have. There’s a deficit or privation of correct order in the creaturely will, and that is the origin of evil – it originates in the free will of creatures. So, in short, evil is not some sort of a thing that God had to create, God created creatures with free will and that is good. My philosophy professor Norman Geisler used to put it in this very provocative way: “everything about Satan is good”. That is to say, Satan has properties like existence, power, intelligence; these are all good things. But the evil that he is characterized by is a privation of right order in his will, and is not a positive thing.” (W.L. Craig)

          • Will

            Is the design of Intel's new i7 chip true or false? Did God invent the microchip? If he didn't, it's false, right?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Once again, you're conflating categories. I know that your paradigm offers you no such thing as moral false/true, as goodness/evil, or even things such as derivatives of the irreducibly rational, but conflation and evasion on your end does not get rid of the problem.

          • Will

            What category is a microchip. The point is that humans can certainly invent new truths and standards. The IEEE is an example of an organization that develops and polices standards, which are new engineering truths that everyone agrees to.

            https://www.ieee.org/index.html

          • LHRMSCBrown

            You're still conflating. What is your goal in all your talk of your genetic superman elsewhere in this thread? Bad thinking? If you agree with Hume/Carroll regarding objective facts and pummeling children and nature's fundamentally true, then why genetically engineer / manipulate that logic out of your superman? If you don't agree with their reasoning on nature's fundamentally true, then please explain.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To non-Catholic ears it may sound somewhat condescending

            I think this might sound considerably less condescending if one realizes that the Church here on earth (distinguished from the more complete heavenly communion) is considered to be in a state of journeying, which is to say, in a state of incompleteness and imperfection. We hold that Christ is the fullness of truth, but that we ourselves hold that truth in "earthen vessels". In that sense, to say that other traditions are incomplete or imperfect is not really to ascribe anything to them that we don't already ascribe to ourselves.

            The distinction that the Church would claim is that She is a witness to the central revelatory event of history. Any tradition that denies the reality, or the centrality, of the Gospel event would indeed be deemed "incorrect". On the other hand, a religion (I think most Eastern religions would qualify) that simply hasn't cared much either way when it comes to interpreting history in revelatory terms would not necessarily be "wrong" at all, so much as "incomplete" (though they might be actually be more complete with respect to, say, good prayer and meditation practices, good philosophy, or good God-oriented mythology). All we claim (or all we should claim) is that we are imperfect couriers of perfect news. Nothing more :-)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Well stated. Given the fact of God, the rational man can and does employ the terms of "less complete" and "more complete". But how? Well, there is no such thing as avoiding, or not spying, the immutable contours of the Divine. Everything about Satan is good. Huh? What-da? Well, that would be as in the following:

            “……a good many philosophers would agree with Augustine. That would be to say that evil is not a thing. God is the creator of everything that exists but evil is not itself a thing. It doesn’t have any positive ontological status. Rather, evil is a privation; it’s a deficit in being. A good example of this would be cold in physics. In physics, cold is the privation of heat. It has no positive reality. It is simply the absence of heat. Or think of darkness. Darkness has no positive ontological status; it’s the privation of light. And similarly, I think we would say that evil doesn’t have any positive ontological status, it’s just the privation of right order in the creaturely will. Rather than being oriented toward God as the greatest good, the summum bonum, the creaturely will is oriented often toward lesser good, finite goods, and therefore falls short of the correct order it should have. There’s a deficit or privation of correct order in the creaturely will, and that is the origin of evil – it originates in the free will of creatures. So, in short, evil is not some sort of a thing that God had to create, God created creatures with free will and that is good. My philosophy professor Norman Geisler used to put it in this very provocative way: “everything about Satan is good”. That is to say, Satan has properties like existence, power, intelligence; these are all good things. But the evil that he is characterized by is a privation of right order in his will, and is not a positive thing.” (W.L. Craig)

            It is incoherent to speak of Hinduism (or any X) as *either* "Non-God's" or *else* as "All-God's". Meaning does not flow uphill from the contingent into the Necessary. Why? Because that is logically impossible. Reality is not defined by Men and Men's contours, just as it is not defined by Satan and Satan's contours. Contingency does not define the Necessary. Rather, all contingent realities have what contours they have in and by the Necessary. All Meaning flows from the Necessary downhill into the contingent. To look at the Hindu and praise this or that X within it all while describing an error in some other X within it isn't possible for the Non-Theist, for "meaning" only streams from the contingent in lateral vectors, leaving all X's as colliding ontological equals. Nothing flows (ontologically) either uphill or downhill. Whereas, given Goodness Itself/Himself and the privatized self/world, the rational man can and does employ the terms of "less complete" and "more complete".

            Edit:

            In the relevant sense of truth / non-truth, it is impossible for Man, or any contingent X, to invent realities, such as a new primary color, or a moral fact. "Human fabrication" isn't possible in the sense of truth / non-truth. Given God, there are no such things as contours void of the Divine. Hence there is only less/more true, less/more complete, less/more rational, less/more lovely, less/more Good. Given the fact of God, "Total Error" would be, simply, non-existence, non-entity.

          • neil_pogi

            man only invents false religion.. just like atheism.

          • Will

            So Hinduism comes from man, not God. Make up your mind.

          • neil_pogi

            since God created man, He was gifted with free will. He chose evil. he can do whatever he wants. But God never abandon him

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Evidence-free feelings amid the irrational: Non-Theists tend to be so intuition based that they unwittingly sacrifice the more analytical side of reality's various equations. But both are needed. Feelings are certainly important, and, given Christianity's moral and causal paradigm, can and do weigh in towards factual ends. But they (our mutable and contingent feelings) are not the "whole-show", as is necessarily the case in *all* Non-Theistic attempts atop the moral inclines of praise and/or disgust. Rather, evidence, feelings, reason and reality must all converge, convergence being a mark of lucidity.

    The unsound (irrational) atheist emerges as the rational on his end fails to find a seam of entry into the (non) moral on his end given that he is found painfully stumbling in circles, many circles in fact, atop the moral inclines of praise and/or disgust.

    “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.” (C.S. Lewis)

    “Just based on what I've read here, I don't think it is right to say that Mother Theresa's beliefs and feelings were not in accord. She interpreted her feelings in light of her beliefs. Specifically, she interpreted her sense of abandonment as communion with Christ. In that sense I don't see any tension between her beliefs and her feelings.” (j.hillclimber)

  • Peter

    For Teresa, her own abandonment was not for the purposes of her spiritual purification (as she understood “dark night” to imply), but was instead both an identification with Christ’s passion, and a form of solidarity with the unwanted, unloved, abandoned, and bereft.

    A civilised enlightened alien arriving at our planet would instantly label it a dismal undeveloped planet. On the fringes there is a small percentage of humans who enjoy food, water, shelter, health, freedom, education and security while the overwhelming bulk of the rest of humanity lacks these in varying degrees.

    At one extreme end of the spectrum there is a tiny infinitesimal proportion of humans who grotesquely own most of the wealth, while at the other extreme end there is a considerably greater proportion of humans who languish in utter poverty and suffer total abandonment.

    In reaching out to lift them from the gutter, St. Theresa of Calcutta was herself smitten with that same sensation of total abandonment. She was aware of and suffered the abandonment of God just as the destitute poor are aware of and suffer the abandonment of men.

    We in the pampered rich world have everything on a plate. We cannot even begin to imaging the sense of abandonment that the destitute poor of the undeveloped world must feel. For those who are not abandoned to ridicule heroic efforts to alleviate the plight of those who are is utterly shameful.

    • neil_pogi

      i agree that in various angle, people living in one place suffer great deal of famine and malnourishment, poor education and health, and while on the other side, people lavishly enjoying the luxury of life: nice car, cellphone, plenty of food on the table, etc.

      one must remember that each and every one is not created equally. some individuals became doctors, and some not. this is what im trying tosay. european nations were once poor, and because of their ambition to feed up their quality standards of living, they began to 'conquer' other countries' natural resources.. seeping their resources and emptied them to their countries. so in the end, those 'conquered countries' still are suffering from these conquerors.

      during the time of Christ, he likewise healed the sick, and fed thousands. he didn't question why evil exists, because that's what the first couple chose. they chose sin over good, and now humans are sowing it.

      • Peter

        It is true that the developing world is suffering from the imperialism and colonialism of the past. However it is probably suffering much more from the economic exploitation of the present, not least among which are the crippling debt repayments that poor countries have. The world is a fundamentally unjust place. Rich Europeans, for example, bathe in the northern Mediterranean while poor Africans die not very far away off the coast of the southern Mediterranean.

        St. Theresa was a shining beacon in a world screaming for justice, a champion of the ostracised and abandoned, who sought to give them dignity and comfort while the rest of the world turned its back. It is surprising that the moderators of this site allow the publication of spiteful comments which shamefully and disgracefully besmirch her character and her work.

        • Will

          It's pretty clear to me that Bill Gates has done more for Africa than Mother Teresa

          http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/bill-gates-foundation-pledges-5b-africa-article-1.2715084

          http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Health/Malaria

          The Bill Gates foundation works to rid Africa of Malaria (and if we remove mosquitos it might be successful). Mother Teresa just thinks it's God's will...

          • Peter

            In response to your post, the poor widow's offering comes to mind: Luke 20:45-21:4. St Theresa gave her all for the poor, Bill Gates just a fraction.

          • Will

            Why did Bill Gates have more to give?

          • Peter

            Because he didn't give his all.

          • Will

            So the poor benefitted more because he didn't give his all. MT would have accomplished little to nothing without all the money donated by those who didn't give all. Investment benefits the poor much more than unstrategic self sacrifice.

          • Peter

            That may be so in the world but we're talking about salvation here.

          • Will

            Wouldn't God want the maximum benefit for the poor? If so, God wouldn't want someone like Bill Gates to do anything other than what he did (though maybe donate a bit more).

          • Peter

            From the point of view of one's own salvation, it is good to donate a little of what you have, but far better to donate all you have.

          • Will

            Why isn't it better to help more people? You make claims without argument.
            On Catholicism it seems it's better to have nothing (self inflicted) and beat yourself than to lift yourself up and those around you with your efforts.
            Perhaps it is much better to leave the problem of suffering unanswered than trying to answer it with such a bad answer.

          • Lazarus

            If all of those considerations were all at stake we would have ... secularism, humanism, altruism. Do you understand that Catholicism, if not all of Christianity and religion, sets itself against mere secular values? Rightly or wrongly, Catholicism argues that there is much more at stake here than solely material considerations.

            In terms of purely humanistic terms MT did a fine job with what she had, in terms of Catholicism, on its own terms, she is well deserving of her sainthood.

          • Will

            What if MT had Bill Gates computing genius, or at least the capability? If we assume that she had the ability, then her path did not lead her to realize her potential. If she had realized it, she might have been able to donate a billion dollars to Africa/India, and put it in much more capable hands than her current charity.

            It is the kind of work that inspired Hemley Gonzalez, who lived on the other side of the world in Miami, United States. A migrant from Cuba, Gonzalez had grown up in a poor neighborhood and was inspired after reading a biography of Mother Teresa. “I wanted to come to India and serve in Kalighat (the place where Nirmal Hriday is situated),” he recounts over the phone. Gonzales, who runs a real estate business in Miami, reached Kolkata in December 2008 and stayed for two months.

            “I was shocked to see the negligence. Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care,” says Hemley. He narrates incidents of an untrained volunteer wrongly feeding a paralyzed inmate, who choked to his death; and another where an infected toe of an inmate was cut without anesthesia. “I have decided to go back to Kolkata to start a charity that will be called ‘Responsible Charity.’ Each donation will be made public and professional medical help will be given,” says Hemley, who now runs a campaign on Facebook called ‘Stop Missionaries of Charity,’ and has over 2,000 members.

            http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/10/forbes-india-mother-teresa-charity-critical-public-review.html

            Rightly or wrongly, Catholicism argues that there is much more at stake here than solely material considerations.

            Is suffering a material concern? It seems to be spiritual from the Church's account, and it's quite clear how far material differences can go in alleviating suffering. First world medicine is material, isn't it?

            I certainly agree that Mother Teresa did the best she could, it's just clear to me, especially after research, that it wasn't very good at all from a medical point of view. FWIW I've donated to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and I feel quite strongly that the money was better used there than it ever would have been used by Missionaries of Charity. Do you agree with this creed of the Gates Foundation?

            THE PATH OUT OF POVERTY BEGINS WHEN THE NEXT GENERATION CAN ACCESS QUALITY HEALTHCARE AND A GREAT EDUCATION.
            In developing countries, we focus on improving people’s health and wellbeing, helping individuals lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, we seek to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—can access the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

            http://www.gatesfoundation.org/

            Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime :) The way I see it, MT wants to hand out fish, but that's never going to solve the problem. To me, it's about getting the most good out of available resources. If we aren't doing that, we are wasting resources.

          • Lazarus

            Again, if I may use your Gates Foundation question, if I was a secular humanist, I would unconditionally agree with you that they make "better" use of resources, and that one should arguably rather support them than say MT's hospital. But that's where the difficulty comes in. If I accept,as I do, that there is more at stake here than just the body of the patient I need to give greater importance and support to an institution that has prayer and Mass and blatant Christian love as part of its "service". So, it all boils down to one's worldview.

          • Will

            Is there a reason the Catholic Church couldn't adopt an approach like the Gate's foundation?

          • Lazarus

            Several, I would guess. Money would be one.
            There is also a big difference in how suffering is approached. As Catholics we have a very well-developed theology surrounding suffering. While we don't go causing it (where possible) we do regard it as part of the world. We view suffering and even death very differently from how the Gates Fiundation probably views it. Our remedies would overlap to a large extent, but would also differ (again, prayer, Mass) etc.

            But we should also not contrast the Gates Foundation with only the hospitals of MT as the only manifestation of Catholic health care and approaches to medical care. While MT was bound and limited by the area and culture of her hospitals, we should also look at modern Catholic hospitals, say in the US and Europe. We work with what's available, we do what is necessary.

          • Will

            Thanks for your input.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Edited.

            Sitting with the unwanted, touching the untouched, and affirming that they have value, just being there, is the service that it is. It's not, say, being a barber or building laptops. It's not being a physician. It is the very distinct service that it is. Which other services cannot provide. It's a false dichotomy to tell the physician that his service is of no account OR that his work wasn't "all it could have been" because it didn't get around to, say, building laptops or cutting hair. I can't think of a single good motive for *persistantly* commenting on blogs regarding the physician that his service wasn't optimized because he failed to build laptops or provide barber services. Doctors "doctor".

            Hospice workers sit with the dying -- pure emotional and human contact. Hospice workers "hospice". I can't think of a single good motive for *persistantly* commenting on blogs regarding the Hospice worker that his service wasn't optimized because he didn't "doctor" or "barber". Religion or No-Religion makes no difference *whatsoever* regarding the collected types of works and services in question here which differently gifted people bring to the table. Which is what makes the persistantly foisted false dichotomies in this thread so concerning. The reality which falsifies said false dichotomy is this: All means and talents and hands on deck -- there's nothing and no one too BIG or too SMALL in this traveling city.

            It is an interesting approach taken here by so many, to condemn on some level the world's traveling city of 200K++ humanitarian aid workers for what is unquestionably implied to be a kind of wasting of their time (less than praiseworthy, and even blameworthy) given what *might* have been. I'm not sure why they'd, thereby, belittle what work these workers *did* provide and in fact what many line up *to* provide. There are lines of volunteers on waiting lists to do what they do. That so many (and so often) categorize such blood, sweat, and tears as a waste of time (blame, not praise) given that, say, they haven't first gone off on sabbatical for a decade to be doubly sure they're not the next Gates is peculiar. Even a bit pathological -- or reckless -- given what that move would really set in motion. Are we really advocating that all humanitarian workers in all UN, Red Cross, Churches, Relief Agencies, and private individual arenas just STOP until they present written proof of said sabbatical ?

            Or what?

            Or should only highly educated wealthy whites who have done the "fully human" service then be allowed (having accomplished the fully human) to finally do the "less human" and, you know, sit with those unfortunate souls who are "without dignity, without even an identity... a worthless piece of humanity prostrate in a gutter surrounded by faeces and refuse..."?

            Or what?

            Catholicism or No-Catholicism, Religion or not, makes no difference *whatsoever* regarding the kind of work and service in question here, which is what makes such implied moves so concerning. Of course, our Non-Theists friends have (not in all but in the largest part of these down-plays of service) done nothing more than foist a false dichotomy. The reality which falsifies said false dichotomy is this: All means and talents and hands on deck -- there's nothing and no one too BIG or too SMALL in this traveling city.

          • David Nickol

            I have always felt that everyone who wants to do some good in this world is entitled to choose whatever area they want to work in. There is so much to be done, and all of it is important. One might argue that until there are no longer starving children in the world, it is a waste of time to, say, try to prevent cruelty to animals. But it seems to me that every person gets to pick what he or she feels deeply about and wants to do something about. There is no need, on a personal level, to put one particular cause on the back burner because another cause is more urgent. This wouldn't necessarily be the case under extreme circumstances, but I think it is true of most people in the developed world.

          • Lazarus

            I completely agree. Different people and organizations have different priorities. It seems presumptious to prescribe to them what should be regarded as important.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "The Catholic Church", understood as the whole communion of the faithful, might do just that, if an extremely bright and resourceful Catholic woman were to help shape a software empire and then go on to co-found the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation :-)

          • Will

            Good point :) Is Melinda a practicing Catholic? I know she graduated from Duke University, which is right down the road from where I went to school. Duke was traditionally a Christian university, though not Catholic. Of course, now it's as religious as Oxford or Harvard.
            I'm sure this hasn't gone over well with the teaching authorities:

            The foundation—which does not fund abortions—plans to spend $1 billion on contraception. This has stirred sharp criticism. In 2012, Melinda Gates made a public break with the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. She said in an interview that when poor women have little access to family planning, “We’re not serving the other piece of the Catholic mission, which is social justice.”

            http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/july-august/melinda-gates-high-price-of-faith-action.html

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't know to what extent she participates in the sacramental life of the Church, but I'm led to believe from articles like the one you linked that she is still practicing and still considers her Catholic faith to be central to her self-identity.

            Yes, of course there are many in the Church who do not approve of her stance and actions with regard to contraception. Her Catholic detractors obviously have the easier argument to make, as the weight of Catholic doctrine is against her. But exactly how much weight that doctrine carries is a matter of legitimate debate, and doctrinal dissent is not just allowed but mandated if arising from a dutifully formed conscience. I see no reason to doubt that she has dutifully formed her conscience, and every reason to think that she has.

        • neil_pogi

          i have no bitter comments about mother teresa. may i ask you one question: would MT really did care the (thousands) needy and the dying all her own? of course not, she had plenty of co-workers, side by side helping those needy individuals. and yet no acknowledgment is heard about them.

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Huh? The Missionaries of Charity receives plenty of acknowledgement from Church authorities and lay Catholics.

          • neil_pogi

            ..and yet the church didn't even pronounce them as 'saints'!

          • Arthur Jeffries

            That Mother Teresa is the first of her order to be officially recognized as a saint certainly does not mean that she is the last. What makes you think it does? It is very possible that other sisters of the Missionaries will be canonized one day if the Missionaries initiate a process. I would not be surprised if the martyrs in Yemen, for example, were canonized in the future, but the Missionaries of Charity must get the ball rolling with the Holy See.

          • neil_pogi

            do you know that the Philippines is the only christian country in Asia, and yet only one, yes, only one filipino is declared a 'saint' by Catholic church. how's that? Japan has many saints than that of the Philippines

          • Arthur Jeffries

            The first steps to canonization take place in the local church, not in Rome. If Filipinos would like to see more of their people canonized, they should petition their bishops with names.

  • George

    on the subject of MT, I'd have loved to see a headline like "Are We Ever Justified in 'Recognizing' Someone is in Heaven?" or "Is the Canonization Process Just an Argument from Ignorance?". I don't see the value in any hypothetical or real fight over which side MT belonged on.

  • Peter

    In his response of 12 hours ago, David Nickol finds it difficult to believe that a good God would allow bad things to happen to good people, such as the lifelong spiritual desolation experienced by St. Theresa of Calcutta. There is a Catholic tradition which deals with this and it goes as follows:

    No good person is perfectly good, not even saints, and no bad person is perfectly bad. God, however, is perfectly just. The badness of good people or the goodness of bad people may be so little that God may choose to punish the former or reward the latter in this short life. The good people will have paid for their little badness in this life and be fit for heaven in the next, while the bad people will have been rewarded for their little goodness in this life and be consigned to hell in the next.

    It is certainly true that many of the saints have suffered in their lifetimes. St.Pio comes to mind with his stigmata. In this context the experience of St. Theresa is no different. Her lifetime sensation of abandonment and desolation will have purified her and made her fit for heaven.

    • Will

      Her lifetime sensation of abandonment and desolation will have purified her and made her fit for heaven.

      So you are saying that grace of God is insufficient? Thus the author of Ephesians got this wrong:

      8For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.…

      So we need grace and psychological torture? I hope you don't mind if some of us object, rather vehemently, to the idea that God would want to torture mother Teresa so she could get into heaven...

      • Peter

        If you are a non-Catholic Christian you may not believe in purgatory, and if you don't believe in purgatory the idea of purgation after death may also appear to you as torture.

        The saintly possess such goodness that they do not need purgation after death; they are destined to go straight to heaven. Yet they do not possess perfect goodness. They still require a little purgation to remove their imperfections. What little purgation they do merit because of their imperfections they undergo in the brief span of this life..

        The wicked lack goodness to such an extent that they do not qualify for purgation after death but are destined for hell. Yet despite their wickedness they do not lack goodness completely. They still deserve a reward for the small grain of goodness they retain. What reward they merit because of the goodness they retain they enjoy in the brief span of this life.

        • Will

          Why does the Bible say Job was righteous and without blame, job 1

          There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

          No bad in Job yet he suffered greatly. The theory you propose doesn't fit. If God is all power, why can't he purge sin with a snap of his fingers?

          • Peter

            Read the apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris by St John Paul II. Suffering achieved its salvific power only through the death of Christ.

          • Will

            If pain is going to help me be saved, shouldn't I beat myself? John Paul II certainly thought so:

            In the 13th century, a group of Roman Catholics, known as the Flagellants, took this practice to its extreme ends. The Flagellants were later condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as a cult in the 14th century because the established church had no other control over the practice than excommunication.[citation needed] Self-flagellation remains common in the Philippines, Mexico, and one convent in Peru.

            Some members of strict monastic orders, and some members of the Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, practice mild self-flagellation using an instrument called a "discipline", a cattail whip usually made of knotted cords, which is flung over the shoulders repeatedly during private prayer.[1] Pope John Paul II took the discipline regularly.[2]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-flagellation

            When are you going to take some time to purify yourself with self torture if you really buy into this stuff?

            It looks like it was once thought that self beating could prevent Black Death

            Flagellation was also practiced during the Black Plague as a means to purge oneself of sin to prevent oneself from getting it. Pope Clement VI is known to have permitted the use of flagellation for this purpose in 1348.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellation#Flagellation_as_a_religious_practice

            If Catholicism is true, people should beat themselves in hospitals to prevent disease, shouldn't they? In light of germ theory, isn't this better regarded as a silly superstition?

          • Peter

            If Catholicism is true the disease one should be preventing is the disease of the soul.

          • Will

            Are Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons spreading "disease of the soul"? If so, shouldn't you be out stopping them?
            My point, if you can't tell, is very few Catholics in the West act like they really believe this stuff, even though they avow it. Let's follow the importance stopping the spread of "disease of the soul" to it's logical conclusion.

          • Peter

            Many Catholics, just like many people generally, are not so saintly as not to require purgatory. Nevertheless, if we suffer purgation in this life it may reduce it in the next. This gives us hope instead of despair, a speck of light instead of overwhelming darkness.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I could precise that a bit (and feel free to correct me if you think JPII said otherwise) ... I think it would be more correct to say that the death and resurrection of Christ revealed the meaning of suffering.

            MLK Junior wrote that "all unearned suffering is redemptive". Catholic teaching implies this and more, namely that all suffering is redemptive (even the "earned suffering", the suffering that we deserve, is redemptive). I don't think that principle applied any less before the lifetime of Jesus. It's just the the meaning of suffering had not been fully revealed.

            One the nicest explanations I have seen of suffering is the following, which makes the excellent distinction between being "broken down" and being "broken open":

            https://www.facebook.com/Gratefulness.org/videos/10150117421417469/

            EDIT: link corrected, I think

          • Will

            To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. (SD 23)

            http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/a-pope%E2%80%99s-answer-to-the-problem-of-pain

            Inflicting pain to make a subject more compliant has been a tool used by dictators (think North Korea and the Soviet Union) for brainwashing and manipulation for years. It's illegal because it's immoral. The U.S. has been under fire for broaching that line with it's "enhanced interrogation techniques" against terrorists.
            Here, John Paul paints God as one who tortures to obtain compliance, at least that is what he seems to be saying.
            Sorry, but if God exists he created my conscience, and my conscience completely rejects this approach to giving suffering meaning because it turns God into a monster.

          • David Nickol

            It's an Apostolic Letter, not an Encyclical.

          • Peter

            Duly corrected.

          • Lazarus

            What do you see if you picture a world without sin?

          • Will

            A radically different world where humans aren't even humans anymore. It seems clear that "sin" is a byproduct of evolution and directly connected to desires required for survival. Gluttony is just an excessive instinct to feed oneself, if we completely removed the instinct one would starve to death without caring. Much violence (sin) is due to excessive anger, however if one had no anger than he would be pushed around by every predator that wanted his home and children. Excessive sex drive (sin) leads to all kinds of social problems, but no sex drive sometimes leads to no children, and thus it will be selected out in evolutionary terms. I like E.O. Wilson's approach:

            Wilson also traces what he considers the tragedy of the human condition to the private struggle of us versus me. He sees us as a kind of mixed economy, the complicated fruit of a sharply disputed process known as multilevel selection. By this reckoning, some of our impulses are the result of individual selection, the competition of you against everybody else for a share of life’s goodies. Other traits are under the sway of group selection, prompting us to behave altruistically for the sake of the team. It appears our individually selected traits are older and more primal, harder to constrain, the ones we traditionally label vices: greed, sloth and lust, the way we covet our neighbor’s life and paper over our failings with pride. Our eusocial inclinations are evolutionarily newer and more fragile and must be vociferously promoted by the group if the group is to survive. They are the stuff of religions and Ben Franklin homilies and represent the virtues we admire: to be generous, kind and levelheaded, to control our impulses, keep our promises and rise to the occasion even when we are scared or disheartened. “The human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolution processes that created us,” he writes. “The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be.”

            http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/edward-o-wilsons-new-take-on-human-nature-160810520/?no-ist

            To completely answer your question, then, a world without sin is a world without humans. Of course, we could potentially engineer future beings with delicately balanced drives that basically remove irrational instincts from having so much influence, but would these being be human? The same idea applies to post-resurrection humans. If humans were so fundamentally different where they couldn't "sin" would it even make sense to call them human, as their nature is fundamentally changed?

            Of course, we could have a world with sin, but without natural disasters, viruses that kill small children in droves, ect., ect., If we lived in that world, I would be much more optimistic about a mind being in charge. Disease and natural disasters just seem so...accidental. Viruses mutate into more virulant (and weaker) forms at random, with only selection forces to push them in direction. Ebola became more survivable as such strains allowed the host to live longer and spread the disease more, for example.
            http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/141003_ebola

            Accidental really is the most accurate way to describe the causes of most people's suffering in the 1st world, as violent crimes become more and more rare. Accidental doesn't fit anyone's theology.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            “The worst in our nature coexists with the best..." He's begging the question there with "best" and "worst". If Tooth and Claw is (factually/irreducibly) evil, if in fact the current state of affairs is constituted of good and good minus something, well then we awake within a universe soaked through with final causes. Eden's possible worlds easily subsumes such. Of course that whole arena is out of Non-Theism's reach, such being a purely theological question.

          • Will

            I'll bite, what question is he begging?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            http://www.billandted.org/ and it seems also
            http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0096928/

            Perhaps for precision we can add [a] human [nature] to the list of non-ontic breaks in the seamless ontic-continuum that is [reality].

          • Will

            Ah, you are a troll.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Sorry. Didn't mean to surprise you about ontology and a supposed "human nature". I thought you knew about reality's fundamental nature. But if you have hope for moral facts and for that pesky "a" human "nature" constituting reality's fundamental nature no one here is standing in the way of your wish fulfillment.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Your excerpt reminded me of a BXVI passage, which makes for a nice juxtaposition (see below). It seems that they agree to an extent on the implications of the worldview you are putting forward (boldface mine to draw attention to the similarity):

            E.O. Wilson, 2012:

            The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be.

            Pope Benedict XVI, 2008:

            In the evolutionist, atheist version of the world the same vision returns in a new form. Although in this conception the vision of being is monist, it supposes that being as such bears within itself both evil and good from the outset. Being itself is not simply good, but open to good and to evil. Evil is equally primal with the good. And human history would develop only the model already present in all of the previous evolution. What Christians call original sin would in reality be merely the mixed nature of being, a mixture of good and evil which, according to atheist thought, belong to the same fabric of being. This is a fundamentally desperate view: if this is the case, evil is invincible. In the end all that counts is one's own interest. All progress would necessarily be paid for with a torrent of evil and those who wanted to serve progress would have to agree to pay this price.

          • Will

            I'm just getting started on some new lectures entitled "Why Evil Exists". I haven't gotten very far into it (currently on 5, which an early Jewish approach based on Genesis) but in the overview he discusses what amounts to a naturalistic approach (which is similar to that of Aristotle and largely originates in Greek thought, though there are some elements of as far back as ancient Sumer). He claims that the approach does mean that evil can never be permanently defeated, but it's nothing superhuman, so it should be manageable by human means. So far he seems pretty balanced and discusses pros and cons on various approaches. The approach we see here (which I assume is the Thomistic approach) is a curious mix of Augustinian (evil is simply being deprived of good) ethics and Aristotle's overall philosophical system. We'll get to Iraneus's approach which is a bit different, pretty interesting overall, though.
            So far we manage evil with police, social constructs, medicine, ect., but it appears we are arriving at a time when we will be using genetic techniques to manage evil as well. Correlates between genes and such things as impulse control are already being mapped, much better than what most people realize. Strange times we live in:

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535661/engineering-the-perfect-baby/

            It's theoretically possible that literal superhumans could be created with actual editing techniques (or copied from people with a superhuman phenotype like these)...I'm sure the Nazi's won't be happy about being overthrown as the Ubermensch ;)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Hume agrees. Sort of. In the sense of: Everybody's got goals. -Tis not contrary to reason to prefer.... Speaking of such sound reasoning there in Hume, do you plan on brain surgery for S. Carroll to correct his reasoning? His logic? You know, that there's nothing objectively wrong with schoolyard bullies pummeling children? Fostering logic which believes in falsehoods could be beneficial I suppose. Or not.

            Edit: What is your goal in all your talk of your genetic superman elsewhere in this thread? Bad thinking? If you agree with Hume/Carroll regarding objective facts and pummeling children and nature's fundamentally true, then why genetically engineer / manipulate that logic out of your superman? If you don't agree with their reasoning on nature's fundamentally true, then please explain.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            genetic techniques to manage evil as well

            With that I think you are really circling around the decisive question of what the human project is all about. What is our ultimate goal? If our ultimate goal is to eliminate suffering, then OK, perhaps we go full steam ahead down that road of neo-eugenics and neo-Ubermenschen, as you are hinting at.

            Alternatively, can we draw a distinction between suffering and moral evil, with the latter understood to be not suffering per se, but rather a caving in upon oneself in response to suffering, an alienation, a refusal to co-suffer (or have com-passion)? What if our ultimate goal is not to eliminate suffering, but rather to eliminate alienation and achieve ultimate belonging? Note that even if the elimination of alienation is our ultimate goal, we can still have proximate goals that involve the reduction of suffering, but with the crucial constraint that our innovative gene therapies and so forth must be put in the service of the ultimate goal of interpersonal communion.

            This is precisely the distinction that is needed in order to make sense of Mother Teresa's project. Her ultimate goal was not to eliminate suffering, but rather to make sure that nobody died alone, that everyone die accompanied by a human face, knowing that they are "loved and wanted". Whether her institutions should have done more to reduce suffering seems to a matter of legitimate debate, but in any case I think her ultimate goal was the correct one.

          • Will

            I agree that having a single ultimate goal for humanity is a mistake. For, example if our only goal were to eliminate suffering, eliminating the human race would be the most efficient path. No sane person wants that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that having a single ultimate goal for humanity is a mistake.

            That's actually not what I meant to imply.

            I think we should have an overarching goal, and I think that in any case everyone does at least implicitly have an overarching goal, even if such goals are very often not explicit even in the minds of the goal-seekers. I just think that the overarching goal should be compassionate communion rather than the elimination of suffering.

          • Will

            Earlier you said:

            Note that even if the elimination of alienation is our ultimate goal, we can still have proximate goals that involve the reduction of suffering, but with the crucial constraint that our innovative gene therapies and so forth must be put in the service of the ultimate goal of interpersonal communion.

            The statement indicates multiple goals, of which communion can certainly be primary in importance, but that doesn't change the fact that other goals are there. I'm sure you'd agree that not committing immoral acts to achieve the goal of maximal communion would also be an unstated goal. Maintaining one's own life would be a critical utility goal, as one can't achieve anything when dead....I'm sure you get the picture.
            The actions of Adolf Hitler can easily be understood in the context of single goal maximization. The highest good is to achieve the rightful supremacy of the Aryan race, and any secondary concern for the suffering of non-Aryans is irrelevant, only the primary goal matter. Single goal fixation, if realized, quite often can lead to what others regard as moral atrocities because it minimizes other goals that get in the way. Many of the historical failures of the Catholic Church can be modeled in the same way. If stopping the spread of heresy and false teaching is of utmost importance, things such as killing heretics becomes logical, even morally mandatory. Hopefully you get my drift, though I could ramble about goal prioritization and it's effects on decision making and strategy for hours :)

            Out of curiosity, what would the world look like with maximal communion? Suppose we could amplify genes that increase empathy and compassion, could that become part of the strategy to maximal world communion? We're naturally a contrary lot, which is obvious to anyone who spends much time debating worldviews, lol!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            what would the world look like with maximal communion?

            I hope to find out one day. For now, I guess I think it might look very much like a nun who had sacrificed her own youth and personal pleasure in order to hold the hands of the abandoned and dying and tell them that they were loved.

            Or, to be a bit more freaky-supernatural about it, I think it might look like a lost loved one who had come back from the other side of the grave, who still bore the wounds of suffering, but who was ready to break bread with those who had abandoned him and bestow upon them a deep shalom.

            I suppose if there are gene therapies that can bring about those types of scenarios more regularly, I would support that.

          • Will

            I would certainly go for a world in which we got along and cared for each other more. John Lennon seemed to have a similar vision in song "Imagine", though obviously of an atheistic/socialist bent.

            FWIW

            The study authors concluded that a single genetic change can make a person seem more compassionate or kind to others. The findings aim to reinforce that healthy humans are conditioned to recognize strangers who may help them out in a tough situation. They also make way for genetic therapies for people who are not naturally sympathetic.

            http://www.ibtimes.com/how-genes-make-person-compassionate-370712

            Of course, it's critical that we be extremely careful playing around with this stuff. I think we get that in the west, but in China they are already playing around with human embryos and dogs...

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/542616/first-gene-edited-dogs-reported-in-china/

            http://www.nature.com/news/second-chinese-team-reports-gene-editing-in-human-embryos-1.19718

            Talk about a "Brave New World".

        • David Nickol

          The saintly possess such goodness that they do not need purgation after death; they are destined to go straight to heaven.

          Is this really a teaching of the Catholic Church? True, there are some "mechanisms" by which even ordinary persons who are saved can allegedly bypass purgatory (confession and plenary indulgence immediately before death), but I have never heard it claimed that the "saintly," or those who have been officially recognized as saints, as a rule, bypass purgatory. According to Catholicism, everyone is a sinner, even the most saintly. I do not think it is Catholic teaching that canonized saints spent no time in purgatory.

          • Peter

            Anyone in purgatory would not be a saint. The canonised are purged of their sins in this life and go straight to heaven.

          • David Nickol

            Can you cite something more authoritative than the following?

            Michelle Arnold
            Catholic Answers Apologist

            Re: Do saints experience purgatory?

            The Church is silent on whether or not canonized saints have experienced some level of purgation. Canonization simply means that the Church knows for certain that particular individuals are now in heaven; it does not consider whether they experienced purgatory before they arrived in heaven. It is possible that canonized saints go directly to heaven; it is also possible that they experience purgatory.

            Although the Church has not stated whether saints experience purgatory, we do know of at least one saint who thought that purgatory might be a possibility for her despite her firm belief that heaven was her eternal destiny. St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)—who was told by her confessor that she had never committed a mortal sin, who believed that purgatory was not absolutely necessary for a soul who allows God to purify him at every moment of this life, and who is famous for her declaration, "I will let fall from heaven a shower of roses"—once said the following:

            Oh, if you only knew how sweet my judgement will be! But even if the good God punishes me a bit, I will find even that sweet. If I go to purgatory, I will still be very content, I will behave like the three Hebrews, I will walk about in the furnace singing the song of love. Oh, how happy I would be, if there I could deliver other souls, suffer in their place; then I would do well, I would deliver the captives! (Last Conversations, July 8, 1897, source).

            In short, we do not know if saints eventually canonized by the Church pass through purgatory, but a soul's having been in purgatory does not bar him from canonization.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      I think David was drawing a very real distinction between "using an X" and "forcing an X". If God uses an X which He forces to exist, well then it's not gratuitous ("The-Good" has His Hand on it, purposes it, etc.). However, the same is necessarily true if God uses an X which happens to be caused by (we reject "Occasionalism") consequential freedom bearing worlds. The later carries a much wider explanatory power with respect to scripture and reality.

      • LHRMSCBrown

        Context perhaps:

        “Using current X’s” for “The Good” is very different than “Forcing said X to actualize” for “The Good”. There is a distinction between the proverbial [X’s] which God permits vs. the [X’s] which God forces. Overall, at reality’s fundamental stratum, or its irreducible echelon, the question at hand cashes out in and by one, and only one, difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed, and that is the ultimate or cosmic irreducibility of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

        Chronic pain of any kind races to the forefront and is neither novel nor the sum total of the human experience – just as love’s joys are neither novel nor the sum total of the human experience. On the question of the ultimately purposeless (gratuitous), it may be worth noting that while there *is* a difference between the two paths of actualization (streaming out of Eden) which we always mention (God permits, God forces), and, either way, whether one takes the route of “The Greater Good” (Cannot do otherwise in Eden, or perhaps Calvinism, perhaps others….), or whether one takes the route of “Free Will and Consequential Freedom-Bearing Worlds” (Can do otherwise in Eden, perhaps Arminianism, perhaps others...), we find (given God) that it is necessarily the case that “all things” are taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and – therefore – wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous.

        It is not the route which makes that an irreducible "ontic-fact", but God. In other words, it is not the Greater Good route nor the free will and Freedom-Bearing Consequential World route which makes the difference. The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed is the irreducibility of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

        Given the fact of God, it is at reality’s most fundamental level impossible for the “gratuitous” (purposeless) to actualize. Ever. We find that, no matter our pain, and no matter our joy, and no matter *any* reality actualizing, “The Greater Good” path into reality is, by logical necessity, void of the gratuitous. However, we also find, of course, that the wider explanatory power that just is the “freedom bearing consequential worlds” path into reality has within its own boundaries "that" (all which comes by the freedom bearing worlds path) *and* it also has “The Greater Good” with its irreducible explanatory termini as well.

        We find reality expunged of privation (evil/suffering/lack) – ultimately – as Goodness Himself pours out, saturates, fills, the Hollow which we call “Privation” with Himself such that said Hollow is annihilated. That, of course, seamlessly carries us into the uncanny semantics of incarnation. That is to say, into the uncanny semantics, and the *only* semantics, of Necessity/Contingency in such an interface which by logical necessity are required here given the work which we speak of. That, of course, reveals the only possible "enough" vis-à-vis reality/worlds. To demand the end of evil just is to demand nothing less than the syntax of incarnation, for what is required is that which (by logical necessity) subsumes worlds.

        As in:

        Trinitarian processions define all worlds it seems. Given the decree of the Imago Dei, that is. Irreducibly volitional motions amid reciprocity's unavoidable self/other reveal, from the foundation of all worlds, reality’s central message of “you must lose your life in order to save it” as reason affirms love's eternally sacrificed self within the uncanny semantics of incarnation: “[The] very action of kenosis is not a new act for God, because God's eternal being is, in some sense, kenosis – the self-outpouring of the Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit. Thus Christ's incarnation, far from dissembling bling his eternal nature, exhibits not only his particular proprium as the Son and the splendor of the Father's likeness, but thereby also the nature of the whole trinitarian taxis. On the cross we see this joyous self-donation sub contrario, certainly, but not in alieno. For God to pour himself out, then, as the man Jesus, is not a venture outside the trinitarian life of indestructible love, but in fact quite the reverse: it is the act by which creation is seized up into the sheer invincible pertinacity of that love, which reaches down to gather us into its triune motion.” (D. B. Hart)

        Such births, of course, Heaven.

    • David Nickol

      In his response of 12 hours ago, David Nickol finds it difficult to believe that a good God would allow bad things to happen to good people, such as the lifelong spiritual desolation experienced by St. Theresa of Calcutta.

      I wish you had quoted what I said instead of paraphrasing it, because I think what I said was quite clear, and you have misinterpreted it.

      . . . I find it difficult to believe that God deliberately visits
      torment on individuals who are trying to serve him. If there is a God,
      then clearly he permits bad things to happen to good people. But I would prefer not to believe that he makes bad things happen to good people.

      I honestly don't know how to make it any clearer. There is, in my mind, a huge difference between permitting something to happen and making it, or causing it, to happen.

      • Peter

        In St Theresa's case, there is no distinction.She did not feel the interior presence of God and God allowed that situation to persist.

        • David Nickol

          In St Theresa's case, there is no distinction.She did not feel the
          interior presence of God and God allowed that situation to persist.

          If that is the case, who am I to second guess God? I do wonder, however, how you can pretend to know.

          In any case, my only argument has been against the theory that God actively withheld the sense of his presence from Mother Teresa to somehow or another make her suffer in a special way for her own benefit—that the darkness she experienced was a gift deliberately bestowed on her for reasons her spiritual advisers had to attempt to explain to her.

          If you are right, I would add, then I don't see why at least part of the darkness she experienced could not have been clinical depression, in which case she might have been helped by psychotherapy and antidepressant drugs.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Gift? No. Usable substrate for good? Well, on the force of logical necessity there's nothing that's *not* such a substrate given the ultimate or cosmic irreducibility of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

          • Peter

            I can't argue with you that St Theresa wouldn't have been depressed. The real world is quite a hellish and frightening place. We on the pampered rich fringes are largely immune from it, our nations using their economic and military power to impose hegemony.

            She was probably depressed by the sad plight of the human race, with the tiny group of rich and the teeming poor. She was most likely depressed because God allowed such a grotesquely unjust situation to prevail in the world.

            Perhaps medication or counselling would have helped, but the underlying cause would still remain. A world where the weak are either exploited or abandoned is a malaise that nothing can cure.

  • When I use the term atheist I mean to refer to anyone who lacks a belief in the existence of any gods. From all the quotes above, it seems she always believed this god existed, but struggled with a lack of any evidence to support this belief.

    We will never know for sure if at some point deep down she simply no longer believed any God existed

    What I find more interesting is that even if you accept that she undertook a massive campaign to really help the poor and sick. This is not why she is now considered a saint. She became famous and is admired and respected by both religious and secular folks for these works. But none of this matters (these days)in terms of sainthood unless two miracles were attributed to her.

  • Lazarus

    Reading some of the exchanges of the last week or so I think I'm going to treat myself to a week or two of Discussion Forum Lent. See you then.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Good luck with your break Laz. I hope you find more self-restraint than I did!

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Enjoy. I've lost interest in commenting here, because I see very little intelligent conversation in these threads. The fact that certain theists are allowed to endlessly troll this board makes it difficult to find and enjoy a rational conversation here. I'm sick of evolution denialism on every thread. I'm sick of the same half-baked arguments and strawmen on every thread. If certain commenters are so enamored with their muddled postings that they can't even correctly read their opposition and are therefore just talking to themselves, maybe they can just do that in front of a mirror and not bother the rest of us with their narcissism.

      And btw, it is rather obvious that MT was not an atheist. She believed in God. I'm not sure how this article is anything but a straw man.

      • David Nickol

        I'm not sure how this article is anything but a straw man.

        I agree with most of what you say, but it is true that a number of people (Christopher Hitchens among them) contended that the revelations about Mother Teresa's inner turmoil showed that she was an atheist. I think the revelations do raise interesting questions about what it means to say you believe something but don't feel it to be true.

        The video I link to above does mention a fact that I somehow never heard before. An exorcism was performed on Mother Teresa in 1997.

        • Will

          Your link about the exorcism had a passage that boggled my mind:

          The archbishop says the exorcism reveals Mother Teresa's human side and is "a sign of closeness to God".

          Being demon possessed is a sign of closeness to God? How on earth does that work? Should we be worried if we aren't getting possessed that it's a sign we aren't close enough to God? Anyway...

          I definitely feel compassion for someone who has chronic insomnia, it can be debilitating and goes hand in hand with clinical depression in what seems to be sinister feedback loop. Of course, if insomnia is a sign of demon possession, then about 10% of the U.S. adult population must be possessed. Time for a country exorcism like in Mexico I guess.
          I still have a hard time understanding how educated people can believe in that stuff. I can easily understand belief in God, however.
          I'm curious as to why God would need a magic rite, like excorcism, to get him to protect someone from demons. Why not just do it out of the goodness of his heart?

          • David Nickol

            I find the whole thing almost as bizarre as you do. But I should mention in fairness that there are stories about other saints who were allegedly harassed by the devil during their lifetimes. One example is St. John Vianney (aka the Curé d'Ars or the Curé of Ars).

            Not only is insomnia common in the general population, it is one of the symptoms of depression, and it is extremely common among the elderly. (Mother Teresa was 87 at the time.) Also, Mother Teresa was in the hospital at the time, and anyone who has ever been hospitalized knows it is not the ideal environment for getting a good night's sleep.

            Now, I do seem to recall that in The Exorcist, they were giving Linda Blair's character massive doses of sedatives that failed to knock her out. We don't have Mother Teresa's medical records, so we can't diagnose the problem. But the accounts I have read give no hint that there was something inexplicable happening as in The Exorcist.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          I cannot stand Bill Donahue. I think Hitchens over reached in that interview, but I think if he weakened his position slightly he would have ended up with a very defendable claim. One could certainly argue that MT felt what atheists have said all along: that there is no personal caring God. I would still call her a believer, but she did experience the lack of God in her life.

          Personally, I'm not all-in on the MT hatred that one sees in some atheist circles. I think she was a good woman, probably better than most, who cared for the poorest of the poor and saw the dignity in everyone. However, I do think he religious impulses misguided her as well in that to a certain extent one can see a fetishizing of poverty, which caused her order not to give enough effort to medical care or helping the victims escape poverty. She also said a few awkward things about abortion, naming it the number one obstacle to world peace.

          I do dislike the veneration of MT, but I'm not much on saints, oracles, or wisemen.

          • Sample1

            She once said that she hoped her mission could be seen as helping Hindus be better Hindus, Christians be better Christians and Buddhists be better Buddhists.

            Pity she was mentally unable (or was she?) to make the leap to helping atheists/humanists be better atheists/humanists.

            Mike, poetic naturalist
            Edit done

          • David Nickol

            What she said was the following:

            There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I've always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.

            She is, in essence, saying we should make believers of all different faiths into better believers (within their own faiths).

            Also, if you look at the source of the quote, it looks like the issue of atheism simply was not relevant.

            Pity she was mentally unable (or was she?) to make the leap to helping atheists/humanists be better atheists/humanists.

            How exactly would you like theists to help make you a better atheist?

          • Sample1

            She is, in essence, saying we should make believers of all different faiths into better believers (within their own faiths).

            I do not share your confidence here about knowing what "within their own faiths" meant for someone like her.

            I've read the book for the source you linked. The book isn't important to me as that MO of hers existed long before publication. My point is to take her words and wonder why mammals with strange gods merited her praise and further wonder whether she was mentally capable of seeing mammals without gods as praiseworthy.

            As to your question, well it does beg the question how any of her followers could possibly help make anyone a better person, be they Hindu, Christian, or Buddhist or atheist. In other words, I don't know and I suspect neither did she but it does make for a good marketing gimmick, that I'm sure of.

            Mike, free from faith...harder than heroin?

          • Peter

            but she did experience the lack of God in her life.

            She had a very close experience of God in her life but it was an exterior experience. She saw the face of Jesus in every stricken person she tended to.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are you disagreeing with me?

      • Will

        I'm sick of the same half-baked arguments and strawmen on every thread.

        It does seem that there is a real inability to learn from our posts and arguments. I've spent too much time simply correcting factual errors (allowing for alternate interpretation) but it doesn't seem to matter. I have a hard time explaining it other than willful ignorance.
        Don't get me started on the Brown character. Earlier he told me Carroll should get brain surgery to correct his thinking? Really? From incoherent, insulting Brown? I think naming names is quite appropriate here.

        • LHRMSCBrown

          Will -- Please show me where I asserted that Carroll should get brain surgery.

          • Will

            Speaking of such sound reasoning there in Hume, do you plan on brain surgery for S. Carroll to correct his reasoning? His logic? You know, that there's nothing objectively wrong with schoolyard bullies pummeling children? Fostering logic which believes in falsehoods could be beneficial I suppose. Or not.

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/was_mother_teresa_really_an_atheist/#comment-2879965404

            Ask 3 times and I'll reply 3 times for the record. Heck I might repost this from time to time so people can get an idea of the things you say to "non-theists". Technically I'm an agnostic anyway, as sometimes I lean toward forms of deism.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Will, given that you're lying, a review: You said, "Earlier he told me Carroll should get brain surgery to correct his thinking? Really?" In what you offered as the source of your (obviously false) accusation, we find a question asked of *you* (by me) as *you* were foisting genetic manipulation to achieve morality. Hume and reasoning about morality were the context of my question asked of you. If you agree with Hume, what is your goal with respect to your genetic engineering and reasoning? The "super" man you mentioned would (I'm assuming) reason accurately. However, if your goal is a better Man, and hence a more rational man, we find that such a Man will rationally (and rightly given no *God*) conclude that it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world over the scratching of his finger. If surgery can improve reasoning, are you opposed to it? If you disagree (or agree) with Carroll (and Hume), why would you not want to improve said (poor) reasoning with genetics, surgery, and other biological "means" to the "moral man"?

            We're left with the utter confusion of your own asserted means and ends: fostering logic (reasoning) which believes in falsehoods (contra-Hume) could be beneficial. Or not.

            The result of my pressing you on the trio of your means, reasoning, and moral facts? Still no answers from you.

          • Will

            The quote speaks for itself.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Your lying aside, we're *still* left with the utter confusion of your own asserted means and ends: fostering logic (reasoning) which believes in falsehoods (contra-Hume) could be beneficial. Or not. The result of my pressing you on the trio of your means, reasoning, and moral facts? Still no answers from you. Since you seem to be unable to tell the difference between an assertion (by me) and a question asked of you (by me), here's the question I posed to you, given your stated trio of genetic manipulation and the referent super-man and morality:

            If you agree with Hume, what is your goal with respect to your genetic engineering and reasoning? The "super" man you mentioned would (I'm assuming) reason accurately. However, if your goal is a better Man, and hence a more rational man, we find that such a Man will rationally (and rightly given no *God*) conclude that it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world over the scratching of his finger. If surgery can improve reasoning, are you opposed to it? If you disagree (or agree) with Carroll (and Hume), why would you (given your stated trio) not want to improve said (poor) reasoning with genetics, surgery, and other biological "means" to the "moral man"?

          • Will

            So you are trying to bully me into a conversation. Nice job, schoolyard bully. I tried talking about this stuff with you already, you made it clear you don't really know your philosophy.

            we're *still* left with the utter confusion of your own asserted means and ends:

            As far as I can tell (and everyone else that tries to talk to you) you are in a perpetual state of complete confusion, so of course you are confused. It would be impossible for me or any to remedy that, it seems ;)
            Sometimes the only response to a bully is to bully back, but, for now, I'm just walking away. Good thing you can't follow me, lol!

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Since you seem to be unable to tell the difference between an assertion (by me) and a question asked of you (by me), here's the question I posed to you, given your stated trio of genetic manipulation and the referent super-man and morality:

            If you agree with Hume, what is your goal with respect to your genetic engineering and reasoning? The "super" man you mentioned would (I'm assuming) reason accurately. However, if your goal is a better Man, and hence a more rational man, we find that such a Man will rationally (and rightly given no *God*) conclude that it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world over the scratching of his finger. If surgery can improve reasoning, are you opposed to it? If you disagree (or agree) with Carroll (and Hume), why would you (given your stated trio) not want to improve said (poor) reasoning with genetics, surgery, and other biological "means" to the "moral man"?

          • Will

            we're *still* left with the utter confusion of your own asserted means and ends:

            Who is we? Is there more than one person inside your head?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I posed a question (not an assertion) to you based on your stated trio of genetic manipulation and the referent super-man and morality. A trio which you introduced and which I wanted to press for coherence.

      • Peter

        I see very little intelligent conversation

        Frankly, this is the same problem I encounter with atheists, not because they are unintelligent but because they shun reason despite claiming to champion it.

        As a cradle Catholic and former seminarian I was happy in my faith until a tragic event several years ago made me question it. I began to search into the fabric of reality, mainly through science, to see if there was anything there and, with some surprise, detected the faint but clear outline of a great cosmic plan. Crucially, that outline became more pronounced as scientific discovery progressed.

        It is a source of bewilderment to me that those who justify their atheism through science and reason should stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the great conclusion that those two disciplines are arriving at. The progressive study of reality is uncovering a great cosmic plan. Each new discovery brings that plan into greater and starker relief.

        • Doug Shaver

          The progressive study of reality is uncovering a great cosmic plan.

          Some theists say so.

          atheists . . . shun reason despite claiming to champion it.

          Our reasoning leads us to different conclusions than your reasoning. That does not mean that either of us is shunning reason.

          • Peter

            The paths that atheistic reasoning is following are becoming fewer and narrower. Theistic reasoning is gaining the upper hand. This from Cardinal Pell in the Catholic Herald:

            "I believe that the intellectual arguments now available to be drawn from biology (the discovery of DNA) and from physics and chemistry and the fantastic improbabilities necessary for evolution from the Big Bang to humans, mean that the rational or metaphysical path to the Supreme Intelligence is easier for us than in the past. Thinkers are coming to God from or through science"

          • Doug Shaver

            We are at a disadvantage when we must argue from either consensus or authority.

  • Chris Turner

    First of all, I'm not of the Catholic faith. I am a Christian and of the Protestant faith.
    This is part of MT's statement of 1959. "Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? […] I call, I cling,
    I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on Whom I cling – no,
    No One. – Alone. The darkness is so dark – and I am alone. – Unwanted,
    forsaken. – The loneliness of the heart that wants love is unbearable. –
    Where is my faith? – Even deep down, right in, there is nothing but
    emptiness & darkness.
    I was raised in a Christian home when I was a child. I've been a Christian for 37 years. In the past few years, I have struggled in my prayer life. I pray to God and receive no answer, I feel alone, I feel emptiness, I feel darkness. Today, I was searching through the internet Googling "How to find God", when I stumbled upon this article.
    Then I realized, if MT whom I hold in high regard, even though I'm not of the Catholic faith. If she could feel this way, then why couldn't I feel this way.
    Sometimes when I pray I say to God, "Lord, when I pray, it's like praying to the ceiling, and just like I don't expect the ceiling to answer to me, I also don't expect you to answer. I have become used to that.
    It doesn't mean I'm an atheist, I really do have a belief in God, it's just depressing when God doesn't communicate back to me.
    This was my prayer to God. "Lord, when my children ask me a question, I don't ignore them, I don't ask them to beg for an answer, I don't ask them to get down on their knees, I don't ask them to tithe to get an answer. Lord, if I long to answer my children's concerns, then why won't you answer me. Wouldn't it be rude of me Lord to ignore their requests?"
    You see, just like MT, there had to be times in her life, when she just didn't get an answer, she felt alone, she felt shut out from God's presence. There was no answer coming back, deep down inside she felt like she had no faith. This is the way I feel, I have lots of questions, but no answers.
    When we receive no answer from God, we feel forsaken. Jesus even said while on the cross, "Father, why have you forsaken me".
    MT was a believer, not an atheist. No different from me or you.

  • Jonathan Brumley

    Light is brighter in a dark place. I think Mother Teresa was sent into very deep darkness, in order that her life be a very bright light. Thank you for sharing this.

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

    • David Nickol

      Light is brighter in a dark place.

      No, a light (such as a flashlight) may appear brighter if it is turned on in a dark room than if it is turned on in a brightly lit room or in the sunlight, but light isn't brighter in a dark place.

      I think Mother Teresa was sent into very deep darkness, in order that her life be a very bright light.

      Mother Teresa was world famous and highly regarded well before the news of her inner "darkness" was revealed. I don't know to what degree, if any, the revelations about her inner life enhanced her reputation. I think she would have been canonized just as quickly if no revelations had been made at all about her interior life, and I also think if it had been revealed that, like St. Teresa of Avila, she experienced ecstasy in prayer and had a deep sense of the presence of God every moment of her life, she would be even more highly regarded.

      Much of what has been written about her interior life brings to mind the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." She was so revered that something negative had to be "spun" as something positive. That is not to say that her endurance of decades of "silence" is inconsistent with her being a saintly person. It is quite a remarkable achievement. But I still find repugnant the idea that God "sent [her] into very deep darkness." I can believe that God allows innocent people to suffer in this life. I find it very difficult to accept that he makes innocent people (or even guilty people) suffer.

      • Jonathan Brumley

        In English, we often say "brighter" when we mean "appears brighter". In that sense of the word, brightness is made more manifest by darkness.

        But, I agree that the existing of suffering (caused precisely by the lack of some good we desire) can make it very hard to see the existence of God, who is The Good.

        It's difficult for me to understand, if He really created us to be happy, why did He not just create us already possessing the The Good which we all truly desire?

        If Christianity is true, then why in God's providence do we first have to experience this "valley of tears" before experiencing the happiness which can only be obtained in Him?

        And if The Good (He) did intend that, then there has be some purpose to it. What is the meaning of it? Does possessing sorrow before possessing happiness somehow glorify that ultimate happiness? Or does a larger share of sorrow increase our longing for The Good even more, thus driving us on in such a way to obtain that Good? Or what?

        And why the whole test thing which resulted in the valley of sorrow in the first place? Hey God, why is The Good something that God wants us to "choose" at all? Why does He want us to "merit" The Good? Is The Good glorified so much more by "meriting" it? Is the glory of the saints who manage to merit The Good through the narrow door so much more that it is worth the terrible reality of suffering and Hell for the remainder of a beloved creation?

        And if you really want us to merit happiness, how about a little more grace, perhaps? We don't seem to be doing too well at meriting it.

        I certainly don't understand. So I can certainly sympathize with the repulsion or at least incomprehensibility that The Good can coexist with what sometimes seems to be a horrible lack of Goodness in His creation. I think, if The Good truly exists, then He certainly doesn't share some of our modern sensibilities.

        Hey God, how about arranging a "Safe Space" for those of us who just don't get your plan?

        And while you're at it, please forgive me if I am being irreverent.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Sitting with the unwanted, touching the untouched, and affirming that they have value, just being there, is the service that it is. It's not, say, being a barber or building laptops. It's not being a physician. It is the very distinct service that it is. Which other services cannot provide. It's a false dichotomy to tell the physician that his service is of no account OR that his work wasn't "all it could have been" because it didn't get around to, say, building laptops or cutting hair. I can't think of a single good motive for *persistantly* commenting on blogs regarding the physician that his service wasn't optimized because he failed to build laptops or provide barber services. Doctors "doctor".

    Hospice workers sit with the dying -- pure emotional and human contact. Hospice workers "hospice". I can't think of a single good motive for *persistantly* commenting on blogs regarding the Hospice worker that his service wasn't optimized because he didn't "doctor" or "barber". Religion or No-Religion makes no difference *whatsoever* regarding the collected types of works and services in question here which differently gifted people bring to the table. Which is what makes, not all less than favorable analysis, but a large portion of the "down-playing" of such giving, sum to persistantly foisted false dichotomies in this thread so concerning. The reality which falsifies said false dichotomy is this: All means and talents and hands on deck -- there's nothing and no one too BIG or too SMALL in this traveling city.

    It is an interesting approach taken here by some to condemn (imply that such giving is blameworthy, not praiseworthy) on some level the world's traveling city of 200K++ humanitarian aid workers for what is unquestionably implied to be a kind of less than praiseworthy use of their time given what *might* have been. I'm not sure why they'd, thereby, belittle what work these workers *did* provide and in fact what many line up *to* provide. There are lines of volunteers on waiting lists to do what they do. That many categorize such blood, sweat, and tears as, not praiseworthy, but instead blameworthy is, itself, a deeply suspicious move.

    What "counts" then, according to our Non-Theist friends? Should only highly educated wealthy whites who have done the "fully human" service then be allowed (having accomplished the fully human) to finally do the "less human" and, you know, do "nothing but" the less human -- and sit with those unfortunate souls who are "without dignity, without even an identity... a worthless piece of humanity prostrate in a gutter surrounded by faeces and refuse..."?

    Of course, our Non-Theists friends have (in not all but in the largest part of these down-plays of service) done nothing more than foist a false dichotomy. The reality which falsifies said false dichotomy is this: All means and talents and hands on deck -- there's nothing and no one too BIG or too SMALL in this traveling city.

    • David Nickol

      I think it would sound more authentic if you referred to our Non-Theist adversaries (or enemies, or opponents, or almost anything other than "friends"). You don't seem to regard them as friends at all!

      If there has been any denigration of humanitarian aid workers in general here, I have missed it. Perhaps I have missed something, but it seems to me you are battling a straw man here in a number of messages in which you defend "the world's traveling city of 200K++ humanitarian aid workers." It does not seem to me that they have been under attack.

      • LHRMSCBrown

        (Edit at one hour) See my reply to Doug Shaver which begins with, "That’s a valid point given that, God or No-God, reality (and us with it) is defined by reality’s fundamental nature. I had stated, “Religion or No-Religion makes no difference *whatsoever* regarding the collected types of works and services in question here which differently gifted people bring to the table.”"

        The virtue of these self-giving acts (Hospice, humanitarian aid, just sitting with the dying, etc.) is under fire in that there are comments (not all, which I specified) concluding that such acts are found to be on many levels blameworthy rather than praiseworthy. As per my reply to Doug, to level such charges because of the presence/absence of faith is an irrational mode by which to define reality. And, my charge is that, in addition to that problem (and it *is* a problem), there is another problem: the problem of the fact that it is a false dichotomy to tell the Hospice worker that his service isn't fully human and fully relevant to the human-garbage in the gutter just because the Hospice worker "does hospice" an so does not do "barbering" or "doctoring" or "lap-top-building". I can't do X. Am I therefore banned or blameworthy for giving what I can give, doing what I can do?

        Whence all the tone within many (not all, as I was careful to specify) comments regarding these humanitarian acts of service as being somehow blameworthy rather than praiseworthy?

        Sitting with the unwanted, touching the untouched, and affirming that they have value, just being there, is the service that it is. It's not, say, being a barber or building laptops. It's not being a physician. It is the very distinct service that it is. Which other services cannot provide. It's a false dichotomy to tell the physician that his service is of no account OR that his work wasn't "all it could have been" because it didn't get around to, say, building laptops or cutting hair. I can't think of a single good motive for *persistently* commenting on blogs regarding the physician that his service wasn't optimized because he failed to build laptops or provide barber services. Doctors "doctor".

        MT had her calling, her gift, or what she felt she had to give. And so also the doctor. And so also the barber. And so also the teacher. And so also the..... and so also the..... Such is true of all such humanitarian aid workers who go into such subhuman conditions and volitionally move amid reality's irreducible contours of love's sacrifice of self.

      • LHRMSCBrown

        In addition to my last reply to you here, there is this, as I've appreciated your (valid) comments about clinical depression in general: A third (somewhat unrelated) problem: The rational man allows reason to lead feelings until evidence within the rational changes reason's earlier conclusion. Every human being experiences this. The proverbial trio of reality, reason, and the emotive "just is" such a topography. At least here. That countless Christians move into and out of feelings which contradict reason's force of logic is merely evidence of the rational man in motion. As others have pointed out, to define one's feelings by one's evidence based beliefs, by the rational and logical, is to find *no* disconnect between the rational and the emotive. The emotive, the intuitive, matter exactly because reason herself in fact has real moral facts after which she rightly chases (or *un*-reasonably refuses). But the rational and the emotive find such coherence only within the God paradigm. Pressing through the temporal darkness is irrational if no-god, for feelings are the end of reality, whereas, if God, then in fact the word *dark* referents a "ontic-fact". That is why we agree with you that clinical depression should be treated, as such does not (in fact cannot) change any of the semantics here. I would go farther and state that not any god will do in this context, but specifically only the triune paradigm shaped by love's timeless reciprocity.

  • Doug Shaver

    Was Mother Teresa Really an Atheist?

    Apparently not. But would she have been any less virtuous if she had been?

    • LHRMSCBrown

      That’s a valid point given that, God or No-God, reality (and us with it) is defined by reality’s fundamental nature. I had stated, “Religion or No-Religion makes no difference *whatsoever* regarding the collected types of works and services in question here which differently gifted people bring to the table.”

      Given the paradigm constituted of The-Good, where the fundamental nature of reality is defined by *God* (Trinity’s timeless processions amid self-giving, and etc. as per Christianity) we find that “definition” or “meaning” simply cannot source to Man, to Contingency, but rather to God, the Necessary.

      It unpacks to an objectively true moral fact that such service of one another ontologically (irreducibly, factually) finds the Hume/Carroll conclusion to be contra-rational, contra-the-facts, as it were, and, as you stated about such facts wrt Hume/Carroll, “I'm not saying they're wrong. I agree with them that moral facts don't exist.” I stated, “You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right.” To which you replied, “I don't need to, because I have made no claim about being objectively true or right.”

      Hence, given the absence of moral facts, there is no difference in the virtue of an X based on who does it (we agree on that) but that is because there is no (objective and morally factual) difference about *any* X done by *any* of us. *Every* and *any* goal which reason values is virtuous. “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world to the scratching of one’s finger….” emerges as the Hume/Carroll state of affairs comes roaring in. It’s just as virtuous for Hume to chase after his X as it is for the humanitarian aid worker to chase after his or her X.

      So, given such, all “Acts” are “Virtuous”, and who is doing said Act(s) is irrelevant. Logic forces our hand: Given No-God, it is necessarily the case that reality’s fundamentally true (indifference, no moral facts) defines itself, and us with it. “If God” cannot change logic, as in:

      Then we come to the God paradigm, and logic still forces our hand: “Goodness Itself/Himself” (etc.) shapes reality such that the state of affairs within the individual does not (even cannot) define reality (Religion / No Religion) and that is *because* reality’s fundamentally true defines itself, and therefore us with it.

      To look at, say, the Hindu and praise this or that X within it all while describing an error in some other X within it isn't possible for the Non-Theist, for "meaning" or “definition” only streams from the contingent outward, in what just are lateral vectors, leaving all X's as colliding ontological equals such that there are no facts whereby one set of reasons/goals can (factually) oppose another person's reasons/goals such that one, but not the other, is in fact objectively virtuous and the other objectively immoral. Amid colliding ontic-equals nothing can ever flow (ontologically) either uphill or downhill.

      Whereas: Given Goodness Itself/Himself and the privatized self/world, the rational man can and does employ the terms of "less complete" and "more complete". In the relevant sense (here) of truth / non-truth, it is impossible for Man, or any contingent X, to invent realities, such as a new primary color or a moral fact. "Human fabrication" isn't possible in the sense of truth / non-truth. Given God, there are no such things as contours void of the Divine. Hence there is only less/more praiseworthy, less/more true, less/more complete, less/more rational, less/more lovely, less/more Good.

      • Doug Shaver

        and logic still forces our hand:

        Logic forces nothing until we have established some premises.

        • LHRMSCBrown

          "There are no moral facts" and "-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer....." seem to work.

          • Doug Shaver

            Those premises do not force the conclusion that no moral judgments can justified.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            We've been over that already. Facts. No facts.

            Given the absence of moral facts, there is no difference in the virtue of an X based on who does it (we agree on that) but that is because there is no (objective and morally factual) difference about *any* X done by *any* of us. *Every* and *any* goal which reason values is virtuous. “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world to the scratching of one’s finger….” emerges as the Hume/Carroll state of affairs comes roaring in. It’s just as virtuous for Hume to chase after his X as it is for the humanitarian aid worker to chase after his or her X.

            So, given such, all “Acts” are “Virtuous”, and who is doing said Act(s) is irrelevant

          • Doug Shaver

            Are you asserting the moral irrelevance of all opinions?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            No. You are.

          • Doug Shaver

            Then you have misunderstood me.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Okay. We can stop, then, at the fact that there are no moral facts.

    • ClayJames

      Of course not, but only if she was wrong about her atheism. If she was right about her atheism then yes she would be less virtuous since one can make a completely valid argument that helping the poor is not virtuous at all.

      • Doug Shaver

        What is your definition of a completely valid argument?

        • ClayJames

          An argument that is valid and sound based on our warranted beliefs about reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            Your definition of complete validity is a garbled version of logicians' definition of soundness.

            What you are claiming, then, is that if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue in helping the poor. May we see that argument?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit complete at 40 min) "-Tis virtuous to prefer......" As you agree that there are no moral facts, and, as you agree with Hume's rational and reason-based conclusion given no-god, then clearly helping the poor can be virtuous. As in: If there is no god, it is perfectly virtuous, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice, to help the poor. Why? Because the [X] which reason values, chases after, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice, *is* a sound argument to the conclusion that there is virtue in arriving at said [X].

            All [X]'s are “Virtuous” by this definition exactly because all [X]'s satisfy the given metric. The [X] which reason values, chases after, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice, *is* a sound argument to the conclusion that there is virtue in arriving at said [X]. Given the absence of moral facts, there is no difference in the virtue of an X based on who does it (Religious / Non-Religious and of course any other metric of "distinction"), but that is because there is no (objective and morally factual) difference about *any* X done by *any* of us for all of that just is *every* and *any* goal which reason values, chases after, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice and therein *any* such path to *any* such [X] *is* a sound argument to the conclusion that there is virtue in arriving at said [X]. “-Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world to the scratching of one’s finger….” emerges as the Hume/Carroll state of affairs comes roaring in. It’s just as virtuous for Hume to chase after his X as it is for the humanitarian aid worker to chase after his or her X.

            We arrive at that which logic forces: the ontic-impossibility of the ontic-sociopath. -Tis not contrary to reason to prefer....... The rational is seamless with the *a*-moral given no god as all distinction is, not fact, but fiction, as all distinction is, not objectively true, but wish fulfillment. It is your own autohypnosis, and nothing more, by which you imagine that there is such a "fact" as the "sociopath". There is, on point of fact, given no god, no possibility whatsoever of the factual statement of the morally *un*-reasonable.

            Logic forces a metaphysical armistice wherein ".....being is a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence: amid the strife of images and the flow of simulacra, shining form appears always only as an abeyance of death, fragile before the convulsions of chaos, and engulfed in fate. There is a specular infinity in mutually defining opposites: Parmenides and Heracleitos gaze into one another’s eyes, and the story of being springs up between them; just as two mirrors set before one another their depths indefinitely, repeating an opposition that recedes forever along an illusory corridor without end, seeming to span all horizons and contain all things, the dialectic of Apollo and Dionysus oscillates without resolution between endless repetitions of the same emptiness, the same play of reflection and inversion. But the true infinite lies outside and all about this enclosed universe of strife and shadows; it shows itself as beauty and as light: not totality, nor again chaos, but the music of a triune God. Nietzsche prophesied correctly: what now always lies ahead is a choice between Dionysus (who is also Apollo) and the Crucified: between, that is, the tragic splendor of totality and the inexhaustible beauty of an infinite love." (D. Hart)

            And nothing you've said has negated Hume's rational, reason-based conclusion.

            In fact, you explicitly concede he is correct, given no god. "-Tis reason-driven, -Tis rational, -Tis virtuous to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of one's finger......."

            Meanwhile.... love's timeless reciprocity.... Trinitarian processions....

          • Doug Shaver

            What you are claiming, then, is that if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue in helping the poor. May we see that argument?

            As you agree that there are no moral facts, and, as you agree with Hume's rational and reason-based conclusion given no-god, then clearly helping the poor can be virtuous. As in: If there is no god, it is perfectly virtuous, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice, to help the poor. Why? Because the [X] which reason values, chases after, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice, *is* a sound argument to the conclusion that there is virtue in arriving at said [X].

            That looks like an attempt to interpret my argument, not to present your own. And it is a poor interpretation. It does not convey my actual reasoning at all.

            All [X]'s are “Virtuous” by this definition exactly because all [X]'s satisfy the given metric.

            So far in this discussion, I have offered no metric at all for assessing virtue.

            Given the absence of moral facts, there is no difference in the virtue of an X based on who does it (Religious / Non-Religious and of course any other metric of "distinction"), but that is because there is no (objective and morally factual) difference about *any* X done by *any* of us for all of that just is *every* and *any* goal which reason values, chases after, given this and that over inside of reason's own voice and therein *any* such path to *any* such [X] *is* a sound argument to the conclusion that there is virtue in arriving at said [X].

            This is irrelevant even if it’s true. What you asserted, and I asked you to prove, was that the nonexistence of God entails the existence of a sound argument for there being no virtue in helping the poor. You have not proved that the nonexistence of God entails the nonexistence of moral facts.

            The rational is seamless with the *a*-moral given no god as all distinction is, not fact, but fiction, as all distinction is, not objectively true, but wish fulfillment.

            You have not demonstrated that the nonexistence of God entails the fictional nature of all distinctions.

            There is, on point of fact, given no god, no possibility whatsoever of the factual statement of the morally *un*-reasonable.

            That is a restatement of the conclusion that you are trying to prove. Repetition is not proof.

            And nothing you've said has negated Hume's rational, reason-based conclusion.

            Anything I have ever said is irrelevant to what you’re supposed to be demonstrating.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit complete at 25 min) You stated an argument with which you disagree: “…if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue…” and asked for evidence.

            I agreed with you. I demonstrated that without god you can and do reason to the conclusion that there *is* virtue. The same demonstration which Hume uses, and which you agree with. I agreed with you. Which seems to bother you. Why? Reasoning about the real world and its facts is how we arrive at warranted conclusions.

            You said, “It does not convey my actual reasoning at all.”

            It conveys reasoning about the real world (as per, say, Hume, whom you happen to agree with), a world in which there are no moral facts (a fact which you also agree with). Reasoning about the real world is how we arrive at warranted conclusions.

            As in:

            Five from elsewhere for context:

            [1] You said (to L.B.) elsewhere, “If I further understand you correctly, you are defending a position of moral objectivism, i.e. the existence of moral facts, principles, or values that obtain independently of any person's judgment. Insofar as Brian denies that, I do support him.”

            [2] I said, “Why is Hume wrong? And Carroll with him? Getting to the point about their error isn't something I see you accomplishing.”

            [3] You said, “I'm not saying they're wrong. I agree with them that moral facts don't exist.”

            [4] I said, “You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right”

            [5] You said, “I don't need to, because I have made no claim about being objectively true or right.”

            You said, “I have offered no metric at all for assessing virtue.”

            If you’re going to reject reasoning about the real world (as per, say, Hume, whom you agree with) and also reasoning about a world in which there are no moral facts (a fact which you also agree with) then you can’t offer a metric for assessing virtue, because reasoning about reality is how we arrive at warranted conclusions.

            You said, “You have not proved that the nonexistence of God entails the nonexistence of moral facts.”

            I don’t have to. You already agreed that there are no moral facts.

            Given [1] through [5], and given the rest here, we allow logic to take the lead:

            We arrive at that which logic forces: the ontic-impossibility of the ontic-sociopath. All (moral) distinction is, not fact, but fiction, as all such distinction is, not objectively true, but wish fulfillment. It is your own autohypnosis, and nothing more, by which you imagine that there is such a "fact" as the "sociopath".

            Given [1] through [5], and given the rest here, we allow logic to take the lead:

            Logic forces a metaphysical armistice wherein ".....being is a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence: amid the strife of images and the flow of simulacra, shining form appears always only as an abeyance of death, fragile before the convulsions of chaos, and engulfed in fate. There is a specular infinity in mutually defining opposites: Parmenides and Heracleitos gaze into one another’s eyes, and the story of being springs up between them; just as two mirrors set before one another their depths indefinitely, repeating an opposition that recedes forever along an illusory corridor without end, seeming to span all horizons and contain all things, the dialectic of Apollo and Dionysus oscillates without resolution between endless repetitions of the same emptiness, the same play of reflection and inversion. But the true infinite lies outside and all about this enclosed universe of strife and shadows; it shows itself as beauty and as light: not totality, nor again chaos, but the music of a triune God. Nietzsche prophesied correctly: what now always lies ahead is a choice between Dionysus (who is also Apollo) and the Crucified: between, that is, the tragic splendor of totality and the inexhaustible beauty of an infinite love." (D. Hart)

            More logic and warranted conclusions:

            [4] I said, “You've shown us (so far) no evidence that your reasons/goals to oppose another person's reasons/goals are or can be objectively true/right”

            [5] You said, “I don't need to, because I have made no claim about being objectively true or right.”

          • Doug Shaver

            I agreed with you.

            You did not make that clear.

            You stated an argument with which you disagree: “…if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue…” and asked for evidence.

            My actual statement was: "What you are claiming, then, is that if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue in helping the poor. May we see that argument?" To make your position clear, you should have replied: "No, that is not what I am claiming."

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "What you are claiming, then, is that if there is no god, then there is a sound argument to the conclusion that there is no virtue in helping the poor..."

            Clearly you *do* reason to a conclusion that there is *virtue*. Which is why I don't disagree with you, as already discussed in my comment which begins with, "(Edit complete at 40 min) "-Tis virtuous to prefer......" As you agree that there are no moral facts, and, as you agree with....." and also in my comment which begins with, "(Edit complete at 25 min) You stated an argument with which you disagree: “…if there is no god...."

            You stated, "...you should have replied: "No, that is not what I am claiming.""

            Should?

            I'll argue from whatever direction I feel like. Thank you very much.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'll argue from whatever direction I feel like.

            Of course you will. I was just making a point about your intelligibility. But maybe clear communication is not a direction you feel like going in.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            What's clear is that you *do* reason to a conclusion that there is the moral non-fact of *virtue*. And said *virtue* abounds it seems ~~~ -Tis virtuous to prefer......

          • ClayJames

            Sure. One can define moral excellence to be that which benefits themselves above all else where goodness and rightousness are driven by actions that help achieve a shelfish goal (be it pleasure, wealth, etc.). Based on this standard of moral excellence, those that spend time putting others ahead of themselves because of some feeling of responsability for their fellow man and do so at the expense of the self, are by definition acting against the moral good and actions that go against the moral good are not virtuous.

          • Doug Shaver

            One can define moral excellence to be that which benefits themselves above all else where goodness and rightousness are driven by actions that help achieve a shelfish goal (be it pleasure, wealth, etc.).

            Yes, one can do that, but they can do it whether or not they believe in God. Anybody making any argument can define its key terms however they wish.

            A sound argument has only true premises, but definitions are neither true nor false. They are only more or less useful, and a necessary criterion of usefulness is that all parties to the conversation accept the definition. If you and I both reject the notion that moral excellence is that which benefits the individual above all else, then it is irrelevant that somebody could, hypothetically, define it in those terms.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit done at 9 min) It is a true premise that there are no moral facts. It is a true premise that it is not contrary to the rational man to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of his finger. That is, on the Hume/Carroll state of affairs. I think we agree on that. At least you said you agreed with said terms. I'm merely delineating just what you are reasoning yourself into believing there within one's doxastic experience.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is a true premise that there are no moral facts.

            Regarding moral judgments, nothing follows from that premise.

            I'm merely delineating just what you are reasoning yourself into believing

            But in so doing, you are reasoning invalidly.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit complete at 2 hr.) You're the one claiming to make moral assessments in an a-moral universe (a universe void of moral facts). Per your reasoning, X and Non-X both apply to this or that event. The rational man has every right (rationally speaking) to chase after reality as she is and not as we think she ought to be. Hence the Hume/Carroll state of affairs expunges all objective moral distinction. Without the fact of distinction, well, you can say whatever you want as we're all allowed to write fiction. It's all a collocation of colliding ontological equals. You write stories. Hume writes stories. The ontic-sociopath is, given no means of ontic-distinction, non-entity.

          • Doug Shaver

            You're the one claiming to make moral assessments in an a-moral universe (a universe void of moral facts).

            Yes. And therefore, what?

            Per your reasoning, X and Non-X both apply to this or that event.

            That is not my reasoning. That is your construal of my reasoning.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            There seems to be evidence here that you are volitionally, within your doxastic experience, reasoning yourself into believing in facts which don't exist. You've made two claims:

            [1] Moral facts do not exist

            [2] You reason about moral acts/events

            You are reasoning about non-things when you reason about moral-things, given that moral facts do not exist. That is fine as that is what the Hume/Carroll paradigm affirms. It's subjective and felt, but not objectively true. Intuition's "fact" and reality's "fact" diverge. As in: One is just as moral and rational to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of his finger (which you agreed with per Hume) as one who prefers to feed the hungry.

            Again, that's all fine as it agrees with what you've already agreed with: the Hume/Carroll state of affairs. I'm just surprised that you're resistant, that you want to claim a mysterious "something more".

          • Doug Shaver

            You've made two claims:

            [1] Moral facts do not exist

            [2] You reason about moral acts/events

            The nonexistence of moral facts does not imply the nonexistence of morality, which is a type of judgment. Judgments do exist, and I make reasoned judgments about the morality of certain acts or events.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Judgements exist. And you reason yourself into making moral judgements about a non-moraI reality. And *presto!* -- morality exists inside of a box which is void of moral facts.

            Wait a sec! I get it now. It's like the poetry of the illusory and self-refuting. It's... it's.... it's Sean Carroll's book!

            No wonder you have to agree with the horrific ontological concession of Hume/Carroll on the morally rational.

            All reasoned X's are *virtuous* by your definition of semantic games and hence we come full circle back to the ontological impossibility of the sociopath.

          • Doug Shaver

            Since you're convinced that I'm just playing semantic games, further discussion between us would obviously be a waste of time for both of us.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Why the term "game"? Here's why:

            Claiming to reason about "real" distinctions between factually equivalent virtues IS that which unpacks to nothing more than semantics. That's pretty much the point. But that's NOT why the term "game" is used (by me).

            One isn't is reasoning to factual distinction. Which is fine, as the box that is [Reasoned Preference Full Stop] is what non-theistic morality unpacks to. If the semantics of "morality" don't actually push through to factual distinction beyond taste buds, then the semantics of morality do not referent the factually "moral" or "good". Rather, they referent that which factually "is". But then *ALL* virtues become (factually) equivalent.

            As in:

            The following are both true, in the sort of "morally true" you've presented:

            [1] Having reasoned one's way through what one reasons to be relevant variables, one reasons that it is morally rational / virtuous to prefer ABC.

            [2] Having reasoned one's way through what one reasons to be relevant variables, one reasons that it is morally rational / virtuous to prefer DEF.

            Where ABC and DEF can be whatever the sound of reason's own voice chases after. Which again is fine. That's NOT why I employ the term "game".

            The term game is because of inconsistency:

            I claim that our taste buds are factually real. They exist. But I don't claim that they are "moral" in any sense whatsoever. Whereas, non-theistic lines employ the term "moral". If such lines were willing to be consistent and call other ontic-non-distinctions "moral", like taste buds, like pizza vs. fudge, then the semantic move on their part would NOT be a "game".

            We see the same thing when it comes to suffering/evil (on the one hand) and the inconsistency of caring as opposed to neutrality/indifference (on the other hand). As Carroll reminds us, if no-god, beating up the child in the schoolyard unpacks to -Taint nutten wrong... (objectively speaking). So why not chase after reality instead of wish fulfilling vectors, or, at the very least, let ALL such vectors be called (on consistency....) GOOD?

            There's a difference between raw inconsistency vs. at least trying to be consistent (Rosenberg, Hume, etc.). The former is playing word games (either with their own mind or with others), while the later is not. And it's not *too* hard to tell when someone is at least trying to be consistent. The Non-Theist in an emotive heat of moral rage (for any reason) is a dead giveaway that "the facts" (per non-theism) have totally escaped said Non-Theist. That is to say, said Non-Theist in his emotive heat of moral rage has lost touch with (what he insists is) reality.

            To do so on purpose and not even try to catch oneself is to be a gamer. To do so sincerely overwhelmed such that one honestly couldn't think it through just then does not merit the charge of gamer, but merely of inconsistency.

          • Doug Shaver

            But that's NOT why the term "game" is used (by me).

            Your reason is beside the point. You're either right or wrong. If you're right, you're wasting your time talking with me. If you're wrong, I'm wasting my time talking with you.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Given that the ontological fact of irreducible love is contrary to the reasoning of Carroll's proverbial schoolyard bully, it's reasonable to, well, actually say/do accordingly even if you (we) disagree. That our different conclusions factually referent X's which are *not* in the ontic-stalemate of metaphysical armistice also weighs in.

          • Valence

            I've been doing lecture's on why evil exists, and it's amazing how many accounts there are:

            http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/why-evil-exists.html

            Some are better than others, of course, but many do not require the existence of God at all. I think your persistence in the idea that only your philosophical approach can explain good and evil just demonstrates how little you know, and how narrow minded you are. Why not learn something instead of parrot the same lines over and over and over and over. I'm getting into Kant next, and there are probably more Christian thinkers who weigh in on the subject because evil creates a contradiction when it exists with an omnipotent good God (the words of the instructor). It's interesting that Christian scholasticism probably began with Abelard's "Sic et Non" that points out tons of apparent contradictions between the Church fathers.

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

            Trying to resolve those contradictions has been a 1000 year project in Christianity, and it hasn't really succeeded as far as I can tell. Some like it that way ;)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit complete at 22 min) "I think your persistence in the idea that only your philosophical approach can explain good and evil just demonstrates how little you know...."

            Actually demonstrating through argument one's ontologically irreducibly evil would be more effective than just plastering others with the word ignorant. But your means to such ends eventually break down, so you can't, so you do what you can. I get it.

            The illusory just won't do. Should one find the irreducibly Good, well then one will have found the necessary substrate for the irreducibly moral.

            The big picture: The Spinoza-esc, and all derivatives thereof, at some ontological seam somewhere sum to the illusory, void of the irreducibly Good.

          • Valence

            Actually demonstrating through argument one's ontologically irreducibly evil would be more effective than just plastering others with the word ignorant. But your means to such ends eventually break down, so you can't, so you do what you can. I get it.

            Yes. You do exactly that, I have yet to see a coherent argument from you as to why naturalism forces one to accept that evil is an illusion.
            Do you accept the Augustinian deprivation view of evil? If so, then you believe evil doesn't exist...i.e. it's an illusion created by the absence of good. Certainly someone can't see or rationally talk about the absence of something.
            Moral constructivism puts moral good and evil as a human construct, which is obviously compatible with naturalism. In this case, good and evil are just as real as the value of money. Doesn't money really have value, even though that value is dependent upon that minds of those who value it?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I'm sorry *you* can't talk about the objective reality of the absence of oxygen and the objective effects/pains thereof. The illusory is all you have, hence your appeal to money, but the Christian is interested in the fundamental nature of reality. Hence Vogt's series on S. Carroll's book has been helpful on many "levels" as it helps expose (via Carroll's own syntax, etc.) the many Non-Theistic premises which strain to the point of absurdity the premise of levels in the first place. That plays out, unavoidably, or necessarily, or irreducibly, in *all* areas of "reality". Why? Well a demonstrable arena is here within that of "the moral". In this arena we find that panning the lens in or out makes no difference, for there are no levels, and in fact there isn't even a lens. Speaking of the big picture, of the Spinoza-esc, of all of its derivatives, of the irreducibly Good and therefore of the irreducibly moral, and of logical necessity, a brief quote: “Pressing on through Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, we come to Rosenberg’s treatment of morality. Followed out consistently, Rosenberg says, scientism entails nihilism. As Rosenberg is keen to emphasize, this is not the same as moral relativism or moral skepticism. It is not the claim that moral truth is relative, or that it is real but unknowable. Nor is it the claim that everything is morally permitted. It is a far more radical and disturbing claim than any of these views. Nihilism, as Rosenberg understands it, is the view that there is no such thing as being “morally permitted” or “morally prohibited” in the first place. For there is, given Rosenberg’s scientism, no intrinsic value in the world of the sort that is necessary for morality to be intelligible. Morality -- not just commonsense or traditional morality, not just religious morality, but all morality, morality as such, including any purported secular, liberal, permissive morality -- is therefore an illusion.” (…from http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/reading-rosenberg-part-vii.html and etc….)

          • Valence

            It's not a conversation if you don't respond to the contents of my posts. Do you accept the Augustine view of evil or not?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "If so, then you believe evil doesn't exist...i.e. it's an illusion created by the absence of good. Certainly someone can't see or rationally talk about the absence of something."

            Can we talk meaningfully about the absence of oxygen or not? Let's call its absence "death". Let's call its presence "life". I'm not seeing any illusions.

          • Valence

            So even though something doesn't exist, we can still talk about it coherently? I agree, but that means one your core critiques of naturalistic good and evil is a problem. Augustine's evil exists in its relationship to good, and certainly a naturalistic can talk about relationships.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            If you actually had the ontological (irreducible, non-illusory) Good which was "to some degree missing", and could therefore reference "better", then you'd have a point. But you don't.

          • Valence

            How do you know I don't?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Okay. You say you have the ontological (irreducible, non-illusory) Good and can point to it in your metaphysic.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Editing completed at 29 min) In addition: Vogt's series on S. Carroll's book has been helpful on many "levels" as it helps expose (via Carroll's own syntax, etc.) the many Non-Theistic premises which strain to the point of absurdity the premise of levels in the first place. That plays out, unavoidably, or necessarily, or irreducibly, in *all* areas of "reality". Why? Well a demonstrable arena is here within that of "the moral". In this arena we find that panning the lens in or out makes no difference, for there are no levels, and in fact there isn't even a lens. Speaking of the big picture, of the Spinoza-esc, of all of its derivatives, of the irreducibly Good and therefore of the irreducibly moral, and of logical necessity, a brief quote: “Pressing on through Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, we come to Rosenberg’s treatment of morality. Followed out consistently, Rosenberg says, scientism entails nihilism. As Rosenberg is keen to emphasize, this is not the same as moral relativism or moral skepticism. It is not the claim that moral truth is relative, or that it is real but unknowable. Nor is it the claim that everything is morally permitted. It is a far more radical and disturbing claim than any of these views. Nihilism, as Rosenberg understands it, is the view that there is no such thing as being “morally permitted” or “morally prohibited” in the first place. For there is, given Rosenberg’s scientism, no intrinsic value in the world of the sort that is necessary for morality to be intelligible. Morality -- not just commonsense or traditional morality, not just religious morality, but all morality, morality as such, including any purported secular, liberal, permissive morality -- is therefore an illusion.” (…from http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/reading-rosenberg-part-vii.html and etc….)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            PS: Several weeks ago when I asked for permission to comment here I had also informed Brandon that I'd stay inside of Carroll's items as that was (for me) a very interesting series and worth the try. The M.T. item came about before the final Carroll installment so I kept going there too [ with fingers crossed :-0 ] knowing that the last item for Carroll was coming up. I say this just to let you know that I won't reply to any comments outside of those items (Carroll/M.T.) as I had said as much to B. Vogt way back when. As the series is now over (it seems) I'll keep my comments inside that series but won't venture outside, though I'll certainly read your comments given that they're always worth the time as are so many others here.

          • ClayJames

            Its not about defining terms in different ways, it is that the idea of moral excellence and goodness are subjective given atheism and can be objective given theism. Therefore, given atheism, there is nothing about my definition of moral excellence and goodness that is incompatible with reality. Given theism, this is not necessarily the case because my definition of moral excellence can definitely be at odds with objective values and duties that truly do exist.

            If you and I both reject the notion that moral excellence is that which benefits the individual above all else, then it is irrelevant that somebody could, hypothetically, define it in those terms.

            If your claim here is that your initial comment regarding virtuous behavior is sound because you are defining ¨virtue¨ in a certain way that eliminates other valid forms of virtue that are consistent with the reality of atheism, then this is nothing more than a semantic argument. Given atheism, virtuous behavior (as it is usually defined) can definitely be focused exclusively on the self which would mean that Mother Teresa could be a lot less virtuous if atheism were true.

    • Phil

      She would definitely not have done the work she did if she did not believe in God, as the call to do the specific work she did came from God.

      You can read about this if you search for the "I Thirst" revelation. Also her call to start the Sisters of Charity in the first place is an interesting story.

      • Doug Shaver

        Of course she would have done something different with her life, but that wasn't my question.

        • Phil

          Sure, and if she would have done something other with her life, it wouldn't have been doing the extraordinary virtuous work she did as that only came about with the unique and specific call she received from the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

          • Valence

            What if she had become a scientist and discovered a cure for cancer? Would that be less virtuous? How about these people, are they less virtuous than MT? They've saved way more lives.

            Irena Sendler saved 2500 Jewish children from the Holocaust by providing them with false identity documents and smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto. Norman Borlaug’s research into disease-resistant wheat precipitated the ‘Green Revolution’; he has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives. Stanislav Petrov prevented all-out nuclear war simply by being calm under pressure and being willing to disobey orders.

            https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/introduction-to-effective-altruism/

            Especially Stanislav Petrov....he may have saved the entire human race, but most people don't even know his name. To me, that's sad. I realize Petrov is a special case, but I'm certainly with effective altruism in that we should think more carefully about our altruistic efforts so they can accomplish more actual good in the world. In no way to a want to detract from MTs efforts, but it certainly possible she could have done more good if she had taken a different path. Norman Borlaug did way, way, more good for the poor than Mother Teresa, but again, most people don't even know his name...

          • Phil

            The most good we can do in life is follow the will that the Father has for each one of us. If we do this, the person that seems to have accomplished nothing may have done more good than the person that cured cancer, when looking at things from the eyes of eternity.

            So many times we think we are so smart and have things figured out, but when we look at earthly realities from the vantage point of heaven, the actual importance of many different things begins to shift.

            So to the extent that Mother Teresa followed the will of the Father for her, she did as much good as she could have.

            (You'll have to read some of her writings to get a feel for just how much the Father's will mattered over her own will.)

          • Valence

            So many times we think we are so smart and have things figured out, but when we look at earthly realities from the vantage point of heaven, the actual importance of many different things begins to shift.

            Are you suggesting that you can view the earth from the vantage point of heaven? How can you be confident you are doing the will of the Father, or confident in anything you just said for that matter?
            You do realize that Jihad suicide bombers are perfectly confident they are doing the will of Allah, correct? The murderers of the Inquisition also thought they were doing the will of God, so did the Catholics who slaughtered the Hugenots in the Bartholomew's Day massacre. To demonstrate the level of confidence that God's will had been done with mass murder:

            The Pope ordered a Te Deum to be sung as a special thanksgiving (a practice continued for many years after) and had a medal struck with the motto Ugonottorum strages 1572 (Latin for "overthrow" or "slaughter," "of the Huguenots") showing an angel bearing a cross and sword before which are the felled Protestants.[41]

            Pope Gregory XIII also commissioned the artist Giorgio Vasari to paint three frescos in the Sala Regia depicting the wounding of Coligny, his death, and Charles IX before Parliament, matching those commemorating the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto (1571). "The massacre was interpreted as an act of divine retribution; Coligny was considered a threat to Christendom and thus Pope Gregory XIII designated 11 September 1572 as a joint commemoration of the Battle of Lepanto and the massacre of the Huguenots.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bartholomew%27s_Day_massacre

            If objective evil exists, surely this massacre was on a similar level to the Holocaust (though with a smaller death toll). How could the entire Catholic community be so wrong...or do you think they were right?

          • Phil

            When it comes down to it, humility and patience is key to beginning to see the world as it truly is (i.e., with "heaven's eyes"). I personally have no special "knowledge" of the view from heaven. Actually, I've come to find out that 99+% of the time how I thought God was working in my life and others was partially to almost all wrong! That's one way God like to teach humility!

            So we need to be quick to listen and ponder, while being slow to judge a situation.

          • Valence

            So we need to be quick to listen and ponder, while being slow to judge a situation.

            Wise words. I personally don't see how humans can distinguish between a divine voice and some other inner voice, and it seems you agree...thus we can never really be confident we are doing God's will. This places the judgement on us, and the responsibility for that judgement, in my mind. Perhaps that's the way God actually wants it, how would we know, right?

          • Phil

            I personally don't see how humans can distinguish between a divine voice and some other inner voice, and it seems you agree...thus we can never really be confident we are doing God's will.

            I think yes and no. You are exactly right that we always have to be reflecting on our motives. And pride always wants to say, "Yes, of course I'm doing God's will". So we again need to be slow and humble. We ought to offer ourselves to proper Church authority because God *loves* to work through the ordinary structure of the Church. This is because it tames our pride. And when we show obedience he blesses it and brings great fruit from it (just like Mother Teresa laid down her will).

            And it definitely takes time to become accustomed to the Divine voice in each one of us (of course, the Evil One can come to mimic God's voice in time as well, so we always have to be humble and slow to act). Of course, this is one big reason Jesus gave us the Catholic church. He gave it as his authority on earth and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail. So if we merely follow the Church's basic teachings on faith and morals, we are already on solid ground rather than building on sand.

            This is also the great importance of having a spiritual director to be able to have an objective 3rd party reflect on one's own internal spiritual life.

            Life does really become one big adventure once we let go of our own will, and try to listen to what God is calling us to!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            God *loves* to work through the ordinary structure of the Church.

            I believe that too, but I also believe that Satan *loves* to work through the ordinary structure of the Church. How else to interpret the cover-ups of the priest sex abuse? The knave is so close to the nave, so to speak.

            Consequently, it seems to me that "[submitting] to proper Church authority" is a very dangerous idea if it is understood as a substitute for the hard prayerful work of personal discernment (and I think submission to Church authority has often been (mis-)understood in precisely that way). I do like to be challenged by the teachings of the Church, and I am especially enriched by trying to understand those teachings that are contrary to my intuitions, but blindly following those teachings in violation of one's conscience is a no-no (per the Church's own teaching).

          • Phil

            It was an oversight of mine for not mentioning that when I say that God loves to work through the Church, this is in regards primarily to faith and morals. Obviously, anything that goes against established faith/morals of the Church (such as sexual abuse and its coverups) is an issue.

            So it's always both/and. There must be a prayerful pondering of Church faith and morals. But in matters that don't go directly against faith or morals, the wisest decision is normally to defer to the proper and respected Church authority, whether it be a pastor, Bishop, or spiritual director.

            But none of this means "blindly following" someone, even Church authority. It means pondering the faith, morals, and decisions you have to make, and also respecting those that do hold legitimate and proper authority.

            And absolutely, no single person is free from the influence of the Evil One. The great thing is that even when the Evil One influences those in positions of authority in the Church, we always know that God wishes to bring about a greater good from it. We just have to cooperate with his grace. (This obviously does *not* mean we tolerate anything that goes against faith/morals, such as sexual abuse. But when it does happen, we ponder what good God can bring out of it.)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks Phil. That's what I figured you meant, and I agree. I'm just mindful that the phrase "submit to Church authority" raises a lot of hackles, and rightly so.

          • Valence

            FWIW I've never heard voices in my head, I've also never had any thoughts that I didn't think were from me.

            So we again need to be slow and humble. Submit to proper Church authority because God *loves* to work through the ordinary structure of the Church.

            How do you know this to be true? Because the Church claims it?

          • Lazarus

            How about ....

            "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight."

            Hilaire Belloc

          • Valence

            Lol!

          • Valence

            If the U.S. survives a Trump presidency, that argument could be used to show the U.S. government is no mere human institution ;)

          • Phil

            FWIW I've never heard voices in my head, I've also never had any thoughts that I didn't think were from me.

            Normally the voice of the Lord is not "voices in the head". Anything like that you have to be very careful with. Normally the Lord speaks in the depths of our heart, not in our head. It is normally more of a whispering from the depths of our heart. It takes great docility, humility, and patience to begin to ponder this voice, (sometimes also can be first known as the voice of conscience).

            How do you know this to be true? Because the Church claims it?

            Pretty much, if Jesus really rose from the dead, then his claim to Divinity ought to be believed and therefore the claim that he would guide his Church is to be believed.

            And from 2000 years of tradition there are thousands and thousands of holy men and women who have spoken on this topic of proper authority and spiritual direction

          • Valence

            Pretty much, if Jesus really rose from the dead, then his claim to Divinity ought to be believed and therefore the claim that he would guide his Church is to be believed.

            Many scholars make a pretty good case that a Jew claiming to be a son of God is a far cry from being God himself. In the earliest gospel, Mark, we find a decent amount of evidence that Jesus didn't think he was God himself...such as the fact that Jesus doesn't know things that the Father does and has different desires from the Father.

            36 He said, “Abba,[h] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

            It took the Council of Nicea to get agreement on the whether Jesus was divine which was nearly 300 years after Jesus death. The Trinity wasn't really fully developed until 360 at the Council of Constantinople.
            Another argument against resurrection signifying divinity is that Lazarus was supposed to have been raised from the dead, along with other in the Hebrew Bible, and they were not divine. My point is simply that if (and it's a big if) Jesus did rise from the dead, it isn't clear what that signifies unlike one makes quite a few other assumptions.

            And from 2000 years of tradition there are thousands and thousands of holy men and women who have spoken on this topic of proper authority and spiritual direction

            Many other religions have as long a history or longer. Do you think they might have some link to God as well? In my mind, if God exists, he must have a reason for allowing so many religions to exist. I'll admit I do have universalist tendency so the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar. I certainly think that if Christianity is true, one should hope that all of mankind will be saved.

          • Phil

            In regards to Jesus claiming to be God--

            This has been a topic that has been studied in-depth, as you mentioned. And it is pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus claimed authority and did things that only God can do. Two of the most prominent examples are forgiving sins and proclaiming the fulfillment of Jewish law in his own name.

            We hear that the Jews themselves said that only God can do these things, yet Jesus did them himself and in his own name through the power of his Heavenly Father. We can almost hear Jesus' response: "Yes, of course only God can forgive sins, and I have just forgiven this man's sins."

            Many other religions have as long a history or longer. Do you think they might have some link to God as well? In my mind, if God exists, he must have a reason for allowing so many religions to exist. I'll admit I do have universalist tendency so the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar. I certainly think that if Christianity is true, one should hope that all of mankind will be saved.

            The human person is by nature a religious being since s/he is made for God. That desire is innate by our very human nature. So it should be no surprise that there are many different types of religion. And there are small nuggets of truth in all of them (some more than others). But Christianity which goes back to Christ himself is the fulfillment of all religion. It is the surest way home to God.

            And God does what all his children to come home. God only went to the depth of the cross to offer salvation to all his children. So we should hope and pray that all persons come to be home with our Heavenly Father!

          • Valence

            Ignoring the question of how historically reliable the Gospels are (there are good arguments that suggest they were never intended to be taken as historical accounts), Mark provides an explanation for Jesus forgiving sins in Mark 2

            5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

            Jesus could easily have said that he can forgive sins because he is God, but this isn't what is said. He says the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...making us obviously ask who the "Son of Man" is in a Jewish context:

            The Hebrew expression "son of man" (בן–אדם i.e. ben-'adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible.[1] This is the most common Hebrew construction for the singular, appearing 93 times in the Book of Ezekiel alone and 14 times elsewhere. In thirty two cases, the phrase appears in intermediate plural form "sons of men".[1] As generally interpreted by Jews, "son of man" denotes mankind generally in contrast to deity or godhead, with special reference to their weakness and frailty

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_of_man_(Judaism)

            Just read through the article and you'll find the "son of man" certainly isn't God in Judaism. Jesus knows he is introducing an idea that is contrary to Orthodox Judaism, and this would not be surprising for an apocalyptic prophet, as Judaism was fractured into various sects that disagreed on many things.

            And it is pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus claimed authority and did things that only God can do.

            Clearly this is not the case, there is tons of room for reasonable doubt. In fact there is supposed to be, that is the role of faith. Let me add a few thoughts on the gospels in the genre of Roman biography:

            The genre of the gospels is essential in understanding the intentions of the authors regarding the historical value of the texts. New Testament scholar Graham Stanton states that "the gospels are now widely considered to be a sub-set of the broad ancient literary genre of biographies."[32] Charles H. Talbert agrees that the gospels should be grouped with the Graeco-Roman biographies, but adds that such biographies included an element of mythology, and that the synoptic gospels also included elements of mythology.[4] E.P. Sanders states that “these Gospels were written with the intention of glorifying Jesus and are not strictly biographical in nature.”

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

            A similar biography that was popular when the gospels were written is that of Romulus and Remus. These twins were born of a virgin and a god (Mars I believe), worked miracles before and after founding Rome, and Romulus ascended into heaven, according to the biography. Sound familiar? Here is a more detailed analysis, and plenty more examples of mythological additions exist in the biographies of other important Romans

            http://serene-musings.blogspot.com/2007/01/romulus-remus-lesson-for-christianity.html

            Augustus Caesar was also reported to have ascended to heaven, under oath:

            The Roman historian Suetonius (AD 75-140)
            recorded that immediately after Caesar’s funeral
            a person named Numerius Atticus swore under
            oath that he had seen Augustus’ soul ascend
            into heaven. (Suetonius, Deified Augustus 100:4)
            • One month later the Senate officially granted the
            status of divinity to Augustus
            – Established a temple and priesthood for his worship.

            http://york.edu/fewheel/John/Powerpoints/Roman%20Imperial%20Theology.pdf

            Why doubt Suetonius and believe Paul, the only direct witness we have the writing of? It seems like miracles, being born of virgins, and ascending into heaven is something we should expect from the genre, even if there is actual history in the accounts (which I don't doubt).

          • Phil

            Sure, there can definitely be reasonable discussion of this question. And you are correct that something like the "son of man" doesn't necessarily denote Divinity.

            That is why it is those others things I mentioned that are hard to disprove when those who wrote the Gospels wanted to denote that Jesus did claim to carry the power of God in his very person. He did not have to rely on God's power outside himself like the ancient prophet's did.

          • Valence

            There are verses that support this position, but there are also those that seem to have a different perspective, FWIW, Luke 5

            17 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.[f]

            The passage indicates that the power sometimes wasn't with him (if not, why mention it was with him). Another interesting passage is here, Mark 6

            4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

            So Jesus's power was somehow weakened in his hometown, because they knew him and thus didn't have faith. Faith, seems to somehow fuel his power and the absence of faith is like kryptonite, at least according to this passage.

            22 Jesus answered them, “Have[b] faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[c] it, and it will be yours.

            Here, it seems believing that you have received an answer to prayer is the key to receiving it. Of course, I'd have a hard time believing a mountain moved if I didn't actually see it happen, but faith never exactly was of my strengths, for better or for worse.

            One thing you can say about the Bible, there is plenty of room for controversy :) If it's God's word, there must be some reason for it to be this way.

          • Lazarus

            There is so much to discuss here, and maybe I have time later to touch on one or two of these topics, but for now I want to go and have dinner with my son, as I understand that we will discuss The New Girl In Class. Can I ask whether you have heard of, or read, Robert Hutchinson's new "Searching for Jesus"? It discusses some brand new scholarship that turns a lot of these old and comfortable "facts" on their head.

          • Valence

            Can I ask whether you have heard of, or read, Robert Hutchinson's new "Searching for Jesus"?

            I haven't, what new evidence does he bring to the table? So far I've used the gospels and references to Roman writings. The apocalyptic prophet is an interpretation, one of many possible ones given the how little and indeterminate the evidence is.

            I took a few minutes to research, and my first complaint was that Robert Hutchinson isn't a historian, but that is irrelevant to the presentation of facts, but not of methodology in interpreting those facts. I then ran into this:

            Hutchinson also detailed some of the other findings that he believes corroborate the biblical narrative, explaining that he believes much of the criticism of the Bible is built on defunct “presuppositions of liberal biblical scholarship.”

            http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/10/26/author-explains-why-mysterious-archeological-find-blew-him-away-and-sent-an-earthquake-through-the-biblical-studies-world/

            Ok, first of all, we have historical method which has developed over a period of time for specific reasons and a huge amount of thought has put into to study history...biblical studies are just one small part of world history. The fact that he would call historical method "liberal biblical scholarship" means I have no interest in reading the book.
            I can certainly agree that historical method may not always yield the truth, but that isn't what this author is saying. If you have a book written by an actual historian, I'll check it out :) Until then, I avoid books on history written by a person who would flippantly dismiss historical method. It's like reading a book on science who rejects scientific method and philosophy of science.

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

          • Lazarus

            Maybe I am lazy, maybe I read too much, but there is just such a vast development of Jesus studies going on that I find this, frankly, old fashioned and quite outdated approach quite puzzling. There is so much happening in this field, such exiting developments, and yes, a move back towards more classic NT interpretations of scripture that I feel as if discussions like these are people talking past each other.

            One cannot claim to really understand these issues that you have raised without an understanding of the work recently done by people like Gerhard Lohfink, Matthew Levering, Craig Keener, Richard Bauckham, Hutchinson (and, if you don't like him much, those scholars he quotes in his book) and Brant Pitre (see especially his brilliant "Jesus and the Last Supper"). To say that these gents do not have a fair grasp of the historian's art is problematical.

            And of course, that tried and trusted old historical method itself may not be as trusted as some have come to accept. Pope Benedict has done a lot of work in that regard.

            I apologize if this comes across as trying to bury you in detail, but I despair of even trying to summarize this work in a post or two. Maybe this is just one of those fields where one has to do the hard work. I know that I have arrived at my position after reading these works and others, but also having compared them to the efforts by the Bob Prices, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrmanns, Shelby Spongs and Crossans of the field.

            Personally, I would go so far as to say that questions such as whether Jesus regarded himself as God, whether Jesus was a copy of other stories like Romulus, the influence of Paul and so on have really been addressed by some wonderful and very qualified scholars in the field, and the results are pretty conservative but very well supported. That obviously does not mean that the issues have been settled definitively and compellingly, but the days of the historical-critical method being the only game in town are long gone.

          • Valence

            What specifically do they think is wrong with historical method?

          • Lazarus

            Generally speaking (and again, this is a vast field) the purely historical method seeks to treat matters of religion, of experience (communal and individual) as history alone. This is limiting, it amounts at times to using the wrong tool for the task.

            One of my favorite scholars in this topic is Pope Benedict (ok, I'm a great fan). If you want to have an essay length summary of his work here, as opposed to his voluminous musings, have a look at the essay called "The hermeneutics of faith" in Scott Hahn's "Covenant and Communion".

            Benedict says :

            "By its very nature, historical interpretation can never take us beyond hypotheses. After all, none of us was there when it happened; only physical science can repeat events in the laboratory. It is becoming apparent that any interpretation that is detached from the life of the Church and from her historical experiences remains non-obligatory and cannot rise above the literary genre of a hypothesis, which has to reckon with the possibility of being rendered obsolete at any time, just like any other ephemeral saying."

            Now this may sound like faith denying history, but it is not. History must reflect history accurately. In the case of the NT this is critical. Here recent work on the role of eyewitnesses, the actual beliefs of the early Christian community and of course the big one, the Resurrection, all show how the historical method just probably got a lot of it wrong.

            But there are also serious risks in the different hermeneutics utilized.
            Benedict again :

            "The first consequence . . . is that the Bible becomes solely a history book. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, history can be learned from it, but the book as such speaks of history alone and exegesis is no longer truly theological but instead becomes purely historiographical, literary history. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past. The second consequence is even graver: where the hermeneutics of faith . . . disappear, another type of hermeneutics will appear by necessity—a hermeneutics that is secularist, positivist, the key fundamental of which is the conviction that the divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutics, when there seems to be a divine element, the source of that impression must be explained, thus reducing everything to the human element. As a result, it is the grounds for interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements. Today the exegetical “mainstream” in Germany, for example, denies that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus’ corpse remained in the tomb. . . . This happens because the hermeneutics of faith is missing: profane philosophical hermeneutics is affirmed instead, which deny the possibility of the entrance and presence of the divine in history. . . . When exegesis is not theological, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and vice versa; when theology is not essentially Scriptural interpretation within the Church, then this theology no longer has a foundation. Therefore, for the life and mission of the Church, for the future of faith, it is absolutely necessary to overcome this dualism between exegesis and theology. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of one reality, which we call theology."

            Dale Allison has also written extensively about this, if you prefer a non-Catholic approach.

            And, while we are comparing hermeneutics;), remember to also have a close look at some of the authors of the historical method's work. There is often a consensus assigned to such scholars, without that consensus really being all that well established.

          • Valence

            Substantial post, I'll respond when I have time to do it justice

          • Lazarus

            Thank you. I also do not have time to post longer contributions on a regular basis, so no rush.

          • Valence

            "By its very nature, historical interpretation can never take us beyond hypotheses. After all, none of us was there when it happened; only physical science can repeat events in the laboratory. It is becoming apparent that any interpretation that is detached from the life of the Church and from her historical experiences remains non-obligatory and cannot rise above the literary genre of a hypothesis, which has to reckon with the possibility of being rendered obsolete at any time, just like any other ephemeral saying."

            I agree that any historical interpretation is a hypothesis...in fact any interpretation period (regardless of the subject) takes on the form of hypothesis or theory. Nothing can really be proven 100% outside of a formal system like math because new evidence could always invalidate the hypothesis. I don't see any reason to think the Church has some advantage here, however, it's hypothesis and theories are vulnerable in the same way. Dogma prevents the assimilation of new evidence and thus becomes quite problematic epistemologically. What if Muhammad was telling the truth about Jesus that he was an important prophet but not God himself? Does Christianity have any method to take any new revelation seriously? As far as I can tell, it is designed to reject any revelation outside of it's walls, which seems problematic, theologically speaking, but that's a different subject than history, or course. I say all that to note that there seems to be an assumption that theology is not presenting hypotheses in the same way history/science/philosophy is, and I don't see the slightest reason to accept that. Perhaps you do.

            History must reflect history accurately. In the case of the NT this is critical. Here recent work on the role of eyewitnesses, the actual beliefs of the early Christian community and of course the big one, the Resurrection, all show how the historical method just probably got a lot of it wrong.

            History attempts to reconstruct the past, but it never actually is the past, it's just our best inference based on the available information. This new work proposes to reconstruct the past better than historical method, but based on what? What gives these people confidence that the historical method got it wrong? It seems there is a good bit of confidence, but I'm not seeing exactly what warrants it yet, though it certainly could be warranted.

            This happens because the hermeneutics of faith is missing: profane philosophical hermeneutics is affirmed instead, which deny the possibility of the entrance and presence of the divine in history. . . . When exegesis is not theological, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and vice versa; when theology is not essentially Scriptural interpretation within the Church, then this theology no longer has a foundation. Therefore, for the life and mission of the Church, for the future of faith, it is absolutely necessary to overcome this dualism between exegesis and theology. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of one reality, which we call theology."

            I think this gets at how much our background philosophy affects our interpretation of events and history. I know my philosophy does, and the historical method is based on a consensus among historians of various faiths/philosophies, so if one religion/philosophy is true, the method might run into problems because it includes less accurate views. That's a big "if", of course. My list of philosophical disagreements with Christianity is pretty large, and entirely separate, but related topic.

          • Lazarus

            The "based on what" part of your comment is really a very big answer, and we find different approaches amongst the different writers. A lot of this seems to flow from newer and, some would say, better understanding of what the very early Christian community (of a few years after the death of Jesus) practiced and believed. Pitre's "Jesus and the Last Supper" gives a good example of different strands of evidence being woven together to arrive at these at once fresh and yet traditional approaches and views.

          • Valence

            FWIW Pitre's "Jesus and the Last Supper" seems somewhat at odds with other Catholic accounts of the Eurcharist, according to this review

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlgregg/2011/02/review-jesus-and-the-jewish-roots-of-the-eucharist/

            Exactly what are you disputing in my comments to Phil that you call "outdated". I was also assuming the historicity of the gospels when I responded to him. If you are reacting to the apocalyptic prophet hypothesis, I'm not completely convinced, but I can certainly defend the idea using nothing but the Bible itself. Apocalyptic strands of Christianity are particularly popular here in the U.S., and they have plenty of scripture to back them up. Seventh day adventists seem to be a bit obsessed with the apocalypse, and Catholics certainly believe in the parousia, which is a toned down and somewhat ambiguous version of the same.

          • Valence

            This review, again from a Catholic, is a bit worse:

            It is a strange thing to see because he is insistent on profound literalness in some of his readings when it suits his argument, while at the same time appealing to typological or allegorical readings when that is a more successful path for him. He ignores evidence from the New Testament that does not fit with his tightly drawn schema while importing evidence from Jewish texts that were composed or edited some five centuries after Jesus’ life to support his reconstruction (see pages 19-21 for his discussion of these texts). Indeed, the lasting impression one has of the book is not that God is doing, and has done, something new in Christ Jesus, but simply recapitulated all that was already there and waiting to be “unlocked” in the Old Testament.

            http://americamagazine.org/content/good-word/brant-pitres-jesus-and-jewish-roots-eucharist-1

            I consider consistency to be a very important, and difficult part of intellectual rigor. Confirmation bias is a powerful force, and it is considered a virtue among intellectuals to keep it at a minimum, and even point out weaknesses of the theory. When it comes to the Bible, pretty much any theory will have some evidence to support it, and some that doesn't.
            I don't mean to be excessively critical here, but I have pretty high standards for what I read, and I usually gravitate towards philosophy and science these days. I'm thinking about trying a couple of Kant's works next. Thanks for the suggestions though :)

            Edit to add: The article has more specific and direct objections below...quoting too much seemed inappropriate.

          • David Nickol

            The book Lazarus recommended was Jesus and the Last Supper, and the review in America is of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. So they are two different books. But for another extremely critical review of the latter book, see the First Things review titled Confecting Evidence. The one book by Pitre I have read (which was discussed here about eight months ago was The Case for Jesus, and based on that book and the reviews I have found of his other books, I do not regard him as a biblical scholar whose works are with reading.

          • Valence

            Gerhard Lohfink, Matthew Levering, Craig Keener, Richard Bauckham, Hutchinson (and, if you don't like him much, those scholars he quotes in his book) and Brant Pitre (see especially his brilliant "Jesus and the Last Supper"). To say that these gents do not have a fair grasp of the historian's art is problematical.

            I looked all of these people up, and they are all theologians by training and trade, not historians. The way a theologian approaches his/her own religion is quite different from the way a historian approaches history, and texts. No doubt someone who isn't a historian can talk about history (neither you nor I is a historian, I presume) but is it too much to ask for a serious study of general history before making historical pronouncements, especially disputing historical method itself?

            Expert consensus on methodology is hard won in any field. I hope you don't mind skepticism about non-experts (theologians) making authoritative pronouncements on a consensus that isn't within their field of expertise. Is there a reason why you have 0 historians in your list?
            A simple question, why would I reject Suetonius's testimony, under oath, Numerius Atticus witnessed Caesar's soul rising into heaven, yet accept eye witness testimony for Jesus's resurrection, assuming I could be convinced it was eye witness testimony when Paul and every gospel disagree as to who was the first to witness the risen Jesus? Consistency is critical to any professional method. The theologian can ignore all of history, the historian cannot. It isn't a surprise that we "talk over each other" if I am talking history, and someone else is talking theology.

          • Lazarus

            Please see my earlier reply to you as to the historical method.

            From memory, Suetonius wrote about a century after the alleged event. This may cause you some skepticism. More objectively, absolutely nothing followed on their writing, nothing remotely as powerful, as historic and as world-changing as those believing in and writing about the Resurrection of Jesus.

            Have a look at eg Larry Hurtado's work on the impact and beliefs of the early Christian community. The comparisons simply fall apart at first glance.

            But I do not want to overstate my case. The caveats and even objections to the historical method are, in my view, well placed and properly established. It does not follow that the more theological approach / hermeneutics will get us closer to that video camera reality, that proof, that the modern mind demands. The Gospels are, and should, still primarily be articles of faith, documents around which the Church builds its mission and pastoral duties. To seek to argue the Gospels into inerrant historical documents is a futile and unnecessary exercise.

          • David Nickol

            This has been a topic that has been studied in-depth, as you mentioned.
            And it is pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus claimed
            authority and did things that only God can do.

            Beyond reasonable doubt? That is going more than a bit too far!

            We have no solid evidence that the Gospels are historically accurate on these points. And even if they are accurate, or close to accurate, Jesus could have been claiming authority granted to him by God. It took centuries to work out what it meant for Jesus to be God. No one would have had any idea in the time of Jesus what it would mean for him to be the second person of the trinity.

            It seems likely that people thought of Jesus as in some way divine shortly after his death, and maybe even before. But there is no evidence that Jesus asserted himself to be co-equal with God (the Father).

          • Phil

            I think it would be correct to say that evidence points towards both. Jesus both claimed Divine authority residing in his very being, and he claimed to be subject to the Father. Both were true at the same time. The latter was true because he took on our human estate in the Incarnation. He "lowered" himself while never giving up his true Divinity as the 2nd Person of the Trinity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not generally a huge Peter Kreeft fan, but he has a blog-ish post on "discernment" that offers what I think is good advice on this topic. One of the basic ideas is that you have to triangulate the truth (looking at things from multiple perspectives and then integrating that information), and one's confidence in "hearing God's voice" should diminish to the extent that one doesn't find alignment from multiple perspectives.

            See especially his "principle 4" which identifies 7 different perspectives for thinking about what God is calling us to do.

            Obviously I am not proposing that a non-Catholic needs to consider all 7 of those perspectives. I am just offering this as an example of what I consider to be sensible Catholic thinking on this topic.

            LINK added: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/discernment.htm

          • Doug Shaver

            What was extraordinarily virtuous about her work, in your judgment?

          • Phil

            What was extraordinarily virtuous about her work, in your judgment?

            I would say it all revolves around two main things:

            (1) The fact that she came to regard her own will as nothing compared to the will of The Father. Her life was not about what she desired and wanted, but what The Father was asking of her. That is to open oneself to beginning to participate in the Love of God Himself!

            (2) Her recognition of the infinite dignity of each individual person which is given by God because he dwells in each and every person. It is shown forth by The Father's desire for each and every person to be brought home to Him. This was made explicit by the cry she heard of Jesus on the cross when He said--"I Thirst." There he began to reveal the mystery of his thirst for the heart and soul of each and every person. So much so that he went to the depths of suffering for each soul.

            She recognized that to love and care for a person was to love and care for God.

          • Doug Shaver

            She recognized that to love and care for a person was to love God.

            And what made this extraordinary? Was it the fact that most Christians never achieve this recognition?

          • Phil

            And what made this extraordinary? Was it the fact that most Christians never achieve this recognition?

            We have to remember that we are wounded from original sin. This means we can never do this perfectly, even Mother Teresa did not. But it is all about the extent to which she did come to recognize this. She simply did it to an extraordinary extent. I personally am still very poor and weak at recognizing the presence of Jesus in others. I am getting better, but this takes a lifetime.

            And much of it didn't have to do with anything she specifically did. It was simply being open to the grace of God working in her to bring her to recognition of His presence in others. Again, her "I Thirst" reflection would be good to reflect on.

          • Doug Shaver

            And much of it didn't have to do with anything she specifically did.

            OK, but her fame in the secular community seems related only to what she specifically did.

          • Phil

            OK, but her fame in the secular community seems related only to what she specifically did.

            I apologize, as that was a little confusing what I wrote. When I mention it not having anything specifically to do with have she did, that was referencing her deep understanding about the human person and God's love for each one. That was God's work in her (so I wasn't even referencing her work yet).

            Her work that the secular people noticed then flowed out of this deep desire for God's will and her understanding of God's presence in each person. Without those two beliefs and deep understandings, her work would not have happened as it did.

          • Doug Shaver

            Without those two beliefs and deep understandings, her work would not have happened as it did.

            That doesn't answer my original question. You've just repeated your original response.

          • Phil

            That doesn't answer my original question. You've just repeated your original response.

            I am guessing you are referencing your original question: "What was extraordinarily virtuous about her work, in your judgment?"

            My response might have been too veiled, but what I believe to be most extraordinary virtuous about her work was simply the incredible depths of the recognition of the infinite dignity of each and every person that she had. This recognition of the desire for God's love that each person has, and that God wished to show his love for them through her at that moment.

            She become God present right there among them when she allowed God's love to flow through her to these people.

          • Doug Shaver

            I am guessing you are referencing your original question: "What was extraordinarily virtuous about her work, in your judgment?"

            No. My original question was: "But would she have been any less virtuous if she had been [an atheist]?"

          • Phil

            Ah, I apologize. It all comes down to the extent that we allow God to work in and through us. Mother Teresa's virtue was only possible because she allowed God to work in and through her to an extraordinary extent. Therefore, if as an atheist she didn't allow God to work in and through as she did in her life, then, yes, she would have been less virtuous.

            But, it is possible for a "non-believer" to respond to God's work in their life more than a "believer". There is no simple answer or one-size-fits all. That's why we have to be slow to judge.

          • Doug Shaver

            OK. I'll let this one go at that.

  • This is the first that I've heard of her doubts being interpreted as atheism. I agree its a feeling of being forsaken, not actual disbelief.

  • Stephen Bender

    John famously termed his sense of godforsakenness the “dark night of the soul”, a phrase that is commonly applied to all such episodes within the Christian tradition.

    I don't believe John of the Cross was referring to godforsakenness in Dark Night of the Soul.

    The Stanzas:

    1. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings—oh, happy chance!—
    I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.

    2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised—oh, happy chance!—
    In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.

    3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
    Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.

    4. This light guided me More surely than the light of noonday
    To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me— A place where none appeared....

    He was free from earthly desire.